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The Honorary Canadian – Guest Post by Kimberley Jordan Reeman

Douglas Reeman aboard HMCS Haida in Toronto

Kimberley Jordan Reeman is the widow of the late Douglas Reeman (aka Alexander “Bolitho” Kent), and an author in her own right.  She has recently published her first novel, Coronach and writes a blog.  She has contributed the following portrait of his relationship with Canada.

 

The Honorary Canadian

It was June 12, 1944, and the tide was ebbing fast. The motor torpedo boat was caught on an underwater anti-tank obstacle off the beach at Arromanches, within range of armour-piercing shells being fired from inland. An M.T.B. ran on high-octane fuel. One hit, and she would go up like a bomb.

Her skipper, on the bridge with a group of Royal Canadian Engineers, sent a young R.N.V.R. lieutenant named Reeman over the side with four seamen to try to lift the boat off. The rest of the crew was still aboard when the shell hit amidships.

The world exploded in searing flame and black, roiling smoke. The M.T.B. was burning fiercely. The young lieutenant was drifting in the shallows, the salt stinging his face, his legs on fire with phosphorus despite the sea’s coldness.

He lost consciousness, and came to on the beach. Rain was falling, and some one was saying, “It’s O.K., buddy. Take it easy,” and then, “Keep that rain off his face,” and another voice said, “Somebody give him a cigarette.”

He remembered saying, “I smoke a pipe,” before the morphine took him under.

They were Canadian army medics and they saved Douglas Reeman’s life, and saw him transferred to a landing craft that took him to England for weeks of rehabilitation. And then he went back to war.

He never forgot the Canadians; and they’d always been around. He knew the Royal Canadian Navy’s Light Coastal Forces and the men who served in ‘the little ships’: he’d heard the lilting accents of officers and seamen from St. John’s and the outports who wore NEWFOUNDLAND shoulder flashes, and the voices of men from the Dominion who wore the shoulder flash of Canada. Like every one else in the Royal Navy, he had admired the grace and speed of the Tribal Class destroyers, H.M.C.S. Haida among them, and in Iceland he had seen H.M.C.S. Skeena wrecked, and the survivors and the dead brought ashore. Later, when The Toronto Star serialized one of Douglas’s novels, the American publishing world took note and offered him a contract.

Fame followed, as a writer under his own name of contemporary war stories and, in 1968 with the publication of  To Glory We Steer, as Alexander Kent, author of the Richard Bolitho series.

Douglas visited Canada several times, on book tours and as a guest of the Royal Canadian Navy: in Halifax, R.C.N. ships were dressed overall in his honour. And on the rainy evening of June 6th, 1980, during a cross-Canada tour to promote A Ship Must Die, he gave a reading in the Brigantine Room at Toronto’s Harbourfront, where a young Canadian woman in the audience stood up and asked him a question he couldn’t answer.

Maybe he felt, as I did, the hand of fate touch him that evening. He invited me to write to him, and my letters sustained him as he struggled in a vortex of depression following the death of his wife in 1983. On July 9th, 1984, we met for the first time in four years in the lobby of the Royal York Hotel. Later that evening, he asked me to marry him.

We were married at St. James’s Cathedral in Toronto on Saturday, October 5th, 1985. The vicar, the Reverend David Bousfield, was a Royal Canadian Navy reservist, as was the verger. Douglas was signing copies of his books for Father Bousfield in the vestry just before I arrived.

For thirty-one years we were inseparable. He considered himself an honorary Canadian, and he was always very proud of his ‘Canadian girl’. His relationship with the R.C.N. and his Canadian readers remained close; he always wore a Canadian poppy in November, and when we observed the silence at home on Remembrance Day the Maple Leaf always hung from the upstairs window beside the White Ensign in memory of all those who had served.

We were always there for him, we Canadians. Until the last second of his life, when I held his hand as he left me. But he lives on in his books, and I keep him in my heart. With my country.

As always, together.

 

Logo -KJR-BlogTour-2019

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I Grew … We Grew Together

Sue Williams, author of Ready to Come About writes:

coming alongsideChristmas Eve my husband, David, had a grand mal seizure while doing last minute shopping in the mall. The event was so violent that he sustained two compression fractures of his thoracic spine, and cuts on his head took fourteen stitches to close. “Stress and sleep deprivation,” were what the neurologist determined to be the cause.

When he returned to work, with the scars still raw, he was fired. “Restructuring,” the CEO chose to call it.

