Our final salvage day on Tanda Malaika was painful. We knew our time on her was coming to an end, and we just didn’t want to leave her. She was looking so empty after all we had removed from her, and yet she still held strong on the reef, her mast standing tall and proud. I walked along the port side deck where I had walked so many times before, no more life lines keeping me safe from the ocean, and I whispered to Tanda Malaika how sorry I was.
Only one shroud was left on each side holding her mast up, and the helm was completely bare. I had sat at that helm on so many night watches, just me and the sea and the sky. I had felt peace there, as she responded so diligently to my touch on her controls and wheel.
Aidan came and sat beside me, and neither him nor I could speak.
Keeping busy was the only way to get through the next few hours, so I returned to her galley and then her hulls.
I watched a tiny fish that had already moved in and swam contentedly in the bilges just as another wave hit her port side and sent water pouring in through head side hatch. In the main salon everything had been ripped apart to get to bolts holding rails above, and ceiling panels lay all over the floor and where salon seating had been.
We gathered and hammered and unscrewed and collected, fiberglass making our arms and hands itch. Mycah undid hoses and straps after draining water we had made with our water maker – leaving water storage tanks empty and ready to be removed.
Finally after many many hours the sun lowered in the sky and we returned once more to the anchorage. Salty, drenched, cut up from coral, covered in fiberglass, and shed our dripping clothes to stand briefly in a warm shower. It always washed the tears away. We sat and talked, ate another delicious meal prepared by Janet, then lounged in the stern salon and listened to Mycah play the ukulele and sing to us. Her voice like an angel, soothing our tired souls.
Morning came so quickly, before I even had time to dream, and without much thought at all we dressed once again, filled our bellies with Weetbix, and for the last time returned to our home on the sea. She was still there waiting for us as if ready and willing to have her nonexistent sails raised once again to carry us across the waves that constantly crashed into her side. We had a couple last things to remove, and sweet little Jade from Jadean joined Jude on the top deck to unscrew some rails. Her happy and curious little voice brought smiles to our faces. Several times she stopped and looked up into our faces, her eyes caring and sincere, and said,’I’m so sorry this happened to you. It’s so sad.’ Just for her we tried to be cheerful, and promised her that before she knew it, we would be back on the ocean and catch up to them where ever they were.
Barry from Jadean helped Mycah and Danny pull the fresh water tanks free so we could tow them behind the dinghies back to the anchorage.
I walked down to the galley where counters and floor were wet and covered in debris, and began cleaning . We had removed every bit of plastic, garbage and anything that could possibly float and hurt the ocean, and when my beautiful home descended to her final resting place on the ocean floor, I wanted her galley to be as clean as I had kept it when we lived on her. David walked past and said, ‘what are you doing woman?’ I told him I was cleaning the kitchen one last time and he smiled and shook his head, saying I was as bad as Mycah, who had cleaned her room beautifully as well. I stepped back from the counter and smiled through blurry eyes, blinking back tears.
Danny was feeling overwhelmed with sadness too as we spent our last few moments in our home. We relived the night we wrecked over and over again, talking about the entire sequence of unfortunate events, and though it had been over a week, we still sat in disbelief. Right now we should have been in the Cook Islands, exploring the reefs, mingling with locals, working on homeschool work, working on boat projects and laying on the trampoline to watch the approaching sunset. Danny quietly apologized to me over and over again, saying he would make it up to me, and I reassured him he had no reason to apologize. We were a strong team, I was by his side and as a family we would embrace our next adventure with much added knowledge and experience, and our lives would continue to be beautiful and meaningful, full of hope and learning. We would help others with the knowledge we have gained from this experience.
Barry, Jade and David returned to their dinghy and left just us as a family on Tanda Malaika so we could have a few moments to say goodbye. We sat on the steps all together on the bow, and watched the waves coming in and lapping against her hulls. Each of us sat sat quietly for a moment, completely consumed by our own thoughts and memories.
We said a family prayer, giving thanks for the time we have had with our home on oceans, for the experiences we had had, the knowledge we had gained, the wonderful people that had come and shared in our adventures with her. As my voice broke with heartache and tears as I prayed, I heard Danny and my children crying too, so we held each others hands and wept together. We talked about funny experiences we’d had, of crazy times and the experiences that had left us standing speechless and in awe. We had no regrets. Mycah played and sang ‘You are my sunshine’ on her ukulele. Our children held each other, trying to give strength to each other and bring comfort. So much love and endless commitment.
We tied a lei of shells to Tanda Malaika’s bow, then made our way to the stern to close things up.
Danny closed the doors to the salon for the last time, and we turned with heavy hearts to make our way down the sugar scoops.
Tanda Malaika. She has been our mother, rocking us gently to sleep at night and carrying us to distant lands and wonderful people. She has been our teacher, as we have learned so much from her on her decks, at her tables and in her hulls. We know her so well. We know the sweet spot when adjusting her sails, and every mark on her decks. We have scrubbed her belly, keels and rudders. We have learned so much and are so filled with gratitude. We love you, Tanda Malaika, and in your honor will work hard and soon be back on the ocean once again.
I took a screen shot of her location for other sailors to be aware, which is not exactly where we wrecked, as waves have pushed her much farther onto the reef. Though we still have not heard a word from the American Embassy (which is quite disappointing), we have been overwhelmed by the love from the cruisers. Meals and treats prepared by Beach Flea, Jadean, Pandora, Tamariki and Geniet Lewe, and endless hours of help from so many. Thank you so much for your support and love.