New York - It is almost a year since we started out from Britain
in the old 21-ton yawl Klang II to sail to Rhode Island to watch
Australia's challenge for the great symbol of sailing, the America's
Much water has flowed beneath the keel since then. Kate is now 7,
Paul 6, and my wife, Barbara, and I are fitter and slimmer than we
have been for years.
Our dog, Bosun, is going brown around the edges. He lies around a
lot as a nine-year-old should - waiting with twitching eyebrows for
something exciting to happen, when he becomes uncomfortably bouncy.
When we set out on our voyage, it was more with the idea of
enjoying our family in a experience together, before schooling
demanded a more settled existence than watching a yacht race. We did
not know if the idea would work and we were prepared to stop at any
time if the experiment failed.
Kate and Paul play aboard Klang II as the yacht sails through the
The Australian yacht Dame Pattie is scheduled to arrive in New
York on Sunday and we will be there to welcome her. When she has
been fitted out we will sail to Rhode Island to watch Jock Sturrock
and her crew prepare for the challenge.
We have order a new Australian ensign and are tying to bring
Klang II's paintwork to a respectable standard so that we can cheer
long and hard from her deck without self-consciousness.
Our voyage had one unplanned turn. A storm on the edge of Biscay
turned Klang II back into Plymouth and, as the fair-weather cycle
had obviously cracked with the lateness of the year, Barbara and the
children remained in Britain while I sailed Klang to Trinidad with
four young Australians - David Ward of Epping, Sydney ; Geoff and
Susan Burrows of Melbourne ; and Bob White, of Woolsthorpe,
Victoria. None had any experience of sailing, yet they complete the
6000-mile voyage with a happy enthusiasm.
In Corunna, Spain, we bought petrol which had water in it and
this stopped our engine. A storm off the Portuguese coast put more
water into the engine and after four despairing days trying to
repair it in Lisbon we sailed to Las Palmas, Barbados and Trinidad
without any power other than the wind.
As we neared the end of our 30-day Atlantic crossing we saw late
in the night, streaming steadily across the sky, a UFO (unidentified
flying object). It was huge, glowed and had a flaming tail - and it
left us all quiet , strangely reluctant to talk about what we had
In Trinidad Barbara and the children rejoined Klang II for the
voyage north through the Caribbean, Bahamas and up the remarkable
intra-coastal water-way to New York.
We put a small diesel engine in Klang II in Trinidad and watched
Carnival, the highlight of the year for the Southern Caribbean, from
the deck as the yacht swung to her anchor in the crater harbor of
In this 18th-century setting of quays and schooners the
Grenadians paraded in costumes depicting a primitive return to the
rituals of the African tribes their ancestors had left as slaves.
The Caribbean provides, for those who love boats, some of the
most wonderful sailing in the world. The wind blows strong and cool
from north-east to south-east for six months of the year. The water
is clear and blue. It tumbles out from the bow with a sparkle and
breaks invitingly on the white coral beaches.
Many times we caught fish - tuna, kingfish, barracuda, dolphin
(not porpoises). Bosun leapt into the cockpit to fight with the
first, taken on a simple spoon lure off the island of Carriacou, in
the Granadines. He leapt on top of the doghouse (the covered area
for the helmsman) to contemplate the third.
There are quite a number of yachts plying these waters, carrying
guests that have fled the northern winter on cruises among the
islands. These yachts and the trading schooners are in some places
the only means of getting from one island to another.
St. Lucia celebrated its independent Statehood while Klang II
underwent a paint on the slip in Castries. Barbara made their
"courtesy" flag, which shows the Pitons, two marvelous cone-shaped
upcrops on the southern point of the island, black against a
background of white, yellow and blue.
The St. Lucians are not as gay as the people to the south and
there is a diminishing carefree acceptance of life among the
islanders the nearer you get to the United States.
In Castries we changed Klang II's rather battered white topsides
to black. It enhanced her considerably and we became known as "the
people from the black yacht." In Castries the children made firm
friends with children from the British yachts Suzanne and Bineta.
These families were on their way to the Bahamas to settle and
carried many precious household possessions aboard.
We entered the American Virgin Islands at Charlotte Amalie, on
the island of St. Thomas, at the start of the bicentennial
celebrations. The magnificent Danish square-rigger Danmark rode at
anchor in the beautiful harbor. The Americans bought the islands
from the Danes, and they have become a tourist resort. Our own
"special" Dane, Captain Chris Loehr, who had sailed the tiny yacht
Lento single-handed from his country, rowed over to greet us.
We celebrated his birthday and the bicentenary also.
Klang II had not been underway from St. Thomas more than 12 hours
when she developed a severe leak through her rudder post. I lay flat
on my stomach hammering caulking into the leak as Klang II sailed
fast along the coast of Puerto Rico for Great Inagua. Reluctantly we
headed into San Juan listing sickeningly in the ground swell. We
stayed 24 hours for repairs and altered our plans for a stop at the
out-of-the-way island of Mayaguana.
This is an outpost of the Bahamas where the Americans have a huge
airfield and tracking equipment for their space probes. It was to
Mayaguana that the first astronaut was brought after his
The airfield, with its control tower and buildings, strikes a
strange, out-of-the-world note among the low rolling land of
Mayaguana, one of the most primitive and least developed of the
Bahamas. The Americans keep it in 24-hour readiness for the
acceptance of 500 personnel. They gave us dinner in their empty
"moon" city. In a way their talk prepared us for our sail under the
lee of the launching pads of Cape Kennedy a few weeks later.
