It has been 9 days. Each day has lasted several weeks so I’m not sure how long it’s really been…Like an addict who is usually on a constant high from every day life, taking hits with every breath I’d breathed, I am now slamming my head against the walls and floor as I experience the ultimate withdrawls all while descending day after day like a vulture on a dying being, picking it clean one artery, one organ and one breath at a time.
The salvage company told us they wouldn’t even come look at Tanda Malaika until they had a $25 000 deposit, while the winds were carrying in massive sets of waves that pushed her farther and farther onto the reef. Each time she moved, rocks and coral that had initially broken holes in her hull in 3 different places was now pulling the gaps in the hulls to the side. Large flaps of fiberglass were twisting, tearing and gaping.
It was as if she was being scraped and skinned alive.
We called the American Embassy to see what help they could offer and were assured that they would send help and to hang tight. The big wig had gone on vacation but we would hear back from them soon. Every morning David (from Geniet Lewe) would get on the VHF radio, tell the cruisers that we were headed out to Tanda Malaika to salvage what we could, and before we knew it, a caravan of dinghies would be making their way out to her. We carried with us tools, thick garbage bags, tape, permanent markers and dry bags. We meandered through the large field of coral heads as far as we could then threw an anchor out, jumped out and made our way to our home. Like a forensic team at a murder scene, we would ascend onto her decks and begin picking over every inch of her, removing anything of value, bagging it up, labeling it and placing it in larger more water proof containers.
I placed screws, nuts and bolts in small ziplock bags, wrote the contents on them and taped them to the item they belonged to. As soon as we had a dinghy loaded up with bags etc, it was taken all the way in to Geniet Lewe in the anchorage. The overflow went to Makara (Ian and Erika’s boat).
While some people gathered electrical items,
others sorted through the galley and main salon. Books, clothing, bedding, tools, food, safety equipment, fishing equipment, the list goes on and on…
We removed high priority items first then worked on the less important things, all while waves continued to pound up again Tanda Malaika, causing her to shudder periodically.
We tried to stay upbeat and positive, and sometimes succeeded – other times sat starring in shock then fighting back tears, and got back to work once more.
The creatures dismantled everything they had worked so hard to keep secured and water tight.
Each time we returned to Tanda Malaika, she was more and more damaged. Part of it was that as we removed things, she became lighter, which allowed for more movement on the rocks and coral which caused her to rip even more. The rudder posts pushed through the sugar scoop steps, creating holes on both port and starboard. Each day we returned to her we noticed more things that had been stolen off her in the night.
The salvage company finally called back after we had sent them photos of her deteriorating condition, and told us that given how far she is up on the reef at this point, combined with the way her structure had been compromised, they recommended we either get a permit to have her towed off and sunk, which would total about $35 to $40 000. Our other option was to have her drug off the reef and towed to Raitea to be hauled out and chopped up, which would cost the $25000 pulling off the reef job, the $5000 an hour for towing her 20 miles at about the speed of 1 knot an hour since she would be float at about deck level in the water. After going back and forth in our discussions we at first thought that if we had her hauled out to demolish in Raitea, we could at least have a good look at her when she’s out and maybe she could be saved somehow. But, as each day passed her damage got to the point where it would cost more to repair her that to purchase another used bare bones catamaran and start over. We had been told that the Moorings charter companies were selling boat like ours (without all the added electronics, solar, bigger batteries, wifi extenders, AIS, radar, etc) for $200 to $250 000, as they try to make room for new models. Tanda Malaika would cost a minimum of $200 000 to fix.
We gathered the creatures into the salon on Geniet Lewe and explained the situation to them, and told them that at this point we were going to have to have our girl drug off the reef and towed to the legal area for sinking, about 7 tons of old engines etc would be placed on her to weigh her down, and she would leave the surface for the last time and sink to the ocean floor below. Everyone reacted differently, Mycah was crying and asking all the ‘but what if…’ questions, Jude withdrew and cried quietly, Emma was crying and asking ‘is this final? Is this really the final decision? Is it just a maybe or really for real?’ Aidan was teary eyed and sat quietly looking back and forth at his sisters trying to figure out a way to comfort them. To comfort himself. To process it all. I explained to them that she had provided a place for us to live and learn and grown, and once sunk, she would provide a place for marine life to live. She would become covered in coral and sponges and have marine life swimming through the hulls where we had walked and would continue to protect the living. Our Tanda Malaika would continue to be a place where life could feel safe and at home.
Making this decision of course meant that every single reusable and sellable item would need to be removed from Tanda Malaika. Once again Dave announced our plan on the VHF and day after day we have returned to her like vultures, picking her clean.
Electrical wire hung like entrails from the ceiling and walls as each light, each pump, each rail and block, each line and hose where removed, bagged and carried off to Makara and Geniet Lewe.
Janet organized and catalogued every single item, recording it on a spread sheet on the computer and assigning it a reference number. Cruisers from Geniet Lewe, Makara, Beach Flea, Solace, Son of Moondance, Puanani, Jadine helped so much hour after hour, day after day. Many vessels arrived to watch out of curiosity, some to purchase boat parts, and others just to help. Between Janet and Emma, they did (and continue to do) at least thirty loads of washing, cleaning clothes, bedding, towels and other odds and ends. Large items were cleaned then laid out on the trampoline to dry.
A man named Marc, who has a boat company in Fare, volunteered his flat bottomed boats and helped lift the two d55 Volvo engines out, the Northern Lights generator, the scuba compressor, air conditioning units, water heaters, life raft, freezer unit, lithium ion batteries, stater batteries and so much more. His plan is to take them to his warehouse in Fare and clean it all up and help us try sell it.
Cookies and other delicious treats were brought over from other boats, some offered to wash dishes, do laundry or help in any other way possible. Janet tended our wounds night after night. She put Jude on antibiotics for an ear infection, helped Emma with asthma and a cold, helped Mycah with her back and me with my sciatica. She has cooked amazing meals and kept us hydrated all while organizing everything that was brought off Tanda Malaika. When people came to buy stuff and Danny and I couldn’t think anymore, Dave researched the best price for each item and help us sell them. Beach Flea and Jadine families cooked us dinner as well, and invited the creatures over to relax and enjoy evenings of playing games while Danny and I tried to figure out what to do next.
At this point, 99% has been removed from Tanda Malaika. We have sold some things but still have SO MUCH to deal with and store or sell. We are waiting for the inspector to come out and inspect our home to see if she is environmentally safe to sink, Once he has given us the ok and taken the $25 000 permit fee from us, we will be able to give the towing company the reluctant thumbs up to drag her off and sink her. That will be $25 000 to drag her off and $5000 an hour to tow her the 13 nm to the legal sinking area, then the cost of the 7 tons of weight to push her down since its practically impossible to sink catamarans. We have been thinking hard trying to decide where to relocate to, knowing that we need to be where Danny will be able to fly the most. Hong Kong is in desperate need of BBJ pilots (corporate 737 jets). We know it is very cheap to live in Thailand or Bali and may live there while Danny flies a lot, I will find a job too, and we will save up for another home on the water to replace Tanda Malaika. We are looking into the most efficient way to get visas lined up and if we have to go to the US to do it, tickets will cost us over $2000 a person to get to our final destination. So much to think about!
Our family is strong. Our relationships with each other are strong and the love we have for each other is solid and wonderful. We will get through this and hopefully use what we learn to help others. We are so grateful for the amazing support and compassion from everyone here as well as those far away. Our daughter, Kjira, organized a go fund me and we thank her so much for that, and thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your concern and generosity. Today is a new day, we’ll see where this one takes us!