Saturday, 15 November 2008
1965 Mk4B series 2 model the owner is John Rankin in the USA.
This is our standard type large bore inlet/exhaust type manifold,Johns new one to suit his race car will be quite different,with the tail pipe facing the opposite way.
Hillman Imp 998cc full race engine with an R23 Camshaft,with a special transaxle fitted.
An issue in any competition car,is weight,this standard full race Hillman Imp manifold made to take two twin choke Webber 40 dcoe carburetors only tips the scale at 4.5 kgs as you can see.
We are making a new full race inlet and exhaust fabricated manifold to suit this championship winning car,the engine is going to be made to run in a vertical position,rather than laying over as in the Hillman Imp engine as in this picture
Friday, 14 November 2008
Click on the picture to see an amazing full size view with lots of detail.
This is a promo of the Clipper Racer Durban,they start in Liverpool and race around the world,the guy on the foredeck (he must be nuts) looks like my very good pal Notty?
Thursday, 13 November 2008
Cape Talk 567 Radio asked a general question today,as we have had four days of gales and rain with it,was there any thing to do in Cape Town,that is,other than the winelands and The V&A Waterfront,the mind boggles at such a question but maybe they were just leading us on!The picture is of a sailing ship Gothenburg in the waterfront but it was also a visitor to Hout Bay,it came in with its guns blazing and took on the East Fort Battery with its broardsides,fell back then sailed in once more,guns ablaze,what a show,I ask you,is there anything to do and see in Cape Town?
Lots more than you would imagine,thats why it was voted as last years top tourist destination and with the good exchange rate right now,thats a bargain.
Wednesday, 12 November 2008
Since the South African magazine 'Sailing' published a two page story on the Dix Design dinghy Paper Jet in the November issue,our phones have been busier for this design than any other time I can recall, we have sales too,this picture is of one of our kits in build,I will load other pictures as supplied by our client Andreas, in the next day or so.Boat #01 Dudley Dix's own boat is from a kit we supplied too.
Tom and Vicky
No wind today.
The OCC (ocean cruising club) burgee
Flying Fish,OCC mascot
Sunstone,a Sparkmans and Stevens design, in Cape Town on the RCYC marina
Tom and Vicky Jackson
Continuing with some well known cruisers who pass by our shores,there are probabaly more than we are aware of? Sunstone is a very well known boat,designed by the late Olin Stevens who passed away just a few months back.
Tom and Vicky contacted me when they were in South America,just to say Hi and advise they would be on their way to Cape Town soon,they had a good passage and I met up with them for a cup of tea and a chat at the RCYC,they later moved to FBYC but also re tracked their course to HBYC where they stayed one night,sailing the next day in a very brisk breeze to go all the way back to FBYC in a club race,they did very well as normal.
A few words from their web site:
We had hardly settled in, washed down and recovered when South African hospitality took over. Roy McBride, the OCC Port Officer for Cape Town, helped us find all the things we needed. Dave and Erica Campbell, who we had last seen in Rarotonga in 1999, soon made contact. Their boat, Jigsaw, was ashore being refurbished ready for sale - in order to help fund their new larger boat, which is under construction.
Note: CKD Boats were able to buy Sunstone a new EPRIB for Tom and Vickys next voyage,the last I heard they has arrived in Austrailia.
Tuesday, 11 November 2008
Annie Hill has a great web site,I lifted these wonderfull pictures from it,check out the Wild Artic Fox,its not looking very wild in these pictures,I wonder what he lives on in winter?
This is her web site address www.anniehill.blogspot.com
I asked Annie what type of camera she uses,she says a number of makes and all the old style single reflex but now she has also bought a digital camera,as most magazine editors will only accept photos in a digital format now.
Monday, 10 November 2008
We are at the end of a continent here in the Cape and of course anyone who is sailing ast very rarely does so with out stopping,one such person was in the 1990/1 BOC Around the world single handed yacht race. As the first female entry she was special,she also beat the men into Cape Town by the best part of week? I had the pleasure to meet her at the RCYC,two friends Nigel and Simone were trying to assist her with much needed local help,she was not what one would call 'over sponsered'.I suggested to her that the HBYC would like to host her for an evening,would she come and meet the club? the reply was positive.Speaking the the then HBYC Commodore Alan Batley,he agreed we should try and make Issabelle as welcome as the club could manage.Issablle was a star,she spoke to us as a group,Alan then made some club presentations,one was a HBYC club Burgee,it was a great and memorable evening for the Hout Bay Yacht Club,what followed for Issabelle on the next leg of her trip around the world was,for her even more memorable!
