I met Donna Lange in January of 2004 on the small Island of Marina Cay off the east end of Tortola, BVI. Donna was just setting foot on land for the first time following a solo Atlantic crossing from Africa.
I knew nothing of this woman that night other than the fact that her beautiful voice overshadowed her tired and weathered appearance. She sang three inspiring songs that night of her own writings to a small crowd attending Michael Beans Happy Hour on the hill. Donna used a borrowed guitar and harmonica and sang like a bird. I ran across Donna a few weeks later. By then I’d heard tales of her adventures and tragedies so I couldn’t help wanting to learn
Donna in Ireland 2004
more. By this time she had given up the tired look and replaced it with energy. I had met her in the midst of rebuilding herself after a long journey. She was finally successfuly putting the pieces of her life together and becoming strong again. It didn’t take long to realize this woman was much more than beautiful music.
Donna Marie Lange, a mother of four, set off on the most difficult challenge known to man or woman, to solo the globe in a 28-foot yacht. Although the completion of her dream has not yet been concluded, the ongoing story of this 42-year-old yachtswoman is incredibly intriguing.
Donna, a qualified nurse, hails from the farm country of Saratoga in northern New York where she was involved heavily in athletics and endurance water sports. Competitive whitewater kayaking and canoeing among other activities were a big part of Donna’s years. She married young and had three children, Ptarmigan, 23, Cooper, 20 and Keel, 19, all attending college in the States. Donna was married 20 years and in 1998 she separated.
Donna was involved in a horrific car accident in which a number of people lost their lives. She was extremely lucky to survive the crash. She was traveling home one night from her job in the hospital when the accident changed her forever.
Personal Journal Summary: Contrary to everything I believe in with my job as a nurse and caring for people, I ended up in this horrible situation. When I tried to move on I found I was a completely different person. I ended up taking a job on a tall ship (luxury passenger ship), the Clipper City out of Baltimore, Maryland. I thought perhaps I would sail around the world one day on this boat. I also dove into my old religious beliefs as an answer to my dilemma thinking I might eventually become a nun.
Sadly the tall ship’s endeavor to sail around the world fell through and Donna was very disappointed. She wasn’t a qualified sailor but decided that she wanted to learn. Donna wanted to buy a boat and her brother Jeff was willing to help out financially. Donna hopped a ride as a chef on a boat headed to the Caribbean.
Donna ended up in St Thomas where she planted herself for a while and worked on boats as well as playing her music.
An inspired idea later arose of taking her music show to the high seas, like a sailing minstrel. One of Donna’s dearest new friends, Michael Bean provided encouragement and support. Donna finally found a boat in November of 2000, a Southern Cross 28 she would soon give the name ‘Inspired Insanity’. The boat had been surveyed but the inspection was all wrong. There was nothing on that boat that was useful to her. She worked seven days a week to rebuild it. She even had to rebuild the hull of the boat. It took Donna 18 months to get the boat seaworthy in hopes of sailing around the world by herself.
Donna set off on her first marathon voyage in August 2000. She sailed to South America and then onto Trinidad. Still having boat problems, Donna made her way back north through the Caribbean Islands participating in folk song gigs along the way. She concluded that she must return the boat to the States for a complete refit. This money raising effort and travels back north would end up consuming the next twelve months.
Donna’s sailing community of friends in the Caribbean helped her every way they could. She became overwhelmed with their generosity. Donna set sail in May of 2002 leaving St Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands heading back to Newport, Rhode Island.
During this north bound journey Donna lost her engine propeller and radio communications. She describes parts of her long sea excursion that nearly took her life.
Personal Journal Entry: Off I go into the wild blue yonder. 15 days to Newport. Two major gales. One was a fierce lighting storm I thought was there to take me home to my maker. I lost the SSB (radio) early. The last transmission I heard was a warning from my friend Dave. A huge front was before me and at my boats hull speed; I would have to sail through it. There was no way to outrun what was about to happen. It was a wild night. Torrents of rain fell as songs erupted. I finally sought the engine but somehow, the prop had spun off the shaft. I tried three times to replace it with a spare. Placing ones self between the hull and a rough sea is terribly risky and usually futile. Each time going overboard and under, fully tethered, even the prop. I could not situate the keyway with the movement of the sea.
