Bernard the German chapter eight: The sailboat

The tragic tale of the giant of Desolation Sound

Clarification from Chapter 8: Jeremy Duggan, Bernard Krieger's first skipper of Rainbow's Shadow, was no longer working for Bernard when the sailboat ran aground on a reef off the coast of Central America. Duggan had returned to Canada before this incident occurred and Bernard was captaining the boat on his own.

Previous chapter [‘The goodbye,” January 11]: After a serious health scare following a diagnosis of Hepatitis C, Bernard the German shocked his Desolation Sound neighbours when he decided to sell his handcrafted waterfront wilderness cabin to chase his second lifelong dream: sailing around the world. The only problem? Bernard Krieger was not a sailor.

To say that Bernard the German didn’t know how to sail is a bit unfair. During his final years in Desolation Sound, he and his best friend Mike Mullen, another cabin neighbour in Malaspina Inlet, had procured a 20-foot sailboat they would sail around the inlets of the sound.

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But sheltered Desolation Sound was one thing; the open oceans of the world was altogether another, and Bernard wanted a much, much larger boat to live out his dream.

Most of his family was against the sale of the cabin, but Bernard was stubborn and determined. Financially, it ended up being a shrewd move. Bernard and his wife bought the Desolation Sound lot in 1993 for $26,000. 15 years later, in 2008, they sold it for $435,000.

“Pretty sound investment, eh?” Bernard would say to me in his deep timbre. “Get it? ‘Sound’ investment?”

Bernard wanted to keep roots in the Upper Sunshine Coast area, so he and his wife bought a home in Powell River’s Wildwood neighbourhood. Then Bernard searched for a sailboat that would suit his needs: big and cheap, just like him. Basically, he was looking for a cabin on the water that could take him anywhere.

Bernard finally found what he was looking for in Fort Lauderdale, Florida: Rainbow’s Shadow, an enormous, 44-foot, heavy fibreglass boat with a concrete keel. It was a cutter-rigged sloop that just so happened to have been built by a German.

Bernard took that as a good omen. It was designed to sail the planet. Perfect. Bernard bought the boat sight unseen, something he would soon regret.

The plan was to fly to Fort Lauderdale with his nephew David and a friend named Jeremy Duggan, a Desolation Sound oyster farmer and jack-of-all-trades who was also an experienced sailor. Duggan would serve as skipper.

They would first sail Rainbow’s Shadow to Mexico, where Bernard would meet his wife and granddaughter, and together they would sail through the Panama Canal and onward into the open Pacific Ocean.

Bernard arrived in Florida pretty much straight from his last hepatitis treatments. His nephew David noted that Bernard was still in rough shape, both physically and mentally. He assumed that it was the final treatments that had run the big German down.

Bernard was temperamental and incensed when he discovered that Rainbow’s Shadow was unfit for open ocean voyages. The sails were rotten, falling apart in his giant hands, and the lines – the ropes that held the sails – were badly frayed and needed replacement, among a laundry list of other issues. Making Rainbow’s Shadow seaworthy would take weeks, and cost a lot more money.

One of the first alterations Bernard made to Rainbow’s Shadow was paint “Powell River, B.C.” under the boat’s name.

When they finally shoved off, Bernard the German immediately perked up. His second lifelong dream was coming true; he was going to sail around the world. Within an hour of leaving Fort Lauderdale, they faced their first calamity. Skipper Jeremy had gone below to work on something that was malfunctioning, leaving Bernard at the helm.

Rainbow’s Shadow sailed south, running parallel to the Florida coast just off of Miami. That’s when Bernard’s nephew spotted a huge flotilla of sailboats in the distance, headed due west toward Miami. As the flotilla drew closer and closer, Bernard’s nephew realized it was a massive sailing race, and Rainbow’s Shadow was headed at a right angle collision course with the sailing race.

“Uh, uncle Bernie?” Dave questioned. “What are we going to do about all these sailboats? We’re headed straight for them.”

“Don’t worry about it!” Bernard the German shouted back over the wind. “They’ll move! We got the right of way, eh?”

Bernard the German proceeded to sail directly into the path of the racing sailboats.

Boat horns soon blasted and the racing sailors were screaming and waving their arms at Rainbow’s Shadow to get out of their raceway. Their radio crackled with anger.

Skipper Jeremy popped up from the hold just in time to see Rainbow’s Shadow about to T-bone a racing boat. He grabbed the wheel and spun it. Bernard toppled to the deck to duck under the swinging boom, and down below dishes in galley came crashing to the floor. They came within feet of colliding into several racing sailboats. They had been at sea for 45 minutes. Skipper Jeremy took back the helm.

They eventually rounded the Florida Panhandle and the trip across the placid Gulf of Mexico went smoothly. But when they docked in Cancun, Bernard’s lifelong curse of his first impression struck again. Something happened between Bernard the German and the Mexican customs official at the harbour. The agent refused to allow Bernard and his crew entry into Mexico.

Meanwhile, Bernard’s wife and granddaughter, neither of whom had ever been to Mexico and weren’t too enthusiastic about the sailboat to begin with, were waiting impatiently at the airport.

Bernard didn’t show up. They were eventually reunited the next day at the customs office and set sail for an ill-fated, seasick journey down the east coast of Mexico and Central America.

Later on, Bernard the German’s daughter Misty and her husband flew down for a voyage aboard Rainbow’s Shadow.

“We ended up in a horrible storm; I thought we were going to die,” recounted Misty of the ordeal. “We lost anchor and got stranded sideways on a reef for three days. It was super intense. That was it for me.”

Throughout these Caribbean voyages along the Mosquito Coast, Bernard the German’s family and crew couldn’t help but notice Bernard’s deteriorating state in the tight confines of the sailboat. He was often tired and irritable, had a persistent cough, and suffered from fever and chills. Even his voracious appetite fell away and he began to lose weight. Bernard finally admitted that the Panama Canal would have to wait, that the sailing dream would have to be moored to figure out what was wrong this time.

They sailed Rainbow’s Shadow inland into Guatemala and up the Rio Dulce River, the 1930s location of the Tarzan films. As Rainbow’s Shadow cruised up the winding river, they could spot toucans and howler monkeys in the limbs of the overhanging jungle trees. They were a long way from Powell River. Soon they found a marina where they could tie up Rainbow’s Shadow.

Bernard the German convinced Dave to stay with the boat, promising that he would be back in a couple of weeks to continue the journey. Dave diligently watched over Rainbow’s Shadow in Guatemala, but the weeks stretched into months, and he wasn’t sure if he’d ever see his uncle again.

What happened to Bernard Krieger? You’ll find out in the next chapter of Bernard the German.

Grant Lawrence is an award-winning author and a CBC personality who considers Powell River and Desolation Sound his second home. “Bernard The German” originally aired in 2018 as a weekly radio serial on North by Northwest, CBC Radio One in BC. Anyone with stories or photos they would like to share of Bernard "The German" Krieger, can send an email to grantlawrence12@gmail.com.

 
Copyright © Powell River Peak

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