We rush to the cockpit, excitement in our bellies as we gaze at Delos’s new home- Ilhabela- ‘The Beautiful Island.’
It’s incredibly beautiful, the sun setting just as we drop anchor and gaze out on the rolling hills of green around us, the white beaches peeking out from behind small buildings.
We’re instantly in love.
“This is incredible,” Alex breathes.
Lisa is crying and we all hug one another. It’s an insanely emotional moment for the girl crew. We’ve done it- together.
We sit around in the cockpit with a bottle of Aquavit and Schnapps.
“Here’s to you guys!” Brian says, raising his glass. “It’s been an awesome journey and I love you all!”
We down the shot and it burns in my stomach. Everyone’s face twists as they cough and splutter, wincing as Brian is pouring us another.
“Get it down you, Lizbef!”
After not drinking for so long, I’m struggling. I down half of it, give the rest to Brady and watch the rest as they pull out a bottle of vodka and start swigging more shots.
It isn’t long before everyone is a little bit drunk, music is playing and we’re dancing around in the cockpit, in the kitchen and on the aft deck. It’s a big party, and we already feel a little crazy. After arguing about whether we should go onto the island for a drink (illegally as we’re not checked in by customs yet) we decide to stay on Delos.
We’ve got a bit of “Skull Island Syndrome” already (watch Black Sails). Things aren’t making sense, our energy feels out of control and our minds aren’t being rational anymore. The peace of the ocean is dwindling away already and the embrace of the land is creeping into our blood.
It’s so close I can taste it.
We turn the music up, playing all of our favourite soundtracks from Luderitz, Namibia and St Helena. We’re jumping up and down in the kitchen in our underwear as we get far too hot, rum is wet on our lips, and we turn the lights into ‘red’ mode until it feels like we’re dancing around in Amsterdam.
We’re twisting and turning, our throats are raw from singing, we’re bashing into each other and our hair is wild as we pound the beat of the music into Delos.
We can hear Delos chanting herself.
Dance! Dance! Dance!
It’s a time to celebrate and we do so, shrieking, singing and tango dancing- as well as some other rather dubious dance moves. We jump up and down until 4am in the morning and all retire to our beds.
Lisa is pulling on my ankle as I start to snooze on the sofa.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“Get up and dance with me and Brian!”
But I shake my head and hold onto the pillows for dear life, sneakily getting up when their back is turned to twist the music volume down and resume my snoozing.
I can’t wait to wake up the next morning.
Dawn comes and I’m lying in bed so excited to rise. There’s another reason why I’m excited that I’m on land. Today is the day.
Today is the day I find out about Paris.
Blue pulls back my curtain and grabs my hand. “Come outside!” she urges, her eyes hazy with what I know is a terrible hangover. I stumble out of my bed and follow her up and out of the cockpit.
“Take a deep breath, Lizzy,” she says with a huge grin. “Breathe it in. What do you smell?”
I stare at the wilderness around us, my eyes blinded by the expanse of green- a colour my sight has been starved of for so long. I can feel my eyes water as I fully acknowledge our achievement in that moment.
“Land,” I answer, my tongue feeling useless.
Tropical mountains surround us, the sky stretching up into the clearest blue, echoing the clear waters around Delos. We are in paradise and civilization all at once, other boats dotted around near a harbour and yacht club.
The scent of wet earth fills my senses, and a sudden pang stretches out within me. I am a child of the countryside. I am born from Warwickshire, from England, brought up in the woodlands of the village and the hillsides of the country. I was brought up connected to the earth.
That scent filled my heart so completely that I didn’t even know what to say.
“There are no words,” I told Alex with a smile.
She grinned at me. “I’ve been crying all morning,” she said. “I can’t believe we’re here.”
I hugged her. “We made it!”
Alex dragged Lisa out of bed and demanded the same thing. As I left them to talk, I couldn’t stop the joy from creeping out of my heart and spreading into my limbs.
Today was going to be a good day.
As the rest of the crew stirred, red eyed and with stumbling steps, a magnificent breakfast was cooked by Brian.
“It’s a two pack of bacon kind of day!” he said, pouring the rashers into the pan. We tucked into a breakfast of pancakes, bacon, chocolate and champagne to celebrate our victory.
It was time to prepare for the island.
The girls and I applied makeup for the first time in weeks, brushed our hair and each wore a dress. As we came out into the lounge, we stared at each other incredulously.
“We look like girls!” Alex laughed.
The boys blinked at us in surprise as we came out into the cockpit, all dressed up and ready to go. We’re all such a close knit family now. I feel like we’re a bunch of brothers and sisters who torture and love each other dearly.
I came on deck with my backpack ready and water bottle in hand.
“Lizbef!” Brian said. “You’re ready? This is a first!”
