Day 18

Around 5 o’clock a lot happened, Falmouth coastguard rang and advised James to leave the vessel, Fort de France followed and advised the same, Newseas Jade moved towards us, into a position to create a lee and Tilly Mint bounced around next to us looking gorgeous. When they’d radioed the night before they had sounded so professional, now we could see them and they looked professional. We confirmed the plan on the radio and then it all happened so fast, Jim deployed the life raft off the back of the boat and then we had a moment, it was probably three seconds long but it was beautiful and broke my heart all in one and then I jumped, off the boat and fortunately into the life raft. Now I must pause here, when you think of life rafts you think I could do that, I could hang out in a life raft, drifting around, life would be fine and I’d survive. No, just no. This one was a six man raft, it was tiny and you feel incredibly exposed and open to the elements, it’s sitting on a piece of plastic floating over 4000ft of sea? I got on my knees and James basically threw me Heath, he was so brave, I hadn’t witnessed him and James’s goodbye but he just sat where I told him, didn’t scream, didn’t cry, he just said “Mummy, I don’t like this”. Isla came down next and again she landed in my arms in the raft, she was very scared but she sat down next to Heath. I was saying things like ” its like a paddling pool!” But as I looked at their faces they were just scared and in the end I just said repeatedly “you’re fine, we’re going to be ok” Tony appeared in the raft and James cut us free, we were off the boat, we were in a life raft in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. This is a shit situation but we’ve got to get out of it and we unfortunately have to do that ourselves, so we all tried to stay calm. 

The crew on Tilly Mint picked up our line and started pulling us towards them. This was going well, the raft definitely did not feel safe but the crew looked like they were going to do everything possible to help and I trusted them. At first they struggled to bring us into a position alongside the boat where there is a gap in the guard rails and we spent what felt like forever bouncing around in the swell. The raft and boats hull were touching and every time the boat rolled which was every second we would disappear under the hull and then it would roll back and the raft would rub its way out and up the side, this is very, very scary because it looks like 1. you’re going to be crushed by a boat, 2.  you’re rafts going to be tipped up by the boat and then you’ll be in the water being crushed by the boat. It also made this awful noise as the raft rubbed its way up and down the hull and I did have this thought of shit we’re going to pop this raft and end up in the water. This was happening just over and over and I had made an awful mistake, I had put my daughter in front of me in the opening ready to hand her to them… now if it looked shit scary to me how on earth did it look to Isla who is 7 and tiny and with the hull massive and coming down on us repeatedly she started screaming, properly screaming, Heath was just repeating over and over I don’t like it, I don’t like it and we knew, they knew it wasn’t working and we needed to change position. So they released the ropes a bit and this allowed us to move away from the hull a little, they then went to heave to (this means turn into the wind, stop and reduce the roll) however due to the raft or something this just didn’t happen and instead the boat started moving forward with us basically water skiing alongside. We were all just clinging on as the waves started coming up and into the raft, I shouted at this guy on the side “just grab her” and on the next roll I simply handed him my daughter and it was perfect, she was gone, she was safe, he passed her down to the guys in the cockpit and turned back to me, I grabbed Heath, shouted to the guy he’s heavier and then handed him Heath again it was seamless and he was gone, safe. I myself the moment the children were gone just relaxed and on a roll of the boat literally just stepped across onto it, I don’t think I even used my hands. Tony passed up our rucksacks and then he followed, at the age of 71 I think he appreciated all those years of yoga. We had done it but there was no happiness because now we had to sit and watch James as we left, this was horrible, these poor people had saved us and all I could do was cry and tell them not to leave him. They let me use the radio and I called Jim and begged him to come with us, he wasn’t and we watched as he put both sails up and then using the engine tried repeatedly to turn the boat down wind. It looked like he’d got it and we moved away, I was devastated, this lovely lady handed me towels to wrap the children in, offered us tea but I was gone, I wasn’t there, I was just looking back to where we’d left Jim, when would we see him again? Would he be ok? I know I’ve said this before but this was definitely one of the worst moments, we were safe but we’d left James behind.

But then fortunately it all went wrong, again. Not for us but for James, he had got the boat moving with the main sail and genoa up goose winged (one sail out on each side) but the main sail sheet (rope) had then snapped, followed quickly by the genoa sheet, the ropes quickly got wrapped around the prop. So now he had no head sail, no main sail and no engine. The boom was swinging dangerously around the cockpit, he put in a call to us, he was done, could we go back for him? YES! I looked at the captain, could we? He quickly turned the yacht round and we headed back for Jim , we were on our way. 

