Local man sells everything, sails to Caribbean
By William Crooks
Local Journalism Initiative
Townshipper Jay Caunter has sold all his possessions and is sailing down the east coast to the Carribbean. Following his dreams, he is more than halfway there – on pace to reach his destination by Christmas. Keeping as safe as possible, he maintains contact with friends over the phone and internet.
“I lived in Toronto for about 25 years,” Caunter explained, then moved back to his hometown of North Hatley in 2011 to look after his father. His father passed away a few years ago. At that point, he realized he had no family left and there was nothing holding him back, “so I decided to follow a dream.” Caunter sold everything he owned and bought a bigger boat up in Sarnia, Ontario – a 1979 Sabre 34.
“I hated sailing when I was a kid,” Caunter said; his father used to own the marina in North Hatley. He was a fan of the powerboats, sailboats being “totally foreign” to him. When he was 25 years old, he learned how to sail. “You couldn’t get me back on a powerboat if you tried, now.”
Caunter has sailed over 2,500 kilometers so far, traversing, from Sarnia, through the Great Lakes and the Eerie Canal down to New York City. He then sailed up Delaware Bay and back down Chesapeake Bay. He continued down the east coast and is currently approaching Georgetown South Carolina. He sails when he can and motors when he must.
Caunter’s day begins by checking three different weather apps. He is not in a hurry, if the wind is blowing over 25 knots he will stay where he is. He recently spent three days at a marina because the wind was too strong.
Because he is sailing single-handed, he takes a lot of precautions. “When I’m not at the dock, my lifejacket is on,” he noted. His lifejacket has a harness that is clipped to his boat so he cannot fall out. His boat has no room for a life raft, however. He insists that he is extremely careful. Only very serious problems get him to leave his boat’s cockpit while he is on the water. He passed through Norfolk Harbour and used his motor exclusively. “There [were] ships everywhere,” he explained; he found the experience nerve-wracking.
Every night he anchors down, stops at a marina, or finds a free dock. Marinas can be expensive, so he tries to avoid them. They are, however, one of the only places off the water one can shower. His search for an anchoring point starts around 3 p.m., because the days are getting shorter.
Caunter tries to keep about two weeks of food on his boat. Perishable foods last up to a week in his fridge, and he always has canned and freeze-dried options as a backup. The boat also has a barbecue, toilet, and sink. “I’ve got everything I need.”
He checked in with U.S. customs at Cape Vincent, New York. He was told he would have to check in at customs at every major city he passes. Later he was told to just check in at every state. “We want to know where you are in case there is a storm,” he was told, but he is skeptical.
Caunter’s goal is to be in the Bahamas by Christmas and south of Grenada by next June. Besides that, he has no specific plans. He has friends he is keeping in touch with that want to visit him when he gets somewhere warm.
When he is far away from shore his phone and internet stop working. His navigation system, or chart-plotter, already contains all the information it needs and functions by satellite no matter where he is. “I won’t get lost.”
He wanted to download some books, so he stopped in at a Starbucks to take advantage of their free wi-fi. He enjoys listening to audiobooks while he is sailing, finishing two or three a week. Caunter is allergic to shellfish, so he does not fish at all. He used to love lobster, but no more. When he is not sailing, there is always something to do, he said.
Sometimes he enjoys potluck dinners with other sailors during his stints on shore. “I have met so many wonderful people,” Caunter said, “the people from Sarnia to here have been fantastic.” People have offered to loan him their cars, driven him to stores, picked things up for him – he cannot complain about anybody.
Caunter wants everyone back in the Townships to know he is doing well and that he says “hi”.