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