The renowned Victorian poet Alfred Lord Tennyson famously said, “In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”
Had he lived on Shelter Island, his lordship would more likely have penned romantic daydreams of the advent of sails puffed by summer winds, gliding on sky-blue waters… of sun-filled days, sunsets and star-lit nights.
To herald the coming sailing season, Islanders Lawrence Landry and Paul McDowell will come to Friday Night Dialogues at the Library on April 22 with tales of their adventurous, and first-time, Transatlantic Race, or what they called an “experience of a lifetime.”
Their story began in the spring of 2013 when they, and four other members of the Shelter Island Yacht Club — Jeff Hughes, Brendan Brownyard, Jeff Pribor and David Siwicki — signed up for the race, which is held every four years.
On July 1, 2015, they set sail from Newport on the Prospector, a Carroll Marine Farr 60 with a crew of one woman and 14 men who ranged in age from 24 to 67. During the course of the 3,300-mile-race, they were in ninth place in their class of 10, strategically rebounded to first place, and having lost two spinnakers, fell to fourth place. On July 13, they crossed the finish line at Cowes Castle on the Isle of Wight in third place, an impressive, bronze-medal level performance for first-timers.
Landry and McDowell have endless stories. They will tell of sailing through waves of 40 to 60 feet in the Atlantic, in daylight and in darkness, under sustained winds of at least 25 knots — more than enough to cancel races on East End waters — and of the navigation challenges and triumphs they met.
“You couldn’t see the waves,” McDowell said in an article published last January in this newspaper. “It was just like driving a car down a mine shaft. The boat would pick up and surf down these waves at super high speed…. We faced the type of conditions where a mistake could have been catastrophic. There were times I was driving when you’d look behind you and see a wave above you and look down the front of the wave and see waves in front of you still.”
But on calm seas, they said, the beauty was breathtaking.
“At night, it was a light show,” Landry marveled, “a light blue glow was created by plankton — microscopic organisms in the water — and the waves breaking. Some crew members even saw dolphins swimming through the area, their fins creating even more light. It was really very pretty.”[For more, go to https://shelterislandreporter.thetimesreview.wpengine.com/tag/yacht-prospector/ ]
As for Lord Tennyson, we should remember that he also wrote of “heroic hearts,” those whose “purpose holds to sail beyond the sunset and the baths of all the western stars… strong in will to strive, to seek to find, and not to yield.”
These words from “Ulysses” could easily have been written about the Prospector and her crew.
Friday Night Dialogues begins at 7 p.m. on April 22 at the Shelter Island Library’s Community Room; admission is free and donations are gratefully accepted.
For further information, contact the Library, 749-0042.