The spirit of a true adventurer lives on

CUMBERLAND, R.I. (WPRI) — Mary Grinavic flips through a stack of pictures and smiles as she offers a line or two for all the places her daughter went.

Ice caving in New Zealand, hiking in Peru, an archeological dig in Israel, to name just a few.

“She visited over 20 countries,” the proud mom says. “She loved learning about different people and different cultures.”

Christine, whose friends called her C-Bird, as in Christine Bird, or perhaps Crazy Bird according to her mom, also sailed for a living. First on the Arabella, and then in 2007 on the Flying Colours. On April 30 of that year, the ship and its 4 person crew of Rhode Islanders headed north from Saint Thomas.

“She said she was going to be my Mother’s Day present,” Mary says.

About the time the Flying Colours set sail, tropical storm Andrea was churning up the Atlantic Coast. At one point during the storm, the Coast Guard was looking for four vessels. News about the 100-square mile search off North Carolina hit home hard.

“The Coast Guard called and her distress signal had gone off from the Flying Colours,” Mary tells us. “It was awful and I just started crying. It was like 50 foot waves and 70 mile an hour winds. And that boat was rocking.”

The Coast Guard rescued nine crew members from three of the missing boats, but there was no trace of the Flying Colours. Speculation was the 54-footer was swallowed by a rogue wave.

“They can be up to 10 stories high and that it slammed dunked them to the bottom of the ocean,” Mary says. “Seeing the Coast Guard bring up the people in the helicopter, in the baskets. And I remember thinking, she’d be so excited to ride in a helicopter.

She smiles before a long pause.

“But it wasn’t to be.”

Five weeks later, her husband James suffered a deadly heart attack. It was an impossible six weeks, but Mary got some help.

“Christine was a very positive spirit and she’d be really mad at me if I didn’t go forward. She’s with me all the time. I talk to her in my head. It’s good because she gives me good advice.”

She did not want her 26-year-old daughter’s adventures to stop. So she launched The Christine Grinavic Adventurers Fund that gives grants to Rhode Island college students for travel that also includes an element of learning or public service.

Mary said one of the most important qualities the recipient should have is C-Bird’s spirit.

“Being willing to go outside of your comfort zone. Going to someplace that you might not otherwise ever get to go to,” she says. “It was really a pretty open ended spirit that Christine had. I think she’s smiling at all of us now. And she’d be excited that her spirit’s being carried on.”

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