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  • Susan Flanagan

Livin` the dream | The Kids are Alright | June 26, 2012

School’s out. Time for summer fun and adventure.


A weekend in a tent in Butterpot is an excellent adventure. A day trip to Northern Bay Sands is too. A Saturday morning trip to the dump may be the ultimate adventure for some.

For our two Australian friends, Roger and Gerry, who were in town last week, summer adventure means saying good-bye to comfort and civilization and plowing through the Northwest Passage in a 50-foot steel-hulled sail boat. Hoping to make it out to Alaska by the end of August while there`s still light. The last time we had seen our friends was four years ago. They were on a different sailboat then – slightly bigger. They took us for a spin out to Cape Spear and back before heading to Antarctica. My husband toyed with the idea of joining them as far as the Azores and flying back, but he had just started a new job and the leave would have been hard to justify.


This time round, the adventurers invited my husband to sail with them to Nuuk, Greenland, the first leg of their journey. He was game. The only trouble was to get back home, he`d have to fly to Copenhagen first and that would have cost more than our family vacation. So once again he had to decline their fine offer.


Why do they invite my husband and not me? Because they know you couldn’t pay me to sail any distance with them. No offense to their floating home. It’s clean and efficient. And it’s not that I am distrustful of their seamanship. It’s just that life on a sailboat is damp and showerless and the endless up and down would be the end of my gastrointestinal capacities. Not only that, it is also sleep deprived.


Someone has to be on watch at all times – day and night. Our friends know it might be too much for two people to sail from Greenland to Alaska so they picked up a third crew member when they were in Nova Scotia, a young whipper-snapper mechanical engineer. I’m talking fresh out of Engineering – like wrote his last exam one day in June and was sailing to Newfoundland the next. Back in March when Scott got the offer to sail, he started conducting sleep deprivation experiments on himself. You see due to the sticky someone-on-watch-all-the-time rule, crew members only get to sleep for a maximum of four hours at a stretch. Scott began reducing his time asleep by 10 minutes a night until he worked himself down to three to four hours. After that he never slept more than four hours again. He did this for three months while writing final engineering exams.


I’ve done sleep deprivation. Thank you very much. After nursing five children I’ve had enough of it for a lifetime. Scott or my husband or anyone else would be welcome to my berth on Philos any day of the week. That said, it’s still exciting to help others to realize their dream. When we got word that the boat was close, we stoked the hot tub, made a pot of chowder and booted at least one child out of his bed so that the boat people could have at least one night’s sleep on land, uninterrupted by a cold crew member leaning over them in the wee hours telling them to get the heck up on deck.


After a lengthy spell in the hot tub (definitely more than the recommended 20 minutes), the three took hot showers – their last for a few months – unless of course, they let cold rain collect on a sheet of plastic and let it drizzle over their head and shoulders somewhere near . That’s a bummer about sailing in the Arctic, isn’t it? To be forever surrounded by water that’s too cold to bathe in and too salty to drink.


The crew of Philos made sure they weren’t going to shrivel up from thirst however. We put Surprise Baby to work filling huge water jugs from Nan’s hose. We visited David Rees down at Quidi Vidi Brewery, a great friend to sailors everywhere, to make sure they had a few Iceberg Beer to bring North with them. Then we went shopping. I thought my weekly cereal and meat runs constituted a lot of food. But oh no, my piddly shopping carts are nothing compared to stocking up for a three-to-four-month trip to the Northwest Passage. We loaded 84 litres of long-shelf-life milk, 30 pounds of butter, two cases of sweet potatoes and enough salt meat for a lifetime of Jigg’s Dinner. Food has to be packaged for easy storage and be able to withstand bouncing and cold. A lot of it gets stored under the floor boards. There’s not too much excess storage space on board, you see. I would have trouble living in a space where every ounce counts. I`d have to shed my pack rat ways.


When I dropped our friends to their boat for the last time, I thought about the adventure that awaited them. I thought of the young man who told his parents in March that he had decided to sail the Northwest Passage with two polar explorers. I thought about whether my husband would have enjoyed the four-hour shifts and the damp sleeping bags. I thought about the fact that although life on a sailboat is showerless and damp. It`s also unpredictable and breathtaking. Sailing the Northwest Passage is definitely an adventure. It`s a life of freedom and seeing a world few people have seen.


Although I’ll stay home in my warm cozy nest, hopefully my children will be adventurous enough to embrace the adventurer’s spirit and get out and see the world.


Susan Flanagan is a writer who has sailed through the Narrows on an Oceanex vessel with warm beds and hot showers and paddled through the Narrows with Stan Cook in a sea kayak after circumnavigating monster icebergs while five months pregnant on No. 3. She can be reached at susan@48degrees.ca


ECT feedback:

Janny, a volunteer for the ECTA writes: “Thanks for the great article and photographs of the East Coast Trail and Tely Hike, including the pitch to buy the maps, much appreciated. I don't think that anyone of the persons who have ever gotten lost on the trail have had the ECTA maps.”


Geocaching feedback: Long time cacher writes: “Great article and can't wait to come out to the east coast again to search for these caches. My family and I have been geocaching since nearly the beginning and it has had the same influence on us as it has on the author. Great fun and exercise in the outdoors and pure adventure for the children. TNLN TFTC.”

Allan writes: “Great to see the sport getting some press. If you're interested in geocaching and/or Newfoundland, check out our blog treasureislandcaching.wordpress.com


It's dedicated to geocaching within Newfoundland and Labrador. We share stories/pictures/upcoming events, etc. We actually wrote a blog post about the Nageira's Treasure geocache; it's one of our favorite caches.”


Oberli Philippe writes: “Hello and greetings from Switzerland ! This would be a great gadget for my TB Swiss girl Fanny TB1977A ... If you're in Europe the next weeks, meet me at the MEGA in Leipzig (PROJECT: GeoGames GC32012)... We're travelling to Leipzig with a Charter Bus with 38 cachers and it will be a pleasure for us to take this uniqe TB to Switzerland... ;-) Liebe Grüsse nach Amerika.”


Mike and Rebecca write: “TFTC, We read the description (of Up, up and Away) and thank you for the history and interesting story. We looked hard for the cache and may have spotted it but were unable to sign the log because it was dark. We wish to take credit for the find because we drove a Mini Cooper Convertible from Colorado to here 6,000 miles (10,000 KM) so far. We have enjoyed minute of Newfoundland and all of its history. This is a beautiful province, with wonderfully gracious people who have made our visit very memorable. One week is too short for Newfoundland. Thank you for showing us your province and the history with the caches. Thanks for being our neighbor. We will continue into Labrador and get on the new gravel highway 500 and try to get to Labrador City.”

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