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A Nordhavn tale of thanks and giving

November 26, 2008

While Americans pause this week to celebrate our great country and all that we as a nation and individually have to be thankful for, we thought it would be a good time to tell a story of thanks and giving Nordhavn-style. It’s the tale of two Nordhavn owners whose selflessness and kindness to strangers in need reminds us at P.A.E. how proud we are of the people we consider part of our Nordhavn family.

Like hundreds of other Nordhavns, Egret, an N46, and New Paige, an N55, were in the midst of global adventures. The duo met up in the South Pacific several weeks ago and had been half-way through their stay at the Kingdom of Tonga when they answered a distress call. A plea over the VHF came from the local health minister looking for a boat to transit a very sick patient to Neiafu, Vava’u, a large island group about 170 nm south of Tonga, so he could be admitted to the hospital there to receive immediate care. Although planes do fly in and out of Tonga, none were scheduled for a few days, and extreme cost precluded the family from chartering one.

A small Dutch sloop was the first to answer the call and loaded the patient, his nurse, his wife, their two small children and his father-in-law on board. The days had been windy – conditions ensuing from a large gale force storm to their southeast. After struggling to clear the harbor entrance in large seas, the sloop’s triple-reefed mainsail blew out within minutes. They were forced to limp back to the dock and offload their passengers.

Scott and Mary Flanders on board Egret had been watching the weather getting ready for their planned departure, still nearly a week away. Conditions were not good, but the weather service revealed a possible break in a couple days. The patient, suffering from a gastronomical blockage, was deemed well enough to delay transit for 48 hours so the Flanders stepped up to carry out the rescue mission. “Actually,” said Mary Flanders, “we Nordhavns were the obvious pick because of the comfort we could provide [in rough seas] for the patient.” Because there were so many passengers, Roger and Joan Allard from New Paige, also volunteered to help. Being the “speedier” of the two boats, New Paige took the patient, named Cecil, and his nurse.

The story could end here with the two Nordhavns battling through the seas and safely arriving to their destination – that’s probably as much as these owners would want anyone knowing. But this was much more than a couple of yachties “doing the right thing”.  It wasn’t just that they were cutting short trips to an island they likely won’t get to visit again. And it wasn’t that they set out in deteriorated sea conditions they otherwise would have waited out had it not been for the urgency of the trip. It was the methodical process and painstaking care they took in approaching their task.

They had two days to prep for their trip, so Mary took to readying bunks with waterproof liners assuming that a fair share of mal de mer would be taking place there. Both couples gave up their berths with Scott and Mary alternating sleeping in the pilothouse berth and the Allards also sleeping in the off-watch quarters behind the helm. Meanwhile, Roger, Joan and 10-yr-old daughter, Kimberly, spent the entire day prior to departure scrubbing American Samoan growth off New Paige’s bottom and running gear to promote maximum speed potential.

But perhaps most remarkable was the manner with which they fed, comforted and treated their guests like family. It was Mary’s mission to make sure two small children and an elderly man who spoke no English remained calm and comfortable.

The boats did eventually arrive and the New Paige crew got their passengers to shore where Cecil and his nurse were quickly whisked away to the hospital. Customs officials gave them a hero’s welcome which they humbly waved off. “We didn’t feel like heroes,” said Roger Allard. “More like we were pleased to be able to do something for these people. This was a very memorable experience as we felt privileged to aid some very gracious people when they needed help. And we feel it provided a good life lesson to our daughter, Kimberly. She experienced the great feeling that comes with helping people.”

When Egret, following a few hours behind, docked at the commercial wharf, Lucia, Cecil’s wife, was so taken by the journey and the generosity, she was unable to speak. She removed the woven palm Tongan hat she’d been wearing and placed it on Mary’s head. Said Mary: “Perhaps we were saviors in the family’s eyes, but we certainly aren’t heroes in our eyes.”

Two days later Scott called the hospital to check in on their patient and was told that Cecil had already been flown to Nuku’alofa, the capitol of Tonga, to undergo surgery at a bigger, more modern facility. The nurses at the hospital knew right away who Scott was and thanked him profusely. It’s likely that the couples’ actions helped save one life, and preserve a family. Said Roger Allard unassumingly, “How could we not help?”

We at P.A.E. recognize that right now times are tough for many Americans  - and those the world over. But we hope you have something in your life that you can celebrate and be thankful for, whether it be your family, friends, health or your ability to help others no matter how great or small the means.

Happy Thanksgiving.




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