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Men at sea - the Great Sailors of the Past

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Harold William Tilman

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Harold William Tilman - Versione in Italiano
'Hands (Men) wanted for long voyage at Sea. No pay, no prospects, not much pleasure'. Visit Harold William Tilman website. Buy his 'The Eight Sailing and Mountaneering Books' .
The Sea’s most powerful spell is romance, that romance which, in the course of time, has gathered round the ships and the men who sailed upon it –the strange coasts and their discoveries, the storms and the hardships, the fighting and the trading, and all the strange things that happened and still do happen to those who venture upon it’. Harold William Tilman, 1958
A sailor... ‘ventures under sail upon strange coasts, seeking those first experiences, and trying to feel as felt the earlier men in happier times, to see the world as they saw it’ (Hilaire Belloc).
Tilman is doubtlessly our sailing master. The TMT syndrome (Too Much Tilman) is certainly responsible for many a foolhardy sailplan in cold waters.

Hilaire Belloc
Sailing the Sea
Under the falling light, all alone in such a place I shall let go the anchor chain, and let it rattle for the last time.  My anchor will go down into the clear salt water with a run, and when it touches I shall pay out four lengths, or more, so that she may swing easily and not drag, and then I shall tie up my canvas and fasten all for the night and get me ready for sleep.  And that will be the end of my sailing.
First Advice for the Humble Sailor
            Cruising is not racing
For no one can doubt that the practice of sailing has been abominably corrupted by racing. I do not know whence the evil comes from, but I suppose it came like most evils from love of money. Then might be the craze for measurable things, so that people might say that A gets in front of B. Any fool can test that, and to-day is made for fools.
            But if your boat is a home and a companion, and at the same time a genius that takes you from place to place and an introducer to infinite verities, then you must put away from yourself altogether the idea of racing.

Joshua Slocum
If the Spray discovered no continents on her voyage, it may be that there were no more continents to be discovered. She did not seek new worlds, or sail to pow-wow about the dangers of the sea. The sea has been much maligned. To find one's way to lands already discovered is a good thing, and the Spray made the discovery that even the worst sea is not so terrible to a well-appointed ship. No king, no country, no treasury at all, was taxed for the voyage of the Spray, and she accomplished all that she undertook to do.
To succeed, however, in anything at all, one should go understandingly about his work and be prepared for every emergency. I see, as I look back over my own small achievement, a kit of not too elaborate carpenters' tools, a tin clock, and some carpet-tacks, not a great many, to facilitate the enterprise as already mentioned in the story. But above all to be taken into account were some years of schooling, where I studied with diligence Neptune's laws, and these laws I tried to obey when I sailed overseas; it was worth the while.
And now, without having wearied my friends, I hope, with detailed scientific accounts, theories, or deductions, I will only say that I have endeavoured to tell just the story of the adventure itself. This, in my own poor way, having been done, I now moor ship, weather-bitt cables, and leave the sloop Spray, for the present, safe in port.

Ernest Shackleton
"I called to the other men that the sky was clearing, and then a moment later I realized that what I had seen was not a rift in the clouds but the white crest of an enormous wave. During twenty-six years' experience of the ocean in all its moods I had not encountered a wave so gigantic. It was a mighty upheaval of the ocean, a thing quite apart from the big white-capped seas that had been our tireless enemies for many days. I shouted 'For God's sake, hold on! It's got us.' Then came a moment of suspense that seemed drawn out into hours. White surged the foam of the breaking sea around us. We felt our boat lifted and flung forward like a cork in breaking surf. We were in a seething chaos of tortured water; but somehow the boat lived through it, half full of water, sagging to the dead weight and shuddering under the blow. We baled with the energy of men fighting for life, flinging the water over the sides with every receptacle that came to our hands, and after ten minutes of uncertainty we felt the boat renew her life beneath us". The cooking stove was floating around in the bottom of the boat and portions of their last hoosh seemed to soak everything. It was 3 a.m. before the stove was finally functional again. The next day, May 6, Worsley determined that they were not more than a hundred miles from the northwest corner of South Georgia...two more days of favorable wind would put the island within sight. Thirst took possession of them. Their mouths were dry and tongues were swollen. On the morning of May 8, about 10 o'clock, a little bit of kelp was passed. An hour later two birds were seen sitting on a big mass of kelp and at 12:30 p.m., McCarthy caught a glimpse of the black cliffs of South Georgia, just fourteen days after departing Elephant Island.


