22 September 2010 | malekula
The first thing to hit me as I walked off the plane and across the black top is the humidity and the smell, the smell of fresh tropical earth and a charge of life in the air. The next thing I noticed was the South Pacific string band dressed in flowers playing me a welcoming song.Thus began my adventures with Captain Alex aboard Bubbles. Which I suppose should bring me to where and when I meet Alex and his sterling ship, and perhaps an introduction.
I am Isaac, an Native Alaskan, born and raised in that wild land. I am Inupait meaning “A real person” in English. I first met Alex in Jamaica just under a year ago at a local festival. He had recently purchased “Bubbles”, then the Grey Wolf in the British Virgin Isles and was about to embark on a 420 mile crossing to Cuba, alone, as his crew had just departed. I had at the time no sailing experience and little experience at sea, save the short time I had spent in my youth as deckhand aboard fishing vessels in the Alaska. But the Sea and sailing was in my blood and a dream of mine since early childhood. Now I was being afford a chance to Sail! and to Cuba at that! Being at sea for 4 days was one of the most rewarding and unworldly experiences I had yet endured. It is like nothing else. To be out of the sight of land, moving under the power of the wind and sea, is something you must feel to understand.
I spent all told about a month on board sailing next to Mexico and further down the coast to Tulum, the Mayan Ruins on the sea. But I am getting to far in distance and time from the present.
My arrival marked the departure of my old friend Jim, and Marion a wonderful French maiden whom I was only just beginning to know. So we had a party with Alex’s brazilian friend Andre, at his friend Franco’s Organic House atop a hill over looking Port Villa’s harbor. Such a fine night of Brazilian BBQ, great conversation, and merriment!
The following morning Alex escorted Marion to the Airport, while Jim and I set off to assist in the raising of a mast. Which consequently could not be raised as the crane brought was too short. Jim took off for home later that afternoon, after a few beers and good byes. Alex and I then set sail as the sun was setting for Port Sandwich (named by Capt. Cook) in the island of Malekula some 60 miles north. It was so great to be once again bounding across the sea, that I slept out under the stars and the half moon. To be awakened by a brilliant sunrise.
What a joy to be at such a place, and greeted by the natives with a two day bash! Of Kava drinking, local cuisine, and a custom dance in full regale! Kava is a drink made by crushing the roots of short bush the effect numbs your mouth and lips for a time before you become drowsy and talkative. The following morning Alex and I along with his sailing pal Norman, took the dingy up a jungle river, complete with hanging vines, spiders and dense greenery encroaching the river banks making it more like a living tunnel. Upon our return we found men butchering a cow for a feast and paddling their dug out canoe’s back across the bay. One canoe only had one man paddling and making a long journey out of it so we took it upon ourselves to help. Alex piloting the dingy as I held on to the canoe for dear life as we raced to the distant shore, trying not to swamp this poor chaps boat, and not to be pulled from my own! Great fun with a kingly reward a fresh piece of beef. Which we made into stew with potatoes and onions! Food for the soul at sea.
Later that day we heard a village was going be doing a custom dance and arrived at the location just as it began. I will now try to describe what is one of the most bazaar and intriguing dances I have ever been privileged to witness. The tribal dance preformed took you out of this time back to a begone era, of lore, magic, and mysticism. The drumming starts around a tall wooden stautue adorned with leaves and vines from the surrounding jungle. As the dancers started jumping around the dust flies, the very ground beneath you shakes and the whoops and hollers chill you spine. If you dare to gaze into the hollow eyes of the bearded feathery headdress I can not tell you what you will find. But the energy brought forth and the painted markings on their flesh will forever be with me….