homepage logo

Rotary Happenings: ‘Life at Five Knots:’ Rotary gets update of life at sea

By Staff | Jan 28, 2015

Oh, to be young and foolish.

Think about this you’re in your mid-twenties, you’re a couple living in Rhode Island, you want to travel, you don’t have much money; so the logical thing to do is buy a boat, quit your jobs, sell everything, and within a few months cast off from the dock for parts unknown.

Did I mention the fact, that this was a 27-foot sailboat, and that this couple had never been in a boat before, definitely had never sailed before buying the boat, and really only had a very basic idea about what direction they were headeddue south.

Scott and Gretchen McPhee set out on what was to become the adventure of a lifetime. This first boat rechristened the Shadowfax – The name was from the fictional trilogy “Lord of the Rings” by J. R. Tolkien. Shadowfax was Gandalf the Wizard’s horse and would always get him out of trouble”.

Scott McPhee now lives here on Sanibel and spoke to the Rotary Clubnot really about this first voyage on Shadowfax because that was just the beginning of Scott and Gretchen’s adventures at sea.

But we do have to start at the beginning, the sail to Captiva, Florida took them five months and definitely was a true learning experience. Weather at sea can be quite different, unpredictable, and violent and times; add to that sea conditions and you’re in for some more than interesting and sometimes scary times at sea.

Nevertheless, this first adventure, didn’t cure the lust for adventure, in fact just the opposite, they were pretty convinced that they could handle anything except the financial resources needed for future sailing adventures.

They settled down for a while okay, nine years on Sanibel, both working jobs on the Islands.

They had a good lifehad pretty good jobs, bought a house, had a dog, had two cars, had many friendsbut they wanted a vacation…a week wasn’t enough, a month wasn’t enough, how about another adventure at seaa long one.

How about sailing around the world? They went about selling off everything they had, found a good home for their dog, and went looking for just the right boat, at the right price.

This took a while but while waiting they were gearing up and reading up on what it was like to sail around the world.

If something could go wrong, it will go wrong, bring your world-sailing charts, have the best mechanical equipment aboard that your can afford, bring books on how to repair everything, definitely be prepared for medical emergencies, read every book you can that has been written about sailing-around-the world and pretty much be self-sustaining while out at sea.

Study books on learning the sextant, get a ham radio operator’s license, and learn advance navigation.

Weather is both your best friend and worst enemy on a sailboat.

They found their boat, a 46-foot ketch (Call2-46) they renamed, guess what?Shadowfax.

Checked the mechanicals and navigation systems, pulled her out of the water for inspection, cleaned her up, and stocked the boat with necessities of life and maybe just a few other things.

Called up their friend Dave from Rhode Island, who had traveled with them on their journey to Florida, and Dj vu off they went.

Be prepared for long-days at sea, unexpected storms, the breakdown of almost every piece of machinery on board, pirates and thieves, and having the worst and best times of your life.

David has many stories to tell, many of them about the people they met along the way, a sub-culture devoted to this lifestyle, people from all over the world, and lasting lifelong friends.

This journey lasted just under five-years. They sailed 31,786 nautical miles. Sailed the oceans, journeyed through large shipping canals, explored tropical waters , and traveled throughout the world visiting many places people have only read about.

Their final journey on the Shadowfax brought them back to Captiva You can read their story in Life at Five Knots, check the shelves at the Sanibel Library.

The Sanibel-Captiva Rotary meets at 7 a.m., every Friday morning at the Dunes Golf and Tennis Club, Sanibel. Guests are always welcomed.