Nfld. & Labrador

B.C. couple's lifelong dream of epic sailing trip ends in N.L.

A couple from Victoria fulfilled a lifelong dream by wrapping up a three-year sailboat journey in St. John's harbour on Monday.

Cathryn O'Neill, Daragh Nagle finished their journey in St. John's Harbour on Monday

Cathryn O'Neill and Daragh Nagle speak with Chris O'Neill-Yates 3:34

A British Columbia couple fulfilled a lifelong dream by wrapping up a three-year sailboat journey in St. John's harbour on Monday.

Cathryn O'Neill, a schoolteacher from Victoria, and her husband, retired engineer Daragh Nagle, set sail on the 11-metre boat Chantey V three years ago.

Cathryn O'Neill said life was harmonious on board the couple's sailboat, Chantey V. (CBC)
The pair had only met five years before that, and discovered a shared love of sailing. 

"To do a long-distance cruise was a lifelong dream for me," Nagle said. "When Cathryn and I met, we did some sailing together, then we realized we'd be able to fulfil this dream together, and off we went."

They travelled thousands of nautical miles, to ports along the Pacific coast, before crossing the Panama Canal and heading to Colombia, then turning north up the Eastern Seaboard.

Exciting adventures

During those three years, the couple took two breaks, leaving the sailboat behind and flying home to B.C. Later, the two picked up just where they had left off.

O'Neill said it's hard to describe the adventure that's awaited them along the way.

"We actually haven't met any pirates, but you know you do hear stories," she said.

"It's totally unpredictable with the weather and the people. You just land, get off your boat in some port. Then you look around and say, 'Oh, I wonder what's happening here,' and you go exploring."

Daragh Nagle said while it was many days at sea in very close quarters, the pair worked well together. (CBC)
"You just never know what's going to happen next, who you're going to meet, or what scary and unpredictable situations you're going to end up in. It's been a lot of fun, and we've really enjoyed the whole time."

While it was many days at sea, with just one other person as company, the pair worked well together.

"We did a five-week trip around Vancouver Island, and everything went so well on that trip, I figure we could go anywhere," said Nagle. 

"If we made five weeks, we could do anything, and it's proven to be true."

Scary moments at sea

O'Neill said while life was harmonious on board, the voyage had its white-knuckled moments.

"Once in Panama, we ended up in a situation where our sail ripped out and we were a few hundred miles out on our trip, and we had to turn around and go back. And it was just torrential downpour, monsoons, and terrible weather," she said. 

"It took us ages to get back in, in the middle of the night, outside the Panama Canal, with all the tankers going in all different directions. So it was a relief when we finally put the hook down."

When they arrived in Newfoundland, Mother Nature showed them who was boss.

"We'd intended to make a bunch of stops on the south coast [of the island], but the weather held us in," said Nagle. 

"We made an unsuccessful attempt to leave Port aux Basques, and had to turn back because the seas were untenable."

Unforgettable journey

Nagle said that in the end, the joys of the trip outweighed the frustrations. He said every port they arrived in was different, from nearly abandoned fishing villages, to major cities like Washington.

"When you drop the hook in any of these harbours around the world, you get the very best view — probably the view that made the people settle there in the first place," he said.

It turned out to be the trip of a lifetime for the couple, in more ways than one.

"I'd have to say for me the highlight was Puerto Vallarta, because we ended up getting married there," O'Neill said.

O'Neill will now make her way back home to Victoria. Meanwhile, Nagle will be joined by a new partner, and they'll head south through the Caribbean, up through the Panama Canal, and back to B.C.


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