28 December 2014 – 28 March 2015: The Lagoon, St Maarten – 18.01N 63.05W
When we left St Barts at the end of December the plan was to spend couple of weeks in St Maarten where we hoped to be able to have repairs done to our hydraulics, repairs also to our brand new freezer, buy some new necessary boat parts, replace broken 240v appliances and fill the lockers with all the essential French goodies and wine available. Then with a much depleted bank balance but with a ship shape Balvenie, we planned to set sail west, revisiting a few favourite spots and discovering more hidden gems: destination the Panama Canal sometime in March, then into the Pacific.
So we slipped into the never ending list of boat jobs, chaos inside the boat became the norm as projects were undertaken.
But it wasn't all work and no play, one weekend with about 30 other mad cruisers we joined in the very aptly named “Hike from Hell” which involved 2 minibuses full of unsuspecting boat bound sailors looking to stretch their legs on one of St Maartens hiking trails. The main problem was that there actually wasn’t a trail to start with, and that was before Hurricane Gonzalo hit. Now the invisible trail was littered with fallen trees the size of small cars for us to climb over along with dense wild tropical vegetation and exceptionally prickly cactus plants. It was a nightmare but I’ll be a really good sport and say it was a fun day out and great to have some exercise!!!
All It Takes is a Phone Call
Then one morning when things were starting to come together and we could almost see the end of “The List” I got a call from my sister Denise to say Mum had been taken into hospital and had undergone major surgery. We considered many options and decided that I would fly home for a month, we would move Balvenie from Simpson Bay into the lagoon anchorage and Mark would stay onboard and continue on with that never ending “To Do List”. Flights were booked, bags packed and I was on my way, a 5 hour hop on JetBlue to New York where temperatures were below freezing, a night to recharge batteries then 2 United Airlines flights across the USA, a terminal change in Los Angeles and straight onto Air New Zealand 12 hours down to Auckland. Denise was there to collect me and it was off to hospital to see Mum: elapsed time 54 hours – I was home!
My time during the next month was occupied at the hospital, Mum had three major operations to get her back together again, and then there were still complications. My planned month flew by with Mum still in hospital so Mark arranged a mooring for Balvenie in St Maarten and embarked on the same journey home I had undertaken weeks before, he got the bonus of snow in New York though!!!
Summer in Auckland – Perfect
With us both home and Mum starting to make some progress forward there was time for a few more social activities.
The Volvo Round the World Race boats arrived, we were there to cheer them in - the first 3 boats were within a few minutes of each other after 3 weeks at sea from China, amazing. We watched the inshore racing, enjoyed the festivities at Viaduct Harbour during their stay and then farewelled them when they left for the Southern Ocean and and on to Cape Horn.
The World Cup Cricket was on too, and although we didn’t get to any of the live games the country was abuzz with support for the Black Caps who did us proud and made it to the finals in Australia, against Australia. Mum was very unhappy that the hospital did not have satellite TV for her to watch the games but we did our best and she got snippets for an hour or two on Denise’s iPad to watch the Black Caps make their way through.
Escape from Auckland Hospital
Finally, nearly 9 weeks after being admitted Mum was discharged and returned to her apartment. She wasn’t quite all back together, and the visits to doctors and specialists kept happening regularly but she was pleased to be home at last and very happy to be alive!
We took her down to the Viaduct Harbour one evening so she could enjoy feeling normal again, even the police warden let me drive through the traffic cones so we could deliver her right to the restaurant door. It was a bonus when we bumped into fellow cruisers Stu and Steph off Matador (boat in Guatemala) and we all shared a fun evening out.
We had more evenings with Steph and Stu at their lovely home in Titirangi, where they are spending their summer renovating – a big job! We caught up there with more cruiser friends off Tuatara and Musketelle, both of whom have completed their travels (for now) and sailed their boats home to Auckland.
We had bar-b-ques, dinners and lunches with friends and squeezed as much into our time as we could, (this included heaps of sailing/racing for Mark!!!). Meanwhile Mums health improved daily and we started planning our departure.
Mum was called back to the hospital for final surgery to hopefully fix the “medical misadventure” that had happened in her first operation. So on the morning of our departure we were back in the familiar surroundings of Auckland Hospital, the surgery was a success and I said my farewells while Mum was back in a hospital bed. Not what I had hoped for, but by the time we were back in St Maarten on Balvenie, Mum was home again – almost as good as new.
So That Was Revised Plan A ….. Now For Plan B