Hello, I'm Henry.  

Welcome aboard my blog's home. 

If you come along with me, you'll become acquainted with my motley mates and faithful crew:

Experiences, Sightings, Observations, Impressions, Ideas, Reflections, Remembrances, Insights and Commentary.

They, after all, have accompanied me for as long as I can recall. Their tenure has helped me turn my tiller, fill my sails, and transport me over seas to distant lands. Maybe if you take the time to get to know them, a few will do the same for you.

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First of 4 Gales

First of 4 Gales

North Atlantic

1,260 - 1300 nautical miles SW of Iceland

Reindeer's 1976 Transatlantic Voyage

June 14, 1976

Blog Entry #6

At 26 years old, I had almost no reference point. I was too inexperienced to know better....or worse!  

 The waves eventually grew to 4-5 story height.   Reindeer   felt like it was ready to take off.....floating part cloud  / part-sea / part vessel - an alive and a growing turbulence caught in an ocean of motion.

The waves eventually grew to 4-5 story height.  Reindeer  felt like it was ready to take off.....floating part cloud  / part-sea / part vessel - an alive and a growing turbulence caught in an ocean of motion.

When I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960's, I remember feeling the wrath and the roar of hurricane force winds from the cozy confines of my parent's home on the eastern shore of Maryland.  As a youngster I recall watching a nearby river rise over docks, while winds and waves whipped pilings and slapped shorelines. Out my bedroom window I would watch Nature's fascinating forces and dream.  While I saw and heard large branches crash down, full grown trees get uprooted and then slam into nearby rooftops, my impressions of weather's might and power were pure fascination.  As the wind's howling and swirling sounded like a locomotive engine, I envisioned the house being ripped from its foundation via a tornado ready to smash through my bedroom, transport it skyward to Oz. It felt exciting because I knew it was imaginary! Maybe one too many Wizard of Oz viewings when I was little.

 Toby Garfield at the helm during our watch together during a lull in the first gale.

Toby Garfield at the helm during our watch together during a lull in the first gale.

For instances such as these, we had installed canvass (Dacron) weather cloths around the cockpit to help keep waves out. These cloths were securely laced to the lifelines and the stainless steel stanchions, but the force of the water was so great that one little wave bent two of our steel stanchions inboard 40 degrees. Such is the force of the ocean waves. The boat usually rides on top of big swells, but occasionally wave and boat get out of sync. When that happens and a big wave crashes down on you, about all you can do is huddle in the cockpit and hold your breath until air reappears. The foul weather  keeps you dry, although at times, especially when you are working forward or on the lee deck, water penetrates the best-prepared defenses.”
 A gust challenges Toby's helmsmanship. Toby working the wheel during a gust. Steering was always a work-out!

A gust challenges Toby's helmsmanship. Toby working the wheel during a gust. Steering was always a work-out!

The Perfect Storm had not been written or filmed yet; it was still 24 years before its premiere in 2000.  When it came to my notice, the concept of a "perfect" storm seemed almost contradictory to me.  In human terms the idea of a perfect storm seemed to me to lean more towards inhospitable, destructive or terrifying.  When I eventually watched the film, it was perfect in depicting some flashback images from my St. John's to Reykjavik, Iceland sail.

 Toby Garfield scanning the horizon for the next bigger waves.

Toby Garfield scanning the horizon for the next bigger waves.

Before this 1976 voyage the biggest storm I had ever encountered while sailing was a line squall on the Chesapeake Bay with gusts blowing maybe 20-30 knots.  The reality of this voyage was no protection of a sturdy house or safety of nearby harbors. What lay ahead were winds and weather more than double, triple in velocity and size. And water, water, everywhere! And then there was the fact no one was getting off ahead or at any stop. Our next port of call - Reykjavik, Iceland over a thousand miles northeast.

During this ten-day passage covering sixteen hundred miles, we were hit by four full gales. We must have been on the back side (the northwest side) of a low pressure system, because the first three gales packed winds from the northwest. We reached with a working jib and double reefed main. At times we used the number four genoa, until the whole clew pulled out with a report like that of a cannon shot.”
— Newbold in Down Denmark Strait
Being in midocean in a storm is an exhilarating experience. The fact that I had known total paralysis made me appreciate even more the thrill of slicing through heavy seas, feeling in command of the situation. One must never underrate the force of nature’s wind and sea. It can be awesome. The shrill whine of the wind in the rigging and flying spindrift, wave tops blowing horizontally across the water, are ocean phenomena one only enjoys after a certain amount of experience. Then, too, knowing the boat, and what she can take, goes a long way toward calm acceptance of such conditions. Sometimes the roar of a storm is so great that it’s impossible to hear a man shouting five feet away.
— Newbold's description of these gales:

While I knew intellectually that Newbold possessed all this nautical experience and I observed how his demeanor exuded a natural calm in our present situation, my gut was telling me this situation is insane and maybe he is too. Surely, any rational man would be showing some signs of fear, anxiety or fatigue. But somehow I chose to view him as an old salt and became awed and respectful at how he could muster the strength and confidence especially without the agility and mobility to handle even simple tasks. Like the time on the Newport docks, Newbold will again and again amaze me...but this time with his almost business-like calm! Of course, it wasn't until I had read Down Denmark Straits over two years later when I caught a clearer glimpse into his psyche during our passage. As you might gather, he really experienced everything we did...with the added perspective of two previous transatlantic crossings. Of course, one never really knows another until adversity reveals another's character. Newbold certainly revealed his colors and character many more times during our voyage.

Changing a headsail in a gale? Maybe you can imagine crawling up to the bow in a gale while taking off a sail and putting on a smaller jib.  The relative comfort of steering Reindeer from the stern contrasted sharply with wave plunging and constant dousing the seesaw ride of Reindeer's bow!

Stop Signs

Stop Signs

We Were Smoking!

We Were Smoking!