Sunday, 23 January 2011

In Loving Memory of Val Whitehead from Silver Heels II

Happier times in Thailand, November 2007 

We have been cruising now for 7 1/2 years and one of the best things about this life is the people we meet.  One such couple are Val and Graham.

We had heard of Val and Graham onboard the Australian yacht Silver Heels II during our first year out from New Zealand.  Cruiser friends were talking of sailing to the Louisiades, we confessed we hadn't heard of it so they gave us a DVD to watch. It had been filmed by a couple on a recent cruise to the area..  It was a great sampler of what was on offer in this Papua New Guinean archipelago, and it convinced us to go.  It had been produced by Val and Graham on Silver Heels II. They had done an excellent job .

In 2007 we finally met Silver Heels II. We were on the same dock at Rebak Marina in Langkawi, Malaysia during the Southwest monsoon season and we got to know them well.  Val had dreams of sailing to the Med, Graham ... well he wasn't quite so sure (we think he just didn't want to give up his daily table tennis tournaments, which he always won!!)   We left together at the end of the monsoon season and sailed north to Thailand, stopping in some lovely spots enroute - enjoying shacky bars and cheap restaurants in bays with soft white sand, but definitely not enjoying surf on the beach and keeping dry for dinner while trying to land the dinghy!!!! 

Another great night out for Marks 50th in Phuket 2007
We set sail for the Med in 2007 leaving Silver Heels II and many other cruising friends behind. However, Val's wish came true the following year as they followed in our wake.  Silver Heels II  has spent the last two European summers in Turkey, Greece and the Black Sea, taking their time, stopping to taste the olives, sip the wine and enjoy life.  Val has done a great web site which we followed closely to keep tabs on them, always interested to see where they were.  December 2010 passed with no updates despite Val writing to say she finally had good internet access. We just assumed they were busy doing  cruisers stuff. 

So it was a terrible shock to learn before Christmas that Val had spent days fighting for her life after suffering a brain aneurysm at anchor in a remote spot on the Turkish coast.  After Graham got her to Marmaris Hospital, she was then transferred to Izmir Hospital and was operated on.  After days in intensive care and finally regaining consciousness she tragically suffered complications and died on 16 December 2010.   

Val had a passion for life, she had lived in remote, interesting places and stepped out there to experience all she could.  Her life sailing and travelling with Graham had taken her places that those of us on boats are so lucky to access, and she loved it.   The following snippet is copied from their website and sums up well Val's philosophy.   

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, 'WOW! What A RIDE!!' ... Author Unknown

Val has been buried in Izmir, Turkey. Her two daughters, who flew to Turkey, have returned to Australia. Graham has just arrived with Silver Heels II in Marmaris as he continues to come to terms with life without his soulmate. Our thoughts are with them all, especially our friend Graham.  
Rest peacefully Val, you will be sadly missed.
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april said...

Thankyou for writing about Val my mother, I googled mums name today,keeping the memories alive and to find something new and to read about her is lovely...,

Anonymous said...

Lovely sentiments, thankyou.
Hoping to head to Turkey September to visit my sister's grave. I miss her very much.
Sister - Sandra, Bargara Qld

T Garland said...

So sad to hear about Val we have great memories of her and treasure a painting of Cooktown lighthouse she did . it is still hanging pride of place on our yacht " Jannarli" . Terry & Anna Garland