Thursday, October 19, 2017

Eulogy for our Boat

Note that the hole in the bow is the bow thruster and not the hold that sank our boat.
Twenty-four hours before Irma struck Tortola and changed the course of our lives and the lives of countless others, I knew we were in for it. "We are going to lose Legato," I told Scott in a contradictory state of shocked disbelief and utter certainty as Irma gained strength on her unforgiving trajectory toward our island of Tortola. I've written about how surreal it is to watch a slowly advancing "mega" hurricane descend upon your home, I've also written about the aftermath of a life forever changed from that hurricane. What I haven't written about is our boat, and what happened to her.


Those of us who live on boats know that they are more than "just boats". They become an extension of us, a part of our family and they become our home. Our boats weather storms and rough seas, they deliver us to safe harbor and new horizons. They are dreams and adventures and hopes and wonder all molded into a shiny, fiberglass hull. Most live-aboards meticulously care for their boats, as not doing so can become a matter of life and death... We are intimate with their bellies, their quirks, and how they need to be handled "just so" in certain situations. We fall in love with them and refer to them as a "she". Most of us treat them as such, with tender love and respect...We become very attached to our boats because of the tremendous amount of blood, sweat and tears we put into them. To boaters, our vessels are not inanimate objects, they have souls...

Ours was no different.

Due to the fact that our beautiful Tayana, Legato, was a new-to-us boat, she was unable to take us on all the adventures we wished for her, the trips we had planned for this coming season and beyond... She was taken from us too soon. But our short time with her didn't dampen our love of her; just as it doesn't take long for a mother to fall in love with a newborn baby, falling in love with a boat happens quickly. She was to be our "forever" boat (if there is such a thing) and she was about as close to perfect for us as we could have imagined. She was strong and safe, she sailed wonderfully and she was beautiful. She was soooo beautiful. What do they call it? "House proud?" Yeah, I was "boat proud". We loved her so much. We were very happy living in her cozy belly.

Of all the things I imagined - even worst-case scenario style - I never imagined her sinking.

After Irma struck and we were able to confirm our loved ones and friends were safe, we were able to focus on what exactly happened to Legato. As word and images began to trickle out of our home marina of Nanny Cay, it became apparent that our boat was not in the tangled mess of masts and hulls pushed ashore. "We can't see your boat anywhere" our friend wrote us. "We are so sorry. We have been looking." And, despite a few folks (Scott included) holding out the *sliver* of hope that she'd be found somewhere else entirely, we all knew deep down that she'd sunk.

As pictures like these emerged from Nanny Cay, it became clear our boat was not afloat. Note the 60 foot catamaran flipped over on land like a toy.
Weeks went by and we heard nothing of our boat. And then, one dreary afternoon as I was crafting with the girls, I got the message from my friend, Charlotte:

"Oh Brittany
They found her
I'm so sorry
She's been under this whole time."

She paused and then finished with:

"I took a picture but let me know when you're ready"

I told her I was ready. But I wasn't ready.

How can one be ready to see their beloved home in such a state? I immediately burst into tears as I saw the sorry picture of our home and a well of emotion that had been in hiding for the previous few weeks opened up with a vengeance.
The first picture I saw of our boat after Irma, she is being lifted off the bottom here. Hardly recognizable.
Imagining our boat; all our carefully selected things, our children's' treasures and toys, and all that we had worked so hard for sitting for a month on the silty bottom of the marina floor was too much. My mind imagined our saloon filled with water, dark and murky. The pillows, the clothes, maybe a few things were floating around weightlessly? The eerie stillness and silence of a watery grave...I imagined all our kids beloved books, slowly disintegrating where they were stacked so carefully on the shelf...their stuffed animals, sodden with dirty marina water, laying haphazardly where their final float deposited them...all the woodwork, paper work, tools, took us an entire month to shift all our belongings from our old boat to mind raced through the inventory aboard, the memories that were, and those that were never to be...

What happened? I wondered as I looked at the wreck of carnage that was once our home. What did her in? Was it our own rig? The rig of another boat? A piling from the broken docks? Maybe it was the corner of one of those cement blocks that were found all over the marina? Those used to be in the water...What *was* it?

