San Marcos Island

It’s the 11th August. Bernie and I got up about 0530, me with more enthusiasm than mon capitaine, to get ready to sail to San Marcos island! This involved stowing all the diving equipment, taking down the sun shade, removing the sail cover and getting the dingy on board. We were going to do it last night but ended up sitting on deck watching the sunset with rum! As you do.

So we were underway by 0710, just as the first bees thought they would start hassling us. I’m very grateful to leave them behind. It’s now 0840 and we’re sailing nicely along at 5 knots. I’m on watch as Bernie is tired! Those extra two years are telling! He can’t handle the rum sessions! I am sitting on deck aft, and just saw a shark cruising near Momo. Awesome. Happy to admire from a distance!

Bernie’s sleep lasted all of two minutes because we hooked a fish on our long line. A mahimahi or dorado. Great eating. He’s just filleted it and cooked some for lunch. Probably less than an hour from hook to plate! So good!

I don’t like the way WordPress has changed the formatting. Now you have to open each picture to see it fully. So annoying.

Great conditions coming along the west side of San Marcos. There’s a gypsum open mine at the southern end. Very rugged island. There is an incredible number of stingrays here, it seems. They treated us to a wonderful display of leaping. We had to bring the lure in, in case we accidently hooked one.

1528 and we’ve dropped the pick! Utopia, Arena and Love & Luck are here too! Great day’s sailing. 😍⚓

12.08.20: We went over to Love & Luck last night for drinks. So did the crews off the other yachts. Fun evening catching up with everyone. The kids put on a play for us which was cute! Both of us were fairly tired so didn’t stay late

This morning we put up the sun shade and I washed clothes & sheets. Then I went for a swim but unfortunately swam through a bunch of tiny jellyfish (I’m assuming) that I couldn’t even see. But my skin all over was, and still is, tingling and bloody uncomfortable. The usual vinegar trick didn’t help, but hot water, aloe vera and manuka oil all seem to give a bit of relief. Not pleasant. Rather gun shy about swimming here again! Bernie suggested wet suits.

Saturday 15th August: The month is half gone in such a flash. Bernie had been working long hours on his translation so I’ve been endeavoring not to interrupt him. I’ve read a lot and been sleepy. I guess it’s partly the heat and partly catching up on nine months of continuous stress, devastation, intense sorrow and dealing with Danny’s affairs and Hope’s trial and sentencing.

We had dinner on Utopia the night before last and everyone except Karen got pretty hammered. Knocked off the better part of two bottles of Rum between the four of us. Great conversation, such an epic bunch of people. Karen made a beautiful meal using some of the fish Bernie smoked, that Tristan and Andrew had caught. It probably saved us, as we weren’t hung over, thankfully! I adore their kids, three of the four being home. Their oldest has flown the nest and Tristan had gone for a while but was visiting when lockdown happened, so he’s stayed. For me, it’s nice having a couple of nearly grown boys around again. They’re all smart, worldly and articulate, a credit to the lifestyle, as were Bernie and Michelle’s girls when I met them.

Bernie and I had a quick run ashore to explore a bit and then took the dingy around the caves nearby. It’s pretty spectacular, but too hot to climb inland. We took some posey photos, being silly, because Matt and Meg’s pics always look so perfect! It does not work when a couple of middle aged, scruffy sailors do it, lol! We just ended up cracking up over our foolishness 🤣🤣

We’ve had a fair bit of wind and it was enough to get us out of bed and stowing things on deck, a couple of nights ago. It caught the saloon hatch, too, unfortunately, tearing it right off its hinges so a fix up job awaits Bernie. He’s very good at fixing things and seems to enjoy it. But he’s focused on his deadline with the book atm.

My interview with Karine Rayson of The Crew Coach, was aired on Yachting International Radio this week. I think we did well and got the message across well. The idea was to get across that trauma and grief have no time line and each person can use the coping tools provided by mental health experts in any way that suits them. I also wanted to get over that recovery requires a positive commitment and resilience, that you can’t move forward by wallowing and expecting other people to put you back together. So far we’ve received great feedback and heartfelt thanks from crew who’ve watched it. For me, I think that’s the last thing I want to do following on from Danny’s death.

Bahia Concepcion 06.08.20

It’s Thursday so I’ve been in Mexico for two weeks now. We’ve arrived in Bahia Concepcion where we’ll stay for the foreseeable future. The other yachts with friends on are here too. The Deeley family on Utopia, the Vanninis on Love & Luck and Jamie & Steph (another nurse!) on Arena. We all gathered semi ashore for a catch up. That means we took the dingy to shore but floated around with our drinks, talking and doing social distancing! Funny and fun! Bernie did a bit of a number on himself with rum and mango juice! He’s such a happy tipsy! Mind you, I was pretty happy too!

Bernie’s been feeling not quite 100% but I think it’s because he’s been doing a lot of diving with the spear gun and is just tired and maybe a little dehydrated, though we drink plenty of fluids. He dropped a screw driver in the tide yesterday so I free dived for it this morning while the water was super clear. I’m not good at free diving. My ears hurt like hell and I’m so buoyant it’s hard to go down. But he was trying to work on translation and I wanted him to get a break from diving. It took me three goes but I did it. So I was pleased I succeeded! We’re anchored in 18 feet. I have seen a bunch of skate cruising below us today, even some baby ones. So cute. Potentially good eating too!

Bernie’s canning tuna just now and I’m sitting under the shade cloth on the cabin top. My laptop updated over night and deleted all my files. I had to contact Microsoft and they talked me through restoring it all. Thank god.

0610 on the 7th. Blowing like buggery. Momo is bouncing like an excited kid on her anchor. I’ve hopped up at regular intervals to check all is well. Had to rescue the sun shade at one point and one of the solar panels flipped up! Otherwise fine. At least its a bit cooler – a pleasant 25°C.

2030 – been a very hot day, not really conducive to swimming either, with the wind. Bernie has worked diligently and I’ve done some nursing education and cooking. We sat on the cabin roof for Sundowners and Bernie’s gone to bed now. A pod of dolphins just cruised by.

I can see the stars from my bed. Danny would’ve loved this. God, I miss him so much. I miss them both.

08.08.20. I’ve just cleaned the saloon and the bathroom. And made a sauce to go with pasta for lunch. So feel I’ve earned a wee sit on deck. At least the bees have gone for the day. They swarm us every morning. Which I do not like! When I was out earlier, doing laundry, a couple of stingrays had a leaping competition right near Momo. They looked so cool. They’re incredibly graceful. I wish I could photograph them! Bernie got an awesome picture of a Boobie sitting on the bow, a few days ago.

09.08.20: Last night didn’t dip below 30°C and it was hard to sleep! I ended up talking to Kiwis in the early hours! It’s been a really hot day too, still 36 degrees now, at 1730. Bernie and I started doing a meditation course this morning, after coffee. Nice way to start the day, sitting on the cabin roof! He’s worked steadily on translation all day and I’ve done some nursing education and starting cleaning the hull. That’s quite a physical job so I only do a bit at a time. You can practically see it growing in these warm waters! The water temperature is 29 degrees! So we’re told! Could be more.

Bernie offered to do dinner tonight, mainly coz I wasn’t feeling 100%. I was getting postural hypotension whenever I stood up, which is really unusual for me. So I’ve been trying to keep my fluids up and rest this afternoon.

We had an invasion of bees today. It freaked me out somewhat, as I’m not great with buzzy things. Bernie had to deal with them for me because I was descending into squealy teenage girl territory!

Monday 10th August.

After the morning ritual of coffee, we decided to go ashore before it got too hot. It was well worth it, to see just how extreme this land is. Incredibly dry and challenging. Saw a few birds but not much else. The plants look twisted and tortured! Great view back over the bay to Momo, bobbing cheerily on the waves. Its a bit windier today, I think the edge of a fiesty weather pattern offshore to the west. No diving today.

Upon our return, the bees turned up with a vengeance. I really really do not like them in swarms. Bernie is my hero, currently! I hid in my cabin, thoroughly unnerved, while he dealt with them. Hundreds of the little fuckers. He even got stung 😢 Rusty, you can have your bee keeping all to yourself! 🛑

I’m very keen to sail on to San Marcos island! 🙏🙏🙏🙏⛵⛵⚓⚓

August 1st. Ramada Cove.

Yes, we’re still here. When we got up this morning the water visibility had cleared so much, Bernie suggested we stay another day. Sterling idea. So I made a Mediterranean breakfast, then we headed across the bay. It was a great morning’s snorkeling. I saw 3 turtles, two together grazing right below me and another swimming away some distance. Also saw a stingray. There’s a lot here I think. We both saw them jumping out of the water many times yesterday. I found a rock with fantastic coral growth and numerous species of reef fish. I even wished for dive tanks, as I’m useless at free diving.

Bernie caught two fish so that was lunch sorted. We swam a long time and are both knackered now! Currently having post lunch nana naps! This is good for my shoulder and knee. They’ll be strengthening up nicely. I’ve lost so much fitness since my knee injury.

