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Sunday
Apr132014

Overwhelmed, Shocked, Saddened

In the age-old game of ‘pick three adjectives to describe…,’ I choose the following to tell you how I am currently feeling.

Overwhelmed

I am overwhelmed by the incredible bravery of the four pararescuemen of the California Air National Guard’s 129th Wing, also known as the Guardian Angels: Eric, Klay, Nathan, and Miles. They jumped out of a C-130 into the tumultuous waters of the Pacific to help my daughter, and to assist us off of our damaged boat. Once climbing aboard, they made sure Lyra was stable, and continued to care for her as she improved. They cared for her, and for all of us. During the two and a half days those four men spent on our lagging vessel, they helped us manually pump our bilge every few hours. They physically held our children during the rough seas to keep them safe. They slept for three nights in a tiny, cramped cabin that poured seawater with every breaking wave. Like us, they couldn’t bathe. They shared our Spartan meals. And when the time came to leave Rebel Heart, they carried my daughters on their bodies, and got Cora, Lyra, me, and Eric to safety.

That safety came in the form of the USS Vandegrift. The Vandegrift is a Navy Frigate that was less than a day away from their home port of San Diego when they were notified of our emergency and asked to turn around to assist us. The 200+ crew of their vessel had to leave their own families, and go back to the sea for ours; we are overwhelmed with gratitude toward them. From the moment that we tumbled onto the solid deck of their ship, drenched in seawater, so full of adrenaline that we needed to vomit, and completely unable to walk on our shaking legs, the crew welcomed us. Officers gave up their quarters so we had a warm, secure place to rest. Captain Alva and Executive Officer Robbin personally made sure we were safe and comfortable in our quarters. Crewmembers made a crib for Lyra, and both of the girls loved it. They also donated children’s books, toiletries, and clothing to help us when we had very little of our own items. Time and time again, the crew asked us what they could do to help. They shared their meals with us, played children’s movies on repeat, and had endless patience as we spent time in the Officer’s Wardroom. The World’s Finest Navy does not begin to describe the professionalism, competence, and humanity of the people onboard the Vandegrift. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Beyond the immediacy of bravery and kindness we have experienced over the past week, is the overwhelming feeling of support from friends, family, and complete strangers. In our time of loss, we feel buoyed by the strength of our on-water, on-land, and on-line friendships. Immediate names that come to mind are my sister, Sariah, my incredible friends Justin, Laura, Mele, Ella, Paige, Helen, Kathy, Kaye, and Charlie, who all immediately went to work to help us get home safely and try to transition into life without our boat. Rebel Heart was our home for eight years. Thank you, friends, for helping us get started in finding a new home. Another special thanks to the incredible support of Women Who Sail, Cruiser’s Forum, Babywearing San Diego, and Friends of Rebel Heart (amongst other groups!)

To the amazing people who heard about our story, and reached out with unsolicited financial help and donations of clothes and household items, THANK YOU. I don’t think anyone ever expects that they will someday lose their home and all their possessions. To know that so many people, from all the around the world, have compassion for people they have never met, is humbling, and yes, overwhelming.

Shocked

It truly is shocking to watch your home slowly start sinking before your eyes. From the moment we pushed the EPIRB button, we had three days until the Vandegrift arrived and took us, and our few bags to safety. How do you decide what to take and what to leave? How do you pack in rough seas? How do you tell your three year old that you are not, indeed, going to the South Pacific, but instead are awaiting rescue, in whatever form that may come, and that they can pick two toys to go into the bags we packed, and oh yes, they need to say goodbye to their home? How do you do it?

It leaves you shell-shocked.

I lovingly sewed almost all of the canvas and interior upholstery and linens in our boat. I painstakingly worked for years to build a simple, comfortable, stream-lined vessel for my family. Eric and I got engaged while living on our boat, married while living on our boat, and had both of our beautiful children while living aboard Rebel Heart, and she is now at the bottom of the Pacific. It is a lot to process.

It will take us time to come to terms with it. To my friends and family who are awaiting a personal call or visit from me, please know I will reach out as soon as I can get my head on straight. 

Saddened

Many of my friends and family have also expressed anger at the mean-spirited comments that have been left on our blog by complete strangers. Please, friends, do not dismay. We will slowly delete all the comments from the internet armchair quarterbacks who know nothing about us, our life, our skills, or, I might add, sailing.

