I didn’t make it in time.
Well I sure tried though! When we were given news that my Ma had possibly only a few days left we quickly made plans of how to get me home. We were in QLD waters still and had to get as far south as possible. You see, I had to help my husband get our boat south as he can’t do it on his own and he really needs to get back to work. Our options were limited with who could help and we didn’t have time to muck around so we got some fuel in Runaway Bay and decided to make a run for it.
The weather was not the best – 25 – 30 knot winds but Southerly at least. The bad news was that in about 12 hours we expected the weather to turn to the North, which means we will have it right on the nose. The Skipper quickly motored us out far off the coast to find the East Australian Current (EAC) which rushes down the East coast and gave us an extra 2 knots of speed. Boats don’t travel that fast compared to cars, so every little bit helps and with the aid of the EAC we were about to get from 8-10 knots of speed over ground which is pretty good.
We spent a day and a night at sea, The Skipper and I doing 2 hour alternate watches. It was a bit scary for me with my lack of understanding of what the boat can achieve, it really is a very safe boat but it’s hard to accept that when you are in a huge sea with your babies on board. I tried to keep brave but both with the thoughts of my Ma and the stress of the helplessness that I felt not being able to get to her quickly coupled with the enormous sea I didn’t sleep much on my two hours off. I kept the girls in my bed to help ease my anxieties and we put Fawlty Towers on for a bit of light humour. It worked, the girls fell asleep easily. It’s amazing how cool they were, I guess they don’t know the danger so there is just no fear there at all.
The next morning I was upbeat, we had entered NSW waters which makes you feel like you’re close and had already been well past Coffs Harbour. I was pleased with our progress and kept asking The Skipper when we thought we would be there. It became more and more apparent that with the wind so strong, we were going to only slow down and we would have to pull in somewhere, not only for safety but so I could get off and get on a plane. We tossed up all day our options, going back and forward between turning around back to Coffs Harbour (40 nm in the wrong direction, and would have been on the nose, so even rougher) or continue on 80 or 90 miles with firstly northerly winds strong, but in the right direction, but due in the afternoon southerly winds at even stronger and thunderstorms expected.
I had to put my faith in the skipper and take his direction in whatever he decided to do, which in the end was to push on to Port Stephens and just suck it up for the last 4 hours which wouldn’t be pretty, but which the boat would be able to handle it (but would I?) I was much calmer on that day, resolute, determined to get back to WA. I had been calling my Ma and speaking to her at least once a day for the last few days and able to get a response out of her. I told her to wait for me, I will be there soon, I’m holding your hand, I love you, I’m so proud of how strong you are…
On the last day we were so far off shore I had very limited internet and no phone reception all day, we still had to book me a flight, find transport from wherever we ended up to get to Sydney airport, and decide on where we were going to stop. In the end we decided I had to make the first flight in the morning which left at 6am so we had to try to get to Port Stephens in time to make the three hour journey to Sydney. Of course, that was too easy, there were massive bushfires burning in northern NSW which meant roads were closed. I have had a number of friends helping find us the best route, finding transport for us, arranging things, that it just overwhelms me how kind people have been. In the end we booked a flight, found a private car that would pick us up at midnight, a kind friend offered to let us stay at his house for an hour to sleep in Sydney and then take us to the airport where we would fly for 5 hours to get home.
After I managed to book a flight and we started to get phone reception back I tried again to call my Ma and got through. I spoke to her for 5 minutes, told her I was coming, I would be there in the morning, please wait for me. I tried not to cry because I didn’t want her to worry or to be sad. She made some noise but couldn’t speak and let me know she was in there. We were into that last 4 hours of hell part of the boat trip, slamming into massive waves when The Skipper told me just to lie down and rest as I had a big night of travel ahead of me. I laid down and tried to think of happy memories with my mum and visualise arriving and holding her hand. The Skipper was at the helm altering course, trying to get us there safely and quickly when I saw him grab his phone about 930pm, just 2 1/2 hours before we would reach land. I instantly knew that call was for me.
He spoke briefly and then handed the phone to me. It was my brother in law calling to inform me that sadly my Ma had passed. I thanked him and let him go. I cried quite a bit, pity for me, pity for Ma, mad about the unfairness of it all, cancer, etc. Then I sat and reflected on her life as I watched the stars in the sky. I wasn’t scared anymore. I just rested and waited. The Skipper and I didn’t speak until we got in to Port Stephens and anchored safely.
In the end I didn’t make it in time but I know for sure that my mum waited as long as she could. I believe if she could have held on for longer she would have and I think she was trying to tell me she loved me too when I spoke to her, just an hour before she passed. I know she’s out there watching over me now.
Anyway, just wanted you all to know how it all panned out. Friends of Homeschool Ahoy have been following along on my facebook page and offering advice, help, condolences and so on. I am so very grateful for all your help and everyone that tried so hard to help get me home in time. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.