Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Georgia Couple Finds Safe Harbor in Connecticut

Christopher and Sandra Yarborough were in Connecticut to collect the Jenny, a 25-foot sailboat they bought from an owner in Southport. Shortly after setting out on their journey to Florida, their trip abruptly came to a halt when the Jenny ran aground at a nearby beach.

With a damaged rudder, no gas and no water, the Yarboroughs were in serious trouble. In the distance, they could see people running up and down the beach. Sandra Yarborough said, “The water was so big and it was very windy. If one of those waves hit us, we felt like it would turn us over. Then we saw the people coming out of their houses. They got us off the boat.”

Mr. Yarborough was shaking when the two were brought to safety. His rescuers were concerned he might have hypothermia but he was feeling fine within an hour. Both of the Yarboroughs have survived major health crises. Christopher Yarborough, 59, suffered a stroke in 1999, which paralyzed his left side. In 1982, Sandra Yarborough, 57, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and given only six months to live. Although she continues to move in and out of remission, her doctors felt she was fit enough to make the voyage. “I tend to beat the odds,” she says.

The Yarboroughs were housed temporarily in a nearby inn but they were anxious to get back to their boat and be reunited with their pets Greenie, a 3 year-old Jack Russell and Ralph, their 17 year-old orange cat. The Jenny, the couple and their pets are now safely berthed at the Fayerweather Yacht Club in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Club members have been working furiously to get their boat into shipshape for the trip from Connecticut to Cocoa Village, Fla. Timing is critical as the season is already beginning to change in Connecticut. Originally scheduled to set sail this past Sunday, some of the club members asked that the Yarboroughs postpone the trip for a couple of days to pull the sailboat of out the water and make doubly sure she is seaworthy.

On Friday, another captain, Bob Butler, took Sandra Yarborough out on his boat, the Whisper to guide her though the route they’ll be taking next week. “The trip gave me a point of reference that I can see, so I’m not just navigating from charts,” said Yarborough.

The voyage from Connecticut through New York City can be tricky, including navigating the treacherous Hell Gate passage between the Bronx and Queens. The Jenny will make her way through New York's East River, sailing under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, and on to New Jersey.

Their newly found friends in Connecticut are concerned for their safety but recognize the grit and determination the Yarboroughs have to make their trip South. To that end, the members of Fayerweather Yacht Club have banded together to support the Yarboroughs in their dream. The boat repairs, gas for the boat, and housing the boat have all been paid for by the yacht club. Club members have also donated $300, a GPS system, autopilot system and new battery. When the Yarboroughs set sail next Wednesday they will be surrounded by well-wishers, people they might never have known if they hadn’t run aground in Connecticut.

The Yarboroughs first stop is just past Executioner’s Rock near New Rochelle, New York. Prior to the Revolutionary War, British soldiers brought colonial prisoners to the spot to be tortured and ultimately drowned. Sounds scary but the Yarboroughs aren’t spooked. “No. I’m not really nervous. I have my faith. The Lord has never given me anything I can’t handle,” said Sandra Yarborough.

As Georgians, the Yarboroughs might not have expected to be greeted with this outpouring of Northern hospitality. When asked if she was surprised by the kindness of strangers in Connecticut, Sandra Yarborough said, “I take people on how I meet them, not on what I hear about them. These people, they claim they don’t have wings. But I see their wings all the time.”

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