On Tuesday, July 13th, after nearly two days of drifting to the sea anchor while working on the rudder, we started sailing again and it soon became evident the repair job would hold up. The rudder was now as strong as iron; I expected no further trouble from it.
That day and the next the weather was cloudy. Then came July 15th, a wonderful, sunny day, and my sextant sights revealed we had passed 37° W, the halfway mark. That evening I celebrated the occasion by eating, with delicious hard-sauce topping, the plum pudding I had brought along for that specific purpose. I felt we were getting somewhere at last. It would be a downhill run the rest of the way.
But there was a tinge of sadness in this fact, too, for it meant the voyage was now middle-aged, moving closer and closer to old age and, after that, "death." I didn't think I'd want it to go on forever, yet, whether I did or not, its end, no matter how happy or how longed for, would be accompanied by sharp twinges of pain, an undercurrent of profound regret. For then the voyage-and all it meant to me in happiness-would have moved from anticipation through realization into the past, where events, once lodged, existed only in the limbo of memory and could not (no matter how hard we tried) be relived. I consoled myself with the thought that there would be other challenges to face, other dreams to fulfill, even though none in the future could compare with this one.
When darkness descended on us, a fairly gentle southwest breeze was blowing, so I decided to wing out the small twin jibs for self-steering and let Tinkerbelle continue moving eastward
taking care of herself, while I slept. The small jibs didn't perform quite as well as the twin gennies had, since their smaller area meant less force exerted on the tiller and less responsiveness to changing conditions. They allowed the boat to weave from side to side somewhat, but nevertheless kept her headed in a generally eastward direction. I managed to get six hours of sleep. However, the possibility that the wind might increase dangerously while I slept made me so nervous I never again tried the self-steering stunt. I didn't even try it during the day, when I was awake because the twin jibs were so small they couldn't keep Tinkerbelle moving at her best.
Between noon, Saturday, July 17th, and noon the next day, Tinkerbelle made her best day's run of the entire voyage: eighty-seven miles. To achieve that mark I had kept her going all night, but it was worth it, for it made the step from 40° W to 30° W the briefest of the whole countdown: only nine days. In comparison, the first step, from 71° W to 60° W, had taken sixteen days; the second step, to 50° W, had taken twelve days, and the third step, to 40° W, had taken thirteen days. (The next two ten-degree steps in the countdown were to take, in succession, eleven days and twelve days.) By July 18th, too, we had moved along more than four degrees in the ten-degree countup from 40° N to 50° N.
Three days later, in the early afternoon of Wednesday, July 21st, we were becalmed for several hours. I lowered the sails, secured the boom in the boom crutch and sat in the cockpit, leaning back against the aft end of the cabin, resting and thinking. The ocean in a dead calm must be the quietest place on earth. Not a sound was to be heard except that of my own breathing. There were no birds to be seen or heard, and no chuckling of ripples. The ocean was flat and round like a gigantic blue coin, and it was as silent as a motionless penny. The scene was eerie and yet so peaceful, so soothing, so soul-refreshing.
I reveled in it. It seemed almost as though I had achieved the blessings of the Buddhist's nirvana, the Moslem's paradise and the Christian's heaven without having gone through the qualifying preliminary travail. I was fortunate indeed.
At about five o-clock a westerly breeze started to blow, and the sea's surface stirred as if it were a counterpane on the bed of a sleeping giant. I didn't feel the breeze right away; I heard it first, or rather, I heard the breaking wavelets it caused. When the little breakers approached to within half a mile (or maybe it was closer than that), they sounded-amid that vast stillness-like lions roaring. My ears made them seem frightening, but my eyes told me they weren't worth worrying about.
Soon the breeze reached us and with it the midget breakers. The usual sounds of the sea resumed; the chuckling, gurgling, sloshing, hissing, bubbling that had grown so familiar in the weeks since we had slipped out of Vineyard Sound. I hoisted the sails and we got under way again.
Observed from the high deck of a liner, the sea had seemed rather drab and monotonous; nothing but unbroken stretches of water and sky divided by the horizon. But on board Tinkerbelle, down close to the water, the sea became immensely more interesting; first, because of the seemingly infinite variety of wind, wave and sky combinations, and, second, because down low it was easy to see things in and on the water that could seldom be seen by anyone from a fast-moving ship.
The waves, of course, were formed by the wind; and their size depended on the force of the wind, the length of time it had been blowing in a given direction and the distance it had traveled over the sea during that time. A moderate westerly wind blowing for, say, four hours over a hundred miles of ocean might start six-foot waves marching eastward. This, for Tinkerbelle, meant a relatively uncomplicated run before the wind; enlivened, perhaps, by some surfboarding down the forward slopes of the waves. Good enough. But now imagine the wind backing forty-five degrees into the southwest and starting
other waves marching northeastward. This sort of change occurred frequently and kept things from getting dull, since the two different sets of waves periodically got into step, reinforcing one another and producing waves considerably bigger than those that came before or after. That was why, so often, bigger-than-average waves came in definite cycles, with smaller waves in between. Then, gradually, as the original waves lost their energy and subsided into swells, the newer waves grew and, if the wind continued blowing from the same direction long enough, erased all traces of the earlier waves.