Advertise on NYTimes.com
Solo Sailor, Instant Heroine
By BARBARA LLOYD
October 23, 1994 NEW YORK-It was a bright, clear night in Cape Town when the French solo sailor, Isabelle Autissier, sailed across the finish line in her recordsetting first stage of the BOC round-theworld yacht race early today. The next closest competitor was still 1,200 miles away, reason enough for Autissier to become France's newest sports heroine. "Barring a gear failure, she has such a commanding lead now that it seems impossible for anyone to catch her in the remaining 16,000 miles of the race," said Mark Schrader, the BOC race director, from Cape Town.
The 38-year-old Autissier, alone on her 60-foot sailboat, Ecureuil PoitouCharentes 2, bucked 40-knot winds as she sailed past Cape Town's Table Mountain today. She arrived at about 3:30 A.M., having completed her 6,800-mile voyage from Charleston, S.C., in 35 days, 8 hours, 52 minutes. The passage was two days faster than the BOC record set in 1990 by another French sailor, Alain Gautier. Still at sea are 17 men. "It's incredible," Autissier said, clinging to the bow of her boat as hundreds of well-wishers chanted: "Vive la France!" "I'm astonished, even now I don't realize what I've accomplished," she said.
Autissier, who is the only woman competing in the 1994‚95 BOC Challenge race, is also the only woman to have completed a 27,000-mile BOC competition. Sailing in the 1990‚91 BOC race, she finished seventh, having been dismasted along the way. She vowed at that time to come back and win. "She was the most determined person and the most focused on what she would do in the next four years," said Schrader.
Autissier used her New York‚to‚San Francisco run last spring as a 14,000-mile shakedown for the BOC. That voyage left her extraordinary abilities written on the wind. The trip, which Autissier did with a crew of three men, shaved 14 days off the 76-day San Francisco record. Her run to Cape Town has established another new standard. But how did she do it? "Obviously, 1,200 miles is just an incomprehensible lead in a 7,000-mile leg," said Schrader. "If it was just one factor-the person, the boat, or the tactics-her margin of winning would be very small. But it was all of that."
Her boat, built with an innovative swing keel, is undeniably fast. And she is an astute student of weather, having been trained in meteorology in France for a year before the race. But beyond that, she exudes confidence, and has proved that she is willing to trust her own judgment. "There was a point in time where she risked it all," said Schrader, referring to Autissier's bold decision about 2,500 miles from Cape Town to head into an area where there are usually calms. "She saw something there that no one else saw," he said. "She was going to win, and win big, or lose it all."
Isabelle Autissier - Around The World
Autissier entered the 1990-91 running of the BOC around-the-world yacht race, the first woman to compete in the contest. The grueling race, which has been renamed Around Alone, is run every four years and requires sailors to travel 27,000 miles over eight months. It begins and ends on the East Coast of the United States, with stops in South Africa, Australia, and Uruguay. During the second leg of the race, Autissier's 60-foot yacht, named Ecureuil Poitou-Charentes, lost its mast in rough seas and high winds as she neared Australia. She fashioned a makeshift rig, limped into port, made repairs, and set out again. She completed the voyage, finishing seventh. It was the first time a woman sailor had circumnavigated the globe alone. "It was wonderful because I discovered everything: I discovered sailing alone for a long time, the Southern Ocean, everything," Autissier said in a Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service article. "It was really a wonderful experience.… I came back to Newport (Rhode Island) and … I thought: I did what I have wanted to do in life. Since I was a little girl, I wanted to sail around the world, and now I have done it. The rest of my life is extra."
Autissier again displayed her sailing prowess—including expert understanding of weather patterns, currents, and navigation—while setting a world record in the spring of 1994. She and a three-man crew piloted her new yacht, the Ecureuil Poitou-Charentes 2, around Cape Horn from New York to San Francisco in just sixty-two days, five hours, and fifty-five minutes—beating the old record by two weeks.
Sunday, 9 November 2008
The Picton Castle,a favorite visitor of the TBA members.
