Tinkerbelle: Falmouth to Falmouth
Robert Manry’s solo transatlantic crossing in Tinkerbelle, a 14ft sailing boat, was a test of character and determination. On the 1st of June 1965, Manry set off from Falmouth, Massachusetts, USA, with the entire Atlantic Ocean ahead of him.
As with many voyages, there is an element of (arguably self-imposed) isolation. This is often when you learn the most about the world around you, and yourself. With none of the distractions of ‘normal life’, there is the opportunity to see from a new perspective.
The isolation Manry faced throughout the journey was occasionally broken by conversations with passing vessels, or brief messages passed to loved ones. He reported a few occasions where ‘madness’ set in, a combination of extreme tiredness and lack of conversation!
For the most part, Manry survived on the well planned provisions on board Tinkerbelle. Occasionally a passing ship might offer some fresh food. The most notable of these encounters was with Captain Sart of the Belgulf Glory.
“Do you need any provisions?” Captain Sart called across the ten yards of water between us.
“No, I really don’t need anything,” I shouted back. But I could see he already had food there on deck and might be disappointed if I refused to take it, so I added, “But I sure could use some fresh fruit.”
The food was sealed in plastic bags and these were then secured in a larger canvas bag, which, in turn, was tied into a life jacket to keep it afloat. One end of a heaving line was thrown to me and the other end was tied to the food parcel, which was then lowered into the ocean. I soon had it aboard and was inspecting its contents. Captain Sart had given me a banquet, the entrée of which was still hot from the oven: a whole roast chicken and potato croquettes (Poulet Roti and Pommes Croquettes from the ship’s officers’ Sunday menu). The bag also contained a huge loaf of freshly baked bread, apples, plums, lemons, a pound of Dutch butter, a huge slab of chocolate with nuts in it, two cans of soft drink and two bottles of beer.
I had to eat the chicken and the potato right away because there was no refrigeration on Tinkerbelle. And what a meal it was! I was more stuffed than the turkey at our family’s last Thanksgiving dinner. It was extremely generous of the captain to give me all that food, I appreciated it immensely, but I couldn’t help worrying that maybe one of the Belgulf Glory‘s officers didn’t get enough to eat at dinner that day because of the captain’s kindness to me. I sincerely hope not.(2012: 235)
Tinkerbelle in the news
During the crossing, Manry’s journey began to gain momentum and news coverage. Shortly after his meeting with the Belgulf Glory, an R.A.F Shackleton bomber found Tinkerbelle and dropped two bright orange buoyant canisters close to the boat. Inside Manry found a selection of fresh fruit and a message from Wing Commander R. A. Carson of the 42nd Squadron of the R.A.F, based in St. Mawgan.
Sure enough, the following day, the Roseland of Penzance found Tinkerbelle around 270 miles off Lands End with a news crew to televise an interview between Manry and Bill Jorgensen from Cleveland’s WEWS.
From there the public excitement really began to grow, and by the time he reached Newlyn there were boats racing out to meet him. On the final day of the voyage, Manry and Tinkerbelle were surrounded by a flotilla of boats of all shapes and sizes which came to escort him into Falmouth.
Upon the land 78 days later, Manry (almost falling over!) saw his wife and children, The Mayor and around 50,000 people who turned out to celebrate the end of this exceptional journey. He even kissed the stones of the quay in gratitude.
There is perhaps something we can all learn from Manry’s journey, and the situation we collectively face. ‘I had become well aquatinted with loneliness and I believe that gave me a greater comprehension of the value of human companionship’ (2012: 302).
At a time when we’re staying at home, we hope you can think fondly of Falmouth, and perhaps consider your next, or first, trip to visit. You can come to Falmouth via the Atlantic Ocean if you’d like… though the train is a good option too!
We look forward to welcoming you with open arms to our wonderful town when we are able to go ‘on land’ again. For now, take a look at www.visitfalmouth.com for holiday inspiration. Stay safe, enjoy your local spaces and keep dreaming of Falmouth.
We ask that you do not visit Falmouth at this time. For more information, please read the statement from Visit Cornwall, Cornwall Council, CIOS LEP and Public Health, as of 20/03/20.
words / Catie Close
colour photos / Robert Manry, © The Robert Manry Project, all rights reserved (except featured photo)
black and white photos / photographer(s) unknown
With thanks to Steve Wystrach for providing information, photographs, permissions and insights into The Robert Manry Project.
To learn more about Tinkerbelle, please take a look at The Robert Manry Project, a resource compiled by Steve Wystrach to support his documentary film: MANRY AT SEA – In the Wake of a Dream. You can also buy the E-Book to read for yourself via Amazon Kindle, iBooks, Google Play and more.
MANRY, Robert. 2012. Tinkerbelle [Expanded E-Book Edition]. USA: BookBaby. Available from Amazon.com.