Winny is sailing so gracefully, the wind light and on the beam. Paddy and Vik are on watch … suddenly, with out warning, a stern fitting gives way, the bumpkin boom springs upwards, the rigging supporting the mast breaks lose. Crack! In a flash only a 12 foot splinter of a mast remains! The rest is over the side. All hands are soon on deck. The decision is quickly taken to abandon the mast. The crew in exemplary manner set too. All rigging is unscrewed or cut, the mainsail and the staysail retrieved and with one final twist of rigging screw, Winnie’s mast, bedecked with prayer flags and rigging, plunges 2000 or so fathoms towards the ocean bed. Maybe even now it is standing erect on the sea bed, flags fluttering in deep devotion.! Has it become a new and unexpected spiritual way point!
The engine mercifully starts, and were off. Dry mouthed and shocked we dink tea. But this is a songline… and sing we do, lifting our spirits and enabling us to giving thanks in the reflection that none of us our hurt and in terms of our great crew and quiet weather conditions it was a pretty good place to lose a mast! We plot a passage towards the nearest safe harbour. A Coruña, is some 100 miles to the south. We start to make that passage. Strangely, a short while later we are circled by a twin-engine plane. They contact us on the VHF and enquire after our condition. We were able to assure them that we are safe and have sufficient fuel to get us to our destination. The coast guard continued to check up on us every four hours or so. It was very comforting to know that even in the middle of a wide ocean the Spanish/French coastguards were watching out for us.
On 28 June, some 22 hours of motoring and rolling, at approximately 3am, we are entering La Coruña bay and the approaching safety of its harbour. After tying up in the Marina Coruña we jump ashore and hug each other in relief. It was then that we notice two ladies approach. They have seen our broken mast and have empathised with our situation. They too hug us enquire after our mast and then invited us to join them on board a very plush Sun Seeker motor yacht. Soon, after been plied with drinks, our spirits revived, we fetched our instruments. By 4 a.m. a full musical session is in progress. We make music with a poignant tinge. The dismasting has taken the wind out of our musical sails. To the listeners it was sweet, but to us it was sad…..! But What an arrival! The sun is coming up as we settle in our bunks.
That day we gradually sorted out the ship and ourselves. The shock and the realisation of the implications of what had happened and its consequential effects on our journey was beginning to dawn more deeply. Local shipwrights were contacted, and insurance people informed. We started to adjust to marina life – showers and cleaning the boat were the order of the day. By late evening we find a café to watch the Euro 2012 clash between Italy and Germany. We sit watching a telly in the street
The game over, it seemed a good time to play music. We struck up an Irish jig, the response was very positive. My…. what a session developed! After a few more jigs and reels we moved on to reggae and sea shanties, Gaelic ballads and improvised choral music. Soon the street was crowded with people watching and dancing. A group of Galician singers happened to pass our way. Not only were they in the mood for singing, but they brought a new dimension of enthusiasm and musical energy to the gathering. The session grows and maybe a 100 or so people gather around. They sang, we sang, we all sing together. The atmosphere became more and more joyful. Winny, even without mast, was now in full musical sail … and all our new Galician friends were in full musical sail with us. We played danced and sang deep into the night. By the end of the session many new friends have been made. It was so that our first evening in La Coruña came to an end. It was with many joyful hugs that we baid our new friends fond farewells. The pain of our disaster had been somewhat mitigated by the wonderful and truly extraordinary musical session which has brought hearts together in joyful happiness!
We might not have arrived where we had intended but it was a pretty good place to be never the less!
So what is the learning? Our pilgrimage of song, rich and redolent in spirit, carrying the prayers and good thoughts of many friends, a voyage which had touched many people in many places had been abruptly, rudely even, interrupted by the failure of a single inadequate eye bolt.
So what is the meaning of this catastrophe? What is the message? Is this just a bigger challenge than the many other previous challenges? Is it merely a bigger obstacle in kind, another awkward problem to solve? Is it the test that really gauges the depth, purity and quality of the pilgrimage journey? On the other hand is it a warning sign that Winny is not fundamentally supported in this journey? Is she just too old for such shenanigans? Is it a message that says that the energy that is wrapped up in this pilgrimage should be used in a different way? Is it a warning shot across our bow that says we have gone as far as is wise, and to further our journey is to court yet greater and more intractable problems?
The jury is still out pondering these questions.
So far the journey has been totally wonderful… full of grace, ..marvellous meetings with many beautiful souls, many touched hearts, wonderful school visits that link children, heart melting devotional sessions and joyful music….. one thing is for sure, prayer and enthusiasm, even if they are abundant are not, in themselves, able to keep a mast standing!
In technical terms the link that broke, broke the mast, broke the rhythm of our journey and broke hearts was not so old. It had not drawn attention to itself. It had not been identified as something that should be analysed for stress or weakness. Yet its strength was crucial to the success of our journey, one of the million things that needed to be sound and in place for the well being of the boat. One thing is for sure: Spiritual dreams and aspirations are dependant on physical means; hence the dictum ‘Walk the spiritual path with practical feet.’ Winnie’s practical physicality, although so good in so many areas, was weak in what proved to be a small but crucial area … and hence reflect on the disaster.
We now try and find the best way to make a new mast. We reflect on the song-line pilgrimage and how it might unfold. What future resources, inner and outer, are going to re-shape the journey. Please God we will be guided by the best wisdom. To the best shape. For that. all prayers and inspirations are very welcome. From a positive angle, the dismasting took place in perfect weather conditions. It has brought us to this wonderful city. Marina Coruña is in this lovely part of Spain and has introduced a different dimension to our journey.. We have made new friends, found unexpected opportunities to make music and made contacted the Baha’i friends in the area. From that angle the flow of grace is immense! Who knows in which direction lies our best future? Are all directions taken in good faith of equal value?
We seek and try and be open to best wisdom. We await, and in waiting gain information on which we can make decisions. We both shape and are shaped by events. What form will the pilgrimage song line will take? So far all problems have been surmountable surely this one will be too. At the point of writing the only definite co-ordinates are to walk the pilgrims path to Santiago de Compostela, embellish it with music and then…. God knows ?… We are surrounded by many question marks. Please God in good time we will find those many answers. What is certain is that at some point in the future Winny will have a very fine new mast, beautifully tuned rigging and stern eye bolts with steely strong strength!!!