Superheroes are everywhere these days; on the tele and seemingly around every corner, although the prerequisites for being considered one is narrowing, almost daily. You can be famous in an instant. One can be called a hero for not doing too much at all, but all that aside, I’m sure you’ll agree that humans are generally impressive. We can achieve the unimaginable and we often defy the odds… but we don’t operate alone. We usually receive help along the way. For me this week it was medical help from 3 Physicians in a small private hospital in Perth, Western Australia, as I tackled another challenge, so soon after the recent sea rescue that nearly took our lives and which definitely took a toll. These experts in General Medicine stood alongside me, wracked their brains and, according to them, “waited for me to crash” for a few of those long days. Some mysterious tropical virus had taken over my system and it was in charge. I’m now out of hospital and extremely grateful that these 3 incredibly intelligent, empathetic and dedicated individuals made Australia their home. You see, all three hail from different corners of the globe, all raised in cultures, climates and with languages different to our own. Here they save OUR lives, make OUR community a better place to be. I am in awe and I pinch myself that this great Southern Land is my home.
On January 22nd another bunch of superheroes answered a random call from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) and volunteered, selflessly, to rescue our little distressed family in the Flores Sea in remote Indonesia. The idea of saving our family in that sea state, in that wild, unpredicted storm, was hopeless, in the true sense of the word, but it didn’t stop them trying. For 24 hours this 180m cargo ship conducted manoevres that were unfathomable, resulting in the first successful night tow of a yacht by a cargo ship, ever! The waves reached 5 metres and the wind was in excess of 67 knots and they simply would not let up. To drive a ship in those conditions and successfully save all five of us (they weren’t aware of our 5th family member, the trusty sea dog) was the stuff of wild dreams. Those 24 hours were filled with death-defying moments that haunt us nightly as we relive them with terrifying clarity: huge troughs of frothing ocean that took the sun away, wind shifts that tried to spin the boat around, tonnes of water crashing mercilessly into the aluminium hull, the tremendous grinding of the ship’s steel hull against ours, the snapping of tow lines, the tearing of tensioned rigging as we waited for our boat to break apart, miles from safety. All this happened while we were unable to communicate with our rescuers, as lightning had destroyed our on-board systems. This ship’s Master and crew knew nothing about us, nor did they know for some time that we had two young sons on board. They were simply doing what heroic mariners do, preserving life at sea. We, in turn, knew nothing of them. Did they speak English, did they have experience saving yachties in seemingly impossible conditions? Would they give up? They did not. I am piecing together the story with the aim of publishing a book one day, so I won’t dwell on the barely believable details here but some 24 hours after our Skipper pushed the epirb button we were resting in a safe harbor, out of all danger. Yes, we required strong constitutions, a degree of skill and a great deal of good fortune, but I would simply not be typing these words without the perseverance and simple act of kindness of the crew of the cargo vessel Santa Vista, registered in Panama. To owe your life to completely strangers with whom you have not exchange glances or words is truly humbling. My children are alive because of their heroics, and I know as mariners they carry that understanding.
The recovery that follows such a catastrophic event surely will be a bumpy one but we are talking, smiling and crying through it as best we can, with the distinct aim of coming out the other side as healthy people. We realize that by publishing our story we will be vilified by some and called heroes by others and we have been warned that the experience may even be worse than the sea incident itself, but we feel the need to share it regardless. There have been simply too many heroic acts and displays of the greatest human attributes to be kept a secret. Let the actions of these people inspire us all as we trip along this path called life. I look forward to sharing the story with you.
In the meantime we have decided to discontinue our sailing adventure for a little while, and our boat needs some cosmetic touch-ups. Her structural integrity remains and is directly responsible for our well-being, as a lesser boat would have broken apart in either the angry sea, the collision with the ship or when under tow at 12 knots. She needs a rest now, and as sailors tend to say, needs a new frock. Our youngest crew have asked to trek on land for a while and the Skipper and I are very keen on that idea. We have each other, soon will have our health, and a curiosity that has only been fueled by our past 2 and a half years’ adventures. The world awaits and we all feel equal measures of impatience at what lies around the corner. Please stay with us, as we are pretty sure that it’s going to be incredible!