No, it is not these commenters that fall under the third adjective I have picked, it is the comments from family members who have given negative interviews to the press about me and Eric. It is one thing to ignore comments from the internet at large, it is another to watch and read the interviews given to news sites by members of my estranged, nuclear family. Then again, these are the same family members who claim that my sister and I are lying about the sexual abuse we suffered from my father, who, to this day, remains an unprosecuted, unregistered sex offender. Their words show more about the content of their character than I could ever personally express to you. Thus, while I am saddened by their commentary, I am not surprised.

 

Rebel Heart will be back. Just give us some time.

Sincerely,

Charlotte

Thursday
Apr102014

A Message from Rebel Heart

With our heroes from the 129th Rescue Wing, California Air National Guard

First, we would like to express our profound gratitude for the 129th Rescue
Wing of the California Air National Guard. These people are true heroes,
along with Commander Alva and the crew of the USS Vandegrift. We will
remember them forever.

We have been happy with the maritime life we have been able to share with
our daughters. Even as we write this, several other boats are crossing the
same stretch of water that Rebel Heart was on, with families who seek to
show their children the world. Children have been sailing on boats for a
long time, and the modern cruising family dates back several decades.

To our supporters and those who also seek an adventurous path with their
families, we thank you for your kind words and support. From professional
rescuers, professional sailors, and other families at sea we have been
buoyed by your warmth and kindness. For those who are more critical, we ask
that you kindly await all the details. There have been many inaccuracies
reported through various media related to our daughter's health, the
vessels' condition, and our overall maritime situation.

While we are thankful for the unsolicited generosity we have received and
been offered, we encourage you to consider donating to That Others May Live
(www.thatothersmaylive.org ), which provides relief to the families of
members of the United States Air Force Rescue community when tragedy
strikes.

Wednesday
Apr022014

Pacific Crossing โ€“ Day 14, April 1, 2014

If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.

Tuesday
Apr012014

Pacific Crossing โ€“ Day 13, March 31, 2014

Thirteen days at sea. For some people thirteen is unlucky. I was born on the 13th (of June) and have always considered it a number for good luck. We are in good spirits, as good as you can be, considering. We rearranged the sleeping arrangements yet again, and Eric and I both slept better than we have the entire trip. You know how you say you feel like a million bucks? We felt like twenty bucks before last night’s sleep schedule, and now we feel like forty, or maybe even fifty bucks. So that is something.

I made cake last night, in force five conditions. I actually like force five on this boat (we had the same kind of conditions on our last crossing of the Sea of Cortez and I had a great time.) The only problem is force five with tiny kids on board. Oh well. I made the cake once the kids were in bed and falling asleep. I burned more calories making it then I did calories combined in the whole cake. When Cora woke up this morning she asked for some of the treat I was making last night because she had smelled it baking as she fell asleep. I lied and told her we ate it up; all the while, the rest of the cake sat on the counter by the dish rack, just waiting for Eric and I to devour it this evening with a cup of coffee, in silence, once the girls were asleep. Sorry for lying to you, Cora. One day, when you are a parent, you will understand. Please know, if you ever read this, I did give you FIVE gumdrops as a conciliatory offer.

Short blog post today. We have had several days of cloudy weather. We are westing with much speed, which is AWESOME, but the clouds mean much less power to the solar panels. I can’t get my computer charged enough to write blog posts, organize photos, and write back to the friends and family who have emailed us. I will when I can, so please know we are getting your messages and they mean so much to us.

A few brief notes to friends who may read this post: Amanda Seguin – write ANY time. It is actually a great boon to get emails from friends, so don’t let the satellite connection bit dissuade you.

George Faithful – if you are reading this, I had a dream that you and your beautiful family moved to San Diego and you all came over to our house (but we don’t own a house in real life) and we had a dinner party together and talked belief and unbelief the whole time.

Monique L. – Cora is going to write back to Sacha tomorrow. She hasn’t seen the email yet, but I told her about it tonight before bed. She is thrilled.

Sariah – Your emails are epic. Epic. I savor them. Please tell me you have pictures to show me of Jake’s disturbing mustache. I would whistle at you too, so the pig of the guinea and I have that in common.

Rich – If you are reading this, I hope you are recovering okay. I just heard through the grapevine. I love you.

John Kern – don’t worry, we got the info we needed on the mechanic. And thank you for sending Behan’s email!

Cindy – I hope the cold spell has left and you can get out of the plastic boat bubble!

Ella – ask any questions you like. I like questions. Especially from you.

Mele – enjoy Hawaii. Hopefully we’ll meet you there someday. We all miss you.

