Sailboats have a protective covering called a dodger to shield the helmsman from the elements when at sea. Typically, a dodger has stainless steel support arms and zip out windows. “During the storm the stainless steel dodger surrounding the hatch was flattened by a wave,” he says. “It was the only time I had ever seen it happen.”
Exhaustion finally got the better of him. With no one left to pilot the sailboat, Halsted was forced to recruit the inexperienced Lennon. Why, in so severe a storm, would he put the lives of everyone at risk by leaving the responsibility to such a novice sailor?
“I never intended for John to sail the boat alone,” Halsted says. “He would only sail with one of the experienced crew beside him, never alone. His duties were in the galley, where he was responsible for preparing all of the food. He came aboard knowing he would only be learning, an observer. He never wrote anything down, just saying that he would remember the experience.”
“But I had been up for nearly three days. I had a situation where I felt it was necessary that someone else take the helm. The others couldn’t do it; they were too ill. The Megan Jaye didn’t have an autopilot on board at that time. The captain’s station and bunk below are only a few feet away. I could have been at his side in seconds had anything gone wrong. Being on the boat, you sleep lightly.”
Halsted spent an hour keeping a watchful eye over his frightened protege, then went below to sleep, leaving Lennon alone at the helm.
As Lennon told Playboy a few months later: “So, I was there driving the boat for six hours, keeping it on course. I was buried under water. I was smashed in the face by waves for six solid hours. It won’t go away. You can’t change your mind. It’s like being on stage; once you’re on there’s no gettin’ off. A couple of the waves had me on my knees. I was just hanging on with my hands on the wheel — it’s very powerful weather — and I was having the time of my life. I was screaming sea chanteys and shoutin’ at the gods! I felt like the Viking, you know, Jason and the Golden Fleece. I arrived in Bermuda. Once I got there, I was so centered after the experience at sea that I was tuned in, or whatever, to the cosmos. And all these songs came! The time there was amazing. Fred [Seaman] and Sean and I were there on the beach taping songs with this big machine and
me just playing guitar and singing. We were just in the sun and these songs were coming out.”
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