Newsletter nr. 22 – November 1979

oldnewsheadWintermeeting 1980
We did not see each other for a long time, as we had no rally this year, but we hope to have a wintermeeting on Saturday January 19th next, in the clubhouse of the “Koninklyke Nederlandse Zeil- en Roel Verening” (Royal Netherlands Sailing- and Rowing Club) Weetzee- dijk 7, Muiden.

Between 5 o’clock and 5:30 in the afternoon we are expected for a drink and then for a simple dinner. After the dinner there will be time to see films and colour slides of our members.

Those who have a good film and/or good colour slides are kindly invited to bring these with them. Mr. Will Valentijn will arrange the showing of them.

We hope many members of our circle will be present.

Please inform Mr. H. K. Bolte, Zonnestein 9, Amstelveen (tel. 020-413714) or Mr. J. C. M. van Marle, Anton Verheystr. 5, Amsterdam (tel. 020-7389198) if you intend to be present.

We should also like to know with how many people you intend to be present.

Our members living in Holland are kindly requested to inform us also if they can not be present. This would save us a lot of telephoning. Thanks in advance.

News about Ships and Owners
Mr. Jim Walker crossed the Atlantic with his “Cicci”. He did this quite alone on his ship. Enclosed his story of the voyage from Gibraltar to the Canaries. Some time ago received a letter from him, from which we cite:
“we, my two daughters and I return to “Cicci” on the 23rd of November. She is moored in Antigua at English Harbour after my last trip, which took me from St. Lucia down South to Grenada and then back and further North to Antigua, this taking 4 months and involving revolutions and volcano eruptions, not to mention saving a 50 foot yacht from sinking by towing it to port in grenada but also rescuing St. Lucia fisherman,who were lost miles out at sea and providing them with fuel and food.”

Dr. Hackstein went to Sweden with his “Eti Fürstin über Punt”. Mr. Aad Twigt is now in the Mediterranean with the “Helena Christina” and intends to sail to the West Indies and maybe further around the world.

Miss Ida Scheltema went to Denmark with the “Marmara” and Mr. Collot d’Escury went to Belgium and France in the “van Linschoten”. Mr. van Marle sailed with the “Caecilia” via Sicily, Tunis and Sardinia to the South coast of France.

The “Sesame” of Mr. John Shedd sailed from Greece to the island of Mallorca, Mr. Shedd thinks about sailing to Holland to be present on our 1980 rally. You will be very welcome Mr. Shedd!!

Mr. Alb N. Kok bought the “Otka” and renamed her “Taainagel”.

The “Aton II” also changed from name and owner. Dr. F.O.A.M. Kemme gave her the name of “Zeekoet II.”

Both new members very welcome in our circle!

On the “Natte Hiswa” (the exhibition of boats in the water) this summer in Rotterdam the “Margaretha” was present and aroused much interest there.

Rally 1980
We hope to have again a rally of our circle next summer. Now in August, to be exact from Wednesday the 6th of August to Tuesday the 12th of August Sail Amsterdam 1980 will be held and we are thinking about the possibility of combining these two events.

Sail Amsterdam will start with the parade on the “Noordzeekanaal” (canal from Ymuiden to Amsterdam) of the tall ships which joined the Tall Ship race from cape Skagen to Amsterdam. In Amsterdam they will be received with festivities, which will last until the 12th of august. A. O. are planning a parade, a regatta and “admiraalzeilen.” Our circle is invited to be present at these festivities. We like to accept this invitation, but we must first know about how many ships of our members will be present.

The minimum time the boats must be present is from Thursday the 7th of August until Monday the 11th of August. We shall get a special birth together in Amsterdam. We might speak about all this at out winter meeting, but to give us an idea, we kindly request you to let us know, as soon as possible, whether you can be present with tour ship. Please fill out the slip of paper underneath and send this to Mr. J. van der Flier.
We hope many members will be present with their boats.

List of ships and Owners
Please find enclosed a list of ships and owners which has been revised until the end of November 1979.