But this was just the beginning of the possible variations. Sometimes eastward-moving waves met platoons of northward-moving cross-waves or even northwestward-moving waves. Sometimes a gentle northwesterly breeze pushed Tinkerbelle northeastward while the waves, marching out of the southeast, moved directly against the breeze. Sometimes the swells moved in one direction, the waves in another and the wind in still another. And once, unforgettably, Tinkerbelle was becalmed in the midst of rows of steep swells moving south while other equally steep swells moved north. As these opposing ranks of swells met, they shot up into sharp peaks that made our presence among them interesting, to say the least.
On another occasion Tinkerbelle was ghosting along before a very light westerly breeze, against big swells coming toward her from the east. Each swell was so big that it pushed a great mass of air in front of it, creating a breeze in opposition to the light westerly. And that produced a maddening afternoon of sailing for me. Tinkerbelle's mains'l was swung out to starboard to catch the light westerly, but when a swell came along the breeze it made backwinded the sail and sent the boom back out to starboard. And then, of course, along came another swell with another counter-breeze to shoot the boom at my head again. It went on like that for four or five hours, during which
I got a number of nasty knocks on the noggin.
There was no need to worry about Tinkerbelle's relationship to the waves as long as there were no breaking crests. As the waves grew, they broke, first, in a gentle, sliding manner which allowed the foam of the crests to remain on the rear slops of the waves; but then, as they grew bigger still, they broke with a definite curling forward which made the crests fall and thunder down the front surfaces of the waves. When the waves began to break in this forward-curling way, Tinkerbelle had to watch her step. And when the breakers got too big to sail among safely-usually when the wind was blowing at thirty-five knots or more-she had to be tethered to her bucket drogue to keep her headed straight toward them, so as to take them bow on.
The waves we encountered always seemed to be perfectly straightforward creations of the wind. Even the complicated patterns of waves, cross-waves and counter-cross-waves were born of the wind, and the steps in their genesis usually could be deduced from observation of their behavior. We never, that I know of, encountered "freak" or tidal waves one hears about occasionally, which are caused by undersea earthquakes or similar disturbances; but we did meet, fairly frequently, a peculiar type of wave that differed markedly from its fellows in deportment. We'd be moving along at a brisk pace, minding our own business (I, paying no attention whatever to the waves which were approaching, say, from the starboard quarter), when all of a sudden a chunk of frothing wave top the size of four basketballs would break off from a whitecap and come charging diagonally across the established path of the waves and give Tinkerbelle an impudent swat on her behind as though chastising her for some sort of misconduct. Or maybe they were love pats; I never did really decide which. Anyway, Tinkerbelle got a lot of them.
Besides the variations produced by winds and waves, the expressions of the sea's face were constantly being altered by changes in the sky. When the sky was an inverted bowl of translucent
blue, unblemished by a single cloud, the sea, too, was a brilliant blue; deep, rich, so saturated with azure pigmentation it seemed as though Tinkerbelle's white hull would be stained. At the other extreme, when the sky was blotted out by gray clouds, the sea also was gray, gloomy, foreboding. There were numberless variations between these extremes, of course, and the clouds themselves-cumulus, stratus, cumulo-nimbus, alto-cumulus and cirrus, varying in shape, extent and degrees of darkness-added a whole new set of possible combinations to keep the sea environment from becoming dull. No two days were exactly the same.
Sometimes cumulus clouds lay in banks right on the surface of the ocean, making it look as if they marked a nearby shoreline. At other times they spaced themselves in tiny clumps that made the sky look as if it were polka-dotted with cotton balls. And at still other times they grouped themselves in huge, miles-long canopies that took hours to pass by. I remember one of these gigantic canopies that passed overhead. Tinkerbelle and I had been sailing under it all day and then, shortly before sunset, I looked back and there was its end a few miles astern, with clear, blue sky beyond. It was delightful to watch the sharp, trailing edge of that cloud blanket pass over us and move on ahead, leaving us under a cobalt dome with golden sunlight cavorting on a pathway to the west. It was like coming out of a cave into the daylight.
Objects I saw in and on the sea also helped to keep the trip from becoming tedious. I saw whale, dolphin, dorado, sharks, tuna, storm petrels, shearwaters, terns, flying fish, gulfweed and a sea worm, which I have already mentioned. In addition, I saw odd, translucent things drifting through the water, just below the surface, some of them rectangular, like shoe boxes, but about half that size. Each one of these had a bright orange patch on one side that, I guessed, could luminesce. And I saw countless Portuguese men-of-war.
I began seeing the Portuguese men-of-war as soon as we got into the Gulf Stream and kept on seeing them almost all the way across the ocean, although the nearer we got to England the smaller and scarcer they became. They were most numerous in the area between 40° W and 20° W. While in this part of the ocean, I amused myself one afternoon by counting those I met; I spotted thirty in half an hour. Since I saw one a minute in the narrow strip of sea through which we were traveling, the total number must have been fantastically large, probably well into the millions.
The Portuguese man-of-war is a strange-looking creature (some experts say it is three creatures) with a transparent, elongated balloon float, surmounted by a sail-like crest, showing above water; and with long, evil-looking tentacles dangling below it, sometimes to a depth of three or more feet. The floats of a few I saw were almost colorless, but most of them were pale blue, and some of these blue ones had violet-tinted sails. They were pretty but, as I found out, painful.
