I’m sitting in a large pool of blood. The 20 foot swells break in waves over the deck and washes the red into pink and gone, but the red just keeps on returning. We’re on our second sailing course in Durban, South Africa just before moving to Mauritius. It is at the onset of working on bringing our Caribbean Dream to fruition. I’m the only woman amongst 5 men on the course. The instructor is a chauvinist and picks on me relentlessly from the moment we set foot on board. We’re not supposed to be out to sea in this storm and we’re doing man overboard drills in the confined safety of the harbor. Everyone gets a turn to practice here, but when it comes to my turn (the last one), the instructor sees it fit to take us out into the raging monster that used to be the ocean. Stan is standing on the foredeck, ready to pick up the danbuoy, a buoy used to simulate the man overboard. I’m at the helm, sailing up and down, shouting instructions into the howling wind at my crew as to what to do with the sails, where to go, etc. It is chaos and there is no way I’m going to get Stan in the right position to pick up that buoy. The instructor takes over the helm. He has no success in getting Stan in the right position to pick up the buoy either. Then the instructor decides it’s time to go back to the harbor and cut our losses. He jibes the boat without calling the jibe. A jibe turns the boat in a different direction and can be an extremely dangerous maneouver if the person at the helm doesn’t call it. When a boat jibes, the boom comes swinging and it takes a series of crew members to duck, move positions, pull on ropes and turning winches to stabilize the boom and get the main sail into the right position safely. While we were out in this stormy mess, the rope that moves the boom/main sail had twisted dangerously and a student was standing up, trying to untwist it. It was then that the instructor jibed the boat. Since he didn’t call it, nobody expected it and wasn’t ready for it. The boom came swinging and hit the standing student in the head. He bounced off a sharp piece of equipment straight into my lap. He was a big man and I was pinned under his weight. When I looked down at him, he had turned white as a sheet, he gurgled and his lips turned blue. I talked to him and received no reaction. He wasn’t breathing. He had received a headwound that exposed things that made me want to faint, but there was no time for that now. When I looked up, the three men sitting in front of me was frozen in shock, staring at me with eyes like saucers and mouthes agape. “WAKE UP!!”, I screamed. “GO GET ME THE FIRST AID KIT DOWN BELOW!!” One guy managed to get me what I asked. I squeezed the injured person’s hand. He didn’t squeeze back. I couldn’t reach his mouth to do mouth to mouth, so gave him a hard squeeze on the side of his shoulders, pushing his shoulder blades toward each other. I have no idea why this worked. Perhaps a mere miracle, but his eyes flew open and he stared at me. He took a large gulp of air. The color returned to his face and the color of his lips returned to normal. He immediately closed his eyes again, but he was breathing! I bandaged up his head tightly and it stopped the bleeding. I couldn’t look anymore and just held his hand while whispering to him that everything was going to be ok. The instructor finally got us back to the harbor where the paramedics were waiting for us. After we moved to Mauritius, the man who brought me the first aid kit delivered a yacht in Mauritius. He came to see us and told us the injured man was in a coma for six weeks. When he woke up, he couldn’t remember anything of the incident or even doing the sailing course. This incident killed my sailing dream and I have no fondness left for it, nor the inclination to ever take it up again. It also altered the path of my journey. I was afraid to tell the story at first, but it is an integral part of me and how I remember leaving South Africa. I cannot think of this part of our lives, without remembering the Blue Zoo. It was a restaurant we used to love, not too far from the sailing school. This restaurant made the best lobster bisque and I share the recipe with you in the Recipes section of this blog.
I apologize to all sailors for butchering the terminologies and procedures, but it was done for the sake of easier reading
Photo by me
Dish in photo re-invented and cooked by Stan for Valentine’s Day. He garnished with a beetroot heart that touched my heart.
(Remember to look for the omelette photo recipes this week Monday thru Friday)