Obelix on the rocks

No it is not the name of the latest trendy cocktail, although I wish.
This is how I miserably ended an otherwise gorgeous long week-end sailing with friends.

I’ve tried to find myself excuses, or blame others, or circumstances for the accident, nothing softens that overwhelming feeling of shame and guilt. I was at the helm and steered us way to close to the coast until we felt a bump slowing us down, and another one, and another one, while I was steering away from the hazard.
I still don’t understand why none of the indicators raised the alarm in my brain, between a coast awfully close, a depth sounder falling under 3 meters, and Thomas who expressed his concerns which I too easily dismissed. All I know is that I had lost the ability to think straight, put the whole boat and crew at risk, and still beat myself up for it.
The only clue to my lack of judgement, is my stress levels escalating beyond measure during the week-end, due to a series of events which unfolded one after the other, domino-like, to eventually culminate in the regrettable incident.

We had friends on board, one adult, two kids, for the week-end, which meant an additional pressure to ‘perform’ and provide them with a good experience. We had gone out the night before to celebrate with other boaties the 160th Mahurangi Regatta,and stayed up a bit too late for my already depleted energy levels. On getting back to the boat we were welcomed by an angry neighbour who was righfully upset we were anchored too close, and demanded we move right away. So we did, re-anchoring by night for the first time. I then spent the night feeling guilty about this whole drama. In the morning, we received the visit of accomplished sailors who a) intimidated me and b)provided us a good reality check, stating the obvious that if we were to leave for the island this year we still needed to check and fix all the crucial bits which was probably a good three-month full-time work. We then spent the rest of the morning entertaining the kids with a makeshift swing hanging from the boom and only departed after a late lunch when the river had already been vacated by most of the hundreds of boats who were there for the rallye. And this got me upset. We were upwind and the customer experience was not as satisfying as the previous day where Obelix was cruising flat, 15 knots down wind, all on autopilot, while we were indulging in a mediterranean buffet of rockmelon, prosciutto, cheese, home-made hummus, broccoli and carrots sticks, and sourdough bread, with an upbeat soundtrack provided by our guests. Things got worse in the afternoon, when I gave the helm to my friend to go down to prepare the watermelon, and on a misunderstanding we tacked and had to go backwards to tack again to then realise all the fishing lines were tangled up underneath the boat. Thomas decided to stop the boat sheltered behind Tiri and dive to get those lines sorted but we had a heated argument about it because I was scared, and thought it wasn’t safe enough, I yelled at him. It made me feel terrible. I thought I had tamed the dragon inside me but this proved me otherwise and I couldn’t stop thinking I couldn’t be relied upon, I wasn’t psychologically stable enough to consider blue water sailing. My whole dream was getting out of reach. During the whole ‘tidy-the-fishing-lines’ operation, we drifted quite a bit and lost ground, so my hope to reach Gulf Harbour Marina early-ish (by 6:30pm as stated to them earlier on the phone) vanished. Sea conditions were deteriorating by then as we were getting in Tiri channel with wind against tide, waves forming and I could feel the whole crew quieting down therefore betraying their discomfort. As a considerate hostess, I switched on the engine committed to get us to the marina as fast as possible but the crossing of the channel was dragging, kids were asking how much longer it would take, motion sickness was around the corner. And I couldn’t quite make sense of a couple of marks on the tiny GPS plotter and asked Thomas what it was, but he was on deck tidying up the staysail halyard and couldn’t hear, he just gestured to stay clear of them. I did, but then came back closer to the shore, thinking I was clear and that way I’d get away from the bigger waves and make people feel better.
And bump.
I got paralysed at the helm. Thomas quickly went inside to check we were not taking in water. We made our way to Gulf Harbour Marina, Thomas taking the helm for a bit realising I was in shock and couldn’t handle the situation properly.
I still managed to pull myself together to assist those kids who were feeling unwell, helping them through another layer of cloth as the sun was going down, suggesting they stand at the helm with Thomas to look at the horizon, maybe making some jokes even. It worked.
I took the helm back to get us into the berth as usual, as Thomas was on deck preparing the fenders and grabbing the hanging line with the boat hook. We got in perfectly. At least that I knew how to do.
Later, when I was sobbing on the pier, Zeph came to me and said “Mum, you’re better than most mums, normally it’s the dads who drive [the boat]”.
This morning Thomas dived to assess the situation, there doesn’t seem to be any structural damage to the keel however one part of the rudder has been snapped, the rest has splits and needs repair. Judging it unsafe to sail back to Auckland we’re stuck here to start getting the boat hauled out, inspected, and repaired asap. Today being a public holiday, we can only set things in motion tomorrow…

