Daugh­ter of noted sea cap­tain moved by the spirit of the S. S. Kyle

The Compass - - NEWS - BY LIBBY EARLEDEPIERO • We­blink: http://www.sskyle.org/

There once was a lit­tle girl who never knew her fa­ther. She would say to her mother, “Where is my fa­ther?” Would you give me a lit­tle brother?” And her mother would say, “But you have Gramp and a fa­ther. You’re bet­ter off than the other lit­tle girls for you have two fa­thers. You have Gramp (Ed­ward Dawe) and your fa­ther, Guy.” “But I don’t know Guy,” said the lit­tle girl. So, one day the mother took the lit­tle girl to meet her real fa­ther. The lit­tle girl was only four, but she was al­ways ask­ing for him. The mom and daugh­ter drove a long way. They drove through Bay Roberts, where the mom pointed out the house she had grown up in. Then they drove and drove some more un­til they got to Car­bon­ear. There, the mom told the lit­tle girl, “This is where your fa­ther lives.”

Now, the lit­tle girl is grown, and she still re­mem­bers that sunny day, and when this tall, tall dark shadow stood in the door­way. He was taller than the door. The lit­tle girl was shy, like lit­tle girls are. Was this her fa­ther?

She re­mem­bered one more thing. The red Pop­eye mugs up on the shelf with the eyes that rolled around when one lifted the mugs. And, the dark shadow look­ing down at her, so many years be­fore. That’s all she got, that lit­tle girl. One night when the lit­tle girl was 12, Guy went away for­ever. The lit­tle girl was to fi­nally meet him on Satur­day, but he died the Wed­nes­day be­fore. The lit­tle girl re­mem­bers that night, be­cause of the dream she had. It’s funny about dreams. Most of them one for­gets the next morn­ing, but this dream the lit­tle girl will re­mem­ber al­ways.

Then the grand­fa­ther asked the lit­tle girl, “Would you like to go to his fu­neral? I loved Guy. I will bring you.” The lit­tle girl said no. Maybe lis­ten­ing to the other adults around her, said, “No, I don’t want to see my fa­ther in his cof­fin.” The lit­tle girl made a ter­ri­ble mis­take. Why didn’t she say yes? It was the big­gest fu­neral Car­bon­ear had ever seen, even to this day. One day in 2007, when the lit­tle girl, all grown up, re­turned to Car­bon­ear with her hus­band. She drove past the S.S. Kyle to show her hus­band the boat her fa­ther had left there. So when they ap­proached, her hus­band said, “that’s not the Kyle.” “It is so,” she re­torted. Her hus­band ex­claimed, “That’s not a boat. That’s a ship!” The S.S. Kyle spoke to the grown-up girl that day. And she heard. Now, the daugh­ter of our “great­est nav­i­ga­tor” comes home ev­ery year to “Swim the Kyle.” “Why?” the peo­ple ask me. Why do I Swim the Kyle? Be­cause I feel her in my bones. I see her in my mind’s eye as I sit here, many miles away. When I was first taken out to her, the very first time, Stafford Baker took my hus­band and I out. We drew close to her hull, and I laid my palms against the steel. My body shook with the force as “I’m BACK!” echoed clearly though my mind.

Hang­ing was a real rick­ety lad­der which my hus­band climbed first to see if it would hold. Then it was my turn. Up I went. We stayed and looked and walked all around her. It was a won­drous time, that first time, as the sea­man’s ghost en­veloped me, guid­ing us along.

I could still see her once glo­ri­ous beauty shin­ing through her tired rooms. When we climbed down my hus­band went first. Then, it was my turn. As I was step­ping into the boat I felt the last rung slip and give a lit­tle. When we looked up, the last rung of the lad­der had been torn from the wood but not un­til I had one foot in the boat. She took care of me. And, she calls to me.

I know when I save the Kyle my fa­ther will come back to me, un­less he is al­ready aboard. With him will come all the great cap­tains of New­found­land. Men like Capt. Ben Tav­er­nor, who died along with his two sons when a Ger­man U-boat tor­poe­doed the S.S. Cari­bou down dur­ing the Sec­ond World War. All the brave cap­tains of New­found­land will have a place to be. All our chil­dren and chil­dren’s chil­dren will re­mem­ber th­ese brave men; will know New­found­land’s his­tory. It will be a mon­u­ment to all of them, for the world to see. And, all the oth­ers too. Amelia will be there. Didn’t she take off from the nearby Har­bour Grace air­field for the first fe­male trans-At­lantic solo flight? Old Glory and her pilot and crew will be there too, for didn’t the Kyle find her, af­ter 52 ships tried and failed? Only our Kyle could do it.

The wives and fam­i­lies of all our strong men will be there, too, es­pe­cially all who waited for their men to come home. Many did, but many more didn’t. All of them will be there. I’ll be there too.

So she swims, for the lit­tle girl now grow­ing old, knows. She feels the pull. Don’t let her go.

— Libby Earle DePiero writes from West Haven, Con­necti­cut, and is the daugh­ter of Capt. Guy Earle of Car­bon­ear and Betty Dawe Earle of Bay Roberts. She will un­der­take her fourth “Swim the Kyle” at 2 p.m. on Sept. 14, one of sev­eral events planned to marked the 100th an­niver­sary of the launch of the S. S. Kyle, which has been grounded in River­head, Har­bour Grace since 1966. She can be reached by email at the fol­low­ing: lib­byearle@gmail.com

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