excerpt from the Indian Ocean
After he gave up on getting into Diego Garcia and headed Jest once again to the west, the days onboard quickly fell back into their peaceful rhythm, a rhythm that was sustained by the steady wind that blew over his port quarter and the regular rise and fall of the sea that made Jest roll to starboard going down the face of the waves and then pause for a moment in the trough before lifting up again on the next wave. He was sometimes asked what he did at sea, out there in the middle of nowhere, as if they, those who asked him such questions, thought the sea consisted of some vast emptiness. But his world wasn’t empty. There was the boat itself, with its multitude of parts, from its keel to its masthead, and every part had a name, plus a name for what it was made of and sometimes another name for what it did. Many parts of the boat had themselves parts that had names. The deck was made of teak and had a king plank and a devil seam that had to be payed. There was the mast with its rigging, the shrouds and stays, and the sails with their three sides, plus their three corners, all with their own names. There were no whatchamacallits on a boat. Then there were the variations in the wind and the sea and the different clouds and at night the multitude of stars and constellations. He had seen the moon disappear in the shadow of the earth and then the shadow itself disappear behind a squall. He had seen a waterspout swallow the Southern Cross and then spit it out again. He had seen a flying fish skim the top of the rising sun and plunge back into the sea. No, the sea wasn’t empty.
excerpt from Port Moresby, Papua
The wind blew every day, especially at night, and when he got up in the morning he had to raise his anchor and move up a few hundred yards and drop it again. One night he dragged his anchor nearly half a mile. So he decided to move Jest over to the wharf to take on fuel. While waiting for the fuel truck, he sat in the cockpit and watched an outrigger sail in and tie up, almost under his stern. There was a man with three women, bringing their produce to the market. The man had holes carved out of the lobes of his ears. The women were different ages but they were all tattooed, including their faces and breasts. They unloaded their baskets and carried them off. Later, after the fuel truck had arrived, he was busy filling his tank, making sure it didn’t overflow. After he screwed the cap back on the intake, he noticed that the man and women were back on their outrigger. They were sitting on the platform, passively watching him.
He stepped onto the wharf, walked over to where the outrigger was tied up and, like the four of them, squatted on his heels. They were chewing beetle nut, waiting for something, so it seemed to Skip, though he had no idea what it was. He took his Case knife out of his pocket and offered it to the man. The man slowly stood, took the knife and squatted again. He held the knife away from him and didn’t look at it. After a few more minutes, Skip stood up and said, "Adios," which made him feel foolish until he realized it was as appropriate as anything else he knew how to say.
He climbed aboard Jest and went below, wondering if he had sailed nearly half way around the world to just give a Papuan his knife. Then he wondered what he would do with it: use it to sharpen his nails, or carve a god, or stab a rival. All he knew was that he was as strange to the Papuan as the Papuan was strange to him. He doubted if he could even handle their outrigger.