Donna was pretty much out at sea all alone as she headed directly into this major lightening storm. She thought about how she could ever survive it. A black wall of sea and all she could see was a line of lighting flashing across the horizon. The lightning danced across the clouds above her. She didn’t know how she could possibly not get struck. Donna explained, “I kissed my kids goodbye, mentally, cried a few tears, literally, and I settled my issues”.
Personal Journal Entry: Only a lone shark visited me and a few petrels over the course of this trip. The final night of my trip was this massive front and lighting storm system. The fronts of lighting passed over me dancing and striking all around. I truly thought I would die.
The gale lasted into the next day. It calmed for the early afternoon only to pickup again around 3PM. I was approaching my first unfamiliar shore with no engine in the midst of a storm. The Coast Guard was marvelous and guided me in.
I headed north into Naraganset Bay only to be caught again in a wild gale. Making this harbor in Bristol, Rode Island was a nightmare and a great challenge. I had to place myself either by anchor or mooring without prop, without an engine. The squalling shifting winds were screaming at 25 plus nauts. I had a mooring in my hands twice only to break the flag and have to drop it. Finally I tried anchoring. I was exhausted and angry. Angry at the circumstances, Mother Nature, God and whoever else I could think of. My thoughts ran ramped. I could be basking in my little secret harbor, working and enjoying weekend sails. Why am I doing this? Finally I anchored way out where the winds were steady with 250 feet of line.
Donna did make it to Newport. She then did numerous folk singing sessions. Thankful to be alive she brought her main sail in so all her new friends could sign it.
Personal Journal Entry: When the gales calmed, I made my way to shore. Miracle meetings begin occurring in my life. I met up by chance with a brother of a friend and was escorted to a bath and warm bed for the night. Miracles continued as I canvassed the town with the Rabbi’s good name and my music in hand. Folk sessions arose, gigs were consistent. Great friends beyond my understanding. Repairs began in Bristol while I headed home for my daughter Ptarmigan’s wedding. I learned of great news of a pending grandchild only to later hear of its loss. I enjoyed great jams with my son Keel. We all played together at Café Lenas and Grand Times.
Off to Ireland
Donna left Newport, Rhode Island on July 18, 2002 for Ireland. She only made 200 miles in the first four days. She had no wind and was caught in a fog.
Personal Journal Entry: After a false start to the sea, I finally left for Ireland on July 18th. Four days of fog and no winds left me only 200 miles out. The radio propagation never improved and I had to face the fact that it was not working. The earlier repairs did nothing. But I would not turn back again though I had no accurate weather or means to report my progress. The lack of weather reports would play a huge role in the challenges of my trip, and in the end, the fantastic gifts I gained.
Donna’s radio died again and then she lost her automatic steering. Without her steering vane, Donna had to manual guide the 28-foot sloop with a make shift tiller extension. The extension allowed her to position herself just inside the galley way for some partial protection as she battled the next 27 days of raging storms, including two storm level eights and one nine. Donna suffered extreme sleep deprivation and fatigue. Keeping the vessel on track was a physical marathon and essential to keep from turtling in seas up to 25-foot. Donna used meditation techniques to control her mind and body.
Personal Journal Entry: I was to hit my first 9-force gale 250 miles off New Foundland. Two days of gales culminating in 25 plus foot seas and 45 naught winds. Steady winds. In the night, I was to lose the trim tab and rudder to my steering vane. Another backhanded gift I was to receive. I decided that I could somehow make myself steer the boat for the next 2100 miles without it. If prisoners of the Holocaust can survive weeks of trains heading for torture and death, I could sit and endure three weeks of sitting in one place steering toward my dreams. But it was to be an endurance challenge beyond my imagination that would teach me the meaning of true mediation. Life where time had to stop being relevant. Time was my enemy. I would panic as the next storm would appear on the horizon. At one point, ten straight days of gale force winds rolled over me including one 8 and one 9-force blow. The last one, only 300 miles from Ireland and two weeks without sleep. The storm was to track more NE but at the last moment it turned due east driving directly over me. But that was to be the last gale of the journey.
