I first met the crew of SV Belis, a Pearson Triton 28 completely outfitted for long distance voyaging, briefly at a marine consignment shop. Our immediate connection was our boats which are nearly identical, save for two feet. My boat, a Pearson Ariel, was designed in the spirit of the Pearson Triton.
The Pearson Triton was made famous by circumnavigator and writer James Baldwin. He sailed his Pearson Triton, Atom, around the world. Baldwin is basically a legend in the sailing world and has inspired many a long journeys on simple production boats. I suppose some of those journeys are the reason I still kinda, sorta, believe in my boat’s ability to go beyond. I had written to James Baldwin while in Georgia where he lives and works restoring classic plastics. A meeting never materialized, but he had told his friends on a Pearson Triton to keep an eye out for me.
The main differences between my boat and her sister ship were in the boat’s condition, and the boat’s crews. Belis had brand new rigging, chainplates, the right sail combinations, water catchment system, solar oven, composting head, a wind vane, lazy jacks, etc. My boat had a malfunctioning auto pilot, bulkheads that weren’t rotten everywhere (just in some places), a fully functioning VHF, a good sail combo, engine, anchor, and not much else. The Triton was ready to leave land forever. I had to stick close to shore.
I had gleaned some of this information from my brief meeting with Chris at the chandlery but got to know him, his family, and their boat much better when I ran into them again in the keys! The Triton was a crew of four: Capt. Chris, Mama Annie, and their literally free range children Bella and Ishi. There’s nothing quite like meeting friends along the way and traveling together by sailboat. What’s even better is when they’re close to your age. The absolute best is when they basically have the same boat as you but it’s fitted out way better, and they give you sweet gear like a bow roller and oil lamp for when you start your own refit.
We cruised in tandem, dinghied in tandem, tied to a mangrove in tandem. I spent hours on their boat hove to one day just for fun. During the height of the winter there were northerly gales weekly. The keys offer little protection and terrible holding ground. The first layer of ground is just airy mud, then there’s coral. I dragged there and I never drag because a., I always put out adequate scope and b., I have a Rocna anchor. But the keys, Islamorada especially, was drag city. So we took to sailing up the bay daily so that during the day we could access the amenities on shore, but by the time the northerlies came back through we’d be protected by another key a few miles away.
I bonded with the Belis crew fast and was sad to see them go but knew they were on to bluer waters. I was proud of them, and so was James Baldwin. One night while sitting in the cockpit I heard Chris talking to James about the daily happenings. “Oh yeah,” he said. “We met up with Emily.”