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May 19, 2009 6:11 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Across the pond, by way of Greenland

May 19, 2009 6:11 PM

On Wednesday morning, when George DuBose and his three crewmates leave the dock in Three Mile Harbor headed for Ireland, there will be just 3,000 miles, the occasional iceberg, the fog of the North Atlantic and harbors filled with ever dangerous breeding and breaching right whales between Mr. DuBose and his home.

Mr. DuBose bought his 36-foot, 1973 Pierson sloop, Skylark, sight-unseen on eBay in 2007, despite warnings from a surveyor that the boat’s electronics were useless and its deck had serious leaks that had damaged the woodwork in the cabin, in the hopes of sailing it to Europe so he could spend more time with his wife and two sons, who live in Cologne, Germany.

He has kept a boat in East Hampton for 21 years, and decided to set up shop here while refitting the Skylark because the cost of doing the work in this country is three to four times less than it would be in Europe.

“Some people, their big adventure is 18 holes of golf, but I’m a sailor,” he said as he put a thick layer of caulk between the deck and a new hatch cover on a rainy Monday afternoon. His gear for the trip was strewn all over the deck and the dock. Several teak handrails had yet to be installed, and two members of his crew—electrician Andy Heermans and first mate Tom Lohre, a painter and experienced riverboat man—were already muttering good-natured mutiny down below about “Captain Crabby,” who broke a screw as he installed the hatch. They’d just installed a three-burner propane stove for the trip, but their chef, who had prepared a fine menu for the voyage, had just backed out of the trip due to a family emergency. Mr. DuBose was counting on a diesel can full of Scotch hidden down below to get them through.

Mr. DuBose, a photographer, who estimated that he has shot about 300 album covers for rock bands, was raised in the United States, but he met a German woman, who also happened to be a doctor, on a sailboat in East Hampton in 1998. They were married in the summer of 2007 on a sandbar bird sanctuary just south of Gardiner’s Island known as Cartwright Island. Before the wedding was over, the marine patrol found them and insisted that they leave.

Mr. DuBose has a second 26-foot Pierson that he plans to leave in Don Vanderveer’s Three Mile Marina, a boatyard known for its appeal to artists, writers and other misfits, for use as his “pied-à-terre in East Hampton.”

He is at a transitional moment in his career. The album cover business has dried up as more musicians take control of every aspect of production, and the ready availability of digital music has made his work an obsolete trade.

“I do photos for rock magazines, but that doesn’t pay well,” he said.

Mr. DuBose hopes to spend his cruising hours reading and adventuring on trips that he hopes to sell to sailing magazines.

But the music money still trickles in. Mr. DuBose was debating whether to buy a lifeboat that he couldn’t afford for the trip—at a cost of about $5,000—or lease one, when he got a call saying that the B-52s wanted to buy the rights to use the image on one of the covers that he’d done for them on T-shirts. He sold the rights for $5,000, bought a six-man lifeboat for the safety of his four-man crew and named the new vessel “Planet Claire.”

On Wednesday, after the arrival of crew member Rick Doherty, the sailors will first head to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, which will be their port of entry into Canada. They’ll sail through the Baldur Lakes of Nova Scotia if the weather is good, stopping at the French islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon just south of Newfoundland, before heading to St. John, Newfoundland, their last stop in the New World. From there, they will brave the two-to-three-week trip across the Atlantic to Baltimore Island, Ireland.

“It’s the official entry port, but there’s no port of entry. You have to go to the bar,” said Mr. DuBose.

He then plans to sail, likely without his crew, to Holland and then down the Rhine River to a port in Germany 15 minutes away from his home.

Mr. DuBose said he chose the chilly northern route, rather than a straight open-water shot to first the Azores and then Spain, because his boat was not designed for ocean travel. It can’t carry enough fuel and water in the event that it were to get stuck in an infamous high pressure area just west of the Azores, where the lack of wind can strand sailors for days in the summertime. The winds on the northern route are promised to blow between 20 and 25 knots pretty much all of the time.

“May and June are the worst time for fog in Nova Scotia, and there are icebergs off of Newfoundland,” said Mr. DuBose, who has seen icebergs only from his seat in a commercial airliner flying over the Atlantic.

“Then, I was reading in National Geographic that the right whale in May and June comes to Nova Scotia to breed, so now they’re my biggest concern—whales having sex, breaching and not paying attention,” he said. “We plan to play loud rock music, Led Zeppelin, so they can hear us coming. We’re definitely not going to play any whale songs.”

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By ride the truth wave (125), southampton on May 20, 09 1:51 PM
May I offer a small correction.

There is no such palce as the "Baldur" Lakes....They'll be sailing through the Bras d'Or Lake in Cape Breton N.S.
By Bill (68), North Haven on May 21, 09 8:54 AM
a trip up into the 50 latitudes will be sheer misery. Freezing cold gale force winds and bad visibility. There is plenty of wind between here and the acores. The high pressure no wind situation exists in the 30 latitudes not the 40's. Ive made the trip between here and the acores four times and have never been becalmed. I would advise this man to reconsider. the high forty latitudes is a dangerous place for an experienced mariner with a solid boat, much less tis man and boat
By EG (8), 11937 on May 25, 09 7:29 PM
Hi, I'm the identical twin brother. Keeping the home fires burning here in Cincinnati. From the weather reports it has been foggy, mild and some rain along with 6 foot seas and low winds. Go to Google Maps and search on 'Skylark Transatlantic Crossing" and you'll see the progress map. Their last stop is St. John's and then the long crossing. Thanks for everyone's praters and well wishes. God speed the brave crew of the Skylark. Remember the Santa Maria, Ninto and the Pinta were only 26 foot beauties. ...more
By ChuckLohre (1), Cincinnati on Jun 9, 09 11:36 PM
It’s July 26, 2009 and I am writing the story of my trip. In the fall or spring, I will have a show of art about the trip. The sail was excellent. Sure, it was cold going through the Labrador Current but the temperature stayed within the predicted range of 40 to 60 degrees. Sure, we had an old boat completely refitted with bolts always coming undone, instruments always needing calibrations and old lines and hardware breaking but we are sailors; capable of fixing anything and always rising to the ...more
By artisthos (1), Cincinnati on Aug 3, 09 12:15 PM