Donna eventually found herself stranded 300 miles off the Irish coast. The winds had finally died and she couldn’t get into port. Finally after being spotted off of Cape Clear, Ireland, a Baltimore lifeboat was dispatched to bring her in.
Personal Journal Entry: The sun finally came out after the ten days of gale and almost three weeks without sunshine. Finally I would enjoy 1-1/2 weeks of sunshine but the winds had died. I couldn’t get to land without finally running the engine. I took on fuel off shore, which ultimately clogged my small engines fuel system. After hours of cleaning the systems, I managed to get off Cape Clear on the SW coast of Ireland before I was thwarted and finally rescued five miles off harbor in Baltimore. Ten dolphins, seagulls and petrels saved my psyche. I had learned to meditate inadvertently, not realizing it. That is how I managed to not sleep for weeks at a time. But the dynamic moment when I first smelled earth, I smelled Ireland long before stepping on her ground. The visions from movies and such came alive in the rich earthy smells.
The Irish Times – August 22, 2002
An American woman who defied heavy storms and a self-steering gear breakdown to sail single-handedly across the Atlantic was rescued off the Co Cork coast yesterday as exhaustion threatened to overwhelm her.
Thirty-three days after departing Newport, Rhode Island and just a few miles away from her destination, Ms Donna Lange was left drifting after her yacht, the 28ft Inspired Insanity, suffered engine failure.
Battling chronic fatigue caused by days of sleep deprivation, Ms Lange issued an SOS to the Valentia Coast Guard. She was towed to shore by the Baltimore lifeboat and spent last night recovering aboard her vessel.
Her rescuers said Ms Lange was forced to steer manually after her self-steering gear failed midway through the 2800-mile voyage.
Baltimore lifeboat press officer Mr. Tom Bushe said Ms Lange had been on the point of collapse when rescued. “The conditions she encountered were horrendous. She said she had experienced only six calm days during her journey,” Mr. Bushe said.
Though she is not of Irish descent, Ms Lange has always wanted to visit the country and told the lifeboat crew she was fulfilling a lifetime dream.
She had planned on sailing to Kinsale but was forced to call for help after days with no wind a failed engine. Ms Lange said she would spend several days in Baltimore after recovering.
Personal Journal Entry: The enchanting harbor of Baltimore welcomed me and so did her people. They fed me and gave me showers. They did some interviews on radio after being drawn to my story of rescue by lifeboat. I would recover there for one week. After falling upon more new friends, experiences and lovely people, I buckled down to repairs. I wanted to sail around Ireland but was thwarted again by engine work. It would be a month and $500 to sort all the improper repairs from before. I would lose my window of time to sail around Ireland but I was not ready to leave her music and people yet anyway. I settled in for the winter. Gigs started to fall into place. Newspapers and radio kept an eye on me and I continued to meet the most amazing people. I continued to grow in mind, spirit and health every day. Even my hands were miraculously healed. Great opportunities are in the air. Life is grand.
Returning to the Americas
Donna left Ireland and headed south where she arrived on the island of Cape Verde on September 20, 2003. Cape Verde is located a few hundred miles off the most western tip of Africa. Her journals at the end of her 2-1/2 month stay were both uplifting and painful. Donna loved this culture, the people, the music.
Personal Journal Entry: I have watched the magic of music open homes, hearts, and lives to me all over this island. It has been amazing. I have played with the most accomplished players of Cape Verde, an island of fantastic music. Hopefully I will take some of the rhythms with me. So close to Africa, the influence is great.
Donna decided in early December 2003 that she must move on. Having met a man that stole her heart, she promised herself she would one day return. But for now, her emotional struggles had become overwhelming. Donna learned how PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) from the life changing traffic accident was handicapping her. The escape of the sea was calling her once again.