We sat on the bow, as usual, last evening, yarning. A motor yacht came in close to sunset. She’s a Sunseeker, British built. I have never seen such a shit job of anchoring. Honestly, it was both hilarious and embarrassing. We were relieved when they finally anchored well away from us! At one point I even got the radio, because we thought she was going to back up on us. I tried calling her on Channel 16 but they ignored us. Must’ve got the message though because they moved away. Bernie didn’t want me to call up but I wasn’t about to leave it till the situation was totally fubar! He seemed quite pleased I had, afterwards though! I think he secretly likes the “take action” side of me! Makes up for the simple mind, lol!

There are a lot of bees here, constantly flying into the yacht looking for fresh water. I wish they’d go and ask someone else. Buzzy things are not my favourite. I was trying very hard not to react last night but one stung me for no reason, miserable little beast. Bernie thought it was so funny, equally miserable beast! Revenge is a dish best served cold, they say, and he wants me to cut his hair! A mullet, perhaps? I’m delaying it because I like his hair long! It suits him! We agree to disagree on that and he’s apparently not that desperate for a cut that he’s begged me yet! I think I’ll get it out of his ears, maybe, and leave the top long! 😉

These are some of the fish etc I’ve seen while snorkeling!

Cornetfish, fusiliers, groupers, parrotfish, wrasse, dragonet, moray eel, rays, turtles, goatfish, snapper, trevally, butterflyfish, angelfish, surgeonfish, unicornfish, damselfish, bream. And Bernie with his spear gun! Some I’m sure of and others I think it might be one of those!

2.08.20 – lying in bed while the coffee pot does its thing! It rained briefly overnight, just a quick electrical storm NE of us. We both dived out of bed to close the scuttles and hatches. And I grabbed the towels off the guard rails. I threw a kikoi round me but Bernie is wholly unconcerned about nudity! I often wonder what his daughters thought growing up. Teenage girls SO do not want to see their Daddy’s boy bits! Just no! But I doubt very much Bernie took that into consideration over the years! I must remember to ask during one of our bow/rum sessions! It doesn’t bother me at all but I don’t feel the need to bare all myself. I guess if we were a couple, it’d be different, but we’re friends is all. So I wear togs to swim in and put clothes on whenever I’m out of bed!

We watched a documentary yesterday about a study initiated by an (ethically fucked up) American Psychiatrist. He separated twins and triplets at birth and adopted them to different families. The doco was primarily about triplet boys, each sent to a different socio-economic family. The parents knew nothing about their son’s background, certainly not that they had identical twin brothers. They were told the boy was part of a study into adopted children and the study group was given permission to interview the child every 6 months. For years. However when one of the boys was 19 he went to college, and on arriving had people coming up to him saying “great to see you back”, girls kissing him hello, that sort of thing. Of course it turned out his brother had attended that college the year before and dropped out. So they met each other. It ended up in the news papers, and so the third boy got to find out about his two brothers. It was a crazy story, so ethically wrong that those involved should’ve been hung out to dry but never were, the families got zero answers, the study was never published so a complete waste of time. Quite tragic really. It upset me but, interestingly, Bernie didn’t seem to see that it was so bad. We have very different takes on some things. Children seems to be one! Makes it interesting to be ship mates!

We got underway pretty early this morning. Set off on the engine as the wind was on our nose, its not far, and it does the engine good to have a run. But it’s 1045 now and I can hear Bernie putting up the sails. I’m lying down as I’ve got a wicked tummy ache. Don’t know why but not concerned as yet.

Before I came to ly down though, we sat yarning, as we do, so I asked him if he pranced around on deck naked when the girls were still here. Of course he did. Not all the time of course, but changing sails at night, that sort of thing. I laughed and he looked a bit sheepish! I like that he’s comfortable with who he is. It’s a good trait. I wish I was less self conscious, but I never recovered from the years of my husband poking me and telling me I was fat. I never was of course, but the damage was done. Intellectually I know I’m in pretty good shape for a woman my age, and looking back on photos, actually find it very sad that a man thinks it’s OK to shred an attractive young woman’s self confidence like that, but that wee voice in my head still makes me want to cover up and hide. And, there’s the fact I’m a nurse – not much I haven’t seen! So I don’t give a rat’s arse that Bernie bounces out starkers in the night to fix something!

Oh, peace. Nice. The engine is off and we’re sailing again. I think I’ll find it hard to go back to a motor yacht with the constant noise.

The island we’re going to today doesn’t have a real anchorage so we’ll be deep water anchoring. No decent chart info either, but we’ll go in slowly on the engine, and take it easy. And it’s only lunch time so we can move if necessary.

1616 – Well, we’re at anchor and a great wee spot it is. The island is almost totally devoid of vegetation and sprinkled with guano from the prolific bird life. It looks like a dusting of snow. The 30+ degrees heat belies that! 😉

It took two goes to set the anchor but we gave it a good hard tug to check! Then we bailed for a bit of snorkeling /hunting! Very different underwater terrain so new fish to check out. Not that many bigger species. My favourite was the simply awe inspiring schools of small fish, completely unconcerned by my presence, surrounding me. Millions of them. It was like being in a snow globe.

After quite some time, I realised I hadn’t seen Bernie in ages. Initially I wasn’t worried because he spends a lot of time under water. So I watched but couldn’t locate him. After about 5 minutes I got a bit stressed and got in the dingy for a better view. I still couldn’t find him, so pulled up the anchor and started looking round the bay for him. As time went by with no sightings I really got almost panicked. It suddenly occurred to me I really didn’t want to learn to solo sail the hard way. I was literally screaming his name. Not that that would’ve done a frigging thing if he was under water! I actually had to get a grip on myself. I decided to go back to Momo, get my sunnies and hat, fill the fuel tank and look more carefully. As I returned to Momo I suddenly spotted his fins as he duck dived. God, the relief! I motored over and beckoned him out to the dingy. I was so relieved my eyes got black dots in my vision as the adrenaline released me!

The poor man had an almost tearful shipmate plastered to him, saying “don’t ever fucking do that to me again”! I really got a fright. Ironically, we’d been talking about what our fears were earlier today, so I said “well, I know what scares the hell outa me now”. The thing is, it’s my own fault really. When I first joined Tohora I got Brett to show me all her systems; starting the engine, generator, lifting the keel, everything. But I didn’t do any of that with Bernie on joining Momo. I was so wrapped up in grief I didn’t care. I suddenly realise I do need to know. So tomorrow Bernie is going to show me it all. I mean, I daresay I could work it out, but best not to learn in an emergency, huh!

Monday, apparently! 3rd August. If it weren’t for my phone, I’d have no clue! It’s amazing to me that it still keeps the date and time correct when we have zero internet at present. How does it do that? Must ask Matt. Anyway, we got underway early because I woke Bernie to tell him the wind had veered and the anchor chain was noisy. Due to the rocky anchorage we didn’t want to risk wrapping it round any rocks in deep water. That would’ve meant Bernie having to get the dive tanks out and scuba down to release it. Way too much admin!

It was a SE breeze so we sailed to our next anchorage, more of a lee of the land than real shelter. But it’ll do for tonight and Bernie got two fish when he went over the side, so we’re fed again! What a good hunter he is! We’re almost out of fresh goods. I think there’s a couple of onions, garlic, a tomato, an avacado and some Kiwifruit. Oh, and potatoes.

Sailing Again 29.07.20

Bernie cracked the whip over the pair of us this morning, saying we’d take the solar panels down as soon as we’d had morning coffee. To be translated as “actually, let’s start now”! So we were ready to lift the pick and get under way by 10am.

We started with a nice breeze that dropped off as we tracked west of Islas Los Coronados. It picked up again after an hour or so of ‘goose winging’ the sails, trying to capture every puff. I rather like doing that. It looks awesome. The rest of the way we had a solid breeze on our starboard quarter, running at a pleasant 5 knots.

We anchored for the night around 1630, in a lovely little bay called Ramada Cove, just north of San Juanico. It’s been a hot day so we put the dingy in the water again and went to a reef to snorkel and hunt. Bernie got dinner with the spear gun. He saw turtles and rays up close but I had stayed in a more sheltered spot and saw a load a beautiful reef fish, soft corals and some really cool starfish. They had kind of fat bodies, not the long legged variety, and were covered in structures that look like studs! I told Bernie they should be in a gang, which comment required explanation and made him laugh once he understood! He’s learning Kiwi again! Soon he’ll be fluent in yet another language!

Once back on Momo, Bernie filleted the fish and nominated himself to cook dinner, which I appreciated. So I’m writing this! It’s a week since I left home and will be a week since arriving on Momo tomorrow. We started our isolation yesterday, after getting the water. Can’t say it makes much difference! Even after we catch up with Utopia and the other yachts Bernie had been hanging out with before, we won’t be going ashore at all. So we have what we need on board and what we can catch for fresh fish. Happily this region is abundant, encouragingly so.

