Embarking on my latest sailing trip I never thought I would need new teeth.
Nor did I think I would nearly end up overboard almost losing my life, never to see my boys again; but this is exactly what happened.
Yes I know there are risks involved with sailing, as there are in all walks of life, but losing my teeth? Losing my smile, almost losing my life, has been a massive wake up call.
Especially given the way in which it happened, and how the captain and charter company I did the boat delivery for has handled it.
Having been in Tarifa for a month working on the next level of my business, calling in my next passage to the Caribbean, I was ready to sail again.
My soul was yearning to be back out on the ocean. I had released a lot in my own coaching calls, as well as the coaching calls I had with my clients.
It was time to embrace the spray in my face, just being surrounded by miles of ocean, away from social media.
It was time to watch the waves, the clouds, trim the sails and helm a boat across my beloved ocean.
It was time to connect with more sailors and reflect on all I have achieved this far.
Receiving a call from a guy called Jan from Lava Charter and we discussed the boat delivery from La Linea to Lanzorote.
He introduced me to the captain. The captain then added me to the WhatsApp group for the delivery. I asked my many questions, and was told we’d discuss things in further detail a week later when he arrived at the Marina.
I headed to La Linea and met with Lorenzo, one of the crew. We hit it off straight away and spent the day getting to know each other. I was looking forward to sailing with him.
Over the course of the next week there was an exchange of experience, photos and questions within the WhatsApp group. We were gettingto know each other ready to meet up and get the boat ready.
I left Tarifa excited and yet still wanting to make sure the captain and other crew member were people I wanted to sail with.
Meeting them both, was a positive experience. There were shared interests, a vast amount of experience of sailing, as well as leadership experience within the Captain.
My only concerns were the weather conditions. Up to 40 knots on the nose and up to 6metre waves. Conditions were going to be the roughest thus far on my circumnavigation.
Sharing these concerns with the captain he reassured me things would be fine. He had done this crossing many times, been in worse conditions and he went through the meterology reports with us all.
Leaving La Linea I was full of excitement, I was making the first part of my Atlantic Ocean crossing towards the Caribbean. To seeing my boys again.
Final checks made, the boat was ready, and so were we. Weather was checked again and even though it was going to be rough, Captain was confident.
With rain and up to 6 metre waves splashing on board deck, the crew and I were still in high spirits; well three of us were, the other was sleeping.
There is a pod of about 9 dolphins following us, playing in the wake and the waves. Jumping up out of the water, such a beautiful sight no matter how many times I see them.
As evening started to fall we looked back and felt relieved that we had missed a big nasty looking storm. The sky dark, with thunder and lightning in the horizon. Captain and I discussed how we were glad we had made it passed in time to miss it. Another half an hour later we had to bring down the mainsail as the waves were rising and the winds getting stronger by the minute.
Time to wake-up Lorenzo. Up on the foredeck he went, waves crashing over him and the main not falling into place with the easy jacks as it should have been. Time for me to step up on deck with him.
My first time in these weather conditions and I was going up on the foredeck. No doubts, it needed to be done. Life jacket on, clipped onto the life line and rope in hand, I made my way forward.
Waves were crashing over us, rising with each one, we were making progress. Then a big wave hit and I lost my footing.
Down I went.
Crash went another wave… along with my two front teeth.
With my legs over the side of the boat I could feel my broken teeth in my mouth.
I spat the crumbled mess out and climbed back up, crying out that I’d broken my teeth. I had always had perfect teeth, a beautiful smile, and now I resembled toothless the dragon from the hit movie How to train your dragon.
But there was no time for self-pity. The sail needed securing. Lorenzo checking I was ok, we got on with the job in hand.
Struggling to stay on our feet, lashing down the mainsail, we were running out of rope. Time for Captain to hand us another rope. Lorenzo tying them both together we continued. Sail secured he told me to go back to the cockpit.