Personal Journal Entry: I am not able to take on responsibility without panic attacks and unreal fear overtaking my body. Pain and stress responses way out of proportion for what was going on. My nervous system is out of control with fear. Fear of failure and letting people down. Hurting people.
Donna makes final preparations for her sail and changes her route drastically from the original plans to round South Africa.
Personal Journal Entry: But for now, I sail on. It may be a bit precarious. The boat is old. But I am taking a different itinerary. I will go west. The Horn (South America) will present a challenge but otherwise, it is a good route and should serve me well to arrive in New Zealand by the end of April. Of course, it is only a plan. Life has its own way.
My staples for food are simpler now, rice and peanuts plus what is left of the provisions I bought in Ireland. Got to learn to catch fish. I’m angry with life. It is too hard.Donna’s final journal entry before departing gave way to her deepest emotions. Her funds were entirely depleted. Communications during travel have proven to be her most expensive effort so she plans for none. Donna advised her family that she might not be in touch for as much as five months.
Personal Journal Entry: I make no promises. At least I am at sea a good portion of the time. I’m alone there. I can’t seem to settle with the idea of heading back west. It is just backwards and I do not want to go back to the caribbean right now. I am too far out here to lose the momentum, if I still have any.
The final paragraph of Donna’s December 12, 2003 journal was filled with sorrows and regrets, pleas for forgiveness. She would miss a graduation, the birth of a grandchild, Christmas with her family. Donna gave permission to her mother to give her son Keel her remaining $45 in her bank account, money she received for an article she had published.
Personal Journal Entry: I will finish this journeying in only a couple of years and then another chapter can open up. Please love yourselves and hugs to you with all my love. I love you all, you know I love you. Friends, be well. Be well. It’s hard to leave, but as always, I am not ready to stay.
Donna sailed off into the Atlantic with what I believe was almost a plea to reach her own destiny. It is quite apparent that the journey served her well. Somewhere out there at some point in time, Donna changed her course and aimed back toward the Caribbean. Only Donna knows what made her do it, what changed her mind. There's so much of her story yet to be told.
One of the most inspiring stories I heard directly from Donna when I first met her was about the Christmas she missed while on the Atlantic. Donna shared a personal struggle she faced in her life. She told me of a child she bore at a very young age. It was at a time in her life when it was best for the child that Donna give her up for adoption. That would ensure a good life for the child that Donna could not then provide.
Donna gave birth to a beautiful girl. Donna and Kristy were reunited in Ireland for the first time that past year. The details of their new found bond and love were so heart warming to hear. But what I failed to recognize at this time was the dispair that Donna was still battling over. The tragedy of the car accident that has set her adrift. Not once, but repeatedly.
For Donna to be alone with these thoughts on Christmas in the very middle of the Atlantic Ocean must have been heart wrenching. But the amazing story has an unbelievable ending.
Personal Journal Entry: I had an amazing encounter for Christmas joy having noticed a sailboat on the horizon on the morning of Christmas Eve. I found … 3 Frenchmen, 2 guitars and a Scotsman wallowing on the sea… We had a fantastic Christmas Eve. The camaraderie of like-minded sailors, songs and laughter. Whale sightings and great chat. A bottle of wine, offshore foods and a starry starry night gave way to a real sense of Christmas good tidings.
What are the odds of this happening in the midst of the ocean on Christmas Eve? To be thousands of miles from nowhere and run across another small boat. Donna described the challenge of hooking up with a boat of total strangers in the lively seas. The winds calmed just enough to make it happen for this day and as the clock struck midnight, the winds began to blow and the boats were forced to sail apart. But not before the greatest miracle of all.
That night Donna shared some of her heartache of Christmas without her new found daughter. Sharing was helping her deal with it and then, quite unexpectedly and almost unbelievably, one of the Frenchman said, “Donna, would you like to call your daughter”? You can imagine how Donna felt when she learned of their satellite telephone. Donna was able to wish her daughter Kristy a merry merry first Christmas from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean before the boats had to separate that night. I can’t imagine waking up on Christmas morning with those evenings memories, nothing but ocean in every direction and trying to convince myself it wasn’t all a dream.
