A long 48 hours

In Ecuador a lot of things happened but these forty-eight hours I decided deserved their own blog.  You know how time seems longer when things go wrong or when you lose track of days or maybe when you’re waiting for something.  Well all those things happened in a forty-eight hour time period making time slow to an incredible rate.  Yet at the same time in those slow hours there were times when things went fast, so fast I barely remember it.  Then time would slow down again and I would wait for the next fast thing.

1/10/20:  This is where I start the count for the long forty-eight hours.  I woke to water splashing on my back, my comfortable position ruined.  I put up plastic bags to catch the water.  The dorades were designed to let the water out but water has a way of slipping through cracks and getting into places even well sealed.  So I got up and went to meet Mom in the cockpit for what I thought would be a peaceful morning.  Things weren’t exactly peaceful, the dinghy was being dragged behind the boat half entrenched in water barely holding on.  The black dinghy motor was slipping off its perch inches from falling into the water.  Both the waves and wind were too strong coming from the North and a Mother telling me all her worries and the problems on the boat.  The worst thing though was the noise, the noise made everything worse.  I tried to ignore the noises of squeaking, crunching, and the bang, bang of the boom.  I wished for calmer waves and wind that the motor or the dingy hangs on just till we get to the Las Perlas Islands or Panama.  

One thing you need to know is on the trip Dad did not get a lot of sleep.  This left him extremely tired and more and more irritable every day.  So when he was sleeping you do not wake him unless it’s really important.  At this time Dad was sleeping which he needed desperately and he already knew about it.  He said we’ll fix it once he wakes.  That didn’t stop me from worrying.  I tried to escape by writing in my journal but the crunch of the dingy brought me back.  I don’t know why I was so stressed about it but I was.  I knew things could be worse they could be a lot worse but I refused to think about it.  Once Dad got up we started on the dinghy.  The waves were humongous some splashing over the boat and even entered the cockpit.  Dad said we had to stall the boat, Mom would be at the wheel, Linzi underneath to turn on and off the winch.  Earlier in the trip the winch broke so it took three people instead of one to lower the dinghy lift.  I would be the one who brought up the dingy lift and tell Linzi when to turn the winch on and off.  I also was there to help Dad if anything happened.  Dad once again sacrificed himself to the most dangerous job of tying the dinghy onto the dinghy lift and then getting back on the boat.  There was a very high chance of Dad falling into the water and guess who didn’t wear a lifejacket.  Yup that’s right the only one who really needed it did not wear one.  I watched as Dad got tossed and turned in the dinghy, my muscles tensing whenever a big wave shook Dad almost off.  We had to try multiple times as the lines came undone or the line was too short and the boat going too fast.  Eventually we got the dinghy up after much stress and work.  The rest of the day was pleasant and Dad slept.

1/11/20:  I woke to the sound of panic as someone said “net something stuck”.  I hurried out of bed but took more time than wanted.  I poked my head into the cockpit to see Mom helping or just staring at Dad as he submersed into the water.  I walked over, Mom told me to watch Dad in a panic.  He was in his green bathing suit with one flipper on trying to see what we hit.  By the way we were still under way with the winds and waves against us.  Dad came up said he saw only a little rope in the propeller but it went away on its own.  We started the engine but something wasn’t right, something was broken, the water didn’t come out of the boat.  Linzi and Bryan in this time woke up to ‘oh no’ faces and being quickly filled in.  Dad said he could fix it in one hour or so unless we bent the propeller shaft then our trip was done for.  We hoped that wasn’t the case but no matter how much you hope you can’t go back in time.  Dad only found broken things and that the propeller shaft was bent.  You can imagine the gloom, the oh no feeling, the stress and anger.  Imagine you were going on a five month sailing trip you got ready, got excited, quit or changed work or school only to be told it would end four months early.  You can feel the ‘this isn’t real feeling,’ the devastation.  In everyone’s head there were the questions of what are we going to do now?  How are we going to get to Panama with the engine broken?  What’s going to happen?  I don’t want this to be over.

We put up the genoa and mainsail then talked about what to do.  We all agreed that we wanted to keep sailing that instead of the trip being over there was just a change of plans.  One thing I love about this family is after something stressful we can laugh and make fun of it later.  We look for other ways we look on the brighter side of things and yes I know it sounds stupid but there’s a reason people said look on the bright side or be positive.  After the talk Dad went to make some calls.

