Monday, April 16, 2018

____________________ JOHN GUZZWELLS 16mm FILM ___________________

Yes shipmates, this is John Guzzwells little circumnavigating yawl 'Trekka' that he built in Victoria, Canada all those years ago. Trekka, Guzzwell and their voyage is significant to sailors for a number of reasons.

- In terms of the history of sailing the Laurent Giles designed 'Trekka' was the next step in proving that small light displacement yachts were sea worthy enough to complete long voyages. Trekka is the bigger sister of the Giles designed 'Sopranino' which completed a transatlantic voyage crewed by Colin Mudie and Patrick Ellam. Both these boats are the legacy of the light displacement possibilities explored by John Illingworth (and others) with boats such as 'Myth of Mallam'.

- At the time of her circumnavigation (1955 - 59) she was the smallest boat (20' 6") ever to have completed such a voyage. After his circumnavigation 'Trekka' was sold to Clifford and Marion Cain who completed another circumnavigation in her during the 1970s. A sister ship to 'Trekka' named 'Thlaloca' built and sailed by Hein and Siggy Zenker also completed a circumnavigation in the 1970s. Their exploits are detailed in Zenkers book 'West! Sail West, Man'. These adventures cemented the fact that small, well found, light displacement yachts could make safe long ocean passages.

- Within the classical period of small yacht circumnavigations (Beginning with Joshua Slocum and 'Spray' and ending when circumnavigations became somewhat ubiquitous) we can read in the associated literature how the paths of various circumnavigators crossed and how they shared experiences along the way. But in the case of John Guzzwell and the celebrated voyagers Miles and Beryl Smeeton the sharing morphed into collaboration and possibly one of the most dramatic of small boat adventures. This adventure took place when John Guzzwell crewed for the Smeetons on their ketch Tzu Hang which while on a voyage from Australia to the UK was pitch poled, capsized and dismasted in huge seas while approaching Cape Horn. The story is captured in Miles Smeetons book 'Once is Enough'.

Film of 'Tzug Hang' and the Smeetons shot by John Guzzwell in the Southern Ocean a few minutes before they were bowled can be viewed here:

I read this first edition of 'Trekka Round the World' when I was 12 years old. The book left a lasting impression on me. I remember completing three back to back readings of the book.
Today I completed my second reading of this (above) the second edition of the  book which was re - published by John Guzzwell in 1999.  It contains an expanded text, a very interesting 'Afterword' and two informative Appendixes.
'Once is Enough' is an enthralling tale of courage and endurance. After the dismasting of Tzu Hang and her repair in Chile, the Smeetons (This time minus Guzzwell) set out for the Horn once again, were caught by a huge sea and were rolled, capsized and dismasted. Many years later they conquered the Horn (this time sailing from East to West), an adventure told in Miles Smeetons book 'Because The Horn Is There'.

What is interesting (and perhaps sobering) is that these ocean passages during the golden age of small sailboat voyaging were all completed without Life rafts, SSB radios, EPIRB, GPS or many of the other compulsory so called modern safety requirements. The safety was inherent in well designed, strong, well built and competently sailed small yachts.


Paul Mullings said...

Great reads all and like you left a big impression with a young man. They sit on my self as I write....perhaps time to read them again,

Alden Smith said...

Yes, they are great reads. Simple narratives simply told that have had a great influence on the lives of many sailors.

You may enjoy reading this book written by Miles Smeetons Godchild Miles Clark:

- High Endeavours: The extraordinary life and adventures of Miles and Beryl Smeeton. This is a comprehensive well written biography about their lives.

As you may know Miles Smeeton wrote a number of books. He was a very talented writer who apart from his writings about voyaging also wrote: 'A Change of Jungle' and 'A Taste of the Hills'. His voyaging books include:

- '..... because the Horn is there' - This is the story of Tzu Hangs successful trip around Cape Horn on the voyage from the UK to Canada. Their crew was Bob Nance who they would have had a lot in common with because Bob had been one of the crew on 'Carronade'( Read: 'World Wanderer 100,000 Miles Under Sail by Des Kearns) when she was capsized on her voyage around Cape Horn in the late 1960s. Bob's brother is Bill Nance who showed extraordinary seamanship when successfully circumnavigationing south of the three capes, Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin and Cape Horn voyage in his little Vertue Class yacht 'Cardinal Vertue'.
Cardinal Vertue was of course the Vertue class yacht that was sailed in the inaugural Single Handed Transatlantic yacht race by David Lewis against Francis Chichester et al (Read Lewis': 'The Ship Would Travel Due West').......... I always find it interesting the number of connections between all these characters and their boats over the years.

Other books by Miles Smeeton:

- The Misty Islands... Sailing High Latitudes in Tzu Hang.

- Sunrise To Windward.

- The Sea Was Our Village.

As I have said, Miles Smeeton had way with words and his books make for extremely interesting reading - competent voyaging sailed before everything became entangled in red tape and regulation and before small yachts carried every electronic gizmo under the sun........ which is also the John Guzzwell recipe: High Adventure undertaken in a simple, competent manner. Self reliance being at the centre of things.

Bursledon Blogger said...

Although I'm not sure I'd want to circumnavigate in one I've always really admired Trekka and Sopranino - there's something very intimate about a small yacht, ease of handling, proximity to the water and general simplicity that I've found very appealing and frankly missing with some of our bigger boats.

One of the most fun boats we had was Jaguar 21 about 30 years ago, more modern in design but so also easy to sail.

Great books- I might dig them out next winter.

Alden Smith said...

Max, I absolutely agree with what you say about the intimacy of a small yacht. We aren't the only ones - In the 1972 Yachting World Annual Eric Hiscock wrote an article "Wanderers 3 and 4: A Comparison. In the article he states:

"There is no question about the new vessel (Wanderer 4) being very much more comfortable to live aboard when in port, and at sea she keeps us and our belongings reasonably dry...... But we miss the nearness of the water, the ability to put our hands in or rinse the teapot (Wanderer 3) - we no longer seem quite so close to nature."

He goes on to justify the newer and bigger boat in the article, but I think this quote is quite telling - a wistful look by Hiscock back to a simpler and more satisfying time.

Since I have returned to small boats with my Zephyr sailing dinghy I have met quite a number of adults who like myself also own keel boats, but are finding a great deal of enjoyment in the simplicity of small boats, and I think it's more than just reliving younger days - it's that experience of intimacy and closeness to the natural world. Also the simplicity of packing the boat up, putting it on a trailer and parking it at home and not worrying about barnacles (and the removal thereof).

On a practical and expense level a boat the size of 'Trekka' makes a lot of sense for day and weekend sailing - but of course the reasons people purchase different sizes and types of boats is multilayered and complex - but the older I get the KISS Principle (Keep It Simple Stupid) makes a whole lot of sense.

Ben said...

What marvellous images! I can appreciate them even more after seeing the Volvo Ocean Race coverage recently.
Interesting list of books you give here. May be I can find some to read next winter. We are very much enjoying spring now.

Alden Smith said...

Hi Ben - yes, the Volvo Ocean Race goes well down into the Southern Ocean among those huge seas. Modern racing yachts such as the Volvo boats have two great advantages over 'ordinary' cruising boats. First they are very fast and even in full storm conditions are able to plane down the face of huge waves and keep out of the way of monstrous breaking crests and secondly they are crewed by a large number of very experienced sailors - although I think it would still be a bit of a nightmare trying to steer a Volvo boat downwind in storm conditions in high latitudes AT NIGHT!!!