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Home is a small, engineless sailboat

Shipping News stories usually begin with a boat in the harbor. Readers know they’re in for a tale of a peculiar vessel or unusual cruiser.

In April, the weathered and rust-streaked Bristol 27 Alexandra brought a sailor unlike any other into the harbor.

Her deck looked disorderly; metal pipes lying on either side of the cabin, what might have been a bed sheet or sail cover (or one in the same) bunched between oxidized turnbuckles and portlights. A purple hula hoop. A green bucket. Several small, carefully potted plants. At the stern, a weathered tree limb lashed to a metal cradle – the arm of a sculling oar. There was no motor. The transom was partially obscured by a wind vane and Alexandra’s years of exposure to the elements were on full display.

The distinct stains on the hull – three vertical lines of rust extending to the waterline – were familiar. Oriental had gotten its first glimpse at Alexandra early one morning in January. The boat slowly, silently glided up the inner harbor, a lone sailor at the helm gently sweeping a long sculling oar, the smooth movement a contrast to the rough and battered look of the hull. Briefly tying up at dock, town saw little of the sailor before he sculled back down the harbor and dropped hook in the anchorage.

Soon after, word got around that Alexandra had sailed through the Great Dismal Swamp, the motorless vessel breaking through ice in the channel when a polar vortex swept across the east coast. The rumors turned out to be true…confirmed when Sean D’Epagnier returned with Alexandra in April, this time for a longer stay. Few cruisers would attempt to sail in the Great Dismal Swamp. Most think it’s better handled with a motor. But the Sean isn’t most cruisers.

Alexandra and her crew of one were counting down their 48 hours at Oriental’s free Town Dock when TownDock staff caught up with them…[ ]

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