Bernard Moitessier
"You do not ask a tame seagull why it needs to disappear from time to time toward the open sea. It goes, that's all."
"I am a citizen of the most beautiful nation on earth. A nation whose laws are harsh yet simple, a nation that never cheats, which is immense and without borders, where life is lived in the present. In this limitless nation, this nation of wind, light, and peace, there is no other ruler besides the sea." More on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Moitessier


Eric Tabarly
 Son bateau. "Le bateau n’est pas la liberté. Mais naviguer, c’est accepter des contraintes que l’on a choisies (...) Il est évident que sentir ce pont en bois sous mes pieds me rend heureux et que d’écouter ses bruits familiers, sa manière à lui de me parler, me procure du plaisir. Sinon, depuis près de quarante ans, me serais-je endetté et aurais-je tiré le diable par la queue pour que Pen Duick glisse encore sur la mer?"
Ses silences. "Je ne suis pas un grand bavard, c’est vrai. Mais de là à être l’ours taciturne qu’on a fait de moi... Cette image me suit depuis 1964. A l’époque, la plupart des journalistes ne savaient pas ce qu’était une course à la voile. Je venais de gagner la Transat en solitaire et ils arrivaient, le bec enfariné, sans avoir rien préparé. Ils me demandaient des trucs du genre : « A quoi pensez-vous au milieu des éléments déchaînés? » Ben, euh... Deux ou trois questions comme ça, auxquelles je répondais par des « euh »... et l’interview s’arrêtait. Les journalistes me posaient vraiment des questions auxquelles je ne pouvais pas répondre (...) J’aime bien parler quand le sujet m’intéresse. Quand je ne sais pas, je ne sais pas. Je ne m’en tire pas avec un blabla quelconque."
More on http://www.asso-eric-tabarly.com/

William Adams
(September 24, 1564–May 16, 1620), also known in Japanese as Anjin-sama (anjin, "pilot"; sama, a Japanese honorific) and Miura Anjin (三浦按針: "the pilot of Miura"), was an English navigator who travelled to Japan and is believed to be the first Briton ever to reach that country. He was the inspiration for the character of John Blackthorne in James Clavell's bestselling novel Shogun. Soon after Adams' arrival in Japan, he became a key advisor to the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu and built for him Japan's first Western-style ships. Adams was later the key player in the establishment of trading factories by the Netherlands and England. He was also highly involved in Japan's Red Seal Asian trade, chartering and captaining several sailboats to Southeast Asia. He died in Japan at age 55, and is recognized to this day as one of the most influential foreigners during Japan's first period of opening to the West.


Robert Falcon Scott
(6 June 1868 – 29 March 1912) was a Royal Naval officer and Antarctic explorer. In the so-called 'Race to the South Pole' Scott came second, behind the Norwegian Roald Amundsen; and subsequently died, along with four companions, whilst trying to return to the safety of their base. Scott has become the most famous, and tragic, hero of the "heroic age" of Antarctic exploration.


Peter Blake
"Whatever the area, fulfilling one's potential requires worthwhile goals, a ruthlessness in setting standards and the courage to avoid the soft options that constantly present themselves."
Among the greatest sailors of all times, Sir Peter Blake dissappeared recently, brutally killed by brazilian bandits along the Amazon river. Visit this site: http://www.blakexpeditions.com/

'…we used to share the same open-eyes dreams together. And we agreed that it was impossible for both, action and knowledge, to compete with the joy of seeing a ship under sail'. Yukio Mishima, circa 1970



Joseph Conrad
"For all that has been said of the love that certain natures (on shore) have professed for it, for all the celebrations it has been the object of in prose and song, the sea has never been friendly to man. At most it has been the accomplice of human restlessness"
Discover his work and life on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Conrad


Sir Francis Chichester (clicca qui per la pagina in Italiano)

Sir Francis Chichester has arrived in Plymouth tonight in his yacht, Gypsy Moth IV, after completing his epic single-handed voyage around the world. He crossed the finishing line at 2058, nine months and one day after setting off from the historic port. Sir Francis is the first man to race around the world solo with only one port of call, Sydney.


