Day 17

So at 6 ish it started to get light, we had made it through another night, Newseas Jade was still close by, it was still 30 knot winds and still a horrible sea. We had spoken to the coastguard through the night, at one point the sat phone was on charge so we suddenly had a vhf call from Newseas Jade, apparently the coastguard couldn’t get hold of us and so had contacted the captain and he then radioed to make sure we were ok, we reported back that we were fine, which they then reported to the coastguard, amazing. James who had slept, woke up full of confidence, he had new plans on getting the boat travelling down wind, he pulled me aside and said he knew he could do it, but he needed someone else, would I stay, get the children to safety with Tony and me stay and help.  This was my worst moment, I love him, I want to stay with him, I want to be this awesome wife who isn’t scared and can just wave my children off and then help bring our home to safety….. but I can’t, I don’t want to let him down but I don’t want to be here anymore, I am done, I am exhausted, terrified and now a crappy wife. I say no and as I say it all I can think is what if something happens to him? What if he falls in and no ones here to save him? What if he knocks himself out on one of the knockdowns? And i am broken, it would be my fault for not being there, for not being brave enough to stay. 

The Asia of Pearl puts in a vhf call, they are going to come alongside, fire lines which we would attach and then pull us alongside for a boat to boat transfer, cool, we had practiced this and at least it was day light! We all looked at our new rescuer who had arrived,  the easier transfer! It was another very large cargo ship, in fact just 10 meters shorter than Newseas Jade. SHIT! How was this easier, it was exactly the same nightmare, you could see your rescue, your way out but you just couldn’t bloody get on it. It was so cruel and I think Tony was tempted to try some, any kind of transfer, I was waiting for him to just dive in and start swimming. We had spoken to the captain of Newseas Jade in the night and he had said how it was too dangerous to transfer us to him, how was this any different.  They made two attempts, circling the boat, firing lines but as before we didn’t want the two boats connecting, so again with the stop, again the communication was tricky either they didn’t understand or they just wanted to help but finally they moved away enough for us to breathe. Again with the suggestions of putting the kids in the water on lines and being pulled over and up the ladders, again no way were James and I going to allow that to happen and the only other idea was to use a life raft for the transfer. This had been my original thought but as I looked at the vessel, the ladders didn’t even reach the water, it would be incredibly hard for four adults, let alone two young children. The coastguard had said you’ll be surprised at what you can do but we just couldn’t put our children into that much danger/risk/unknown.  The cargo ship was rolling heavily due to being broadside, there was very little lee, the rope ladders were well out of reach, there was no way Isla would have been able to get near them. Again we had to say thank you but sorry you can’t help, please move away. We were all very disappointed, we had thought this would be an off and as hard as it would be to leave James, I just wanted my children safe and away from this situation. I got Tony and the kids, we were in a little circle in the cockpit and I said we’re going to make a wish”please send a yacht, a yacht with loads of really experienced crew, enough so that some can rescue us and some can jump onboard with Jim and help him get to land” I said this out loud and we all crossed everything and repeated the wish. The rest of the day was spent trying different sail set ups to try and get the boat moving in the right direction. We had both sails up, used bow thrusters, pivoted on drogues, moved drogues into all different positions but as much as we tried nothing worked, nothing, the damn boat just would not point down wind.  This was very hard on Jim as I think he realised he wouldn’t be able to sail her in and instead would have to just sit tight and drift. 

Around half two we got a beautiful phone call from the coastguard, a British yacht had been contacted, they knew of our situation and even though they had passed us and were eighty miles south west of us, they were turning around and coming to help. Oh my god, the relief, they then said she was called Tilly Mint and was a 40ft yacht. We all looked at each other 40 ft, in these conditions, they were mad, they were bound to run into trouble  or have to give up and if not it was also going to take them a very long time. The coastguard kept going, another yacht was in a 50 mile radius of us but they couldn’t get radio contact with them. We immediately put a call into Newseas Jade asking them to transmit a mayday relay call specifically to this yacht.  We had been using Newseas Jades vhf the whole time, they are an enormous ship with a massive range and the captain was doing a maday relay call every half an hour for us, these had so far all come back negative.

