Warm evening light danced between the shadows of the overgrown limbs and leaves on the jungle road. I bounced down the mountain in the back of Frederique and Teva’s truck, after they’d treated Tina, baby Matai, and a few other ladies to a day of pareo-making and a glimpse of island life in the mountains. Despite the beauty around me and the sac of colorful fabrics I was bringing home, I was troubled. Tina’s boyfriend, Kyber, had called while we were busy turning thin white cotton into colorful wearables. He warned us that a cyclone was approaching French Polynesia.
We arrived back at the dock and Gary, a veteran sailor, rode up on his bike to watch the sunset.
“Gary,” I said. “I’m scared of the cyclone. What should I do?”
“I’ve ridden out eight cyclones almost exactly where you’re anchored.” He said. “Strip everything off your decks, sails too. Take some shorter pieces of chain and attach them to a few of the coral heads. And make sure you have enough food. Once I was stuck out there for six days…”
His voice trailed off in my mind as I imagined myself out there alone battling 150 mile an hour winds and storm waves coming over the barrier reef for days on end.
“Thanks,” I replied feebly and headed off back to Swell.
That night I couldn’t sleep. I was petrified. I had less than 48 hours to prepare Swell for Tropical cyclone Nisha. My mind turned through the options of anchors and chains and coral heads and ropes. But there was one more option…My date to haul Swell back out for the repair was just a week away. If they had time at the yard, maybe they could haul me out before the cyclone arrived…
My worried father called early the next morning and I spelled out the options to him. “Call the yard immediately and go back if possible,” he said.
“Bonjour, Karin…c’est Liz….”
“Yes, we can take you out but only if you arrive today,” she said.
“Okay, I’ll be there by this afternoon.”
I leapt into action and had Swell ready to make the passage in record time. As I sailed back to the yard I felt slightly defeated and sad to have to abruptly end my brief ‘vacation’, but I knew it was the safest decision for both Swell and me.