The guide books and sailing guides will all tell you that the season for sailing in the South Pacific is generally April to October. After that the tourists’ boats vanish and most of the sane Aussies and Kiwis haul out and put their boats to sleep for the cyclone season. It’s a slow time for local inter-island trade also so my chances of finding a berth were growing slim. I was luckier than most and probably had enough reserves to make it through but things would be tight. At least I could still catch dinner while I came up with Plan B. I gathered my gear, made sure Dad’s best flies were good to go, and headed to my Secret Spot. The half hour walk through the jungle and palm groves was as rough as I remembered but soon the vegetation opened up to a low cliff jutting out over the water. There was a trench under the water that lead out to a break in the reef so your chances of snagging a deep sea fish that had followed bait inside were pretty good. The sun sparkled on the chop and the salt air was very welcome after the claustrophobic jungle. All was just as I remembered. The sharp lava rocks, the deep blue water, the view of the reef and the ocean beyond, and the beautiful young woman casting a line….wait. So much for Secret Spot. When she saw me approaching she flashed a welcoming island smile that let me know she accepted me as a local. She virtually oozed confidence and joy. Unless you were dead you just wanted to know this person.
We talked fishing for a few minutes and then the jokes started. Finnally they came so so fast and so good that I begged her to stop so I could breathe. At this point I am imagining a temple somewhere dedicated to her and me being a devoted monk. I thought I heard chanting in the background. Fortunately cooler heads prevailed. And soon we relaxed and fishing became the focus again. I pulled in a respectable rock fish and she countered with one slightly bigger accompanied by a decidedly “Neener neener” smile. I brilliantly deduced that this woman was really into competition. It was on. The wager we settled on was that we each chose the biggest and best fish we’d caught, compare to our opponent’s and agree on who caught the best fish. Then the “Loser” would cook it for us to share. No other prize was spoken but the implications were endless. She was apparently good at fishing, and I presumed her obviously well deserved confidence carried over to the kitchen. At this point in the game I’d have to admit to a certain amount of concern… but even if I lose, I win. So I put my faith in Dad’s flies and the techniques he taught me and began Dad’s mantra “ Big fish – Best fish. Big fish – Best fish “. He swore it drew in huge fish every time.
There’s little sexier than a confident woman. My challenge eagerly accepted, she cast towards the far side of the bay and into blue water. The fly she used seemed to hesitate just a breath above the water, waiting for the right time to set down. Then with hardly even a ripple it slowly, softly touched down. Instantly the surface of the water was an eruption of white foam and the perfect shape of a perfect salmon emerged into the sunlight, As it jumped and arched the colors flashing from it’s sides and the huge spray it created blended into a rainbow before the fish disappeared beneath the water again. The rainbow paused mid-air as if allowing me to marvel just a bit longer. I’m not sure what was more exciting: watching this magnificent fish creating a beautiful light show or watching her subdue the fish. Good thing I didn’t have to choose. In the end Mr. Salmon lost the fight but won the bet. He was unanimously award Best Fish status. Posthumous applause for the salmon please. When I suggested my plans for her to claim her prize called for an evening of food and laughs it was met with enthusiastic approval. The laughs started early and a weird-but-wonderful “psych-link” grew as (in perfect unison) we both said that this was too much fish for just the two of us. The decision was made to donate the majority of Mr. Salmon to her village elders. Good deeds done with true Aloha always bring good Mana.
Things could not have worked out better. I was living aboard a friend’s sailboat that tonight set the water shimmering with my mini-lights, candles, and flowers. She unapologetically showed up early and the sight of her standing on the dock lit by the evening locked into my brain instantly. I’d try to deny it if it ever came up but I’m pretty sure my mouth hung open in astonishment and a whispered “Oh, wow” might have escaped my lips. While most guests might bring wine, this wonderful woman brought rum! At this point I found myself again imagining that temple dedicated to her and me being that utterly devoted monk, but this time it involved rum. The chanting turned into the Beatles singing “I Want You”, or it could have been angels singing, I’m not entirely sure.
The Awards Show had begun. Mr. Salmon, current holder of the prestigious Big Fish – Best Fish award truly lived up to his position and was delicious. Her rum choice proved as sweet and easy as her laugh. Dinner was done and the galley was back to its’ usual gleamingly clean self. She was nestled in the pillows I had laid out on the foredeck pouring us another drink when I joined her. The evening slid into an even easier, more mellow mode. Laying back on the pillows we traced the constellations we knew and made up others from the left-over stars. The laughter and questions eventually spaced into nice comfortable silences where the water lapping against the hull and the soft music coming from the cabin were all we heard. Her warm golden brown eyes looked at me as if asking “Should I ?”. I answered with a soft lingering kiss that set aside any hesitation. Her Sun-kissed deep brown skin was softer than anything I could imagine and her kisses were totally electric. I half worried as she effortlessly slipped from my arms to the companionway leading to the cabin then stopped and turned to me again. I was bracing for something like “I have to go…”. That was when, in a voice that came from some total fantasy realm, she said “ I may have caught the better fish, but your meal was most assuredly a winner…and all winners deserve a prize.” I graciously accepted as I followed her to the berth. Good deeds done with true Aloha always bring good Mana.