Agostino Straulino
È una delle figure leggendarie della vela italiana. Istriano, impara ad andare in barca per andare a scuola. Le sue prime esperienze sono dunque nel Golfo del Quarnaro.Successivamente frequenta l'Accademia Navale di Livorno. Durante la seconda guerra mondiale fu ufficiale nella Decima MAS, tra gli assaltatori del gruppo gamma che piazzavano le cariche esplosive magnetiche sotto le navi britanniche nella rada di Gibilterra. Nella carriera militare raggiunse il grado di contrammiraglio.
Dal 1965, per una decina d'anni, ha avuto il comando della Amerigo Vespucci. Passate alla leggenda l'uscita dal porto di Taranto e la risalita del Tamigi sino Londra, a vela.Ha ottenuto una medaglia d'oro alla XV Olimpiade (Helsinki - 1952) per la vela - classe interna star e nella stessa specialità una medaglia d'argento alla XVI Olimpiade (Melbourne - 1956). Dopo questi successi la vela italiana ha dovuto aspettare 48 anni e Alessandra Sensini per andare nuovamente a medaglia in un'olimpiade

Frank Worsley (18721943)

After serving in the Pacific he joined Ernest Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 19141916, as captain of the Endurance. The aim was to cross the Antarctic continent, but the ship became frozen in ice, and was eventually crushed. All 28 men from the expedition floated on the ice until, thanks to Worsley's navigational skills, they could land with three lifeboats at Elephant Island on the Antarctic Peninsula.Worsley, Shackleton and four other men then sailed the 22-foot lifeboat James Caird across the stormy South Atlantic Ocean, eventually arriving at their intended destination, South Georgia. This was an astounding feat of navigation by Worsley, who used a sextant in a tiny boat that encountered 50-foot waves and storms. They then walked across South Georgia in a 36-hour march to fetch help from Stromness whaling station. All men were rescued from Elephant Island.

The Hiscocks

Yesterday afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. Eric Hiscock left Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, on the first stage of a voyage round the world in their 30- foot yacht Wanderer III. The voyage is expected to take three years.

For the next 17 years, Wanderer III roamed the oceans of the world, the Hiscocks becoming the first couple to make two circumnavigations. Early in his sailing career, Hiscock had begun to write accounts of his cruises for the yachting magazines, illustrating them with his own photographs. The honeymoon cruise to the Azores provided material that helped pay for the trip. On the first circum- navigation, the Hiscocks also helped defray expenses with articles and photography. Wanderer III, and later Wanderer IV, was equipped with a darkroom. The several books that resulted from these voyages became best-sellers among yachting and cruising folk. The income from these, plus fees for lectures upon their return to England, prompted them to sell their home and cut their ties permanently with land-living. On the second circumnavigation, they filmed the voyage for a television documentary, which earned them enough to build Wanderer IV, a large and commodious 49-foot steel ketch

Alain Colas
Alain Colas est un navigateur français né le 16 septembre 1943 à Clamecy (près de Nevers), disparu en mer le 16 novembre 1978. Après des études de lettres, il part à 22 ans, avec une licence d'anglais, comme maître de conférence à Sydney, sans même avoir les diplômes nécessaires. En effet, son père lui avait simplement communiqué une annonce de cette faculté cherchant un lecturer, c'est-à-dire un maître de conférence, et non un "lecteur" comme Alain le croyait. Essuyant un refus, mais s'étant déjà préparé au départ, il s'embarque pour Sydney. Sur place, son culot aujourd'hui légendaire fera le reste. Passionné de Canoë Kayak, il est à l'origine de la naissance du club de Clamecy qui prépare pour bientôt l'inauguration d'un espace Alain Colas à l'ancien tambourinette où Alain allait s'entraîner dans sa jeunesse. En Australie, il passe à la vitesse supérieure en découvrant la mer et la voile. C'est par hasard qu'il rencontre l'équipe de Éric Tabarly. Ce dernier l'embauche sur Pen Duick III (Sydney-Hobart), en tant que cuisinier. Il fera partie de l'équipage de Pen Duick IV (avec Olivier de Kersauson), et remporte la course transatlantique en solitaire anglaise en 1972 sur Pen Duick IV qu'il tranforme et rebaptise ensuite Manureva, l'oiseau du voyage. C'est avec Manureva qu'il effectue le tour du monde en solitaire et sur ce bateau qu'il se blesse très gravement à la cheville lors d'une manœuvre d'urgence durant une sortie anodine en mer. Cet accident ne l'empêche pas de lancer la construction du quatre mâts Club Méditerranée de 72 mètres et de se lancer dans la Transat anglaise en solitaire avant son complet rétablissement. Le duel sportif entre Alain Colas (seul sur un quatre mâts de 72 mètres) et Éric Tabarly (seul sur son Pen Duick VI conçu pour quatorze hommes d'équipage) et les conditions météo spectaculaires (cinq dépressions se suivront en Atlantique nord) restera dans les mémoires. Suite à plusieurs ruptures de drisses, Alain Colas doit relâcher à Terre-Neuve pour réparer et laisse filer la victoire à Éric Tabarly qui lui même effectue la quasi totalité de sa course sans pilote automatique pour arriver de nuit et seul à Newport. Alain Colas disparaît en mer, dans l'Atlantique, en novembre 1978 lors de la première édition de la Route du Rhum, à bord de Manureva