Being on this sailing trip stirs up childhood memories for both Linzi and me.  Linzi talked about how it brought back memories of our May Day in Chile.  For me other memories were brought back up.  Mom and Dad also said it brought back the May Day memory.  Linzi rememberers telling me to grab Baby Elephant because we had to go. Mom remembered me saying thump thump thump for sometime after the May Day and Dad says he remembers me sleeping during it.

As we sailed, we were thankful for the wind but it slowed down to a light breeze.  Dad told us that we weren’t really learning how to sail so now we would have to.  Dad was dog tired so he went to rest and hopefully sleep as Linzi entertained Bryan.  I made Mac’n Cheese and things calmed down well as calm as things could be.  Sometime later there was this big sound and the black dinghy motor was gone.  I was glad of it, it never worked and just cost money.  Dad was woken but he didn’t seem to mind and then went back to making calls.  The sun started to set and there was a quiet stress with growing annoyance.

Dad called the American Coast Guard to help us and they did an amazing job.  It was a great reminder of how amazing and helpful the American Military is.  They helped us get in connection with the Panamanian Coast Guard, looked for our location, checked up on us, and sent a plane to come find us.  Lieutenant Constance was the one we checked in with every hour or so, she had a very calm voice. We had difficulties with the Panamanian Coast Guard because they could not find us and there was a speaking barrier hence the growing annoyance.  Dad also called our friend Bob who recommended Roger who could help us, Vern, and others I can’t remember.  The Panamanian Coast Guard sent a boat to find us and to tow us because we were labeled as a shipping hazard.  That night none of us slept except for Bryan but even he got very little sleep.  We were all hyped up on adrenaline and too many things were happening to go to bed. 

Now this is all happening after dinner and going long into the night to early morning.  I was exhausted after dinner and went to rest hearing Linzi tell fairy tales to Bryan.  Once I got up I told fairy tales to Bryan and we sent him to bed.  Every thirty minutes we went to pump the water out of the boat. When we wanted less wind we got more when we wanted a lot we got none.  The waves and wind were still from the North and the moon did not come out until later that night.

I shall try to describe the feelings I felt that night.  Calm, chaos, a scene of unknowing, wanting help, scared, stress, anxiety, wanting things to be over, relief, worry, and being sick of waiting.  We had to wait a long time for the tow boat and in that time things got messed up.  When waiting for the tow boat, the airplane the American’s sent for us found and flew over us for two hours which brought a sense of peace.  Unfortunately, they had to leave and that’s when the wind and sea started to kick up.  We had many problems with the sails, they would tangle up and not fold right.  One of the electric winches kept losing its line letting the sail go loose into the wind.

The worst time it happened was when Dad was up in front untangling the cutter while big waves almost made him lose his footing.  I was holding the flashlight to keep and eye on Dad.  Mom grabbed the rope and took it off the winch, I yelled at her.  Then Linzi came and we all started to yell not because of anger, ok maybe a little of that, but mainly because we couldn’t hear each other over the roaring noise of the sail.  Linzi shoved Mom off and put the rope back on the winch, it was on the wrong way.  The rope pulled Linzi and for a second I thought she was going overboard.  Dad then came and grabbed the rope, fixed it and pulled the sail back in.  The adrenalin was coursing through all of are veins.  Somewhere in that time, Bryan came back up and we all yelled at him to go back below deck.  It was kind of funny how much he wanted to be up with us and how we all told him no.

What do you do when you’re nervous or scared?  I shake, hum, and look very serious.  While waiting I did it all.  Finally around two in the morning, I saw it, the tow boat.  It had one really big bright light and I told the family.  It was dismissed as a fishing boat and we passed it.  Later Linzi would say she thought it was the tow boat too.  Mom then talked to them and we found out it was them.  As they came to us we got ready.  During this time Linzi fell down the stairs.  I watched her.  It was like watching something in slow motion then we all yelled, “Linzi!”  Linzi was told to rest and she was out for the night.

It took a few tries to get connected to the tow boat by this time I didn’t want to watch anything nerve-wracking.  I told Mom to go up for me but she didn’t want to either so I went up.  During the second attempt I got Mom up and went downstairs only to hear Mom scream.  I went up and saw Dad on the deck, he slipped and fell.  He got up and a while later we were being towed.  As the waves hit the boat it sounded like the keel was breaking off.  You could hear the crack of who knows what and the big bang of hitting a wave.  By this time it was 2:40am 1/12/20.  The adrenalin started to wear off and I got ready for bed leaving Mom and Dad to take care of the boat.

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