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A tale of survival

Published on April 6th, 2023

If you can survive adversity, it tends to make for a good story as shared here by George Day in the Cruising Compass:

Here’s one I will never forget. We were sailing up the Malacca Straits in a loose company of fellow cruisers and headed for the island Kupang off the west coast of Malaysia. The weather was benign and we were able to anchor our ketch Clover in a snug cove surrounded by lush tropical jungle.

Not long after we had the anchor down, a good friend, a singled woman aboard her 27-foot sloop, motored into the anchorage and slowly circled us. “Have I got a story to tell,” she called out. So, we invited her over for cocktails and dinner.

Five hours earlier, she had been running up the straits in a calm following breeze, wearing only a bikini bottom as she often did in warm weather. She went to the mast to hoist her staysail, gave the halyard a great pull and, since the halyard was not attached to the sail, it ran free propelling her backwards and over the lifelines into the water.

She was still holding the halyard as the boat continued to sail away steered by the wind vane. She could hold on, but not hand over hand against the force of the water to get back to the boat. What to do? Not far away she saw a fisherman in his small motorboat and she made the decision to do the only think she could do, she let go of the line.

Swimming will all her force toward the boat, she stopped several times to call out and, luckily, the fisherman eventually heard her. He motored to her and helped this half-naked English amazon into his boat. Not sharing any language, our friend managed to make him understand that the little boat sailing away was hers and she needed to be returned to it.

He did so but wasn’t happy about it. A blond mermaid emerging from the sea was surreal to him. When they got alongside her boat, he followed our friend aboard and began demanding payment. She offered him a little money from her cruising kitty but he wanted more.

Now, seriously afraid for her well-being, alone on her boat with a Malaysian fisherman far from the shore, our friend gave him all she had and then insisted he leave. He did and she was alright, just barely.

Shaking and on the verge of tears, she boiled the kettle and made herself a cup of tea. She said after all, “I don’t ever get really traumatized, I just have another cup of tea.” That stiff upper lip served her well and three year later she finished a safe and seamanlike circumnavigation. No, I will never forget her special tale of survival or that very special woman.

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