It’s been nice catching up. Although I think Bernie is pleased to have some company, I doubt I challenge his intellect even faintly. His formal education far surpasses mine and he continues it. While I’m reading a war novel or historical romance that requires zero brain power, he’ll be reading some deep thing the average Joe (me) wouldn’t begin to grasp!

30 July 2020.

We decided to stay another night in this bay. There’s no rush to catch up with Utopia since we’re in quarantine.   So after our morning coffee we went ashore and went for a walk before the serious heat of the day kicked in. It was interesting to wander through this arid land, so harsh and challenging. We saw little wild life – a few lizards and birds, one road runner and a rabbit! I said it was a shame I didn’t have a gun! Bernie was surprised I thought I could hit it from where we were, lol! I told him I’m pretty lethal with a gun. Lol.

We returned to Momo for an omelette for breakfast. Then I did a quick bit of laundry before getting ready to go snorkeling. The sealife is amazing here. Bernie saw turtles again. And again I didn’t! Grrr! Ruth and Orges would love it here. So much variety. Even just looking for starfish, I saw maybe 5 different kinds. Wonderful. Bernie caught lunch. I think we’re both a bit weird because we both feel bad for hunting the fish, yet we have to eat! Ah well! I did mashed potatoes and salad to go with it. The avocados are amazing! We’re making the most of fresh salad stuff! Once it’s gone, that’s it! Tinned and dry goods only.

We snorkeled again later in the day, after reading and lazing the afternoon away. Yours truly was the only one not to see a turtle, yet again. Hot damn. Resumed our favourite spot on the bow after dinner, shooting the breeze. Bernie told me some adorable stories about their time in this area when Lola and Jana were little snappers. Seems amazing to me that he and Michelle circumnavigated the world in little Momo, faithful wee ship. Bernie says he’ll never sell her, never change yachts. I can understand why, though I’m not convinced she’d be an easy vessel to live on as he gets older. Just getting on and off is a challenge. Luckily for him he’s a very fit, healthy guy, no health issues at all really. Rare, and very blessed! He’s astonished at how many surgeries I’ve had, never mind the associated limitations that go with that. I know I couldn’t live on this boat long term. At the moment I can haul myself out of the water and into the dingy, then up onto Momo. But in a few years? Who knows. No, I want a yacht with a swim deck!

31 July – Friday, I think!

The wind really got up during the night and I got bugger all sleep. Bernie didn’t even notice, lol. The difference between sleeping in my cabin in the forepeak and his down aft! He was surprised to hear it was probs hitting 40 knots and I got up to check we hadn’t moved, multiple times! There were 5 yachts in this wee bay over night so I guess the others were hiding from the weather for the night. Two left first thing but there’s still a catamaran and a ketch in here with us. We’ll head north a bit further tomorrow.

After morning coffee we went snorkeling/hunting again. I saw a turtle, hallelujah! Another successful mission and Bernie cooked brunch. He made this yummy sauce, pan frying the fish in it, on rice. After I commented how good it was he said it was made with a chocolate sauce! What? Really? I was astounded as you couldn’t tell it was chocolate at all. He said he didn’t tell me before I tasted it on purpose! Clever guy. He knows I’m not a sweet tooth – at all! So I’d have been unenthusiastic if I’d known, I’m sure! In this, we are diametrically opposite! Bernie puts that disgustingly sweet Condensed milk in his coffee! I rarely eat Ice cream even! Can’t stand creme brulee!

We have talked a lot about our respective losses: me learning to live with Danny’s death and his separation from his family. Its not the same, obviously, as it was a choice for her to go ashore and him to stay on Momo. Yes, he might be deeply sorrowful about it but he could go too. Really. I do understand why he doesn’t. He’s a sailor through and through. He loves this life. But it’s still a choice. Danny had no choice. His life was taken. Suddenly and much, much too soon. Matt and I get no choice in that either. We can’t just say “oh, let’s pop home to NZ and see him”. I wish. Every moment of every day. Bernie could go visit his family. (granted Covid-19 has complicated that a little) We do look after each other though, because we all have days when it’s just too hard.

We have no Internet at present but I did manage to talk to Matt before we sailed. It’s so good to hear he and Meg are making their work / travel plan work so well. They’ve done a lot of miles on the bike (my bike, hehe!) and I’m grateful every time I hear they’re safely at their next destination! I can’t help worrying but it’s not fair for me to put any anchors on Matt’s life just because of what happened to Danny. And I’m not exactly staying home being safe. After all, couch potatoes probably generally have a shorter life expectancy than adventure lovers! I wonder? Be interesting to check that out. High risk life style versus poor diets /no exercise etc!

Anyway July is a wrap. Another month gone in this new phase of my life. I’m grateful to Bernie for having me back, even if I am a lesser companion compared to Michelle and his girls! I am who I am. Not going to change into an intellectual die hard overnight, nor stop trying to be a decent kind person. He commented he doesn’t like people being too nice to him! I understand he means he knows he’ll take advantage of it, but I don’t see it. He works hard on his translations, does the hunting, helps cook etc. So I do other stuff and it seems to be good team work. I can’t get titchy over things that aren’t a problem. But it has made me suddenly feel uncertain about giving him positive comments. Which annoys me. I shouldn’t let it bother me. It’s not my issue. So I should just carry on being me!

I’ll have to add photos before I post this, when we next get Internet. I might go on deck for a while. Loving this weather.

Well, HELLO MOMO!

24 July 2020 – 7am and 27° 😍

I can hardly believe I’m back on board the good ship Momo! Bernie certainly looks at me as if I might be an apparition about to evaporate! It was harder leaving home than usual, not entirely sure why. I was a little apprehensive about the trip but the planes and airports were about a third full, everyone was sensible about social distancing and masks. I had a whole row to myself on the air NZ flight and slept lying down. Almost first class 😜

I got through LAX in record time and grabbed a cab to my “pod” hostel for the night. The guy who owned it was really great and took me for a boost, very fast 😁, in his Polaris 3 wheeled car. Hilarious looking thing but a ton of fun. I was a bit worried I might get stung for my overweight bag on the small Air Alaska plane but the guy at check in let me off. So I’ve got the whole way here so much overweight but no extra fees! Happy about that!

The flight down the Baja Peninsula was awesome. It’s a wild and rugged desert landscape. Mountainous, volcanic and with huge salt plains at the Northern end. I could check out all the islands in the Sea of Cortez along the way. As we descended into Loreto, I could see Momo at anchor. Made me feel rather nostalgic! I’ve been dreaming about her cheerful and colourful profile for weeks! And here I am!

Of course, my Mexican card, which I’d topped up using Ding, with US$85, didn’t work, so I couldn’t let Bernie know I’d arrived. But really, he couldn’t miss our incoming flight so wasn’t stressed about that!

The poor man had to wait quite a while for me to get to the marina though. I got chosen to have my bags checked. Every damn nook and cranny, and there were lots! The lady was great about it and didn’t seem stressed at all the medical supplies and boat parts, lol. Just took ages! She dropped my kindle though, and cracked the screen, which I’m less than thrilled about.

And yes, my bag had been last off the carousel!

So, I’ve unpacked and given Bernie all his boat presents 😉. Potentially the favourite is the new BIG coffee pot! Or maybe the serious set of knives! Actually, it might be that I can hopefully clear his blocked ear for him!

We had a few cold beers and Bernie made dinner. I was ready to sleep by 8pm! Then, of course, awake half the night! It’s unbelievably great to be warm again. And I woke to the sound of fish jumping and dolphins blowing. Happy sailor.

Sunshine and Storms

That’s life really, isn’t it… the good with the bad. I have to admit I’ve come a long way from my last post. I’ve achieved a lot, both physically and emotionally, in a practical sense and in finding some peace going forward.

The Family Group Conference was not really at all how I expected and left me with hugely different emotions than I anticipated. In a good way, I am pleased to report! I thought I was going to be confronted with a nihilistic teenager who had no remorse. But that didn’t turn out to be the case. Pip and Lucy came north to support me, for which I was intensely grateful. The three of us, Fizz, Richard and Sarah, Emma James, Brian & Olivia and Mum and Dad had all prepared Victim impact statements. We also arranged to play some of the funeral video – everyone arriving, plus Queenie’s and Matt’s talks, followed by the Humble and Kind song with the slide show of Danny’s photos.

Hope was there, of course, with her family for support, her lawyer and social worker. Also present were the two Police Officers involved and the Youth Justice Co-ordinator. She (and they) listened to our presentations with respect and emotion. She met my eye and cried, as did everyone there. It was incredibly emotional for us all, very confronting for her, and I found a sense of justice that I hadn’t expected to feel.

She read a prepared apology statement and I did feel her remorse was genuine. All her whanau were upset and ashamed, very apologetic to me and sorrowful. It did indeed help me to realise they had real understanding of our extreme loss. They thanked us for making Danny real as a person, sharing who he was with them and said he was no longer a name on a piece of paper but someone who’s loss they also felt now.

