Going through my husband’s diary, not the one where people log their lives- he’s the last person to do anything like that! It’s a small book of reminders used as a phonebook and to note down things important to him since 1999. It’s been a long time and the diary shows the life and times it has lived. Since he is in another country and locked down there just like the rest of us; he called to ask for some details from the dairy. I shared the information he had requested for but had the urge to flip through the pages there as this is one master document that I have been asked to refer to and share details for over 15 years now. As it remains at home while my Master Mariner hubby manoeuvres the oceans around the world. Last evening was one such moment. After sharing information I came across an address that had fine details in the form of pointers mentioned at the sides; such as boat rescued in Cyprus, with 4 crew onboard, beer/ vodka and then there was the name of the boat captain with his email id and phone number. This is from April 2011; I assimilated the details and I had a vague memory of this as I am sure he must have shared the incident with me on a short call on Sat Phone. Shippies talk about their routine onboard and what they did during the day, the chemical they carry, details of the port of loading or that of discharging. I am certain he must have spoken about this incident too but 2011 was the year when my children were very young, the younger one would have been less than 2 years. So two young boys and a home to manage with my full time job. One can very well imagine how much I’d have remembered.
Those times were different without the luxury of video calls, sat phone calls used to be mostly weekly or twice a week sometimes. We had to write down what was important to be conveyed over the call, it was more of just hearing the voice and remembering it’s warmth till the next call. All sundry details were sent over emails as that kept him connected with home and experience how his children were growing up. Sharing every milestone with him as to when the first tooth popped out or when the child was weaned or that he didn’t require diaper anymore, the first words the child spoke etc. I emailed him almost everyday making him a part of our daily lives and ensuring that he didn’t miss out on these little things that made us who we are.
My memories of this rescue required refreshing so I called my husband on video chat and asked about the Cyprus rescue, I was swelling with pride thinking about all that he has done and achieved. The humility and honesty with which he has conducted himself. He tried to brush it off saying that he had told me then. I reminded him that then was 9 years ago and that I was a busy mom so I should be excused for not remembering. Told him that he deserved a medal for it, he smiled and narrated the entire incident to his inquisitive and proud wife. I had to write it down as not every day one gets to save lives, he said that there were many such moments where they had to carry out many challenging operations in his career spanning over 26 years; but I was persistent.
Over to the Cyprus Story
My husband Capt. Rajesh Todiwan was onboard MT North Contender, a parcel chemical tanker. While passing the Mediterranean Sea they received a message on SAT-C from Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre (MRCC) Cyprus; a distress call saying that a boat was drifting and it’s crew had to be rescued. He called his company office and the charterer to inform them of the rescue operation, the permission was needed as the area was frequented by pirates and migrants. He got a go ahead and then based on the location shared with him by MRCC Cyprus he planned the manoeuvring but all was in vain as they couldn’t locate the boat. But then thinking of the 4 men who were at risk, he wanted to ensure that he did all that was possible to reach out to them. He looked at their last location, seeing the weather condition, current and the wind direction he zeroed on an area and went towards that. The boat had reported fault to MRCC at 0600 hrs and it was around 1400 hrs that they got the message and the ship was ready for rescue. They saw something white floating and headed closer to that but it turned out to be a dead cow, in fact they saw two of them. He told me that while carrying cattle on ships if they died onboard they were generally thrown into the sea. They searched the area and finally spotted the white boat the ‘Meriga’ with men who had covered themselves with their jackets, as the heat was scorching and their boat didn’t have a shade. They were completely exhausted as it was more than 8 hours that help was near them.
Capt. Todiwan brought his vessel close enough to ascertain that it was the same boat with the crew. Using hailer asked them for their passports and any other official document to be sent through heaving line with a bucket tied to it. Hubby said that it was important to check the identity of the people if they were the ones to be rescued and were not pirates. He tied the boat with extra heaving line so that the boat would drift away and in the meantime he cross checked the details with MRCC Cyprus confirming the names of the men onboard; on receiving affirmation from them, he manoeuvred the vessel so that the boat was towards the leeward side. He got the rescued crew onboard making them sit comfortably at the poopdeck. They were all young men badly dehydrated and stressed. They were given water to drink and some refreshments as they were hungry. The chief engineer with his team went to the boat to check if engine could be repaired. It was completely damaged so there was no chance of repair.
The boat crew requested for pictures inside the ship, which Capt. Todiwan refused citing security reasons but he told them that if they wished they could take pictures from outside, though not allowed anyone could capture pictures in their cameras. The boat captain sent some beers as a way to express their gratitude through the ship’s crew but it never reached him as the crew must have got their hands on it. Capt. Todiwan could have made his forward journey as rescue boats for these men were coming from Cyprus. But he decided to wait there till help reached them. He gave them water, juices and sandwiches to keep them going till they reached the port. He gave them company, getting to know about their work and what had led to the boat drifting. The boat captain Marios Yiousellis told hubby that his perception of Indians had changed. He was hopeful the moment he saw a vessel nearing them but when the Capt. spoke and asked for their credentials and moved the vessel away. He lost hope thinking that the Indian Master was going away from them rather than carrying out the rescue. He was impressed with the hospitality and was grateful to Capt. Todiwan for saving their lives. He shared his contact information which is safe in the little diary.
Building the bond
On seeing that I looked for Marios Yiousellis on facebook and found one person with that name, told hubby about it and he messaged him. Guess what he got a revert from him; turned out to be the same person, who is also stranded in the Gulf Country. They spoke over phone and built on the bond that was created in 2011. Uniting two spirited sailors again in 2020 and in yet another challenging situation the lockdown due to covid-19
I am so happy to get these two men connected with each other after so many years, as they were both looking for each other but then there’s always the right time for the good things to happen. Just one message from the diary did the job and I feel extremely happy and elated that I could connect the dots. There is nothing to beat hope and perseverance; the sea connects brave men through enchanting stories!
I wrote this post and shared it with my husband, he in turn forwarded it to Yiousellis, I received at least 25 pictures of the rescue taken by someone from the boat that had come from Cyprus to take the crew with them. I was delighted to visually experience the story that I heard from my husband last night. I don’t know what the men are going through but while finishing this story putting up a couple of pictures I received I am more than emotional! In less than 24 hours all the pictures also reached me; I can understand the efforts that must have gone into it. This proves how small the world is and how connected are we above religion, race, ethnicity just humanity and brotherhood prevails.