TJ Barringer

I’ve been interested in sailing since the summer after seventh grade.  My first exposure came as a 12 year-old at Camp Sea Gull.  This proved to be the first of 6 summers for me at that Arapahoe, NC sailing camp.  Here I learned about points of sail, rigging, and reading the wind from the cockpit of a Sunfish.  Soon after learning the basics, I began sailing Hobie Cats – faster, and somewhat more intricate sailboats.  After a couple of summers, some racing, and countless capsizes there was no turning back for me.  Sailing would always be a passion of mine.  As a counselor at Camp in later years, I headed up “Hobie Beach,” passing on what I knew of the boats to the campers and learning much about general boat maintenance and repair.

Beyond Camp Sea Gull, I had the chance to crew with my cousin Hubie in the NC State Championships and the Junior Nationals in Santa Cruz, CA.  Although I didn’t stick with racing, I picked up more than a few tips about sailing theory and practice from the knowledgeable sailors I came into contact with. Cruising and pleasure sailing would prove to be my fascinations.  There’s just nothing more satisfying than slicing through the water with the sun on your back, wind in your face, and no pressure sitting on your shoulders; riding the breeze with a pair of sails. 

I spent two college spring breaks this way – one in Key West (’01) and another from FT. Lauderdale to the Bahamas (’03).  Several friends and I bareboated a 36′ Catamaran PDQ in ’01 and a 50′ Beneteau in ’03.  To prepare for spring break, I took a coast guard course in navigation and am in the process of getting my 6-pack license.  Also, my Uncle Bobby Poteat donated his old Hobie 16 to me to feed my interest.  I use the Hobie generally for day trips to Jordan Lake or weekend getaways to the beach. 

I came into contact with Chris and Jackie through my Aunt Hannah Poteat (same family as Bobby and Hubie – although she might not always claim one or both).  In normal Christmas holiday-talks about post-graduation plans, I told her that I would be moving to Atlanta in the fall, but had no plans for the summer.  She connected me with Chris, having heard about the upcoming trans-Atlantic passage.  After emails throughout the semester (my last one at UNC), it it was decided that Bill (another cousin – different branch of the tree) and I would crew for the voyage. We packed up our things after graduation and landed in Beaufort, where SHIBUMI and the other four passengers were anchored.

We stayed in Beaufort for several days, getting to know one another and the boat.  We cleaned and organized some sails, but mainly waited for a weather window suitable for departure.  Soon enough we hauled up the anchor, stopped off for a night at Cape Lookout, and then set sail East – a direction I don’t usually head from the Outer Banks. 

Shortly after watching the Cape sink below the horizon, we began learning the routine of life at sea.  Our three hour shifts would find us usually in the pilothouse, keeping a watch on the boat.  From here we could control most aspects of the sailboat.  We’d tend to the engine systems, watch the sail sets (and their relation to the wind), and avoid any traffic (including a large warship). 

With our days now changed into “cycles,” as we lovingly referred to them, life slowed down.  We brought a plethora of movies, but didn’t tend to watch them, opting instead for novels or journaling.   Even filling out the position and weather log on the hour grew to be exciting – although catching fish or altering the sails ended up being the feature events of a given day.  Actually, the weight of a average day was spent napping, trying to catch up for having been on watch half of the night. 

But the constant cycle of watches was well worth it when I found myself sitting out on the deck on a sunny afternoon, cruising east across the open water to 25 knots of southern wind.  Maybe some of the dolphins would make their daily appearance , maybe a sea gull would fly by (even 1000 miles out), or maybe nothing at all would happen, and I would just sit there alone with the endless rolling waves.

I saw a lot this trip; I watched the Atlantic change from the gentle rolling described above to relentless gale-force winds (look up the “Beaufort Scale” on Google) and then back again to calm.  I learned how to use the wind’s power, and maybe more importantly, when you should let it go on past.  Also I watched six people interact over an extended period in close quarters (with nowhere to go).  No one was thrown off the boat, so I guess we all learned to deal with each other – and ourselves.  And finally, I saw six people work together and finish with not only a spectacular result, but a marvelous journey.

TJ’s Little Known Favorite Things at Sea

bullet Watch?  A – obviously, except that Emily was groggy on the morning shift
bullet Compass heading?  92 degrees, true – no reason
bullet Latitude? 45o69.001
bullet Tack?  Port reaches, all of them
bullet Sail?  Reefed Mizzen
bullet Temperature?  68.5oF
bullet Cat?  Nevis – almost a dog
bullet Crystal Light Flavor?  Mango
bullet Knot?  Granny knot – just kidding that’s Bill’s
bullet Cloud Formation?  when it looks like an elephant
bullet Phase of the Moon?   crescent, and waning
bullet Lifesaving device/safety procedure?  The cats’ life vests
bullet Malnutritional Ailment at Sea?  Scurvy, without a doubt
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Sunset on the boat