By Alex Barnard
Since the day we met on New Year’s Eve 2014, Jacques and I woke up in the same place all but a handful of times. But on the morning of Oct. 15, he wasn’t beside me when I opened my eyes. At 8:06 a.m, I was woken up by my brother-in-law, who was concerned that Jacques hadn’t come back the night before.
From that moment, everything was different.
When we first met, I was first officer on the 120-foot M/Y Dream Weaver, and Jacques had been hired as our new chef. Within four months, we were engaged. Less than seven months after meeting, we were married.
By August, we were running boats together, first the 92-foot S/Y Sea Diamond, then the 96-foot M/Y Pensees.
In September, we resigned from Pensees to spend time with Jacques’ family in South Africa. We had a 1-year-old godchild/niece who wouldn’t stop getting bigger on our behalf. On Oct. 5, we landed in South Africa.
Less than two weeks later, Jacques’ sister and her husband rented a beautiful apartment with us on the coast for the weekend. Our balcony was less than 50m from the shoreline; from here we could braai [have barbecues] and listen to the waves.
After our brother and sister-in-law went to sleep on Oct. 14, Jacques wanted to go fishing (as usual) and I wasn’t ready for the night to end. Just before midnight, we climbed up and over the farm hill bordering the coast, and Jacques picked the spot he wanted to fish from.
It was at the edge of a rocky cliff about 30m above the sea. I could sit on a gently sloping grassy area and lay back to watch the stars rise over the cliff tops. Still newlyweds, we talked and laughed for hours while Jacques pulled in one fish after another. As much as I teased him for it, he wouldn’t stop turning around to say “I love you [embarrassing nickname]” between casts. In a word, it was magical.
After a while, Jacques was still keen to fish for another couple of hours and I was ready to head back. We said our “Good night” and “I love you”s and I practically floated back to our apartment.
But Jacques never came back. At some point during the early morning hours, he slipped off the top of the cliff. The morning of Oct. 15, family, friends, coast guard, helicopters, and airplanes searched for my husband.
He was eventually recovered but it was too late; the fall had taken him instantly. He was nine days shy of his 30th birthday.
For anyone who knew him, Jacques was the kind of guy who you considered yourself lucky to know, always grinning, always mischievous, and always with love in his heart. The fact that he was a badass chef was just an added bonus.
Jacques is missed every day, in the galley and in the hearts of anyone who crossed his path.
A memorial service was held for Jacques Barnard in East London, South Africa, on Oct. 22.
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