Forgiveness is Freedom
Early last May around 2pm, Swell sat at anchor over my favorite sand bank in Tahiti after arriving the following evening from a year-long, 2,600 mile loop through the outer islands of French Polynesia. I was tucked in at my little desk in Swell’s cabin talking to my father on the phone…
“I’m so proud of you Lizzie! Congratulations! Navigation through those waters is no small feat!” He said.
“Thanks, Dad. What a year it was!”
Suddenly I heard yelling outside, and lifted my head to the window. A massive catamaran was barrelling straight down on Swell!?!
“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!!! Dad, I’ll call you back!!” I yelled. “Someone just hit me!”
The 50 ft charter yacht had properly t-boned Swell, ramming its port hull into her starboard side, just above the waterline slightly aft of the chainplates. It bent some stanchions and broke lifelines and kinked my forward lower cable, too. Where the hull had flexed inward, the interior wood near the bookshelf and drawers crushed and splintered.
Shocked, speechless, adrenaline coursing, I could hardly do more than stare at the middle-aged American dude waving frantically on the bow…Raiarii, on the contrary, was foaming at the mouth, livid, cursing, and ready to leap over and tackle him. The guy backed his yacht away, anchored behind us, and then came over in his dinghy with his wife and another crew shortly after.
In the minutes before his arrival, I talked myself into being calm and kind. Surely, I’d done something as equally ridiculous as to crash into an anchored vessel in the middle of a huge open bay in broad daylight…??? Maybe not…but we all make mistakes…I pleaded with Raiarii to let me do the talking since they spoke English anyway (in retrospect I wish I’d let him handle it the Tahitian way!)
When they arrived I greeted them with a smile, and the captain, Mr. Glenn Dimmit nervously climbed aboard and ran around Swell assessing the damage. He seemed apologetic at first…
“This is completely my fault.” He said. “I went below to do something and the boat was drifting faster than I realized and…”
“It’s ok,” I said. “What’s done is done. Just take care of the damage and lets not let it ruin your vacation.” He claimed he knew lots about boats and that the damage was minimal. But the bulbous hull of the catamaran had hit initially, then pushed Swell over on her port side, where the boat struck her a second time slightly below the waterline when Swell tilted back to starboard. The boat would have to be hauled and the rig would have to be checked to truly assess all the damage…
“Let’s make a list of the damage,” Glenn said.
It seemed like a good idea to me.
His non-engaging wife walked around Swell like it was contaminated with toxic waste, adjusting her hairdo after each photo she took of the damage.
“Honey, did you get this?” She’d say, ignoring me altogether.
He wrote out the list on a few clean pages of my notebook and then curiously numbered each page in the bottom corner…”1 of 3, 2 of 3, 3 of 3”. He then signed his name at the bottom.
“Just sign right here,” he said, “to verify that this is the only damage there is.”
“Wait?” I thought. “Something isn’t right here…? This stranger just carelessly rammed into my home, my life, my way of transportation…and he wants me to sign something? We can’t possibly know what all the damage is yet. What do you think I wanted you to ram into me??”
I recoiled and looked at him suspiciously…
“You know,” he smirked, “just in case this turns into a pissing match…”
At that, my Zen bubble was painfully popped. The magic of a year’s worth of wild open ocean, remote island beauty, and generous Polynesians had been t-boned by a conniving kook from Anaheim. He didn’t give a spit about Swell or I, he was only out to cover his own ass, knowing that his recklessness could be expensive.
“Hmmm…” I played dumb at first. “I really don’t think its necessary for me to sign anything. We can’t possibly know what all the damage is until it has been properly assessed.”
He shoved the paper at me again nervously. My good humor was melting away quickly. I’d been so nice?! He’d made such a hideously blatant error?! I’d kept my Tahitian boyfriend from crushing him into rubble!? And there he was trying to trick me into signing a some sneaky document to protect his ASSets!!?
Maybe I’d been at sea too long–adrift in my fantasy world of positivity and love…but this guy was really a douche!! He and his posse slinked away shortly after my final refusal to sign his paper. He never passed again to see how we were doing in the two days he remained anchored behind Swell. In fact, he’d motor his dinghy wide on his way to shore in order to avoid us…
I called the charter company to report the accident, which kicked off a saga of poor handling by the company’s manager. Despite the deep pockets of the international company, Dream Yacht Charter refused to pay for a true assessment of the damage by a surveyor. And in the end, Swell was repaired as minimally and heartlessly as possible.
Friends and strangers alike urged me to fight back. I could sue Mr Dimmit in California for my losses due to his recklessness. I could file an international lawsuit against the charter company manager, Jerome, who I watched sneakily wipe off the paint from collision point of the accident above the Swell’s waterline, and then tell the yard worker not to grind that area down (because he didn’t want to have to pay to redo the paint!?). When I ground the patch down myself, there was a large area of damaged fiberglass that would not have been repaired had I not happened to see him slyly arrive on his scooter with acetone and a rag in hand.