Some many years back, SA Yachting published a set of plans of one of Paul Johnsons Venus double enders,it was one of four about to be built in steel by the Craxton Brothers at their yard called Ankon Marine.Such was the favourable response from readers,that we in Cape Town, published an open invite in a following issue of SA Sailing,to meet at the V&A Waterfront's Maritime Mueseum on a given time and date,that meeting was a huge hit,some 120 people turned up and so it was the TBA began.Over the next year,we formed a committee,designed a burgee,made up a constitution and here we are today,still meeting the needs of those intrested in our herritage.
From the beginning I was a committee member,then the treasurer,regailia officer and even the editor.One classic AGM saw Karl Stremple stand up to address those present,as by this time Karl had taken over the associations books and was the treasurer,typical of Karl,he stood up and said,'I can not tell you the exact amount but I can assure you we have more in the bank than we did at this time last year' he then sat down to much applause!
The web site : www.tba.org.za/
The Traditional Boat Association is based in Cape Town, South Africa, an area known for testing seas and seafaring skills. Acting as a focal point for those who have an interest in historic small craft, it draws together boats of character and those who sail them.
With the sad deminishment of the South African Maritime Museum, the TBA now meets at the Atlantic Underwater Club's premises in Greenpoint (click here for a map).
The TBA hosts regular regattas which are normally based in the beautiful V&A Waterfront, under the interested eyes of tourist spectators from near and far. This helps to keep sailing and traditional boats visible and will help to ensure their survival into the new millenium.
Members of the TBA participate in worthy boat restoration projects.
The TBA seeks to expand contact with similar groups elsewhere and welcomes visits from traditional cruising vessels which are passing through.
We Invite ALL owners of traditional boats in South Africa, or from South Africa, or passing by SA, to send us pictures and an article about their boat.
Commodore Peter Theunissen 0826282102 firstname.lastname@example.org
Rear Commodore Neil Lavin 0215593081 email@example.com
Purser Kris Steyn 0826195511 firstname.lastname@example.org
Scribe Gillian Shapley 0793994055
Website Pam Newby 0825646257 email@example.com
Click on the above poster to see full size.
John Harrison was a carpenter,this places him with with countless thousands of others,me included,excepting this John Harrison was special,he designed the worlds first time piece that actually could be relied on to tell the correct time,this was in 1714,thats 294 years back! The british admiralty had offered a 20,000 pounds prize to anyone who could design and make a clock the would keep time well enough to cross to at least the West Indies,if this was possible they knew they could work out the ships Longitude,impossible otherwise.
John made the clock,it worked but he was never to see the prize himself,his son eventualy was able to collect it,the trouble was it was thought (obviously) that a member of 'The Royal Society' would be the inventor,so when a humble carpenter came along and not one of the Royal Society gentry,they felt that to pay him out was wrong,certainally not what they expected anyway. There is film and a book on the story,I was given a copy of the book as a prize at the TBA Easter regatta 2000,dontaed by Larry Davis of Cinnaco Trading,the book is writen by Dava Sobel,its named simply 'Longitude'.
NB: Johns clocks are still ticking and keeping very good time I hear!
Dave and Jaja were here in Hout Bay with their two small chilren,back in the days when we had the HBYC club house on the beach,they stayed some while,thats four in a Cal 25 yacht,later they moved ashore when back in the USA,another child arrived but so did Driver their much larger boat built in steel,they took that to the artic circle,kids too!
Dave and Jaja Martin: My choice to rebuild a Cal 25 and sail it around the world was financially motivated: It was the only boat I could afford. I wanted to cross oceans and I wasn't too particular what kind of boat got me out there. Going was all that mattered, and the sooner the better. I was 22. Youth has a lot to do with being able to cope aboard a small boat.
Dave and Jaja Martin: The beautiful thing about cruising is the never-ending opportunity to be spontaneous. Every day affords another chance to do something unplanned. Like having kids. The best part is you control the routines. You design the itinerary. If you don't like the neighborhood all you have to do is pick up the anchor and go somewhere else. Cross an ocean. Change continents. Sweat on the equator or bundle up in the high latitudes.
After our seven-year tropical circumnavigation on Direction we wanted a new challenge. We moved ashore, got jobs, and bought a car. The thrill of suburban life lasted 6 months. Too predictable. Time to move on. Our spirit needed more of a charge than balancing a check book.
