Just when my irrational sailing fears are subsiding and I am looking forward to each sail, the reality of the dangers come crashing into my face, in front of my face to be precise. There I was, innocently sipping a Diet Coke, surfing in some wifi zone, my face illuminated by my computer screen, when JW pointed out an article he’d found on noonsite. The 38’ sailing vessel Serena had been abandoned at sea off the coast of Spain….
It struck me with a sinking feeling in the stomach, that we know that boat, in fact the crew of Serena are good friends we’d last heard from when they set sail across the Atlantic, headed for Europe a couple months ago….
“Oh my god! Are they ok?!”
I read the article with quick breaths, looking for the key words, and found them – ‘rescued’, ‘safe’…. Sigh of relief. But they had suffered through a gargantuan storm and they had lost their boat, having been lifted into a helicopter and watching their home and precious vessel dwindling into the distance among the crashing waves below as they flew away….
It’s been on my mind for days. They were/are the sweetest people! They had already done an ocean crossing. They were so friendly and calm and knowledgeable. How could this happen to them?! To someone we know!
And the truth just sits there, like a quickly eaten warm donut in your belly. It is doughy and makes you uneasy as it’s hard to digest.
The truth is that this can happen to ANYONE on a boat. No matter how nice or what an expert you might be, a storm can strike and your lives can be in danger. Your life can change in an instant. And if you are lucky, your experience and all your preventative gadgets will be applicable, accessible - to help make the difference between life and death.
Luckily for Hentii and Arja, they were able to access their EPIRB, and help came. But it took the rescue team 8 hours. That is 480 minutes in 20 meter (60 ft) waves, clinging to the remnants of their boat, smashing, crashing, water washing away their dreams…. Terror unimaginable previously. But they survived.
They are not the only tragic story we have heard lately either. But they hold a special place in my heart, and so it was this story that hit me so hard.
|Serena's salon table - set for supper
As clear as if it were yesterday, I remember coming down into Serena’s warm homey salon. Arja had decorated and filled the boat with the cutest European charm, and the whole boat was filled with the aroma of her home-cooked creamy mushroom soup. And though the swell rocked us through supper, we laughed and ate and drank, and afterwards Hentii set up his microphone and amp and serenaded us and the nearby boats with his amazing Elvis renditions. It was a lovely evening. It’s unlikely I’d ever forget it.
|Great food and great friends - supper on Serena
|Elvis is in the house!
And as I sit here now, imagining Arja and Hentii in the aftermath of their disaster, soaked and possessionless, without passports or dry clothes, I wish we’d been there to lend a hand. And a hug. And just to let them know how brave and great they are.
And deep down my hug would mean even more. That it’s such a wonderful miracle they survived, and how they are an inspiration above the fear that their ordeal has generated.
It’s humbling more than anything else. We play and frolic in these waves, we call the ocean home. But we are truly small and powerless in the face of the unpredictable giant.
It’s easy to forget, when I peer over the edge of the boat into the clear turquoise that invites me to jump in and cool off.
But it’s a relationship of respect, admiration and forgiveness it seems.
I wrote to Arja this week and she explained that they are now living in a tiny apartment, fighting with the insurance companies, trying to find jobs. She is blogging... The search continues for Serena, which may be floating or beached somewhere along the coast of Portugal...
|What could be the fate of Serena...
But in their heart of hearts, the sailing dream is still alive. And one day, they will be out here again. Sailing the ocean blue.