These people must have sat up all night, beers in hand, trying to come up with JUST the right name ...
Sorry, there are no moor!
"From Cape Wrath to Finisterre", Björn Larsson's musings on life seen from the cockpit and deck of a yacht are a travel book, the journal of a voyage, and a source of inspiration for those who dream of living a different kind of life.
I recommend it highly.
I've just read "The Riddle of the Sands", that truly incomparable spy and sailing novel by Erskine Childers, for the umpteenth time, even though I know it more or less by heart.
It is a remarkable book in many ways, if only because it has stayed in print in one edition or another ever since it was first published in 1903. It seems that the account of the sailing adventures of Carruthers and Davies around the East Frisian Islands constantly finds a new audience.
Settle back then and begin at the beginning: "I have read of men who, when forced by their calling to live for long periods in utter solitude—save for a few black faces—have made it a rule to dress regularly for dinner in order to maintain their self-respect and prevent a relapse into barbarism. It was in some such spirit, with an added touch of self-consciousness, that, at seven o'clock in the evening of September 23 in a recent year, I was making my evening toilet in my chambers in Pall Mall." To continue, click here.
It's a very windy day out there and the 13-metre motor-yacht GRYPHON from Hilo in Hawaii has sought shelter in the Clyde River, right across from "Riverbend".
According to GOOGLE, it is owned by Thomas Carpenter of Laupahoehoe in Hawaii who, with his wife and dog, is making his way up the east coast to Brisbane, from where they will transport their yacht on a Float-On/Float-Off ship to Ensenada in Mexico, thence up the West Coast of the USA to Alaska for the summer.
I've hailed them but so far no response. Once the winds have died down, I shall put on my Nelligen Yacht Club cap and row across to introduce myself as its commodore and only member.
The Club's secretary tabled the following correspondence:
A few years back we met you when we were up the river on our boat Carmelita, a 36' motor cruiser. We had a cup of tea and a nice chat at your place. After corresponding with Jack and Jude Binder, whilst anchored at Batemans Bay, he mentioned you and your website. It was quite a coincidence and highlights how small the world is. Great idea; the Nelligen Yacht Club certainly is exclusive.
Nice to make your acquaintance again and will now keep an eye on your blog.
After some strenuous vetting, it was unanimously decided to admit Brian and Sandra to the membership of the Nelligen Yacht Club, and to reserve two of the club's t-shirts until they are back in the Clyde River when they can pay their respects to the president.
Brian and Sandra, we hereby welcome you to the Nelligen Yacht Club, and wish you fair wind wherever you may sail which should never be too far away from a welcoming yacht club as the Nelligen Yacht Club has reciprocal rights with all other clubs worldwide.
Just tell them that you're from NYC (and don't be put off if they ask you about the World Trade Center).
Hands up who's heard of Fred Rebell! I thought so. Very few have and, unfortunately, his book "Escape to the Sea" has been out of print for a long time as evidenced by its cover - I mean, when did you last buy a book for 2'6 ?
Yet we all ought to be amazed at Fred Rebell’s lone-handed crossing of the Pacific Ocean in an open 18-foot boat in 1931. Strapped for cash, he made his own sextant from a Boy Scout telescope, hacksaw blades and pieces of coloured glass, and copied an ancient atlas he found in the Sydney Public Library for his charts, a false economy that was destined to alarm him later when he realised that many islands had not been discovered when the atlas was published. He even made a tow log by adapting an old alarm clock and fitting it with a line attached to strips of aluminium set into a short length of broom handle to make the rotator.
Fred was born Paul Sproge in Latvia, 22 April 1886. As a young man he avoided compulsory enlistment in his country’s defence forces by crossing into Russia where he sought a passport. When refused, he went to a religious organisation for help and, on being refused again, he says in his book, "Escape to the Sea": “Charitable organisations are supposed to supply the needy: surely that means supplying them with what they need. But they are limited in their ideas, and I have yet to learn of any organisation that hands out passports to those who need them.”
In the end, he went to a criminal hangout and bought a passport for half a dollar. Hoping to find a country “not under the rule of paper”, Fred decided to be a merchant sailor, his ‘new’ passport needing a little adjustment before it could be used to obtain the necessary papers: it seems that his passport’s previous owner was wanted by the law!
Not to be discouraged, Paul Sproge forged a new name on his second-hand passport and in this way he became Fred Rebell. To quote his marvellously logical rationale, he writes: “Papers do not mean anything. A man means something, and work means something. If government is so crazy that it will not let a man have work unless he has papers, then it is only rational to humour that crazy government like you humour any other sort of lunatic.”
After landing in Western Australia, he cut timber for two years before buying land to farm after which he decided it was time to get a wife. In this he shows an extraordinary level of optimism by writing to a few old female friends back in Latvia asking them to marry him. Failing in this approach, he then advertised in the Latvian papers and reaped no less than thirty letters.
Securing a wife willing to live rough was not easy, but he eventually succeeded until the marriage failed a dozen years later. That’s when he met Elaine in Sydney, “a dark-eyed, dark-haired Australian maiden of eighteen summers” who ultimately broke his heart, sending him to The Gap at Watsons Bay, where he seriously contemplated suicide. But an unexplainable supernatural presence told him not to jump, so he bought a boat instead which he named her 'Elaine' and, on 31 December 1931, ran down Sydney Harbour before a fresh southerly buster that became a beam wind for the Tasman Sea crossing. It scarcely needs mentioning that he didn’t fuss with such details as clearing customs or getting a real passport.