We went out for dinner that night at the Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant in Ohope. Brett and Nicola joined us, but Finn was in Gisbourne unfortunately. It was a lovely end to a very emotional day and I felt a weight had been lifted off me. I could only trust that the legal teams will come up with a plan that changes Hope’s future into one of positive productivity.

We cannot do anything to bring my darling Danny back. All I can control is my reaction to it going into the rest of my life. I recognise I’ll feel anger at times but I’m not going to let it rule. All I can hope for is that Hope never does this to another family and becomes a better person.

Last Friday, the 3rd of July, was Hope’s youth court appearance, held on the Wairaka Marae. I was led onto the marae as an honoured guest, ahead of everyone else, and given the traditional pouwhiri. It was rather awe inspiring. There were initial speeches in Maori, followed by morning tea. I couldn’t eat anything as I was nil by mouth for my knee arthroscopy that afternoon! Then we were called into the formal meeting hall. This is a lovely room steeped in history, with photos of the ancestors framed with traditionally carved woodwork.

The Judge sat in front, with two Kaumatua next to him. Brett and I sat facing them with Hope & her family next to me. The legal team and social workers were on the left, the police and other Kaumatua on the right. Everyone gave their mihi (introduction) in Maori then English. Then the judge announced the order of hearings. We were first, so everyone else left. Hope’s lawyer said his bit, then the police, then the Kaumatua took turns. They didn’t pull any punches. She was made to feel the wrath, disappointment and shame of her whole Iwi.

I was asked if I wanted to say anything, which I hadn’t expected and was unprepared, but did anyway. I reiterated the huge void Danny’s passing has left in our hearts and lives, and said all we could pray for was that Hope changed the course of her life and became a better person. The judge commented on that in his summary, entreating her to see that for the gift it was and to not let me down. She afterwards thanked me for my kindness in supporting her efforts to change, instead of berating or abusing her.

As well as dealing with that event, I’ve had a bunch of other stuff going on. Matt and I have finally TODAY (06.07.20) got Carly off the books and the house into our own title. Thank effing God. Cost so much more than it should have and I’m still stunned that someone I gave an amazing opportunity to could be such a greedy grasping piece of work. But, it’s over now. I’ve bought a bottle of bubbles, the real deal, to take to Fizz’s tomorrow and celebrate! The biggest bouquet to our bank manager, Tim, who is one epic dude and totally helped us every step of the way. He’s defs in the friend zone, not just the banker! Matt and Meg have just headed off to Paris and I’m catching up with the whanau in Chch.

I’ve also had my sailing friend, Bea, to visit, which was awesome and had a weekend with Raewyn in Tauranga. I love spending time with her family and animals!

And on Friday afternoon, after the meeting of the youth court in the marae, I had my knee arthroscopy in the surgeon’s private theatre in Whakatane. He fitted me into a last minute cancellation, for which I’m very grateful. It’s doing well.

Other than that I’ve wrapped up all the legal things pertaining to Danny’s estate, found lovely new tenants for the house, arranged for Finn’s guys to build a new fence along the west boundary of the property, got the loo door and bathroom cupboards fixed, changed the locks upstairs and rekeyed the downstairs door, sorted the garage to the point where Chase can get his boat in one side and I can get my car in the other, had a wardrobe built into the room Danny built and begun glueing the floor tiles down. That will now have to be finished by an expert, since my knee is recovering! I’ve also had the window in Matt’s room fixed, the Internet cable extended for downstairs, and Brett helped me take out two dead trees. The Roofer is coming next week to try and find the leak in Allan’s room, for the second time. I think I’ve done pretty well, really!

It’s now July 9th and I’m at Fizz’s. Dad, Mum and I came down on Tuesday. Pip, Sam and Lucy came on Monday. Kelly is home and Suzie, also, on holiday from Massey. It’s been a wonderful couple of days. So long since we’ve all had time together, other than Danny’s funeral.

I caught up briefly with Jake and Daniel, the young friends I made while in lockdown here. It was particularly wonderful to see Dan. He is a truly amazing guy (with an epic name, of course!), a hard and honest worker with an unusual amount of self awareness, and a caring Dad to his young daughter. Last night he picked me up after work and while he had a shower, I got the fire going and cooked him an omelette. He then showed me the guitar he’s bought for Briar, and tuned it ready for her. Very cute. I hope he goes well and happy for the foreseeable future. Another rare and treasured friend. These connections in my life are a joy and keep me going in darker days when my loss threatens to overwhelm me.

Fizz, Lucy and I sat up after everyone else had gone to bed. I’m blessed in my siblings. My life has been reduced in such an enormous way. What seemed important to me before, is no longer. Things that drove me, do so no longer. I haven’t the energy for extreme endeavour now, only an honest existence.

Tomorrow we head back to Christchurch. Its going to be hard leaving Mum and Dad. There seems a fragility to them I hadn’t seen before Covid-19 came along, an unseen, unpredictable foe, frightening for the older folk. They are amazing, so brave and strong really, considering they have four score years each. I’m blessed in my parents also.

Saturday 11th sees me return to Ohope. This new land I’ve named my home calls to me in unexpected ways. The ocean, the Bush, the wildlife. It is pure spirit food. I may be gone a while, but I feel next time I come home, I might stay. Time will tell. I rejoin Bernie on Momo on July 23rd after flights via LA and Loreto. I’m looking forward to being on board again. I do have a permanent job in France starting late September. Who knows how that will pan out. I mostly just want to see Matt. I miss him deeply.

A Future Always Less

Bernie asked me this morning (25 May) if I had progressed at all in deciding what I am doing next. The short answer is No. I very much want to run back to Momo. I’d give a lot to see her cheerful profile out in the harbour, to be hauling myself out of the tender aboard. It’s too easy to want to hide behind Bernie’s tranquil good nature, his calm lack of judgement.

At some point, however, I have to face real life again, get paid work. So I’m treading water. Let’s not forget how good I am at that! I will do the last bits and pieces for Danny’s estate, sort out some house stuff, and apply for boat jobs meanwhile. I’m getting my “Danny tattoo” soon and must renew my marine medical. Once these jobs are done I’ll have to make a decision. It’s a bit hard on Bernie but as usual he’s being undemanding and patient with me.

June 15th 2020

Where is the time going? Guess what, I’m still treading water. Well, not totally, I’m going forward at a slow crawl, one might say. I’ve renewed my ENG1 and got my “Danny tattoo”, which I’m thrilled with. Tristan did a wonderful job of coordinating Danny’s design with mine.

I’m in Ohope sorting out new tenants for our house. Matt and I are a heart beat away from having sorted out Carly, thank god. What a nightmare that’s been, on top of everything else. Ohope is wonderful as always, so good for the spirit. I do feel close to Danny here. He loved it so much.

I have a lovely Canadian, Allan, staying with me at present. It’s nice to have company and he’s a hard worker. Brett, too, has spent time here and helped me do a few of the jobs Danny had been going to do! On Saturday (13th June) we took out two dead trees. I played with the boys’ electric chain saw. Lots of fun, though I’ve rediscovered a few muscles!

On the job front, I’m waiting to discuss a potential position for a two year contract with the yachts owner /captain. She sounds a really lovely lady so I’m optimistic. The only down side for me would be forgoing doing the crossing with Bernie. That’s actually messing with my head because I badly want to do that. But with Danny’s death and then bloody Covid-19, I haven’t worked for 8 months, in paid employment. Normally I’d do a seasonal job, finish September /October and then be able to join Bernie for the crossing. But jobs are scarce and the season is fucked up. This job doesn’t start till September, nearly the usual end of the season! Argh!

Bernie is being wonderful about it, though realistic. He needs me to commit one way or the other so he can find someone else. So once I have the full information, I’ll talk to the whanau and decide.

The girl who killed Danny, Hope Wilson, is required to attend a Family Group Conference with us this Thursday (18th June). I’m nervous but feel I need to face her and make her realise what she’s cost us, how much less our lives will be without Danny. I just hope (it pisses me off so much that’s her name) I don’t lose control and throttle the bitch. Hats off to all those people who say they “forgive” the person who murders their loved one. But I call bullshit. I don’t feel that way. I think I’ll be able to do this and move past it but I’m damned if I forgive her. If it was an accident, then yes, but it wasn’t. She had broken so many laws so many times and knew full well she was putting others at risk. I wish she’d died, not Danny. I refuse to be ashamed of my feelings. My son was a good person. She is not. So I’ll get up and tell her what she’s done and she can listen, like it or not. I’ll show her Danny’s brother having to say goodbye at his best mates funeral, I’ll make her listen to Danny and my song, while watching photos of him scroll through. Fuck her.

I should probably stop!

ANZAC DAY 2020

This day has had special meaning for me since I went to Gallipoli in 1988.

It was not a tourist destination back then. We had to sweet talk the local military guard to even get on the peninsula. You could wander anywhere. There was shrapnel and bits of bone amongst the heather. The poetic monument, a message from Turkey to the Allied Forces’ families, was incredibly emotional.

