Sinking Ships and the Generosity of a Stranger

On our second mornings in Fiji I awoke and looked out the cabin porthole, happy to be on our boat at long last, to see the boat next to us sinking! (see photo) By the time I got on deck the Marina staff was in full action, assessing the damage, getting pumps set up, putting a diver in the water, and preparing the boat for emergency haul out. Thankfully they were on it.

My heart sunk for the owners of the boat and my mind swirled about how this could have just as easily been us. A thru-hull on the boat had failed and an insufficient repair left this boat with several feet of water inside. That day we checked all of our thru-hulls on the boat. Several had completely rusted hose clamps that broke when we checked them. So, we got busy replacing all of the clamps, making sure that there were at least two at each thru-hull, and double checking them all to ensure that they were solid.

Unfortunately, this was not the last sinking boat that we encountered in the Marina. Fast forward a few weeks. We had completed all of our boat projects that allowed us to get out of the marina and have some fun (i.e surf and dive). We spent two weeks at an outer island meeting new friends and spending hours in the water each day. It was just what we needed to recharge our batteries and get ready to go back to the marina, haul the boat out of the water, and complete several more boat projects. We were all feeling a little sad as we returned to the marina and boat yard to wait for our turn to haul out of the water. We were scheduled to haul out on a Thursday, but we were being picky about the spot on the hard that we wanted. We wanted to be closest to the shore to maximize the breeze and minimize the mosquitoes. When our space opened up, we were all ready, then the yard manager came to tell us that there was another boat sinking and the marina had an obligation to take it out of the water before us. We watched as a boat a few slips down from us was dragged into the slings by a dingy. Once it was hauled out and resting in the slings, water gushed out of hull. My heart sank again for yet another boat owner who was watching his dream slip away.

This second boat was a steel hulled ketch, that had sailed around the world before being purchased by its current owner. Unknown to the new owner, was that the steel hull was not properly maintained and had several places where the hull was paper thin. One by one those thin spots started leaking until the boat started to sink. Renegade was hauled out and set in stands on the hard right next to this leaking hull. We spent a few days sharing tools and stories with the owner of this sinking ship. Every couple of hours we could hear the swearing of the owner followed by the gushing of water as he found another hole, opened it up, and water drained. With heavy hearts we would go over to the boat and see the newly found damage, and commiserate and console the owner.  Slowly, the owner realized that the boat was not worth the cost of the repairs and that he would forfeit the boat to the boatyard. After days of hearing our own story about all of the things that needed replacing on our boat, he offered for us to come and take whatever we needed/wanted. We offered money or trades and he said that he just wanted to put some good karma back into his life and that money was not going to bring that karma. We looked over his sail plan diagram and found that even though our boats were different lengths our sails were very close to the same size, within inches.  So we went through his boat together and we ended up with a brand new head sail that had never been used, a brand new shade cover which needs a little modification, used mainsail that we had professionally trimmed to fit, used spinnaker, new galley wear (pots/pans/utensils/knives/etc.), a new EPIRB, a fully stocked first aid kit, various boat lighting/fans, bilge pumps, a variety of other miscellaneous boat tools and parts. My heart ached as he gave us all that we needed to move us forward on our journey while his dream slid backwards. I could not believe the generosity of this man who a few days earlier was a stranger to us. I had to, and still have to a bit, hold back the tears when I think of how he has helped us along our way. Before he flew back to his home country, we offered to take him sailing since he and his boat had never left the harbor. We turned the helm over to him and he sailed us to an outer island were we spent a few days enjoying all that Fiji has to offer. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for sinking ships and the generosity of a stranger. (photo of the head sail that we were given)


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