There are laidback people, and then there are laidback sailors. Tim is definitely the latter. The 22 year-old recent poly-sci grad bought his first sailboat when he was just 17 and last summer he jumped at the chance to make his first ocean crossing. We sat down and chatted about his trip across the Atlantic, sailing in Windsor, and some of the cool microplastics research he's doing while spending the summer cruising around the Great Lakes.
Let’s start with one of those ‘small world’ stories: So last summer I’m in the shop with Carly from BLUEM and I’m telling her about you and your upcoming trip across the Atlantic. A few days later she messages me from St. John and says, ‘Hey, I’m in Newfoundland and I just met that sailor guy you were telling me about!’
Yeah, so unbeknownst to me and the rest of the crew, it was Royal St. John’s Regatta’s Day and we found ourselves at a brewery in Quidi Vidi and some people mentioned they were from Windsor. When I found out she worked at Pressure Drop it was one of those small world moments.
How was the beer?
I had their Iceberg Lager... and yes it’s made from real iceberg! They send someone out to chip away at 'bergs passing by.
Cool. Man, I must get out there. Never been out east.
It was my first time in Atlantic Canada. The scenery and culture was absolutely stunning, particularly by sailboat.
Tell me more about that trip across the ocean. How did that come about?
One winter's day I was sitting in class and thinking about sailing and started to search for crew opportunities. I found an application, filled it out, I and the next thing I knew I got accepted.
So you started in St. John and where did you finish? How long did it take?
We actually started in Camden, Maine, before taking off to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. We then left to St John’s for provision and do some maintenance before the crossing. We finished in Cardiff, South Whales, after almost 2,000 nautical miles. I was on the boat for almost a month from the time I got to Maine before I got off in the UK.
And what did you think? Was it what you thought ocean sailing would be?
It was exactly what I went to to do and my expectations were exceeded in a good way. It was truly amazing to see that part of the world.
Tim somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, summer 2019.
Was there anytime when you were like, ‘uh, this is sorta scary and I might die.’
Definitely a new experience but I always felt safe and calm. The boat was very safe so I would say it was fairly comfortable for getting caught in 40+ knots for a few days mid-Atlantic.
Where did you learn to sail?
I learned to sail at South Port Sailing Club here in Windsor, but the truth is you’ll never be finished learning about sailing and everything that comes with it. As a sailor you’re forever learning.
What do you like most about sailing? I mean, there’s so much it offers - racing, cruising, drinking - what does it for you?
I’m more of a traditionalist when it comes to sailing. I enjoy racing and cruising alike but I think the drinking is best left at the dock when on passage. Cruising will probably be my bread and butter unless I can get onto a good team for racing.
A rare breed!
And when did you buy your first boat? What kind of boat was it?
I bought my first boat when I was 17. It was a 22 foot yellow Tanzer named Bumblebee.
Ah! Then I’d like to welcome you to the Yellow Sailboat Club! I started it in 1990 with my first boat, a yellow Laser.
You'll never miss a yellow sailboat in the vast blue of the Great Lakes. I even painted most of the inside yellow. That boat definitely has character haha!
How much did you pay for it?
I think we paid maybe $1200 for the hull and more for a new engine.
That’s so cool. I think that’s one of the things so many people who don’t sail aren’t aware of: There are thousands of these boats built in the 1970s and '80s that are still super good and super cheap and pretty much anyone can pick one up on Kijiji or Craigslist and spend a summer cruising around.
I think that’s the kicker when it comes to sailing. At the end of the day you’ll look at the same sunset and anchorage, no matter how much you spent on your boat.
And now you’re sailing a bigger boat?
Yeah currently sailing on a Hughes 31. It’s much more suitable for cruising.
Where have you been?
Well this year with all the restrictions I travelled to Port Stanley and the North Channel. Both are great places to cruise to and enjoy the area.
Tim's Hugh's 31 anchored in the North Channel.
Any plans to go somewhere far away again? Any ocean crossings planned?
I’ve been invited back to crew on the yacht that I crossed on last year. This time we’re going to the North Sea and the Nordic countries. Otherwise I’ll be looking to be doing trans-ocean yacht deliveries.
Let’s talk a bit about your work for the University of Windsor. Tell me about what you’re doing.
Well I’m volunteering for a professor to do microplastics sampling around the Great Lakes. We’re collecting samples in waters not typically reached by sampling boats.
Where are the plastics coming from?
They come from everywhere from your plastic packaging to the cotton and polyester fibres in clothing. Plastic bags, balloons that people carelessly release into the air not knowing where it will go. All of it contributes to the problem.
Yeah I just read a recent article about the problems with plastics and how there isn’t actually much understanding about their effects.
Microplastics engage with the environment in more ways than we understand, so the degree to which they harm animals and the greater ecosystem is still largely uncertain.
It can’t be good for us to be walking around full of plastic inside of our bodies.
What’s the best thing we can do to reduce this problem?
There’s no easy route to meeting these challenges, but if we can really focus on reducing the amount of single-use plastic we use and produce then we can make a significant impact on the amount of plastic that gets into our lakes and oceans.
Cool. Let’s end with a quickie: Let’s say you're hanging out on your boat over at Bayview Yacht Club and Donald Trump is there to thank all of his supporters. He walks up to your boat and says, ‘Hey, Tim, that’s a big beautiful boat and I’d like to go for a sail.’ What do you say?
HA! As a political science graduate I would have to pick his brain a little bit first but I could put my views aside. Anyone is welcome to sail with me if they are genuinely interested in it.
Follow Tim on his sailing adventures: @tim0929