Samar­i­tan sal­vages ship­wrecked sailor’s stuff

Mys­tery mariner says items re­cov­ered in wreck were ‘to­tally ir­re­place­able’

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - ATLANTIC - BY CHRIS CON­NORS

The pa­per is a bit tat­tered and dis­coloured with wa­ter stains, but the mes­sage — writ­ten in a child’s scrawl and hap­haz­ardly cir­cled with green, red and or­ange crayon — is still clear: “Happy Vet­er­ans Day Daddy.”

The card, sent to an Iraq War vet­eran by his young daugh­ter, is one of the many items Steve Smith sal­vaged from Andy Bunn’s ship­wrecked sail­boat off Gabarus this week.

Smith, a re­tired U.S. Navy vet­eran now liv­ing in Cox­heath, had been fol­low­ing Bunn’s story since the 11-me­tre sail­boat Lib­erty was wrecked along the rocky shore­line dur­ing a storm last month and lo­cal res­i­dents re­ported see­ing a mys­te­ri­ous sailor and his dog leav­ing the small fish­ing vil­lage on foot.

In Wed­nes­day’s edi­tion of the Cape Bre­ton Post, Bunn ap­pealed to Cape Bre­ton­ers for help in re­cov­er­ing some of the pho­to­graphs, doc­u­ments and other per­sonal be­long­ings he left be­hind when he and his bull mas­tiff-boxer mix At­ti­cus left the boat with just a back­pack and be­gan a six-day jour­ney to Quan­tico, Va.

Smith read the story and later that day headed out to Gabarus with his wife Heather and dog Mira to sal­vage what he could.

“I’ve been fol­low­ing the story in the news, and when I saw that he was look­ing for some per­sonal items, I fig­ured that seemed like a rea­son­able re­quest,” said Smith, 45.

The con­tents of the sail­boat’s cabin were scat­tered ev­ery­where, said Smith, who de­scribed it as a “tan­gled mess.” He climbed in and spent an hour or so sort­ing through the wa­ter-logged items one by one, ac­cu­mu­lat­ing a small stack that he took home in a back­pack and plans to dry out then mail to Bunn.

“Ev­ery­thing was stuck to­gether and buried. It was a real mess. I was able to sal­vage a pretty de­cent pile of some ran­dom pho­tos, kid’s items, some per­sonal doc­u­ments — small items I thought he might want,” ex­plained Smith.

Only days away from Re­mem­brance Day, which is called Vet­er­ans Day in the United States, Smith said he took spe­cial note of some things, in­clud­ing a photo of Bunn in his Ma­rine Corps dress blues, and a spe­cial to­ken from the mil­i­tary awards peo­ple for a job well done.

“I found the Amer­i­can flag that he would fly from the aft end of the boat, so I thought that would be in­ter­est­ing for him to have back. There was also a lit­tle Canada flag as well, so I’ll be send­ing that back to him.”

Bunn, 41, said items like the card from his daugh­ter and per­sonal pho­to­graphs are “to­tally ir­re­place­able.” He spoke to Smith over the phone and called his fel­low vet­eran a “good dude with novel karma points.”

“Isn’t it so heart­en­ing peo­ple can be friendly and gen­er­ous? Doesn’t it make you want more of that in the world? It does for me. And I value friend­li­ness,” said the for­mer U.S. Ma­rine Corps mem­ber.

Bunn still doesn’t know if he’ll be able to re­turn to Canada — 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 — and af­ter liv­ing on Lib­erty and sail­ing around the world with his dog over the past few years, he’s not sure what he’s go­ing to do next.

He said sail­ing again would be “in­ter­est­ing” but af­ter the Gabarus wreck and pre­vi­ous storm that left his boat drift­ing in the Cabot Strait in Septem­ber, he said he’s “more fear­ful now.”

The re­tired nurse said he’s con­sid­er­ing vol­un­teer­ing in pris­ons.

SALTWIRE NET­WORK PHOTO

Steve Smith poses with items he re­cov­ered from a sail­boat that was ship­wrecked off Gabarus, N.S., last month. The Nova Sco­tia man plans to re­turn the col­lec­tion of pa­pers, pho­to­graphs and per­sonal be­lonings to the U.S. sailor who hasn’t been al­lowed to re­turn to Canada to sal­vage his prop­erty.

SALTWIRE NET­WORK PHOTO

A card that says “Happy Vet­er­ans Day Daddy” is among the per­sonal pos­ses­sions Cox­heath, N.S., res­i­dent Steve Smith re­cov­ered from a sail­boat that is stranded on the rocky shores of Cape Bre­ton.

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