We sold Direction and bought 33-foot foot Driver. Our plan was to sail to Iceland. For this we wanted a steel boat--something that was impervious to ice and a little more resilient to floating debris. Fiberglass can be strong, but steel is stronger: especially it's point loading characteristics. It is also less prone to leaking because everything is welded in place instead of bolted on . A 33-foot steel boat tends to be heavier than its fiberglass counter part, but at sea that extra displacement gives a boat a smoother ride over the waves. Maintenance of a steel boat is not as bad as many people think. You just have to keep on top of it. Let it maintenance slide, however, and you will pay a high price.
Driver was the strongest boat in our price range/departure range. I mention "departure range" because knowing when you want to go is as important as where. "Someday" never comes. When you set a strict departure date your life gets folded around going. You're committed. Having a strict departure date is a rudder that will help steer a project to completion. Everything you do perpetuates the day of casting off. Wanting everything to be "right" is not only expensive but also time consuming.
Our decision to sail to the Arctic on Driver, and to try and reach 80 degrees north latitude, evolved over a couple years. At first, our goal was to sail to Iceland, to go somewhere off the beaten track. We figured if we could make it to Iceland our thirst for adventure would be sated forever. Once there, however, we became captivated by hearty locals and the diverse landscape, so we made the last minute decision to winter-over aboard the boat. The following summer we sailed to the Arctic islands of Lofoten, Norway, and spent another winter living aboard. The summer after that (2000) we sailed to Spitsbergen.
Of course it was cold in these places but cold becomes part of the periphery. After a while we didn't even notice that it was not warm. The warmth of the people, the awe inspiring scenery, and the aura of the higher latitudes nulled the effects of less-than-tropical-conditions. Had it been warm, the people living there would not be who they were. Had it been warm every anchorage would have had other boats in it or condos on the shoreline. We were tired of sailing in the tropics where, in general, the locals had seen us as a source of income, not as a source for friendship.
"Lack of space" on a boat is similar to "lack of warmth" in a place. After a while it becomes relative. It's all a mental game that hinges on how badly you want to cruise.
Cruising with children is not something we originally set out to do. We never said "Hey! lets raise our family on a 25-foot boat, sail around the world, then buy a 33-footer and sail to the arctic! Babies just came our way so we accepted it and carried on. Sailing with babies is challenging. However, what it boiled down to is this: "how badly do we want to continue, and what sacrifices are we willing to endure to make our cruising plans work?" Given half a chance, the human spirit is remarkably adaptable.
It is due to Jaja's undying positive attitude that we've made it all these years sailing with kids. Behind every good boat is a good woman.
The real reason we thrived in Iceland and Norway is due to our children. Instead of home schooling we put them into the local schools systems. The primary motive was to give them a daily change of environment, a better chance to make friends, and the opportunity to become bilingual. But it had another advantage; it put us in touch with other families. Jaja and I attended school functions which gave the locals a chance to see that, although we lived on a boat, we were a family like them. We became friends with the other parents. Our social life and the kid's social life thrived. We were accepted into the communities as equals.
I was building the yacht Flying Cloud and also doing the restoration to Astra,the 1934 Tumlaren design by Knudd Reimers when Thies arrived on Wanderer at the Hout Bay YC marina,I think he had just sailed across the South Atlantic from South Georgia island?
Thies Matzen: It started the moment my 3-year-old eyes met the 99-year-old eyes of my great-grandfather??and never forgot them. He was a South Seas captain and later harbormaster of Apia, Samoa, for nearly 30 years, both sides of 1900. He had been in charge of boats that had sailed far. So had my grandfathers, as professionals and as amateurs. One of them doubled the Horn, first under sail, then later under steam.
Apart from my early cruises in dinghies and a self-built clinker double-ender on the Baltic, which is a sea, I started to cross oceans in 1978. In pre-Satnav times, a good hand on the sextant was always in demand, which helped me en route to my forebears' home, Samoa.
I have lived and cruised aboard Wanderer III since 1981.
there. Going was all that mattered, and the sooner the better. I was 22. Youth has a lot to do with being able to cope aboard a small boat.
Thies Matzen: I am a wooden boat builder by trade, so it has to be wooden. I know and like wood, the voyages inspiring me to cruise were done on wooden boats. Wooden boats are pleasing in all three stages of their life: one likes to gather around them when built, they charm in their active life, even as wrecks they remain pleasing. Accordingly, more so than boats of other materials, in each stage they blend well into our flow of being.
