Bahia del Sol, El Salvador

16.12.19 @2030.I’m sailing again. That might not, on the face of it, seem surprising. However, this last month has been the worst of my life and I’m hoping this trip with Bernie will help me start to heal.On November 13th at 0630 I received the phone call no parent should ever get. My beautiful son, Danny, was killed in a car accident. There really aren’t words to describe Matt and my devastation and heart break. The three of us were a tight unit, a team. We’ve been through so much together. And my boys were not just brothers, but best friends.I’ve always felt so blessed to have such a wonderful relationship with my sons. I never thought of one without the other and I’m sure they knew I’ve loved them every second from the moment they were born.I don’t want to dwel on it here, because nothing I say will bring Danny back. I vacillate between quiet joyless heart break and bawling devastation. But both Matt and I decided he would want us to keep on with our adventures and we hope this will distract us a bit.So, after all of us returning to NZ for Danny’s funeral and so on, Matt is in Russia, with Meg, continuing their trip through Europe, and I joined Bernie on their (his and Michelle’s) yacht Momo, as planned. I flew into San Salvador on Dec 5th and got a taxi to Bahia del Sol where Bernie was at anchor.When I arrived I was as weak as a kitten, due to stress, something that’s shocked me and is another story I’ll touch on at a different time. I’d gone from feeling so fit and strong while doing my diving course (which I passed btw) to being unable to get up off the ground without huge effort. Scary really. So the first week or so here, getting to know Momo, swimming, supplying the boat etc, was a great catch up period, both physically and emotionally. I’ve felt myself slowly get stronger and the waves of grief fractionally more manageable.Bernie has been wonderfully understanding. He’s missing his girls too, who are all in NZ at the moment. What a pair we are! But he’s given me jobs to do, let me get on with anything I want and really just let me be when I’ve been upset. A couple of times when I was really not coping he issued a quick hug, but mostly realised I’m best left to have a wee cry, then sort myself out and get on with something.We’re good crew mates so far, talking about anything and everything, putting the world to rights! We’ve got to know some local people, joining them for drinks and a swim in the evening. I’ve also enjoyed the varied bird life here, with tiny swallows greeting me each morning and beautiful big McCaws (I think!) in the gardens of the resort.We were going to sail last week but the weather window closed up on us and we delayed until this afternoon. So we lifted the pick about 1730 today and got led out over the bar in a beautiful sunset. Bernie got the sails up while I took the helm and we turned the engine off by 1830. Peace. Its great to be at sea again. I got dinner while Bernie settled us on a course and put the auto helm on. After dinner, around 2000, I took first watch and Bernie’s trying to get some sleep. It’s a stunning clear warm night, we’re steering 225 and making about 3 knots.Bit different to Lucky Wave!2240. I just had the most awesome treat. I got up to do my 15 minute checks and a bunch of dolphins swam alongside. I followed them to the bow and chatted to them while they danced in the bow waves and made streamers of phosphorescence in the water. It was super cool to see their bodies in the dark ocean thanks to the light show! This is exactly why I thought I should still come to sea so soon after Danny’s death. Spirit food at its best.0225. Just had a nice little kip and am back on watch. The wind has veered slightly which is in our favour so our course is more westerly now and we’re making 5 knots. Holding course nicely and all is well.0500. More dolphins. I can’t tell in the dark what kind. Nearly five thousand nautical miles in the Mediterranean and we only saw them three times I think. And here we’ve seen dozens after probably 50nm! Not many other vessels around, either.1400. We’re currently almost becalmed, after a day of mostly steady breeze busting us along at about 4.5 knots. We even had a squall go through and had to reduce sail! Now it’s hot and clear and we’re barely moving! Fruit for lunch, though I think Bernie might’ve sneaked some Pop corn while I snoozed! He loves that stuff!We’ve seen dolphins at regular intervals, mostly Bottlenose which are impressively big. They really do seem to look at you as you lean over the guard rail. They turn on their sides or pop out enough to see their eyes! The water is so clear. I saw some spotty ones earlier this morning which I think were Pantropical Spotted dolphins.Bernie has lots of books so I can look up the animals we see! There’s also a ton of educational sailing books which I should look at too. Starting with “wind vane self steering theory, principles and practice” Eek.Wednesday 18th December 0430Very slow going. Heading 326 degrees and doing about 2 knots. Not ideal but we can’t do much about it. I just hope we are out of the way of the Tehuantepec when it arrives. I’m a bit nervous about being in very rough weather, I must confess. Mainly coz I don’t know enough to help Bernie if the shit hits the fan. This yacht has a more complicated sail system than I’ve ever used.The Tuhuantepec is a funnel of wind that comes off the mainland near the south Mexican border. Its