We were lucky and not so lucky!on April 1, 2014
This week was the week of almost disaster. This was the week where we were put in our place and made to understand the might of an ocean.
We’ve all seen those dramatic, lump in the throat images on the big screen. Those of huge ocean liners that are rolled onto their sides and engulfed by waves the size of mountains. It always seemed surreal to me, vaguely possible but inevitably it remained in the category of tsunami fiction. This week we had reality visit us like we have not imaged it would. Rowing in our second hour of the morning session in tough conditions; we had a giant wave hit us and capsize our entire boat. I was thrown entirely out while Vasti hung on for dear life. We were lucky; and not so lucky.
Vasti spotted the swell after I had already called for her to row ‘left’. Usually a term to warn each other of a breaking wave. The boat needed to turn for it not to hit us side on. This case the wave was racing towards us from the left. Vasti only had time to join me on one strong left oar stroke before the wave came crashing onto us and over. The wave made contact with the aft(back) left side of the boat forts, exactly where I am seated still trying to make another oar stroke while Vasti says she could see the wave break over me and then she just remember grabbing on for dear life. Her decision at the moment probably wiser than mine. She held onto the safety harnesses either side of her, leaving her oars to flay wildly about.
For me I remember the violent impact, then seeing white, the boat falling down over me and then the realization that my feet were stuck in the foot holds. I thought of Vasti and if she would be able to get out. And then…. Then it was over. I spluttered water out my mouth, wiped my hair away and came to the rope clasped firmly in my right hand. I don’t know how it got there. I was alongside the boat, a few meters away, and saw Vasti still in her original rowing position. Her face draped in fear. For me it still felt like a dream.
For Vasti, she remembers looking to her right as the boat was hit downwards. Then she was underwater and holding on no matter what. It’s what I had begged her to do if this ever happened. The boat had rolled right over her. She too realized her feet were stuck in the footholds and, still while turned upside down, under water, Vasti clearly remembers telling herself to focus on the undoing of her feet. She began to untie her feet but at the same time she could feel the self righting design of the boat kicking in. Relief engulfed her as she realized the boat was turning her back to the surface. And that’s when she saw me in the water, outside of the boat. Vasti screamed to swim as fast as I could, unknown to her that I had the rope in hand. We were lucky.
What though has been a very demoralizing aspect to this accident is that our Imtech Communications Satelite phone has been damaged beyond repair. We spent a day and a half successfully drying out the interior electronics of the exterior dome that holds the satellite receiver, to get it to work again.
This was the way we did all our radio interviews, sent the photos for our articles and more importantly how we weekly made contact with loved ones. I know Vasti especially is going to miss the Sunday afternoon chat to her mom and dad, her very emotional and understandably rejuvenating chats.
As to the guys at Imtech Communications, I can imagine they have already begun mobilizing friends in ships all over the Atlantic Ocean. Maybe we will see some magic delivery of sorts in the next few weeks.
We are safe, rattled but grateful for our good fortune. Africa to USA is not an easy thing, or else everybody would be doing it. Wouldn’t they?
Riaan and Vasti are attempting to be the first in history to row from mainland Africa to New York, USA.