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Thames to Tahiti

A first-hand account of an intrepid voyage of 12,000 miles from England to Tahiti, across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in a small 38-ft yacht with a freeboard of only 20 inches at the stern


GREAT VOYAGES IN LITTLE SHIPS - 1


Sidney Howard





THE AUTHOR, Sidney Howard, at Tahiti, at the end of his 12,000-miles voyage in the Pacific Moon. Tahiti is one of the Society Islands, belonging to France, situated in the South Pacific Ocean. The capital is Papeete. The author, with one companion, sailed from Dover, crossed the Atlantic from Cape Verde Islands to the West Indies, passed through the Panama Canal into the Pacific, and reached Tahiti over a year after having left England.









ON July 7, 1931, the 38-ft auxiliary cutter yacht Pacific Moon sailed from Falmouth, starting-point of so many maritime adventures; a year and five days later she arrived at Papeete, Tahiti. During that time she covered 12,000 miles without serious mishap and called at Spain, Gibraltar, Morocco, the Canary and Cape Verde Islands, the West Indies and the Marquesas. The adventure began one winter’s night, when the rain beat at the windows of my flat in London where I was living alone. I stoked up the fire and began reading a yachting journal. An advertisement caught my eye. The advertiser stated that he wanted a partner to buy a half-share in a yacht fitted out for ocean cruising and to make a voyage in the direction of Panama.


Panama! What magic there is in the name - Morgan, Balboa, the buccaneers, the Spanish Main! I went to the East Coast and saw the yacht and her owner. The yacht was not rigged to my liking - for one thing she had too much weight forward - so I dropped the idea and returned to London. In the spring, however, when the yacht was dismantled, the owner was willing to consider certain alterations, so I bought a half-share, cut the painter from shore life and looked forward to plenty of sailing.


I always felt sorry for Pacific Moon in those days. She had been considerably altered before I joined her, and when I arrived, instead of being ready for sea, she looked a shabby, neglected hulk. There seemed to be something wrong with almost everything I touched, and I always felt resentful of her name. She was originally Nama, and was built to the order of a well-known baronet. I heard that she was intended for his son, who was killed in action. She was sold to a peer, and was afterwards bought by an engineer, and then by my partner, who gave her the name Pacific Moon. I called her P.M., because in those days she was always behind time, and I vowed that I would not use her full name until she had reached the Pacific Ocean, where I would sell her.


ACCOMMODATION PLAN of the 38-ft auxiliary cutter Pacific Moon



ACCOMMODATION PLAN of the 38-ft auxiliary cutter Pacific Moon. Cooking was done in the forecastle. The saloon was used as chart-room and sleeping quarters. The engine was on the port side of the sail-room, spare sails and stores being stowed on the starboard side.





She was 38 feet overall, 33 feet on the water-line, 10 ft 6 in beam, drew 6 feet of water, her net tonnage was just over 8 and her Thames Measurement 14 tons. Her rig was cutter, and she had a topmast. The truck was about 40 feet from the deck. Her long bowsprit projected 12 feet beyond the stem. Full particulars of the vessel are in my book, Thames To Tahiti (G. Bell & Sons). Her free-board was low, being 3 ft 6 in forward, 2 ft amidships and a bare 1 ft 8 in aft. Thus, when one was aft one was always quite near the sea - one had only to put one’s hand out to touch it.


I knew that Pacific Moon would be a dirty boat at windward work, but the shape of her stern was right, and I knew she would run steadily before the trade winds without yawing or inviting a wave to break over her stern.


The low free-board did not worry me, for I had experienced yachts with even less. The engine, a four-cylinder, fifteen

horse-power, petrol-paraffin model, was by a famous firm. It had been badly installed to drive a propeller on the port quarter, so that the helmsman had to keep the tiller to starboard to hold a straight course. The speed under power was about five and a half knots on a petrol consumption of 1.2 gallons an hour. The engine was started by hand, and owing to the cramped space below deck one had to squat on one’s heels like an Asiatic and turn the crank. In theory all small marine engines start at the first or second pull, but that engine rarely did. When, sometimes after a painful spell at “mangling” under such conditions, the cylinders fired I always felt a thrill of triumph.


Almost a year after I had gone to the East Coast to be a sort of cook-cabin-boy Pacific Moon chugged into Dover Harbour one lovely morning. It was here that my partner decided to give up the idea of ocean cruising. I bought him out, and when he left I decided to have a shot at getting the boat to the Pacific with the aid of a young yachtsman I met at Dover, John W. Johnstone.


His local name was “Mad Jack”, because he sailed his 15-ft half-decker across to France and back in all sorts of weather. He had graduated in the damp school of dinghy-sailing in salt water, as I had done, so that Pacific Moon was relatively a large vessel to him. He was burning with sea-fever, but short sight had prevented him from following the sea as a profession. I invited him to be my guest, and he agreed to come as far as Falmouth to see how the yacht behaved.


Now that I was sole owner, and in full charge of my property, I felt a new man, able to give Pacific Moon her chance. I had a second-hand sextant, although I had not used it at sea, but I had no chronometer, nor did I have a knowledge of astronomical navigation. Every yachtsman who turns from coastal to ocean cruising is frightened by this mystery of navigation. Instead of stopping at Dover to begin to learn the subject, I decided to get on with the cruise without any more delay, so that John and I could have practice in working the yacht together. Astronomical navigation is not necessary for sailing a yacht from Dover to Falmouth.