Sailing through the Bahamas, where the water is shallow and
reputed to be the clearest in the world, is thrilling as the boat
seems more suspended than floating above the bottom. Navigation is
by eye, the depth gauged by the color of the water, which shades
from deep purple through amethyst and emerald to palest jade and
"White" water is too shallow, as we found when Klang II (draught
5 ft. 9 in.) ground to a halt on coral sand. The warm air and warm
water sweetly entice the most reluctant swimmers and Kate, Paul and
Bosun were often swimming before the anchor chain had stopped
rattling out. Nassau was just recovering from the Easter visit of
thousands of young American students who flood south from the cold
to the Bahamas and Florida fro their brief holiday. We left it on
one of its rare dull, blustery days, a strong easterly wind bowling
Klang II along at seven knots on the final 170-mile leg to America.
It was a night requiring constant vigilance, a dark sky above and
a shallow bottom below. Our vigilance cracked during confusion over
a red light, later identified as the aircraft beacon on Bimini. Our
reefed-down mainsail, which we had carefully nursed on the point of
jibing for 15 hours, crashed over in a wild jibe, causing the
backstay to rip up nine feet of deck.
After our fine run the mishap annoyed us and we determinedly
carried on, sailing on the other tack, allowing ourselves a drive of
15 miles as we headed out across the Gulf Stream for Fort
Lauderdale. This very new city has been described as the small-boat
capital of the world. It was some 500 miles of inland waterways.
Many of the houses have a water frontage and everyone seems to own a
boat or have access to one. the Australian Leila Williard King, who
ran a pearling fleet out of Darwin before World War II, and her
husband, retired scientist Dr. Williard King, gave us a fine welcome
The intra-coastal waterway is a system of canals which link
rivers, estuaries and bays for 1400 miles, allowing boats of about
six-feet draft to travel with a buffer of land between them and the
It passed through some beautiful countryside and, with an
extended schedule of not having to be in New York until the end of
June, we chose to stop at places that took our fancy.
In the deep-South town of Georgetown we unshipped the rudder and
replaced it, permanently repairing our Puerto Rico leak. Here
we kept Klang II along Huck's Fish Market, where Kate learnt the
retail fish business and Paul learnt to clean and catch it, while I
was pressed into talking about Australian-U.S. relations at a Rotary
We learned a lot about the Southern way of life - and they
learned a lot about us, mainly from Kate and Paul. "Miz Caines
believes in Adam and Eve," Kate said. "So we told her about
evolution." We had time to see integration working and to appreciate
the quite atmosphere of old houses in wide, tree-lined streets and
gracious Southern hospitality.
As for "learning" as such, Barbara has continued to give the
children lessons from the Victorian Correspondence School. While
Kate has achieved seven out of eight "gold starts," we despair
sometimes about Paul's attitude to learning - although he draws
four-masted sailing ships complete with top-gallants.
During our slow journey north we have met other boats. The couple
on board the little American trimaran Dart had taken a year off, in
much the same we had, to cruise the Caribbean. A metallurgist, who
patented a process for titanium into steel, Andy believed the "away
from it all," although sometimes very hard and difficult, existence
had freed his mind to the point where he was hopeful of developing
several new processes that would help mankind's development.
Sailing up deep-throated Chesapeake Bay we stopped at Smith
Island, where fishermen catch and farm crabs. The crabs leave their
shells to double their size almost immediately, and the process
continues with decreasing rapidity until full maturity. Immediately
after shedding their shells they are soft - and soft crabs are a
delicacy which brings high prices in city restaurants.
Our last stop before New York was Annapolis to watch 100 boats
start in the Annapolis to Rhode Island ocean race - it was a preview
of the intense yachting scene we expect to be part of in the coming
weeks as the world watches Dame Pattie's attempt to wrest the
America's Cup from the New York Yacht Club.
Re: the Dame Pattie (named after the popular wife of an
- 1967 - Intrepid Takes a Bow, Downing Dame Pattie, 4-0
Considered by many to be the greatest 12-meter ever built, the
Olin Stephens-designed Intrepid took on Australia's Dame Pattie.
With the exception of a brief moment in the second race, however,
the determined crew from the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron could
only watch Intrepid's stern as Bus Mosbacher sailed her to his
second successful Cup defense.
- ......but the NYYC disallowed the protest on a
technicality, prompting a British writer to comment, "Britannia
rules the waves, but America waives the rules."
Those were relatively minor incidents, however, compared to the
furor that arose with Sir Frank Packer's second challenge in 1967.
America's Intrepid and Australia's Dame Pattie collided shortly
after the start of the second race. Dame Pattie crossed the finish
line first, but was disqualified because of the collision and
Intrepid was declared the winner.
The NYYC was immediately flooded with telegrams, phone calls, and
letters, most of them from Americans who felt the ruling was
unfair. A furious member of the Australian Parliament even
demanded that the country withdraw its ambassador to the U. S. in
Intrepid proceeded to win the next two races for a sweep, but the
disqualification still rankled with Australians and seemed to spur
a determination to win the cup.