Click on image below to ENLARGE
Personal Journal Entry: … after 10,000 miles of running reaches, the bulkheads and every internal piece of wood, has developed its own chorus of squeaks and groans. Sleep evaded me and so did sanity. I was somewhat in contact with weather through Herb and Chris Parker but they managed to incorrectly predict my conditions. I felt like I was in a twilite zone of trouble until another boat also reported similar gusts to 45 and 50 knot winds. Only 200 miles or less to go and I had two incidences that reminded me that surviving the sea in itself is enough to make any crossing successful.
During one of the squally nights, my mainsail blew out in its 3rd reef. When I went to change it out for my spare after the winds abated some, the boom jibed and back headed me full on. It through me into the lifelines and I was lucky to have caught myself and still be conscious. If the main had been raised and full, it would have done more damage. I spent the last 10 days nursing a dislocated rib.
Life is precious. The lack of sleep over the last 5-months has really taken its toll both on my strength and psyche. By the time I headed into the Virgin Islands I had come to the conclusion that, until I have outfitted my boat with more sensitive self steering and taken some sailing lessons on my boat, I may be putting on crew for future long trecks. It was a warm welcome in Marina Cay with great friends there. The pirate of pirates, good friend, Michael Bean to be an understanding ear, I took respite on the dock for my first night back.
Donna completed a 28-day Atlantic crossing from Cape Verde, Africa to the Virgin Islands on Tuesday, January 13, 2004. The day I first met her.
I must tell one more Donna story that I did not find in her journals. I know there are so many more that I have yet to hear. Donna was sharing one of her several experiences with me. She was explaining how at one point she was towing two small dinghies about 5-miles off shore. For whatever reason, she was performing some task in one of the dinghy’s while under sail only to be up-ended by a rogue wave. She was catapulted from the dinghy barely managing to snag the painter line on the second dingy. The line saved her and she was able to pull herself into the dinghy and return to her boat. She explained how the thought of losing her boat was overwhelming. She visualized watching her boat sail off into the distance to most certain destruction. I said to Donna, “but what about you? What about the probably slow cold death of drifting off to sea?” Donna said, “Oh… I would have gotten back to shore somehow, but my boat …”
Personal Journal Entry: I have purpose. I just don’t know where it will be and what it is about. I have to be able to trust my senses in the moment. I must separate myself from the influences of energy around and old responses. Watching I think.... Love, Donna
Michael Bean, Donna Lange, Neil VanGundy
June 16, 2004
Donna Lange shared the following in an email to me on June 16, 2004. It’s not only inspiring as is her entire story, it offers some answers to questions so many of us have about the solitude aspects of her time at sea. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Didn't I get lonely out there? This is the most commonly asked question of the solo sailor. Not everyone is born to be completely alone for weeks or a month at a time while putting themselves a thousand miles from everywhere in the middle of the open ocean.
I found the solitude in the vastness of the sea to be very dynamic. I have always been one to keep my needs to myself, responding to others. The classic trait of a mother of 4 having been married for 20 years. The beauty of sailing solo at sea was finding the time and freedom to get to know myself. No one else's routine or timing had to be considered. I was able to conclude how "I… me" like things.
My demands came from Mother Nature and my boat, Inspired Insanity. Mother Nature was much like a demanding 3-year old, completely irrational and uncontrollable. My boat is best described like a demanding 5-year-old child, sometimes reasonable and predictable, sometimes not. How I looked forward to the smooth tradewind days when I could be left alone from both.
Part of loneliness is the challenges created by being "the only one". My boat is far from solo friendly. I’ve never had an auto helm (self steering). So I lack the luxury of just running the engine and pointing to course during a sail change or simple repair. The only line accessible to my cockpit is the jib furling. I can’t imagine the number of laps I did across my deck in setting sails, adjusting and repairing. It took repetition of tasks and allot of forethought to finally efficiently set maneuvers, tasks, place tools in appropriate order and reach. Yet even with good technique in times of long extreme weather, injury, strains, bruised ribs and complete exhaustion, the tasks become very demanding.
