” Old man stands in companionway of small sloop. One very weathered hand holds lightly onto a halyard stopper. The other a jib winch. A big grin is on the old man’s face as he watches a small sloop rush though the ocean, little more than an arm’s length away. And because he is precisely where he is.
Use yourself up, old man. Use yourself up.” (Webb Chiles)
In this post i am going to talk about 2 boats and their owners. Both owners are highly experienced sailors and they are both sailing modified small boats of almost exactly the same size. Both boats relate to the series i have been doing about small starter boats.
The 2 sailors are respectively Roger Taylor (UK) and Webb Chiles (USA) and both of these sailors have done extremely long ocean voyages in their respective boats. It is also month 2 in which i am starting the second big project of the year although hopefully not destroying the second hoover of the year…..Henry seems quite happy so far so Hooray Henry !
In the blue corner we have Roger Taylor and MingMing 2.
I contacted Roger last year asking him if i could visit his boat and interview him for my website, unfortunately he was too busy but said to use any of his material that was already in the public domain. He has a youtube channel which i will link below and for those that enjoy seeing boat refits his refit/rebuild of a standard (and leaky) Achilles 24 into a dry and competent ocean going boat is one of the best.
The launch of Mingming 2
One episode of the rebuild project.
The first connection here is that i was recently looking at the Achilles 24 in the budget boat/starter boat thread. These are quite old boats now as they were designed and built in the late 1970’s. The one that Roger rebuilt did start off in a very poor condition but ends up as a very tight little craft indeed.
So : Roger Taylor. Roger is famous for a couple of things in sailing, first that he was written some very good accounts of small boat sailing, in fact he totally believes in small and radically simple sailing boats. Nowadays he is best well known for his arctic voyages in 2 small boats. He regularly spends up to 7 weeks actually at sea, doesn’t land and sails solo. His first arctic/high latitude voyages were in an even smaller boat the 21 foot Corribee….a boat i must cover some time as yet another famous sailor did some of her early voyages in one (Ellen Macarthur). I would strongly suggest reading his book “Voyages of a Simple Sailor” my copy is so good that somebody else has ‘borrowed’ it.
It might be apparent in my website that i am fascinated by the margins of sailing, from maxi yachts right down to the small and lumpen! I am particularly taken by the idea that a lot can be done with a small and seemingly unsuitable boat which is why i am featuring Roger Taylor and MingMing 2 again today. If you have ever seen a Corribee or an Achilles 24 you would hardly look at one and instantly think of them as seriously capable ocean going yachts and i guess in standard trim they probably aren’t. What i think that Taylor shows is first that small boats can be capable offshore/ocean boats and that he has worked out very simple and rugged solutions to the problems that long distance and short handed sailing creates. He would go so far as to say that he believes that a smaller boat is often better and safer than a big boat and its hard to argue given what he has already done with these little craft. One thing that occurs to me from my experience of small boats offshore is how uncomfortable his daily life afloat must be but in fact he strives to make his boats as comfortable as possible and there are very good lessons to be taken from his boat modifications in this regard.
In terms of our budget boat/starter boat thread a Corribee is a very good starter boat and would most likely only set you back about £1500. I have seen the odd Achilles at about the same price as well. The last post in the starter boat series will almost certainly feature a Corribee because i intend to halve the current budget and see what we can find, right now there are 2 of these just on one website at around the same negotiable base price and some nicer ones on the owners forum. Something that Taylor said about the change up from the Corribee to the Achilles is that the latter boat has that little bit more sailing length which on his long voyages gives him greater range. There have been times with the Liberty, notably cross channel, when more waterline length and sail-power would have got us in before a change of tide and another 3 or 4 hours battling adverse current.
Mingming 1 (Corribee)
Now for the red corner : Webb Chiles and ‘Gannet’.
Although i knew about some of Webb Chiles’s exploits i had largely forgotten about him until recently when Stephen Mundane posted a clip of ‘Gannet’ on passage in the Indian Ocean and that piqued my interest partially because i have been down that way and mainly because Gannet looked to be a very small, wet and uncomfortable boat to be sailing and then i thought “hang on…..Chiles must be getting on a bit” !
In fact he is 75 this year i believe and doing ocean passages in the equivalent of a J24 with zero concessions to comfort. As i read it he has done a passage from Australia to South Africa and then SA up pst St Helena up to the Caribbean . The following is taken directly from his own website in case you haven’t come across him so far : ”
If you arrived here by chance and don’t already know, Webb Chiles is
a writer and a sailor, an artist of words and wind. Married six times, he
lived with passion on land as well as water and at one time liked to
believe himself an artist of women, too, but this may have been a
delusion. As a writer: seven books and hundreds of articles published. As a sailor: five circumnavigations and several world records; and long ago he became the first American to sail alone around Cape Horn. He wanted to live an epic life. Perhaps he did. Spend some time and decide for yourself.
At Greater Length in the First
I am 64 years old as I establish this website in August 2006. It is my intention to use it as a repository for my writing, published and unpublished, past and future, and to share some images.
Twice in my life I have lost everything. Once the loss occurred over a period of years while I was sailing CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE, an 18’ open boat, west around the world. When I was falsely imprisoned as a spy in Saudi Arabia in 1982, I did not own a single object, not a teaspoon or a tee-shirt, that I had owned when I sailed from San Diego, California, in 1978. The second loss was as complete but took place during a single night in 1992 when I sank the 36’ sloop, RESURGAM, off the coast of Florida, following which I floated and swam for 26 hours and was carried more than 125 miles by the Gulf Stream before reaching an anchored fishing vessel.
I mention this only partly in pride that I lived on the edge and risked everything for so long–as I once wrote: almost dying is a hard way to make a living–but also because it explains omissions. Possessions can usually be replaced, but some of my writing and many photographs were lost and can’t be.
“Old men should be explorers.” I first read that in a book by Jan de Hartog, but subsequently came across it in T. S. Eliot’s FOUR QUARTETS, which predates Hartog by several decades. I don’t know if there is an even earlier source.
I divide my time at present between being with Carol, an architect and my wife of twelve years, in a condominium in Evanston, Illinois, and my 37’ sloop, THE HAWKE OF TUONELA, in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands. While I have kept some passion as well as my waistline, I don’t deceive myself that I am not old. But I am still exploring and looking forward to the next words, the next image, and the next voyage, if not the next woman.
People who know of me at all probably do so as a sailor; but I have always thought of myself as an artist, and I believe that the artist’s defining responsibility is to go to the edge of human experience and send back reports. Here are my reports “