The Wakes I Leave…

An Old Friend that Never Aged and Still Can Come to the Rescue

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In 1999, in June 16 to be precise, I journeyed to the Maryland School of Sailing & Seamanship in Norfolk, VA, where I joined the crew of “SV Teal Monday”, a full-keel, cutter-rigged yacht, an Island Packet 38, designed by Bob Johnson in the 80s.

The captain – David Appleton – filed a report of this trip (see “Report 3” in http://www.mdschool.com/bermuda_1999_tealmonday.htm). But he does not tell there the entire story…

First, he does not report that I was the “student navigator” who faithfully traced the Columbus-style dead-reckoning for the entire trip and – against all expectations – didn’t miss Bermuda… and that it was also I who first spotted Bermuda on the morning of June 24…

But more important, David never mentions that one day I totally dishonoured myself by failing to come on deck at 4:00am to fulfill my duties as watch-captain… While travelling to Norfolk I had fallen down in a wet-floor stretch in one of the connecting airports and had developed a severe back pain that accompanied me for the entire trip. Before departure I told David that I did not want to be just ballast both for the boat and the crew and that I rather not leave in the trip. His answer was to show-up a few minutes later with a rubber water-bottle, which I used to keep my back warm while at the wheel… Nevertheless, on one hideous morning I just could not possibly stand up and had to accept some strong painkillers from our First Mate: Dr. Bud Holmes. It was not to ever happen again, but to my eternal sea-faring shame, the Captain had to take my place during that watch, while down below I struggled to rise on my two feet.

Also, the Captain mentions “a couple of catastrophe drills” executed on the 23rd. But never mentions that for most of the crew this was a first blue-water experience and that earlier in the trip, as we were coming out of sight of land, and David Searles (my very able watch-mate) and I were in control of the vessel with myself at the wheel, the Captain surged from down below with two life-jackets fastened together, casted them overboard and yelled “this is a drill, man overboard!”. The entire crew dashed on deck and several hands reached for the ignition key at my right foot. I put my boot over the key to prevent such deed from happening and yelled: “we will do it Canadian-style, follow me; Bud, keep your eyes on the crew-over-board no matter what, and count boat lengths from it to the stern, beam-reach!” (grunts of disapproval), at 4-5 boat lengths I yelled: “ready about, tacking to a starboard broad reach!” (what? you’re crazy! it’s over there! the captain will throw us all overboard…!). When the life jackets appeared to be almost abeam I yelled: “heading up to a close reach!, prepare to retrieve to port!” (that was the “Canadian” thing: the CYA retrieved to leeward while the ASA retrieved to windward…)- and then they all started cheering… As the two life jackets were handed back to the captain he just said: “I am reassured, you can go on with the trip…”

The last thing that David also failed to mention is that the “squalls” that he refers to in his report were in fact “leftovers” from “Arlene”… one of the first a tropical storms of the year that on June 17, 1999, two days before departure, was passing north just east of Bermuda: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1999_Atlantic_hurricane_season#Tropical_Storm_Arlene.

While all that was happening on the deck and cabin of “SV Teal Monday”, I was being protected from the wind, the spray, the rain and even from drowning, by a unique piece of gear: the Mustang “Integrity” Survival jacket and pants that I seldom used ever again… until today, almost two decades later: I found the Mustang in mint condition inside a closet and put it again to good use… if only to shovel snow in the driveway at minus 35 degrees centigrade…!

The picture is from today… it really never aged!

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