A Tale of Two Brothers, the Ocean and My Battle Against Sadness

I have lived with sadness for far too long. I refuse to let sadness be my constant companion, yet sadness sneaks in when I least expect it. I want to break up with sad. I want to kick sad to the curb, stomp on sad and throw sad over a cliff.

Only I can make that decision. My choice. Sola.

I started this blog on August 12, 2018, as I wanted an outlet to share stories and inspiration. August 12 holds significance. The day 28 years ago my love Tom died from a cruel act of violence that was so devastating, I never knew how to recover from such a sudden and catastrophic loss. Then Tom’s older brother John and I started to create a life together. We made the decision to live an extraordinary, adventurous, nautical, seafaring life together in honor of one man who was so full of adventures and left us way too soon.

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe…Lynn and Tom, living on the edge, as usual!

This story is about the love of and for two brothers, if you care to join me, grab a chilly rum drink, dig your toes in the sand and ride along.

In the early 1980’s I left my little hometown of Ramona, California and flew to Africa, having previously flown only once before, from San Diego to LAX. Let the adventures begin! I lived on a farm in Zimbabwe with an amazing family, then procured work in Durban, South Africa where I met Tom, his eyes bluer than any ocean and his stories of hitchhiking from Europe down the east coast of Africa captivated me. We would share the wildest of times; sleeping under the stars in a remote game park listening to hyenas celebrate a fresh kill, dodging a territorial hippopotamus from a dugout canoe in Botswana, riding in the back of a Land Cruiser pickup with other backpackers on dirt roads trying to keep up with loping giraffes.

A fellow hitchhiker invited Tom and me to crew on a 31 foot Gibsea sailboat from his home in Marseille and cross the Atlantic to Martinique. This had to be the best hitchhiking opportunity of all time!

Months later after a stint working in Munich, we took him up on it, with barely any knowledge of sailing and with non-English speaking French crew mates, we learned to navigate by the stars and became at one with the sea.

Hitchhiking across the Atlantic
The humble 33′ Gibsea “Maidi” got us from Marseille to Martinique with only the sun and stars to guide us, long before GPS

The outback of Thailand

Fifty cents a night gets you a thatch hut, mattress and mosquito netting, what more could one ask for!

Our world wanderings continued; camping on the beach under palm trees in the French West Indies, living in a thatch hut on a Thailand beach for the equivalent of 50 cents a night, exploring jungles in Malaysia, searching out remote villages in Mexico…

Then the unimaginable; Tom went on his journey in 1990. Hello sadness.

John lost his younger brother/best friend and I lost my young love and all the stories of shared adventures went with him. That is when John and I decided to rise above sadness as we started our nautical path on John’s Catalina 30′ sailboat in Cabo San Lucas.

Mexico does interesting things to folks who listen to their hearts. We started as the best of friends, but then a little tequila, soft starry nights at anchor, warm tropical waters to float in…well, there you have it, why not, let’s go live this life to the fullest!

After several seasons exploring the Mexican coastlines, from our mutual love of the sea and sailing, we got hired as Captain and 1st Mate/Chef in the Caribbean crewed charter yacht industry. Hard to believe we actually got paid to do what we loved! Making friends with an international array of fun loving charter crews and some very special guests, it was an incredible time in our lives.

Captain John and 1st Mate/Chef Lynn

Captain John, just another day at the “office”

Teaching guests to sail, showing off the underwater world of coral reefs and precious marine life, leading guests on panoramic hiking trails, quenching thirst at beachfront watering holes, dancing to Calypso music barefoot in the sand, cooking scrumptious meals and lying on the trampolines under a blanket of stars sharing salty sea stories and laughter. Yes, an idyllic life indeed. We worked for the Moorings for several years, then bought our own sweet catamaran, a Lagoon 41′ in France, christened her “Moonshine” then sailed her to the Caribbean. My second Atlantic crossing, this time on our own boat.

Sadness was tucked away. I allowed sadness to rear itself once a year, on August 12. My day to mourn, yet amazing and joyful memories of Tom would prevail, as always.

