Captain John’s Adventures in Paradise

“What brings you to Fiji?” Asks the bartender in between blending up frozen concoctions. Hmmm, clearly he doesn’t have a couple hours to listen to the real story, instead I quickly reply “Sampling beers around the world!” “Ahhh, sounds like a worthy cause, I’ll start you off with two Fiji Golds, Bula!”

The real story, bittersweet as it is: The Captain has dementia. Yep, the big D, could be Alzheimer’s but they can’t diagnose until they perform an autopsy (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!), as weird as this freaky, cruel, insidious disease is, I don’t even know what to call it, so I’ll call it big D, which destroys the brain little by little like a science fiction movie or twilight zone episode, the person still looks like himself and often in front of others acts almost normal, but around the partner they are unintentionally childlike leaving the partner to become an unintentional caregiver.

This human who previously had great intelligence, now lacks the ability to perform the simplest tasks and short term memory has evaporated. A lifelong sailor and Captain of our Caribbean based charter business on our sweet catamaran named “Moonshine”, Captain John excelled not only at sailing, he embellished his finely honed skills in the art of boat drinks, Painkillers being his specialty as he sat with guests and became a witty raconteur, putting them at ease and full of laughter. He could freedive to the bottom of nearly any bay when the guests dropped something overboard, only to return with a grin and a wisecrack. He never hesitated to strip his attire and be the first to jump off the upper deck of the infamous “Willie T” mostly to entice our female crew to follow and earn a free t-shirt. Yep, not much the shameless Captain wouldn’t do to earn ourselves a fat tip at the end of the charter.

Sailing pristine waters, leading snorkel expeditions while pointing out undersea creatures and corals, dancing to calypso music barefoot under the stars, leading guests on hilly, scenic hiking paths or just lying on the trampolines stargazing for hours, an idyllic career and lifestyle indeed.

The Captain became enamored with sailing at a young age watching a television show called “Adventures in Paradise”. Created by James Michener, the plots were centered around the dashing Gardner McKay playing the part of Adam Troy, Captain of the Tiki III. The schooner sailed around the South Pacific, looking for passengers, romance and adventure. Worthwhile digging up this vintage show, and imagining young John wishing to be Adam Troy, and he was!

Fast forward to current times. I call him Captain as it helps ease the pain a bit of losing him as a husband, friend and business partner, yet he still is the Captain, driving the ship that is his life and telling me which way to steer, even if he doesn’t realize it.

Faced with the stiff reality that there is NO CURE for the big D, Ive looked at numerous possibilities to keep this man who is loved by so many, safe, comfortable, happy and still in need of adventure!

As his once familiar life became confusing and unsafe, with many changes that so many partners of the big D must face, I rented our house out, sold or gave away nearly every personal belonging, except the sweet little Duffy electric boat we christened “Bootlegger”, this fine craft became a platform for amusement, and the Captain took the helm as we putted around our backyard waterway, looking for passengers, romance and adventure!

We have had several Fijian caregivers in our home. Learning of their culture which teaches from childhood to respect and care about others leads many to a chosen career of caregiving. I thought, why not take the Captain to the beautiful group of islands that is the source of where these lovely, caring people come from. I personally could not stomach placing him in a “lock down” memory care facility, as I feel long walks on the beach are more beneficial than drugs and a TV. My appreciation of all that is good, grows exponentially with my acceptance that others are caring for him far better than I can. The Captain’s wit and charm still shine through in spurts and he makes his new Fijian friends laugh as they see his true and gentle soul.

I am blessed with an amazing pod of friends worldwide who support my “outside the box” ideas, it truly takes a village. The South Pacific beckoned and Captain John is on quite an adventure!

He would love you to come join him in paradise, who’s in?

Doing his best “Adam Troy”

Bula from Fiji

Mermaids and rainbows

I swam through a rainbow today. Dipping myself in the inky pre-dawn sea, I perform mermaid twists and turns, while waiting for the eastern sky to come to life. As the sun scratches the surface of the horizon, I turn around to see a perfectly formed rainbow, one end rising from the palm fringed beach, the other end sinking into Yanuca island. The moment catches my breath. The sea is mirror calm and reflects the arch into a circle of color and surrounds my body as if I’m suspended in a soft embrace of sea and sky.

Alone. Sola sirena. No one else is around to witness this gift from nature. I selfishly rejoice in my good fortune. I laugh aloud and swim in circles within the circle, then lay my head back and watch the rising sun illuminate the soft colors.

My joy is a lifelong appreciation and great love of the natural world, especially the sea. This morning’s gift was exceptional, today I honor a very special person who left the earth 28 years ago. I used to dread this day each year when the anniversary of his death arrived, as I would spend the day alone and sad. This morning I promise myself to exchange sadness for great joy. We shared a wild, adventurous, carefree, world wandering lifestyle in our youth, a lifestyle I’ve tried to continue as much as possible.

I embrace my fears and swim farther out to sea. I breathe and smile and erase any shred of fear. Fear is no fun. I want to have fun and spread joy.

I’m on Fiji time, In Oceania. What a great name: Oceania. Going with the rhythm of the day, the ocean calls to me all day long, but when I must tear myself away and search for food, I pass streetside stalls with smiling vendors, offering their freshly harvested pineapples and mangoes. Thirsty? At the coconut stand, I can’t resist the salesman with a huge grin as he calls out to me and expertly whacks off the lid with his machete while managing to keep all his digits intact and hands me the sweetest beverage in its natural packaging.

I sit and chat with local ladies about everything and nothing at all. Cherishing my years of experience that allow me to instantly melt into island time. No rushing, no agendas, no place to be. I explore where my feet carry me and return smiles from a culture rich with them.

Tales from Bootlegger Bay

This blog is named after an imaginary place in the world that I search for. A bay on a tropical island. An idyllic island full of friendly people and pristine and protected waters, surrounded by healthy coral reefs with a multitude of colorful fish and sea life living in harmony. I have found many special bays, harbors, islands and nautical watering holes full of the most colorful of characters and I will keep searching, while also revisiting some of my favorite places on this delightfully watery planet. Working and living on sailboats has led me to my deep connection to the sea, deep enough to want to protect, cherish and care for the ocean and her inhabitants.