Our yacht Wanderer III can be called the 'mother of all cruising yachts' and had completed three circumnavigations when I bought her. She was an idol I had wanted to build, but never thought of buying. In a way, meeting her at the right place at the right time, I was lucky that she chose me.
Her simpleness is proven. She has done 270,000 miles in five decades and one is hard pressed to come up with another cruising yacht as pelagic as her. She is well built with a high displacement-to-length ratio. Therefore, she doesn't shine in light conditions, but she stands up well to much wind.
We never keep her in flash looks, but under a good coat of paint. Thus we worry little about possible rough treatment by, for example, visiting canoes. I'd rather be comfortable with wooden clogs than to have to unnaturally tip toe for the sake of shininess.
Harmony matters more than a shiny and polished boat. If a boat is beautiful, you can dream with it, somebody will care for it, somebody will take over caring.
During my first years with Wanderer the North Atlantic Islands, Scotland, Northern Norway was the cruising ground. Since 1987 we began sailing circles on all other oceans. Though Wanderer has done it often, to me it has never been important to sail around the world, but to sail around in the world.
Of importance, though, was to get back to my Samoan family under my own wings.
Similarly, to sail around Cape Horn, for example, had never been an aim and didn't mean much to me. Records are without meaning. The biggest, highest, fastest are not criteria by which I measure my life. But when somebody who had been at the Horn eight times said that both the Horn and the Wollaston Group are of tremendeous beauty and that we must see them, that was a criteria that appealed to us. And we went.
30 feet of length with only 8 feet 6 inches of beam makes for a very small home, a size which nonetheless suits us well. Logistically its just at the limit of allowing us to visit our destinations for the length of time we wish. That's part of the challenge and makes for tight calculations.
She could do with a bowsprit and more sail area; with the transom less submerged or more carrying capacity. Yet considering her size very little could be improved for what she does with us. The characteristic I value highly is her standing power in high winds. She'll hold her ground under sail. She hoves to well. Her drift is minimal, something of underrated importance for a small, underpowered boat .
As small as Wanderer is we have, like marine mammals which molt, to lose our skin every now and then to remind us of the essentials. And that's not limiting, but healthy.
Annie Hill spent a good while here in Cape Town while she and her then husband peter were builing the catamaran Paper Moon,Annie became the editor of the TBA (traditional boat ascociation) and the magazine was really looking proffesional then!She tells me they are now down in Queensland,Austraila,since I saw her last she has been to Trinidad where she joined up with Trevour and Iorn Bark,then traveled far north and wintered over locked into the ice,her book,one I have yet to read,may just be the volume you need if your heading off cruising yourself?
Annie Hill: Most of my sailing has been aboard the 34-foot, plywood, junk-rigged Badger that I built with my former husband, Pete. We chose her for a variety of reasons, low-cost being paramount among them. She proved to be a marvelous boat, far better than such a simple vessel should have been! She gave us so much in comfort and confidence that we ended up sailing her both to the Arctic and the Antarctic. She left my life when Pete wanted to build another boat. Because I parted so reluctantly with Badger, I suspect it's impossible for me to be dispassionate about her. Her best features were undoubtedly the rig and deck layout that made it possible to do everything from the protection of a small circular hatch, sheltered by a revolving 'pram hood'. I don't like deck work and I loved being able to sail the boat singlehanded when I was on watch. The accommodation was all that one could have hoped for and the ease and cheapness of maintenance meant that we could live on a very low income and do a lot of sailing. Badger's drawbacks were that she tended to hunt around at anchor, due to the big foremast and sail, and the lack of forefoot. Her windward performance was nothing to boast about and at times I wished for better, but it was a very small price to pay for the virtues of the rig. In all honesty, I think those are the only criticisms I could make!
My present boat is a 35-foot gaff cutter--a Wylo II designed by Nick Skeates. She was built in Australia by Trevor Robertson, who invited me to join his ship a couple of years ago. Iron Bark is handsome and husky and her steel hull is very reassuring. The rig is powerful and in the right conditions she will make over 7 knots for hour after hour, comfortably and without fuss, but I find the rig daunting and don't have what it takes to sail her singlehanded. However, Trevor is happy to do the deck work and as she's a forgiving vessel, we often carry the same sails for long periods.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Annie Hill (born 1955 in Liverpool) is an English sailor, author of books and articles about sailboat voyaging, living on a small amount of money and sailing junk rig.