After David recovered I said, “Dear, you wanted to cross an ocean. This is your chance. You have the boat. You’re back in good health. And you’ve now got the time. You can look for a new job when you get back.” Then I suddenly added, “And I’ll go too,” surprising us both.

exhausted from sailingBy Day Eight on our passage to Caiscais, Portugal: we had snagged a rogue fishing net that pulled the engine off its mounts; David had to dive into the choppy Atlantic for almost an hour to cut the net loose; we were taking on water through the stuffing box; we had entered a Nortada along the western coast of Europe causing our weather cloths to tear, our radar reflector and courtesy flag halyards to break free, and monstrous seas to develop; and Inia was losing a nautical mile, or a minute of latitude, in the strong south setting current every time we checked.  

David, as skipper, felt responsible for the safety of his vessel, Inia, and the welfare of his crew, non-sailor me.

“Stress and Sleep Deprivation.” Was another seizure in the making? I seriously feared so!

happy sailorsThis was just one of the many challenges we faced in our 11,000 nautical mile, year-long circumnavigation of the North Atlantic. As they say, adversity introduces one to oneself. We also learned that the rougher the passage, the more joyful the landfall.

My memoir, Ready to Come About (Dundurn Press 2019), is the story of my improbable adventure on the high seas and my profound journey within, through which I grew to believe there is no gift more previous than the liberty to chart one’s own course, and that risk is a good thing … sometimes, at least.

 

 

 

Ready-to-Come-About
by Williams, Sue
With no affinity for the sea and not a single adventure-seeking bone in her body, Sue Williams headed off into the North Atlantic in the wake of a perfect storm of personal events. Two things were clear to her: her sons were adults and needed freedom to figure things out for themselves, and it was now or never for her husband to realize his dream to cross an ocean under sail. Her book is the story of both a mother's improbable adventure and her profound journey within.

304 Pages • softcover • 2019
$20.99
yawl inia

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I did it! by Linda Kenyon

I never really expected to find myself on a 43-foot sailboat in the middle of the North Atlantic, but sometimes these things just happen. I was living in a tiny condo in Waterloo when I met Chris and decided to quit my job, sell everything I owned, and sail away with him.

The first time Chris took me out, I’d never been on a sailboat before, was baffled by all the ropes, as I called them, not knowing a sheet from a halyard. Chris had me take the wheel as we motored out of the harbour and went forward to remove the sail cover. I watched him working on the foredeck.

“Ready to raise sail?” he asked.

“What do I do?”

“Just keep the boat pointing into the wind.”

I could do that. In no time, he had the mainsail up. It fluttered weakly in the gentle breeze. So this is sailing? He came back and took the helm, and as we rounded the lighthouse and left the shelter of the harbour, the sail suddenly filled with wind and we picked up speed. He handed me a rope—“Make sure that feeds out and doesn’t get caught on anything, especially your foot” — and reached over and unfurled what I now know is the genoa, sheeting it in with one hand as he steered.

Then he switched the engine off and the only sound you could hear was water rushing along the hull and the occasional cry of a gull. We were galloping through the sparkling blue water, wind in our hair. Free, I thought. I’m free.

“You like it?” he asked.

“I love it.”

Two years later I found myself at anchor in a sandy bay on the southeastern tip of Antigua, making lunch while Chris gave the bottom a final scrub before setting out to sail to the Azores, a passage of roughly 2,300 miles.

Sure I was apprehensive—who wouldn’t be? Okay, maybe slightly terrified is more like it. But after the first few days of easy sailing, I began to relax, to savour the feeling of being stretched out in the cockpit, water chuckling along the side of the hull, a gentle breeze wafting over me. The morning sun was shining right through the broad yellow and green stripes of the spinnaker, bathing the cockpit in soft, warm light.

Of course the easy sailing didn’t last. We’d been out about a week when the weather began to deteriorate—and so did my courage. Then it got worse. Just two days before making landfall in the Azores we were clobbered by not one but two big gales. On the morning of the third day, the wind died, and as it started to get light, the island of Flores emerged from the gloom. I felt a surge of pride. I did it! I sailed all the way across the North Atlantic. Not too bad for an accidental sailor.

I’ve just written a book about my first ocean crossing. Sea Over Bow, it’s called, and it’s for anyone who has ever wondered what it’s like to sail across an ocean. It’s an adventure story, but it’s also about finding the courage to begin again.

Linda in the rigging spinnaker portrait landfall in the azores

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We’re Hiring!