Love and kindness message from Zephyr
Boats rule

Butterfly in a chocolate pool


This week-end I’ve had to recount how I got my bruised face to many strangers and friends alike at the tango festival. People wanted to make sure I wasn’t a victim of domestic violence and needed to check for themselves if my story stacked up I told myself, so I complied. As I did, each time varying the perspective and level of details I was offering, something weird happened. I started to feel overwhelmed by my audience’s reaction. I thought my sharing my story would bring me pride for displaying courage and determination, chasing one of my lifelong dreams. But instead, the commiseration and words of sympathy brought, with their comfort, an inch of pity and shame. Victim of seasickness. Victim of bad luck. At odds with the gods. Nothing to brag about. I was losing points, being demoted in the social hierarchy. There was a serious disconnect between how people perceived my tale and how I saw myself.

The chocolate story

I finally came to the conclusion I wasn’t serving up the right story, and I recalled how I had overcome the dizziness and anxiety of being stitched up at the hospital, alone in the very hospital-like atmosphere (neon-lighted, plain unadorned white walls, rooms and hallway full of monitors and used medical supplies disposal bins), by picturing myself in a warm pool of melted chocolate. Of course the anesthetic injected under my skin helped me escape the reality, but I made the conscious effort of imagining everything I could do in that chocolate spa. I would glide my fingers from side to side, feeling the slight resistance of the velvety liquid, I would approach my head near the surface to take in the rich aroma, I would dip my tongue to get a taste of the sweet elixir, Thomas would appear next to me and I would lick chocolate off his face like an animal. These were pleasant thoughts but not active enough, I needed even more liberating images to forget I had a few-centimeter wide wound and a needle going through my skin to help heal it. I would then turn the spa into the wide ocean where I’d be free to roam, first in a gentle breast stroke which quickly expanded to a butterfly swim, big splashes of chocolate, hundreds of dark droplets spraying all around me each time my arms raised in the air. This provided me the multi-sensory experience of warmth and freedom I needed to handle circumstances where my first instinct was to feel sorry for myself, bound to be disfigured by a scar that would have been so easy to prevent. It worked. I reclaimed control of the situation, self-confidence, and the grit to carry on. I probably should have shared my chocolate story, instead of the bland analytical account of how I fell.

A necessary rite of passage

Another record to set straight: at no moment have I wished for this accident not to have happened. It was a fundamental component of our journey, a rite of passage which has opened my eyes and made me grow in ways that cannot be comprehended during a two-minute chat. It has strengthened our family bonds, renewed my admiration and gratitude for Thomas, who despite feeling queasy himself, took care of us, me and the kids, who were vomiting one after the other, passing us empty buckets and cleaning dirty ones, even when disgust made him throw up too. He kept diligently caring for each one of us, generous, committed, and dependable. It has increased my confidence in my kids too, who were willing to keep on sailing the next morning, and were so proud of having a big boat they’ll soon call home, a home right on the water, with a mast to climb on, and plenty of exotic places to lead us to. And it has challenged me, a week later, to look at my scarred face in the mirror, armed with courage, tweezers, and a nail-clipper, to tackle the daunting task of removing my six stitches without fainting. I had to lie down and rest after each stitch successfully removed (I’m a sissy), nevertheless it is something I thought I was incapable of before.

Don’t bring me down!

Yet, this was a confronting and traumatic experience, leaving me edgy, and which I’m still navigating the aftermath of (I still haven’t recovered my lost sensitivity on part of my scalp, my body awareness seems to have been impacted and I keep bumping my head, I had two melt-downs during tango workshops from exhaustion and brain overload, and when I woke up after a nap on Saturday my right eye couldn’t see clear and I had to resolve to apply nail polish and make-up with a completely blurry vision which lasted for more than an hour). So any comfort is welcome. In fact, just after my fall, pressing on my forehead with one hand, waiting to be bandaged, my other hand was desperately searching for some physical touch, a hand to hold onto (I found Borja’s, which I grabbed as if it was the messiah, he let me, bless him). I craved the deeply reassuring feeling of human connection and skin-to-skin contact. Warmth. Hugs. Jokes. Fun. This is what I need most to lift my spirits up, not commiseration for my black eye, and sore bruises, reminding me how miserable I should be feeling.
So here it is, to reclaiming my status of badass-mother-of-two-pirate-sailor-data-torturer-Excel-hacker-tango-dancer. Aarrr!

Suiting quote seen at Wellington airport on my way back from the festival