Annie Hill has been voyaging and living aboard various sailing yachts since 1975. Her book Voyaging on a Small Income is a study in the economics of continual travel and self sufficiency. Hill writes using distinct British vernacular and colloquialisms.
Her first two books concerned voyaging aboard Badger, a 34 foot double-ended dory with a two-masted junk rig of the schooner style, which was built by Annie and her former husband, Pete Hill. Badger was designed by Jay Benford for plywood construction. Annie's analysis and comparison of the modern junk rig is at least partly responsible for the recent re-popularization of the junk rig.
Annie Hill now sails aboard Iron Bark, a steel gaff cutter. She is divorced from her former husband, Pete, and travels and lives with Trevor Robertson. She has recently spent the winter on 'Iron Bark' frozen in a remote bay in Greenland.
More history :
Annie Hill: I first set foot on a sailing boat in 1973, when my boyfriend showed me the catamaran that he was building, and my first sail was just after she was launched. Stormalong had no engine, and we sailed out of a narrow river in England's Morecambe Bay, with 35-foot tides and 5-knot tidal streams. The destination was another river where we'd laid a mooring, and because of the time of the tides, part of the passage was at night. My second trip was a 110-mile passage, again overnight. The next year we sailed across the Atlantic to the West Indies. Apart from a couple years, I've lived on boats ever since.
No mention of books on sailing will ever be complete with out a mention of Tom Neale,not that Tom was at all a sailor but being where he was on Suvarov Island,many sailors arrived and stayed in his lagoon,so Tom was very much involved with yachts,read some of his story at this web address:
I can not even start to tell you the frustration I got reading this book,can this be true I kept asking,seems it was,John was demobed after world war two but in the USA,the love of his life,Mary was still back in Austrailia,how to get back there was a difficult thing,so Johnny bought a small sailing boat,this is his story.Johnny passed away quite recently,he became famous for taking over a fly infested island called he re named Palm Island in the West Indies,he and his wife cleaned the entire place up and turned it into the resort it still is today.
Palm Island, in these old days named Prune Island, has been re-discovered in 1965 by John Caldwell who had the vision of how to turn this impenetrable swampy island in a little paradise. Here is their story :
At the end of World War II, John was stuck in Panama, trying to join his wife, Mary who was in Australia. After few months, he decided to buy an old sailing boat, PAGAN, and sail to Australia, whatever he had absolutely no experience of sailing. After a lot of adventures, described in his book "Desperate voyage" he was finally wrecked on FIJI Island by a hurricane. Rescued by locals, he succeeded to meet Mary in Australia.
Few months later, they returned to the US, where John graduated from the University of California. On the proceeds of his book, they bought a 36' ketch,"Tropic Seas", and sailed with their son Johnny, five years old, across the Pacific to Sydney, Australia. Their second son Roger was born on Tahiti, on the way.
The couple then decided to build a new boat "Outward Bound" to complete a circumnavigation. They departed Sydney in July 1958. After sailing the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, they arrived at Barbados in 1960.
Once in Caribbean, they were pioneers in chartering up and down the islands, planting coconut trees here and there, (Coconut Johnny was soon his nick name) with regular anchoring at Palm Island.
In 1966, he succeeded to lease the island to the government for 99 years and just a dollar a year. With no or very few cash, the couple began the tremendous enterprise of clearing the island of its bushes and swamps. They even set up the very first airport of the Grenadines.
Out of just a charter stopover in the beginning, they built a small resort, which they improved years after years. In order to collect more cash, they sub-leased some lots of land for villa building.
The hotel became successful enough and received a lot of repeat guests joining themselves for thirty years.
In November 1998 John Caldwell died, still strong and valid at 80 years old.
Palm Island Resort Company was then sold in March 1999 and the hotel closed for works.
Caribbean Compass December 1998
Farewell, Johnny Coconut
by Richard Dey
John Caldwell died in early November on Palm Island in the Grenadines, of an apparent heart attack. He was 80. Caldwell, the author of the classic sea adventure, Desperate Voyage, enjoyed a fame that reached beyond the boating world and helped to sustain his hotel on Palm Island when others in the region sometimes failed, especially in the middle 1970s. Readers of the narrative came from all over the world and from all walks of life to meet the man and stay at his palmy resort.