strong and covers a huge area. We had wanted to be 350nm west before the next forecast wind, doing about 120nm a day, but for the last 20hrs or so we’ve barely covered 40nm. And had to go further North than we wanted.However, that’s sailing. What can we do?! Bernie has been on watch, since I did most of last night and couldn’t sleep. So I was pretty tired. It’s nice on deck, cooler. I can sit here all night wearing only my Thailand trou and t shirt.0840. Still very light winds so Bernie just put up the big light air sail. Its still flapping round though! We had a large pod of pilot whales (according to Bernie) play on their way past us just now. Beautiful.1000. I’ve just had cheese and rice for brunch – yes, Rob!We might not be achieving the nautical miles we wanted to, and Bernie is mending a sail, but oh boy, is it magic out here. Not another boat in sight. No engine noise. Just sealife. And us. I’m sitting in the sun (yes, hat, shirt and sunscreen) watching the course, though we’re barely moving, and reading a book about early settlers in NZ. Very good, it is! So different to the Mediterranean where we play dodgems with the multi millionaires of the world.I think I’ll loop back from time to time, to fill in the events of the last 6 weeks or so since I posted from Koh Phangan. As I feel up to facing it all. For now, my diving course and Koh Phi Phi.My diving course was done with Reefers, on Koh Phangan, and I completely lucked in getting newly qualified instructor, Lukas Niebel. He was 100% fantastic. Ruth, who’s an instructor herself with over 400 dives, was impressed with him too. He had the patience of a Saint the first day as I learned the dozens of new things and made him repeat stuff over and over till I was sure of it.Day 2 was two beach access dives in fairly poor visibility, but I did well I think, and really enjoyed getting the hang of everything. I realised it was easier to control the finer bouancy with my lungs, which Lukas was apparently impressed about, saying it took ages to teach most people that. Seemed logical to me! He was also stoked at how little air I used, but I explained that breathing apparatus wasn’t new for me, as I’ve done so much fire fighting training. That day we went to about 9m and practised emergency procedures and buoyancy control.Day 3 was the two dives on Sail Rock. Ruth came as well and Lukas buddied us up to give me practise with buddy responsibility while he could watch and test me. The two of them conspired to set me little traps but I spotted all their tests! It was absolutely marvelous. I was totally hooked. Ruth took her underwater camera and got some awesome pics of us. We had such fun and I went to the limit of what I’m supposed to do as an open water diver – 18m. Lukas was super pleased with me, and I with him! I used less air than both he and Ruth, which astounded them! I aced my navigation too, lol!That night Lukas and Abby (his girlfriend) joined us for celebratory drinks. They’re an awesome pair. We might’ve had quite a few cocktails and I think I was the only one without a hangover the next morning – to Ruth’s disgust! We really enjoyed their company. Lukas has the same great approach to life I’ve instilled in my boys. He’s lived in NZ for 4 years too, working for Weta workshop in Wellington.1040. Right now there is a huge turtle hanging around the yacht. I can also see fish and a sea snake in the water, its so clear.1720. Still becalmed and barely able to hold a course. We’ve even “made way” sideways when the fetch pushed us almost backwards! On the plus side, it’s chilled off a bit now and the sun is behind clouds, setting up a spectacular sunset. Again! We’ve given up on the autohelm and are taking turns at half hour tricks, just trying to keep heading every so slowly in the right direction. Wind is forecast this evening. We’ve seen turtles three times today!19.12.19. Happy birthday, Mehrez! Sorry I can’t say it in person. I’m sure you’ll celebrate appropriately!We finally got wind in the night and buzzed along at a decent rate, poor Momo being tossed all over the show. The winds north easterly but there’s fetch from at least two other directions, so waves all over the place. The sails are slopping about but at least we’re moving. Only about 3 knots though. Again seen lots of dolphins and not caught any fish! I’m making kedgeree for dinner. We had popcorn for lunch, watching TV series Bernie has on his laptop! I can see more TV in my life in the next 2 weeks than in the last year!I’m starting to learn a bit about the yacht. Bernie showed me how the self steering gear works. It’s quite complex but works very well. And I think I’ve got all the sheets worked out, in terms of which one adjusts which sail. I haven’t started on the halyards yet. Bernie does most of the sail work. Its surprisingly heavy. He said usually Michelle takes the helm and he works the sails, so I guess we’ll stick with that. I’m also trying to do my share of the cooking and the laundry.I’ve felt Danny’s absence a lot today and had a few weepy moments. I think coz I know he’d love this and I so badly want more time to do these things with him. I’d promised him to do his open water diving course for his birthday and go diving with him. He was so excited for that. It’s deeply unfair. I hate that saying “only the good die young” now, with intensity. Because in his case its true. He was such a good man. He and Matt. I’ve been so proud of them both. I’m going to have to