I ran my tongue along my teeth and realised the damage done. Tears fell. I had lost my beautiful smile. I would need to see a dentist as soon as we hit Lanzarote. What would the cost be and how soon could I get it done?
Tears fell, I was no longer beautiful.
But I was alive.
Teeth or no teeth, I was alive.
I would get to see my boys again, get to hold them in my arms, and it didn’t matter what I looked like.
But what of my lovely teeth? I have always had beautiful strong teeth, with only one filling due to a bone in a meat stew chipping one of my back molars.
More tears fall.
And then I realised I am still beautiful, and even though I had lost my teeth, they could be fixed.
And I am still alive.
And I am still beautiful, because beauty comes from within, and I am a beautiful person.
Lorenzo comes back into the cockpit and straight to me. Asks if I am OK, and tells me he had thought for a split second I had fallen overboard. When he heard me cry out ‘I’ve broken my teeth’ he thought I’d said I’d broken my leg.
It wasn’t broken, just a very badly bruised right shin, bruised left elbow and left knee.
But I am still alive.
Letting Captain know about my teeth he apologised. The sleeping crew mate is now up in the cockpit, discovers my teeth are brokwn, and then laughs. I tell her it’s not funny, and she checks herself and agrees its not funny.
She then disappears to go back to sleep. For someone who was excited by these conditions we are sailing in, she seems to have slept all the way through it.
I need a cup of tea, so Lorenzo makes me one. He tells me to contact Lava Charter because they have insurance. They will cover all injuries on board.
I joke with him that I am keeping a list of 40 first things that happen in my 40th year and will now have to add dental reconstruction to this list. We both laugh and he says ‘British humour!’
Captain has been looking at the weather and the charts, it’s time to change course, it’s becoming dangerous to continue in the direction we’re to, so we’re heading off to Cadiz.
Lorenzo makes sandwiches. My first request of avocado on gluten free bread with some seeds needs amending .. ‘better leave the seeds, they may get stuck in my teeth’ We both laugh, again at the British humour. So I opt for avocado with tomato, something softer. It still hurts to bite into it. I try and bite into it with my other teeth, and using my tongue. An interesting experience. But manage to eat it anyway.
After a while, it’s time for me to sleep. I’m on watch at 4am. I have to be on the ball, have to be alert, even if I am now toothless the dragon, with a broken smile but not a broken spirit.
Arriving in Cadiz the rest of the crew crack open a beer each. It’s early morning. Too early to head into town to see a dentist, and get checked over. I head to my bunk for a little more sleep.
I wake a few hours later, shower and head into town with Lorenzo. All the dentists are closed.
I asked the Captain when we are all back on board if he had contacted Jan about what had happened and he told me he had not; and that if I wanted to then I should do so.
He also commented that he did not wish to inform Jan so as to not to make him nervous about the delivery.
I then asked for the insurance details so I could take action on getting my teeth sorted out as soon as possible, to which the captain handed me the file with the boat papers in.
I spent the rest of the day looking into Sailing insurance, Admiralty Law and the Jones’ Act. It made interesting reading.
Having checked the weather for the following few days, the winds are 15knots at best, so we set sail. The boat needs to be delivered.
Over the next few days in board, I am shocked at the amount of alcohol drank on board, which is meant to be a dry boat. It’s a professional boat delivery after all.
48 cans of beer, 3 bottles of red wine and a bottle of rum between 3 people. Even though I had done the provisions with Lorenzo, no alcohol was purchased.
I knew the sleeping crew member had purchased a few beers for arrival in Lanzorote, but until we had set sail, the amount of alcohol on board had escaped my notice.
Where had they kept all this alcohol?Not being a drinker, I didn’t partake, and I’m glad I didn’t. One of us had to be on the ball if anything happened.
Over the next few days as the bruises ony body grew black, and the pain eating and drinking grew, the only crew member to check on me was Lorenzo. Not once did the captain ask how I was feeling.