The answer to these questions will likely never be known, but it is clear that something punctured her starboard side, just at the waterline. That hole - such a seemingly small yet incredibly significant thing - was what took down our boat and all our belongings inside of her. Have you ever seen water rushing into a boat from a hole below the waterline? The force is incredible and terrifying from even the smallest puncture and it's amazing how quickly water will accumulate. I imagine that fateful moment of impact and how quickly water flooded in, filling our boat at an alarming rate. Our bilge pump wouldn't even have put a dent in it...but our newly installed high water alarm might have sounded for a few moments before it, too, was under. Our boat went down fast, that much is certain. I imagine the water rising, covering all our rugs that I so carefully selected, the floor boards floating up, releasing all the contents kept underneath them. I imagine the water quickly submerging the girl's toy box, their dollies and blocks joining in the frenzied floating fray, and water rising up past the settees and to our bookshelf... All the electronics, the crafting cubby and the pictures on our walls ...I imagine the chaos and swirling water and debris down below as even greater mayhem reigned outside. And I imagine her going down, settling on the murky bottom to die with a soft thud.

A few inches higher and she might have still stayed floating...
While at first I was confused why no one could find a sign of our boat for a solid month after the storm, it became clear later when the diver who found her told Scott that there is only one foot visibility at the moment, and that they are locating boats on the bottom by touch. He met Scott, had a beer with him at the beach bar and offered his condolences. "When I found your boat, I put my hands on her and thought, 'Damn, this was a nice boat'" he told him. And she was. She was a really, really nice boat - and a very comfortable and lovely home. And even though a boat is replaceable, we grieve the loss.


As much as Irma took from us, we are among the lucky. We are alive and healthy and young. We were insured and as such, our "stuff" can and will be replaced, and - yes (spoiler alert!) - we will eventually get another boat. It's amazing how something like this puts a whole new perspective on life and what is important. At my lowest moments post-Irma I would immediately think, "But what if I lost a child today? I would then wish for where I am right now..." Suddenly, losing our house, livelihood and things - while shitty - didn't seem like a big deal. Things can be replaced, lives can be rebuilt and communities can heal... I am grateful that we are/were so lucky. We have an amazing support network around us, a fantastic community to return to and we have resources at our disposal. While we mourn the loss of the beautiful home we lost and all she took down with her, we will cherish the memories as we look forward to what lies ahead... This is a single chapter in the story of our life...the adventures will continue.

RIP s/v Legato
Tayana 48
Lost to Hurricane Irma

September 6, 2017
Scott has been going aboard almost daily to try to salvage things. Not easy as the boat is at a 45 degree angle.
So sad to see such a mess and imagine all the garbage this one single boat has produced.

A very sorry state for what was once such a regal and beautiful boat.
The tangled mess of lines and rigging is hard to even comprehend. It gives you a tiny idea of Irma's power
Legato in what has become the boat graveyard at Nanny Cay.
Scott has, amazingly managed to salvage some of the kids things...legos, dinosaurs, some dress up clothes, a tea horrible as plastic is for the ocean, we are grateful to be able to keep some of these things. He even rescued some stuffed animals that after a good soak in disinfectant and a few wash cycles are good as new! Our chain, anchor, and dishes have also been salvaged. Every little bit counts. Note: He propped up this bear and dolly so I could show the girls that the toys were safe together...


Unknown said...

Wow, Brit.

I can only imagine how many times you had to stop and take a break, and cry, and mourn, while you were writing that eloquent and disturbingly vivid account of Legato's demise. I had to stop reading it a couple of times, just to take in your powerful descriptions. And Scott... I know he's a strong man... but I wouldn't judge him if he also has had to take many a break while dealing with Legato's recovery.

Can't wait to hear of any new developments in y'all's return to boat life.

BVI strong.


pattig12 said...

I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for letting us know the outcome, it must have been difficult to write this. As always, such a well written blog post. Made me cry.

Krista scholl said...

Lots of love to your family and the best with your new adventures. My family has only just bought our first boat and the thought of this brought me to tears. Stay strong and may the winds again fill new sails and take you and your family on the adventure of a lifetime

Ian Matthews said...

Just have to say that I am so sorry as well. I know it's little comfort, but as someone who's followed your adventures since Rasmus, I can't imagine the the heartache. Legato was a beautiful boat and would have taken care of you. Wishing you, Scott and the girls fair weather and island sunsets

Catherine said...