I awoke one morning to find a Portuguese man-of-war entangled in a jib sheet that had been trailing in the water through the night. When I pulled the sheet on board, some of the man-of-war's tentacles clung to it, without my knowledge, and I touched them. They caused a pain very much like a bee sting and soon red welts appeared on my fingers. I had read that anyone heavily stung by a man-of-war would be lucky to survive and, after having suffered one small sting, I could well believe it. I henceforth made sure trailing sheets were free of tentacles before I handled them.
Once we were moving slowly before a gentle breeze and I noticed that many of the Portuguese men-of-war we passed had small fish, five or six inches long, hovering under them and that some of these fish left the men-of-war and took up new positions under Tinkerbelle. Before the day was out, my craft had a troop of more than a dozen fish accompanying her. I suppose they felt Tinkerbelle's red bottom would scare off bigger fish that might otherwise be tempted to gobble them up. I was glad
to let Tinkerbelle watch over them as long as the breeze was gentle and we couldn't go any faster, but the next day the wind picked up and we had to leave the little fish behind. I imagine they found other men-of-war with which to hobnob.
Besides living things, there were interesting inanimate objects to see in mid-ocean. An empty fifty-gallon oil drum sped
by one day before a strong southeasterly wind. I also saw drifting mooring buoys, gasoline cans, glass fish-net floats, and planks, beams and tree trunks of varying sizes, all heavily encrusted with gooseneck barnacles. I came across pieces of orange-red fish net, too, the same sort of net I saw later on trawlers in England. But the most surprising non-living thing I bumped into was an electric light bulb. It was bobbing through the waves, buoyant as you please, untroubled by the breakers and seemingly capable of continuing indefinitely. Only the Lord knew how long it had been afloat and how many storms it had survived, but I'll wager it had been through more than one.
Well, I thought, that ought to prove something about the strength and safety of small boats too.
While I was still becalmed on July 21st, I saw three ships, two of them at the same time. It was the first time I'd had more than one ship in sight since June 6th when I had seen the Russian trawlers. "Made the spot seem like Times Square," I wrote in the log.
One of the ships came up over the eastern horizon headed straight for us, moving at full speed on an unwavering course. I was beginning to think it didn't see us and that I had better dive into the water and swim for my life when it finally swerved off to port and passed with no more than twenty-five yards' clearance. It had a hammer and sickle emblem on its funnel, so it was Russian; and on the stern was its name, Neptun There wasn't a single person to be seen on deck, but just after it passed, someone, possibly the captain, came out on the port wing of the bridge and studied us through binoculars. I'd have given more than a penny for his thoughts. Then the ship disappeared over the western horizon as speedily as it had approached the east.
That night I was sailing along happily when suddenly I saw a phosphorescent streak in the water headed directly toward Tinkerbelle. Startled out of my wits, I thought, Lummy! We're being torpedoed! But almost at once, of course, I realized that was ridiculous. Nevertheless, I half shut my eyes and held my breath, bracing myself for the impact of whatever it was against the boat. But none came. A few seconds later I heard a peculiar popping and the sound of air being expelled. That gave the show away. The torpedo was a dolphin.
Several other times, later on, I saw these luminous streaks in the water and they never failed to excite me. Dolphin visited us frequently, both day and night, but they never stayed with us long. I think their longest visit lasted all of thirty seconds. Tinkerbelle was just too slow to be interesting to dolphins, so they'd swim circles around her for a few seconds and then off they'd race about their own high-speed affairs.
The wind was so strong all day Thursday, July 22nd, that I kept the boat hitched to the sea anchor while I remained snug inside the cabin. I relaxed, did a few maintenance jobs and listened to the radio. In addition to the B.B.C. and the other stations I've already mentioned, I began to get a station in
Lisbon, Portugal, regularly, and a delightful place in Holland that called itself "The Happy Station."
On Friday (July 23rd) the wind was still blowing hard and I was sure many of the waves were twenty-footers, equal to the largest waves we had met, but we started sailing anyway because I was determined to reach Falmouth, if I possibly could, by August 15th. It was wet going; I was soaked from the waist down, in spite of the anti-exposure suit I wore, but nothing untoward happened. There were no knockdowns or other crises.
The weather was cloudy, with scattered rain squalls to contend with, but nothing more serious than that. I remember I felt extremely pleased with Tinkerbelle and with myself when we managed to maneuver between two squalls, thus avoiding the rain they were dropping onto the sea.
The twenty-fourth was a beautiful, sunny day, with fluffy white clouds in the sky and a breeze of just the right strength.
Then on the twenty-fifth the weather about-faced, as it did so often during the voyage. Here's what I put into the log:
"Overslept just a bit this morning. Didn't hear the alarm. It's now 6 A.M.Tinkerbelle time.
"The wind and waves seem O.K. for sailing, but it's a dismal, cloudy day. (Barometer's up, though.) The weather sure has pulled a switch."
Just before sunset the sky cleared and that evening I logged this:
"Soon after it cleared, the wind died out for a bit, then shifted to the west for about an hour, still very light. Then it shifted to the southwest, closer to south than west, and picked up in force. The sky stayed clear most of the night and it was very pleasant sailing. The wind was just right, strong enough to move us at a good rate, but not so strong as to make me nervous. I spent almost all night listening to the B.B.C. I heard a fine discussion on acting by Noel Coward, a moving essay (with sound effects) on the season in Britain, news, music and commentaries."