Since then I’ve attended Anzac Day parades almost every year. I did it in uniform for 9 years. I’ve taken my sons, they even walked at the head of the Darfield parade one year, as I was the only Navy representative there, and “the Navy is here. Ma’am, lead the parade” I was told by an old salt!

But this morning. I’m not even sure I can find the words to describe my feelings. I wasn’t in uniform. I wasn’t wearing my medal. No colleagues were with me. My sister, bless her, got up with me. I’ve said or listened to those words we all know so well – “age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn…” but this year they held a particularly poignant sense of time and place.

I now know exactly how the parents of all those lovely young men and women felt, who’s sons and daughters have died before their time. Because my Danny will never know the ravages of time, will never get to leave his legacy in deeds and descendants. His memory will be forever young, though we grow old.

Matt and my friends/tenants in Ohope took Danny’s photograph and my medals and did their bit at the front gate. They sent me a gorgeous picture of the two of them rugged up for the occasion. I appreciated that.

We will remember them.

In pursuit of “more” resilience

8.04.20

It’s nearly 5 months since Danny was killed.

Time is weird. It feels more immediate now than while I was on Momo. I get that it’s because the world is in this crazy limbo, with Covid-19 keeping us within strict borders. But it has a strange irony, because Momo was my escape /relief/coping strategy and yet that name is from the main character of a book about time! Read it!

I feel like I had resilience. I feel I was doing quite well. I feel I was helping the whole family cope. I could see a way forward. Positive action. Don’t wallow. Do what I think Danny would want. Look after those around me. Must eat. I thought I could do all the legal stuff, organise all Danny’s estate, get the house sorted, managed it all alone. I’m used to that.

But this enormous limitation put on us all, on top of Danny’s death, has taken the wind out of my sails

I can’t do it all. By myself. I’m drowning. My struggle between empathy and compassion, that I’ve always had, has collapsed.

Still, I guess, no, I know, this recognition means I can do it. I can. Kiwis don’t die easy! I can act on the strategies other health professionals have identified. I have a head start.

12.04.20

I was supposed to leave for Europe yesterday with my new tattoo, a copy of Danny’s, on my arm. If course, neither of those things has eventuated.

But I’m making new friends down here, enjoying the time with my sister, Fizz, and niece, Kelly. It’s a beautiful place to be stuck in, if one must be. So lots of walks.

I’m putting a new pic on my wallpaper each day, on my phone. Friends from round the globe. I was using pics of Danny but it’s too bitter sweet and I think I need to stop.

Here’s some of those wonderful people who’ve touched my life positively in the last 2 years. Apart from family, of course!

Home South

26.03.20

I arrived at my sister’s place in Alexandra yesterday. Air New Zealand kindly took on my overweight bags! Probably because there were hardly any passengers. In fact, when I arrived at Rotorua to check in there was NO-ONE in the terminal. It’s a bit freaky. My bags were full of Winter clothes! I’m distinctly nervous about how cold it is down here! There might have also been a new bottle of Ardbeg in there!

It was a beautiful flight down and I got some lovely photos. I felt quite a lot of the anxiety and sorrow I’ve been overwhelmed by this last fortnight, fall away as I headed south. And now I’m here, I do feel much better. Fizz is so happy to have me here, I’m wanted, and I can relax.

I snuggled in bed for a very long time this morning, hoping the air temperature would have warmed up by the time I emerged! I had two cups of coffee and long conversations with Matt, Mum & Dad, and my northern friends, Brett & Raewyn, before piling on three layers of merino and braving the day. (BTW, it’s 1520 and 14 degrees!)

Fizz and I had eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach for brunch. Then I went for a long walk along the river. I reacquainted myself with this stunning and demanding part of our amazing country. It was after all part of my formative years, having grown up in the high country at Lake Tekapo, and holidayed down here annually. So in a way I’ve come home! My walk was grand. I saw, with joy, the plant life of my childhood: Viper’s Bugloss (often known, erroneously, as Borage) with its prickly stems and enchanting blue flowers, which I used to freeze in ice cubes at Christmas time and Lamb’s Ears (mullein), nature’s softest toilet paper substitute (might need that!). Of course, as everywhere down this way, lots of weeping willows, sweet briar, wild thyme, lupins, poplars, sorrel and stone crop. And the pathway was naturally paved with the colourful stones and sparkly schist of this region. I also saw some good sized trout in the river which I felt would look good on the end of a line, but…. better not. Out of season!

I was keen to go mushrooming too, but Fizz reckoned the local boys in blue might not see that as essential forraging! She could have a point. Bummer, as I know some good spots near Wanaka. Lots of rabbits around too, that would go well in a pot, if I could get my hands on a 22! I suspect we’re not going to starve, isolation notwithstanding! We have decided we should attempt to limit our alcohol intake to Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Mmmm. Time will tell how well that goes!

I think I’ll miss the sound of the Tuis though!

Pile it on, Universe, why don’t ya!

20.03.20:   Do I start with the rant now, or slip it in part way through, subtly, or just end with a roar?

Difficult decision. Not worth the effort anyway, perhaps! One of my “direct your energy” things. More on that later.

Well, isn’t 2020 shaping up to be…. Mmm, what’s the word I’m looking for? Interesting? Challenging? Oh, that’s it, a Shit Show. For once they had it spot on, on TV.

I’m learning a lot about grief. I mean, as a health professional you get a fairly unique perspective on that, and you kinda think you know a fair bit about it. Well, hell NO, baby. Take a back seat prior knowledge, you actually know fuck all (sorry, Ella, another $1 fine).

I have a mantra running through my head most of the time. A couple actually. One of them goes “Why Danny? Why us? It’s not fair. I can’t do this. I don’t want to do this.”           Then there’s the rational brain that kicks in with “Why shouldn’t it be you? Why should you be exempt from the horror and pain others endure? Get a grip woman.”

I know there’s no right way to do this. I know there’s no time line on grief and how you get through it. I know it’s important to accept the fact he really is gone, that no amount of wishful thinking or bargaining will change that hard fact. Any one of us in the family, of the generations up from my boys, would swap places in an instant. I’d give my life for theirs 100 times over. But that isn’t how this works. Bugger it.

So, as I’m not very good at sitting around doing nothing, my coping strategy has been to do things, like joining Momo for a while. Now I’m back I’m trying to be busy getting the legal side of things wrapped up, help in the house since I know the flatmates didn’t bargain on having me home, get maintenance done, do exercise each day and eat healthy food. It’s hard being forced to stay home when I had so many plans, especially as I don’t feel welcome.

But it’s tough titties really. Just one more thing I have to suck up. And this Covid-19 is a million times worse for those in China, Europe and the USA. I guess it’s because having seeing Matt to look forward to was keeping me positive, and now I don’t even have that. I’m trying to find positives in really small things. So it really hurts when, because I smile over one little win, those around me stare at me as if to say “How can you smile? You’re supposed to be so unhappy you can’t do that.” The harsh judgement of those who have zero idea how it feels to lose a child is bad energy I can’t deal with.

My lovely friend, Raewyn, has invited me to stay so I’m here at her place for a few days. We’re going sailing for the weekend, which will be wonderful and healing for my further bruised heart. Her family is wonderful; strong and independent grown kids, like mine. There’s animals and a stunning view. It’s a good place to be and I’m so grateful to her. Her granddaughter, Ella, is fund raising for the Girl Guides Jamboree next year and is fining everyone $1 per F bomb! Hence my earlier comment! I’m trying to substitute Foxtrot. The boys just pony up in advance, they tell me!

Part of me feels I should be trotting along to the nearest operating theatre and offering my services, but I tried working at the local dementia care unit the other day and couldn’t deal with it. I was clock watching after a couple of hours. The sorrow of the place made me want to cry. How can I care for others if I can’t manage my own emotions yet? I’d be better with emergencies where you don’t have time to process, just act. Best of all would be my boat job back, but that’s impossible just now. This is why I said earlier that I’m trying to place my energy where it will do most good, not where it’ll drag me down. My stamina is still a work in progress.

My heart goes out to all the people whose jobs are on the line, to those whose age and health puts them at higher risk. The healthy and strong among us will have to step up and look after them. I’ll have to shelve my feelings for a while. It’s interesting (and normal) how the fear of this uncertain future is making many people react unkindly. One of my tenants is a pharmacist and said customers are being so rude she doesn’t want to be at work. That’s sad. Allied health workers have no choice but to continue to help and should be supported, not subjected to unkindness. Matt said this morning that he’d seen the same thing in England. I suggested he offered to be a bouncer for the local pharmacy!

0400 Thoughts. Some good, some not.

0415 3rd March: My sleep patterns are totally messed up. I’ve been trying really hard not to resort to temazepam since Danny died but eventually I have to force sleep on myself. Mostly I try to meditate, which I’m useless at by the way, take valerian (legal everywhere) or bufti (depends where in the world you are!), read my book or listen to a podcast or music. Usually I get between 4 and 7 hours, not enough, but then I’ll wake at 1am and that’s it for the night. That’s when I get out my slide of the hard stuff the next night. One slide of 20 lasts me about a year! I’ve got 4 left from last March’s prescription!

