Dreaming of a White Sand Christmas

At anchor in the Caroline Islands, Alvah and Dianah Simon join new friends for some holiday skinny dipping. "The Roger Henry File" for January 10, 2007.

Alvah Simon and Family 368

Alvah Simon and his wife Diana along with their crew Halifax the cat.

Being this far off the milk run we tend to at least meet, if not become quite familiar with, every boat in an anchorage. Captain Fatty had "prepared the way" for us in Kosrae by lending out a copy of our book, North To The Night, before our arrival.

Olivier and Pascaline Masurel, on the 50-foot aluminum cutter NEOS (North-East-West-South) were particularly enthusiastic to meet us. They are an attractive and sophisticated couple that, after successful business careers in France and the raising of their three sons, set out on an adventurous world cruise to remote areas such as Cape Horn, Pitcairn Island, and now the Caroline Islands.

Coincidentally we planned to depart Kosrae for Pohnpei on the same morning as NEOS. Diana and I do not "buddy boat." We meet interesting people; we make good friends. We are always happy to see them again in another port, but we feel we must make our own decisions as to where, when, and how the Roger Henry sails.

Nevertheless, I secretly thought that having a bigger boat to chase would add fun and focus to our proposed three-day passage. As it turned out we didn't do much chasing. Our pace was strikingly similar. In fact, two nights out, as we were being blasted by yet another midnight rainsquall, I saw NEOS's running lights close to port. By VHF Olivier, who has all the advanced instruments, announced we were sitting in 50 knots of sustained wind with gusts above 60. I wish these guys would quit sharing this information with Diana; it is ruining a lifetime of calculated understatement.

We arrived in port within minutes of each other, and tended to each other's dock lines. A little partnership developed. We shared a rental car to run errands and provision. We went on a tour of the mysterious and awesome Nan Madol Ruins together. I was determined to climb the towering Sokehs Rock, the iconic symbol of Pohnpei. At first Olivier demurred, but at the last minute he simply could not stand the idea of me having all that fun without him. We felt like blood brothers when we reached the summit laced with cuts and scrapes.

So I was not surprised or unhappy to hear that they wanted to join us in the deserted Ant Atoll for Christmas. When two other yachts entered the pass the celebration was shifted from the Roger Henry to the far more commodious NEOS.

Australians Condor and Esmeralda, off the Bruce Roberts 34 EOS--not to be confused with NEOS--came armed with a guitar, harmonica, and authentic didgeridoo. The prospect of live music aside, Captain Frank Converse, his partner Beth Johnson, and the engineer John Williams off the 86-foot Alaskan classic Westward no doubt anticipated a staid evening and an early dingy ride home. After all, we are all strangers.

Representing New Zealand was the Lady Diana, normally a pillar of politeness and moderate behavior. And trying to keep up with our various forms of English were our elegant yet game Parisian hosts.

Perhaps an underlying sense of national pride leant a competitive edge to our eclectic offerings. Condor opened with a six-pack of XXXX Beer. This was fitting for such an august occasion because in Australia they consider a seven-course meal a 6-pack and a meat pie. The French contingent countered with foie gras and roast turkey with truffle stuffing. I, being a citizen of New Zealand and America, had the burden of carrying both banners, so I laid out my cranberry glazed ham complimented with a notable New Zealand sauvignon blanc.

It was sometime well into the French cognac vs. Kentucky bourbon taste test when someone foolishly said, "If I were 20 years younger I would strip off these clothes and dive right into that water." A second of silence passed. Suddenly clothing, outer and otherwise, rained down on the deck as nine normally mature adults simultaneously hit the moonlit sea.

Adults always wait for the punch line as if it is their permission to laugh. Children just laugh, all the time. They laugh at everything and at nothing at all. They laugh because, as young and inexperienced as they are, they intuitively know that life is meant to be a joy. And that full moon blazing down on the necklace of surf breaking upon the circular reef, palm trees swaying in a gentle breeze, a flour-white beach arching around us, and the crystal clear and clean tropical waters of a remote lagoon caressing our bodies cannot be described as anything but a joy.

Swimming around the boat, between the laughter, we enthusiastically belted out Christmas carols and exchanged sincere Christmas wishes. Peace on Earth, and goodwill towards all Men, Women, and Children. And bless the boats that brought us here.

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