And the Winner is..

…or In Praise of the Small but Mighty

And the winner of the news story of the week which brought a joyous tear to my eye is: SeaLeon found after being MIA for months. In second place was a story which brought me a few of those little emotional chest quakes: a young lad has the presence of mind to grab a snow-fence and, with the help of some other bystanders, improvise a fireman’s net to save a young fellow who was dangling from a ski lift. Way to go boys for keeping that poor young fellow out of a body cast. In third place comes the father-daughter duo who rowed across the Atlantic in 91 days. Ah, Dad, I wish you were still here; it might have given us ideas.

SeaLeon – a 1.8 meter sea-going autonomous sailboat from Halifax, NS.

For those few of you not following the Microtransat Challenge, Sealeon didn’t win.  You can find out more about the race by visiting the website via this link: The Microtransat Challenge. I have been following the race by checking SeaLeon’s position online after she was launched from Cape Breton Island on July 30, 2018. Every day I checked for updates. It was going well until late August when she went way off course but then she miraculously turned back and was doing quite well until she disappeared altogether after doing a large loop-dee-do on Oct. 14 . I was saddened then, and continued to check periodically but she never returned so I sang taps in my head and lowered an imaginary flag to half-mast and gave over to the fact that she was lying with the Titanic, the Willing Lass, and the Bismarck, at the bottom of the sea. Imagine my delight when I read yesterday that she been found, tattered but still afloat, banging up against the shore somewhere near Cork, Ireland. (Get it, Cork? A substance that bobs and floats?)

Go to the Mircotransat link above to view and enlarge the map.

Why am I so interested in the SeaLeon? (Which I miss-read as SeaLion for a few weeks) I dunno. Perhaps because I have a bit of the geek gene. I always loved hanging about with geeks although I am pretty quick to tune out once they break into Geek-speak. The idea of a totally autonomous boat, one that used solar power to drive its electronics and adjust its sails, rocked my socks. Perhaps it had to do with the cross-Atlantic challenge. Being from Newfoundland I have seen and read of all manner of small vessels setting out to make the trip across the open ocean. Many of them succeeded. I even had a bit of that bug myself. Twenty years ago I had the grand idea of one day sailing my sailboat solo, first to Newfoundland, then the following year on to Cork, Ireland. From there I planned to take her to her original launch point: Loch Goil in Scotland. That place also generated her original name – Lochgoil. (Try saying that three times over the VHF radio and being understood) In the meantime I had to work on my sailing skills, try and accumulate some resources so that I could leave work, and raise my children. The first two didn’t pan out and long before the kids were close to fleeing the nest the boat began to become more than a handful. When repairs demanded more than my finances or my know-how could offer, I sold the boat and got on with other things. I haven’t set a sail since.

And along comes SeaLeon. She didn’t win but by Jove she made it across the North Atlantic briny deep with her hull intact. Now dear readers, don’t get your drawers in a knot, I’m not inspired enough to revisit those lofty goals of twenty years ago. But now, thanks to SeaLeon and the mighty North Atlantic currents, instead of saying “I never made it to Cork” I can say “I might have made it to Cork.” That said, I do have a ten foot sailboat in incubation. Maybe when I name her I will call her Miss Medway or Medway Girl; that way her name will always lead me back to home port instead of oceans away.

You know what I liked the most about this story? Look closely at the tracking map. SeaLeon’s yellow route line managed to draw out a pretty decent rendition of a sea lion before she disappeared from the chart.

Sea Lion

In the end, it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s whether you stay in the game. Congratulations to the folks at Dalhousie Engineering. I hope to see you on the water again next year.

Thanks to the sites who posted the original photos and maps – I borrowed them without asking.

Judy Parsons 2019

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