The Nautical Mind Bookstore

The Nautical Mind Bookstore is looking for a new crew member to work a couple of days a week, including weekends, starting in October extending ideally for several years, depending on circumstances.

The job involves helping customers in the store, on the phone, and online find the right books, charts, and cruising guides for their needs, and getting said items to them.  Detailed knowledge of boats, books, the implacable heart of the sea, and navigation would be a great boon, as would a facility and comfort with computers, and an ability to learn and problem solve, specifically with respect to fiendish logistical problems. An interest in writing blog posts and/or engaging in social media would be nice but isn’t mandatory, as would comfort around scrappy little sea dogs.

The Nautical Mind is a positive and inclusive workspace where the traits, skills, and contributions of all are acknowledged and respected.  It’s a unique local niche bookstore focussed on a deeply fascinating subject matter.

If you’re interested, please send your resume and a cover letter to books@nauticalmind.com

 

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Project Coastline: A Spirit of Reconciliation is Launched with a Legacy Canoe

Coming Together

Since times immemorial, the canoe has been an enduring symbol of the spirit, identity, skill, imagination and knowledge of the First Nations People. It was an essential means of communication and transportation, not only for the First Nations, but for the European settlers who came to this country, a land where the only roads were lakes and rivers, distances were far, and portages were many.

If ever there was one single invention that made the exploration of Canada possible, it was the canoe. It was a vessel perfectly adapted to meet and overcome the challenges of our geography, with speed, grace, and practicality.

Finished Legacy CanoeIn a project designed to foster a spirit of reconciliation between the First Nations and Canada’s non-indigenous peoples, teen members from The Canadian Association of Girls in Science, and students from The Etobicoke School for the Arts worked together to create a professional grade Legacy Canoe. Their work was guided by the mentorship of three adult Master Boat and Canoe builders, with additional encouragement provided by a Golden Retriever named Rover!

By engaging their hands, hearts and minds, the construction of the Legacy Canoe has allowed the youth involved to discover how much value a canoe truly represents – in terms of the skill, ingenuity, and sense of practical and spiritual beauty which the First Nations demonstrated, every time a canoe was launched on Canada’s rivers and lakes. In that process, an essential part of our heritage was brought to life, as a symbol that brings cultures together in the present, just as it did in the past.

The physical work of building the canoe was completed by the teen members of The Canadian Association for Girls in Science, while the artistic work on the design and painting of the hull was created by students from The Etobicoke School of the Arts – whose students submitted almost 400 proposals for the hull decorations!

Project CoastlineThe winning artistic design was based on the concept of the flowing lights of the Aurora Borealis, but the fluidity of the many colours involved could also be seen as a quiet symbol of the diversity of our country, flowing together with a vitality that moves in a common direction.

Upon completion, the Legacy Canoe was blessed by Whabagoon (Flower Blooms in Spring) Patti Phipps Walker, an Ojibway Elder.

The Legacy Canoe will be launched on Sunday, 25 June 2017 at the National Yacht Club in Toronto, starting at 5:00 p.m.

This Canada 150 Project was an initiative of the Broad Reach Foundation for Youth. Videos showing the construction of the Legacy Canoe can be viewed at here on projectcastline.ca. For additional information, please contact info@sailbroadreach.ca. or Marguerite Pyron, Executive Director, at 416-850-5755.

 

— Randall Withell, volunteer with Broad Reach’s Project Coastline

 

Attaching Ribs

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Tall Ship Inspections and Exams from Transport Canada

STV Pathfinder and her crew of teenagers prepare for her 55th summer of adventure on the Great Lakes.  Before she and her sister ship, TS Playfair, can set sail, both the vessels and their crews need to pass muster on a rigorous set of standards established by Transport Canada.  The inspections include:Re-rigging the topmast

 

  • general condition of structures, equipment, and their operation
  • lifesaving, fire-fighting and fire detection equipment
  • watertight and fire-resisting door/window systems
  • quick-closing arrangements in fuel system
  • main and auxiliary steering gears
  • bilge-pumping arrangements and oil record books
  • navigation and radio equipment
  • ship-side valves
  • crew accommodation
  • Much more, detailed here at Transport Canada

Her crew must be certified with 150t Master, 60tL Mate, and Marine Emergency Duties level A2.

Pathfinder's crew preparing the tops'l yard

Find out more about the Brigantines and their summer sailing adventures for teenagers at torontobrigantine.org