Jacques Cousteau
Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau left his mark forever on the planet and the oceans. When Cousteau and his teams embarked aboard Calypso to explore the world, no one yet knew about the effects of pollution, over-exploitation of resources and coastal development. The films of Calypso's adventures drew the public's attention to the potentially disastrous environmental consequences of human negligence. Cousteau, through his life and his work, was a major player in the environmental movement


How right was Nicolas Bouvier in the opening of his first book. ‘The Use of the World’ You do not make a voyage, it is the voyage that makes you. Therefore do not plan your voyage too much (for example, close this book immediately), and prefer adventure to a fancy boat forcing you to stop at guarded marinas. Let the ‘Hasard Objectif de l’Ocean’ (in Breton, Nadja) take hold of you. Last but not least read ‘The wisdom of the sea’ by Björn Larsen and never let the moral profit be second to the material one.

Jerome Poncet
Known first for a 5 year round-the-world trip he accomplished in his early 20s along with his friend Gérard Janichon (from 1969 to 73) on board "Damien", a 10,10m cold moulded wooden sloop they had built. First small yacht to reach Spitzbergen (1969), to reach the Antarctic Peninsula all sound and to sail below the Antarctic Circle (1973) - Received the "Médaille de l'Ordre du Mérite" in 1973 (the French equivalent of a Knighthood) on their return to France. In 1974-75 Jérôme built "Damien II", a 15,20m-steel yacht suited to the type of navigation he had most enjoyed: Antarctica and the high southern latitudes. He has lived on "Damien II" with his wife and increasing family (his first son was born aboard) for the 12 following years, from Europe to Brazil, Polynesia, Tasmania, New Zealand, and to Antarctica and the Sub-Antarctic islands. In the meantime, he participated in several Races such as the Whitbread in 1973-74 (Security), Saint Malo-Cape Town in 1975 (Skipper), Rio-Southampton in 1975-76 (Skipper), Whitbread in 1981 (Security) First yacht to winter in Antarctica in 1978-79 and still the only yacht to have wintered so far South (67°45'S). Since then, about 30 "Damien II" have been built around the world. In 1987 he settled down with his family on a little sheep farm on an isolated island in the Falklands, a place close to his favourite areas of sailing, to nature and to a lifestyle he and his wife wished to have with their children.

Henry David Thoreau
Be rather the Mungo Park, the Lewis and Clarke and Frobisher, of your own streams and oceans; explore your own higher latitudes . . . Nay, be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought. Every man is the lord of a realm beside which the earthly empire of the Czar is but a petty state, a hummock left by the ice. [Thoreau, p. 343.]

Nathanael Greene Herreshoff
(March 18, 1848–June 2, 1938), born in Bristol, Rhode Island, was a naval architect-engineer. He revolutionized yacht design, and produced a succession of undefeated sailboats for the America's Cup Race between 1893–1920, now referred to as the "Herreshoff Period." The yachts he designed were the largest, most expensive and powerful ever created to defend yachting's supreme prize.

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