26 May

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Tranquility : A Memoir of an American Sailor by Billy Sparrow

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tranquility
Excerpt from book:
Puget Sound may not look like much when you see it from the deck of a ferry moving along at a twenty-knot clip, but it’s a challenging and temperamental body of water to sail a small craft on. First and foremost, the skipper of a low-powered vessel like Tranquility must plan for the strong currents which go hand-in-hand with the fifteen-foot tides the region is known for. That’s a lot of water moving around. When the wind blows hard in the opposite direction of the current—which can run up to seven knots—a foul type of confused sea is kicked up which can delay a voyage or put a small boat at risk. Wind-against-tide they call it.

Puget Sound is nothing to play around with. It’s a vast expanse of water, more inland sea than sound in places and the surrounding terrain is generally unforgiving. Shoals extend far from shore in many places, while in others the water is too deep for a vessel to anchor a safe distance from shore.cThe mainland and islands are heavily wooded, there’s hundreds of bays and channels and inlets and passages that all look the same to the untrained eye, making it easy for a novice mariner to lose his bearings. To a beginner, Puget Sound waters can seem as listless or fearsome as the ocean. An anchorage that looks fine one day can turn into a dangerous blowhole the next, as the winds and weather move up and down the sound following the lay of the land. The forests come down to the shores of the sound, the hinterland rivers eat away at their banks, pick up dead trees and carry them to the sea, so there’s logs and stumps adrift to watch out for year-round. Several busy ports are in the region, so there’s a good deal of shipping traffic to steer clear of as well. You have storms in the fall and snows in the winter, gales in the spring and fogs in the summer. The pleasure-boating season is brief and uncertain, and, even in the middle of summer, the water is dangerously cold.

That is Puget Sound and a Puget Sound sailor is a very good sailor indeed.

And so, with nary a glance at the chart book and only a vague idea of what the tide was going to do to us, John and I motored Tranquility through the narrow sea lane, under the railroad bridge and headed her for the sublime and windless waters of Puget Sound. There were certainly no ill-omens to be read in the weather. It was shaping up to be a warm and lovely starlit evening. As soon as we were out of the shallows, we began steering a jolly old course that bent broad away from shore in a way that guaranteed we would be as far as possible, as fast as possible, from safety or assistance, for most of the night. We had no inkling of what was in store for us out there and, in a little while, we were much farther from shore than a minimum of caution would have allowed us to stray.

After a fairly aimless hour of motoring, John and I turned our attention to an enormous red and black freighter that appeared out of nowhere in the distance off our stern. She was coming up on us from out of the south and she was footing it fast. John, who was steering when we first saw her, was soon facing dead-aft watching her approach. We kept our eyes on the ship for a long time, transfixed by her steady progress, but it was impossible to say exactly where she was headed. One minute she seemed to be coming right for us and the next, she looked like she was going to pass far to the west. Yet all the while she drew nearer…or seemed to. It was pretty hard to tell, because the movements of the distant ship were soon influencing our own wandering course. When she veered a little to port, Tranquility veered a little to starboard to stay out of her way. And when she veered a little to starboard, Tranquility veered a little to port –all but guaranteeing a confrontation. As captain, I knew my job was to do nothing, act nonchalant at all times, and choose my words carefully. So it was John who spoke up first. He whistled through his teeth and said: “Just look at that thing! Do you think she even sees us?” Based on our relative speed and heading, I figured the freighter saw us and was going to pass a half-mile to the west and therefore posed absolutely no danger. I made up my mind that we were okay and I issued an authoritative, “Chill-out, bro” to John, who didn’t seem put at ease by it. Then I hopped below deck, where, from a concealed location, I watched the approach of the ship through a porthole with growing apprehension. Ten uneasy minutes later, there was absolutely no doubt about it. The freighter was bearing down on us! And I had to do something quick…but what?

More information on the book visit here.

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20 Mar

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Manry at Sea—In the Wake of a Dream

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RM slides 18-brereton 06 cleaned_edited 1200wide

RM slides 18-brereton 06 cleaned_edited 1200wide

Interview with Steve Wystrach about the upcoming feature documentary called Manry at Sea—In the Wake of a Dream

For more information on the film and to watch the trailer, click here.

1. How did you come across the Robert Manry archives?

The seeds of the Robert Manry Project sprouted in 1996 while I was preparing for a voyage from Southern California to Hawaii. I’ve been an avid sailor most of my adult life, with a special love of bluewater passagemaking. During that period, I reread many of my books about solo sailors and small boat voyages.