“And why do you think?” Alex laughed. “Of course she’s ready! She’s excited to find out if she goes Paris today!”
I blush under their stares, “Oooo’s!” and laughs. And maybe also something else. I could see it in their minds. What if I really did leave the boat?
We all got into Maggie and went to the yacht club. Signing in was a longer process than normal, just because we didn’t speak much Portuguese.
I should have been learning on passage, but instead I had been trying to learn French instead. I stopped halfway through the trip, suddenly fearful that I was going to be disappointed in case Edouard said no. In case I was setting myself up for a fall. Wondering whether I was getting too ahead of myself to think he would want to see me again.
That he was serious about September.
But I remember having a conversation with Alex about hope. She had an idea about a project that she was passionate in, but didn’t want to focus too much thought and energy into it in case it was just a dream.
“You should give your entire energy into it,” I had told her. “Because if not, what is the point? You can’t protect yourself all the time. Plus, dreaming is half the fun. You need to believe and hope for something with all of your heart if you really want it. Why shouldn’t you?”
Now I was looking at my own advice.
We came onto the island, stunned at the people walking in and out of buildings. There was only a handful in the yacht club, but for some reason even that felt overwhelming.
We’re on land! We did it! We did it! My brain kept screaming.
We walked out of the club and onto the streets of Ilhabela. Loud voices, noises and scents of incredible food filled our senses as we walked down the street, side by side. Each building was unique and full of character, neon signs selling things that I couldn’t pronounce or even understand. It was a small town, but offered everything we needed- plenty of restaurants, shops, boutiques, bars, cafes and a supermarket.
We stopped off for some food to fill the crew’s hungover appetite. A guy called Felipe had contacted Brady and had advised us to stay on the island via email. He sent us a bunch of cool information about the place and we were looking forward to meeting him- when one of us eventually got internet to contact him.
Our group soon separated in search for wifi, a wander, or in Alex Blue’s case “somewhere I can lie down” (she was terribly hungover) and agreed to meet up later at the yacht club.
It was strange walking around without them. I gazed at the shop windows as I paced, searching for a place with wifi. Designer products stared back at me, tourists walked past and locals wondered why the strange girl was staring at everything so much.
I was overwhelmed by civilization. It wasn’t so long ago in England where I was one of these people. I was just a normal girl who went shopping, saw my friends, partied at the weekend and went back to work on Monday. But now?
Now I was a sailor.
I eventually found a place on a corner with free wifi- something that astonished me. I was so used to slow internet and needing to pay a ridiculous amount of money for it, the idea that wifi was readily available was a strange thought to process.
Ordering a rum (obviously) and coke, I booted up my laptop and opened my emails.
My heart was pounding. I wasn’t expecting anything. I was prepared for disappointment. Was prepared to order a whole load more of rum and returning to my crew.
But there in my inbox was a message.
A message from Edouard.
I bowed over my laptop and read.
I write to you even if you are in the middle of the ocean, I write to you even if I know I will have no answer, I write to you because I want to tell you something. Now. I’ve been waiting so long…
I continue to read, my mind not quite being able to process what I was seeing. I read the email three times before I ordered another rum and coke, sitting back in my seat and staring out of the window.
“Wow,” I said, picking up my cuba libre when it came. “I guess I’m going to France.”
All of that time hoping. All of that time wishing that it could be true. I read his words over and over.
He had thought of me every day. He had told his friends and family about me. He spoke more about our adventure together on Ascension Island than he did of his own boat experience on Malin. He said he wanted us to cross paths. That he would do anything to see me again. That he was in love with me.
I think the beauty of our experience was the fact that we were so honest with our hearts. I have never met anyone so true to their own soul and to recognize the worth of my own. To announce to me so honestly that they wanted to see me. That they would do anything.
My face hurt so much from smiling in that moment. I don’t think my body could take anymore happiness but it was forced to take it in until I thought my blood was bubbling.
What an incredible sensation of feeling loved, even from that far away. To be thought of so passionately across the oceans, during our journeys, during our own individual adventures.
To have someone that felt just as strongly about you as you did about them.
Wow, what a feeling.
It was just then in that moment when I realized a man was staring at me in question.
“Hey- are you that girl from Delos?”
I blinked up at the tall Brazilian in front of me. “Er- yes?”
He grinned. “I’m Felipe!”
What a weird day! Passing by the restaurant, he had seen my open laptop covered in Delos stickers and had put two and two together. It was great sharing that moment of discovery with the person that introduced us to this island.
“I’m so sorry,” I said, trying to control my huge smile. “I’ve just got an email-”
“Is it from Edouard?”
My mouth dropped open. “How did you-?”
“I read the blogs!” he laughed, gesturing to order us two local cocktails. He leant forwards. “What did he say then?”
I picked up my cocktail, still stunned. “Everything I wanted to hear.”
