Thursday, 6 October 2016

Honduras, Roatan (Tattoos) 2016-03-22

I no longer have milky white virgin skin.

It was my 30th birthday the other day, and as the date was approaching fast it suddenly dawned on me that I was about to lose my 20's. And I definitely haven't done as many crazy things as I would have liked to do. Sure, I moved to another country on a whim, instantly fell in love and got married to a crazy ginger. Then I took all the money that I'd been saving for my entire adult life and essentially threw it into the ocean by buying a sailboat with little to no experience with, or previous desire to sail. Then I abandoned my new home and sailed off into the unknown, along a ridiculously crazy route that almost nobody else is stupid enough to take. But for some reason it all seems kind of normal now. I wanted to enter my 30's with the same level of craziness that I've managed to uphold during my 20's. There are no nearby planes to jump out of and nothing else accessible that I haven't already done (I greet each day by hugging a monkey. And is swimming with sharks supposed to just be for special occasions? Because those guys are just my friendly neighbours that come round to hang out occasionally). So I decided to get inked.



I always figured I would mark this adventure with a tattoo of some kind. With such a short attention span, nothing has ever struck me as being amazing enough for me to want to have it etched permanently on my body. But this has been a trip of a lifetime and it's one thing that I'll certainly never change my mind about in a hurry. I might not end up a sailor forever, but I have no regrets about sailing off into the sunset. Or straight into the waves, in our case. I've never gotten to the stage of sitting down and thinking about tattoo designs though, so I figured my 30th birthday was as good a time as any.

After doing some research into the local tattoo parlour (Foxy’s Ink), I decided that this was going to happen. Roatan is a tropical paradise in the Caribbean, so instead of ending up with one or two dodgy tattoo artists plucked from a very small pool, really good artists come over here for a working holiday. There’s only one reputable tattoo parlour here and their current guest artist from overseas (Rene) is good at artsy pretty tattoos, so I was in luck. (I should mention that the resident artists are very good as well. Foxy, the owner, has just started out. But she's learning from a revolving door of amazing people and has her own unique style).


Tropical paradise!

I thought a lot about what I wanted, and after a lot of scouring through images, scribbling down ideas and talking with Rene, we were a go. I had hoped to get it over and done with before I turned 30, but my appointment ended up being on my birthday itself. Not a fun birthday. But I was excited nonetheless.

I wanted a boat, which is probably obvious. After travelling over 20,000 nautical miles, mostly upwind, I think I deserve to have a permanent boat on me. Luckily we have one series of photos that our friends Liesbet and Mark took of our boat sailing next to theirs in French Polynesia. We were floating along on calm seas in hardly any wind, so we don't look that impressive. But they are the only photos we have of us sailing – normally there's nobody around to watch us heel over! So Rene took one of Liesbet’s photos and turned it into a silhouette. I was not going to have a random boat tattooed on me forever. It was going to be our Heartbeat.






The basic design I wanted was swirling waves curling over my foot and up my ankle, with our boat in amongst them. Hopefully with a koru kind of design, because New Zealand and my Kiwi husband have definitely set my life on a completely different path. Because of the ridiculous sailing route that we took and the fact that we didn't die, I was hoping my tattoo boat could be sailing upwind as a reminder of how many shitty days we have endured in crappy conditions. But I eventually decided to butt out and just let Rene just do his thing, because the design he came up with was kind of awesome. I've had too many bad haircuts from trying to tell the hairdresser what I wanted instead of just letting them do something sensible. I've definitely learned my lesson. Luckily hair grows back...




Rene made a perfect swirl on my ankle bone, which left us sailing downwind. But he added a heap of swirly waves all around us to make up for this change. There is no doubt that the boat on my ankle is sailing through some crazy waves. Because this is my first tattoo, I was nervous as hell that he wasn't really drawing much onto my foot before the needle came out. He traced on the boat, the words I wanted ("Let's go on an adventure!"), and the perfect circle for my ankle. He added a few outlines of waves but the rest he was going to freehand. I'd seen a lot of his other works so I knew he was talented, but I was still scared!


Ready to go


So may blues!

