Tinkerbelle is retired but still lives
May 19, 2017 9:14 PM   Subscribe

On June 1, 1965 a mild mannered newspaper copy editor at the Cleveland Plain Dealer set off from Falmouth, Massachusetts in his 13.5 foot wooden sailboat Tinkerbelle and headed east. 78 days later, on August 17, he arrived in Falmouth, Cornwall, England. To his shock he was greeted by 50,000 people (Note: PDF) having become something of a celebrity while at sea.

In articles, the Dealer described the condition of Tinkerbelle (PDF) and wrote a profile (PDF) of Manry.

From the profile:
Manry once told his wife, Virginia, "There comes a time that one must decide, of one's dreams, either to risk everything to achieve them, or sit for the rest of one's life in the back yard."
With a couple hundred miles to go, Manry was intercepted at sea for a filmed interview: Part 1, Part 2. (YouTube)

In 1966, Manry wrote a delightful book about the experience, Tinkerbelle that you can read on-line. The book was quite popular and used copies are not hard to find.

Having lived, Robert Manry died of a heart attack on February 21, 1971, aged 52.

As for Tinkerbelle herself, she survives and is on display at the Crawford Auto Aviation Collection museum. The best photos of the exhibit appear to be in this thread at the WoodenBoat forums.

A documentary film is in work and raising funding.
posted by LastOfHisKind (15 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
You couldn't have known, but this entire post reads to my eye like a jumble of keywords that interest me for various reasons. It's kinda uncanny and spooky. Thanks for this.
"I have studied many times
The marble which was chiseled for me—
A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor.
In truth it pictures not my destination
But my life.
For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment;
Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid;
Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.
Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life.
And now I know that we must lift the sail
And catch the winds of destiny
Wherever they drive the boat.
To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Of restlessness and vague desire—
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid."
posted by limeonaire at 9:32 PM on May 19 [9 favorites]


Related: someone is trying to cross the Atlantic in a 3.5 ft sailboat.
posted by zabuni at 9:54 PM on May 19 [5 favorites]


The Pathé newsreel footage of his arrival is amazing: Tinkerbelle was bloody tiny. And the writing in the first PDF is just wonderful. If this doesn't stir your heart to adventure, I just don't know.

Fantastic post.
posted by DangerIsMyMiddleName at 12:28 AM on May 20 [7 favorites]


On June 1, 1965 a mild mannered newspaper copy editor at the Cleveland Plain Dealer set off from Falmouth, Massachusetts in his 13.5 foot wooden sailboat Tinkerbelle and headed east. 78 days later, on August 17, he arrived in Falmouth, Cornwall, England. To his shock he was greeted by 50,000 people (Note: PDF) having become something of a celebrity while at sea.

Is there a German word for the opposite of the lady who made a twitter joke about AIDS in Africa and the internet went apeshit waiting for her plane to land?
posted by ActingTheGoat at 1:28 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]


J effin' C. The prospect of being in the open ocean alone in something like that fills me with a visceral terror.
posted by entropone at 5:18 AM on May 20 [3 favorites]


Great post! But the Pathé newsreel says he was greeted by 12,000 people; I guess the number grew in the retelling?
posted by languagehat at 6:28 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]


J effin' C. The prospect of being in the open ocean alone in something like that fills me with a visceral terror.

You're not alone. Fear of water and fear of heights I think are two primordial and universal fears. Savannah Apes, and all we are.
posted by alex_skazat at 8:45 AM on May 20


To be honest, staring too long and hard into a deep glass of water fills me with a visceral terror. I get the same feeling from staring at maps of the ocean. I remember thinking about that when I was a kid, imagining being an ant struggling in the glass, mindful of how far down the bottom would be for a creature so tiny, with nothing to hold onto, no place to rest.

I've always taken to the water and boats, and my ancestors came here on ships, but this would not be something I would do. Even the preparations make for a fascinating story, though. I got to chapter 6 last night.
posted by limeonaire at 10:15 AM on May 20


Thanks, LastOfHisKind, that's lovely. DangerIsMyMiddleName, the size of the boat as shown in that film is terrifying. You've both given me conversational material to ring my father up with now, thank you.
posted by paduasoy at 12:10 PM on May 20


Forget the fear of water and heights and all that, the sheer claustrophobia would do me right in.
posted by Samizdata at 12:17 PM on May 20


Thank you for all the nice words.

My father owned this book and it was, I think, the first true life adventure book I ever read. I never became a sailer but it definitely had some influence on me with regards to biasing some decisions more towards the adventuresome.

With regards to that 3.5 ft boat mentioned by zabuni, it's interesting that there's apparently a threshold where I go from Tinkerbelle (Cool! Adventure! Let's go!) to no freaking way in hell would I live in a floating armored trashcan for three or four months in the middle of the ocean.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 12:29 PM on May 20


Spoke to my father - he directed me to a similar trip, that of Colin and Stan Smith in 1949. Their boat was larger at 20 feet. There's a Pathé film of that too, and an account by Colin Smith. I like the fact that their boat was named in Esperanto.
posted by paduasoy at 12:30 PM on May 20


I have his book, buying it from a used book sale a few years ago, and having admired this guy from afar for many years.

I grew up reading the Plain Dealer and reading about his adventure at the time. As an adult who worked newsrooms all my life, the two striking things are his decision to mail a letter to a boss telling him what he was doing--after he'd set sail!--and the fact that he was a copy editor, not exactly a career known to draw people inclined to do deeds of physical derring-do.

The Cleveland Press scooped the PD by flying a reporter out to interview him before he docked; since the papers were bitter rivals, this was quite the beat.

A few months ago, I proposed that an organization I'm involved in name a scholarship for him, but no one had ever heard of him. If he's finally getting some overdue recognition, perhaps they'll change their minds.
posted by etaoin at 12:39 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]


What's kind of amusing is in the epilogue where he talks about expenses, and how even in 1965 air travel was cheaper:

The total cost of the one-way passage to England, not including the cost of the boat and the expense of repairing and remodeling it, was roughly $1,000. Since it would have been possible to fly to England in June for approximately $400 (first class) or $270 (coach), the voyage was actually a rather expensive way to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 1:32 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]


This is amazing. I can't believe I never heard of it. I have a minor obsession with Donald Crowhurst (previously), who must have read this story in the papers and daydreamed about it. But Manry, if his account is to be believed, did not make grand claims for himself or stake the world on what he did; he just did it.

The book makes a very snappy read, especially with the cartoons. It's amazing that he survived his own actions during those vivid, dream-like hallucinations.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:20 PM on May 20


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