Zen of Sailboat Maintenance Truth #1: Everything takes a minimum of 3x longer than you think it will.
Zen of Sailboat Maintenance Truth #2: If you are on a time crunch and need something to go smoothly, it will take 5x longer than it should.
Zen of Sailboat Maintenance Truth #3: If there are four bolts that you must remove, the first three will slide out easily and the fourth bolt will be stuck, sheer off while attempting removal, require a pick, hammer and eight to twelve hours of effort to remove.
After almost four years of maintaining Sonrisa with the patience of a buddha, these Truths are woven into Andrew’s core with fiberglass resin. Andrew felt certain that he had forego Canyoneering in favor of arranging the pick up and transfer of the dinghy motor if we had any hope of remaining on schedule to make it to Bora Bora by August 17. But, with adequate peer pressure and cajoling, we convinced him that we could call the Yamaha dealer before/after or maybe even during our canyoneering trek.
The Canyoneering guide agreed to pick us up at the beach, given our lack of swift transportation. As we all clamored into the bed of his pickup truck, (complete with benches and seatbelt, mom!) we were happily anticipating a fun day. We picked up two lovely new friends, newly weds from Texas and Chicago. We make introductions and small talk as momentum forces us to all lean together - forward, sideways, forward, backward. The truck follows the contour of the island’s waterfront.
Soon, we switch vehicles and climb into an honest to goodness Land Rover. This is not your fancy, cherry wood paneled, leather seat Land Rover. No! This is a working horse. Sonrisa’s four crew members are shoved into the trunk space with built in benches, our knees meeting the front of our friends knees in the small space. The Newlyweds are propped into the back seat. Our guide and his wife take the helm and shotgun positions. We bounce and grind, twist and turn up a canyon road dotted with large boulders. We all pile out.
Before long, we are loaded with dry bags, wet suits, climbing harnesses, a giant bag of rope. Armed with our go-pros we are ready for action. We follow our guides into the wilderness. Sheer cliffs hang overhead, shading us from the sun and creating a dewy jungle. We hike up and up, using tree roots and branches as handholds to pull ourselves up slick mud slopes. We duck under and wind ourselves through overgrown orchid vines, ferns, and tropical flower patches.
Soon, we arrive at our first waterfall. It’s only about 50 feet tall, but perfect for our lesson on technique. The warm up waterfall. Our guides demonstrate how to use the rope to slow our decent. Other than the one rappel in Mexico, this is the Godfreys’ first Canyoneering experience. The Newlyweds are also newbies, so we all get the kid-glove treatment. They explain that it is important not to let go completely of your rappel line, because if you do, you can fall. “Vwheoop!” our guide Bernard explains, motioning a free fall with his hand. His wife Genevieve will be at the bottom “on belay”, meaning that she has the free end of our descent rope in her hand. If we were to let go, she would be tasked with catching us before our bodies free fall to our deaths.
Bernard takes us to the top of the waterfall, and explains we must all clip on to a security rope until it is our turn to drop off the side. I am nominated as top-side photographer, so I wait while all our friends drop one by one over the side. They tie in, lean back and hold the rope at an angle sufficient to create friction on the back side of a metal figure eight. Down they go.
When it is my turn, I take a deep breath and put my feet in place. I’m feeling adventurous today. Bernard helps me to arrange my rappel line and then I lean my bottom backward over the back of the waterfall ledge. The trick is to lean back so your body remains at 90 degrees to the descending slant. The back of my neck tingles. It seems counterproductive to human survival to lean back 90 degrees over the edge of a cliff. I must trust my equipment.
The surface of the waterfall is slick with green moss. I lean back further than I think makes sense, and release a length of the rope I am holding at the side of my hip. I step, step, step my feet down. The sun peeks through the jungle canopy and warms the plants and soil until the smell of the earth is rich in my nose. Spray from the waterfall dusts my face and cools me. What a fun way to experience the jungle!
When I reach the bottom, Bernard descends. He and Genevieve work together to gather up the rope. We move to the next spot. 6 waterfall rappels, two slides, and two jumps into fresh water ponds. It was a fantastic day, and it would have been a shame for Andrew to have missed it.
Bonfire on the beach, anyone?
Andrew and I embarked on Operation Dinghy Motor Acquisition early the next morning, leaving Crystal and Kevin to do their own exploring. We tried hitch hiking to the ferry docks because we heard the bus is “unreliable,” but before we found a ride, the bus arrived ($2.00/pp). We hopped on, and met a local friend named Chico who accompanied us the remainder of the way to Tahiti. We purchased our ferry tickets ($15.00 each way/pp), and climbed aboard the Ferry of Luxury. Andrew bought a three course breakfast meal at the Ferry cafeteria and we enjoyed the best mini-quiche of our experience in French Polynesia so far. My coffee was also first rate. ($9.00) We arrived in Tahiti at 9:30 a.m. and split up. I was sent on a mission to buy more vegetables at the market while Andrew acquired the motor. By noon, Andrew was beckoning me on the shore radios to return to the ferry for the 12:45 p.m. return crossing. We pay our additional fare to put the motor in the shipping hold ($6.00) and hop on. It’s lunch time on the Ferry of Luxury, so Andrew buys us two pieces of pizza and a tasty French cake ($9.00) - again, one of the finer meals of our trip. We arrive back on Moorea and a fork lift delivers our motor into our hands. This little motor is only 40 lbs, so we easily lift it out of the crate and into the trunk of a taxi cab for the ride back to our little bay ($40.00). Total dinghy motor shipping cost: ($128.00)
Upon arrival at our bay, we hail the Norwegians and they graciously give us a ride out to Sonrisa to pick up Grin and return him to meet his new motor-friend. While the fellas install the motor, our local friend who gave us a tow arrived to see what all the commotion was about. He cheerily introduced his puppy named Princess and requested a photo op with me. The hand around my waist sneakily moves northward, trying to cop a feel. I look up, and Andrew has left me on the beach to go try out his new toy.
At this point, I am introduced to our local friend's gang. They let me know they are praying for Nevada to legalize marijuana. It’s just a matter of time, they assure me. They giggle and giggle while trying to convince me to stand in for more pictures. I wave my arms over my head at Andrew - the international signal for “Get over here and pick up your First Mate for Godsake!”
Andrew swings around and picks me up. We spend the rest of the evening twirling in circles around the anchorage at low RPMs (creating dinghy waves for everyone resting in their anchored boats) while we break in the motor. She purrs like a kitten, and so I shall name her Kitty.