During the first half of the voyage I hadn't used the radio for much besides getting the time signals since I didn't want to exhaust the batteries too swiftly (although I carried three sets of spare batteries). But in the second half of the trip, when I found the batteries were holding up extremely well, I spent many hours listening. The sound of voices helped to soften the aches of loneliness that occasionally wrenched my inner being.
July 26th (Monday) was a cloudy, gloomy day and at about 2 P.M. the wind grew so strong we had to heave to. The next day started out even worse, for in addition to being cloudy the wind had shifted to northeast, exactly the direction in which I wanted to go. We'd have to beat against it. I wrote:
"The day began cold, cloudy and miserable. I'm afraid I was quite depressed. It got very foggy later on.
"I forced myself to pull in the sea anchor and get going.
"And then, about 9 or 10 A.M. (T.T.), a remarkable thing happened. All the fog and clouds disappeared. And Tinkerbelle and I had a day of restful, easy sailing under a blue sky and on a blue ocean.
"Took the opportunity to dry clothes and towels. My spirits rose again to normal and above."
This type of mood change occurred about half a dozen times during the journey. Cloudy and adverse weather, or other setbacks, would get me into a state of melancholy and then, just as my spirits hit bottom, along would come a magnificent, sunny day of fine sailing that made me the happiest, luckiest man alive.
July 28th (Wednesday) was memorable for three events. I described the first of these in the log like this:
"This has been quite a day. Started sailing with just the jib because the following waves were pretty big and the wind quite strong. But I didn't get much speed with just the jib, so I decided to add the reefed mains'l. That was a mistake, under the conditions. We started surfing down the forward slopes of the bigger waves and then, while doing this, we broached and I got knocked overboard for the sixth time.
"That wasn't so bad. I climbed back on board very quickly. But when I went over I was holding the tiller and the 'axle' part of the rudder fitting was badly bent. [I held fast to the tiller because I wasn't wearing a lifeline and didn't want to risk being separated from Tinkerbelle.] Luckily, though, I had brought along a spare 'axle' and I put it into place without the loss of time."
The second memorable incident occurred immediately after the rudder had been repaired, before we got under way again. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but in the interests of making this an absolutely true account of Tinkerbelle's voyage I'd better do so. The painful fact is that while I was moving about the deck, preparing to resume sailing, I lost my balance and simply fell overboard with a great splash. I came to the surface, furious at myself for being so clumsy, but by then, of course, it was too late.
The third big event of the day was recorded thus in the log:
"I was breezing along between 23° W and 22° W in the late afternoon and happened to look back and there was a big freighter hot on my heels. It was the S.S. Bischofstor off Bremen.
"I waved as it passed and got a lot of waves back. Someone inquired if I was all right and I assured him I was."
The ship didn't stop, as I was in no need of assistance, and soon was out of sight. I was thankful that it hadn't passed by any earlier, for it might then have witnessed my ignominious fall into the sea. My clothes were still sopping when it went by. An hour or so later, when I stopped for dinner and the evening sun shot, I got into relatively dry clothes.
Some weeks after the voyage was completed, I got the Bischofstor's side of the story of our meeting in a letter from Lothar Steinhoff, third mate of the 8,487-ton vessel. He wrote:
"We had been at sea for 11 days, coming from Tampa, Florida, and bound for Rotterdam with 11,000 tons of phosphate. For the crew and passengers of the ship the 28th of July, 1965 will be unforgettable. The sky was overcast and poor visibility made navigation very difficult. According to our logbook, the sea was smooth; we noted veering westerly winds of Force 2. A sharp lookout was necessary because of the misty weather.
"At about 1800 GMT [Greenwich mean time] the visibility became better. At 1830 GMT a very small object was sighted on our portside. It looked like a buoy. Our true course was 75° and the estimated position 47° 14' N, 22° 37' W.
"Capt. [Wilhelm] Beck altered course to approach as near as possible. Some minutes later at about 1840 GMT we were surprised to make out a small red sail, which we thought must belong to a lifeboat; so we got ready to save shipwrecked persons. But then we noticed it wasn't a lifeboat, but a very small sailboat, with what was probably a one-man crew. It was certainly a memorable occasion for us.
"Capt. Beck asked the lonely man if he needed help. With gestures he indicated to us that all was well. So we continued our voyage, and at 1913 GMT we notified Portishead Radio [in England] of the sighting.
Tinkerbelle was about seven hundred and fifty miles off Land's End, the westernmost tip of England, when she met the Bischofstor. Two-thirds of her voyage was behind her. Before much longer it would be over.
The very next day, July 29th, we met another ship. This is how its master, Captain Olav Viken, described the meeting in a letter to me:
"Our meeting was at 47° 30' N, 22° 00' W.
"When I saw your boat I thought it must be a lifeboat, so we changed our course about 90° to see if assistance was needed. When we found out that you needed no help I wired Rogaland Radio about our meeting and it said it would ask other ships in the area to keep an eye open for you. That was our duty.
"We were on a voyage from Liverpool to Hamilton, Bermuda, and Nassau, in the Great Bahamas, with a general cargo."
