September Voyage

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The Seonag in Bridgeport

The last time I had seen or spoke with Angus Taylor, prior to our 2005 reunion, was in  1962, just before he left to join the Canadian Navy. During the reunion we met again and spent a short time relating old memories from our youth. The time didn’t seem to be enough. I mentioned to him that I resided in Ladle Cove during the summer and did a little recreational sailing. He also was a sailor but in a much larger craft than I was accustomed with. I did say to him that anytime he was sailing in my neighborhood to give me a call.

On September 9 of this year he made the call. He and his wife, Judy, were in the process of sailing his boat, a 36 foot beauty that he has named Seonag, to Lewisporte, where she would remain for the winter . (The name Seonag by the way, is the Gaelic christian name of his mother, who is from the Hebrides.) They had left English Hr. on September 2, had run into some strong winds spending several nights storm bound in ports along the way, and were now marooned in Lumsden. These facts I was not aware at the time. Normal travel time in ideal wind conditions would at least be one day, maybe two but they were now in sail status for the 7th day.

I drove to Lumsden from Ladle Cove, roughly a 40 minute drive, to visit with him and his wife aboard their boat to have a chat. Angus begins to tell me about the length of time they have been aboard the boat and that he expected to be a prisoner of the wind, in Lumsden, for the next few days. We were having a cup of tea when Angus realized his furnace wasn’t functioning properly. The look of anguish on Judy’s face was enough for me. (As Angus alluded to later, a sense of munity was beginning to creep in.) I insisted they drive back with me to Ladle Cove where my wife and I would provide the warm comforts of home on dry land. Judy immediately accepted the invitation and Angus concurred.  So off I go with these two stranded sailors.

We had the most enjoyable evening telling old yarns to our wives about growing up in Gander. I would relate a happening and Angus would tell a better one. This went on till late into the night until our guests could no longer function because of exhaustion.

The next morning, a decision was made. Ladle Cove was a lot more comfortable than a cold boat in Lumsden. The forecast for a break in the weather was bleak. No improvement till at least Sunday and today was Thursday. So we made a plan. We would drive back to Lumsden, secure the boat and return back to Ladle Cove for the night. The next morning we would drive to English Hr. deliver Judy to her home and I would replace her as first mate on the good ship Seonag for the continuing voyage to Lewisporte when the weather improved. While securing the boat in Lumsden, Angus managed to fix the furnace so that problem was eliminated.

We arrive in English Hr. Friday afternoon. Judy is a happy wife again. My wife and I are treated to a magnificent supper, some good conversation and spend the night with them. Saturday morning the forecast is bleaker. Angus decided to remain at home until the weather improves and we drive back to Ladle Cove. Sunday morning Angus calls and tells me things are starting to improve and he is leaving to pick me up in Ladle Cove, if the weather does indeed improve. We eventually decide to wait another day and  Monday we get a good forecast. The winds are good but expected to be a little strong, 25 to 35 knots. We drive to Lumsden to spend the night aboard the boat and plan to leave at daylight on Tuesday morning.

Tuesday morning arrives; the weather is as it was forecasted so we set sail for the first leg of the voyage. Destination, Seldom Come By on Fogo Island. We make the passage in record time but the water was rough. Sailing into port we notice the main sail has taken a bit of a beating. The leech (hem) is torn for about 6 feet.  After we dock we attend to mending the sail. There is a building supply store near by so we use our Red Green ingenuity and buy a roll of duct tape along with sail repair tape on hand  to repair the torn sail. The ‘sun was just over the yard arm’ as we finished our repair job when the wine steward advises cocktails were being served in the lounge on the quarter deck. As we unwound from our experiences of the day Angus cooks up a magnificent meal in the galley from his well stocked larder.

The stories kept being told as we remembered more names and incidents we both experienced. I don’t think I laughed so much before. And if you are wondering, did we mention your name, we sure did because we talked about everyone we grew up with.

