Attitude adjustment

Wayne coiling lines after delivering the rudder to Freddy, the welder

Wayne coiling lines after delivering the rudder to Freddy, the welder

by Christine Kling

I’ve been thinking a good deal lately about how much one’s attitude determines the quality of life. We’ve been going through the process of removing the rudder from the boat by using the boat’s davit system and lifting the rudder into the dinghy — all on our own and having a good laugh while doing it. As of yesterday, the repaired rudder was returned, refitted and we have an intact steering system again!

When we first arrived here in Majuro, we went to the local telecommunications company offices to buy accounts that would permit us to get online at the local hot spots. While we were there, this American man started complaining at the top of his voice about how stupid and lazy all the Marshalese people are. He was talking to another American man he had just met and giving him all this “local knowledge.” Meanwhile, a very nice, polite, knowledgeable lady was helping us find the mac addresses for our wifi cards and getting us signed up and out of there leaving the ugly American still fuming and spewing his negative attitude. Here we are on this island that I think is wonderful, and there was this guy who hates it here. Wayne is Canadian, and when we walked out I wanted to say to him, “We Americans aren’t all like that!”

This past week, the Marshall Islands have been in the news with headlines like Man washed up on boat on Marshall Islands says he’s been adrift 16 months.  The castaway was from El Salvador and he claims that his outboard quit while he was shark fishing off Mexico and he drifted all the way across the Pacific before washing up on the island of Ebon here in the Marshall group. When they were first lost, a younger man was with him, but the survivor said the younger man was unable to stomach the raw flesh of birds and drink turtle blood. The younger man died. He didn’t have the mental or physical strength to survive. The February 7th edition of the local paper, the Marshall Islands Journal, carries the front page headline, “Miracle Man.”  And now there are many other articles out there on the web about this amazing story, many of which are questioning the truth of his tale. I think it’s perfectly understandable if a castaway gets things confused or if perhaps his story changes between tellings. No one can deny the man went through an amazing ordeal. The thing I find so extraordinary is the fact that he survived at all, and I can’t find a single reason reason why it would be a hoax or how he could have perpetrated such a thing. But there are always those who will see the negative side of things. In local interviews the castaway has admitted that he contemplated suicide, but he was afraid  to do it. He kept thinking about his family, his parents and his daughter.  When I hear this guy’s story, I hear an amazing tale of strength and survival, while others only hear a trickster and a liar.

Most of the time I think I have a pretty good attitude, and I tend to look on the bright side, but last week, I must admit, I was the doubter. We had been going about the business of getting the rudder repaired. We took a taxi out to the local business where we hoped to find a machine shop and welder, and when Wayne went to put his wallet back into his back pocket, he apparently missed the pocket and left the wallet behind in the taxi back seat. He didn’t realize it was missing until about an hour later. Credit cards, drivers’ license and green card were gone. Taxis don’t have radios in them and there was no way to contact the guy. Another yachtie who has lived here for years, told Wayne to go to the radio station and they would put it out on the local news. Days went by. I kept thinking he really should be calling and canceling his credit cards, but no, Wayne said he was going to give it time to turn up. He said that the majority of people were good and decent, and it would be better to wait than go through the hassle of canceling the cards in this remote location unnecessarily.

Four days after the wallet disappeared, my cell phone rang. I have a local sim card in my phone, and I haven’t given the number to anyone but Wayne. It turned out to be a guy who said he was on a tuna fishing boat that was tied up to a Chinese “mother ship” unloading fish. One of the Chinese guys on the mother ship had found the wallet, and they found my phone number inside. The Chinese crewman gave it to his captain who gave it to the one guy who speaks English on the tuna boat. That man told me that there was no money in it, but the Chinese crewman knew that the owner would need the cards and the ID.

