Those In Peril On The Sea

Peregrina's Journey
Peter and Margie Benziger
Thu 22 Feb 2018 15:43


Margie and I left Miami on January 5, 2010 on our sailboat, Peregrina. We have circumnavigated the world, visited 37 countries, sailed 42,000 miles and counting. Peregrina is currently in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico.

Over the course of our travels, we have developed an enormous respect for the power of the sea. The ocean can be your dearest friend and your most daunting enemy.  At its best, the ocean can be serene almost to the point of hypnotic meditation. At its worst, it is a frightful foe with breaking waves, rain and lightning strikes all around.  We, like all long-distance sailors, are drawn to the sea by it’s beauty but also, oddly enough, by its dangerous attraction.

Since we left Miami, we have had our share of challenges but we have been blessed to stay out of harms’ way.

That has not always been true for friends.  During our travels, some of our friends have not been so fortunate.

-While anchored off the coast of Malaysia, our friend Steve suffered a heart attack onboard his vessel Pantamba and passed away before medical help could be reached.

-The beautiful Discovery 55, Aqualuna, caught fire during the night, burned to the waterline and sank. Her owners Jonathan and Gabby awoke, jumped into the water and were saved.

-Sailing across the Indian Ocean the vessel, Simanderal, started taking on water and ultimately sank. Michael and Ger were rescued by a commercial vessel.

-In February 2011, the vessel Quest with our friends, Phyllis and Bob on board as crew, were attacked by Somali pirates.  They were killed along with the Captain and his wife.

All these incidents have been hard to accept but we’ve learned they are part of the life we have chosen.  Today, I’d like to share another one of these stories and pay tribute to two more friends who have left us too soon - Patrick Wolfgang and Sandi Foree.


In 2015, we completed our formal circumnavigation by returning to the San Blas Islands in Panama where we crossed our original outbound path. We had officially “tied the knot” and completed our circumnavigation. Leaving the San Blas Islands, we went to Shelter Bay Marina close to the Caribbean end of the Panama Canal to prepare the boat for hurricane season.  At Shelter Bay, we met Patrick and Sandi and spent a couple of months getting to know them as leaders in the cruising community there.  Patrick was a large man with an infectious smile. As a bit of a computer Geek, he breathed new life into our aging and salt encrusted computer.  He was also trying to start a canvas repair business. Sandi worked with the Marina to plan events that would bring a real sense of community to our group. She knew everyone and had a laugh that could be heard for a hundred meters. At night, we would have sundowners up on the patio and she would introduce the newcomers and make everyone feel welcome.

Sandi and Partick’s vessel, YachtCruz was a large old sailing ship with lots of woodwork.


 YachtCruz was not in great condition when we were at Shelter Bay but had charm. I remember going down below and immediately did a double take because bolted to the bulkhead was a six- foot high, 500-pound wooden cigar store Indian statue. Now, that is something you don’t see every day on a sailboat!

When we left Shelter Bay, in 2016, to head through the canal to the Pacific side for a second time, Sandi and Patrick threw off our dock lines as we backed out of the slip. With a giant wave and a big smile they yelled out “see you later.”

This year Sandy and Patrick were finally heading back to the USA, up the Pacific coast side of Mexico, after six years of cruising.

In early January, we began to hear news of an overdue yacht among the various group emails and blogs we monitor. About a week went by with rumors flying. Then, more specific reports came out about the coast guard receiving two EPIRB calls. (The EPIRB stands for Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon.) EPIRBS are set off when a vessel is in distress. The EPIRB signals were registered to YachtCruz.  Our hearts sank!

The Coast Guard sent out search planes but no sign of the yacht was seen. Some days later, the bodies of Sandy and Patrick were found.  In the area, some life jackets were encountered and an unidentified mattress washed up onshore but absolutely no wreckage or debris identified as from YachtCruz.

As Margie and I followed these developments and accepted the final verdict of the death of our friends, the following poem, written in 1860 by William Whiting came to mind.


Eternal Father, strong to save,

Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,

Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep

Its own appointed limits keep;

Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,

For those in peril on the sea!


So, how DO we sailors come to terms with the perils on the sea?

In the ancient days, the seafarers had little understanding of why the storms came, why the winds blew and what moved the currents. To provide meaning they invented Gods.

 Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, was one of the most powerful of all the gods in Greek mythology. Poseidon, was often depicted riding atop the ocean waves, sometimes on his chariot pulled by seahorses. He was almost always shown holding his signature weapon, the trident. Sailors prayed that he would protect them but he was actually better known for being vengeful and violent when enraged.

Thus, sailors in ancient days could explain the perils of the ocean. The storms, lightning and waves were made by Poseiden. Ships that sunk were sunk by Poseiden.

Today, we have much better ways to protect ourselves than relying on or fearing Poseiden.  We have better equipment, better weather forecasting, (hopefully) better sailing skills, and better communication but, still, we may never know what happened to YachtCruz! 

Did she strike a floating container lost off a ship?  Did she spring an unrepairable leak? Did a rogue wave hit her?  Did she run into a freak storm?  The answer may very well remain a mystery forever.

What is not a mystery is that Sandi and Patrick were drawn to the sea like all long-distance cruisers. Margie and I can not easily verbalize why we have spent seven years traveling on a small fiberglass boat through the mighty oceans of the world but we know we had to be there.

Patrick and Sandi also shared that love for the sea which drew them to wander the oceans of the world.

Are we sad for their loss? Certainly, in fact we are devastated. However, we also know that they were doing what they loved best while acknowledging the risk.

We offer this Henry Van Dyke poem in their memory as they continue their voyage.

Gone From My Sight

I am standing by the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze
and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength,
and I stand and watch
until at last she hangs like a speck of white cloud
just where the sun and sky come down to mingle with each other.

Then someone at my side says, 'There she goes!
Gone where? Gone from my sight - that is all.

She is just as large in mast and hull and spar
as she was when she left my side
and just as able to bear her load of living freight
to the places of her destination.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.

And just at the moment when someone at my side says,
'There she goes!’  There are other eyes watching her coming,
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout :
'Here she comes!

Godspeed, Sandi and Patrick.  We’ll miss you…