By Jackie Leavitt Indonesia epitomizes the word “diverse.” Its 17,500 islands spread 3,000 miles: further than the width of Europe. It encapsulates 255 million people with six recognized religions, although 90 percent are Muslim. It’s also home to many unique and endangered plants animals, including Sumatra’s orangutans and tigers and […]
By Jackie Leavitt
As we approach at daybreak on our sailboat, Isla Isabela rises from the sea with the sun, silhouetted in the glowing pink and purple clouds. We turn around to the southeast side to anchor next to two five-story-tall rock islands: volcanic statues twisting toward the sky. We feel so far from mainland Mexico, secluded in this bubble of seascape mysticism. Electric blue plankton float past our hull in the morning like glowing mermaid magic. Hundreds of birds hang on the afternoon thermals, turning clockwise into a drowsy cyclone, slowly rising into tiny spiraling specs in the sky. In the evening, a blood-red moon, just past full, climbs from the dark, undulating ocean.
Frigatebirds wiz around the whistling and honking blue-footed boobies that wobble on aqua-colored feet in the shrubby mangroves’ shade, and stoic, sedentary pelicans lounge by the wave-kissed rocks. Brown iguanas camouflage with the earthy floor, and fish — sky-blue with golden fins — dart among the muddled salt water washing over beige coral. Tiny hermit crabs cozy into the prettiest shells littering the broken and bleached coral beach, and I accidentally kidnap one, thinking its home is vacant.
The illusion of an untouched, wild archipelago is only broken with the scattering of abandoned plastic bottle caps, Coca Cola containers and other debris that slipped through the waves to the island’s shores from a different world.
Nevertheless, Isabela inspires awe and easily captures your heart. As we gaze upon her, rocking in the swell, another sailboat passes back and forth in the anchorage before moving on to the mainland. From the deck, a man serenades her with his trumpet: a jazzy rendition of Michael Buble’s ‘Buena Sera’: …did I tell you that I love you? Buona sera, señorita, kiss me good night.
By Jackie Leavitt
Out on the deck, you can see the lumbering rollers gather their mass, swell up and ooze toward you, then under you, lifting the sailboat up in a side-to-side rock. If you were on a beach, you would be sure that they would soon break into a crashing, curling surf, pounding hard into the sand and seashells. But here, they seamlessly and endlessly roll on: There are other more interesting things for them to see than you.
In the cockpit, it’s easy to accommodate the shifting vertigo, perhaps because you can anticipate the rhythm, even when not gazing to the horizon. Standing, you can bend your knees, alternating for the sway from one side to the other like riding a Roman chariot across Poseidon’s waves. Even sitting or laying down, it feels like the boat is a larger, less-safe bassinet, gently lulling you into a suspicious sleep.
But below deck, you’re at the mercy of the boat’s pitching, throwing you from side to side like an earthquake out for vengeance for a long simmering transgression. The best way to move forward is like a staggering drunk: one step forward, pause for shifting weight, two quick steps forward, pause, another half step — then you’re tossed into the boat wall, your shoulder breaking your fall, as the ocean chuckles at your ill fortune: What folly for you to think you could walk on water.
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The ocean belches and gurgles as the sailboat bobs and sways on the waves. Inside the boat’s belly, the stove swings on its hinges, dipping forward as the vessel leans left, and falling backward when it rocks right. On the burner sits solidly a pepper-and-copper-colored pot, filled three-quarters with water swirling clockwise in a whirlpool. And there, an egg hovers directly in the middle, motionless as a the world swivels around it.