All tall ships have an extended family of former crew members; a network that spans continents and seas. The Picton Castle’s family is especially large, and many wrote in after last month’s tragedy at sea. Many wrote warmly of Laura Gainey, with whom they had sailed from Cape Town to Lunenburg and through the Great Lakes.
The most eloquent was a 12 year-old girl, Mikayla:
“The PC’s search ends today, the reports say. My head understands but my heart is going to explode, I think, because I feel so bad for the PC family, . . . crew on the ship right now, . . . crew not on the ship, and me too, and the Gainey family. I am very proud of everybody and very sad for everybody. . . .
I have been thinking and thinking and thinking and I though the world was sure gonna be a terrible world because of the loss of Laura, but now I am thinking the world will just have to be a better place because lots of us were so lucky to know her.
Laura who just sparkled; such a hard worker, always energetic and busy, but always willing to help a sailor in training learn the ropes. She understood why I want to be a sailor, because she loved it so much. She was a bit shy and quiet, too, so we were kindred spirits. She also taught me to make the best salad dressing ever, but I don’t know if I know how to make it for less than 40 people.
I am going to be a better person because she was my friend and she was a very good role model and the kindness she gave me. Laura wrote to me last Tuesday that I would be in her heart as she sailed the seas and that she would be honoured to sail with me some day.
My parents tell me that big things or sad things shape people, so I won’t ever be the same Mikayla. I do feel older already.
I am even more determined to be a sailor and to work even harder. I will have Laura in my heart as I sail the seas or on land the rest of my life.
Others wrote caringly of the crew, the ship, and the traditions of the sea. None was more understanding than Jeff Bolster, a master mariner.
“Now that the search has been called off, and the Gainey family and Picton Castle
have to accept irrevocably that [Laura] is gone, decisions must be made about “What’s next?”
One response is to head immediately for the closest port of call, say Bermuda. Some might say that anything else would be a mark of disrespect for Laura. Others might say that the crew will be unable to cope, and will need grief counseling. But the traditions of the sea . . . suggest just the opposite. The crew of the Picton Castle needs to resume their course for Grenada. . . .
The fundamental lesson at the heart of seafaring under sail is perseverance. For centuries men and women have tested themselves in the face of daunting weather, mechanical malfunctions, and physical and psychological hardship. It has never been a secret that there is a degree of danger in the deep sea. It is fair to say that with anything worth doing, especially in the realm of physical challenge or outdoor activity, a certain risk exists. How we handle the situation in the unlikely event someone is hurt says a great deal about us. The Picton Castle’s crew will terminate the search for Laura with a celebration of her life – a life re-energized and given direction by sail training – and then they will sail on. . . .
Ships have always been a metaphor for stability in the flux of life. In the primal chaos of the ocean, a well-managed and well-navigated ship sails a course that provides direction for those aboard. It is no coincidence that after being disoriented by the hardship that life sometimes delivers, we say: “We need to get our bearings.” The crew of the Picton Castle now needs to get their bearings, to resume their voyage. They sail with a new appreciation of the value of life, and what it means to take out-of-the ordinary challenges. They sail with Laura in their hearts and minds. They will not forget her. But they sail to honor her dream. It is what she wanted to do.
– Jeff Bolster, Master Mariner”