As always you've managed to let your readers really get a sense of what you are experiencing. Most of the time allowing us to share in your joy and today sharing your grief. She was such a lovely boat and my heart aches for you. Wishing you and your family courage and strength as you rebuild your lives. BVIstrong!!!

Unknown said...

Sorry you and your family has went through the loss of your boat. How devastating the news was, and seeing the boat after the damage was done had to be heartbreaking. Hope healing is happening so you all can get through this.

Unknown said...

Tears in my eyes for your family loss. Happy you're physically ok. And impressed by the way you paint a vivid picture with words. See you in a year as we return to Nanny Cay.

Doug Treff said...

Brittany and Scott - REALLY sorry to see this. I can't fathom what emotions you all are going through. Sorry I missed you at he boat show - I really wanted to stop by and say hello.

One thing that amazes me is that Tayana hulls have a reputation for being very well built, dare I say bulletproof. Whatever hit Legato and caused that hole must have been flying through the air, propelled by the wind. There's no way that another boat drifting down on you would have made a hole like that. That had to have been a serious impact, and no boat would have survived it.

Unknown said...

Brittany - I'm so sorry for the loss of your home and as I read through your post I felt the pain and sorrow. But I also felt your positive energy coming through loud and clear. You are a strong soul! Beautifully written!

Jen @ Drinking the Whole Bottle said...

Legato, like you, is a beauty. She will always be because once something touches us like that it never goes away. The bad memories will fade and the ones of love will be what stay with you. Let me know when you need help rebuilding. I'm terrible with a drill but good with a corkscrew ����

Scott Austin said...

Wow, guys, I'm really, REALLY sorry for you and your boat. Like you said at least you and your family are alive and well. That's the most important thing. I think family is one of the biggest reasons people sail. They want freedom and they want to spend it with their family.

I hope you slowly get back on your feet and hope to be reading of your new sailing adventures soon. :-)

Anonymous said...

So sorry. Wishing you all the best and lots of blessings for the future.

Joy said...

I'm so sorry. I used to live on a sailboat with my two kids so I know that love and I can only imagine how it feels to process this loss. Your photos capture a bit of that energy. Blessings as you process all of the feelings and as newness unfolds from this.

Unknown said...

Brittany, your blog gives a brilliant insight into the tragic loss of your beautiful boat, and your family's life in the BVI, I found it very sad, but inspirational, you are a strong girl, and I applaud the way you are helping all you can to get the islands back on their feet. At least you are all safe, and have your close family around you, and the girls have settled into life ashore. You will come back stronger, and sail again I'm sure, it might be a different life, but you are such a strong, positive and inspirational lady, life will be just as good as before Irma. I wish you and your family all the best for the future.
Lynn Brogden.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry for your loss. The photos of Legato were beautiful and she was, of course, your home. I only discovered your blog in the last week or two and have been feverishly reading from the beginning. I hope you'll continue to share your journey once you've had a chance to adjust and recover.


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Haven’t Momsy and Dattie bought you a new one yet? Phoneys

Sarah Frank said...

Haven't heard from you in a while. Hope all is okay.

La said...

I went on this blog to see what life is like on a live aboard with kids, as my husband and I are giving it strong consideration. I was devastated for you to read about what the hurricane did to your boat. What a beautiful one she was. I cried as I read about your children’s toys as I thought about my son currently napping with his love, Donkey. I used to live in Stt and have many friends still trying to piece together their lives (some taking breaks to come back to the us and re-evaluate) and my heart breaks for you having to be another one of those displaced by this storm. I hope brighter days are ahead for you and hopefully one day our families can meet in the Caribbean, have a cocktail, and share some stories of live aboard life.

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Mike @ CoupleTraveltheWorld said...

Hi Brittany and Fam,
Wow, your blog is a wild ride. Your account of Irma approaching is captivating and terrible at the same time. I can only imagine how devastating it would be to find your home at the bottom of the marina. From your Insta it looks like you're back out on the ocean which is really cool to see. Hopefully mother nature treats you (and your new boat) a little better this time!

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Anonymous said...

If each and every one of you ...or even ANY of you...were in my presence right now... Oh wow oh mam geeez I'd better not say it but JUST...JUST...WOWWWW. OH SO SO SO SO heartbreaking. Really. I mean that.

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