I shouldn't have been. He produced a pile of different coloured blue ink and got to work. It was really sore at first, then after the first hour it became excruciating. I'm not sure who's stupid idea it was to get my first tattoo on the bone of my foot and ankle, but here we were. I had thought long and hard about it, and had come to the conclusion that I would rather sit through a bit of extra pain than spend the rest of my life with a tattoo in a place other than where I wanted it. I quickly wished I had wanted it somewhere else! After an hour or two I was screaming into the pillow, trying so hard to stay still. My foot kept twitching when he was doing the words, because it kept hitting all the nerves in my foot. I was terrified I was going to involuntarily move and wreck it. Garth was amazing, holding my foot down to stop it moving and just generally being lovely. I'm not sure which part hurt the most because after a while it just became a big blur of pain. But I'm probably going to go with that pretty swirl on my ankle bone. That was never going to be a stroll through the park.





As he moved up my ankle and onto the sails, the pain reduced significantly and it was more like getting laser hair removal. After talking to a lot of tattooed people this is what I had been expecting the whole thing to feel like - very painful but not too bad. I've had lots of laser and for a while I managed to distract myself the same way that I do when I'm having hair removed - by playing games on my phone. But once he'd finished that little section of my ankle where it wasn't just all bone, he went straight back down and continued torturing my foot. Foxy, the owner of the shop, was really sweet and lovely. She cranked the music so I could scream into the bed to my heart's content. Everybody kept trying to distract me, but all I cared about was keeping still.



So after a few hours of torture, I had an explosion of colour on my ankle. Which had swollen up to twice it's size. Rene told me not to walk on it for at least three days, which I tried really hard to do and then failed miserably. How do I not walk when I live a boat? I can't exactly hop from one room to another! It took five days for the swelling to start going down and over a week before the first bit of skin started peeling. I couldn't wear shoes or walk to the showers. The marina bathrooms are down a dirt path, and I was supposed to wash my foot every day without walking or getting dust on it. After care on a boat is really, really hard.


The next day




Still puffed up a few days later

I ended up wearing a sock whenever I could, and half hopping half limping between the facilities and our boat. The hotel lobby (wifi!) and the tiki palapa are even further away than the bathrooms. So I ended up losing a bit of colour exactly where Rene said I would if I didn't keep my foot up. Damn. Luckily we'll be back in civilisation again soon so I can get a touch up like a normal person.



A week and a half later

While I was at it, I got a wedding ring tattooed onto my finger. I'm so sick of not having my wedding ring. It's super dangerous wearing a ring on the boat, even when the boat's not moving. I've seen so many pictures and heard so many stories of people getting gloved by their rings, even just getting in and out of the boat on the dock. So the ring always stays off and the newlywed inside me is sad. Now I have it forever!



Interestingly it didn't hurt at all when Rene was tattooing my finger. Like at all. I could have had a nap. I guess my fingers have more skin on them than my foot!

After a whole day of anticipation and a whole afternoon of pain, the rest of my birthday was lovely. Everybody came out to celebrate with me. Our friend Ellen made me her special ribs which she finished off on the BBQ (one of the best things I've ever eaten), Debbie produced cake and cocktails and after driving me into the tattoo parlour that morning, Fred came all the way back out to Fantasy Island bearing champagne. There were a few thoughtful presents small enough to fit on the boat and I just generally felt really loved. I'm going to miss these people so much when we go!





After spending all afternoon watching me scream and squirm, the next week Garth decided he wanted in on the excitement. He has always wanted a tattoo of a monkey, but has never been able to figure out exactly what it is that he wants. After chatting with Foxy, he decided he may as well get on the bandwagon if she could figure out how to get the image of what he wanted out of his head and onto paper.


Foxy’s original design, which she was nice enough to let us have

She came up with a very cool design to start with, which was amazing. But it wasn't what Garth had been picturing for all these years. It turns out that he just wanted a simple outline of a monkey climbing up his back. To make it more special, the monkey he settled on is a Capuchin, just like his little friends here on Fantasy Island.


Foxy doing her thing



In an attempt to annoy me, Garth decided to get a tattoo that didn't take long and hardly hurt at all. Damn him. Fred was amazing enough to give us another lift into town and then then he even stuck around to take us back. It was late when we got home, so we went out to dinner. That's where I discovered one of my new favourite things - a Corona tipped upside down into a margarita. It starts off as all margarita and ends up as mostly Corona. Awesome.





Garh couldn't wait to show Cheeky the new tattoo and he was pretty interested in it at first, but then he went back to searching Garth's pockets for almonds and eating all of his hair. Typical.


What’s all this then?

Edit: My tattoo a few months later




X xx Monique

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