try not to place limitations on Matt. My fear of losing both sons cannot be allowed to cramp Matt’s style. I guess we both have to live a bit extra for Danny. FML.Friday 20th December 2019 0625 – sunrise. Clear and very light wind NE again. I’ve just adjusted the vane to bring us a little more round to the west. We’re getting a little too close to the area where the Tehuantepec hits. Need to be a bit more SW to be safe, and further out. But we’ve been stuck with no wind so can’t do much about that! It’s a more comfortable ride this morning. Still big rollers but not from as many directions!There has been a little swallow hanging round the yacht this morning. It seems a bit far out to sea to me, so I hope it finds its way home OK. They’re so cute. I gave it some sugary water but didn’t see if it drank any!0856. I’m feeling quite pleased with myself. Bernie has been able to have a nice sleep and relax since0430 and I’ve managed to alter the self steering and sails by myself successfully, as the wind (such as it is!) has veered onto our starboard quarter. We’re now steering 240 on average and making a huge 2 knots, lol! There are times I miss my big Mann engines! Am I a petrolhead at heart?0940. High excitement as the fishing line took off! Upon reeling it in we saw, to our consternation, that we’d hooked a stingray – a Devil Ray, actually. Wondering just how we were going to get the hook out and release it, it got off by itself. Thank goodness! So now I’m going to rod fish!I nearly got a fish but it seems to be our day for the buggers getting off the hook inches from capture. Or it could be user error! However, my at least hooking one, and seeing others interested in the lure, had infused Bernie with greater enthusiasm in my venture than he expected, I think. If only I had some bait I’m sure I’d have one but now. I’m regretting our decision to release the little fish we hooked yesterday.Just had the weather forecast in on the InReach system. More light winds, dammit! We’ll have to start thinking about conserving food. We expected to be heading north on the outside of the Tehuantepec by now. Instead we’re not even as far west as we want to be.1840. Well, we’ve just done 4 whole days at sea and are not even at it second way point. A bit concerning. I took a photo of the chart so I can add it in once we get WiFi! In a few weeks, lol! By which time we’ll just be eating pasta or rice and maybe tinned tomatoes, of which there seems to be a lot!2318. Wind at last. We’re doing 7 knots! In the right direction! I’ve had a quick sleep and am giving Bernie zeds, in case he has to deal with higher winds and sail changes later. I hope not. This is actually enough for me! I’m turning into a wuss in my old age.Saturday 21st December0815. We’re still humming along at 6 or 7 knots, sailing very nicely and will regain our original course about lunch time. I didn’t sleep much, a bit on edge, tbh. I didn’t think I would be and I don’t know if it’s a hang over from my Ibis tragedy, or a new awareness of life’s frailty brought on by Danny’s death. I just keep thinking “I can’t leave Matt alone”. Which is silly, because he wouldn’t be, but it was just the 3 of us managing on our own for so long that I still feel locked in that tight unit. Guess I’d better sort my head out because that’s pretty fucked up now, isn’t it just. Hell, I miss my boys.Anyway. We keep seeing wonderful wildlife, reassuring after the Mediterranean seeming so devoid of it. Last night dolphins totally showed off, leaping right out of the sea straight up for the sky. Ikei o te rangi! Also more turtles, fish, snakes and jelly fish. A couple of tiny fish have been thrown up on deck and Bernie snaffled them for my rod!I realise I didn’t get as far as talking about Koh Phi Phi. After I’d finished my dive course, Ruth and I hired motor bikes and explored Koh Phangan, which was great fun. I haven’t forgotten how to ride a bike apparently. It was a lovely week with Ruth, girl time, with massages and cocktails, coffee and chat.After Koh Phangan we headed off to join Orgest and Nina (Ruth’s daughter) for our week in Koh Phi Phi, where Nina had organised for us all to help a local conservation team plant coral on a reef that was struggling to survive. Very cool thing to be involved in. As it turned out I only got one very wonderful day doing this because it was early the second day that I got the news about Danny.I don’t know how I would’ve coped without Ruth, Orgest and Nina there. They were wonderful. I was a mess, of course. But they took me to Krabi, got me on a flight to Bangkok and from there I went home. I’m not ready to write about the rest yet but I will say a thank you here to the ladies on Qantas from Bangkok to Sydney. They were wonderful. They saw I was distressed as I boarded, took me aside and asked if I was OK. I explained and was given as private a seat as I could hope for and an enormous glass of whisky to settle in with. Bless them, they looked after me like I was their sister.1855. Bernie has just reefed the main sail for the night. We’ve been screaming along at 8-9 knots. We’ve just begun crossing the base of the Tehuantepec so should keep up a decent wind all night. The sea has been rough (in terms of the Douglas scale) today but Momo has sailed beautifully and it’s been pretty comfortable. We watched 3 episodes of “Wire”, the series set in a tough Baltimore suburb. It’s very good!

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