Ripple to the Rescue, our final adventure…
Amidst a flurry of days spent cleaning and organizing Swell, the tradewinds ran out of breath…
I had a hunch that the windward side of the island might be good. It was like an itch you can’t scratch, so I had to go…I grabbed my board and shoved a pareo, a pamplemouse, and some sunscreen in my Patagonia Stormproof pack and jumped in the dinghy. The worn-out hunk of rubber, or ‘Ripple’, as she was named, was barely hanging on. Her seams leaked air out, while the holey floor leaked water in… the floorboards were rotten and broken and the whole thing felt as if on the brink of sudden rupture at increased speeds…But again that day, the Ripple delivered me to the spot, where her ‘red-worn-to-pink’ tubes were easily recognized by the local crew. The waves looked worth the long haul, so I paddled out. Shakas and greetings all around….Toward the end of my session, an enormous thunderhead swallowed the high mountains of the island behind us. Lightning cracked through the sky and soon cold rain came down so heavily I could hardly see. The angry cloud was lingering in the still winds, so I paddled back through the pelting drops, and waited out the rest of the storm under my boardbag. My arms had paddled for plenty of waves already, so after the cloud passed, I pulled up the anchor and headed for home…
As I turned the corner of the reef, I couldn’t believe the sight ahead…a half-mile long strip of drifting wood, leaves, trash, and random debris lined the edge of a huge cloud of brown muddy water. The heavy rain must have opened the rivermouth and pushed it all out into the lagoon. Seeing as I was heading along its direction anyway, I turned off the motor, stood and paddled us with one oar through the debris to collect trash…there was SO much plastic!!! It hurt my eyes and heart to see!
…So I started extracting it, piece by piece, from the floating mess…
As I plucked plastic bottles from among the driftwood, I began to notice movement amongst the masses–there were little creatures everywhere!?…They must have been caught by surprise by the flash flood and sent sea-bound on a ‘3-hour tour’! The soggy little critters were terrified and clinging to whatever log or suspended mass they could…so I proceeded to collect them too, one by one, catching them or letting them climb on my oar, then loading them aboard…
The Ripple quickly morphed into a refugee flotilla for geckos, lizards, grasshoppers, beetles, snails, and bugs of all sorts…we even rescued a CD-sized cane spider! (He was temporarily detained in the ‘wax box’ as I wasn’t entirely excited about sharing a confined space with him…) I must have spent two hours paddling like Pocahontas and loading my ‘ark’ like Noah. Soon there was hardly room for me! I had 4 species of lizards and 2 species of geckos aboard, one wild looking salamander, and a snail as big as a baseball!
It’s hard for me to admit, but I did turn down one passenger…to this moment the thought pains me…
Amidst the rescue/plastic collection efforts, a sole cockroach came swimming frantically towards the Ripple. All I could think about was that nasty family of cockroaches that had inhabited Swell…I was afraid he’d climb aboard when I tied to the boat that night…he swam closer, but my instinct made me stroke away. He struggled and looped in the whirlpool from my paddle, and I looked forward and tried not to think about him…But I couldn’t leave ONLY him?! That was too discriminatory, I just couldn’t!?! I changed my mind, and turned back to find him…but alas, he was gone…great…I’ll probably spend my next life as a cockroach now…I hope he made it back to shore.
When we’d navigated the entirety of the flotsam, my new company and I parted from the mass and putted off towards the nearest islet. All imaginable sorts of little feet gripped the Ripple’s flexing, half-deflated hypalon in the evening air…A salty salamander tipping its nose to the wind at a cool 7 knots is an unforgettable sight!
I love happy endings, so all the creatures were set free and the plastic was sorted and taken to the recycling bins on the far side of the island. I think the Ripple felt she’d completed some last final duty, too…Right after she’d delivered her small passengers to safety, she promptly sustained a major blowout…the floor suddenly parted from the inflatable tube along the port side, filling the whole boat with 6” of water! We limped slowly back to the marina, making it back just after dark, soggy and brimming with bottles and a few straggling stowaways. I felt utter contentment as I tied Ripple alongside Swell–we’d saved a few lives, kept a heap of bottles from ending up in the Pacific plastic patch, and made a one last, fantastic adventure together!!
JustinDecember 5, 2010
best ever Lizzy! Schindler’s tender
LauraDecember 7, 2010
LOVE it, Liz. Thank you for the rescue and the trash pickup. God, don’t you wish plastic water bottles were outlawed forever and everywhere!
Richard FrankhuizenDecember 7, 2010
Beautiful writing and a lovely story with a nice ending. Oddly enough, had the plastic not been there, perhaps you wouldn’t have seen the creatures that needed rescuing. Regardless, thanks for sharing your adventures with us.
TomDecember 8, 2010
You have yet again posted another enjoyable piece . Thank you
auntieDecember 8, 2010
GAWD you are wonderful angel face xo
PhilDecember 9, 2010
You’re a true hero out there! I wish more people had such positivity and unlimited willingness to help anyone whenever they can. Been following on westand.com and here since the begining of your voyage and you are a wonderful influence throughout the surf, environmental, and sailing enthusiasts cultures! Keep it up, and thank you.
RobDecember 9, 2010
I’m thinking that Mr/Ms Cockroach did one of two things: Safely roach-paddled back to shore or became a meal. Note that if you had taken aboard a Ms, you could easily have re-infested your abode.
Thank you for a wonderful story both humorous and inspirational.
GeorgeDecember 10, 2010
Really enjoy your blog. Keep the posts coming. I’ll be taking a similar journey starting this fall (gotta get the boat fixed up first) and reading your posts gives a little extra push to get out there.
Coleen SosaDecember 23, 2010
You have yet again posted another enjoyable piece . Thank you
pabliniJanuary 11, 2011
lizzy, darling lizzy … your incredible