We passed through Auki with little fanfare, picking up some bananas and fried bread at the little, muddy market. The Baruku then turned East, heading out into deep sea for the little island of Sikaiana.
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Standing on the bow of the ship that evening, I could see massive clouds building on the horizon in front of us. Turrets and fortifications added themselves to the towering structure as I watched, billowing up into the atmosphere and out across the sea. The space between clouds and sea turned black. As the sun descended behind us, the brave Baruku marched on toward the angry mass.
I went below as the wind picked up. Sailors were already lashing down the sides of the tarp that stretched over the cargo hatch. Soon, we were all enclosed in a dark little cocoon, rocking up and down on the increasing waves.
I tried to sleep that night. I know I must have, because periods of time would pass suddenly between long minutes of agonized waiting. Waiting for the sun to come up. Waiting for the storm to pass. Waiting to be sick. The ocean released its full fury on us in the night. The ship was tossed like a soap dish in a toddler's evening bath. We would ride up a wave, then fall with a heart sickening CRASH!, rock side-to-side madly to stabilize, and repeat the process all over again. People around me were groaning and puking over the side of the hatch onto the metal deck. The tight tarp closed in the smells of vomit, body odor and fear. Another wave of nausea socked me in the gut and even more acidic waste rushed up my esophagus and out of my mouth.
As I lay spent, I tried to gauge the incline of the ship when the deck in front of me dipped towards the sea. My mattress slipped a little a the steepest point, and everything that wasn't tied down slammed against the railings. Desperately, I flattened myself out, clenching my body into the mattress and hard wood below. Ocean rushed in to claim the deck for a few breathless moments. Then, the ship tipped back the other way, and I relaxed while the passengers on the opposite side of the hatch braced themselves.
The process continued on through the night. The faithful Baruku battled her way deep into the tempest. Far away in Austin, Texas, a man watching the news saw that there was a storm in the Pacific, near the island nation of Solomon Islands. God spoke a word to his heart, and he began to pray for us.
Dawn came dreary and wet. It brought hope in the form of a little black dot, sitting defiantly between grey sea and sky. Word quickly spread among the beleagured passengers that Sikaiana was on the horizon. By now I was past the point of caring, caught in the hellish cycle of slipping toward the sea and back up again, crashing down, vomiting, crying.
The island, however, slowly grew larger and larger as we approached it, until finally we were skirting the ocean side, a safe distance from the reef, soon to be on the lea of the island and finally sheltered from the storm. That's when the engine stopped.