Early last May around 2pm, Swell sat at anchor over my favorite sand bank in Tahiti after arriving the following evening from a year-long, 2,600 mile loop through the outer islands of French Polynesia. I was tucked in at my little desk in Swell’s cabin talking to my father on the phone…
“I’m so proud of you Lizzie! Congratulations! Navigation through those waters is no small feat!” He said.
“Thanks, Dad. What a year it was!”
Suddenly I heard yelling outside, and lifted my head to the window. A massive catamaran was barrelling straight down on Swell!?!
“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!!! Dad, I’ll call you back!!” I yelled. “Someone just hit me!”
The 50 ft charter yacht had properly t-boned Swell, ramming its port hull into her starboard side, just above the waterline slightly aft of the chainplates. It bent some stanchions and broke lifelines and kinked my forward lower cable, too. Where the hull had flexed inward, the interior wood near the bookshelf and drawers crushed and splintered.
Shocked, speechless, adrenaline coursing, I could hardly do more than stare at the middle-aged American dude waving frantically on the bow…Raiarii, on the contrary, was foaming at the mouth, livid, cursing, and ready to leap over and tackle him. The guy backed his yacht away, anchored behind us, and then came over in his dinghy with his wife and another crew shortly after.
In the minutes before his arrival, I talked myself into being calm and kind. Surely, I’d done something as equally ridiculous as to crash into an anchored vessel in the middle of a huge open bay in broad daylight…??? Maybe not…but we all make mistakes…I pleaded with Raiarii to let me do the talking since they spoke English anyway (in retrospect I wish I’d let him handle it the Tahitian way!)
When they arrived I greeted them with a smile, and the captain, Mr. Glenn Dimmit nervously climbed aboard and ran around Swell assessing the damage. He seemed apologetic at first…
“This is completely my fault.” He said. “I went below to do something and the boat was drifting faster than I realized and…”
“It’s ok,” I said. “What’s done is done. Just take care of the damage and lets not let it ruin your vacation.” He claimed he knew lots about boats and that the damage was minimal. But the bulbous hull of the catamaran had hit initially, then pushed Swell over on her port side, where the boat struck her a second time slightly below the waterline when Swell tilted back to starboard. The boat would have to be hauled and the rig would have to be checked to truly assess all the damage…
“Let’s make a list of the damage,” Glenn said.
It seemed like a good idea to me.
His non-engaging wife walked around Swell like it was contaminated with toxic waste, adjusting her hairdo after each photo she took of the damage.
“Honey, did you get this?” She’d say, ignoring me altogether.
He wrote out the list on a few clean pages of my notebook and then curiously numbered each page in the bottom corner…”1 of 3, 2 of 3, 3 of 3”. He then signed his name at the bottom.
“Just sign right here,” he said, “to verify that this is the only damage there is.”
“Wait?” I thought. “Something isn’t right here…? This stranger just carelessly rammed into my home, my life, my way of transportation…and he wants me to sign something? We can’t possibly know what all the damage is yet. What do you think I wanted you to ram into me??”
I recoiled and looked at him suspiciously…
“You know,” he smirked, “just in case this turns into a pissing match…”
At that, my Zen bubble was painfully popped. The magic of a year’s worth of wild open ocean, remote island beauty, and generous Polynesians had been t-boned by a conniving kook from Anaheim. He didn’t give a spit about Swell or I, he was only out to cover his own ass, knowing that his recklessness could be expensive.
“Hmmm…” I played dumb at first. “I really don’t think its necessary for me to sign anything. We can’t possibly know what all the damage is until it has been properly assessed.”
He shoved the paper at me again nervously. My good humor was melting away quickly. I’d been so nice?! He’d made such a hideously blatant error?! I’d kept my Tahitian boyfriend from crushing him into rubble!? And there he was trying to trick me into signing a some sneaky document to protect his ASSets!!?
Maybe I’d been at sea too long–adrift in my fantasy world of positivity and love…but this guy was really a douche!! He and his posse slinked away shortly after my final refusal to sign his paper. He never passed again to see how we were doing in the two days he remained anchored behind Swell. In fact, he’d motor his dinghy wide on his way to shore in order to avoid us…
I called the charter company to report the accident, which kicked off a saga of poor handling by the company’s manager. Despite the deep pockets of the international company, Dream Yacht Charter refused to pay for a true assessment of the damage by a surveyor. And in the end, Swell was repaired as minimally and heartlessly as possible.
Friends and strangers alike urged me to fight back. I could sue Mr Dimmit in California for my losses due to his recklessness. I could file an international lawsuit against the charter company manager, Jerome, who I watched sneakily wipe off the paint from collision point of the accident above the Swell’s waterline, and then tell the yard worker not to grind that area down (because he didn’t want to have to pay to redo the paint!?). When I ground the patch down myself, there was a large area of damaged fiberglass that would not have been repaired had I not happened to see him slyly arrive on his scooter with acetone and a rag in hand.
The whole ordeal was time-consuming, energy draining, and downright disheartening. I wrote some letters of appeal for support to Glenn and those higher up at Dream Yacht Charter. Glenn never responded at all, and the company only turned accusations and faults on me. I spent too much time feeling angry, hurt, confused as what was the best thing to do…I had always tried to do right by others…how could they care so little??
I despised Glenn and Jerome through the summer, until I realized that my negative energy for them was really only hurting me. I was taking it personally, when really, their heartless way of living was their own problem. If I felt anger toward them, I was even more of the loser.
So little by little, I talked myself into letting the whole thing go…My kicking and screaming to bring them to justice was not worth the amount of money and time that I would lose fixing Swell properly on my own. Lawsuits were plain unthinkable—the mere thought of courtrooms and paperwork gave me the jitters.
One morning, while vacationing with my family in Catalina, I made the decision to put the whole thing behind me. I must have had a karmic debt to pay, and both Glenn and Jerome would have theirs too. Nothing is wasted or lost in this universe…And a minute more spent thinking about the situation, was a minute less spent with my beloved family.
Standing under a cool blue sky on my parents boat in Catalina, I lifted it up to greater forces and handed it over…ahhhhh it felt so good!!
Prior to that moment, I feared that ‘letting go’ would hurt my pride, or render me weak, but instead, the forgiveness induced an immediate wave of freedom and serenity that washed completely over me… Suddenly, ‘pride’ and ‘losing’ seemed so pitifully insignificant! I couldn’t wait to get back to playing with my family.
Back to what matters…love, family, and the pursuit of a better world.
I took my next breath feeling renewed, empowered, and ready to get back to much more important things like inspiring people to live out their dreams, promoting sustainability, and sharing Light and Love with a world in need! We must find a way to keep peace in our own hearts…for if not, how can we strive for peace amongst humanity?
Liz left California aboard her 40-ft sailboat, Swell, in 2006 and has sailed over 18,000 nautical miles in the Pacific exploring for remote waves to surf, learning new cultures, seeking truth, living simply from the sea, and writing about it on her blog:www.swellvoyage.com. As an eco and spiritual activist, she hopes to inspire people to live their passions and reconnect with nature and our inherent Oneness.