Aitutaki, Cook Islands: Still here, still loving it.
Do coincidences exist? Because if the adage “There are no coincidences” is true, then I’d better start humming the theme to the Twilight Zone. It started back in California, when I (Karen) visited an old high school friend named Peggy, who happened to mention that she had taught school with Sue, another hometown friend with whom I had lost touch over the years. Peggy gave me a school email address for Sue, and I wrote her a quick note. I remember singing at Sue and Jim’s (different Jim) wedding some 35 years ago, and was delighted to hear back and learn both are still happily together. Sue, Jim and another person and I were best buds, and I still smile at the utterly undignified, silly lengths we were all willing to go to for a laugh. Wise guys, this is for you:
Fast forward to more recent times.
Just before we left Bora Bora for the Cook Islands, a surprise email arrived from one of my former 7th grade science students, a kid with a memorable name and an even more memorable (read: delightful) personality. He had recently found one of my articles on the internet while researching something unrelated to sailing, and asked in the comments section if it was me, his old science teacher from the mid-1970s. I wrote him back of course, delighted at the connection, and received a wonderful note back. He is now searching for the two other members of the group of mischief-makers with whom he hung out, who made me laugh every day, and I hope he finds them. It would give me great pleasure to remind them about the time one of them placed a beaker of water on a roaring bunsen burner... a plastic beaker. Oh yeah, you never smelled such a stink.
At the same exact time my former student contacts me, another nice email arrives from someone who signs himself or herself only “d” with an email address that indicates what kind of boat he/she has or had. My first reaction to this email was to say dagnabit, why don’t these people who write to us or post on the blog disclose their full blankety-blank names, huh? Jeez, we’re not in the witness protection program or anything. (We get a lot of emails and blog comments.) So I forgot about “d” until a couple of days later, when at 2 am on watch (my best mulling time) I thought, waaaaait just a minute… THAT type of boat? d? Been following the blog for a couple of months? That wasn’t long after Sue and I got back in touch, hmmm. Yep, turns out this ‘d’ happened to be The Other Best Bud with Sue and Jim, and, I learned later, he (Don) had just gotten back in touch with them after 35 years... this dates back to the exact same time I was teaching science to my mischief-makers.
Stay with me, it gets even better. At the same time the other two emails arrive, another email comes in from someone I don’t know, but who once sailed aboard the JN Carter, a wooden, engineless, 66-foot bugeye schooner I captained shortly after leaving teaching in 1981. Were you the captain, he wanted to know. He was looking for information on the Carter. Yes, I said, amazed. So he sent me the photos below. I don't know how he found me, but I'm delighted and amazed, especially with the timing.
Here’s the Carter with a small group aboard, in New Haven Connecticut where she was based at Schooner, Incorporated’s docks. Schooner, Inc was at time in its infancy but had big dreams, and Peter Neill, who later ran the South Street Seaport Museum in New York, was her executive director. Oddly, the Carter and her predecessor, a lovely Alden schooner, aren’t mentioned on Schooner Inc’s web site. The woman with her back to the camera looks a lot like I did at the time, but probably isn’t me because she seems much taller than me.
Here’s the Carter coming into New Haven’s inner harbor after a day of teaching, doing oceanographic research, and sailing.
I have lots more photos of the Carter, but they’re packed away in storage while we voyage. And there are other lives intersecting with the old JN Carter days, but I’ve been in touch with those dear friends for a long time. Big affectionate hugs and hellos to Jane, Bill, Keith, and Colin!
This leads me to wonder how, scattered to the four winds after 35 years, these lives have managed to intersect again… at almost the same time? The circularity makes my head spin, and it’s good to be back in touch.
Which also brings me to ask a favor. If anyone else out there has information on the JN Carter, whose photo you can still see to this day on the front of cans of Penetrol, a marine paint and varnish conditioner available in most ship’s chandleries, would you please contact me with what you might know about her? I’d love to know what happened to her, and if she’s still sailing. And if any of you sailed aboard her, tell me your stories! I’m writing a much longer piece, perhaps book length or perhaps not, on what it was like to be the second woman captain in New England at a time when women breaking into fields dominated by men were regarded as real oddities. Your stories would enhance not just the memories, but also the enjoyment. You can contact us at karenandjimsexcellentadventure followed by the symbol for “at” followed by gmail dot com.
Coincidences? Confluences? Whatever you call them, when they’re like these they’re wonderful. Do you believe in coincidences?