One thing Matt and I decided was that losing Danny, who we loved more than even we realised till he’d gone maybe, gives us the right to do what we like for a while. For a start we’re both blown away at how much it’s affected us mentally and physically. Both of us have pretty good brains and can usually remember things without much trouble. But I feel as if my brain was resected the moment I got the ghastly news. For the first month I couldn’t remember anything for more that half a minute. Literally. If that. Matt said he was the same. It’s slowly coming back but I still can only deal with one day at a time. I write absolutely everything down. Then there was the complete loss of physical strength. If you’ve not experienced this you cannot imagine it. I wouldn’t have understood what someone was telling me before having had this happen to me. I had no strength at all. I went from being really fit after 6 months on Lucky Wave, to barely able to climb a set of stairs without stopping. Overnight. Faster, in fact. A completely physical reaction to an emotional trauma. I’ve always thought stress to be a bigger factor in our general health than we realise. Now I know it is.

From a nursing perspective its fascinating, but by God, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It’s as if my mind and body have totally shut down in response to this intensely painful emotional trauma. I consider myself to be fairly resilient. And I brought up my sons to be also. But nothing prepares one for this. Over three months down the track, we are slowly climbing out of the abyss but neither Matt nor I feel ready to be pushed in any direction.

Which brings me to my next thought, next point of discussion! As you may remember, I started my yacht master offshore last year but had to stop when Carly’s greedy attempt to get at my life savings upset and distracted me to the point I couldn’t focus on the course. So I still plan to do that at some point and Bluewater have been really understanding about it all. But there’s no way I’m in the head space for it yet. However a family member, having being told once already that I wasn’t going to do it yet, decided to really push me. “you must” blablabla. I’m the end I burst into tears and said to damned well leave it alone. It’s up to me to decide when I’m ready. And I’m not. I couldn’t. I can’t remember things yet. But I was angry at him for pushing me when I’d already asked him not to. I need, at least from those close to me who should understand, support not judgement. I’ve lost my son. You don’t just snap your fingers and get over that. I’m doing my best, dammit.

One of the common statements I hear being made against the use of social media is that “people only show the good side of life”. I don’t actually find that to hold true, when you randomly scroll through Facebook. More so, perhaps, on Instagram where its primarily photos. Anyway, I’m being pretty straight up here. It’s certainly not all high tea and dancing lately, don’t you think. I’ve gone from being in one of the happiest times of my life, to the absolute worst. And to feeling I’ll never get that back, never be able to fill the huge void Danny’s death has left inside me. I still, many days, feel he’s just in another country. I wish. It’s unbelievably unfair that such a beautiful person was taken from this world. There plenty of black hearts to choose from, so many people who are selfish and cruel. And please don’t any religious proponents tell me “god wanted him back home”. I have zero time for religious ferver. Everyone is welcome to their beliefs but keep those ones to yourself. A modicum of common sense and scientific learning is enough to show the error of those ways! As far as I’m concerned religion and knowledge are mutually exclusive concepts (wait for the outrage!). Apart from anything else, religion is responsible for more death and heartache than any other one cause throughout the centuries, I’ll be bound.

Well, it’s nearly 6am, a roughly normal hour to be awake. I’m going to get up and pack. Ohope today. Flight leaves 0930.

2031. Really tough day. Give me another please. I can’t do this.

Wednesday 4th March. 0230ish.         So, yesterday was even harder than I knew it would be. Brett collected us from Rotorua, bless him. It felt great to get here really. The climate is so welcoming, softer than the bracing challenge of our southern region! We immediately got lunch and a rose, and toasted Danny and other absent friends. Later, after Brett had gone home to Tohora, Fizz and I walked to the beach, had a wonderful swim and lay in the sun. Then we went to Cadera for Tuesday tacos. And that’s when I came crashing down. So early to bed in a messy heap.

2120: We’ve had a lovely day actually. Into Whakatane early and got a few jobs done which was satisfying. Then lunch and a good walk round the estuary to the beach and back, a swim, shower and then dinner with Finn and Nicola. It was lovely to spent time with them and hear the news. I’m tired now so bed. We plan to walk round the sea to Whakatane tomorrow.

0515 Saturday 7th March                      Can’t sleep again. I’ve been trying for the last two hours. I give up. We’ve had rain in the night which will make everyone happy. Fizz and I have had a good few days. Both my nieces, Hannah and Kelly are here now, Kelly arriving yesterday. We all went to the Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant last night for dinner. Raewyn and Brett joined us too which was awesome. So good to see them both. The restaurant has changed a lot. Tom has employed a manager and he takes a more relaxed role I guess. Only saw him briefly. And Elias has taken over as chef. He’s doing superbly too. He’s a real gem, that guy. I hope Tom pays him an outrageous sum! I popped into the kitchen and said hi quickly. Other than that, we’ve gone for walks, had a couple of swims and I’ve got the odd job done. Slowly ticking off my jobs list, though new ones have cropped up too.

I heard from the local policeman who’s in charge of Danny’s case. Hope, the girl who killed him, is now home recovering. I have mixed feelings about that, which is not very nice of me, even if it is understandable. Why should she get to go home and have a chance at a normal life again, when she took that chance from Danny. I think they’ll be interviewing her soon. I wish they could charge her with murder. That’s what it is. She drove like a maniac, wilfully putting others at risk. But she’ll be dealt with by the youth court and will no doubt get a slap with a wet bus ticket.

I was in the garage yesterday and found the container Finn dropped off with Danny’s work gear in. It made me cry.

It’s 0708. I might go and make coffee.

Road Bumps & other stuff

1st March 2020

I haven’t written since leaving Momo.

No prizes for guessing why. She was a safe haven, a port in a storm that proved to be so much more, in the aftermath of losing my beautiful son, and Matt’s best friend and brother, Danny.

So I flew home courtesy of Hawaian Airlines, surrounded by a Kapahaka group speaking Te Reo and making me feel like I got a personalised escort home. By the time I reached Christchurch and family I was emotionally ready to face the memories I knew would push my buttons. And they have.

Tomorrow is my last day here. It’s hard to leave such wonderful family and friends down here, as it was hard to leave Momo, hard to leave France….. I seems to leave bits of me around the world, to be pieced together like some crazy human jigsaw puzzle, as I go round again.

I’ve been delicate today, prone to tears. It’s not rocket science. On Tuesday I go back to the home Matt, Danny and I had made for ourselves, built together, in Ohope. Part of that equation has been ripped from us, a third of the team stolen by selfish stupidity. I can’t dwell on that or the destroyer of peace, anger, will seep in. I don’t want that. Danny wouldn’t want me to let that dominate. I won’t. But some days, fuck it’s hard.

I miss him so much. I miss both my darling boys but Matt and I are here and must soldier on. And we will. Just without our wingman. It’s a bit hinky, but I talked to Bernie today, and he said the whales haven’t hung round the boat since I left. Maybe Danny really was there in spirit. Brett said his spirit animal was the whale. Maybe they’ll be off Ohope Beach when I get there.

I was going to add photos but WordPress have changed the format and I can’t work it out. WhyTF must they change what works already? Not helpful.

Edit: The only way I’ve discovered how to add photos now, is an eight step process for every single picture. How stupid is that.

Sunday/Mondayitis

Sunday 09.02.20 @ 0520!

If Bernie had a dollar for every time I’ve wailed “I don’t want to leave yet”, he’d probably have enough to cover all the work he’s got planned for Momo before sailing to New Zealand!

Reality is staring me in the face and I’m not ready! Being here has been wonderful on so many levels and got me through the toughest time imaginable. I’m intensely grateful to Bernie. He’s been the best of friends and shipmates that I could ask for.

We’ve spent the last few days trying to get the TIP (temporary import permit) for Momo. At least, Bernie has, and I keep him company and offer empathy in the many frustrations that have ensued! The right hand of Mexican officialdom doesn’t know what the left is doing, it seems. We’ve traipsed up and down the coast from Puerto Vallarta to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, being shunted from one person to another. Still haven’t got the TIP.

On the bright side, I got a cup to add to the collection from round the world that Matt started.

A very necessary accessory!

Then there’s the amusement I get every time we take the tender ashore. Bernie taunts the roosting pelicans on each return. They are always lined up on an old boat moored close to the beach we head to. He loves to make them lift off, lumbering into the air like overloaded cargo planes. They’re not the most elegant of birds!

We had an evening out at Ana Banana’s again, with more civilised results (in other words, we can remember getting home in much better fashion than last time!) and equally good live music.

And, massive treat, as we were sitting in our usual evening spot on Momo’s bow, with our sundowners, a couple of whales cruised close by us. Like really close! And they just lounged about slowly, looping under the bow so close to our anchor. I was super excited, which I believe entertained Bernie as much as the whales!