Captain Viken's ship was the 9,350-ton M.S. Vardal of Haugesund, Norway. It passed Tinkerbelle to starboard, going southwest. I thought it had disappeared over the horizon, but a little later I looked around and there it was steaming directly toward us. It had finally spotted us and had doubled back on its course to make sure I was O.K. I appreciated what he did, and what Captain Beck of the Bischofstor did, more than I can say, for it meant loss of valuable time for both of them.
Two days later I wrote in the log:
"Seems like every time my morale sags sharply and I begin to feel I've 'had it' a good day comes along to put me on my feet again. Today [Saturday, July 31st] was such a day."
We had a marvelous sail and, to make this last day of our second month at sea even better, we passed to the east of the
meridian of 20° W, completing another stride in the countdown to England. Falmouth was only fifteen degrees away.
I had hoped to continue sailing all that night, but at about 1 A.M., Sunday, August 1st, a thunderstorm hit us. I streamed the drogue and, buttoning Tinkerbelle up tight, got into the cabin out of the blustery, wet weather. All that day and through the night we remained parked to the drogue. It was comfortable enough inside, away from the wind and rain, but it was nerve-wracking to have to stay put when I wanted so much to be moving and end our long voyage. And the whitecaps that slapped the boat every now and then didn't add to my peace of mind.
To help pass the time I decided to launch a bottle with a note inside, just for the fun of seeing if anyone found it. I wrote this message:
"To the finder: This bottle is being released in the Atlantic Ocean at about 48° 30' N, 19° 10' W on Aug. 1, 1965.
"If you will send this message with your name and address -with information on where you found the bottle and when-to Robert Manry, 31003 Royalview Drive, Willowick, Ohio, U.S.A.-he will send you $5 to compensate you for the trouble. Thank you.'
I put the message in an empty plastic bottle that had contained part of my supply of drinking water, screwed on the cap and tossed it into the ocean. It floated so high in the water that the northwest wind got a good grip on it and blew it rapidly into the southeast. It was soon out of sight.
Two months later, after completing the voyage, I was back at my home in Willowick and had forgotten all about the message and bottle, when a letter came from Franciso Maria Baleizao, a resident of a suburban town near Lisbon, Portugal. The letter, in difficult English, said:
"Dear Sir: I find your message on 25th September at three o'clock P.M. in Praia Beach, Sintra, Portugal. I wait, then you send me $5 to compensate. Thank you."
My message, tattered now, apparently from the beating it received as the bottle in which it traveled rolled over and
over on its way to Portugal, was enclosed with Mr. Baleizao's letter. I was surprised and delighted to receive both. The five dollars I had promised and a ten-dollar bonus were on their way to him in short order, and in a subsequent letter, written in Portuguese, he told me a little about himself.
"I was born in a picturesque village of Baixo Alentejuo called Moura, on March 27, 1925," he wrote. "I resided there until the age of twenty, but because of poverty of the area I moved into surroundings of Lisbon, where I have been for the last twenty years. I am a mason by profession. I am married and my wife's name is Gracinda Pechoso Baleizao. I like all sports, but like bicycle racing the best. However, I practice none of them. My parents lived in the Hawaiian Islands close to seven years."
I was pleased that my message was found, but especially pleased that it was found by a man who apparently could use the token reward I offered. I was happy, too, that it was found by a Portuguese because some of the world's greatest seamen have come from Portugal: Prince Henry the Navigator, the stern bachelor who, although he never sailed himself, founded Europe's first school of navigation and sponsored numerous voyages of discovery; Bartholomew Díaz, discoverer of the Cape of Good Hope; Vasco da Gama, who, following on Díaz's heels, reached the riches of India, and, naturally, Ferdinand Magellan, whose fleet was the first to circle the globe.
In the evening on Friday, August 6th, six days after releasing the bottled note, I wrote in the log:
"This was a nice sailing day-sunny, with fluffy clouds. I can hardly believe I'm getting all this good weather. It's quite a switch. Hope it continues.
"We're about halfway to 14° W (it's now 6 P.M. T.T.). I've just finished a huge supper of curried turkey and peas. I'll go on sailing until it starts getting dark. Then I'll size things up and decide whether to stop for sleep or go on all night. This good weather should be used to the fullest.
"I hadn't seen a ship for days and, of course, thought I was
miles from the shipping lanes, which I was. But about 5 P.M. I began hearing a sound that I at first thought was a plane. Then I looked around and saw it was a ship, almost on top of me. It was Italian, the Sirio of Palermo.
"It went by awfully close and fast. I was afraid the bow and stern waves might tip us over, but we rode them all right. The crew at the rail gave us a hearty cheer and, as usual, snapped our picture.
"I continued all night. Saw about five more ships. They're getting thick."
Later I heard from Livio de Manzolini, master of the M.S. Sirio, which was bound for London from Vera Cruz, Mexico. He wrote, in part:
"At 1630 hours [on August 6th] we met your boat in latitude 49° 12' N and longitude 14° 16' W.
"You didn't notice our vessel approaching, but when we got close you turned around and saw us. And when we drew abreast of you, you waved to us as if an encounter such as ours was perfectly normal.
"When I saw that you didn't need help, I continued my course supposing that you were one of those men who are compelled to cross the Atlantic Ocean alone. I telegraphed the English Coast Guard your position."
My thanks to Captain Manzolini for reporting my position and for his kind concern.
