Sunday, August 26, 2007

The beginning of the journey

It’s been ages since I’ve written – I feel like what I imagine a confession is like in a Catholic Church. Having said this, admittedly, everything I know about Church I’ve seen on TV… But I transgress…

I’ve been away on a great holiday and an adventure to be remembered, so really I now have no excuse not to write!

We named our new boat Shiloh.

It had been three years coming, this boat, the dream that comes with it, and the events that molded it’s most special name.

When I first met John we talked excitedly about one day having a life where there are no boundaries, no country, city, neighborhood, house to be bolted down to. I guess this desire is not in everyone and it is one of the things that we hold dear as a partnership.

How to accomplish this? John never doubted. He is practical, and had the idea since he was young about dressing up a caravan and touring, or even better, buying a boat and sailing everywhere our hearts desired.

Through our chats we eventually realised our thought of touring Africa on land was not remotely practical. Friends of his had had this idea, started in Morocco and were headed to Cape Town, only their caravan was shot to pieces on entering Nigeria along the way. Living in Africa gives you far too much practical knowledge of all the possibilities of what could happen. The number of armed borders between the countries was daunting enough, and then there was John’s experience in a Togolese jail, after having driven down the wrong street at the wrong time unknowingly when the Togo President was out in town and heading for the airport. They had kept he and our other colleagues in cells for the day without explanation, fearing them to be terrorists or worse, and waiting till the President had safely left the country before they were released.

We instead cultivated the idea that we could purchase a boat now, have it kept somewhere, take our vacations on it for the next few years while we learned about it, and got our minds used to the lifestyle, and eventually move onto the boat.

Only our hearts were broken in June 2005 when my baby Shiloh, our vibrant, opinionated, adorably stubborn and talented little boy died. In my arms. After a 3 day illness, having been rushed to the hospital on the 4th morning when it became obvious it was not the flu or malaria. In the overcrowded, depressing Ghana hospital ward, sharing a bed with another boy who died minutes later. My Shiloh stopped breathing and my life stopped. Everything was a blur for weeks. Everything about life changed for me. I became more timid and forgot how to walk down stairs sometimes and was generally keeping it together only barely. John was tremendous. He still is.

It was only much later when we allowed ourselves to dream again and live again that we rekindled the idea of the boat. And the perfect idea came to mind. We could name the boat Shiloh, and keep his spirit and his name with us in all our journeys.

We bought the boat in March, after visiting the Caribbean, home of catamarans – which are extremely popular as floating hotel rooms for the chartering crowd. We stepped aboard so many models and makes that we had only seen on the Internet, and the boat for us became clear quite quickly. It’s a French made 41’ catamaran, 2003 model, from a company called Lagoon. It’s white and bright and spacious and airy. It is fiberglass, with two engines and two sails and fitted with some very helpful modern amenities like an autopilot and digital depth and wind meters. It’s cozy and strong and won us over right there. We actually took ownership in July and made copious and tedious arrangements for all of us – John, myself, my friend, all our three children and the eldest one’s girlfriend, to fly from all corners of the world, to meet in little Tortola, to pick up our boat and sail her ourselves, from the company where she had finished her tour of duty, down to Grenada to her new home for the next few years, with a Charter company there.

We all moved straight onto the boat and set about getting it ready for the journey.

It needed to be renamed, and well this was a subject carefully treaded by many. Sailing is a very superstitious endeavour and most sailors will tell you it is bad luck to rename a boat unless you perform a certain set of rituals. So once we had the new name in a great font of my choice, in the right size and material, ordered and designed locally in Tortola, we needed to perform the rituals. We knew we needed champagne but that was about it. Thanks to the gadgets of the modern world, we used Internet access on a cell phone and found a whole ritual – complete with speeches honouring Poseidon and libations to the sea at various intervals, along with enough champagne to share among our little crew.

Shiloh was born!!! We were ready for the journey… well sort of.

I sort of lost the registration papers we’d been handed the day before and mayhem ensued for about half a day….

But that’s the next story!

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