Monday
Mar312014

Pacific Crossing โ€“ Day 11, March 29, 2014

Two days ago we bingo’ed on the avocadoes. The day before that, the zucchini, and the day before that, the mangoes. Not worried though. We still have plenty of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, potatoes, and cabbage. The pears are almost gone, but a vast pile o’ apples awaits us. We also have bags of prunes and plenty of canned veggies too. I report this because there is not much else to report. We continue sailing west. The wind finally came back a few days ago and we’ve been making miles ever since. The first few days the wind was accompanied by an incredibly awful sea state. It had each of us in a foul mood. There were tears (on my part). There were bruises (not from each other, geez), but from getting knocked all over the cabin. When I woke up this morning my back muscles were tight from the constant rocking you can’t escape at night, and the way your body responds too it even subconsciously. Lyra and I are having the hardest time sleeping, she because she is so tiny that a single roll of the cabin in one direction could roll her 1.5 times in one direction, and then back the same amount the other way. We finally wedged her baby seat on the port side of the salon table, facing aft, where it couldn’t slide from side to side with the motion of the ocean (isn’t that fun to say?) We tucked pillows in on either side of the front and back of the seat (so it wouldn’t rock aft or forward) and voila! A little reclined lounge chair that has allowed her to sleep like a champ. Cora sleeps just forward of her on the salon cushions, her body amidships to lessen the impact of the rolly seas at night. Eric also sleeps on the salon cushions, just aft of Lyra and her baby recliner, his body generally curled in a giant, masculine comma on the largest cushion around the salon table, or sometimes he extends his legs and sleeps on his back, knees bent, feet resting on the floor, his head lamp and gloves always beside him on the table for a quick wake up if not his watch.

I feel a bit like the main character in the Princess and the Pea, or more aptly, the Commoner and the Sea. After trying every conceivable place to sleep, including on my back on the floor amidships, on my belly on the floor amidships, every cushion around the salon table, and forward and aft in the quarter berth, it seems the only way that will let me get anything resembling rest is on my belly, facing aft in the quarter berth. It is the darkest, quietest part of the boat, and the white noise of a nearby Camfrano fan, plus ear plugs, and a strategically placed belly pillow help me from rolling too much. Hull slap awakens me, frantically, sometimes, but other than that, I get the best sleep there, and I use ‘best’ euphemistically.

Trust me, you want my blog posts to be boring. The best kind of passages like this are boring. Nothing dramatic, nothing crazy, or dangerous, just plodding along, boring. Everyone safe, healthy, and happy. The boat working, the winds doing their thing to help us. Eric and I look forward to two moments each day, Lyra’s nap, and the kids’ bed time. Lyra’s nap means either I can nap too, or Eric if he needs it more. Or it means we can get stuff done, since Cora doesn’t need constant supervision, or it means we can put Cora in front of a movie in the cabin, and we can go up to the cockpit for adult time. I will let you be the judge of what adult time means. After Lyra’s nap, we try hard not to look at the hours tick by until bed time. I like when it hits 4:00pm because that means it is time to start dinner. In spite of the enormous quantity of snacks and treats we brought along for this crossing (nothing like sugar or salt to lift the spirits!), Eric and I have both lost weight. Neither of us are complaining. The sheer amount of calories expended to create each meal and each snack, every day, is impressive. Every time we prepare food it is an acrobatic juggling act of fighting against waves, of keeping food and utensils from flying, from cooking food, doing dishes, and making sure Lyra doesn’t take a tumble, and that is just making the food. By the time the meal is prepared and we are all assembled in the cockpit, Lyra in her tiny high chair, stripped down bare, and the rest of us up there, with all our plates, utensils, cloth wipes, etc, well, by then it is 5:00pm and dinner starts! And by 5:45 or so, I’m cleaning off Lyra, Eric is doing dishes and managing Cora’s bedtime routine, and then, by six, blessed, o’clock, it is time to get the girls in bed. Thirty minutes of bottles, stories, and books, and another thirty of the girls playing around, giggling, and being told to go to sleep, and by 7:00pm they are asleep. You see, if we can make it to four o’clock each day, we’ve made it through another daytime in this passage.

The girls start off the evening sleeping in their quarter berth, and when Eric and I are ready to pass out, generally around 10pm, we move the girls out to their positions around the salon table and so begins the passing of hours at watch until the girls wake up again, usually around 6:45am and we do.it.all.again. Like I said, boring. Exhausting, draining, repetitive. I am dreaming of long runs, my back soaked from the sweat and exertion, my feet curving around the shape of sand on the beach I’m running on. I’m dreaming of sweet coconut water. I’m dreaming of French baguettes. I’m dreaming of family hikes up scenic trails. Day 11 done. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.