<i>O Canada</i>!

When the desk job doesn't suit, it's time to toss the lines and get going. From the "Editor's Log" for our January 2010 issue

O Canada 368

O Canada and crew¿Colby Smith (left), James Meredith, and Sean Davis¿ are headed south.

It all boils down to a job, though I'm not certain if having one or not having one proved to be the more important ingredient in this tale of flight. James Meredith had the job. Fresh out of the engineering school at Montreal's McGill University, James landed behind a desk doing whatever an aspiring engineer does to grow into his new profession. Apparently growing pains set in early, though, and soon this former collegiate sailor, who hails from Hudson, Quebec, was dreaming of boats and waters far bluer and warmer than those that flow down the St. Lawrence River in wintertime. Daydreams evolved into a plan of sorts: He started saving like crazy, and toward the end of the summer, he pulled the plug on his fledgling career crunching equations.

And then there's Sean Davis, also a McGill sailor and newly launched engineer. He's the one who didn't have an engineering job. After graduation, he spent the summer helping a professor wrap up a project, then moved back home to Nahant, Massachusetts, to wait tables and see what would come next. He arrived in town with James in tow, and soon his parents, Peter and Peggy, old pals of mine, found themselves up to their necks in search of a cheap old boat and all that goes along with such a pursuit.

It took a couple of days off and a few hundred miles of driving to boatyards around New England, but in fairly short order, a vintage 30-foot C&C Red Wing reached out and grabbed the boys from a boatyard in nearby Marblehead. The owner, it seems, was a motivated seller and wanted it to simply vanish in the worst way. In fact, the boys learned in early October that if someone didn't come up with cash fast, the boat would be donated in exchange for a tax write-off.

A hasty inspection was arranged, yard logistics were sorted out, an offer was made, and presto! The boys were now proud owners of a $2,500 yacht. Right away, they set to work to strip the bottom, patch some dings, and ready O Canada for a long coastal hop to Florida and who-knows-where. When they launched the boat, the rigger at the yard was impressed, or perhaps amazed, that the hull floated, the mast stood, and the Atomic 4 engine fired right up. Based on all that, I'm told, he offered a quite optimistic assessment of the boat's potential. On the maiden sail home, it got even better when the engine continued to run and it became apparent that the sails were in rather good condition.

With boat and destination in hand, the boys went shopping but pinched every penny till it squeaked. They found a new $230 inflatable on eBay, an SSB, an engine manual, tools, flares, speakers, spare parts, two used survival suits, a GPS, an autopilot, and an unlimited Sea Tow towing policy. A list Sean gave me before he left would indicate they each had an additional $2,300 worth of skin in the game.

Then a day or so before their departure, another friend, Colby Smith, in town for a visit, decided to hop on for a ride. An extra hand for the tiller never hurts. On Sunday, November 8, O Canada was tied to the wall at the town wharf. A mountain of gear and food was shoved though hatches as a small crowd of well-wishers stopped to visit. By dark, and with the tide about to leave them high and dry, they motored off to a mooring for one last night in Nahant.

O Canada, indeed. I hope my travels this winter take me to Florida, the Keys, or maybe the Bahamas so I can catch up with the boys. When I do, I'll have a cold case of Molson waiting for them.

Mark Pillsbury