Sandpoint Magazine Winter 2002 Sandpoint Magazine Winter 2002
Sandpoint Magazine

Sandpoint Magazine Winter 2002

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The battered Sea Dart, circa 1977, following Tristan Jones’ sailing expedition. Laurel Wagers wrote a book about Sea Dart and her adventures, Sailing Among the Stars, to be released in September 1999 by Sheridan House. ªPhoto courtesy of Idaho Department of Parks & Recreation)

Incredible voyager will sail North Idaho

She’s sailed at the top of the world, setting a world record no one can break; she was an honored guest of the Explorers Club – and she’s been nearly lost in Puget Sound. Now this 39-year-old adventuress has a new career: teaching boating safety to Idaho children.

The bold lady with the vivid past is the 21-foot-long, sloop-rigged sailboat Sea Dart, heroine of Tristan Jones’ book The Incredible Voyage. She was donated in September 1997 to the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation (IDPR) and later brought from Seattle to North Idaho. After final repairs and an exterior restoration, she was officially launched at Coeur d’Alene Lake on May 6 in a ceremony during the Governor’s Conference on Tourism. The boat will also appear this summer at the Coeur d’Alene Wooden Boat Show July 16-18 and at a boating safety day at Farragut State Park on Lake Pend Oreille July 31.

Boating Safety Education Coordinator for the northern region, Doug Strong, says the department is considering building a permanent dry-dock classroom on either Lake Pend Oreille or Coeur d’Alene Lake; and from that base she’ll travel about the state to schools and boat shows. In addition, an interactive website will be developed on the Sea Dart for Idaho classrooms to use.

“We’d like to see Sea Dart become synonymous with boating safety as Smokey Bear has with fire prevention,” Strong said. “That’s how Tristan Jones wanted the boat to be used.”

As children learn about boats and safety on the water, they’ll also learn the story of this remarkable little boat. During the seven years Tristan Jones owned Dart, she became the first boat to sail through the Panama Canal, and the first ocean-going vessel to sail Lake Titicaca. She was also the first ocean-going vessel to reach Bolivia in more than a century. Jones sailed her for about nine months among the islands of this highest lake on earth, then hauled her down the other side of the Andes to the River Paraguay, and fought through the “Green Hell” of the Mato Grosso in Brazil on the way to Buenos Aires.

A pampero wind out of Patagonia tossed her on the rocks between Buenos Aires and Montevideo, damaging her stern. Unable to repair her in Paraguay, Jones had to ship her back to England. The man who said “It is not in my nature to be sentimental about a boat” admitted later that he had tears in his eyes as he watched her being carried away on a steamship.

For more information on Sea Dart, call the IDPR regional office in Coeur d’Alene, 208/769-1511.

– Laurel Wagers

Summer 1999

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