On Sunday, August 8th, two days after our meeting with the Sirio, we met another ship, the 556-foot, 18,000-ton tanker Belgulf Glory of Antwerp, probably the largest ship we spoke to on the whole voyage. And the meeting was one of the most memorable.
The big ship, skippered by Captain Emile J.A. Sart, was on its way from Port Arthur, Texas, to London, when it overtook Tinkerbelle at 1230 GMT at 49° 30'N and 12° 45' W, about three hundred miles west of the English coast. Captain Sart, an extremely friendly man with a wonderfully jovial face, stopped
his vessel and hailed me through an electronic megaphone.
"Are you an American?" he asked.
"What is your name?"
"My name is Robert Manry, M-A-N-R-Y. I've come from Massachusetts."
"Where are you bound?"
The captain said he heard on a B.B.C. news program the day before that planes of the Royal Air Force had been searching for me, but I couldn't believe that was true because, according to the voyage plan I had filed with both the American and the English Coast Guards, I wouldn't be considered overdue until after August 15th. So I'm sorry to say I disagreed with the captain.
"I don't think they're looking for me," I said . "They may be looking for another man who left Florida in a twelve-foot boat a week before I left Massachusetts. He was headed for Ireland."
I was referring to Captain William Verity, master of the diminutive Nonoalco (a Mayan word meaning "mute ones" or "those who don't speak our tongue"), who had hoped his voyage would help to prove that Irish monks came to North and South America in the fifth and sixth centuries. I found out later that Captain Verity had been plagued by bad luck and had had to abandon his projected cruise, at least for the time being.
"Do you need any provisions?" Captain Sart called across the ten yards of water between us.
"No, I really don't need anything," I shouted back. But I could see he already had food there on deck and might be disappointed if I refused to take it, so I added, "But I sure could use some fresh fruit."
The food was sealed in plastic bags and these were then secured in a larger canvas bag, which, in turn, was tied into a life jacket to keep it afloat. One end of a heaving line was thrown to me and the other end was tied to the food parcel,
which was then lowered into the ocean. I soon had it aboard and was inspecting its contents. Captain Sart had given me a banquet, the entrée of which was still hot from the oven: a whole roast chicken and potato croquettes (Poulet Roti and Pommes Croquettes from the ship's officers' Sunday menu). The bag also contained a huge loaf of freshly baked bread, apples, plums, lemons, a pound of Dutch butter, a huge slab of chocolate with nuts in it, two cans of soft drink and two bottles of beer.
I had to eat the chicken and the potato right away because there was no refrigeration on Tinkerbelle. And what a meal it was! I was more stuffed than the turkey at our family's last Thanksgiving dinner. It was extremely generous of the captain to give me all that food, I appreciated it immensely, but I couldn't help worrying that maybe one of the Belgulf Glory's officers didn't get enough to eat at dinner that day because of the captain's kindness to me. I sincerely hope not.
Even with its engines stopped, the tanker moved too fast for Tinkerbelle and soon was beyond shouting range. So it circled around and moved by again, and, after that, two more times; and each time it passed we got in a little more conversation. Captain Sart was extremely considerate.
"Is everything all right?" he asked again as his ship passed by the fourth time. "Do you need anything more?"
"No, I'm fine. Thank you very much," I said. "Thanks for the marvelous banquet."
The Belgulf Glory, chivalrous ship that it was, dipped its flag in salute as it returned to its eastward course, and then it gave Tinkerbelle and me a salute of three blasts on its deep steam whistle. I had no flag flying with which to return the dip, unfortunately, but I was able to return the big ship's whistle blasts with my small gas-operated foghorn. I let loose three gas screams that made the hair on my head vibrate but which, to those on the Belgulf Glory, must have sounded like the peeps of a baby chicken.
The hefty tanker churned off toward the English Channel and I followed after it as fast as Tinkerbelle would go. We took the course Captain Sart had given to reach Bishop Rock: 85°. I had one hand firmly on the tiller and the other on the chicken dinner. It was an unforgettable experience.
The captain later sent me a Christmas card and his best wishes. He said he was spending a brief holiday leave with his wife and two children at their home in Belgium; it was only the
fourth Christmas he had been able to enjoy with them in the last thirty years.
Events began to move swiftly after the meeting with Captain Sart and the Belgulf Glory. About 5 P.M. (T.T.) that same day, an R.A.F. Shackleton bomber found us (aided, no doubt, by a position report radioed by the Belgulf Glory to Lloyd's of London). It was flying quite low, under a layer of dark clouds, when the pilot spotted Tinkerbelle's red sail and headed straight for us. It roared by overhead, circled and then roared by twice more, and each time I waved. On the next pass it came toward us very low, so low I though it might clip off the tip of Tinkerbelle's mast; but it didn't, luckily. Instead, it dropped two
bright orange cylindrical canisters tied together with a buoyant line.
I sailed over and pulled the canisters aboard. They contained a wonderful supply of fruit, apples and bananas, and a very friendly message from Wing Commander R. A. Carson of the 42nd Squadron of the R.A.F., based at St. Mawgan, Cornwall, not far from Falmouth, our destination. The message said:
"Welcome to British waters! You are 'big news' and we shall be bringing gentlemen of the press to see you tomorrow, 9th Aug.-at approx. noon. Your present position is 4845N 1220W. Good luck."
