Douglas Arvidson is a past winner of the WICE/Paris Transcontinental International Short Story competition. His short fiction has been published in Paris, Prague, and in literary magazines in the United States and he was recently invited to be a staff writer for the Prague Revue, a cutting-edge, online literary journal ( The novels in his fantasy series, The Eye of the Eye of Stallion, include The Face in Amber, The Mirrors of Castaway Time, and A Drop of Wizard's Blood. His new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, was selected as a finalist in the ForeWord Reviews 2012 Book of the Year national awards and as a finalist in three categories in the 2013 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards: Action Adventure Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction. It has become part of the pantheon of Pacific literature and is now included in school literature programs. Brothers of the Fire Star is an adventure story set in the Pacific during World War II and concerns two boys of different races and cultures who escape the island of Guam in a small sailboat when the Japanese army invades. They must then struggle to survive as they master the secrets of the ancient Pacific navigators. Appropriate for young adults as well as adult readers, Brothers of the Fire Star is available on Barnes & Noble, ( and Visit the author's website:

Friday, January 30, 2009

Dismasted Off the Coast of Guam: A Sailor's Small Adventure

It came down like all those sudden, violent, once-in-a-life-time things that you can't shut up about later. A perfect day in the blue, blue Pacific, four miles off the coast of Guam. Fifteen knots of wind with lots of gusts to twenty and slowly picking up to maybe twenty five. The sky was as blue as the water and speckled with those little white popcorn clouds that float high on the breeze and on the horizon was the varied greens of the tropical island's mountains rising up from the sea.

Carpe Diem is a Tayana 43, a powerful little cutter, lithe and nimble, and a joy to sail. We had the full main up and about half the jib rolled out and she seemed well balanced and happy. In fact, we were all happy--if not well balanced. There were four of us on board, the owners, Don and Jan Goldhorn, my wife, Terry, and I. We were having a special reunion, sailing all together again, as we had so many times in the past, after a seven month separation, running up into the breeze on a glorious trade wind day.

Don and Jan had just had some work done on Carpe Diem. The mast had been taken off and a new radar, GPS, and windex wired in. The bottom had been done and all the sea cocks serviced. It had been an expensive project and they were proud and happy and ready to take on the big blue ocean that surrounds this lovely island.

There was no warning, no indication that something was amiss, that somehow the nearly invisible devil-worm of stainless steel corrosion had dug its way into the T-pins at the bottoms of the turnbuckles where the lower shrouds hang on to the chain plates. One of them must have given out first and the others then followed, unable to take the strain. Don, Jan, and Terry were back in the cockpit, I was sitting on the upwind side of the boat, just aft of the mast. Later we all remembered it differently. Terry heard nothing, but said she watched as the mast crumbled, in slow motion, into the sea to leeward. I was looking out toward the island and heard a loud rending of metal and metallic pop just above my head. What I saw when I looked up had nothing to do with slow motion; in an instant the 67-foot mast was gone, the whole rig disappeared.

Carpe Diem, suddenly every bit the great, wing-broken seabird, turned across the wind and hung there, the sails having become a great sea anchor. We, the crew, were dumbfounded but far from speechless. Epithets of shock and awe filled the air as we played for time and found our senses. In the end, we were all calm and got down to the business of sorting things out. No one was hurt, the seas, here in the lee of the island, were moderate, and we were not taking on water. After forty-five minutes of trying to get the broken mast lined up with the boat and secured so we could motor home, we decided the better part of valor was to call for assistance. Keeping this blog short, four hours later, Carpe Diem was safely back in her slip. The mail sail was cut away and set adrift, bits of the mast and the brand-new roller furling rig, now hopelessly bent and twisted, had been dragged to the nearest marina, hauled out of the water, and deposited in a parking lot for later consideration/stripping.

We are all fine. We are all wiser and, for what its worth, we are all better sailors.

1 comment:

  1. We are all glad that you, Terry, Jan and Don were OK after this mishap. One more story to add to your "Life on Guam" trilodgy! Or, knowing Guam, it will probably be an EPIC NOVEL!!

    Suzie the Hok