The catamaran was bobbing steadily against the waves on its southward trek off the west coast of Kauai. The sun was starting to set at my back as I stood along the side railing, facing the island while talking with a few new friends I had just made. Everything was perfect.
Naylene and I were on our honeymoon in Hawaii, out on the water with nice weather and the drinks had just been served. She was laying down at the front of the boat while I talked with another couple about the helicopter ride we had taken the day before.
The three of us were sharing stories about our island touring adventures and sipping mai tais. The word "maitai" means "good" in Tahitian.
Dinner would be served to the 50 or so passengers on the boat shortly, and everyone was enjoying the recently decreased speed to let go of whatever they were holding on to and begin speaking at a reasonable volume to each other again.
Right in the middle of describing some fabulous waterfall I had seen from the day before, the three of us were hit with a blast from a strange sandy cloud that swept in from off the side of the boat.
"What was that?" we all asked out loud. Wiping the grit from our faces and shaking it from our hair, we watched it collect in our fresh drinks and tried to find where it came from.
Hundreds of yards off the coast, we couldn't imagine what it was.
"Was that sand?" How could it be? "Was it salt?" Impossible.
Seconds later another cloud swarmed us. I turned my head, but the suntan lotion and sweat on my body acted like a sponge for the grit to soak into.
"I could do without it, whatever it is," the woman noted. She took a brief taste of the stuff to test it for a salty tang. It was all over us, why not?
At that moment I had a scare that it was some sort of chemical cleaner, used to mop up the evidence of squeamish seafarers' offerings at the back of the boat. I kept this theory to myself.
Another few seconds passed and a man came thumping up the side of the boat with an urgency I could tell meant nothing good.
"It was ashes. Someone tried to dump their dead relative off the side of the boat and the wind blew it back."
We were coated with a light dusting of someone's ashes.
Speechless, I looked at my new friends with a blank stare, not knowing what to do or how to react.
It was on my face, in my ears and all over my camera.
My drink was topped with a layer of person.
I had someone's grandfather in my hair.
The woman I was talking with didn't take this too well. She was amused in a horrific way, but also upset and she wanted a place to shower off. I did too.
Heading down below deck for the bathroom, I realized that we weren't the only ones put out by this mistake. The family who tried to send their loved one off to a Hawaiian sunset had to remember the moment as a comically macabre scene were half-a-dozen strangers were peppered with the remains of their relative.
Noting this, I tried to keep the commotion to a minimum when the people around me asked about it later on in the cruise, and when Naylene let out a "WHAT?" when I filled her in, I kept my voice down during the explanation.
It makes for a memorable honeymoon story, and one that I'll be able to tell for quite some time.
Rob Felt is the photographer for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or firstname.lastname@example.org .