As I have been recently approached by sailing magazines, Sail The World and Yachting, wishing to sponsor my blog, I'd better get serious about it! Perhaps I could make the effort to finish the long yarn of my sailing trip across the South Pacific as a crew member on various yachts, back in 1997.
Where was I?... on Malololailai aka Musket Island, off the coast of the main Fiji island facing Nadi (pronounced Nandy). I was definitely leaving the 'rally around the world' as they were sailing directly on to Australia and I was sailing to New Caledonia. It sounds good to say it like this. Rather... I was stranded on Musket Island off a yacht and wanting to get back to Suva to join another yacht owner intending to sail to New Caledonia.
I was really stranded. Before leaving Papeytey I had posted a letter to my bank in France asking them to send something like a thousand dollars to be available over the counter at a bank in Suva, Fiji. Probably because I didn't have that amount on my account and/or because it might have sounded peculiar, there was nothing there for me when I got to Suva which meant for one that I owed $600 to my present captain and second that I was thoroughly skint. Stranded I was but not quite lost.
I boarded a Swiss yacht recommended by my captain, a member of the rally about to sail across to Nandi for some shopping. It took the afternoon and when we docked in a very small kind of marina there, it was a bit late to start hitch-hiking to Suva. So the Swiss captain and his French crew invited me to dinner on board and to stay the night. That was great and a lot of fun. I had these 2 guys trying their best to impress me with their jokes and their cooking skills. I do remember we had grated potatoes with eggs, a Swiss traditional dish I was told. With wine. I guess I could have decided to change my mind there and then, sail on with these guys in the rally to Australia. But... But there was a huge reason why I was not going to do that. It had nothing to do with sailing.
A year and a half before, I had sailed away from Noumea in New Caledonia leaving my 18 year old son to fend for himself, leaving him the keys of our rented house and the key of my car. He was going to have to survive on his own. I knew he could do it. Was I mad? A few people told me so. I sometimes came to doubt but never for very long as I had trust in my boy and trust in God. However it was time to go 'home' and see how he had survived.
So, in the morning I left my new 'buddies' and started hitch-hiking to Suva. It wasn't too hard. I don't remember much of it except that at one stage a proper bus stopped for me on the side of the road. I said I was hitch-hiking and that I had no money for a bus ride. He said: "never mind, hop on and sit at the back". I was confused and grateful, mumbled that I would pay him one day and boarded the bus. We arrived in Suva in the afternoon. The bus dropped me thankful at the yacht club.
Was I going to find that man who promised he'd take me as crew to Noumea when I get back?... He was there at a table outside at the yacht club and beamed when he saw me, as he had been wondering if I was actually going to come back! That night I slept in a bed in a room in an appartment with all modern comodities including a shower. Wow!