Three years ago today we experienced a disaster at sea when a critical fitting failed and our entire rig toppled into the ocean. We were 450 miles west of the Galápagos Islands en route to the Marquesas, on a dream passage with high confidence in our boat and our abilities, confidence that was dashed in the 8 seconds it took from the time we heard the break to the rig hanging over the side deck threatening the hull. The loss tested us not only in our seamanship and decision-making under stress, but in the day-to-day struggle we faced in the following months to keep the dream alive while we repaired the damage. At first we railed against the loss of an entire year of cruising. But as time went on, and especially now in hindsight, we realize how much we gained from the event.
From the moment we notified the insurance company we were treated with kindness and concern for our well-being and safety by our agent and adjusters until the claim was finally closed more than a year later. The cruising community, both in person in the Galapagos and online, were supportive and sympathetic. The crews of Dancing Bear and Deesse took care of us when we limped back to Isla Isabela, especially Dirk Aardsma, who guided us through the preparations for our long motor back to the mainland while we were still in a daze and could barely put a thought together.
Because of our dismasting we visited Costa Rica, a place that was never on our itinerary, and met for the first time my cousins Arturo and Roberto and their families and were embraced and surrounded by family love. My cousin Douglas flew in from Colorado and took us to some of his favorite places in the mountains and generally eased our stay in an unfamiliar place. While we struggled with the Dragon Lady at Costa Rica Customs we lived in the warm cocoon of the boating community at Land-Sea Marina, as comfy a home as you can have in our situation. We met the crews of Georgia J and Kia Ora and they became friends. We were given the TV remote for the local bar so we could watch the Grand Prix races early Sunday mornings before they opened for breakfast. We saw whales in the bay, turtles in the anchorage, monkeys and sloths in the trees, orchids in the gardens and spectacular scarlet macaws every day.
Because of our dismasting we joined the incredible ex-pat and cruising community of Bahia del Sol, El Salvador, and were taken care of by Bill and Jean and Lynn and Lou and the ever-changing cast of characters who pass through that little piece of paradise every season, and when we eventually left for our second try at the Marquesas they gave us a rousing send-off.
Because of our dismasting we were able to fly back to the States for our niece’s wedding and enjoy reunions with both sides of our family and many of our old friends. The whirlwind extended trip also made us happy to get home to Escape Velocity again and confirmed the decision about our chosen life, even after suffering a setback. A sunrise over the estuary beats almost anything you can see out a window in the mid-Atlantic states.
Because of our dismasting we road tripped to Honduras and Guatemala and saw inspiring art and culture that will stick with us always. We arranged for a long-stay visa in French Polynesia and got an earlier start on the long ocean passage than we had the year before. That meant we had time to visit all the populated islands in the Marquesas, an accomplishment we’re very proud of and a highlight of our voyage so far.
Because of the yearlong delay the dismasting caused we reconnected with Caribbean cohorts on Macushla, Flying Cloud and Field Trip, and met new ones on Enki II, Toucan, Rehua, Silver Fern, Full Circle, Moondancer, Qi, Palarran and so many others, dozens of amazing and inspiring people, both cruisers and locals. They have all enriched our lives more than we can measure. It’s true we would have met other, equally wonderful people the year before, but circumstances brought us to this time and place and we can’t imagine it otherwise.
Because of our dismasting we have learned to slow down, to appreciate where we are every day, to cherish time with friends. We are now more than five years in and not yet halfway around. But what’s the hurry? Every day is a winding road and we’re so much richer for the twists and turns it brings.
“The moon and sun are eternal travelers. Even the years wander on. A lifetime adrift in a boat, or in old age leading a tired horse into the years, every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home. From the earliest times there have always been some who perished along the road. Still I have always been drawn by wind-blown clouds into dreams of a lifetime of wandering.” —Basho, Narrow Road to the Interior