Sonrisa became an OddGodfrey on November 16, 2012. Sonrisa was commissioned to be built in 1981 and finished sometime early in 1982, at least that is what we have gathered from her series number Valiant 40, #249 and the stamped serial number on her hull. So, she is exactly the same age as Andrew and I. The three of us are 34/35 year olds trying to complete our big dream to sail around the world together. For some reason, that’s a fun fact to me. Since we don’t know the day she splashed, we celebrate her birthday on Gotcha-Day instead.
Each year, we have chocolate cake with chocolate frosting - her favorite and Andrew’s, too. We put the cake on her bow and then give a her a tip of the Ship’s Celebration Rum: Sailor Jerry. Then, we lock her up and leave her alone for Thanksgiving. We would drive the six hours back to Las Vegas, then another six hours to Salt Lake City and Tooele, Utah where our families were celebrating Thanksgiving. This year is shaping up just the same.
On Wednesday night, we baked Sonrisa her chocolate cake and invited Fredie and Toot’ie. After giving Sonrisa her share, we walked down the ramp to the shoreline. We gave Grin and Kitty a nip, then tossed cake and rum into the sea for Neptune. Thanks to Sonrisa, Grin, Kitty and Neptune for a safe and fantastic first season of cruising.
The next day, Sonrisa was mostly cleaned but the luggage flying back to the States with us was taking up more than its fair share of room. Andrew kept sitting on Sonrisa’s clean cushions with his sweaty pants. We couldn’t really clean the galley properly and keep cooking in it, too. So, the decision was made to rent a room for Thursday and Friday night.
Andrew, Osmond and I load into Grin to drive the twenty minutes over to Neiafu.
“Plop” … “Plop”…. “Plop, plop.”
The rain is just starting, and a giant cloud is sweeping across the sea. The sun is dipping below the horizon, making the clouds glow in variations of grey. Should we wait? Nah. Kitty hums at full speed through a wall of tropical rain; we all get soaked. The rain is pleasant as long as I keep my glasses on to create a windshield between my eyes and the pelting drops. Osmond the Comfort Owl retreats inside the plastic bag otherwise carrying the last dribs and drabs of stuff we are flying home with us. Owls hate the rain.
On Friday, I discover the winning combination of pine sol, baking soda and elbow grease. Sonrisa’s stove and oven have never been so shiny! We scrub and fold up Grin, wash Kitty and run fresh water through her works. We fill her cylinder with oil and douse her with WD-40. I pull out Sonrisa's Christmas Tree to keep her cheery.
We worked and worked until the very last moment on Friday night. Then, just like the end of a weekend in San Diego, we back away out of Sonrisa’s companion way polishing and touching things up as we go. Tidying, securing and locking everything up. I hug Sonrisa on the mast, and give her a kiss. “Don’t you worry. Have a good rest and we will see you in April.”
Then, Fredie volunteered to drive us to the room we rented. I look back at Sonrisa one more time, tears in my eyes, distance already between us as Fredie drives away. Man, I hope she will be ok without us.
Toot’ie leads the way, running directly in front of Fredie’s van, veering off to chase pigs wandering loose through the streets. We make a stop at Fredie’s house to meet his grandchildren and wife. He picks a pile of white flowers that smell like gardenias. He smiles and laughs. “Eeeiiiooh, leave these flowers next to your bed and your room will smell beautiful in the morning.” He tells me, handing me the flowers. “Eioh, Eioh.” His wife leans in the window of the van to kiss my cheek. She holds a little girl with silky black curls and huge brown eyes in her left arm. “Mahlo Apito!” I say, meaning “thank you” in Tongan then wave goodbye.
We drive through town and Fredie waves and calls out the window to all his friends as we go. He drops us off at the room, where we shower off the last of our boat yard sweat then we head out to find some food and a cold Papao. We have a restful sleep in the “princess bed.”
The next morning, we enjoy one last tropical pineapple, heave our bags into Fredie’s van, and off to the airport we go. The airport is bustling. We check out through customs, solve a minor immigration problem, receive our hand written airplane tickets then wait for our little propeller plane to fire up. Andrew dons his Captain's Hat (a gift from our Manihi Family), drawing compliments from Tongans and Fijians alike. Leg one: Vava’u, Tonga to Nadi, Fiji. Leg Two: Fiji to Los Angeles. Leg Three: Los Angeles to Salt Lake City.
We are about to cover in 36 hours of flying and layovers the distance that has taken us 241 days to complete. We sailed a little over 75 nights at sea and a tally of about 9,000 miles - and now, we are unwinding all that progress and going back from where we came.
I should be proud of us, and I am, but I also feel a strong mix of embarrassment and disappointment. I had much higher expectations of myself. My personal vision of myself as a “rugged sailor” charging forward and fearlessly taking to the sea was damaged by my sniveling over everything - passages and death wharfs alike. When I get down like this, I have to ask myself if I would be saying these things to a dear friend? If Laura on Lufi told me that she had a hard passage and felt afraid even though everything was fine, would I look at her and say: “You are so weak. I’m so ashamed of you, I really thought you would be a better sailor.” No, I would not. Not only would it be a horrible thing to say, but the thought wouldn’t even occur to me. I would respect her for being afraid but sailing on anyway. Why aren’t I as gracious to myself?
I don’t think I’m alone in this tendency to berate. Once I became aware of it, I began to hear it in other people I love from time to time, too. From experience, I know it is destructive. I complain to Andrew that I have no good ideas. But isn’t this to be expected?
What do you think would happen if a child handed you a painting they painstakingly created for you, and in response you wrinkle your face in disdain and say: “Ugh. Jeeze. That looks horrible. Why did you bother painting it? You are obviously not an artist; you will never be an artist. You are embarrassing yourself. If you can’t do it right, you shouldn’t bother doing it at all.” The child would be injured and sad. If it happened repeatedly, the child would lose faith in you, and worse, the child may lose faith in him or herself if he or she believes your rantings. I have said these exact words to myself so many times, it’s no wonder my center soul is silent and refuses to speak of my dreams to me.
Am I doomed to follow Andrew around in his dreams, to never capture one of my own? Nah, Leslie don’t be so dramatic. Just stop being so rude to yourself. Just like a child, your inner self longs for you to love it. It’s one step below unconditional love. I have apologized to myself in the past for being such an arse, and I have promised to check my critical rantings at the door. I still feel self critical, but I am learning to pay attention when mean thoughts are occurring and ask if they should be believed. Thoughts are not always truth.
So, with my shame and embarrassment of being a weak sailor, I rewind and speak to myself as I would a friend: “Self, I understand why you might feel that way. It’s normal to hope we easily face our challenges, but would it be a challenge if it was easily faced? You’ve done a great job this year. You were afraid, but you did it anyway. You were uncomfortable, but you did it anyway. You felt doubt, but you did it anyway. You felt embarrassed, but you wrote it down for anyone to read anyway. You did it because you wanted to do it, and deep down under all your fear, discomfort, doubt and embarrassment you trusted that you were strong enough to keep going. And that is amazing.”