Since I was in the process of outfitting my boat, I had a particular interest in sections about gear and provisioning. One of the most detailed chapters on the subject is “Comments for Sailors,” in Manry’s 1966 book, Tinkerbelle. His book was exciting and inspirational the first time I read it, and remains one of the best sea stories in my library.

I noticed in Manry’s equipment list that he carried a 16mm movie camera. I simply asked the question, “Where is the film?” That set off a case of amateur sleuthing, and in the end (after two years), I located Robert’s brother John, in Alberta, Canada, who told me, “Yes, it’s all in a box in my garage. I was afraid I might have to toss it in the trash one of these years during Spring cleaning.”

2. Have you always worked in the film industry?

I’ve been a filmmaker since high school, and spent my professional career as a film editor and archivist. I manage the classic TV archive for the US Borax 20-Mule Team show, Death Valley Days (1952-1970), and just completed the restoration of all 452 episodes for the Library of Congress. It’s currently playing on the STARZ Western channel, and Grit TV.

3. Are you also a sailor or adventurer?

Besides sailing, my other passion is making long-distance walks on the vast network of European trails, particularly in France. I’m leaving in April for a 5-week trek heading south from Reims. I walk solo, and carry an ultralight backpack, and usually stay in bed and breakfasts, or hostels. It’s a fabulous way to see a country. I’ve also walked the 500-mile Camino de Santiago in Spain three times. I have a website about those adventures at www.longwalking.com where there’s a short video about some of the trails I’ve walked.

4. What have you learned about Manry during your research that has surprised you?

First, he was an ordinary “everyman,” who nurtured a very strong secret desire to fulfill his life long dream of sailing across an ocean, ever since he heard a lecture by a German adventurer, while growing up in India.

Second, was how the news media feeding frenzy began, and the audacious way that one journalist set out to track down Manry at sea, in order to scoop up the story before Tinkerbelle arrived in England. It’s a riveting twist to the story, and makes the film much more than just a “boy in a boat” adventure.

5. What impact do you think the voyage had on Manry’s relatively short life?

The main thing is that despite the limitations placed on him by culture, class, finances, and family, with humility, quiet tenacity and a joy for life, he made his dream come true. There’s a lot of depth to his biography that is not included in his book.

His fame gave him freedom to pursue other ventures. He had a successful tour of the lecture circuit, and made a second, year-long voyage, in a larger boat, circumnavigating the eastern United States with his family. I own that film, too, so who knows, maybe there will be a sequel. But, first things first.

6. What do you anticipate will the movie’s running time?

This is a full-length feature and runs a little over 90 minutes. We have a finished rough cut, which has been honored as an “Official Selection” at the American Documentary Film Festival, coming up in Palm Springs. In late March, I’ll be participating in a film pitch forum, competing for a grant that will go toward completing the film. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. There’s a second trailer rough cut you can watch here.

7. What is your expected movie release date?

If the financing and creative details like composing the score, animation, and a massive amount of film restoration all come together, we’re looking to complete by November – in time to submit to Sundance. ###

Read the eBook PDF of Tinkerbelle here.

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09 Mar

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Southern Cross Update #8 “Safe and Sound in Puerto Williams”

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Received one short call from Howard and he reported he had successfully recovered “Southern Cross.” The boat was found afloat on her side in excellent condition. As we spoke she was on the deck of the old wooden fishing boat that had carried her back to the safety of Puerto Williams. Apparently the recovery mission was an adventure as well, as Howard and crew had to race both an arriving storm and a possible rival salvage boat. And then of course there was trying to recover the boat itself in the treacherous location, with Howard having to go back into the water to manage recovery.

More later…

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06 Mar

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Southern Cross Update #7: Against All Odds

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Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 9.10.04 AM

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 9.10.04 AMReceived a couple of slightly cryptic texts from Howard’s inReach two-way satellite communicator. They seem to suggest Howard has recovered Southern Cross and is trying to move quickly along to avoid incoming weather. More as we hear from him. Here are the messages:

“SC rescued epic to all who helped i am grateful at georgiana 150Miles to go to pt williams weather. coming race to safety”

“SC on board racing for safety against all odds sc survived against all odds we rescued joy gratitude to sailing friends.”

See track or map here: https://share.garmin.com/HowardRice