Our home isn’t a “normal” home. You see, we live on a sail boat — and home is whichever port or anchorage we might find ourselves in at any given time. Today, home is the lovely tiny island nation of Palau. We’ve been here, on and off, for more than half a year.
The weather influences our choice of location of our “home” significantly. In the tropics, the most significant factor are typhoons (or, depending on which ocean basin we’re in, it’s cyclones or hurricanes). Whatever you call them, you don’t want to be anywhere NEAR one. Ever. Particularly if your home happens to be on the ocean!
Palau rarely gets hit by typhoons, however, who needs the headache? So, we moved our home to the southern Philippines last summer. To Holiday Oceanview Marina on the small resort island of Samal near Davao in the province of Mindanao. We chose this location based on many factors, the most important being that over the past 85 years there had only been one typhoon pass through this area. Other reasons included input from our little community of others who choose to live a nomadic life such as ours. Oceanview Marina was a relatively new development and all reports were that it was a safe little heaven in an otherwise relatively tumultuous area.
When we arrived at Oceanview Marina, we were assigned a slip directly across from a trim little white and green catamaran flying the Canadian Flag. For the first couple of weeks, there was no one onboard this boat, but one day a chipper looking bespectacled chap comes walking down the dock and introduces himself as John Ridsdel and we quickly fall into the usual “get to know one another” conversation. For, ‘though we may be a nomadic community out here, we ARE a community and quickly build new friendships. Both of us being Canadian and both being catamaran owners were two factors making it easy to start a friendship.
As the weeks wore on, our friendship deepened. John was very active in the business community and had gone so far as to become very active (possibly one of the founders?) of “CANCHEM” — the Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines. Always having an eye open to business opportunities, Mercedes and I were thrilled when John invited us to a CANCHEM Gala in Davao on July 2nd hosting the Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines in celebration of Canada Day. A lovely night indeed. It was a true pleaser to meet His Excellency Neil Reeder whose speech made me more than a little homesick!
As the summer months passed, our friendship continued to strengthen and I got to know John quite well. I also developed an understanding of his approach to doing business in his field of work in some of the most challenging political environments around the world. To say that he was a principled and ethical business man is a true understatement. He exemplified the values of Canada in every facet of his dealings. I developed a very strong respect for him and was drawing much value from his experience.
On September 17th, I left Davao to join Mercedes in Spain and one of the last people I said goodbye to was John — with a promise to be back in a month or so for a couple of beers and dinner!
On September 21st, most of the world knew were Oceanview Marina was. They also knew the name John Ridsdel.
Two days ago, just about EVERYONE who follows news knows the tragedy that befall this good man.
Sadly, I was WAY closer than most. A crew was on staying on our boat — house sitting — the night of the kidnappings. I received a cryptic text message moments after the gunmen had abducted their hostages — and was in regular contact as minute by minute the situation developed. THAT was a rough night.
In the intervening months, my hopes for the safe recovery of the hostages (and friends — all of them) were high. I was heartened that John had a good relationship with H.E. Neil Reader. Our newly elected Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau did a state visit to the Philippines a few months ago. All in all, there were many reasons for hope.
These hopes came to a crushing end on Monday.
The mood in our little home is still somber.
You were a truly good man.