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Untimely departure. a voyagers epitaph

Jan 1, 2003

Untimely departure, a voyager’s epitaph

A sailor named Carlos Cantone died in March at the age of 47,the victim of a freak boating accident on Florida’s west coast Intracoastal Waterway. He fell from his boat, which was hanging in davits over the water, hitting his head on the way down and then drowning as he lay unconscious in the waterway.

Carlos was not an accomplished yacht designer or builder; nor was he a world-famous ocean racer with Whitbread and Vendee Globe races to his credit. In fact, he would likely be embarrassed — but also a little pleased — to know that his death had made the pages of this magazine. He was a fine sailor, though, having logged many ocean miles on several of his own boats, from Florida to the Bahamas and the Caribbean and in South America.

But, more important, he was the perfect sailing companion, the kind of person whom every sailor should know, someone who, typically with very little notice, would respond with enthusiasm to an invitation to deliver a sailboat anywhere. He had undying patience with mechanical objects; he had an ability to fit himself and his hands into small, tight, dirty places; and he had an unparalleled enthusiasm for being on boats of any kind.

We delivered several sailboats around New England together, ranging in length from 30 to 90 feet, Carlos as my unfailing mate, and I the somewhat nervous captain. With him at my side I felt capable of handling anything — lousy weather, failed machines, navigational puzzlers. Perhaps because of a spare upbringing in Argentina, he was always able to nurse machines along or scrounge bits of one object to prolong the life of another. Once, he was able to get us back into Rockport, Maine, on a dark and horrible night in late September by convincing an old gas-driven Atomic 4 that it needed to get us safely back to port despite a load of fouled fuel. We made it to within a mile of the harbor, and then we sailed through the boats in the dark mooring area, finally towing the boat the final distance, under oars, to the dock. We collapsed in our bunks at 0300, emotionally and physically exhausted, but pleased to be safe.

Another time, during the Gloucester Schooner Race a few years ago, Carlos hurriedly and skillfully slapped together a patch over a tear in a jib topsail —using barge cement and a scrap of bedsheet — so that, by the time we rounded the mark, the sail could be raised. We stomped our way to a respectable finish, his patch having held in the steady 20-knot breeze.


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