The ocean is our identity
19 June, 2012 – Teddy Fong: In my last blog I forgot to mention the mahimahi we caught. So together with the 4 yellowfin tuna’s caught today, we had a great feast of boiled and fried fish. Ben is a great chef, in fact too good am already thinking my premise of returning in August with a six pack is fast dwindling. Vinaka Ben!
I’ll dedicate this to the women of the Uto ni Yalo – the current ones on board with me, plus one the crew keeps mentioning, none other then super grandmum, Salome Tabuatalei.
Joe Brown today unashamedly said, “I miss Salome”. This kick started a host of stories about this lady seafarer. From how well the toilet was kept to the exercise regime she made the crew do; from her insistence for bunk cleanliness to ensuring all bathed diligently, daily. Salome, I know you will be proud of everything else, but forget about skipper returning home belly in.
As I devoured my fish, Mausio unwittingly said to me, “nothing like fresh from the farm eh?” Before I could reply with an enthusiastic “yes”, Iva Vunikura chipped in with her bit for Mausio, “the what, the biscuit?” I’ve read about this Gauan lass many a times in the blogs over the past two years, but here I am witnessing it for my very self. Iva keeps life aboard fun. She also dishes it back good, especially with a majority Vanua Levu crew. Having been on board since the very first voyage, Iva has become a mainstay on the drua, a testament of her spirit, her bond with the ocean.
Agnes Sokosoko is the sniper. I mistakenly took her as a silent one, who giggles at about everything and anything. Her ability to set you straight with one sarcastic sentence keeps the “dogs” at bay. Aggie as she is fondly called is from Ovalau. She is another who has been here from the beginning and her favourite memories of the vast areas covered by the drua are Hanumea Bay in Hawaii, where the crew got 6 days off to recover, plus she says “the Golden Gate Bridge was a special experience”. I will not argue, I haven’t been to any of these places. Aggie has been there, done that.
I remember Filo Serenia at the pre-San Diego briefing in early January. She was a quiet young lass whose courage and determination, I have come to accept, outweigh her smallness in size. A graduate in Environmental Studies, Filo from Wainibuka has now sailed the Americas, Galapagos (every environmental student/academics dream for the theory put forth by Darwin), the Pacific and now on to the Pacific Arts Festival in Honiara. She says “boy although we were in Fiji last week it did not seem like home, everytime I wanted to return to the drua”.
The drua, her home? On just my second day aboard, I can certainly imagine how attached each and every crew member has become to the Uto ni Yalo. These seafarers are for it, by it, of it. They have become one with the spirit of the heart.
Our sole Vanua Levu lass on board is Alisi Rabukawaqa. She has adapted fast to life on the drua despite beginning the trip with surprising motion sickness. That was day one. Today, she was up and running around the deck like a pro. The sashimi did her good she reckons. I think she is just kusima. Being a Marine Science grad and now a postgraduate student, this Bua native has learnt the ropes of the uli in a day. She is also growing akin to tackling the many suitors aboard with her own wit.
Friends, if anything, this blog is being written as much for you as it is for my fellow brothers’ and sisters’ on board. Since my first one yesterday, all crew members have asked to read that blog. Already, my watch team has their eyes on this. So as I sign off on another day’s work, I am inspired to continue writing these blogs for them, their families, friends and loved ones. People of Fiji, if these young men and women have anything to share with you today, it is “Protect our ocean, we are for it, by it, of it. It is our identity”. As they say on Kia Island, we are the ‘ai salia.
Loloma’s to you all and thank you for the prayers.