Yes, we indeed need some money.
So our members are kindly requested to pay the 1980 contribution of P. St. 2,- D.M. 10.- Fr. Frs. 20.- or Fl. 10.- to “postgiro” account nr. 37.21.241 of the Alcyone Circle, Amsterdam.

The Atlantic Alone
Not knowing any better, I took no notice when friends told me not to try single handed sailing. With my lack of experience it seemed the very best way to learn the business. There was also the high risk involved. I was not good enough to be entrusted with other lives. As it turned out of course I did learn an awful lot which made it all worth while. More importantly thought was the discovery that this form of sailing is my kind and that sailing in company is another form of the game.

It all started when I felt an urge for challenge and change. The life of a pig farmer in Australia was fine, but I must have sniffed the sea even whilst far inland. The result was a trip to the Valentijn yard and “Sea Gypsy” soon renamed “Cicci.”

For practice the IJselmeer suited me well, no matter where I wandered I soon came to some friendly land again and friendly people too. As I wanted to learn celestial navigation however I determined to sail to England for a period of study and this I did, accompanied by friends who had previous experience aboard Gunning boats.

With winter past and a very hazy idea of what celestial navigation was all about, we headed back to Dutch waters and into the canal system. The idea being to work down to Southern France in order to spend the next winter in warm waters.

We spent most of the winter in Ibiza which was a perfect base, handy to the areas I was interested in sailing to in the following summer. My idea being to work everything back from my targeted november departure from the Canary Islands.

As it was to turn out, delays in Gibraltar and the Canaries themselves delayed my departure until December and resulted in most of my crossing being done in January, a month I had wished to avoid simply because of 2 other sailors, who had experienced constant force 7 winds which they found very tiring.

With as many opinions as there were sailors regarding the best time to depart Gibraltar, I finally set sail when I was ready. The sailmaker had charts from the navy showing the current for submarines, the harbourmaster had another set of ideas. There were Pilotcharts, a German manual which we tried to translate and several other works, all telling a different story regarding where and when one sailed to reduce the tidal effect and that of the current. The one sure thing to emerge was, that no one agreed.

I made for Tangier to take on fresh fruit and vegetables, for there items are expensive and inferior in Gibraltar. The Straits were full of dolphins and commercial shipping, but although we made slow progress on the African shore we nevertheless reached Tangier with no trouble.
Although Tangier was the highlight of my voyage to that time, I had to leave after only 2 days for I was being summoned by the Atlantic.
My first lesson in sailing came as I headed out into the Atlantic. I tried to rig my 2 whisker poles and 2 genoas, which seemed a fine idea. With no previous experience (there had been no wind to speak of whilst in the Med nor had I had the poles until a day or so prior to departing Gibraltar) I made a mess of it and ended up with a blown out sail. This caused me to go to bed for 2 days whilst I thought about rigging the poles and hoisting the sails. When I finally surfaces and started work once more, I promptly fell overboard. This was a rewarding experience, I wore no lifeline or life preserver and enjoyed the challenge of regaining the sanctity of my ship, before she departed for other parts minus her skipper.
When I finally reached the Canaries and met some others who had left Gibraltar after me, one of the boats mentioned that they saw me flying as I left Tangier. “No wonder you made such a good speed,” my friend remarked, “we measured force 8 on the Beaufort scale.”

“No wonder I lost sail,” I remarked.

After 10 days at sea I predicted landfall the following morning. I had ceased taking sights three days ago and was in a strange mental state. I talked myself into thinking I could navigate without bothering about the sun and the moon. Sure enough I saw three trawlers late at night and followed them, sure that they would lead me to port. At 2 AM one turned to port, whilst the others turned to starboard and I realized I was lost, so went to bed.

The morning produced my landfall all right but the compass told a different story. I finally had to accept the fact that I was just about to sail onto the coast of the Spanish Sahara desert and that put me maybe 100 miles off course. With new vigour I came to my senses and 2 days later sailed into Puerto Rico at 2 AM, much wiser then when I left Europe.

With more delays I stayed some 3 weeks or more in the Canaries. My “Vetus” hydraulic steering had broken for the second time and it was essential that I waited for spare hydraulic rams to be sent from Holland. There was also the sail to repair.

