Tim Garrold never planned on a life of adventure at sea when he graduated from Searsport High School. Even when he mowed the lawn at the Penobscot Marine Museum, never did he imagine one day he would be a featured speaker there, sharing tales of maritime rescues in the Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf and off Iceland.
Garrold, now a professor at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I., will be back in his hometown this week to share stories from a 32-year Naval career that was made memorable by dozens of rescues at sea.
A professor of Joint Maritime Operations at the 126-year-old college, Garrold teaches about the ways the nation’s military services work together. But in his career serving in the Navy, Garrold traveled the world and came to know its oceans intimately.
He’ll recount rescues such as that of the crew of a merchant ship that was burning in the Mediterranean Sea in 1982, and the aiding of a helicopter crew who crashed in the Persian Gulf in 1991.
“The old saying about time spent at sea is that it’s hours of boredom punctuated by moments of stark terror. I spent years and years deployed on ships. Every now and then you just find yourself in a situation where the law of the sea calls upon mariners to help other mariners in trouble,” Garrold said.
Garrold dives with excitement into his story about the Yugoslavian merchant ship that burned at sea just north of the Suez Canal. In a small rescue boat, Garrold, a junior officer at the time, helped rescue the crew and watched as their captain refused to leave the ship until it was under water.
He and his Navy crew once saved a 35-foot sailboat that had pitch-poled and demasted in a storm off Cape Hatteras, off the coast of North Carolina. It was a long night steaming alongside the sailboat with the shortened sail, ferrying it to shore.
“They were in danger of sinking. The cardinal rule when a ship is in bad shape: You stay with them all night,” Garrold said.
The Maine mariner helped track Soviet submarines in the 1970s and act as a “gate guard” in the frozen waters off Iceland, sometimes working to save his own ship.
“One thing I emphasize, I never did any of these rescues, I was always part of a ship’s company, part of the Naval crew. We participated in the age-old maritime tradition of coming to another ship’s rescue at sea. Unlike the Coast Guard that is dispatched all the time, we came upon the people we rescued. In none of these cases were we dispatched,” Garrold said.
The husband and father of two Naval officers, Garrold put together the presentation for his hometown’s maritime museum, which continues to influence his life in unseen ways.
A decade ago his daughter, Chessa, relished in and played at the Pirate Day celebration at the Searsport museum as a child. Today she is an officer on a Naval ship that has gone in search of pirates in the Arabian Sea.
“I grew up in Searsport until I joined the Navy in 1974. I enlisted and fully expected in four years I’d do something else. Then I went on to a 32-year career My dad is a land surveyor and always thought I’d come back to join the family business. But it’s kind of the adventure of life. I never looked back,” said Garrold.
Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at: