people have asked me to write this book: After a sleepless night beset
by the twittering of sparrows and starlings, and gentled by the coo of
doves from the cowshed roof, the morning chorus bids me rise and start
to write. Kerry Gold our lovely red setter dog is asking to go outside.
I must make a cup of coffee, see how yesterday's new calf is. What are
those woolly jumpers, the sheep bleating at, a fox or a stray dog perhaps?
Alas, being a mere woman I feel genius is already getting spent, ere I
put my pen to paper. I will just stir the banana wine and thank God it
rained so I cannot go raspberry picking today, so I had better get writing.
What shall I call this book?
is about survival in its many aspects, the strength and brightness of
the human spirit, which enables us to come, through trauma and live in
hope. For them and for all survivors I shall call my book. "Reach
for a Rainbow" as life indeed, is sun filtered through the rain,
a vision, and a rainbow in the sky. I am sure that all families will be
able to Identify with our struggle to help each other through desperate
Thirty eight days shipwrecked with my family, alone in the Pacific Ocean.
Our strengths and frailties exposed, stripped of everything but our fierce
determination to survive and bring our children home, and there to live
ever after with the trauma of this experience.
Come with me to the Pacific wastes, and I will tell you of how I drew
from the wealth of experience in my childhood and early motherhood on
a farm, and how these memories constantly sustained my courage and spirit
to carry on and finish what we had started together.
could not end our children's lives there in that little boat!
dirty bilge water swilled over the cabin floor where I lay: black and
evil it streamed, a mixture of seawater and diesel through my long fair
hair. I opened my eyes; the long miserable night was over!
The blue linoleum with its brass fastenings on the floor
was still there, only in close up. Lucette had been slattering about as
if she didn't want to go anywhere either.
The aftermath of a rough night's sailing strewed the floor, waiting for
me to clean once more. So much useless effort and I felt very tired. It
had been impossible to sleep in the bunk. Rolling and pitching in the
heavy seas on our first night out of the Galapagos Islands had left me
feeling very sick and the floor was still coming up to meet me.
I struggled to stand up; I lit the paraffin stove to heat up the cold
rice left uneaten from the previous night. It smelled vaguely of paraffin,
but they would eat it if they were hungry and no one would complain, but
it was definitely a black tea and fresh lemon day for most of us. I cleared
the galley area, washed my precious kitchen knife, carefully placing it
on the blue Formica top. I wondered who would be the next person to take
it away and lose it once more.
was almost I0 o'clock and not a glimpse of sun that day. Dougal my husband
was up above trying to take a sight. He came below to work out a position
and as he passed on his way to the aft cabin he put his arm around me
and said. "What's the matter Lyn?"
I laid my head on the safety of his shoulder for a moment and answered,
"I feel as if I don't want to go any further, not even an inch."
He reassured me with promises of better days to come, sailing the Pacific
Ocean in the ease of the trade-winds. Our next port of call the beautiful
Marquisa Islands, Tahiti, and then hopefully finding work in New Zealand.
had always worked. Years and years of it, and had recently completed six
months at the Cedars of Lebanon hospital in Miami, where I was on night
duty; in charge of the delivery unit.
Would there never be time for anything but work? No time to sit in the
sun with nothing to do, but enjoy the companionship of the people I loved,
and watch our twelve year old twins grow up. We smiled at each other,
yes; surely the best was yet to be. Sailing free before the trade-winds
together; cruising into the Pacific Ocean and on to our destiny. I went
off happily to change from housecoat and clean my teeth: I heard young
Sandy on watch shout,
I called to Neil and Robin who were resting in the fo'c'sle bunks, something
for them to see I thought, as I started to clean my teeth.
A sudden shuddering crash from beneath my feet as a jet of water hit the
ceiling with great force, and then came down on my head. I screamed, as
I gazed in horror at the blue sea pouring through the hole at my feet,
along with bright daylight. Lucette seemed to have come to a jarring mind
bending stop. I ran, closing the toilet door tightly behind me.
'We're sinking!' I shouted to Dougal as with all speed I hurried Neil
and Robin (our extra passenger) on deck. I felt electrified into action
almost as if I had known we were going to sink. I went aft to the top
drawer of the bunk where I kept all the valuables.
Dougal was in the gangway
trying to stem the torrent of water pouring in through the weak garboard
strake. He called for pillows to stem the tide,
"It's no use" I answered "there's a big hole up for'ard
and we are sinking." He looked at me in disbelief. "Come on
Dougal" I entreated him, but he stoically continued to push things
against the impacted holes; and tried to replace the bilge, I ran up on
deck to join the others. Douglas was already standing by the life raft
"We're sinking" I said to him "Get the raft off!",
"No! Wait for Dad"I gave out the life jackets as Robin called,
"What can I do?" "Guard this with your life," I said
as I gave him the five-gallon drum of drinking water.
I heard cries of "Where's Dad? Where's Dad?" Hell! Where was
he? "Dougal! Dougal!" I shouted down the companionway "Come
quick she's going." I looked down into the cabin; there he was chest
deep in water, wading slowly towards the bottom rung of the steps, and
wonder of wonders! He held aloft the precious knife. I breathed a great
sigh of relief at the sight of him.
l"Are we sinking Dad?" said Douglas "Yes son, I'm afraid
so" came the reply. Douglas heaved the life raft over the side of
Lucette. Dougal cut our dinghy the Ednamair, free.I stood mesmerised for
a moment as if watching a film unfolding in slow motion.
who had put the teddy bears up his t-shirt, jumped straight over the rail
and was already in the sea looking up at me and shouting
"Mum the teddy bears got drowned."
Neil was back in the sea. The deck was awash now. Lucette's bow was disappearing
fast. I struggled to climb over the rails but neither of my legs would
go over. I looked for Dougal. There he was standing in the water at the
bow, his back towards me, and in a loud voice declared, "Abandon
he slipped into the sea, I thought, as the water took me roughly through
the rails "but there is no one aboard!"
swam towards Neil. My toes curled under as I thought of the possibility
of the Killer Whales amongst us. I reached 'Ednamair', (the dinghy) to
which Neil was clinging and Robin holding on to the painter, I was using
my arm to hold on when Dougal called "No, not there, you'll swamp
it." I looked around, "Well where the hell else could I go?"
I thought, the Pacific's a big place. First wave on the left or what!
I looked back to Lucette but she had taken her final curtain and sailed
straight on under the sea.
Poor noble Lucette, she had given us time to get off and taken with her
our talisman, the caul of a baby I had once delivered; it had been given
to me by the mother at my request.
It had dried a paper thin membrane hanging on an oak beam in our old home
at Meadows Farm. A long ago superstition of fisher folk, whose belief
it is, that you will never drown at sea if you carry one.
thought of the story of my own eventful birth at a place called Butterton
on the Staffordshire moors. My mother told of how father was working nights
at the copper foundry, while her sister
and a neighbour stayed with her. It was dark when mother went into Labour,
and her sister and neighbour were both too frightened to go alone to fetch
the doctor. They walked four miles together leaving mother alone with
two little children and me, who arrived quite unaided into this world;
'Bawling my head off' and still attached to my mother, had made my own
way to the bottom of the bed taking half the placenta with me.
Dr. Hall arrived by horse and carriage having stopped at the Vicarage
to pick up Mrs. Chestle who assisted with his midwifery cases for a charge
of thirty shillings. He found mother lying in a massive haemorrhage too
weak to move. This was my first lesson in how to fend for myself. The
caul had had served its purpose and here we all were.
at the opening of the rubber raft, directing the traffic I thought as
he called."Send Neil across! Now you! Now Robin", and he fastened
the dinghy painter to the raft.
We were all together again. Oh! Where was Douglas?The last time I saw
him he was about to put his finger in the exhaust valve of the raft (where
the excess air was escaping with a loud noise) and he had called frantically
to me, "Mother! Give me a patch"
I looked round the ocean for something that would do. I said "Will
this do?" as I threw him an orange, he gave me a look as if to say
"Only mother would be stupid enough to give me an orange"
"Douglas!" "Douglas!"We all shouted and he came to
the entrance with his beaming face alight,"Look what I've found,"
Treasure indeed. I thought as he produced a spool of fishing line to which
was attached the Genoa sail, washed off Lucette's deck.
We were all together
again in our new home Robin had gallantly offered to go after the water
drum but Dougal had thought it too great a risk and we sadly watched it
float away into the distance.
Whales" someone said, "thirty of them!" " One came
up bleeding from its head!"; "Perhaps the others have eaten
it!" "I hope so" Sandy remarked. "I wonder if they
are still outside." We stopped speculating and I remembered eerily
the cold feeling of close eye contact with a Killer Whale, through the
viewing window at the Miami Seaquarium it looked as if it was saying,
"I'll get you for this, this eternal captivity." and I had left
with a most uncomfortable feeling for it's lost freedom.