The next morning the winds are a bit too strong so we decide to stay for another day in Seldom Come By. Angus finds that his refrigerator is not working and will require professional assistance. To ensure the food will not spoil, we go over to the fish plant, get a bucket of ice, fill zip lock bags and pack them around our food in the fridge.  Angus being the great cook that he is, has also picked up a bag of scrimp at the plant. Curried scrimp with rice, a green salad, and a bottle of wine from the wine cellar makes the evening meal a delight. To be followed of course with more yarns and memories from the past.

As Angus was preparing supper, another sail boat entered the harbour and tied up along side. We both went on deck to welcome our fellow sailors, when one of the crew asks ” Are you Angus”? To his surprise Angus discovers the sailors were people he had met at a dinner party in Victoria BC the previous winter. Talk about coincidence. They were seasoned sailors who had sailed from Victoria , around Cape Horn in South America up along the Atlantic Coast eventually to the Labrador coast and were now on their way to St. John’s before heading to the Azores where they intended on wintering their boat. Their journey sort of made our little voyage seem insignificant. Anyway we were invited over to their boat, a 53 ft ketch, for tea and we provided the blueberry pie and tin of  Fussel’s cream. And believe it or not, we entertained them with a few of our stories.

Thursday morning the forecast improves enough to venture on with our next leg to Twillingate. The wind direction is not cooperating at all (Westerly 25 knots and smack in our face) so we motor for most of the morning before raising the sails when we did a course change to the North. Then enroute Angus notices that the seam along the leech of his jib is starting to open. He didn’t want to tell me! Another sail repair coming up? This was later followed by a flying sheet, while taking in the jib, smashing out a vinyl panel on the dodger. Nooooo problem! By this time we could not only see Twillingate Island, we could smell it! Arriving in Twillingate, after the boat is docked, we are advised by the wine steward that his supply has become critically low due to longer than usual cocktail hours and by the disproportionate indulgence of the mate. This problem is swiftly rectified by flagging down a local resident and stupidly asking where we can call a taxi.

 “Where do you guys think you are? This is Twillingate b’y”.

We explain our predicament and he provides us with transportation to the liquor store as well as a return trip to our docked vessel. “Just in time” says the wine steward as the bell rings on the quarter deck announcing the ‘hour’ has arrived. Another grand meal and more delightful merriment. But, the forecast is not good. Hopefully things will improve in the morning.

Next morning, Skipper Angus reviews the forecast. Still not good but we have about a four hour window before a forecasted storm arrives. We set sail for Bridgeport. A little fishing community with an excellent harbour to weather out any storm. We arrive just as the storm clouds move in dumping a lot of rain. The storm doesn’t materialize with the strength as predicted but we still are enjoying our little stay in Bridegport. Stuffed roast chicken is on the menu for this evening I am told, as the wine steward provides refreshments. One more day and we should be in Lewisporte.

Saturday morning arrives. The final leg. The navigator informs us the trip should last 4 hours to our final destination in Lewisporte. All week we have been fighting strong uncooperative winds but this morning the water is like a scene from the Ancient Mariner. Not even a whisper of air is moving. Angus turns on the motor and we set course. Angus has a lap top computer that he uses for navigation purposes and now, this morning, he finds that it has packed it in. Not a big problem for our Angus with his naval background. He just gets out his charts along with his pencil, dividers, and ruler and draws out his course by hand.

We motor on down among the islands of Notre Dame Bay which is alive with dolphins swimming around the boat and  feeding on mackerel and on into Lewisporte, officially reaching our destination on September 19th, 17 days after Angus and his wife started this September voyage. After docking, Angus calls his brother Willie who was in my class through out school and lives in Lewisporte. Willie came aboard the boat and we meet again for the first time since 1960. We go through all those stories one more time with him. It was as if we just told them for the first time and we laughed just as hard. Willie of course added a few of his own.

We spend the last night aboard the boat. In the morning my wife picks us up at the marina for the long drive back to reality. It was a most exhilarating and enjoyable experience for me, especially from all of the rekindled memories that we had conjured up. One that I will never forget.

 JP

 

Skipper’s footnote:

Couldn’t have done it without you Jack!