Seen here with his famous homemade sextant, he set his course due east, passing well to the north of New Zealand, then, after a month at sea, turning north to avoid the Kermadec Islands which were missing from his chart but suspected to be getting awfully close.
After six turbulent weeks at sea, often lying to improvised sea anchors, and having to repair a split plank with pitch, he thankfully arrived at Yanutha, an island south of Vita Levu in the Fijis. Further on at Suva, he repaired his centreboard that had just about disintegrated, but there he fell in love with a seventeen-year-old. His passion was short-lived and he sailed to Naitamba, where yet again he fell for another girl, gentle Betty. After only nine days of bliss exploring island trails with her, he knew things would not work out, and he sailed again. Arriving in Apia, the capital of Somoa, it was not long before he was under the spell of a sixteen-year-old native, Eda, and after an ‘enslavement’ of six weeks, in his own words, he “tore himself away.”
At Christmas Island he was made welcome by Paul Rougier, a French painter, who suggested that he draft his own passport for entry to the United States. His homemade passport stated: ‘The bearer of this passport – Fred Rebell – of no allegiance, is travelling from Sydney, Australia, via the Pacific Ocean, United States of America and the Atlantic Ocean to his native town Windau in the country of Latvia. Description of bearer: Sex: Male. Age 46 years. Height 5 ft 8 in. Eyes: Blue. Complexion: Fair. Photograph of Bearer F. Rebell. Dated 3 March, 1932. Signature F. Rebell.’ Rogier signed the passport to verify Rebell’s arrival on 15th August, 1932 and his departure on 25th August, 1932.
Nearly ten months after leaving Sydney, Rebell put into Honolulu and with bureaucratic difficulty his passport was finally accepted in Hawaii. There he stayed five weeks basking in public admiration while receiving hospitality. On 3rd November 1932 he embarked on the longest leg of his voyage, two thousand-two hundred miles of solitary wintry seas and unrelenting gales causing damage to the pintles and a broken tiller. At one point his boat nearly floundered on account of being flooded when the sea anchor came adrift and he improvised by making the centreboard suffice as a sea anchor.
He arrived in California in January 1933 but U.S. officials refused to allow him to stay in the country and in 1935 he was deported to Latvia. He lived with his parents in Piltene, on Latvia’s Baltic Sea coast, and completed a book about his exploits "Escape to the Sea", first published in 1939 in London. In 1937, he decided to return to Australia, which he finally reached aboard a ship in 1939. In 1955 he became a naturalized citizen and died on 10 November 1968 in Sydney.
Even though he denounced it as being irrelevant, his remarkable voyage is a reminder of an era of bureaucratic tolerance long passed when sailors could still behave unconventionally, were unaided by commercial sponsors, global positioning systems and up-to-the-minute weather forecasts, and set out in boats that had better belonged on a lake.
Rebell by name, rebel by nature.
I first heard of Steve Gates, owner and captain of the Searunner 37 trimaran Manu-O-Ku, when I became involved with Villa Mamana on the tiny island of Telekivava'u in Tonga through its previous owners Joe Altenhein and Matt Muirhead - see here.
Steve had lived in Hawaii for 31 years, raised two children, and been building one-off epoxy composite boats in his own Tradewind Island Boatworks (a long name for a small company), before sailing to Tonga in late 2003 to become the paid caretaker of the very remote 40-acre private island of Telekivava'u in the remote island group of Ha’apai.
Think of spending whole weeks at a time totally alone on an idyllic, pristine island with your yacht anchored in the lagoon ... no wonder, Steve sat it out for a whole three years. It was a wonderful lifestyle but, as he said, "security is overrated, and the nomadic lifestyle was calling ...", and so he sailed north to the Vava’u Group where he ran a charter business for the next 4½ years.
For nearly eight years Tonga gave him an incredibly comfortable life which he lived "one moment at a time" and which he found very hard to leave. However, he did so finally in June 2011, first sailing back to the Ha’apai Group for a week to revisit the remote island he had lived on for three years, and then singlehandedly to Savusavu, Fiji, where he arrived on July 1, 2011. On to Vanuatu in September, then the Solomon Islands in November. In February 2012 he made the 2000 nm passage to Palau in western Micronesia before finally arriving in the Philippines on New Year’s Eve 2012.
His trimaran is his only home. As he writes, "This lifestyle works for me, a nomadic self-reliant lifestyle, on the oceans, among islands, sailing your home, wandering the world yet sleeping in your own bed."
He's been in the Philippines ever since, running his charter business Manu-O-Ku Sailing Adventures out of Port Barton, one of the last few untouched gems of the Philippines. It's a 45-minute flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa, and from there an easy ride to Port Barton, a sleepy fishing village, unspoiled and authentic, where life goes at its own pace and which Steve is in no hurry to leave.
Joe Altenhein, the creator of Villa Mamana on Telekivava'u, described Steve as "a nice man, doing what I wish I could do" --- and so think all of us. The nearest I ever got to Palawan was Boracay and, oh boy, am I itching to go again!