He that will not sail till all dangers are over must never put to sea.
- Thomas Fuller
SV Landfall in the foreground, as SV Blue Marble is hauled out of the water
When you are a sailor, some of the darker realities of cruising are never far away. I’m not writing this post to be an alarmist, or to scare our mothers or would-be voyagers, but when you choose to become a sea-gypsy, there are risks. Just like when you drive down the highway or cross the street. As much as I like to use those examples, it’s a little more dramatic and attention-grabbing for landlubbers when you mention a boat crashing into a reef, or someone’s mast breaking. You know, the kind of catastrophes that occur when you put sailors, boats, and a combination of unfortunate incidents together.
Every year, there are a few boats lost to the clutches of the Pacific Ocean. Sometimes we know the sailors, sometimes we’ve only heard of them, and hopefully, it will never be us… Then again, the top two feet of our mast did break once. It didn’t stop us. We just pressed the pause button, fixed it and kept going. We were lucky we could.
|The crew on the far left, watching as their home|
away from home is lifted out of the water
Soon after we arrived in Niue, we watched from our boat as a crane was attempting to raise a large catamaran out of the water and onto the wharf. This isn’t something they do often in little Niue and we could tell. It was nerve-wracking to watch the process from afar.
We met some of the crew of SV Blue Marble soon after. The crew consists of a group of 9 Norwegians and a Brazilian who are all part owners of the catamaran: a genial crew of young world travelers doing it their way. When they arrived in Niue, they were offered a commercial mooring as a precaution.* Theirs is a large catamaran. The wind was blowing from the west making Niue a lee shore, but everything appeared secure and the crew decided to go ashore.
And that’s when it happened. The hardware at the bottom of the mooring failed. No one was aboard. The catamaran crashed into the reef. It’s true, the crew was not hurt, but a dream was shattered as the boat grinded its way onto that reef. Our friends on Landfall and many islanders rallied and eventually got the boat off the reef and hauled out. More than one crew member told us that the Niueans overwhelmed them with their support and kindness. Among other things, they were lent a house and car to use for free. We were not surprised: the local vibe is particularly warm and friendly.
During our stay in Niue, they were working through the debacle of insurance while liquidating their belongings. They hosted a “Wreck Sale” and invited everyone on the island to come. When I arrived at the wharf, seeing all their dive gear, tools, clothes, canned goods spread out for would-be buyers… I had to put my sunglasses on. It was very difficult not to burst into tears then and there. I kind of felt like an idiot, they all had brave faces on, and here I was trying not to be a blubbering fool. I wasn’t the one who lost the dream and the boat, but as a fellow sailor, this did hit close to home.
Do incidents like these make us want to stop sailing? No. Just like when SV Echo went down earlier this year, we are simply reminded to be as prepared as possible, and to hope for the best. It may seem crazy to some that we choose this life, but I’d rather be exploring this great, big world for as long as I can, than cower ashore because it’s too scary out on the big blue. I’m a sailor. The sea is a gift I can’t refuse. But today, we feel their loss.
Feel free to join SV Blue Marble’s Facebook Page or go to their website, and give them your support, I’m sure they could use it.
*I just want to point out that the mooring in question did not belong to the Niue Yacht Club. Theirs are maintained anually and we are confident they are in good condition. (This is not a good anchorage; the only option is to tie up to a mooring ball.) But should strong westerlies come through again, we would leave.