Fairy Infestation on a Sailing Schooner: A Favorite Christmas Story

By , December 12, 2009

I remember a pleasant day of sailing with my brother, David in my home built sailing dinghy, Forget-Me-Not. We lived in Juneau then, and on that day we went to North Bridget Cove and sailed around Mab Island.

Our conversation ranged lazily far and wide, as always, but he told a story that comes to mind now, at the Christmas season. He told me about a time he and his wife, Anke anchored out in their liveaboard sailboat. They had found a quiet cove somewhere just beyond the edge of local radio reception. They searched the dial for something to listen to. Suddenly, they heard a warm baritone voice, telling a charming but unlikely story about a young man, his boat, and an unusual infestation. Dave briefly described the story to me, and said that almost as soon as it ended, they lost the broadcast. This story, which happened to be a Christmas story, had floated out of the ether into their home, then drifted away again.

The storyteller was Gordon Bok, a well-known folksinger from the east coast. The story was Jeremy Brown and Jeannie Teal. Several years later, we found the CD that takes its title from this story. It’s not particularly a Christmas album, but the story has become an essential feature of our Christmas ever since.

I won’t relate the whole story, as it’s best heard from Bok himself, but briefly, a young Irishman, Jeremy Brown, tries to eke out a living as a freelance shipper with his sentient sailing schooner, Jeannie Teal. Their prosperity is threatened by a pair of “hogans,” an unpleasant, gnome-like type of fairy, that has taken up residence in Jeremy’s yawl boat. They make his life miserable, until things come to a head when Jeremy hatches a plan to visit his young niece and her family for Christmas. Jeannie Teal, the smarter of the two, devises a scheme to turn the tables on the hogans.

Much of the story’s charm comes from Bok’s lilting Irish delivery, odd colloquialisms, and well-tempered understatement. The story sings like a song—I often catch myself literally humming along with Bok’s cadence and timbre as I listen!

We have many of Bok’s CD now. His songs and stories provide much of the homestead’s soundtrack. Of them all, though, Jeremy Brown and Jeannie Teal is my favorite. Throughout the rest of the year, we look forward to hearing it at Christmas time.

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