We’re Not Afraid to Die…if We Can All Be Together is written by Gordon Cook & Alan East. It is a fact that if people can gather together they can face any kind of danger. It is interesting to read how the family of the narrator duplicates the round the world voyage successfully.
A 37 year old businessman and his family had dreamt of sailing in the wake of the famous explorer Captain James Cook and for the past sixteen years the members of the family had spent all their leisure time honing their seafaring skills in British waters. The narrator, his wife Mary, son Jonathan 6, daughter Suzanne (Sue) 7, set sail from Plymouth, England to duplicate the round the-world voyage earlier made by Captain James Cook.
The first leg of 1 ,05,000 kms spanning over three year/passed pleasantly from the west coast of Africa to Cape Town. They took two crewmen, American Larry Vigil and Swiss Herb Seigler to tackle the roughest sea, the Southern Indian Ocean.
On the second day out of Cape Town, they faced strong gales and the waves began to rise high. Their size upto 15 metres alarmed them. They were at East of Cape Town on Dec. 25, 3500 kms away. Despite bad weather they celebrated Christmas. New Year’s Day saw no improvement in weather and it changed from bad to worse.
At dawn on January 2, the waves were huge. As their ship rose to the top of each wave they could see endless enormous seas rolling towards them. They dropped the storm jib to slow the boat down. Then they double-lashed everything and went through their life raft drill, put on oil-skins and life jackets and waited for the worst.
The first indication of the coming disaster came at about 6.00 pm. The wind dropped and the sky got dark. A huge wave like a cloud came over the ship. The roar became a thunder as it struck the ship. The deck shook. A torrent of sea water broke over the ship. The narrator’s head smashed onto the wheel. He accepted the approaching death and started losing consciousness.
The narrator’s head rose out of the water. He saw Wavewalker capsizing. Then a huge wave turned her upright. The narrator caught the guard rails. Waves tossed him. His ribs cracked and his mouth was full with blood and broken teeth. The water was everywhere. But he did not leave the wheel to investigate.
Suddenly the front hatch was thrown open and Mary appeared. She cried that they were drowning. Larry and Herb were pumping like mad men. The broken things lay scattered here and there. The narrator swam to the children’s cabin and asked if they were all right. They said they were, though Sue had a bump above her eyes. The narrator took a hammer, screws and canvas. They put canvas over the gaping holes, some water was deflected. The debris had started to block the hand pumps. The electric pump had stopped working. The narrator worked with the help of another hand pump. They were not getting any replies to their May Day calls.
Island On January 3, the water level had come under control. The boat’s main rib frames had nearly broken down. They had survived for 15 hours since the waves hit. The narrator checked the charts and found that there were two small islands a few hundred kms to the east. The boat wouldn’t take them to Australia in that broken condition.
One island was Ile Amsterdam. On January 4, after 36 hours of continuous pumping they had drained out the water. Now they were heading for Ile Amsterdam island. They ate their first meal in almost two days with corned beef and cracker biscuits. But their respite was short lived. At 4.00 pm black clouds began building up behind them. Within the hour the wind was back to 40 knots and the seas were getting higher. The weather continued to deteriorate throughout the night and by dawn on January 5, their situation was again desperate.
The narrator went in to comfort the children. John asked if they were dying. He assured them that they would make out. But John added that they were not afraid of dying if they could be all together. The narrator took every care to protect the undamaged part of the hull with heavy nylon rope and plastic barrels of paraffin.
Wavewalker rode out of the storm by morning of January 6. The narrator tried to get a reading on the sextant. He found that they were some where looking for a 65 km wide island. When he was thinking, Sue came to him with a card she had made which had caricatures of the narrator and made him laugh. She had written message inside. It was: ‘How I love you both’.
The narrator checked and rechecked the calculations. They had lost their main compass. He had been using the spare one. At about 2.00 pm he went on the deck and asked Larry to steer a course of 185 degrees. He expected to see the island at about 5 pm. Then he went below with a heavy heart and dozed off till 6.00 pm.
The narrator woke up. Jonathan came and asked if he could have a hug. He asked the reason and Jonathan added that he was the best daddy and the best captain in the whole world. Sue added that he was as he had found the island. It was in front of them.
He rushed on the deck and looked at the outline of ‘Ile Amsterdam’. It was only a bleak piece of volcanic rock with little vegetation. It was the most beautiful island in the world. All the 28 inhabitants of the island welcomed and cheered them as they landed on the shore.
With the land under his feet again, the narrator thought of his crewmen Harry and Herbic who were optimistic under the stress and fought with the odds successfully. He also thought of Mary who fought with courage and did not lose hope. He also thought of Sue with a head injury and Jonathan who was not afraid to die.