Oh the panic that would arise when once more, Inspired Insanity would be pulled to the wind with sails flapping in a tantrum, until I reset her. Using mechanical advantage became paramount to accomplish tasks alone. Extra blocks, longer halyards to reach to points of more convenience. At just 5'2" and 120lbs, I employ the winches and long handles of advantage to loosen bolts. Yet, I climb like a monkey and then hang on one handed to tie knots and rethread halyards at the peak of my mast.
Anger becomes acute sometimes until finally an explosion erupts. I scream vehement displeasure, occasionally smash whatever the hand finds. Then cessation of violent pent up energy, self talk to calm, slowing of the heartbeat and recovery phase. The sigh... "Life goes on", I quote from an old friend.
I was once told that my learning style is verbal. I believe this might be true. I found it helpful to talk through ideas to help me learn or resolving. I am able to verbalize aloud at sea where hearing my own voice allows me to counsel and advise. I can give a double dose of self-talk to my brain. If an outsider were to ever over hear, the illusion may sometimes sound as if there’s a ranting raving diesel mechanic on board with a twist of PMS. My own voice can calm myself while I’m cramped up in the knuckle busting confines of my hull. Much like I would comfort a friend, with compassion and understanding, non-judgmental.
My world of iteration was spiritual. My mind would become quieter as words roll off my tongue instead of tossing around my brain. Emotions could flow without check. I found this new practice enabled me to interact with myself more constructively. Yes, finding new ways to live and function, this is what my travels are about.
I took some fine company on board in the form of the written page. Many meditative and poetic writings. Classics I had never taken the time to read. These writings benefited me in incredible ways amidst the environment and challenges of solo sailing to foreign lands. Reading often gave me a language and framework for the spiritual growth in my journey towards self-love. I was not feeling alone out there at sea. Instead, I felt more and more comfortable with my own company. I found that I was a capable person. I was a good friend. I was a hard worker. I enjoyed myself.
I also read a random variety of books given to me. Books I would never have chosen off a shelf. But I wanted entertainment so I turned to them. Yow!! It was an unusual education. I wasn't used to encountering sexuality and cruel worlds on the written page where the imagination is not limited by an artist's portrayal or directors depiction.
I cruised my own stories of life and realized the fullness I have enjoyed. Yet I was daily grateful for the time to focus on myself, free to be spontaneous at every moment. Each moment to embrace and create on my own. The next step would be to integrate this new self into the universe of wild and continual human energy. Do it without losing myself in the old patterns of response. My personal research goes on.
The social environment created by the animals of the sea, the schools of tuna, pods of dolphin and whale, flocks of seagulls, pairs of storm petrels, was a psyche saver. They were there with me when I truly was alone, even unable to communicate because of my broken radio. Visitations from the sea were my only social mimes. I wonder if the dolphins know me as the big fish with the musical whistle that sings and plays tunes for them. Somehow I felt they knew me personally as they returned daily in the north Atlantic. They would even escort me into every approach to land and be there when I would leave to escort me back to sea. Such concrete serendipity to the flow of life that I was most certainly a part of. Instead of loneliness, I felt integrated with life. So cared for, so much gratitude.
Lifelong issues were finally journaled, chronicled, and faced. Often resolved into new understandings filled with love and the ability to move forward in life, free from inhibition. I realized that as a little girl, concealed shame imposed by religious constraints had condemned my individuality and creative expression.
Exploration and discovery had now become my norm. Being alone amidst challenge reveals the qualities, the strength and true motives of my heart. I found a gentle, kind and dynamic woman at the core. When the sea and Mother Nature, God and the universe, tested me for endless days and nights, no sleep between challenges, I found nothing bad deep inside of me. I am free at last. No longer a lonely desperate woman in need.
Strange how it took extreme aloneness to end my deepest sense of loneliness.
