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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Farewell Captain Mark

I was very saddened to receive the news that Captain Mark Whayman of Sand Dollar Cruises passed away in Bermuda early Monday morning after sustaining a head injury Sunday evening.  You might recall Captain Mark from a few of my last posts in Bermuda Castle Road, The Last thing on the Bermuda Checklist, The Last Bermuda Pictures, and it was aboard Sand Dollar that I took the photos for Stalking Cinderella.

Here's what I know about Mark.  He was born and raised in Bermuda, and although he did a brief stint off island for some education and training, he came back and eventually built a life revolving around boats.  I sensed an easy peace in him.  A happiness to call Bermuda home, and appreciation for the life he had there, and a respect for the people and things around him.  That may be a lot to infer from someone you only knew briefly, but I feel pretty confident that I have it right.

When I was looking for a charter, the first place I called was busy on the day we were looking for, but the captain of that boat had no hesitation recommending Mark.  From that I know he was respected by colleagues.  When I spoke with a retired gentleman aboard the glow worm cruises, he too recommended Mark, not just as an excellent captain, but as a friend, a knowledgeable guide, and a nice person.  From this I know Mark had the respect of the community.  When the day came for our cruise, Mark was a little bit late.  A couple of men fishing on the docks reassured us that "Whayman will take good care of you guys," and that they had seen a sailboat coming around the outer edge of St. David's from the road.  I think it was the only boat out there, because the waters we very rough that day and it was a challenging course for him to take to come pick us up.  Mark also had some extra passengers that day -- a family of four that he met in St. George's at supper the night before, had invited to his home afterwards, and out on the boat the next day.  Some business owners may have charged each guest a flat rate and picked up a little more cash for the day, but not Mark, he took us out for longer than he had promised, and charged us all even less than expected....in fact we all paid 50% more than he asked because we would have felt guilty paying the reduced fee he asked for at the end of such a great day.

Captain Mark coming to get us in his bright yellow and blue skiff -- the first boat he owned he told us proudly

On board, Mark was an excellent host -- providing beverages, his own rum swizzle recipe, snorkels and masks, and when we dropped one overboard, he was most graciously nonchalant about it, and bad it retrieved while we snorkeled around the area.  He was a very knowledgeable tour guide, telling us about the history and current information of properties and forts, and he knew a lot about the local flora and fauna as well.  We all had a perfect day in the care of Captain Mark.  However, as I stayed on deck to take several hundred photos of longtails flying above, he remembered that I said on the phone I wanted a picture of Castle Island, and it had been too rocky on the oceans to dock there.  So he invited me to join his family and friends in 2 days as they were visiting the area again and expected better sea conditions.  I got the impression that he was just that kind of guy, who went out of his way for others.

And so on the second cruise, I saw more of this selfless, outgoing person.  The one who offered anything on his boat to anyone, be it food, beverages, supplies, or a camera.  The one who knew most of the other boats in the area and had a wave for everyone.  The guy who smiled as he pulled a sand dollar out between his toes, the namesake of his boat, and gave a little sand dollar lesson.  The guy who led a hike on a remote island where we found a longtail chick on the trail, and peered cautiously at it trying to see if it was injured or ok, and promised to call the Conservation officer with its location.  The kind of guy smiled and waved pleasantly at the family with the dog who were docking on that same island right below the no dogs sign and reminded them that there were no dogs allowed due to the wildlife.   The guy who knew how to find a parrot fish beak in a rock to show his guests, and who enjoyed a day floating in the water as much as sailing his boat.  The kind of guy who invited people back to his house for a barbecue at the end of a day, who watched his neighbours cats and dogs in addition to his own cat, who did modifications and repairs to other people's boats.  The kind of guy who offers you a ride to the airport when he hears you are flying out.  The kind of guy that when you tell everyone about your fabulous day aboard the Sand Dollar that they say "oh yes, he's a great guy, we sailed with him...."

So that's the little I know about Captain Mark Whayman.  I am sure there is much more to say from those who knew him better, knew him longer.  But Bermuda has lost a good son this week, a great ambassador.  May his family and friends find comfort in the many good memories they must hold.  Farewell Captain Mark -- it was a pleasure to meet you.

Captain Mark looking out on Castle Harbour