Ballad of Calypso Calypso
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"While Calypso's free fallin' in space
the mind's thinkin' "were gonna leave no trace
A fifty or hundred foot wave the truth be told
"When we hit the trough she's gonna explode!"
"Calypso, Rhyme of the Modern Mariner" is a true story told in a fanciful fashion, employing "The Ballad of Calypso," a 445-quatrain ballad derived directly from Calypso's logbook. The prose, cartoon illustrations and photos which are woven into the ballad places the reader at the helm of a 26' wooden sailboat with a pair of newlyweds on their journey from Portsmouth, Rhode Island to Port Townsend, Washington.
The two-year endeavor begins with a successful commercial dive harvest of "herring roe on kelp" in Prince William Sound in the spring of 1979. Following the harvest and a cross country train ride to the east coast, the pair discover the "Newport Used Boat Show." There is an immediate attraction to Calypso when come upon at the show. The purchase is made, and her new "crew" move aboard in Portsmouth RI.
Calypso may be considered a primer on how to take a world class sailing voyage on the cheap. Many lessons will be learned as they are embedded in the story for discovery by the reader who will have a grip on the spokes of the wheel and throw sheets to the wind. Perilous situations arise as they transit the Intracoastal Waterway to Florida. Bridges and ocean entrances provide a variety of obstacles to be overcome, while being plagued by a leaky vessel and an engine constantly breaking down.
Ultimately the engine is sold, Calypso is readied for a sail to the Bahamas when the crew learn of the "Mariel Boatlift." Plans change when they opt to sail for Cuba to make their fortune bringing refugees back to Florida. Becalmed, they meet and have lunch with Cuban fishermen. The following day they are sideswiped by a Cuban gunboat, boarded by the captain and first officer who ultimately expel Calypso and crew from the country.
The crew throws the "I-Ching" as a navigation tool which turns them west for Mexico. Two weeks later they drop anchor at Isla Mujeres. The voyage continues down the Yucatan coast and after many challenges and much calamity, they arrive in Belize City, where Calypso is hauled into "Jones's Boatyard" for repairs.
In Honduras, Calypso rides out hurricane Hermine in the mangroves of Isla Utila. They make their way to Panama by sailing back north to Isla Mujeres from Roatan. Here the crew bring on Doug, their friend from Port Townsend and sail for Panama, 1000 miles distant. They stop in Great Corn Island, Nicaragua which is recovering from the recent revolution and move on to Panama.
Calypso transits the Canal making a nefarious deal at a secret cove, one which will guarantee them a grubstake on their arrival up north. Leaving Panama, they sail into the Doldrums, make friends with a fish, drift 600 miles then are hit with a vicious storm force wind. Unbeknownst to the crew, they are attacked by "Teredos" (naval shipworms). Calypso is sinking mid-pacific.
They buck the "Northeast Trades" taking on a boatload of blue-footed booby birds for a week. The I-Ching now turns them west for Hawaii, 3700 miles distant. She manages, after 97 days, to reach Hilo, where she makes repairs then ventures out into the North Pacific during the stormy month of September. If one finds the previous chapters remindful of Thor Hyerdahl's "Kon Tiki," then one may be reminded of Shackleton's "James Caird" on this leg of the journey. Surviving the Equinox storms, she sails into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, completing her two-year voyage when she is run down by a freighter in the night.
Built By A.A. Bernard Woburn, Massachusetts 1952
LOA 29ft. LOD 26ft. LWL 20ft.
Beam 9ft. Draft 3ft.
"Now this soakin' wet mattress
feels real good
protected by this bundle
of nails, screws and wood
Thinkin' "this is gonna be one to remember
This Equinox storm of mid-September
Three days more weather stays foul
wind will simply not cease to howl
A relentless march of greybeard waves
reminders of Calypso's many close shaves"
"Caught in the grip of this weather, there has been no opportunity for sights on sun or stars. Days spent struggling to either hold oneself in position in the bunk, moving about the cabin or preparing a hot meal take a toll. Not only is this physically exhausting, the sense of time and space without navigation for this extended period has the crew in a netherworld with nothing but these tossing walls which surround them, keeping eternity at bay.
The crew are numb, weary in the extreme; their mood remains light, fiercely so. They cling to their wit as if it were a fuzzy warm teddy bear; their barrel of wry humor is bottomless."
"On this fine mornin' of the sixth day
The greybeards have finally gone away
Wind's twenty knots outa the northwest
Calypso's survived her North Pacific test"
(Sub-Heading "Rhyme of
the Modern Mariner")
"Ballad of Calypso"
(Sub-Heading "Rhyme of
the Modern Mariner")
e-pub is full color
July 10, 2022
Interview with Phil Andrus
"Cats in our Laps"
Publisher's Weekly "BookLife Review"
The story in prose and verse of an epic real-life adventure, McGuire’s travelogoue recounts the trip of a lifetime, a sea voyage that in 1979 found Dennis and Pat McGuire (who illustrates this volume) departing Portsmouth, Rhode Island, heading south to the Panama Canal, then west across the Pacific to the Hawaiian Islands, and then at last northeast to Neah Bay in Washington State, arriving in 1981. The vessel: The Calypso—“well balanced, handy at the helm and exceptionally sea kindly”—a 26-foot sailboat the McGuires picked up for just under six grand. Inspired by the likes of Jack London, and accompanied by a boat cat they named Woody, they set off in what fortunately turns out to be a “forgiving” vessel, they face the danger and majesty of the open ocean and many fascinating ports of call.
Writing in clear, direct prose that emphasizes the engaging essentials, McGuire invites readers to imagine encountering wonders like the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef (where they encounter a friend’s wrecked boat, and Woody comes face to face with a dying egret), or the power of a hurricane near the Bay Islands (the “crew” “[hollers] to carry on a conversation” in the downpour, despite being just a couple feet apart), or freighters and sea life as they drift for most of a month in the “doldrums” off the coast of Guatemala: “Absolutely nothin’ can be done/Calypso just sits frozen in the sun,” McGuire writes, in one of the bursts of rhyming couplets the stud most pages.
Despite such travails, good humor abounds, as McGuire praises “Calypso’s patience with the ineptitudes of her crew” and recounts, in playful—sometimes comically strained, like dad jokes—light verse, their day-to-day habits: eating fish they’ve caught, tuning in NPR news on the shortwave. Like the poetry, the illustrations have a charmingly unpolished quality, sketches in ink and colors capturing high spirits, occasional terrors, and moments of comedy, like the time boobies took over the sailboat.
Takeaway: A joyous memoir, in verse and sketch, of two years below the mast, sailing to Hawaii and back.
Great for fans of: Stuart Woods’s Blue Water, Green Skipper, Erik Orton and Emily Orton’s Seven at Sea.
Print Date: 03/28/2022