‘First mate’ gets early Christ­mas present


It was a dog­gone nice end­ing to a ship­wreck tale.

Steve Smith of Cox­heath re­cently helped out sailor Andy Bunn, whose sail­boat ran aground on the shores of Gabarus in Oc­to­ber, send­ing him back in the United States and ap­peal­ing to Cape Bre­ton­ers for help in re­cov­er­ing some of his per­sonal items from the ves­sel.

Smith not only re­cov­ered items from the sail­boat and mailed them to Bunn but added an ex­tra —a toy for Bunn’s bull mas­tiff-boxer mix, At­ti­cus, the ship’s “first mate.”

A few days ago, Smith re­ceived a text of thanks from Bunn.

“Out of the blue we also got a photo of his dog with the chew toy we had thrown in there,” he said.

“Clearly, they both lost ev­ery­thing. We wanted to make sure the dog got mail too.”

Smith said it was a nice feel­ing to get the photo in which the dog was ac­tu­ally hold­ing the toy his mouth.

“I was very happy that Andy got the box and his things as they meant a lot to him.”

Smith, a re­tired U.S. Navy vet­eran, had been fol­low­ing Bunn’s story since the sailor’s 11-me­tre sail­boat Lib­erty ran aground along the rocky shore­line dur­ing a storm on Oct. 24.

Am storm in Septem­ber had left Bunn’s boat drift­ing in the Cabot Strait, from where it was later towed to Syd­ney by the Cana­dian Coast Guard.

After the Oct. 24 ground­ing in Gabarus, lo­cal res­i­dents re­ported see­ing a mys­te­ri­ous sailor and his dog leav­ing the small fish­ing vil­lage on foot.

Smith — along with wife, Heather, and his own dog, Mira —sal­vaged what they could from the tan­gled mess of water­logged items on the aban­doned ves­sel. After con­nect­ing with Bunn, Smith went back a sec­ond time look­ing for spe­cific items the sailor hoped to get back as well.

Bunn was also look­ing for some elec­tronic com­po­nents in­clud­ing his GPS, lap­top and the ship’s bell.

How­ever, Smith said, those items were al­ready miss­ing from the boat when he got there and he feels some might have been pil­fered.

“How­ever, un­for­tu­nately, if they were still on board they’d be of no use any­way be­cause ev­ery­thing is wet in­side the boat, as least when we were there.”

The coast guard had also vis­ited

the site and re­moved some con­tent, such as fuel, oil and bat­ter­ies that could cause en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age.

Smith even re­cov­ered Bunn’s wed­ding ring.

“It was buried and no one would have rooted through the rub­ble to find it.”

The pack­age was mailed to Vir­ginia where Bunn has been await­ing word on whether he’ll ever be able to re­turn to Canada to sal­vage any­thing from Lib­erty. Canada Bor­der Ser­vices Agency of­fi­cials told him he might not be al­lowed back into the coun­try for 10 years be­cause his record in­cludes a charge for car­ry­ing a con­cealed weapon and a dis­or­derly con­duct ticket.

Smith does plan to keep in touch with the sailor.

“I didn’t ask him too many ques­tions — like if he was get­ting a new boat or if the in­sur­ance cov­ered it — I didn’t want to get into that. It was his home and I don’t know how per­sonal that is to him.

“Def­i­nitely, I’d keep in touch with him to see how he is do­ing and what’s go­ing on.”


A bull mas­tiff-boxer mix named At­ti­cus and owned by Amer­i­can sailor Andy Bunn, who re­cently ship­wrecked in Gabarus, hangs on tightly to a toy mailed to Vir­ginia by Steve Smith of Cox­heath.

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