Reunion at Rarotonga
“So I guess the whole project
was a bust, huh Lua?”
As creatures of habit, no less at sea as on land, we had all settled into comfortable repetitive routines and enjoyed a few final blissful days under sail before reaching our final port of call.
We anticipated reaching Rarotonga, the largest of the Cook Islands, just before nightfall on the last day of our journey.
This 15-island country is home to 21 species of dolphins and whales, more than 600 species of fish, and 16 types of sharks. Needless to say, Jack was euphoric.
After so much time together, each of us had naturally gravitated to a favorite go-to person when bored, but everyone enjoyed frequent chats with Lua and would stop by the galley several times throughout the day to see what she was improvising for the next meal.
Bob and I stayed busy with a variety of minor maintenance and repair projects and answering questions from Jack and Julie about sailing, seamanship, boat building, and ocean navigation.
SlimC had flown in to Rarotonga a few days earlier with a small production crew to have time to plan and prepare for a glorious Polynesian dinner celebration with requisite tiki torches, live music, dancing, and a large fire pit.
Captain Bob had notified SlimC over the radio about Tucker’s abrupt desertion and said he would provide more details about the whole affair upon our arrival.
He was waiting for us at the dock as we motored into the calm harbor late in the afternoon.
We were glad to once again be in the comfortable world of hot showers, air-conditioned buildings, and high-voltage electrical outlets.
After Bob and I secured the dock lines, the passengers disembarked and SlimC escorted them to the resort where they would be staying the night and where the feast was to be held.
They were instructed to pick up their room keys, get cleaned up, and relax for a few hours before coming together again at night for the banquet.
Bob, Lua, and I stayed behind and stowed all the deck furniture, collected all the garbage, washed down the deck, furled the sails and made sure Kalea was left in shipshape condition at the dock. Kalea was sure to attract attention from the locals, and Bob wanted his pride and joy to look her best.
Then we made our way to our rooms at the resort for some much needed rest, a long shower, and a clean set of clothes.
Along the way, SlimC pulled Captain Bob aside to question him about Tucker. As they discussed the incident, I could see Captain Bob at times shaking his head.
I never found out what they discussed, but I’m sure it had something to do with deciding how to capitalize on Tucker’s violent outbreak to boost show ratings.
As we walked, I asked Lua if she thought Paul and Julie would fess up to a brewing romance between them that evening at the dinner. They had been spending more and more time together during the last few days at sea, and perhaps Lua had seen or heard something.
Had any romance been ignited aboard Kalea?
Lua smiled and responded,
“Mister Rico, Paul and Julie are both very nice people who have each gone through very difficult times. I think they really enjoyed each other’s company, learned a lot from one another, and became good friends. But I think they are only just starting to get acquainted and are smart enough not to rush into anything, even if SlimC would have liked things to move along faster.”
That was the only hope I could see for any second-chance romance emerging from this group.
Nature-boy Jack had been far more interested in observing the many moods of the ocean and variations in the weather or scanning the horizon for pods of dolphins or a whale sighting or fiddling with Kalea’s sails and rigging.
He had been happy and childlike at sea and never did pay much attention to any of the women.
Perhaps Jack never had any real intention of finding a companion or lover and was just looking forward to a new experience sailing the waters of the South Pacific, though I think his unexpected confrontation with Tucker on the beach would be among his most cherished memories.
“So I guess the whole project was a bust, huh Lua?”
“I don’t know, Mister Rico. I guess that depends on what the show’s creators were hoping for.”
After rest, showers, and a change of clothes, we all made our way to the banquet table out by the fire pit. It was a beautiful natural setting bordered with torches and mature gardens of native flora.
A look up to the heavens revealed thousands of brilliant stars pinned on the dark, cloudless night sky.
One by one, we took our place at the dinner table after serving ourselves from the extraordinary buffet featuring a magnificent glowing ice sculpture of a smiling dolphin at its center.
SlimC, already seated at the head of the table, was eager to learn more about our time together at sea and about any future plans, particularly with each other.
Jack said he enjoyed his time aboard Kalea immensely and, with the exception of Tucker, was happy hanging out with the other cast members and crew. He was considering staying in the South Pacific for a few more weeks to learn more about the plastic pollution problem in these waters.
Julie and Paul would also be staying back for a few days in the Cook Islands to experience the full range of local cuisine and to deepen their growing friendship.
Captain Bob asked Lua to join him on Kalea and manage the galley on his next island-hopping charter booked for the following week. She was grateful for the offer, but said she had already been away from friends and family for too long and had promised to spend significant time with them after this project was over.
As we were waiting for Jan and Clara to arrive, SlimC confessed that he had developed an interest in Polynesian culture from the research he had done for this project and that he had become even more fascinated with these islands during the last few days here.
He told the group that he was seduced by the rhythm of life and natural beauty here and would most likely return to the South Pacific, after this project was complete, to work on a documentary about the islands and the inhabitants he had met. Many told him they would never consider living anywhere else.
With all of us now deep into our food and conversation, SlimC asked me to go check on the women to see what was holding them up. He was anxious to question them about their experiences and, in particular, grill Jan about her attraction to Tucker before he bailed on the group.
I excused myself from the table and made my way to the building where they were staying. As I passed by the waterfront where Kalea was berthed, I heard two voices coming from inside the pilothouse.
I walked out onto the dock to get a closer look.
In the darkness, I could just make out, through the high rectangular pilothouse window, the profiles of two women. They could be heard arguing about something.
I moved in for a closer look.
Then the heated verbal exchanges suddenly stopped, and there was a moment of silence before the first woman turned away.
The second woman caught her upper arm, pulled her back abruptly, grabbed her forcefully by the jaw with her other hand, and pulled her very close. The first woman did not pull away.
They stared into each other’s eyes.
I stepped onto Kalea’s deck to get even closer.
The slight motion of the boat must have startled the two, and they abruptly turned their heads and stared at me, wide-eyed. When they realized who I was, they both seemed quite relieved.
They turned once again to face each other. They smiled ... and hesitated for a moment.
And then Jan and Clara kissed.