Surely part of the Captains duty is due care and attention?
Checking the log book whilst on watch, I noticed my fall and near death experience had not been entered into the log book. When I asked if there was something to sign, I was told there was nothing.
Checking our progress a little later during my watch, I noticed the log book now had a new entry… My accident, and in a different colour ink to the rest of the log for that day.
That feeling of uncertainty was rising again. And now I knew it had nothing to do with the weather. It had been more to do with my intuition guiding me to stay away from this boat delivery.
Upon arriving in Lanzorote I contacted Jan at Lava Charter before heading off for a much needed shower. He informed me he hasn’t heard back from the insurance company.
The rest of the crew and Jan head off out for dinner that evening.
I leave the boat and stay with fellow ocean lovers, molecule shakers and the ocean parents of my soul sister Suzanne. They shower me with love, give me a bed for a couple of nights, and I coach them on the next steps of getting their book written.
I follow up with Jan the next day and I am met with a dismissive attitude and aggression. He is denying Lava Charter is responsible. He says the insurance won’t pay out.
I now have to pay for my own teeth. Any delay getting them fixed leaves me at risk of infections and prevents me from doing my live trainings and coaching sessions on line. Plus I am still in shock.
Thankfully another representative from Lava Charter sees the human side of what has happened. He is supporting me, but his hands are tied. He is deeply upset by what has happened, and yet not surprised.
I need to get my teeth fixed. I can’t wait for the insurance to deal with the claim, or Jan to gain a sense of morality, humanity and common sense. His aggressive and dismissive attitude isn’t something I want in my space. It’s toxic. So I deal with the other chap.
I head to the dentist and get them fixed. Luckily I have enough to cover the cost of the dental reconstruction. But it is going to leave things tight for the next few weeks, and possibly delay my trip to the Caribbean whilst I raise more funds for my journey.
I am still waiting the money to be refunded to me by Lava Charter. I was afterall doing the boat delivery for them and should be covered under their liability insurance. I was acting under the instructions of the captain they hired, which according to Jan I chose to do.
Which he is right I did follow captains orders. A captain who was hired by Lava Charter, by Jan himself. As a crew member it is protocol to follow captains orders. I trusted the captain, he talked the talk, sadly he didn’t walk the talk. I trusted a reputable company such as Lava Charter to hire a competent captain.
I am now trusting the chap I am now dealing with, and the owner to do the right thing, not just as a company who take care of their permanent or temporary team members, but also to have the human decency to pay the fee for my dental bills.
I did what I was asked to do, and got injured during the process. Having had my own businesses, and worked for insurnace companies before, I would simply pay the bill. It would be less than the excess, and not impact my future insurance renewal fees.
Friends who own other charter companies, have been captains in both the professional and private arenas have all said Lava Charter should just pay up. Other sailors are shocked the captain chose to go out in the conditions we did.
I have been advised to take legal action, to claim for emotional and physical trauma and expenses incurred whilst I’ve been delayed. Iu could do, but part of me knows deep down that those higher up in Lava Charter will pay the costs.
I just have that feeling integrity, humanity and corporate social responsibility means more to the management team and owners than it does to Jan.
I know I don’t want to deal with him anymore.
I know I have to regroup, and reflect on my next move. Take greater measures, and listen to my gut instinct a lot more.
Not all captains or charter company reps are like the ones experienced on this last boat delivery thank goodness!
The sailing community is wonderful, and I have received so much advice, love and support. I will never stop sailing, I will not stop my adventures.
I was not going to stay quiet about this. If something bad happens to someone else due to Jan hiring this captain again, or Jan disgraceful behaviour as a representative of Lava Charter, and I didn’t speak out, I would find it hard to live with the fact I stayed quiet.
Lava Charter deserve a better representative for their company, and the crew who deliver their boats deserve better leadership, care and attention from their Captains.
We all do, in all walks of life.
We all deserve the very best in life, we just have to make better choices.
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