The video’s dreadful, spoiler alert, because I was too excited to concentrate on the camera! But I did get the whale at some point!

Such a nice way to end the day, under a full moon. Even if I am feeling melancholy about leaving.

Monday 10th – my last full day 😭

We had a really lovely day yesterday. Bernie worked till about 1100, then we headed ashore to get the buses to a little place up the coast called Sayulita.

Upon getting to shore in La Cruz, the first thing I saw was a VW with the Tomorrowland emblem on its door. What’s the chances of that here!

Karen, off SY Utopia, had recommended Sayulita as a nice day trip. And so it was. Quaint and supremely picturesque, with colourful art work everywhere. We were both thoroughly enchanted and had to keep rescuing each other from oncoming vehicles or holes in the ground (everyone wanders along in the road & the pavements in CHC are smooth compared to here!) we were so distracted!

Note the kid under the skirts of Senora de Guadalupe! Not sure what that’s all about! Couldn’t read the Spanish.

The beach is a famous surfing beach, which is why we bussed there instead of sailing, and taking the dingy ashore. Plus, local buses are always an experience! Ours broke down yesterday and we all got sardined into an already full bus!

Calm day though so Ohope Beach like waves!

We had lunch local buffet style, which as Bernie bemoaned, was meat heavy, but I was a happy carnivore as we’ve not eaten much meat the last two months! A couple of Bloody Marys washed that down. We caught the bus home feeling content and rather overfull.

It was a much less eventful return journey, I’m pleased to say, and I think we’d have both snoozed if the suspension in the bus hadn’t been so bone jarring!

Andrew messaged me as we were nearly back in La Cruz, to invite us to listen to a live band playing at the Green Tomato bar. So we met him there and dammit if the band didn’t stop two songs after we arrived! So we finished our drinks and went back to Utopia to see Karen.

The American couple we’d met with them in Punta Mita turned up too, and Andrew & Karen’s youngest two kids, Max & Ava, were there. So it was great to catch up with them all before I left. I’ll miss them all and hope to see them in NZ later in the year. They all plan to sail out this year, arriving around November.

But I’m going to miss this special friend, shipmate and partner in wine crime most of all! Thank you so much for letting me be here, Bernie. The worst time of my life has also, weirdly, been one of the best.

And no day on Momo is complete (at anchor) without sundowners on the bow!

It’s 0611. I think today’s plan is gentle! Bernie’s got to do some translation work as trying to chase the TIP has kept him away from that rather more than he’s happy about. I’ll do laundry and pack. 😭😭😭😭

I must remember Lola and Jana’s wetsuits, which they need back home in NZ.

The Weather Gods are Laughing

03.02.20 @ 0335!

I’ve been awake for 2 hours listening to the rain on my hatch. Rather nice actually. Bernie is awake too and has opened the water tanks to catch the rain water now the decks had a decent wash down!

We’ve had a very productive few days. The sail is mended, Bernie has made a new wind vane. I’ve been up the mast twice – once to retrieve the old vane fitting and retape the spars and once to install Red the Rooster! I’ve also done some sikaflexing of the deck and whipped a few lines. Bernie’s translated and done other maintenance jobs.

We had planned to sail either yesterday or today but the weather gods have decided yet again to tease us. There’s very strong winds forecast and the bay we plan to head to doesn’t offer much shelter. So we’ll stay here a bit longer. Its a nice place to be anyway. We can swim by the boat and watch the whales and dolphins swim around us!

Might have to do a wine run soon though! Our day usually ends sitting on the bow together with a drink, solving the problems of the world, then stretched out on the settee watching a movie or TV series. Meals are a bit hit and miss. I usually make a cooked breakfast around 9am. Then lunch is anytime from 1300 to 1600! And dinner can be popcorn if lunch was late, or tortillas if we’re hungry! This is when we’re at anchor! All bets are off at sea. Things happen when they happen, under way! We’re not big on routine!

I’m not looking forward to leaving. Momo has been a good fit for a heart broken Mum. I am looking forward to seeing everyone at home though. And can’t wait to see Matt in Malta in April. I might have to come back!

Tuesday 28.01.20

Plans keep changing! Bernie discovered the Yankee (forward most of the two fore sails) needs some serious repairs. So yesterday we took it by taxi to a sail loft to get that done. But it won’t be ready till Thursday. To expediate things they suggested Bernie organise the line needed for the reinforcing in the leading edge. They wanted him to buy some 8mm pre-shretched line from a shop in La Cruz. However, upon sussing this out, Bernie found they charged twice what it costs to buy in the US. Intensely irritated by this obvious price gouging, he remembered some similar line he’d bought and had stored on board. So we rigged it up the mast and Bernie put as much pressure on it as he could to see if it seemed OK to use. And that’s a cost saving right there, people!

I love all the bright cheerful flowers around here.

On Sunday we went ashore so Bernie could do a few odd jobs he wanted to in town. I didn’t feel like traipsing round hardware stores, so I checked out the markets which were on the sea front. It was fun. Lots of cheerful bright colours and live music. I bought a few psychedelic items to keep for Tomorrowland! Couple of groovy mini skirts that will be back pack friendly!

I also got a hair cut, from a lass I met outside the hairdressers (which was closed) but she said she’d do it at home in her courtyard. So I sat with the dog and parrot while she did my hair. It came out rather shorter than I expected but as I haven’t had a proper cut in two years, it’s likely a good thing. Feels weird though. Light!

Then I settled into a local bar called Ana Banana’s. Bernie joined me not long after a bunch of local expats started playing country music and my first margarita was 2/3s gone! It was a great atmosphere and we stayed for a couple more margaritas.

Bernie and Michelle had actually been there years ago when it was still a bar on the beach. Now there’s a huge marina and the bar is in the Bush! One lady actually recognised Bernie and remembered Momo. I can’t remember what happened five minutes ago half the time, never mind 15 years ago!

Not having eaten much all day we both were a bit tipsy by the time we headed back to Momo. Especially mon capitaine! Getting home entailed getting the dingy back in the water (the tide was out so it was high and dry on the beach), finding the key in the depths of my dry bag in the dark, getting the engine down (it’s sticking badly and requires encouragement with a screw driver) and navigating out through the waves off the beach. By the time I’d got Bernie’s drunk ass in the dingy and all that accomplished, I was soaking wet from my arm pits down!

I actually don’t know how we got ourselves and the groceries back on board without disaster! It was bloody funny though. I had new bruises and grazes in the morning and the contents of my dry bag were wet! Apparently I didn’t close it after finding the key! My phone wouldn’t charge until it’d been in rice for ages and sprayed with WD40! I was starving and had dinner as soon as I’d dried off but Bernie crashed and burned!

I was fine in the morning, Bernie was a tiny bit delicate but all in all, we were less hung over than we deserved to be! I made cooked breakfast to energise our abused bodies! To be fair, we hadn’t actually drunk that much, just not eaten, and probably hadn’t drunk enough water throughout the day either. We’re pretty good partners in crime, gotta say!

Apart from the Sail trip into La Cruz, Bernie worked on his translation a fair bit and I washed his sheets (a mission by hand) and our towels, and worked on a spare sail to get the clips working again (more WD40 and a pair of pliars!). Watched some Outrageous Fortune before getting an early night!

I’ve also booked my flight to LA from Puerto Vallarta, mainly because its way cheaper from there than from Mazatlan. So the current plan (haha) is to catch up with some friends of Bernie’s about 60nm up the coast later in the week. Then I’ll probably bus down to catch my flight to the US.

Bahia Banderas

25.01.20 @ 0930

Were currently under way on engine to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle (pronounced wah-nah-KAHSHT-lay), another town in this big bay. Bernie is chasing spare parts for the Perkins. Apparently there’s a guy with an old one here, which he sells parts off. Bernie’s hoping he has its thermostat still. Plus we’ll get supplies for the next leg of the journey.

We’ve been anchored at Punta Mita, which I imagine was a cute fishing village before Americans (largely, we’re told) bought up and dandified the whole place! Its still cute but there’s an obvious disparity between locals and incomers.

Some Aussie friends of Bernie’s are anchored next to us, and we’ve had a fun couple of evenings with them. It was Andrew’s birthday yesterday so Karen, his wife, and their kids made pizzas and pavlova! Of course, there was discussion about the origins of the Pav!

It rained really hard for about half an hour this morning, enough for a fresh water wash down but not long enough to open the water tanks! It’s drizzling now and I’m on deck on watch in my wet weather gear!

We’ve seen so many whales. It’s incredibly heartening. One put on a real display for us all, while we were aboard Utopia last night. A mother and baby, the mum leaping out of the sea over and over. Totally showing off and having fun. What a birthday present!

1025. Bernie just called me up on deck (he took watch at 1000) because we had two whales cruising right alongside Momo. Just WOW.

