It has been almost 6 months since we left Mexico. Since then we have crossed the Pacific Ocean, sailed to many tropical islands and were mostly out of touch with the world. We enjoyed the solitude, but towards the end we started to feel the need of civilization: meeting other sailors, shopping in a real supermarket, finding a decent internet connection etc. So we were extremely happy and excited when we finally sailed into the lagoon Arue on the island of Tahiti and moored in front of the Tahiti Yacht Club. We took a bus into Papeete and had plans of treating ourselves with an expensive meal, some beer or cocktails and generally celebrating a happy day. But soon a black sheet fell over us and took away all the happiness. This is what I want to write about. I will not describe this island and her beauty because at the moment I am not able to see it. Our celebration day became a mourning day and I feel I need to write a few words about it, because writing is the only thing I can do right now.
Since we bought Calypso, over 3 years ago, we sailed to many bays, but there is only one place where we really feel at home. That’s La Paz in Baja California, Mexico. That’s where we found our boat, where we worked on her, where we met most of our mutual friends. La Paz, as all sailors that have been there know, is a city that is very hard to leave. We did leave, but it was not easy and we often say to each other how much we miss it.
Ten days ago this lovely city has been hit by a Force 3 Hurricane. It has been hit hard, very hard.
Many people lost their houses, lots of sailors lost their boats/homes/dreams and four people lost their lives. Two of them were very good friends of ours.
I would like to be in La Paz now. I would like to cry with my friends, hug them and help each other understand. I would like to spend my days pulling boats off the beach, working hard, being with people who feel the same horrible feelings. But I am sitting in the sunny Tahiti and I cannot do anything. It hurts.
Paul and Simone drove over in their dinghy on the morning of our departure for the Pacific crossing, gave us hugs and kisses and promised that we will see each other again soon, somewhere in the South Pacific. But this is not going to happen. Their boat Tabasco II sank on her mooring during the hurricane Odile and the Sea of Cortez took away two of the best people that the sailing community ever had. We lived for 3 years in La Paz, on and off, and had already many friends there when Paul and Simone arrived, about one year ago. But as soon as they arrived something magical happened. All the scattered friends suddenly became a group. They were like magnets that pulled all the friends together. They were like two suns, always glowing. Nobody had more energy than them. I know that people always say about the friends that passed away “how special they were, always happy to help”. Well, the fact is, Paul and Simone REALLY were special and they REALLY always helped whoever needed helping. They were great hosts. I will never forget all the good times we had aboard Tabasco II, including Christmas and New Year evening.
We only knew Paul and Simone one year, but we feel like we lost our best friends. Most landlubbers will not understand it, but we sailors develop very intense relationships in very short periods. We really liked them from the first time we met.
I especially liked Simone because she was like me. I often feel different from other sailing “wives” because I really care about the boat, about the sailing. It is very rare to find a woman that shares this kind of enthusiasm for the sailing lifestyle. Often the female half of a sailing couple are somewhat coerced to go sailing by their husbands, but Simone was not one of them. On Christmas day we had a lovely chat about the subject. It was me, Simone and Shelly. I felt something very bonding between us. I felt honoured to be amongst such great women. I remember how proudly Simone explained that the boat is her dream and that she is going sailing no matter what. Not Paul or nobody else could have stopped her (not that he wanted, he shared the same dream).
One day she gave me a present, a long white skirt.
“You will wear it much more often” she said.
I didn’t wear it yet, because I was waiting for a special occasion. But every time I open my cupboard I see it and I see Simone. The skirt is beautiful and angelic, like she was. I will always wear it very proudly.
Paul… Well, to be fair, I had some trouble understanding his accent. And he didn’t really understand me… So very often he would say something to me to which I would answer “I really have no idea of what you just said…” and he would reply: “Half past midday.” But we still had great times together.
The remarkable thing about Paul is that he never ran out of energy. He helped us a lot while we were getting ready for the ocean. He drove us around town, gave us material, lent us tools, gave us advice and always came to check on us. To me, he seemed invincible. But he wasn’t…
When we left La Paz for the last time, on the morning of the 1st of April, most of our neighbours already went to work. But Paul was there to wave us goodbye. We motored past him and waved back. This is how I will always remember him: standing on the bow of his sailing boat, proudly saluting us in the morning Mexican sun.