The whole ordeal was time-consuming, energy draining, and downright disheartening. I wrote some letters of appeal for support to Glenn and those higher up at Dream Yacht Charter. Glenn never responded at all, and the company only turned accusations and faults on me. I spent too much time feeling angry, hurt, confused as what was the best thing to do…I had always tried to do right by others…how could they care so little??
I despised Glenn and Jerome through the summer, until I realized that my negative energy for them was really only hurting me. I was taking it personally, when really, their heartless way of living was their own problem. If I felt anger toward them, I was even more of the loser.
So little by little, I talked myself into letting the whole thing go…My kicking and screaming to bring them to justice was not worth the amount of money and time that I would lose fixing Swell properly on my own. Lawsuits were plain unthinkable—the mere thought of courtrooms and paperwork gave me the jitters.
One morning, while vacationing with my family in Catalina, I made the decision to put the whole thing behind me. I must have had a karmic debt to pay, and both Glenn and Jerome would have theirs too. Nothing is wasted or lost in this universe…And a minute more spent thinking about the situation, was a minute less spent with my beloved family.
Standing under a cool blue sky on my parents boat in Catalina, I lifted it up to greater forces and handed it over…ahhhhh it felt so good!!
Prior to that moment, I feared that ‘letting go’ would hurt my pride, or render me weak, but instead, the forgiveness induced an immediate wave of freedom and serenity that washed completely over me… Suddenly, ‘pride’ and ‘losing’ seemed so pitifully insignificant! I couldn’t wait to get back to playing with my family.
… I took my next breath feeling renewed, empowered, and ready to get back to much more important things like inspiring people to live out their dreams, promoting sustainability, and sharing Light and Love with a world in need! We must find a way to keep peace in our own hearts…for if not, how can we strive for peace amongst humanity?
JohnAugust 1, 2013
:( sorry to hear about the damage to Swell and the problems. But I’m sure your future has a lot of great things in store!
IsabelAugust 1, 2013
You have shown us all, that bad things happen to good people and it is how you respond to it, that makes you the person you are. We are never going to be able to stop the suffering and the problems from coming to our lives, but we can change how we react to them. And you’re so right to say that forgiveness is freedom and that all those bad feelings that we get when someone has done us wrong, they are only hurting ourselves and the best thing, is to let go and forgive. I obviously don’t know you, but it sounds like you’ve become an even bigger and better person from this experience and it has probably made you appreciate your beautiful life even more!!! Thanks for inspiring us, for being who you are, you are amazing!!!Keep living the dream, much love and happiness your way.
Denis O'KeefeAugust 1, 2013
Looks like freedoms just another word for something that needs paint.
Hope you don’t mind, I shared a link to your post on sailnet. Your search for good karma will offset the many discussions of which caliber weapon is best to keep imaginary pirates at bay.
Need some sanding disks mailed? I live near a harbor freight store.
Phil McFateAugust 1, 2013
Your story hit so much home to me over an incident that happened to my houseboat, FatesEscape. The outcome was much better than yours. She was sitting in her slip at the marina when the older lady in the next slip over came in with her pontoon boat and crash, the port pontoon slammed into my stbd stern. It caused damage to the swim platform as well as a nice sized chunk of fiberglass knocked out on that corner. She was most apologetic and I was quite calm assuring her that I understand accidents. She paid for the repairs without asking for estimates or giving me any kind of runaround. Thanks for your story and showing how cooler heads and forgiveness does win out in the end.
EvelynAugust 2, 2013
Well Done Captain Lizzy!
I felt the relief in your whole being when you forgave those men & that company.
What a process is forgiveness…so happy your back to Love & Light!
Many Blessing for your future with Swell
WendyAugust 2, 2013
Liz, This is so perfect, perfectly written, perfectly photographed, and perfectly felt. Thanks for sharing this and helping us all to see how freeing it is to let go.
Barry ReeseAugust 2, 2013
So beautiful Liz. Sending hugs.
BenAugust 6, 2013
It is good to see you posting again.
Strange, I was nearly T-boned this June, while at anchor. It ended with me standing on the toe rail, pushing off his bow pulpit, and yelling at the other guy to put his boat in reverse. (no harm done, except to my nerves) He was very apologetic but, I don’t know if I would have been as gracious as you.
You’re the best,
SébastienAugust 7, 2013
Bravo Captain! Swell approuve ta façon d’être, pour lui aussi c’est du passé!
Tom SantanielloSeptember 12, 2013
Liz: Hope all is well. We MISS your inspiration and insights. Look forward to hearing from you soon. Stay safe, Tom