Samaritan salvages shipwrecked sailor’s stuff
Mystery mariner says items recovered in wreck were ‘totally irreplaceable’
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.
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.
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.