From the Canaries I sailed south to the Cape Verdes where I spent 3 days. There were the most memorable. I was sorry to leave after such a short visit. The people were kind and generous and heaven knows they had precious little to give. I was offered numerous lifts by passing motorists, even a taxi on one occasion. On the wharf my water tanks were filled up by a tanker free of charge despite the fact the they are very short of water, it had not rained for 10 years and water was desalinated from the sea itself.

I was 35 days at sea between the Cape Verdes and Barbados. I saw one big cargo ship late one night and the tail of another yacht one day, that was all. My brush with the cargo carrier was nerve wrecking. My technique was to sleep for an hour then go on deck. With a kitchen timer set for 60 minutes this routine worked well and soon I started to wake just before the alarm went off, which was less nerve shattering too. Any way, one night I saw lights far away, I nevertheless remained on deck and sure enough the lights drew closer. As they grew brighter I thought that perhaps I should make my presence distinct. Although I had my navigation lights on, I turned on my masthead light, in addition I tested the motor and rigger the spot-light. When finally this giant passed a few hundred yards astern of me I sent a morse signal wishing him a pleasant voyage. There was no response, but the lone man on the bridge turned on a powerful light of his own, kept me in it for perhaps 5 minutes. It was a warming feeling, to meet as ships in the night. He on his way to Japan perhaps, whilst Cicci and I were Barbados bound.

Unlike those who have written about single handed passage making I felt no boredom, nor for that matter did I feel lonely. When becalmed for 6 days, I wished for 10 and simply enjoyed being where I was at the moment.

The big thing was a repeat of the perfect landfall I had achieved when reaching the Cape Verdes. Barbados was a more difficult target being about 18 miles long. My technique was to head for the middle even though I had to pass to the south of the island to make the capital of Bridgetown. I worked overly hard with my sights, I might take a dozen at noon and if I was unhappy about some aspect would take sights three or even four times some day. The result was a zig-zag course which I plotted on the Pilot chart of the North Atlantic. With the “Vetus” gear again broken after only 2 days of the trip, I was forced to steer with a tiller and lines rigged to the wheel. It was heavy work and I decided not to rig the windvane, so that the trip took on fresh dimensions. As Cicci sailed herself poorly with wind over my shoulder I had to sail rather more north than necessary and then rather more south, one manoeuvre to get the wind on the beam, the other to get it astern, here she was well balanced and sailed largely unaided, but it added hundreds of miles, about 300-400 I guess.

Despite these minor inconveniences I was enjoying myself immensely and talked via my Ham radio to another passage maker as well as wife and children shortly after Christmas, we were all very excited by this “patch.”

The line on my chart was headed straight for Barbados. If I had done my job well, it seemed I would make my landfall around noon the following day, In the morning I sensed there might be a haze and this might reduce the visibility critically. Land birds were now in evidence, so that was a good sign and I even heard, then saw a small fishing boat, so that too was encouraging. Nevertheless there was no land. At 2 PM I went once more onto the poop deck and scanned the western horizon. Finally I saw a small green dew drop. In the classic style it was “fine on the starboard bow.” I was thrilled of course and went below for a giant scotch. It turned out that I was about 3 miles south of the island, which made me 11 miles off my target light house, but after about 2500 miles I was well pleased.

That night Cicci and I lay quietly in a friendly anchorage, we were surrounded by boats that had made the same passage, but I suspect, few of those who made the crossing, knew of the love and respect that I held for my little ship. I wondered too, did others marvel as I did that mere man can take up his home and move around this world, free of motors and gasoline, free from tickets and queues, unregulated and cared for, free to do it his way, right or wrong.


To be fair to the “Vetus” people it should be said that failure of their gear was probably due to my having installed a valve in one of the hydraulic lines. This provided a first class brake so that by simply turning off the valve, my wheel would stay exactly where it was set. I had asked for and received confirmation that this valve was quite alright and that wave action would not be sufficiently strong to cause failure. This I do not believe to be true.

I no longer use the valve and have not had further trouble.