Evi Nemeth, who is one of the seven on board the 1928 Schooner, the Nina, is my hero. She’s lost at sea somewhere between New Zealand and Australia. We learned this week that the New Zealand Search and Rescue is no longer searching for the boat. They left May 28 from Opua. The winds were strong on June 4th. We know Evi spoke to Bob McDavitt, the weatherman and wanted to know how to get out of the 60 knot winds. We haven't given up hope yet.
Evi keeps going until the task is finished, like a woodpecker drumming at the bark of a tree until it finds a bug. She gave me a wide angle lens to see the world. Seventy-three year old Evi loves to do kid things, like eating ice cream, playing cards, reading Harry Potter out loud, and goofing around with stuffed animals. Evi never gives up, whether she’s facing gale force winds or a seven no trump bridge hand. I know she hasn’t given up yet and is doing whatever she can to keep the Nina afloat.
Evi plays bridge very well, but is way too honest to pull off a decent poker face. An accomplished computer science professer, Evi wrote a college textbook on programming. I met this incredible woman four years ago, and it seems like I’ve known Evi forever.
Evi sailed her own boat, Wonderland, across the Pacific just as my family and I took Kamaya, our boat, across the same ocean. We checked in with each other by radio, and she told my brother, Kai, and I stories about a stuffed animal called Shaun-the-sheep, who belongs to Kai but spent a lot of time on Wonderland as First Mate. I think it is incredible that Evi sails Wonderland alone. This means she stays up all night, but fortunately can take a few short naps every once in a while. She tells me, “I am a single handed sailor, but not by choice.”
Once, my mom, and a few friends, counting Evi, stood around the goalpost in a soccer field. We were in French Polynesia on the island of Raiatea at around 7 o’clock. Our sailboats were anchored in the bay, awaiting our return home. My friends and I were playing soccer with some locals nearby, while a cluster of adults stood behind the far goal.
“Can you do a pull up?” my mom jokingly asked the group.
I stared at them from a distance as they all shook their heads, laughing, embarrassed. All but one. Evi stepped up. Sparkling, her clear blue eyes glittered like stars as she took on the challenge. Her short silky white hair framed her face. Evi grinned in her lovable, mischievous way. Fingers searching, she leaped to the bar and curled her hands around its cool metal surface. Could she really do one? I certainly didn’t know any seventy year old who would even try. I never should have doubted Evi’s determination.
Straining, she slowly lifted her body up with her powerful muscles until her chin was level with her knuckles. Then she dropped herself carefully until her arms were straightened ab ove her head. We all gaped, awestruck, as she pulled herself up not once, but three times in a row. She said, after, that she had to be able to do a pull up for safety since she is often alone on her boat. Evi always surprises me in the way that she is so capable and always determined to do her best at everything. I just know that she’ll find a way to bust through the gale winds in the Tasman sea.
I learned a fantastic amount from Evi, and I think she may have learned a little from me, too. One time I showed her how to halyard swing, a fun exercise to do on sailboats. It requires a rock- climbing harness and a halyard, otherwise known as a rope that’s attached to the top of the mast. I helped Evi into her harness and clipped her rope on. Eagerly, she stepped over the side of the boat and dangled, hanging onto the halyard, her legs sticking out horizontally with her feet pressed flat against the hull. Within minutes she was doing spins and pushing off hard against the side, laughing the entire time. I admire Evi for both her willingness to try new things and her enthusiasm. Because she always wants to have new experiences, Evi volunteered to crew on the Nina. She said it was going to be fun to sail a big classic wooden schooner with 7 people. But she knew the weather wasn’t right. That’s what she told us in her last email where, as always, she never uses capital letters, “we are finally leaving for australia -- soon. too soon by my weather reading as we are in the midst of a winter storm with a huge lightening bolt and thunder from a close one just a minute ago.”
Evi taught me to be confident and strive for the best in everything. She has a strong, determined, inspiring, and beautiful personality. Above all, Evi is there for me when I need her. I could write an entire novel about Evi, because there are endless stories and experiences I’ve shared with her. And there are more experiences I want to share with her. We are supposed to sail with her in Fiji this August. I think of Evi as my sailing grandmother, because, although she is not related, she’s like family to me. I am shocked to hear that Nina is lost at sea. Evi is a knowledgeable sailor, so the fact that she disagreed with setting sail on the Nina is worrisome. I’m really concerned for the whole crew. I guess I have to trust New Zealand and Australia’s search and rescue to find these brave people. It’s scary and frustrating knowing there’s nothing I can do. I’d like to speak for all her friends and family to just say we love Evi and are full of hope. Evi is a survivor. Maybe she is on a life boat or maybe she is stranded on an island, like Gilligan and Mrs. Howell.
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