Bless him, he was a broken man, he was sat in the cockpit, the main sail was a mess where the lazy jacks were gone, the boom was swinging back and forth and there were ropes everywhere. It was like the boat had totally rejected him but in a way it was saving him. He and the crew completed the transfer very quickly and that was it, we were rescued, all of us.

We were introduced to the crew of the Tilly Mint, I think this was my second time but this time I could focus, they were Andrew and Arwyn, Kat, Will and Dan. As we were each handed towels, I knew I was middle aged, I knew I was a little sad I had just been through probably the biggest drama of my life but all I wanted to know, all I was interested in was how the hell did someone get their towels to be sooo fluffy and smell so nice and at sea?. I could barely get a hint of softness on land, in a house, with Sainsbury’s next door and every laundry product available to me. I was having this massive debate in my head about these towels and at that moment I realised I am to old for all this. To me, at this stage in my life I’m not interested in adventures or risk I literally would be happy and content if I could reach this skill level of laundry.  

We all had showers (the Tilly Mint has a water maker so no rationing of water) and I painstakingly brushed Isla’s and my hair. Andrew and Arwyn had given us their cabin, the children had been shown the room and the boat and were very excited. I lay down on the bed and just slept, at one point someone woke me up and placed a bowl of porridge under my nose, I lifted my head, I hadn’t eaten for days, it had cinnamon in it and huge raspberries, huge raspberries for god sake, it was truly delicious. The four of us sat on the bed, eating our porridge. We were ok, it was over and we were all together. 


19 responses to “Day 18

  1. Yes, yoga and years escaping the attention of wing-forwards on the rugby pitch triggered an unstoppable movement on to Tilly Mint. Plus the firm grip of Will on my lifejacket. I was going on that boat, whatever!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Tony… Bloody hell, how ya feeling now.. What a crazy, trip..
      Hope your well, safe back home although I’m sure your frightening ordeal with be lingering on!!
      See you in sunny Cornwall some time…X


  2. You may have found your new career. Not sailing, writing. I love the harsh power of emotions and actions contrasted with the softness of towels. A lovely lightness of touch.


    • Hi Glenda you an’t half right about Frans writing…..
      She’s amazing & so strong and brave (I just faced timed her & told her so)…And the kiddies & James whom I’m praying on his safe return…
      Moved me to tears accounting their exsperience…
      And I Imagine you many many times..
      Love to you and Tony xx


  3. Cried my way through this, Fran – through your torture wondering where the kids were safest on board, right the way through to the fluffy towels. Am so pleased Jim got off the boat. Tragic, but so grateful you’re all ok. Fluffy towels and raspberries at sea, eh? That’s about as extreme as I think I’d like to get, too. Well done to you all for surviving it and living to tell the tale. Dry land now! 🙂 Love to you all xx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. FRAN! I have just read this in tears, I want to give you all a big hug, unbelievable, you have all had such a big adventure, stay safe!! Nancy xxx


  5. Beautifully written Fran. Sending all our love, so thankful you are all ok. This has had me in tears, love you Willcocks 😘😘😘😘😘😘 xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow! I’ve been reading all of these updates with a thumping heart!
    Isla and Heath, I’m so impressed with how brave you’ve been. What an incredible adventure you’ve had and some parts sounded utterly terrifying, but you did it! Well done both of you!
    Sending lots of love and luck to you all,
    Miss Ruxton xx

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Flipping heck mate! I too cried reading this! So traumatic. So gutted for you the boat is (temporarily!?) gone but very glad James is with you. Nothing is worth risking a life for like that. Your dream may be over but you have each other xxx PS – I didn’t realise Tony was that old (looking good for your age Tony!!) xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh My God Fran..just had phone cll from Luce and read the events of your last scary days on the boat..i hope your ok and managing to sleep all have each other and thats all that matters in this life..I cried to you all from a very cold and damp Cornwall..there aint no place like home.. 🙂 xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Most of your worst nightmares rolled into one life changing experience.
    Thank goodness you are all safe.
    What a brave and courageous family you are.

    Sending huge squeezes, loves, fluffy towels and hugs to you all
    Xxxxxx 😘

    Liked by 1 person

  10. We are in Saint-Martin, if we can help, if we can offer any support… And if the kids want to make a new friend, our daughter will be happy…
    Big hugs, love and hopes in finding your boat.

    Liked by 1 person

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