Loss of a Friend – Guy Bernardin – Circumnavigator

“I had resolved on a voyage around the world, and as the wind on the morning of April 24, 1895 was fair, at noon I weighed anchor, set sail, and filled away from Boston, where the Spray had been moored snugly all winter. The twelve o’clock whistles were blowing just as the sloop shot ahead under full sail. A short board was made up the harbor on the port tack, then coming about she stood to seaward, with her boom well off to port, and swung past the ferries with lively heels. A photographer on the outer pier of East Boston got a picture of her as she swept by, her flag at the peak throwing her folds clear. A thrilling pulse beat high in me. My step was light on deck in the crisp air. I felt there could be no turning back, and that I was engaging in an adventure the meaning of which I thoroughly understood.” – Joshua Slocum, Sailing Alone Around the World, 1900.

On the 16th of September I took a leave of absence from my marina job for six months – until April anyway.  Maybe a bit longer.  We did a quick (month long) road trip and returned last evening from the road to Colorado and back.

Our whole purpose for being on this boat is to go places.  Our boat has sat here for most of a year, December 2016 until now.  We had some bad experiences with the water, waves, wind and weather and took a break, but it’s time to go again.  For awhile I was of a mind to sell the boat and get back on land.  I don’t like JoAnne getting sick, and having experienced sea sickness myself, I don’t want her to be ill ever again.  However, we aren’t giving up quite so easily.

But, we need to move, we need to go, we need to see things.  Life is short and if we sit here, we waste our chance to see other parts of the world.

Nothing has driven that idea home more accurately than the sad news I received a few days ago.

A few months ago an older man came to the Marina here at South Harbour Village.  His name was Guy (pronouced as Ghee) Bernardin.  He was in his 70s.  He was aboard an older boat by the name of “Crazy Horse”, a racing sloop.  The boat was in need of attention, and he’d just purchased the vessel for a non-stop race around the world.

Guy and I quickly became friends.  I helped him on several occasions with lines and moving things around for him.  He had another friend named Larry Brown who came to visit and stayed with him for a few weeks while working on Crazy Horse.  Larry and I spoke often as well, while various parts were refitted on the boat.

Sometime in June I had asked if I could interview him and write an article for the local paper.  He refused at first stating that he was leaving soon for France to go back to work on his other boat, a Spray (Slocum) replica.  I found out more of his story in that conversation – that in 1998 he had completed a three year, round-the-world tour which duplicated for the most part, Joshua Slocum’s original trip.  He explained that the boat was steel, and he was going back for some refit work.

The Interview was never to take place as my wife and I had also gone home in June to do medical appointments and other things.  Guy was ready to depart save for last minute things when we returned.

When we returned, I saw Guy infrequently, but I did chat with him on and off.  I assisted him in installing his wind generator a couple of days before his departure sometime in late July (I do not recall the date, and didn’t write it down).  I know he left and came back in with either engine or steering issues, or perhaps the weather bothered him.  I never got the chance to ask, as the following morning he was gone again and I never heard from him again.

Sometime in August (about a week or so after his departure) I wondered how he was doing.  Then I heard a rumor about a radio call for help and some people were saying they thought it might have been Guy.  I did not hear the call.  I don’t know the details of the call, who made it or why. I completely discounted the idea it was Guy.  He was, after all a seasoned traveler, sailor and knew what he was doing.  I never believed anyone actually heard the call themselves and were guessing (which they likely were).

I forgot all about it.  Until this past week.

JoAnne and I had to go back to Colorado for a few days.  A message came in from Norm at the South Harbour Village Marina while we were traveling with friends, asking if I had heard the news about a friend who had been in the Marina for awhile this past summer.  I received the sad news that he was missing and his boat had been found.

A few minutes later I had an article mentioning him and learned that his fate was not what I would have expected.

I was shocked, and to this day I am still in shock I believe. I’d written off the original rumor of the radio call because I felt it couldn’t have been Guy, it couldn’t have happened to a world cruiser, racer and a man who was very good at what he did.

Guy Bernardin went missing sometime in August we believe, somewhere off the coast of North Carolina, close to us. His life raft was aboard, the boat intact as far as I can tell from the article.  I have little information on what might have happened to him but have first hand experience on his boat.

“Crazy Horse” was a typical racing sloop, designed in a minimalist fashion, but there were narrow decks, running rigging all over the place to the cockpit, a scooped stern, easy to have fallen from there, life lines were short to the deck (no more than a foot probably) and little to grab onto.  Guy told me he had not had time to install jack lines when I questioned him the last time I spoke to him.

Guy Bernardin

We were raising the wind generator mast and he was putting in bolts and connecting the final wires.  I asked him about the jack lines, and he said that it was something he had not bought and probably wouldn’t require them for this part of the trip.  I didn’t question his wisdom on this for I knew he was experienced.  The image below was taken just a couple of days prior to installation of the wind generator.  I was shooting images of boats going through the fairway and happened to catch the stern of Crazy Horse in this one.

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Crazy Horse on RIGHT of Image above

It is now very apparent that Guy, while experienced in around the world cruising, a six-times around the Horn man, and a seasoned racer made a mistake that anyone could make.  He didn’t think anything bad would happen.

According to the article (Written in French), the boat was recovered with no one aboard.

For those who know the story of Joshua Slocum (and I hope all Sailors know it, if not, read it) Slocum traveled solo around the world, with an old wreck of a boat he rebuilt from the keel up.  A completely “new” boat from the old boat rose of the “ashes” (ok, sand actually) and he proceeded to travel the world, visiting exotic locations and becoming a very famous man in the late 1890s.

Bernardin sailed a steel boat called Spray around the world, following the footsteps of Slocum over a three year circumnavigation.

Like Slocum, Monsieur Bernardin disappeared at sea.  Unlike Slocum, Crazy Horse was found without it’s Captain. Spray was never located.  Today we can only assume the worst for Guy.  He never finished his last voyage.  At least I tend to believe he wished to complete it with success, not in the manner it ended.

So, to sailors everywhere…. do your best.  Never skimp on safety, know your limits.  Know that any little thing can kill you out there.  I’m sure you all know this, and I’m preaching to the choir, but seriously, I’m tired of losing friends like this.

Fair Winds, Guy Bernardin, where ever you are now.

 

Sail: disappearance of the navigator Guy Bernardin off the American coast

Guy aboard the Slocum Spray Replica

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http://www.sailingscuttlebutt.com/2017/03/08/fifty-year-anniversary-spiritual-journey/

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