Shepherd Moon - Booby prize
In this series of blogs we have tried to give a taste of the ups and downs of life at sea, and have hopefully induced the odd smile. Sadly today's blog is very much focused on the down side of life, and the sense of hopelessness you feel when so far away from family.
As most of you know, my mum developed Alzheimer's about 10 years ago and has been steadily going downhill. It is such a terrible disease, eating away at the very kernel of what makes a person who they are, until, in the end, all that is left is a dry husk. My mum was at that stage. When we visited her at Christmas she was healthy and happy, but had no idea who we were. Yesterday afternoon we received one of those emails you dread receiving at sea. It said my mum had had a stroke overnight and was in a coma. Two hours later we had another email saying she had passed away.
The sense of loss seemed to be amplified by our isolation, as all those memories of more happy times at home came flooding back. My mum was a committed Christian and had no fear of dying, and I knew in my heart that it was a welcome release from the scrambled world she lived in. I was sitting in the cockpit thinking just this when a Booby bird appeared next to the boat. It started circling Shepherd Moon, sometimes skimming the surface of the water, sometimes flying at mast height. It seemed to be a metaphor for her release and newfound freedom.
As I watched the bird I remembered her once saying that when she died she would try and send a sign that all was OK. I know many of you will think this is all tosh, but I prayed that if it really were a sign, then the Booby would land on the boat. It circled twice more, and then as it approached the front of the boat, it slowed, stalled, and came to a rather wobbly rest on the pulpit. With its blue beak and bright red feet it did look slightly ridiculous, but it was just the kind of flamboyant colour combination my mum would have loved. Take from all this what you will. Apparently Red-Footed Boobies have a propensity for landing in the rigging of the boats (thanks once again to my mother-in-law's Christmas present), but whatever the reason, it provided enormous comfort at the most difficult of times.
At 14/02/2018 17:40 (utc) our position was 00°20.70'N 086°08.60'W