We got the name of the boat and went out in our dinghy. When we came alongside the fishing boat, two crewmen lowered the big net boat with the man who spoke English. With a big smile, he handed me the wallet. Everything was there except the cash. Wayne tried to give him a reward for going to the trouble of returning the wallet, but he refused. Even the men manning the cranes that had lowered his boat shook their heads. They wouldn’t accept any money — only our thanks. I put my hand on my heart and said thank you. As we dinghied away our new friend stood on the deck smiling and waving.

Just aft of the middle net boat you can see our friend waving to us

Just aft of the middle net boat you can see our friend waving to us

We don’t really see the fishing industry guys in the local taxis. I think the next person who got into the cab found the wallet, took the money and pitched the wallet somewhere. I think the Chinese crewman who found it really did just want to return it to its owner.

It’s so often easy to think the worst of people and find only the ugly in the world around us. In this cruising life, I’m always learning. Just like we had to learn to balance the boat with the lashed rudder, I’m still fine tuning those attitude adjustments.

Fair winds!



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About Christine Kling

I have spent more than thirty years living on and around boats and cruising the waters of the North and South Pacific, the Atlantic, and the Caribbean. I’ve written articles and stories for many boating publications including Sailing, Cruising World, Motor Boating & Sailing, and The Tiller and the Pen. When I was married, I helped my husband build a 55-foot custom sailing yacht. After launching her, we sailed through the Panama Canal to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands where we chartered for over two years. While in the islands, I received my 100-ton Auxiliary Sail Captains license. It was that sailing experience that led me to set my first nautical suspense novel, SURFACE TENSION (2002), on the waterfront in Fort Lauderdale. Featuring Florida female tug and salvage captain, Seychelle Sullivan, the first book was followed by CROSS CURRENT (2004) and BITTER END (2005). The fourth book in the series, WRECKERS’ KEY was released in February 2007. At the end of the 2010-11 academic year, I took the motto of this blog to heart. I quit my day job as an English professor at Broward College in Fort Lauderdale (just when they offered me tenure, I said no thanks and took early retirement). I was living the dream of full-time cruising on board my 33-foot Caliber Talespinner on my very tiny pension and whatever I made from my books having parted ways with the big publishing establishment. I self-published two books on my own: a small collection of four short stories entitled SEA BITCH: Four Tales of Nautical Noir and my first stand-alone sailing thriller set in the Caribbean, CIRCLE OF BONES. In 2012 I was offered a publishing deal with Amazon's mystery/thriller imprint Thomas&Mercer and they reissued CIRCLE OF BONES. The sequel to that book, DRAGON'S TRIANGLE came out in June 2014. And as for me, I'm no longer a singlehander on my little boat. I met Wayne Hodgins in 2013 and after a whirlwind Skype courtship, I flew to meet him in Fiji and we sailed a nearly 2000 mile passage to the Marshall Islands for our "first date." We now sail together aboard LEARNATIVITY, a 52-foot motor sailor with our family including Barney, the Yorkshire Terror and Ruby, the Wonder Dog.
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3 Responses to Attitude adjustment

  1. Rick Wintz says:

    I can visualize in an upcoming Kling Novel, Mystery Man making at the very least a cameo appearance. If not one in which he may play a bit larger role would be very well received.
    I have a young friend who did a stint in the Peace Corps. She had the difficult challenge of educating their government’s officials on the value of preserving their wild beauty of their reef systems. She got quite ill near the end of her committed time of service and had to leave the smaller island on which she lived for 95% of her tenure and go to a larger city on a larger island and also saw an American make a fool of himself in the airport.. Maybe we all need to revert back a bit to “island time” instead of racing to be the first in line at the next stoplight! Peace.

  2. If they won’t take money, will they take a homemade cake? I bet that could start a whole new trade-cake-for-fish relationship.

  3. Willie –
    A cake would have been a great idea. I wish I had thought of it. Unfortunately, the boats were gone a couple of days later. It’s really fascinating watching the fishing industry here. I’ve got a local woman attempting to arrange a tour of a purse seiner for me. I’d love to see how they work.

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