Little in Caldwell's life came easy. Born in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1919, he suffered from tuberculosis until he was 14. His father was an alcoholic and itinerant bank-debt collector who left the family when John was 15; his mother, who was part Cherokee, was a nurse. They moved to Los Angeles when John was 10, and he worked at odd jobs to help support his mother and five younger siblings.
Despite a lack of formal education beyond eighth grade, he enrolled in what is now the University of California at Santa Barbara and had finished two years when the Second World War broke out.
In the war he served in the American merchant marine. While in Australia in 1944, he met Mary, who quickly became his wife. It was the desire to get back to Mary following the war which led to the adventure that made him famous.
Having no other way to get from California to Australia, he took a steamer to Panama and finding no next steamer westbound, he bought the 29-foot wooden sloop Pagan. Not knowing how to sail didn't stop him. As the book recounts, he set sail anyway, with two cats and a text book on navigation, and soon found himself in a hurricane. The hurricane devastated the boat, all but sinking it. After 49 days adrift without food, he was washed up on Tuvutha in the Fiji islands. Nourished back to health by the islanders, he reached Australia on commercial transportation several months later.
Back in California he wrote Desperate Voyage (Little Brown, 1948) and finished college, graduating with a major in sociology in 1949. The book has been criticized for being outlandish ("John, you didn't really eat shoe leather fried in engine oil?") but its appeal lies in its strong narrative voice and its Odyssean story line. It has been continuously in print since then, one of the few maritime titles to achieve that status, and translated into many languages.
In 1954, he and Mary and two sons set forth in a 36-foot double-ended ketch designed by John Hanna, to sail to Australia. This voyage is recounted in Family at Sea, his second and only other book. (Little Brown, 1956). It was an easy, idyllic voyage, singular only for the astonishing fact that their second son, 8-month-old Stevie, was retarded and had an immune deficiency. They had been planning the voyage for years and wondered whether to go or stay. Actor and author Sterling Hayden recommended a physician who advised them to take the child offshore, where he could breathe clean air and live free of the threat of contamination. In their voyage through the remote islands and atolls they seldom took the boy ashore, fearing infection. But on reaching Australia, they had to and he soon died. He was three and a half years old. The voyage was an unprecedented act of love. In Australia they had another son, and built a new boat, the 46-foot ketch Outward Bound. In 1958, they set sail with the intention of sailing around the world, writing articles as they went. But when they reached Antigua in 1960, they were low on money and the charter world of Commander Desmond Nicholson offered employment. Chartering up and down the Eastern Caribbean, John would carry sprouting coconuts aboard and often go ashore and plant them, which earned him the nickname "Johnny Coconut." It was while doing this that he first went ashore on Prune Island, just east of Union Island in the middle Grenadines, then little more than a swamp. But one day in 1966 he began discussions with the St. Vincent & the Grenadines government that led to him leasing the island for 99 years. He had had a kind of vision, and that was a hotel.
At that time the government was leasing barren islands to enterprising foreigners who applied with hotel designs and promises of employment: Mustique, Petit St. Vincent and Young Island, along with plantations such as Spring on Bequia, were all developed in this way. After arranging the lease with Chief Minister E. T. Joshua, Caldwell drained the swamp and began building. He didn't know anything more about building or running hotels than he once had about sailing.
These were the days when a man with a will and a vision could do anything. The hotel, with ten rooms and under the more appropriate name Palm Island Beach Club, opened in December 1967. His sailing days were over. For the next 30 years, John and Mary and their children and later their grandchildren ran the hotel and its adjacent properties. His legend includes the ongoing rumor that the hotel was "just about" to be sold (Donald Trump was but one who visited and inquired) but somehow John always held on to it. "He is one of a kind," a hotel guest once remarked to me. "In a region of colorful expatriate characters, there is none more so than John Caldwell."
He leaves his wife Mary, his companion Agatha Roberts, sons John Jr. and Roger, and several grandchildren. Richard Dey is the author of In the Way of Adventure: The Story of John Caldwell and Palm Island, ©1989, Offshore Press; available at local bookshops. A special edition signed by both John Caldwell and the author is available from Richard Dey at firstname.lastname@example.org