As the author of something called The Thrilling True Story of Coles Phinizy might have put it: "He churns through life with pen and camera in search of adventure." But around here we sometimes wonder if adventure doesn't churn through life in search of Coles.
The lean, tanned and scarred Mr. Phinizy is a senior editor of long service with SI, an esteemed writer and photographer, and a sailor, diver, swimmer, river runner, spelunker, balloonist....
This week's chapter of The Thrilling True etc. unfolds on page 28 with Phinizy's story about sailing personality Ted Turner and ocean racing aboard the converted 12-meter America's Cup boat American Eagle. It is an episode made more vivid because Phinizy in search of the real Turner, went along on a stormy, three-day Caribbean race as a deck ape, taking notes, sleeping on sail bags and leaping for the winches whenever a watch captain bellowed "Crank!" When the race was over, Phinizy limped painfully from dockside to typewriter.
About that limp. On the second day of the race, in high seas, Phinizy moved aft to clear a line and was knocked flat to the deck, landing heavily on his back. There were fears he might have damaged a vertebra or two, but since there was no way of determining that until he got ashore he went right on winching, and wincing.
July 11, 1971
His back turned out to be badly bruised, but not broken, so it becomes a fairly minor entry on a list that goes:
•Plowed into a clump of Georgia pines when the plane in which he was a passenger stalled at 100 feet.
•Dropped from 4,200 feet into a New Jersey rye field when the gas balloon in which he was riding burst.
•Parachuted into "a large body of water" when a plane's engines failed while he was on a classified mission.
•Survived a midair crackup of two light planes taking off from a jungle airstrip in Bonampak, Mexico.
•Scraped most of the skin off his right leg while trying to free it from the clutches of a gang of oysters under 20 feet of water in Sydney, Australia. (He later ate some of the oysters, which serves them right.)
•Attacked by a red kangaroo while trying to take its picture.
•Unable to emerge from under the ice of frozen Fish Hook Lake in Minnesota, where he had been photographing cold fish, when he found that the hole where he had entered was frozen over again.
Phinizy, thriving and surviving, is headed off now on his vacation. To a hammock, perhaps, and a tall cooling drink under the elms? Not exactly. He is aboard his own 23-footer off Westport, Conn., still wincing a bit, but looking about sharply just in case adventure is lurking nearby.