Captain John acquired dementia around 2013. We lived and worked together gracefully, joyfully, every day, all day. I first noticed the changes on our second “Moonshine”, a Leopard 43′ catamaran. This was to be our long term live-aboard vessel, as we wound down our charter business. Little by little he stopped or was unable to complete the routine and normal tasks of boat operations and maintenance. A huge mystery to me, something had gone terribly wrong! Our idyllic lifestyle was under attack, his beautifully intelligent and skillful mind was being compromised.

One of the cruelest diseases I could have never imagined, a brilliant mind slowly gets destroyed, the loved one forced to make decisions on behalf of the incapacitated one. I couldn’t ask him what I should do, I was so alone.

I was forced to sell our boat, our pride and joy, our life together. I was too stubborn to ask for help. No, I chose to sail this voyage singlehanded, and it nearly cost me my very soul. As only one who has traveled the path of caring for a spouse or partner with dementia can know, the disease takes prisoners besides the one who has fallen prey to it. Like second hand smoke or shrapnel, dementia ricocheted to my brain. On one hand, I was forced to become twice as smart, thinking for two and taking over all the responsibilities and tasks once shared by two. There are always bright notes, I enjoyed learning more about the mechanical and engineering projects on our boat. The down side was pure depression. Sinking to the depths of the deepest sea, my heart was so sad, I was so utterly helpless. I couldn’t stop his brain from disappearing, all I could do was provide a warm and loving environment.

When I finally asked for help, Fiji answered. The whole country is filled with love. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, there was no way I could have placed Captain John in a Memory Care Facility, I had to gather up all my resourcefulness and think way outside the box of institutionalization or rather “lock down”. As fate so often determines our lives, I was blessed to find two of the most caring, fun loving, laughter filled ladies who were lifelong friends and they immediately fell in love with Captain John’s spirit and gave him the best care in a house filled with love. Captain John adapted naturally on the beautiful island of Viti Levu, Fiji, where warm, gentle seas lap up onshore near the house we rented. Mela and Maraia created a loving environment with friends and family popping in, bringing joy and comfort to Captain John. He especially connected with the little ones who found a kindred spirit in John’s mischievous eyes and kind heart.

Maraia (aka O’Neill) and Mela, sandwiching Captain John, two of the most loving and caring ladies on earth!

While my broken spirit tried to mend itself, I knew I had done the best I could in the worst of circumstances.

Then that fateful day arrives again, August 12. Exactly one year from the day I started this blog to honor Tom. August 12, 2019, Captain John went on his journey. I do not believe that is a coincidence, I believe or want to believe that Tom called his brother to join him.

An accumulation of intense, gut-wrenching sadness came to the surface again, almost destroying me, almost slipping back under the sea. A metaphorical life preserver was tossed to me by my pod of incredible people who wanted me to survive. For them I am forever grateful. I will continue that extraordinary, adventurous nautical lifestyle in honor of those beloved brothers; Tom and John. In honor of me too, and the people I surround myself with who have shined their positive energy on me like a beacon.

I say adios to sad. I’m breaking up with sad. “Dear sad, it’s not you, it’s me. Actually it is you sad, you suck!” If only it were that easy. Grief comes in waves, sometimes uncontrollable, however, like squalls at sea, it always passes. I will try to turn thoughts of sadness into wild and crazy adventures. I choose to travel, to experience different cultures, to share happiness, to help lift people’s spirits, as that in turn helps me. I want to continue to share stories of travel and encourage others to follow their passions, and grab all the joy you can!

My love is the ocean, come voyage with me and help nourish and protect the sea as she is what keeps us all alive.

Fair winds and following seas Captain John

5 Comments on “A Tale of Two Brothers, the Ocean and My Battle Against Sadness

  1. Thank you for sharing this. I am glad you continue to be able to turn toward the sea and all of its life affirming moments. I am happy you are surrounded by love.

    • Annette, seeing your name brings back such great memories of you and Brooks on charter with us! Great times in the Caribbean Sea!

  2. What a beautiful story of love, family and perseverance. I’m so impressed by your strength and positivity. I’m honored to call you friend. I will think of you and your loves every August 12. Love you Lynn

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