1925. We’ve had a semi successful day. We forgot it was the weekend, lol, so didn’t see the guy about engine parts. But we got groceries and negotiated water with the marina guy. Bernie’s not feeling a hundy, so I’ve tried to get him to rest (haha) while I did the water runs etc. Actually, he must be feeling pretty shitty because he’s let me nurse him to the point of agreeing to medications, something he normally refuses.

There’s loads of pelicans here and they roost on everything possible! In fact, the birds life is great, I’m just no good at identifying most of them!

It’s been a cooler 24 degrees Celsius today, with rain hovering over the mountains much of the day. We did get our phones topped up too, so now we have data. I got quite a good pic of Momo silhouetted against the stormy sky. Pretty Momo!

Mum and Dad were asking where we were headed next! This happens to be a moving target, each time we raise the pick! However, current thought is we hope to go to Santa Rosalia, where Bernie’s friends are now. So, on the map I’ve put here, we’re currently near Puerto Vallarta and you can see Santa Rosalia in the Sea of Cortez.

Tenacatita North

21.01.20 possibly Tuesday! 1530 – We lifted the pick and sailed of the anchorage about 1230 I think. Beautifully done, Bernie! We’re heading north for Puerto Vallarta at this stage. It’s weather dependent how much further north we go before I have to leave.I’ve booked my flight home, departing LA on the 13th Feb. I’ve got very mixed feelings about leaving Momo. I’m loving it here and Bernie is easy company. But I also very much want to see the whanau before returning to Europe for the next Mediterranean season. And I need to sort out Danny’s affairs and get things done for Carly too. But I’ll be very sad to leave here.Matt and I are planning a wee trip together before I go back to work. We’re thinking to go to Cyprus at this stage. He hasn’t been there and I didn’t get a chance to explore really, when we took Lucky Wave there. So I’ll probably fly straight there to meet up with him, then on to France afterwards.Oh, the dolphins have joined us. I’m on watch, Bernie’s asleep, well I hope so. He’s been working very hard the last few days. Just got a lovely yacht motor sailing down our port side. We’ve passed the Rocas Los Frailes and approaching Punta Farrallon. On a port tack doing about 3.5 knots.

22.01.20 @ 0715

Damnably uncomfortable night, with little wind and lazy rollers tossing us all over the show. The boom thumping, sails snapping, my bed trying to evict me every few moments! I don’t think either of us got much shut eye. More than once I rued the fact my dear skipper dislikes using the engine! Still Dawn has arrived in all her usual glory, the Southern Cross has gone to bed and I’m thinking “coffee”.

Tenacatita to Puerto Vallarta

23.01.20 @ 0120

I’m on watch, though I suspect Bernie is awake. Conditions are not conducive to sleep! We finally have wind, probs around 20 knots from the North (naturally, that’s where we’re going!) and sea state rough! So we’re tacking and taking turns on watch, but really we’re both awake 90% of the time. I’m sacked out in the salon, partly because my bed is wet from a leak somewhere and partly because it’s not as bouncy in the centre of the boat.

I started out writing when we left but today my phone did something weird and lost it all. This yacht sailed by yesterday.

Were heading up this coast and round the point at the top into Bahia Banderas.

Some OTT houses en route!

0230 and I’m still on watch. Bernie is tired so I’m trying to let him sleep but every time I look he’s got his phone in his hand, so I guess he can’t relax enough. The weather has either been so light (the day before yesterday), sailing has been demanding or so heavy as to be equally demanding, in a different way. So we’re both lacking in zeds and tired. Bernie has a deeper store of patience than I do, though. As always, that’s a work in progress!

It’s 0715 and Bernie’s been on watch since 0400. In spite of the tossing Momo, I’ve slept rather well. Bernie wakes me to help tack, then I just ly down on the sofa seat that’s most comfortable with the heeling of the boat.

Were both fairly feral, not having been able to shower since leaving Tenacatita! Luckily neither of us gets too sniffy! You know how some people are more prone to BO than others!

We’re now inside Bahia Banderas, a huge bay housing La Cruz and Puerto Vallarta. The sunrise promises to be extra special this morning, so I’ll go up on deck shortly.

0950

The sunrise was spectacularly disappointing! A bunch of clouds rolled up over the hills and blocked it. Yesterday’s sunrise was better! On the plus side we caught a Skipjack for breakfast. Bernie filleted and I cooked it. The fishing gods seem to smile on us every time we’ve just about run out of fresh food.

Bernie’s gone to catch a kip, hopefully, and I’m sitting on deck hoping to spot the resident whales. The sea is more settled inside the bay.

It’s much cooler today. I have Danny’s jersey on. I haven’t had the heart to wash it yet, but I have to admit the smell of him is nearly gone. Feeling a bit sad today. Well, on a sad scale that runs daily between 7 and 10 on the devastation rating, it’s maybe 8.5 today. I wonder how long it takes to drop below 7. Months? Years? A lifetime?

A grey and silver day, Mercury falling. Appropriate. A small front approaches.

The front didn’t come to anything and we ran out of wind, came in on the engine and have just dropped the anchor and had a late lunch. Its 1430. We’re having a 20 minute nanna nap, before putting the sails away etc.

The best bit is we saw whales. Lots of them. So so awesome. Bernie said there were humpback whales living here but I didn’t expect to see them straight away. I even saw one leap right up out of the water. Twice! Marvelous.

Some friends of Bernie’s are here too so we’ll go and have sundowners with them after a swim, later.

Momo Restored!

20.02.20

The engineer is to be congratulated! Bernie spent all of yesterday upside down or twisted like a pretzel, or both, with a tiny amount of help from me, and has got Momo’s engine back together and running better than before!

We went to La Manzanillo the day before yesterday to collect the injector pump and use the Internet. On our return, we’d literally just sat down to relax, Bernie gazing happily at his shiny restored part, when he leapt up with an anguished “oh no!” it turned out they had put the thing back together backwards.

Once he’d got over the initial horror, Bernie radioed on the local net asking if anyone had a 12 point socket set. That produced positive results and the clever guy turned the offending part to it’s correct orientation. So panic over.

That left him back on track to install it and it really did take most of the day. There’s so little room to manoeuvre in the engine space, so it’s damnably hard work. I didn’t envy him. I did laundry, and after lunch, dived on the hull to clean it, before we sail again. I was actually really nervous, because I haven’t dived since my course, and I was diving alone. I couldn’t remember half the stuff which didn’t help my peace of mind. But Bernie helped me gear up and checked everything.

With a mental toughen up lecture, I went over the side. I was fine but found it quite a challenge. The tide kept pulling at me and it took a lot of concentration to stay where I wanted to be. Great buoyancy control practice! Also Bernie’s BCD is too big for me and it kept trying to wriggle off my body! But I managed to clean the hull adequately I think. (21st-apparently not!) Doing the absolute bottom I did rather enjoy. It’s the worst bit with lots of barnacles and growth, plus you have to hover upside down to do it. Also I wasn’t very deep, only 4 or 5 metres I’d say.

I was tired afterwards though! Once back on Momo, I helped Bernie finish the engine and gave him deserved praise when it ran nicely! The only thing that was a bit off was that the guys who fixed the injector pump have put something (tmi for me) back to front inside it and now idle is forward on the throttle, and power is backwards! Counter intuitive, but it still works! Bernie just said it adds to Momo’s individuality! Very noble attitude!

So I guess today we’ll get water and ready for sea.

Oh, and we have our Tomorrowland tickets! Very excited. And Matt, bless him, booked me cheap as tickets from LA to Auckland. I get home on February 14th. I just have to organise the local flights when I know where we end up. And a flight to Chch.

Time to get up and make coffee. Crew’s job! And the engineer deserves some tlc!

21.01.20

I’m having a lazy morning coffee while Bernie gets some translation work done before we sail, hopefully anyway.

Yesterday was quite busy with Bernie doing other maintenance things and me simply following behind cleaning the boat! He also dived to replace the zincs. Apparently my hull cleaning looks like it was done by someone who couldn’t control their buoyancy very well, lol. Can’t say I’m surprised, I did find it hard to stay in one place and be methodical.

We had a fish treat yesterday too. A huge school of travelly congregated around the yacht, hunting schools of smaller fish. It was amazing to watch. Very dramatic.

We went ashore later in the day to collect the water drums we’d left a couple of days ago to be filled. Unfortunately the truck hadn’t been so we’ll have to wait till Puerto Vallarta to get fresh water. But we decided to have a margarita, which turned into 3 margaritas, at the bar there. They must’ve been bloody strong because we were both as silly as chooks, thoroughly hammered, by the time we got back to Momo!

In the spirit of this high good humour we decided it was an equally amazing idea to have a night swim. This is largely my fault, as I’ve been begging Bernie to join me for a night swim almost daily. The bioluminescence is incredible here and it was wonderful. Well worth it! So beautiful.

Luckily I’d made dinner earlier so we ate, which I reckon is why we are both undeservedly well this morning! Very grateful about that! I’ve had a nice long chat to Matt. And will get to work readying Momo for sea shortly.