It was great to be welcomed so warmly to British waters by the R.A.F. Commander Carson's greeting was a wonderfully gracious gesture; but the thought of being "big news" and meeting gentlemen of the press gave me more than a moment of trepidation. As I tried to cope with that, the big four-engine plane zoomed toward us again and I gave it the hands-clasped-over-the-head salute as it swept by so close I could make out every detail of its constructions. (Those R.A.F. chaps are great fliers.)
That night after dinner, as I sat in Tinkerbelle's cabin listening to a Voice of America news broadcast in French, the plot thickened dramatically. I was taken aback when I heard the announcer say something about Robert Manry (only he pronounce it "Row-bear Maw-ree," of course), navigateur solitaire, and then some stuff that went too fast for me, with my high-school French, to comprehend. But the newscast was repeated in English a few minutes later, and that really bowled me over. It told practically all there was to tell about me and Tinkerbelle and our voyage. I couldn't imagine were the Voice of America had got all that information, or why it was interested in the first place. Somebody on shore must be doing a lot of talking, I decided, and the circumstantial evidence seemed to point to Virginia. But I knew she wouldn't be talking unless she was being asked questions; so it seemed probably that the
V.O.A. had heard of the voyage and had questioned Virginia about it. However the V.O.A. wouldn't have heard about it unless the Plain Dealer had run a story on it that the Associated Press had picked up and put on its wires. The P.D. was apparently more interested in the voyage than I had thought it was. And the reports from the V.O.A. and the R.A.F. seemed to indicate that other papers, besides the P.D., were interested.
I hove to about midnight for some sleep and got up early the next morning, ate a quick breakfast and got moving again. The wind was just a few degrees south of due east, which made it impossible to steer directly toward Bishop Rock, on a course of 85°. The best we could do was about 57°, which meant we were moving northward of the direct course. So, at about 11 A.M. (T.T.), I went over on the port tack to regain our southing.
Not long afterward I saw a trawler approaching from the south on a course that would bring us within hailing distance and I wondered what nationality it was and whether it would stop to exchange a few words. When it got closer, it became apparent that it was steering to meet us rather than just to pass by. It turned out to be English, the Roseland of Penzance, the port west of Falmouth and not far from Land's End, and standing at the rail was a man in a handsome turtle-neck sweater whose face looked vaguely familiar. And behind him stood another man who was operating what I took to be a motion-picture camera.
Gradually it dawned on me where I'd seen the face of the man in the sweater before; it was on the screen of our television receiver at home. Now I knew it; he was a TV newsman. I had heard his broadcasts hundreds of times, but at the moment I couldn't remember his name. And I couldn't imagine what he was doing there; surely he hadn't traveled all the way from Cleveland to see me. Undoubtedly he was there for some other reason and happened to bump into me by chance. But, incredibly, he said he really was looking for me and no one else.
That made our meeting what might be termed "an occasion."
All my instincts told me that now was the time for me to say something genuinely profound, something that would ricochet endlessly down the corridors of history, something with the adroitness, depth and impact of, say, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume." But all I could think of was, "Haven't I seen you somewhere before?"
The man finally had to tell me his name, but he took my mental lapse with good grace. He was Bill Jorgensen of Cleveland's Scripps-Howard Station WEWS, and the cameraman with him was Walter Glendenning. They had been cruising about on the Roseland for about thirty-five hours, looking for me. The spot where we met was roughly two hundred and seventy miles from Land's End.
As soon as I realized whom I was talking with, a question of newspaper ethics arose in my mind. Could I in good conscience report details of a trip to these men from WEWS, a competitor of my employer, the Plain Dealer? Well, I reasoned, the WEWS men apparently are very interested in the voyage, so interested they have gone to enormous lengths and expense to find me, so I think I should tell them whatever they want to know. I felt this way especially when I recalled that the Plain Dealer and national magazines I queried before my departure (all of them at that time believing, because of what I had told them, that I was going on the voyage with another man in a 25-foot boat) had expressed only mild interest in printing stories about the venture. I'll have to acknowledge, frankly, that I didn't think Tinkerbelle's small size would make much difference in the interest shown by the P.D. or other newspapers or the magazines. It's painful for me to have to admit it now, because my experience should have developed a keener insight into what makes news, but I failed to assess properly the news value of my own story. And this failure probably was the greatest miscalculation of the entire expedition. I'm afraid it brands me as somewhat less than perfect as a newsman.
So I spoke freely with Jorgensen; in fact, we talked steadily for three and a half hours while Glendenning took both movies and still pictures. It was good to see a familiar face, at last. That made it seem as though I was actually approaching the end of the voyage. And Captain Victor Watling, skipper of the Roseland, and his crew were most kind to me. They gave me some delicious apples and some wonderful, fresh hot coffee, the best I'd had since leaving Massachusetts. The captain also gave me a position report and a tide table that proved invaluable as Tinkerbelle and I approached the coast of England.
During our conversation Jorgensen showed me a copy of the Packet dated August 6th, and right there on the front page was a story that nearly floored me. It said:
"A hero's welcome awaits 47-year-old American Newspaperman Robert Manry when he sails his tiny boat Tinkerbelle into Falmouth Harbour, a few days from now, at the end of his epic single-handed Atlantic crossing from Falmouth, Massachusetts.
