Harken Derm

Thank you, Garth Brooks

Published on April 18th, 2019

Rob Dunbar

Rob Dunbar serves on the Board of Directors for Sail Able Nova Scotia, a non-profit organization that provides sailing opportunities for children and adults with a disability.

For years he’s wanted to personally thank country superstar Garth Brooks for setting him on his current path, and while nobody would confuse Scuttlebutt with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, maybe Garth will see this. Here is Rob’s story:


It’s been said that some of the darkest times of your life can become your finest hour. That is what happened to me in the winter of 1995.

Having been forced to leave my beloved Nova Scotia, and all that I love, to relocate to distant Alberta, I was very homesick. I was truly a fish out of water on the prairies as my nautical ancestry goes back at least five generations and the family property, first settled in 1888, has an ocean front view.

I missed home immensely and often wondered if I’d ever see my ocean playground again.

In this circumstance, sailing was both a blessing and a curse for me. If I wasn’t a sailor, would I be as homesick? I have saltwater running through my veins, and it would be the freshwater of Glenmore Reservoir in Calgary that I sought out to sustain me.

Little did I know then how my time on the Glenmore Reservoir would become the beginning of an amazing experience that I will always cherish.

In the winter of ’95, my university sweetheart and I went our separate ways, and as I was working seasonally with a paving company, the winter layoff came in late November. That particular winter we had a cold snap that lasted six weeks where the high was -33°C! It was an exceptionally long winter for me.

After the tundra thawed and the birds started singing, I found myself wandering aimlessly around the parking lot where the Glenmore Sailing Club members store their boats. In four parking stalls were some very peculiar looking boats called a Martin 16. I eventually learned that the Martin 16 is used by the Disabled Sailing Association of Alberta (DSAA) and thought it quite interesting at best.

Around that time (spring ’96) I started to listen to country music. Not the traditional kind that my father listens to, as Shania Twain was and still is at the top of my list, but I was also humming tunes from Alan Jackson, Terri Clark, and Toby Keith.

But there’s one guy whose music video has made a profound and everlasting mark on my life. That person is none other than Garth Brooks whose music video “Standing outside the Fire.”

Garth had given me a life lesson, if not an awakening. It really drove home the point that no matter what physical or cognitive challenge a person is dealing with, they just want to be treated equally with dignity and respect.

Speculating that if something had happened to me and was suddenly living in a wheelchair, I’d be eternally grateful to anyone who would take me sailing again. In a strange sense, I could see a parallel to my gratefulness for the Calgary sailing community allowing me to be part of their family.

Thus, my love of sailing was married with my inner drive to help others to the best of my ability. I immediately became involved with DSAA, first as a sailing companion and then took on the role of volunteer coordinator for two years which included the monstrous task of organizing volunteers for the 1997 Mobility Cup, Canada’s national regatta for sailors with disabilities.

The success of a regatta like Mobility Cup relies heavily on the unsung heroes behind the scenes. Both on-water and on-shore logistics dictate that the organizing committee and dedicated volunteers work tirelessly for many months prior to the regatta…all at the mercy of Mother Nature.

I distinctly remember after all the hoopla of the Calgary regatta was over, I stood alone at the end of the dock with hopes and dreams of taking all that I had learned at DSAA and transferring the knowledge to Nova Scotia. Remember, internet was in its infancy back then and e-mail was just becoming popular so nobody in western Canada knew much about what was happening to the east.

In 2006, my goal of escaping the economic clutches of Alberta was realized and could move home to my harbor at the edge of the sea. At that time, Sail Able Nova Scotia was pretty much on life support but with a lot of drive, determination, and proper crew chemistry, we were able to host one of the more memorable Mobility Cup’s at the Dartmouth Yacht Club in 2007.

Due to work commitments, I was forced to cheer from the sidelines for almost a decade but am now back serving on the Board of Directors with Sail Able Nova Scotia.

I can honestly say that volunteering with both DSAA and Sail Able Nova Scotia has been the most rewarding experience of my life. I originally came aboard to help others, but the truth of the matter is I’ve met many sailors and volunteers from all across Canada and beyond who opened my horizons and made me a better person. Thank you Garth!

“Standing Outside The Fire”
We call them cool
Those hearts that have no scars to show
The ones that never do let go
And risk the tables being turned

We call them fools
Who have to dance within the flame
Who chance the sorrow and the shame
That always comes with getting burned

But you’ve got to be tough when consumed by desire
‘Cause it’s not enough just to stand outside the fire

We call them strong
Those who can face this world alone
Who seem to get by on their own
Those who will never take the fall

We call them weak
Who are unable to resist
The slightest chance love might exist
And for that forsake it all

They’re so hell-bent on giving, walking a wire
Convinced it’s not living if you stand outside the fire

Standing outside the fire
Standing outside the fire
Life is not tried, it is merely survived
If you’re standing outside the fire

There’s this love that is burning
Deep in my soul
Constantly yearning to get out of control
Wanting to fly higher and higher
I can’t abide
Standing outside the fire

Standing outside the fire
Standing outside the fire
Life is not tried, it is merely survived
If you’re standing outside the fire

Standing outside the fire
Standing outside the fire
Life is not tried, it is merely survived
If you’re standing outside the fire

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