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.
Many people dream of sailing around the world in a small boat – and many more who have no desire whatever to actually go to sea enjoy the vicarious pleasures of a voyage through other people’s books.
Thankfully this has created a steady demand for books about nautical adventures that run the full spectrum from solo circumnavigations of Antarctica to the voyages of the Hiscocks or Smeetons who were among the pioneers of the modern era of small boat voyaging.
And I’m always curious to read of someone else’s challenges, triumphs and tribulations. A few weeks ago, at the secondhand book stall on the old wharf in Sept Iles, Quebec, I picked up “Taking a Little Sailing Ship – A View of the World from a Thirty-Foot Schooner” by Klaus Gehrig. The book was published in 1991 by Nimbus Publishing.
Gehrig’s account is an easy to read account of the main events of the voyage with his partner Marie-Jose. He has a dry sense of humour and while fully aware of the adventures and insights such an undertaking can give, he does not talk up the tale too much into a story of daring-do nor try to convert with his own sense of epiphany. Instead, he writes of the day to day, the routine and the exciting with knowledge and humour.
“There were times at sea when we looked at the sky and the horizon and thought our view encompassed everything. But we were only seeing the world from the deck of a little sailing ship,” writes Gehrig.
It’s unfortunate, for both practical and armchair sailors, that there’s nothing in the book about the 30-foot schooner, her design, layout or stores. It’s a curious omission, given that anyone who picks up the book would almost certainly want to know these details. From a single photo I’m left wondering if his anonymous steel boat was actually a Tahitiana, the same design as my own “Kuan Yin”.
Gehrig writes that at the start of the voyage he wasn’t sure how to put a reef in a sail. Is he trying to give the impression of being a bumbling amateur, far removed from the competent sea-salt? However, as he spent two years building the boat himself, the notion that he really set out from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, without basic sailing skills seems far-fetched.
Nevertheless, he’s a good narrator. Like meeting someone on another boat in an anchorage and inviting them aboard for a drink and story-telling, I spent a pleasant few hours curled up on the berth in “Kuan Yin” enjoying his stories.
My thanks and fair winds to you, wherever you are today.