So we were now back in the waiting game, the Tilly Mint was expected to be with us at around midnight, night time, again not good transfer conditions, brilliant. The afternoon slowly turned to evening and we were still slowly travelling north west at around 2 knots per hour, we had travelled around fifty miles in the last 48 hours. The evening had its own sadness in that if the rudder hadn’t snapped we would have been arriving in Barbados, this was heartbreaking, we had been so close. Just bollocks basically. James went to sleep with the kids again, I sat in the cockpit looking at my husband lying on the couch with his beautiful daughter lying on him, all cuddled up together. Heath was asleep sat up in a chair next to them, just looking so uncomfortable but he was next to his daddy. I struggled with his decision to stay with this shitty boat, this boat that just wouldn’t give us a break, we had done loads of work on her, we had done everything possible to prevent this situation from happening, we had lifted her out of the water to have the rudder checked, three men had looked at the rudder and said it was fine.  It wasn’t fine, it was a million miles away from fine, I knew that he wanted to come with us but I knew he couldn’t give up our dream. For me it was easy now, I just wanted the children off and me off. The evening was again very slow, I smoked easily a hundred rollies and sat with Tony trying to work out a way to get James to come with us. The rolling was really bad this night and we were constantly walking on the water followed by being completely upside down as the boat tipped from side to side, add to that the occasional wave that washed through the cockpit soaking both Tony and myself, it was not fun. Around midnight Tilly Mint flashed up on our AIS, what a lovely sight, we now had three boats around us. The coastguard rang saying a plan had been put in place, that was that the transfer was to happen at first light, the two cargo ships would create a lee (to reduce the amount of wind and swell, basically a wall) and we would use a life raft to transfer across. Ok this was good, we weren’t going to attempt it in the dark, the bad was it meant more waiting but only 6 hours, we could do that. Tilly Mint then put in a call to us on the vhf and oh my they sounded amazing, the first thing they said was how the children were the most important element and how they didn’t want to transfer them at night and so had told the coastguard they would wait for morning. I immediately loved them, someone else was looking out for my kids, someone else was putting them first, it was such a wonderful feeling and for the first time in what felt like forever I thought this is going to be ok. All of a sudden they were right there in front of us and I mean so close I thought we might hit them, they were not a 40ft yacht, they were bigger than us, no wonder they had got here so fast. We radioed them again and warned them about the drogues attached, they said hi, that they were going to move away for the night and that they’d see us in the morning. We set about waiting the last six hours, I tried to sleep, neither Tony or myself had slept for 3 days, but all I could think about was leaving James, or how the children were going to handle leaving James or how it would be for James as we left… so basically I just cried a lot.

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7 responses to “Day 17

  1. Wow!! Had followed your adventure via your mums posts but had not realised how scary and horrific it had become. So glad you are all back on dry land but do hope James does find the boat and you can continue your dream love Gail xx

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  2. Fran I can’t believe what you guys went through! So glad you are safe now. Great story even if it scared the life out of me! You are one brave family. Hoping that you can get the boat back and continue your adventure. Miss you guys. Love jo and the family. (Ava is missing Isla loads..)

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  3. Wow Fran! I am actually bawling reading this. My heart goes out to you and Hands. Just so glad you are safe. Thinking of you all. xx

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  4. Oh Fran, this is amazingly honest and I cried a lot whilst reading it. It’s so heartbreaking, scary, brave, courageous, on and on and u have my utmost admiration girl. So glad u r now safe, much love to you all

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  5. Oh fran….I am in bits reading the horror of it all.
    B###dy hell !!??! You have captured the experience with such detail, I could picture it all so clearly.
    You poor, poor things. What an amazing team you all were though, you should be really proud of how you all coped. Your dear, gorgeous children, you and tony such a team and James like a machine!! My heart goes out to James as I can feel his pain to relentlessly make it work.
    Praying with all my heart that somehow the boat can be found…a needle in a hay stack.
    Sending love ❤️ from fran.
    We are home now, spinning out and wishing we were still swimming at Miami. Xxxx

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  6. Dear Fran…just read the rest…hadn’t realised there were two more bits. Still in shock. How strong you all have been. I feel so in awe of your whole experience. I do hope that you get the boat back. I really do. I guess you are just on a crazy waiting game now. Love Jan x

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