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.

Click this way and scroll along if you please...Enjoy your stay.   

Our July 4th Departure Collison

A Farewell Faroe Bout or Bow-out
An "Accident" of Arrogance?
Vestmanna, Faroes
Sunday, July 4, 1976
 Reindeer's 1976 Transatlantic Crossing
Blog Entry #26

Reindeer  vs this Faroe's ferry meet head on.
"As soon as the boat races were concluded, we got underway for Torshavn. Like a damn show-off, I decided to leave the dock under sail alone, and in the course of my so doing, some signals between me and the foredeck were misunderstood. As a result, the bow pulpit of Reindeer smacked into the ferry boat tied nearby, leaving the ferry boat intact, but Reindeer with a mangled pulpit, which would have to be prepared in Torshavn." ~ p 103; Newbold Smith in Down Denmark Strait

Little did we know that our July 4th would end with a bang. 
Recently an Asiatic airliner jet crashed at San Francisco's airport. Investigators determined that the the Korean culture was actually more responsible for the accident. Because younger Koreans tend to respect and defer to their elders, few ever challenge or contradict those higher in any hierarchy. On this flight, the Korean co-pilot apparently acquiesced to the senior pilot and refrained from speaking up with the correct information even with an impending disaster looming. Not "losing face" to more experienced senior pilot seemed to be more important than saying something in the nice of time. So this age-old, blind respect was a cultural culprit in this airline accident. Maybe that human deference to authority has undoubtedly been a major factor in the doomed fates of thousands of ships over the centuries. Reasons for the demise of the Titanic, Andrea Doria and the Costa Concordia immediately come to mind.

Maybe you have heard the sayings as often as I have - "Accidents happen." [a more PC form of "Shit happens."] or "There are no accidents; only lessons". Well, if you have heard either or both of these expressions, maybe you have reflected on the following: 
  • Don't these sound like excuses for dumb decisions? 
  • Don't they deny, or at the very least, diminish human fallibility, culpability and/or responsibility? 
  • If all men accept screwing-up as inevitable and highly likely, why then are others so quick to blame or find fault? Aren't we all mistake-makers? 
  • If you believe that everything happens for a reason and it is simply incumbent upon each of us to squeeze out some kernel of truth or morsel of knowledge from each occurrence, then why aren't we all incredibly smart? genius-like? Goodness knows we humans make enough bone-headed blunders showing off! 
Most people, I think, define these "happenings" as "experience".  Conventional wisdom would suggest: The more experienced we are, the fewer mistakes we make. In other words, older means wiser. Well, so much for that logic! There is certainly enough evidence over the centuries to suggest otherwise: even if our memory works, recognizing when and how to apply our knowledge is the real challenge. George Santayana is known for saying "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it". Maybe we are doomed to continue experiencing these "accidents" as reminders until we smarten up. Reindeer probably had at least a combined 200 years of sailing experience on board when "our" accident happened. Anyone would think it could have been avoided with some more forethought and better planning.



The Accident (from my perspective): When Newbold indicated we would depart Vestmanna after the rowing races, the crew prepared Reindeer to leave the dock (took in fenders, coiled deck lines and raised the mainsail), but we really weren't ready to leave under ONLY sail power. The crew was, however, feeling our skipper's cockiness. All of us got swept away in the euphoria of sailing away gloriously. Almost immediately after we raised our mainsail, it became obvious to all 6 of us on board that the boom swayed too much to the portside - an indicator that the boat yearned to move to starboard into the pier. Of course, we wanted the exact opposite to happen. We wanted the boom to fall to starboard so we could sail away from the dock on port tack. Our over-confidence soon turned to desperation.

With a flukey and gusting wind, Reindeer was not quite positioned head-to-wind. We needed Reindeer to be "in irons" and have both sails luffing in alignment. In an attempt to coax the wind to push the bow away from the pier, we back-winded the jib. But, it was obvious to the two of us on the foredeck, dutifully saying nothing, but desperately attempting to push our bow off the dock with our feet, that wind was not cooperating and Reindeer was in trouble. For some unknown reason, we did not instinctively douse the jib and the mainsail like we should have. No one suggested turning on the engine. Everyone simply deferred to our skipper to make the call. Unfortunately the breeze had other plans for us.

Without any engine turned on ready to power us forward away from danger, Reindeer slid backwards down the concrete wharf with both sails luffing until our bow faced the ferry imposing black bow (See photo below). As soon as the wharf was no longer thwarting Reindeer's movement, she picked up enough speed to ram head-on into the ferry. I remember wanting to reach out, use a hand or foot to fend off, but I knew that would have caused injury. I felt helpless a few feet away as I watched our bow pulpit metal bend like an accordion on the ferry's bow.

Newbold's displeasure and our collective embarrassment were palpable when we he finally turned on the engine, backed away and turned away from Vestmanna with our tail between our legs. Like the time when I was unable to recover the two floating fifty dollar bills in Reykjavik, I felt I had lost an opportunity to do the right thing. I should have spoken up, but at 26, I didn't have "my voice" yet. 

Was this our farewell Faroe bout or bow-out? Was this just an "accident"? or was it American arrogance on display? While many "accidents" happen, errors in human judgment, timing, technique or cultural influences are always at the root cause of "the event". Certainly the crew recognized that our collective arrogance and deference to authority blinded us in not making a more conscious choice. Live and learn? Maybe!

Note Reindeer's stern ensign flying at deck level to the left
Before our "mishap", you can see Reindeer's relative proximity to the ferry and the wind direction with all the flags.

Whale of a bow....looked like a big mouth of a killer whale when it opened for cars and people.
It obviously doesn't open for 43' sloops!


Repairing a Reindeer in Torshavn

A Bicentennial Treat in the Faroes