"For nearly 70 days, since he set sail on June 1, Bob Manry has braved the elements, mastering loneliness and enduring as-yet-untold discomforts, because of the cramped conditions aboard Tinkerbelle, to make his dream of an Atlantic crossing come true.
"Yesterday newspaper reporters and cameramen from the United States flew into Falmouth to join those of the British press and international news agencies already in town ready to record the scenes as Manry completes his 3,200-mile crossing at Custom House Quay."
There was more to the story and there were even two pictures: a drawing of me and a photograph of Tinkerbelle that could only have been taken from the deck of one of the ships we met along the way. How the Falmouth Packet happened to have either or both was more than a little puzzling.
A "hero's welcome!" What on earth was building up there in Falmouth? All I could say to Jorgensen after reading the first three paragraphs of the story was "My goodness! Boy, oh, boy!"
Finally we talked ourselves out and it was time to go our separate ways. Jorgensen and Glendenning, who had been my guests aboard Tinkerbelle, scrambled back onto the Roseland, which then headed back toward Penzance. The breeze was very light, so Tinkerbelle and I were soon left far behind.
A few minutes before the Roseland departed, the R.A.F. returned, as it had said it would, presumably with the "gentlemen of the press." This time there were two Shackletons and a third, twin-engine civilian plane that flew very fast and low, passing over us again and again, while the four-engine bombers circled on a broad radius. After the civilian plane had flown over about eight times, it sped away and one of the Shackletons came in low, just above masthead height. Then it wheeled and came back, this time dropping two brightly colored canisters, like those that had been dropped the day before. The R.A.F. fliers must have been using their fancy bombsight for dropping the canisters because they wound up in the water no more than ten yards away and directly in front of us. Tinkerbelle didn't have to change course a single degree to enable me to pick them up. The drop and pickup went like clockwork.
The first canister contained a bunch of English newspapers, no doubt so that I could catch up on the news I had missed while out at sea. I was glad to have them. Then I opened the second canister. It had another huge supply of fruit inside-oranges this time. The way things were going, I'd reach England with more food than I'd had at the start of the voyage. The gifts from the R.A.F., added to what Captain Sart of the Belgulf Glory and Captain Watling of the Roseland had given me, nearly filled the cabin. It had never been so crammed.
Also in the second canister were three notes. The first one said:
"Your position this time: 50° 12' N-12° 17' W-with the compliments and best wishes of No. 42 Squadron, Royal Air Force-Coastal Command-St. Mawgan, Cornwall."
It sure was nice of those R.A.F. fellows to keep track of my position for me; made me fell pretty secure. I knew I wouldn't
get into any trouble with them there, shepherding me along.
The second note was a blockbuster. When I read it, the recoil nearly knocked me out of the boat. It said:
"Bob-We're waiting for you in Falmouth with Virginia and your children. Dangerous to sail in at night. This harbor is jammed with traffic.
"You will see our boat somewhere out of Falmouth. Virginia and the children will be aboard with us.
"Keep sailing. Good luck, God bless you, and we'll see you soon."
The note was signed Bill Ashbolt, George Barmann and Russ Kane, three men from the Plain Dealer.
The news that Virginia and the children were in Falmouth was a real bombshell. I was simply overjoyed, almost delirious with happiness. And oh, how I wanted to get into the harbor quickly and meet my family. It had been a long time since we had been together-a long, long time.
It turned out that the third note was from Virginia herself. She wrote:
"Dearest Robert-Just think, in a very few days I'll be seeing you.
"The Plain Dealer has sent us all over and we've been here since last Friday.
"We've been living in luxury like royalty, but we surely do wish you were here. You will be soon.
"Lots of love. We'll be in a boat to meet you, Virginia."
This was so much more wonderful than anything I had dared hope for that I was struck numb. It was just too much to comprehend all at once. I had to take it in little doses to keep from becoming dangerously intoxicated with joy. Virginia and Robin and Douglas were in Falmouth. They were actually there now, at this very moment, waiting for me. Soon we'd all be there together, reunited. It was marvelous, terrific, super-colossal.
And how generous it was of the Plain Dealer to arrange it.
Thoughts raced through my mind. That guy Jorgensen! He certainly was a sharp newsman, talking with me for more than three hours and not letting me know that the P.D. had three men in Falmouth to cover my arrival or that my family was waiting for me there. Not that I blamed him for keeping mum. In his place I'd have done the same thing because if he'd told me the P.D. men and my family were in Falmouth I might not have spilled the whole story of the voyage to him.
He was just being a remarkably enterprising reporter.
William A. Ashbolt, on of the Plain Dealer men, was the newspaper's director of news photography; George J. Barmann was a veteran of the paper and one of its ace writers, and Russell W. Kane was an assistant to the publisher and the P.D.'s promotion director.
All three men were good friends of mine and I was delighted to know that I would soon be seeing them again-and on the eastern side of the great Western Ocean, as Europeans often called the Atlantic. There was just one little point that worried me: the fact that Russ Kane was the P.D.'s promotion director. Did that mean my voyage was going to be turned into a promotional gimmick for the paper? I hoped earnestly, ardently, that was not so; for I had dreamed of a voyage for too long and it meant too much to me to have it spoiled at the end by being transformed into a commercial enterprise. If that's what Russ intended to do, I would oppose him with every resource at my command. But first I'd have to wait and see what he actually did intend to do.