April 17, 2014

Trekka's mystery photograph

ON PAGE 191 of John Guzzwell’s fine book, Trekka Around the World, there is a photograph of the author attending to some small task on the hull of his sweet little 21-foot yawl.  The caption underneath says: “Face-lift in Durban.” And then, to the right of the caption, in type so small that even a spider would need a magnifying glass to read it, it says: “John Vigor.”

That’s me. I took that photograph. But how it got into Mr. Guzzwell’s book is a mystery. I didn’t give him or the publisher that picture. Nobody asked me for it. Nobody paid me for it. It just somehow appeared right there on page 191 as if by magic.

Some time ago I e-mailed the publisher, Fine Edge Productions, and asked how they had got hold of my picture, and how they knew it was me that took it, but those questions were never answered. I don’t suppose I’ll ever know the answers.

I was in Durban in 1958, of course, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to take that picture, and I remember Mr. Guzzwell’s arrival in Durban. It caused quite a stir. His was the smallest boat ever to undertake a circumnavigation and he had completed half of it or more singlehanded by the time he reached the shores of Natal.

Trekka was a wooden boat, and one that he had built himself in Victoria, British Columbia. She had been specially designed for him by the famous British naval architect J. Laurent Giles.

He went on to finish his world-girdling voyage in that light-displacement yawl and held for many years the record for the smallest sailboat to accomplish the feat. He eventually settled in Seattle, Washington, just down the road a way from where I live now, by some strange co-incidence.

If you haven’t read Trekka Around the World, I urge to do so if you have the slightest interest in simple sailing. It is a yachting classic that should never be allowed to go out of print. In those days, there were none of the modern electronic aids to navigation. The author used a sextant and the stars. He didn’t even have a self-steering wind vane or an electric pilot.  Trekka would sail herself to windward quite contentedly, and she would also sail herself dead down-wind under twin jibs.  But she must have needed a bit of nursing from the tiller on reaches.

As a bonus, this book also contains details of Mr. Guzzwell’s experiences aboard the Smeetons’ renowned boat, Tzu Hang, which survived a bad capsize near Cape Horn and limped back to Chile, largely thanks to Mr. Guzzwell’s woodworking skills and seamanship.

Trekka is in a museum in Victoria, B.C., these days, and a sister ship of hers called Tern, built in 1978, is still for sale here in the nearby San Juan Islands. She’s sloop-rigged, rather than yawl-rigged, but otherwise mostly ready to take on the oceans, and in fine condition. All you need is $9,500 and a passion to see the world in your own brave little sailboat.

Today’s Thought
Life ought to be a struggle of desire toward adventures whose nobility will fertilize the soul.
— Rebecca West

“Are you crazy? You tipped the parking attendant 50 bucks?”
“Sure. Look at this nice new Mustang he’s given us.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

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