“So what does this mean?”
I took a long swallow of incredibly strong cocktail- a mixture of lemon, Caipirinha and sugar. “I guess I’m going to Paris!”
Felipe was a tall man with a huge smile. He ordered some food as I discovered I had another email from France- Edouard’s best friend Bruno. It was an incredibly touching message to say that he had read the Delos Diaries and he was incredibly happy and excited for Edouard. That he had also fallen in love.
…“My friend tells me, ‘I have fallen in love with a girl with blue hair!’ I say to him- ‘I have fallen in love with a girl with blue eyes!’” (The Delos Diaries: Part 22)
Bruno was indeed in “amoureux” with a blue haired girl and said he was so happy that he and Edouard had fallen in love at the same time. It made me feel incredible just hearing about someone else’s story- that they had enjoyed the Delos Diaries. I may have mentioned before- I’m a romantic.
Felipe and I chatted, drank and eventually made our way back to the yacht club where the rest of the crew were. I had a rush of energy running through me.
What was I going to say? Should I sit the crew down together and talk to them? They already knew of my wish to see Edouard. They already knew of the possibility of me leaving.
And as each step I took, I replayed his email over and over in my head.
I’ll do everything to cross your road…
We got to the yacht club and unfortunately security wouldn’t let Felipe through.
“Don’t worry,” I told him. “I’ll go grab the others!”
I ran through, a huge grin on my face as I found the rest of the crew sitting around under umbrellas. Quickly telling them that our friend was here and he couldn’t get through, Brady and Brian quickly went to say hello. It wasn’t long before we had arranged to pick him up at the other side of the docks for a quick celebration.
“You ok?” Alex said, seeing my smile. “Did you hear from Edouard?”
I nodded. “Yes.”
Her eyes widened as she grabbed my arm. “And?”
I took a breath, trying to keep my voice down so the others wouldn’t hear. “He wants me to come to Paris.”
“Oh my God! You’re going to Paris!”
The rest of the crew turned around at the sound of Alex’s voice.
“What?” Lisa said. “You’re going to Paris?”
“Oh my God- she’s going to Paris!” Alex said again.
So much for sitting everyone down.
But it didn’t matter. Soon the entire crew heard the news and the excitement of meeting Felipe plus our first day on the island was overwhelming. None of us could stop smiling.
There was an incredible energy in this land already, stirring the blood in our veins as we picked up Felipe around the corner in Maggie.
He was incredibly happy, a fan of Delos for a long time, and I already knew that we would be good friends.
I just hoped he was prepared for what we call, “The Delos Invasion.”
He stepped onto Delos and his eyes echoed the same look I had in mine, in Lisa’s and Alex’s when we first came on board.
Bewilderment. Happiness. Joy.
There’s always a strange feeling of stepping onto Delos when you’ve been watching for so long. A strange awareness that this is profound. That this is happening. You recognize everything- you know where everything is, where it goes. The place feels so familiar despite never being here before.
I can remember the way I felt when I first stepped on board. Maybe I’m thinking more and more about it now because of the email I received. And as a writer, I can use many words to try and describe, to try and paint a picture…
But the truth is- there are no words. There are no sentences to use and no possible way I can join up full stops, pauses and dialogue to explain what it was like to step onto Delos for the first time.
It changed my life.
I stepped into the back with Alex, after telling her that I had Edouard’s email saved so she could read it. Before I knew it, Lisa, Alex, Karin and I were shut up in a cabin with a glass of champagne as I read it out.
There was a stunned silence as we all looked at each other.
“Lizbef,” Karin said, smiling in the dim light. “You’re leaving us.”
Then it hit me. All at once. And I started to cry.
I started to cry because I knew there was no way I wasn’t going to say no to Paris, I was crying because of the weeks of not knowing. I was crying because it was true.
I was going to leave Delos. My home. My family. Everything that I knew that had rebuilt my fractured soul and heart. Delos had saved me. These people had saved me.
I had learned so much on passage, and not just about sailing, I had learned about the meaning of friends- the meaning of family. The ocean had taken my soot stained soul from the Midlands of England and had doused and cleansed me in the waves. I had been reborn.
And now I was leaving.
“This is an adventure,” Karin told me firmly. “You have to go. You have to see Edouard. You know you do. You have to be with him.”
I knew that too.
I think Karin understood more than anyone else. She had told me about her story with how she first met Brian. How they had spent a week together in New Zealand and fallen in love. How she had bought a flight to see him again and fallen in more deeply for him. How she had to return to Australia and never knew what would happen when he had set sail. Whether they would be together or not. The waiting. The not knowing.
I hugged the girls, my sisters, my family- my crew.
The intensity of that moment poured over me as the sensation finally settled in my stomach. This was happening. This was actually happening.
I was leaving Delos.