Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Durban: decked; THE BOYS IN THE BOAT

        This morning I walked the short distance along the harbor front to the Maritime Museum to view the boat in which a South African claims to have made an open boat circumnavigation.  I had seen it when I was here in THE HAWKE OF TUONELA in 2008 and wanted to verify my memory.
        As the photos clearly show this boat is decked.  Decked from the bow to aft of the mast.  Decked from the bow along both sides to the stern.  Decked essentially as much as is GANNET or J-24s or every other small flush decked boat.  There are Moore 24s with cut out sterns that look very much like this boat.
        If I were to seal off GANNET's companionway and live and sail her from the cockpit, she would still not be an open boat.  She has a deck.  CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE did not.  Neither does Steve Earley's SPARTINA, a Welsford Pathfinder.  They are open boats.  Not having a deck is what makes a boat open.
        The South African sailor did complete an interesting small boat circumnavigation.  He did not do it in an open boat.
       When I wrote this I was not aware of the remarkable circumnavigation made in 2013-2015 by Evan Bourgnon in an open catamaran, of which I have written more here.


        I just finished reading an entertaining, compelling, inspiring book, THE BOYS IN THE BOAT by Daniel James Brown.
        To say that it is about the University of Washington  8 man rowing crew who won the gold medal at the 1936 Olympics and were considered then the best crew of all time is true, but a gross over-simplification.  The book is about the technique, the sacrifice and the spirituality of rowing.  It is about the art and craft of building boats of wood.  It is about the pursuit of perfection.  It is about overcoming hardship and poverty, the West Coast against the Eastern Establishment, the Great Depression, Nazi propaganda, which eighty years ago offered ‘alternative facts’.
        Joe Rantz, the crew member followed most closely in the book, had a childhood from Hell with a truly evil stepmother and a father too weak to prevent her from doing what would have seemed to be irreparable harm.  Overcoming adversity can make you strong, but Joe had to overcome more than any child should and he seems to have risen above it.
        Although the outcome is known, Daniel James Brown manages to convey the tension and uncertainty the crew and coach felt through the years leading up to the Olympics and even through the final race itself
        I cannot recommend THE BOYS IN THE BOAT too highly and thank Jay for bringing it to my attention.