It’s a pretty amazing evening when many of your heroes gather to celebrate one of their heroes. That’s part of the magic that took place last night as veteran sailor and boatbuilder John Guzzwell spoke to a capacity crowd at Oakland YC on the 50th anniversary of his circumnavigation aboard the self-built 20-footer Trekka. At the time, she was the smallest boat ever to have gone around.
Stan Honey, a navigator and circumnavigator of some note himself, introduced Guzzwell, who had flown down from his home in Poulsbo, Washington, for the event. Although things have changed quite a lot in sailing since the late ‘50s, Honey observed that in the realm of cruising, some aspects of bluewater voyaging aren’t much different today than they were back then — such has having to deal with whatever weather Mother Nature throws at you. Honey also observed that then, as now, the friendships you make add immeasurably to the overall experience. In preparation for the evening, Honey had re-read the same edition of Guzzwell’s Trekka Round the World that had mesmerized him at age 14.
Guzzwell, looking more than fit at age 79, captivated the crowd of nearly 200. He spoke a bit about Trekka (currently kept in sailing condition at SALTS, the Sail and Life Training Society in British Columbia), but devoted most of his hour-long talk to his friendship with Miles and Beryl Smeeton, with whom he worked, lived and traveled for a time on their 46-ft ketch Tzu Hang. Amazingly, he showed film (well, DVDs made from the original film) of those days, starting in New Zealand and ending moments before a huge wave pitchpoled the boat some 1,000 miles west of Cape Horn. Dismasted, de-ruddered, full of water and heavily damaged — the coachroof and all hatches had been ripped off — the three sailors bailed Tzu Hang out, fashioned covers from sails and canvas pipe berths, and used spinnaker poles and some surviving sails to cobble together a jury rig. It took them 37 more days to nurse the boat 700 miles to safe haven in Chile.
In addition to Honey, the audience included Commodore and Nancy Tompkins, Tom Wylie, Skip Allan, Robin and Serge Teste (Serge now holds the record for the smallest boat circumnavigation, a 12-footer in the early ‘80s), Norton Smith, Jim and Diana Jessie, Peter and Shama Hogg, two-time circumnavigator Don Sandstrom and Clifford Cain. Lest you think Trekka was small for a singlehander, Cliff and his late wife, Marian, completed another circumnavigation together aboard her in the mid-’60s. This in a boat barely bigger — inside or out — than a Cal 20!
Guzzwell completed the evening by greeting many admirers and signing copies of the latest reprint of Trekka Around The World.