Upon surviving my north Atlantic crossing, my son's first words to me were, "Well, mom, if life's traumas don't kill you, they are bound to make you stronger". And that it had. He understood having had to recover from a major motorcycle accident at 16 years old.
I guess the hardest solo issue for me was sleep deprivation. Praise be to sailors who are real engineers and love to do meticulous maintenance, have high tech efficient systems, sail as a day job. My heroes. But I am none of these. I raised a family with junk old cars; we built canoes, built our house. I never called a repairman but instead learned all types of small repair techniques. From this background, a degree in nursing and a passion for music and the outdoors, I piece together the skills I have to own, maintain and sail this boat.
No sailing school for me, yet. I am planning to get some added veteran input to learn some more skills that will allow me more respite at sea. I have found it too traumatic to really rest. I always succumb to the determination of just getting out there to sail the boat. I am more comfortable working the deck than flying around below.
But I believe I have much to learn. Crazy weather systems, failing electrical systems, old gear, worn sails, injury, and soul searching mental anguish all tormented my attempts to rest. The 3-year old would throw a tantrum and the 5-year old would demand a repair. As the whisker pole line snaps I spy a new tear in the main. The vane gear won't hold course, the electrical wiring shorts. With no gauges to detect changes in
the engine or environmental conditions, my senses never slept. Every change in sound, off roll of the hull, slap of water, flutter of my tell tale flag, would bring me to the deck. Well, it’s a boat … I know!
So to answer that question, Nope! I don't get lonely out there. I look forward to future crossings (the Pacific next summer) with more reliable equipment, practiced techniques to respite amidst, added systems, gauges, alarms, so my senses can take a rest. Rest ... AHH! Fairest of winds and love, only gratitude.
A Wild Irish Sea Story
March 1, 2005
I received an email from Donna on March 3, 2005 with the following story that I must pass along.
As I’ve settled into living in the British Virgin Islands, the opportunities to sing and play music are growing. Famous old friend, Michael Bean, has opened up doors for me, as have other great supporters of my music and sailing. I had the privilege to cover Michael’s show at Pusser's Rob White Bar on the hill at Marina Cay two nights ago. Michael has such a following in the charter sailing industry with his Pirate show. Great energy, pirate toasts, conch shell blowing contest and great music.
I had Michael’s usual full house to play to. As I prepared to play I canvassed the crowd as I do as an entertainer. In the corner, I spy three gentlemen sitting around a table. I introduced myself to the audience and asked the gentlemen where they were from. One of the gents responded in a heavy brogue, “we’re from Ireland". I couldn’t help enthusiastically sharing my tale of sailing solo from Rhode Island, U.S.A to Ireland and ultimately back to the Caribbean. The interesting part was that my Caribbean arrival was right here at Marina Cay just a year ago, almost to the day.
I plugged the crowd about how welcomed I was in Ireland and how wonderful the people are. Well, the same Irish gent very casually responded, “We were there." "What do you mean, you were there," I asked? I never expected to hear what he had to say next. The gentlemen went on, "we were actually there, in Baltimore Harbor, Ireland to see you being towed in by the RNLI (Valentia Coast Guard) on August 21st, 2002. I was a bit taken with the series of coincidences, which seem to keep circling my life. He went on, “you looked wrecked, but your boat looked worse". These three Irishmen had just returned on that day from a coastal sail and were in the harbor the same time I was extracted from my boat. They saw me being helped to the safety of the dock after 33 days on the Atlantic.
The Irish gents were in good form that night at Marina Cay and sang Irish songs with me. Kevin even played a bit of the bodhran, my Irish drum, while I played some jigs and reels on the Irish tin whistle. Amazing. The world of sailors and sailing ports is really a close community of comrades. The Rob White Bar is much more than a pub filled with individuals drinking painkillers. We are friends sharing the open sea as a place to be restored after the demands of land life. Seeking solace and peace in the breezes and sun. We enjoy reunions with sailor friends from all over the world, stopping at Marina Cay to hear a famous sailor, Michael Bean sing his tunes and share stories of pirates and sailing ships. Always a bit of magic in the air. Fairest of Winds and Love, Donna.
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