Tuesday, July 31, 2012


As we continued north in the gulf stream aboard Farfarer, each day was marked by another exciting event, not the least of which was a pod of three orcas taking out an 8-foot tuna. The tuna launched itself a couple of meters in the air, before 3 tall fins circled its position.  It really was a National Geographic moment, as were the numerous dolphins that accompanied us on a number of occasions throughout the journey.

That evening, Frank informed us we would likely face squally weather throughout the night, and to be alert and prepared to run on deck to help whomever was on watch (with only 3 crew members, we each did our night watches alone).  It was around 1:30 AM, as I layed off-watch in my bunk, when I awoke to Will hollering Hey hey!! Hey hey!!

Assuming Will was on watch, and trying to alert Frank and I that he needed help taking-in sail, I threw my legs over the side of the bunk and grabbed my jacket.  That's when I noticed Will, standing to my left in his pyjamas, and Frank to my right, in his foul weather gear and harness, as he'd just run down below to see what all the yelling was about.  Confusion settled in deeper as Will looked at Frank and said, "I'm bored!"

Hmmm... bored? Really?

Frank didn't know what to make of it all, and said calmly and frankly, "Well, Will, I'm sure I could find something for you to do...?"

Having lived with a sleep-walker and sleep-talker for the last couple of years, I was starting to understand the scene I was witnessing.  Will declined Frank's offer, as he began to come-to, and simply responded, "I'll go back to my bunk now."  I looked at Frank, we both shrugged our shoulders, and he went back on deck as I put my head back on my pillow and went to sleep.

Will was great company and very entertaining, even when fully awake.  He had some interesting theories on women, and his charm became fully apparent as he explained how in his youth, wearing one particularly-becoming sweater helped to make him quite popular with the ladies.  And thanks to him, I now know the meaning of a lazy wind (standing frozen on deck as we sailed our final miles to Lunenburg, he declared 'This wind's so lazy, it blows right 'tru ya!')

As sunset approached on our final day at sea, we felt we were well poised for a late Saturday night arrival, but not so late as to miss last call at The Knot Pub.  It was a valiant effort on behalf of the 3 crew, and our autopilot (named Jorge), but when all was said and done, we made our final approach to Lunenburg Harbour after 3:00AM.  After close to a week of constant motion, we rafted alongside two lovely wooden boats, Samara T and Avenger, and a perfect calm settled over Farfarer.  With a bottle of English Harbour Rum, we did a toast to the sea god, the ship, her crew, and I watched as day broke over the town that always lets me go, but periodically insists on my return.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Back At Sea

There is nothing quite like sailing Home.  

Nova Scotia is on that horizon, though only barely visible, even with binoculars. After less than 6 days at sea, we had covered over 1,050 miles of ocean between Charleston, South Carolina, and Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

I joined Schooner Farfarer in Charleston a few days before departure, with the intention of catching up with a few sailors I'd crossed paths with a few years earlier aboard Annie Laurie.  For those of you who are relatively new to this blog, you might not be familiar with Banff, Jeff, and Jodi.

Jeff and Jodi kindly loaned me their EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) after Justine and I limped into Charleston Harbour, en route to Cuba, after five horrible, no-good very bad days at sea. At the time, they lived dockside aboard their Cape Dory, and had no immediate plans to go cruising, and felt the EPIRB would be of better use on a relatively ill-equipped leaky wooden sailboat.  I could not have known it at the time, but the day would come when the United States Coast Guard would receive a distress signal from this particular EPIRB, and a frantic effort to make contact with Annie Laurie would ensue.

One day last winter, as friends and family lay peacefully in REM sleep, a dozen phone calls were made by the United States Coast Guard providing a rude awakening, that the EPIRB belonging to Annie Laurie was transmitting a distress signal.

Jeff and Jodi received the call around 2:00am.  It had been some time since I'd touched base with either Jeff or Jodi, and for all they knew, I was en route to the Bahamas and had gone down somewhere in the Gulf Stream. They were concerned.

Jeff's parents got the call too, assuming Jeff and Jodi were still in possession of the EPIRB, and thought perhaps their son and daughter-in-law were lost somewhere in the Atlantic.

Other calls were made; my parents, Phil's parents...  but our first inking that something was amiss was luckily not waking to a cold salty sea rising above our bunks, but instead a knock at the door by Phil's mom and brother.  After probably 30 missed calls on my cell phone, they had driven an hour in the wee hours before dawn, to make sure we hadn't gone sailing for the weekend. The one night I forgot to bring my phone into the bedroom with me.

For reasons that are still not entirely clear, the EPIRB had malfunctioned, and as a result began transmitting a false distress signal.  But with a signal so weak, it could not provide a latitude and longitude.  The Coast Guard could not determine that it was in fact sitting on a closet shelf in our new house, 2 miles inland.

I was glad to be back in Charleston to apologize in person to Jeff (grey shirt) and Jodi, but even more-so to finally meet their little girl, Ally, who was a new addition since we'd last met. One perfect family.

And it was also a perfect opportunity to catch up with Banff, whom I'd last seen while we were both sailing solo in the Bahamas.  He lives aboard his catamaran a stones throw from where Farfarer was alongside, and he spent some time playing tour guide in, again, my second favourite city in the world.

The crew of Farfarer for the passage between Charleston and Lunenburg were Captain (and owner) Frank Blair, Will MacDonald of Prince Edward Island, and myself.  Frank's reputation preceded him (for some background, read his website HERE) and I therefore had no concerns about the Captain, the vessel, or the passage we were about to make. But seeing as Will was a proud Islander, I knew how fast things might go downhill if we ran out of potatoes.

On our second day full day at sea, just as we sat down in the main salon to enjoy an evening meal, the whirring sound of the reel told us we had a fish on our hook.  We dropped our utensils and ran on deck, and Will being the experienced fisherman, he started to reel her in.

I didn't know I could be so emotional over a fish...

Dolphin, or mahi-mahi, are stunning creatures as they surface from the crystal dark-blue depths of Gulf Stream waters.  With shimmering scales of bright green, yellow, and blue, I have never felt good bringing one aboard.  This 4-foot beauty was no exception.

The fact that we had plenty of food aboard, and a freshly-made meal waiting for us below, I really wanted this fish to have a second chance for that reason alone.  Will had pulled the fish in within a few meters of the rod when something heartbreaking happened.  The fish's mate appeared...

We had the female (probably, it was the smaller fish) just off the stern, and the male swam up beside her, brushing her left side as he passed, before turning a tight circle and approaching her again, brushing her other side.  I know I'm projecting human emotions onto the event, but as tired as she looked, and as hopeless as things seemed, what else could you deduce other than he was trying to comfort her?  The scene could not have been any more heart-wrenching. But then, the rest of the family showed up.

Three baby dolphin swam up behind the star-crossed lovers, anxiously awaiting news from Dad of what misunderstanding could have resulted in Mom's arrest.

Of course I teared-up (it's what I do...) and I said, "We can't keep her, can we please throw her back?  Frank said he would be okay with that, and he looked to Will and asked if agreed. He did. After getting her aboard, and carefully pulling the hook from her lip, Will dropped her back into the sea. She swam away the the same vigour any creature would who had just been given a second chance at life.

Many more stories to share in the coming week... Standby!