Ocean Hermit – sailing, solitude and stories

My plans to retrace Captain Cook's unfinished voyage have been postponed a year while I work on the next Marine Diesel Basics book and get my new boat SV Oceandrifter ready for sea.

* Famous sailboats – Wanderer III

Where is she now?  Having read many of Eric Hiscock’s books about the voyages with his wife Susan around the world in Wanderer III, I was curious to know more about the boat and where she might be now.  The good news is that she’s been down in Antarctica and South Georgia Island (made famous by Sir Ernest Shackleton’s trek in 1917).  However, though I have not been able to confirm, I seem to recall that Wanderer III recently was damaged in a grounding.  If you can clarify please let me know.  Meanwhile, here’s the story and some usual photos of the famous 30-foot boat.
Wanderer III was built for Eric and Susan Hiscock in 1952  by William King Ltd., of Burnham-on-Crouch in Essex, England, to designs by reknown yacht designer Laurent Giles at a cost of £3,300 (£71,000, US $114,500 today).  The boat was 30 feet long, 26 foot 5 inches on the waterline and a draught of 5 feet.  However, Eric Hiscock reported that she lay nine inches lower in the water because of the boat’s heavy construction and the weight of food, water and supplies.  Her Thames tonnage  is 8 and her displacement in seagoing trim about 9 tons.

“The keel and deadwood are of elm.  The ballast keel, about 3 tons, is of lead.  Stem, sternpost, frames, carlines, and deck beams are of English oak.  All the frames are steam bent and some are doubled.  A few of the floors are of oak, but most are of wrought iron.  Planking is of iroko, a West African timber similar to teak and is finished 1 1/8 inches thick.  Coamings, cockpit, hatches, rail, and cabin sole are also of iroko.  Decks are of tongued-and-grooved western red cedar covered with canvas and painted.  The bottom is copper sheathed,” wrote Eric Hiscock in “Beyond the West Horizon”.

“The internal joinery work is of light African ‘mahogany’, varnished up to sideboard level and painted white above.  At the other end of the accommodation a large galley with stainless-steel-covered bench (there is no sink) and swinging two-burner Para-Fin stove (Primus type) faces the oilskin locker and navigation space, which has a chart table with drawers and shelves below it capable of holding up to 400 Admiralty charts stowed flat.

“Wanderer is rigged as a jib-headed sloop; the maximum sail area, with mainsail and genoa set, is 600 sq. feet.  The mast of silver spruce is hollow, but the main boom and spinnaker booms are solid, and all painted white to keep them as cool as possible in the tropics, and so preserve the glue with which they are held together.”

Presumably the original engine and electrics have been upgraded from what Eric Hiscock reported in 1963. “The auxiliary motor is an 8 hp Stuart Turnet two-stroke running on petrol.  The maximum speed is 5 knots – 12 gallons of fuel in two tanks giving a range of 80 miles.  A belt-driven dynamo charges a 12 volt battery, but electricity is used only for emergency or convenience, and normally we use paraffin.”

This painting of Wanderer III was painted by marine artist Jack Woods, who is based in Melbourne, Australia.  He writes,”The painting depicts the Hiscock’s jib-headed sloop Wanderer III, with Eric and Susan in the cockpit, sailing in the sheltered waters of Moorea, Papeete in 1960 during their round the world circumnavigation which commenced in July 1959 at Yarmouth where they returned in August 1961 after covering 30,189 sea miles.  The sails are made of terylene and machine sewn, but each seam had an additional row of hand-made stitches to help prevent chafe. This resulted in a distinctive puckering of the material along all the seams which shows in the painting detail.  There is a figure head in the form of a Globe on the bow rail with the sea shown in black and the land in gold leaf. This was designed by artists, David and Jean Cobb, who according to Eric also did a “lovely picture of Wanderer III running in NE trades.”

The Hiscocks sold Wanderer III in 1968 and bought Wanderer V, a 49-foot steel sloop on which Eric Hiscock died in New Zealand in 1986. Susan died on the Isle of Wight, England in 1995.  She left the bulk of her estate to the RNLI and the lifeboat in Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, (where the couple lived before going cruising) is named after the couple.

Wanderer III was bought by Danish sailor, writer and environmentalist Thies Martzen in 1981 and has been his home every since.  The boat has now completed five circumnavigations. In 1989, Thies met Kicki Erickson and she remembers her introduction to the boat, “I moved aboard Wanderer III with whatever would fit into the 15- by 18- by 24-inch locker Thies emptied for me. They married in 1999 while the boat was in South Georgia Island where they helped collect seeds for a project organized by the Kew Gardens, England. In 2009, the couple returned to South Georgia to overwinter aboard Wanderer III  and to celebrate their 10th anniversary.

Visit marine artist Jack Woods’ website.

More about the Hiscocks’ voyages in Don Holm’s book, “The Circumnavigators”.


5 comments on “* Famous sailboats – Wanderer III

  1. Matthew Kenney
    March 10, 2011

    Firstly, great website. Secondly, I can confirm to you that Wanderer 3 was still in South Georgia until yesterday when she departed with Thies and Kicki aboard bound for Tristan Da Cunha and St Helena. I have blogged about her sad departure here http://southgeorgiajournal.blogspot.com/2011/03/goodbye-wanderer-iii.html
    Im a boatman at the British Antarctic Survey research station in King Edward Point, South Georgia.

    Matt Kenney


  2. Jackson Ehrlich
    April 6, 2011

    I subscribe to the South Georgia Island online news which, in it’s latest
    edition, reported that the ‘Wanderer 3’, after a two year stay in South
    Georgia had departed S. G. on March 8, 2011, for Tristan de Cunha.
    She was reported to have arrived safely at St. Helena.


  3. Ann Muir
    April 30, 2011

    Wanderer 3 is here in the bay at Jamestown. It is a rare and wonderful treat to sail alongside her and with Thies and Kiki here on St Helena.


  4. Flavio Bulcao
    July 10, 2011

    I was very surprised today when I checked the name of that small and elegant sailboat lying calmly at buoy in the waterfront of Iate Clube do Rio de Janeiro. I can confirm that Wanderer III is at Guanabara bay today.
    Rio de Janeiro, July 9 2011


  5. Marco
    August 10, 2011

    “The Hiscocks sold Wanderer III in 1968 and bought Wanderer V, a 49-foot steel sloop on which Eric Hiscock died in New Zealand in 1986”. Small correction: the Hiscock’s moved from Wanderer III to Wanderer IV, a steel-hulled ketch; see generally Eric’s book “Sou’West in Wanderer IV” (1973). They enjoyed that boat for approximately ten years but found it a bit big and later downsized to their final boat, a NZ-made wooden sloop called Wanderer V; see generally Eric’s last book, “Two Yachts, Two Voyages” (1985).


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This entry was posted on March 2, 2010 by in Sailboats, Sailing, Voyages and tagged , , , .
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