FITTING OUT at Oulton Broad, near Lowestoft, SuffolkWe took the yacht to the Camber, which is the former submarine basin in Dover Harbour, cleared a lot of rubbish out of her, and did a little sailing. We started in the early hours of a Friday, but found no wind, so we went along under power to Boulogne. Fog kept us there for a day or so, and then we went out of Boulogne under power, bound for Cowes, where I intended to buy a barometer. I had a five-valve portable radio set on which I received the shipping forecasts. Towards evening a faint south-east breeze justified stopping the engine and setting all the sails Pacific Moon could carry - mainsail, topsail, jib, flying jib, and foresail.


All night we ghosted along towards the Isle of Wight. At 10.30 on Sunday morning I switched on the radio and had a comforting weather forecast from Daventry to the effect that the light airs from the south and south-east would continue. In the afternoon John was taking his watch below when the sky clouded over and the breeze strengthened. Relying on the efforts of the Meteorological Office, I ignored Nature’s signs, and a squall caught the yacht with everything standing and whipped the flying jib off her at the first blow. It was a brand-new sail and was in tatters in a second.






FITTING OUT at Oulton Broad, near Lowestoft, Suffolk, in 1930. The author is on a boatswain’s chair up the mast, which he is sandpapering in preparation for repainting.






Reefing was a nasty job, because the rags of the sail fouled the jib halliards, and John had to go out on the end of the bowsprit and fight the tangle as the bowsprit dipped him under the waves.


The same squall capsized a French excursion steamer on the other side of the Channel and drowned 400 people, and then screamed over England, doing damage as far inland as Birmingham. We reefed, hove-to, and lay on the bunks in the cabin. When the storm eased up we were off Brighton. I decided not to turn back to Newhaven for shelter, as the weather was moderating. In the night, however, the storm returned and split the mainsail. A heavy sea was running, but we managed to furl the damaged sail, and having got the engine going we put back to Newhaven.


I went by road to Shoreham, where I ordered a new sail to be sent to Falmouth, and when the weather moderated Pacific Moon plodded along under trysail and engine, and reached Falmouth after various calls. Here John decided to carry on with me for the whole voyage. We collected the new sail, loaded up with stores, and set off for Spain in haste, because a north-west wind had sprung up and we did not want to lose it. We left Falmouth on the afternoon of July 7, and had a wild night romping along at a fine pace. Before dawn I caught the flicker of Ushant light on the clouds and altered course for Finisterre, Spain, but the wind went to south-west, and thirty-six hours of seasick misery began for both of us. Sick as we were, we had to work the yacht. Beating to windward in the Bay of Biscay Pacific Moon was at her wettest. We stood four-hour watches. At the end of his watch the helms-man, who had been sick in the cockpit, went to his bunk, flopped out on it, and continued to be sick in the saloon.


I was too exhausted to worry more about navigation. I knew my own position; a seasick yachtsman in the Bay of Biscay, and I was not interested in the exact spot occupied by the yacht. The constant procession of ships on the steamer lane between Ushant and Finisterre gave us the correct course. At the end of thirty-six hours the wind and the sea eased, and we were able to keep some food down.


I decided to give up beating to and fro across the shipping lane and to steer south as long as the yacht would lay that course, putting in at a Spanish port on the north coast to await a favourable wind.


A day later the wind had dropped, and the yacht rolled in the long swell of the Bay. We took a few sights with the sextant, and I prepared to devote the night to the study of navigation, as the yacht was becalmed. In Southampton I had bought a book which gave various methods, including the old-fashioned ones of latitude by noon sight and of longitude by chronometer. I had only a pocket watch for my Greenwich time, but this I knew was fairly reliable. It took me all night to follow the formula set out in the book; and, without any real grasp of a wonderful science, I was able to pick out the figures from the nautical almanac and the table of logarithms. Thus when day dawned there was a mark on the chart which was, I hoped, the position at the previous noon. When at last we sighted the mountains of Spain and found our way into the port of Gijon, the position seemed correct. I did not realize until long afterwards that I had made two mistakes in my calculation, one mistake cancelling the other, so that it was navigation by double-error.


We left Gijon for Corunna, about 150 miles away on the corner of Spain, and had some more wet work to windward getting past Estaca Point, the most northerly point in Spain. Directly the Pacific Moon put her nose outside Corunna to go round Cape Finisterre to Vigo, up came a head-wind. After battling for hours and not doing much good, we turned back, for we had made friends with the captain and officers of a German salvage vessel and we spent a few days longer with them while waiting for better weather. Vigo, which is the port of call for most cruising men bound across the Atlantic, yielded us a Dutchman, Anton, who enlivened us with his company on the next stage to Leixoes, which is the harbour for Oporto. Anton went back to his desk at Vigo by train, and we sailed for Lisbon.


Anxious Moments


On the way we were befogged, and were drifting all night among fishing vessels which were so close that we could hear the fishermen talking. We were unable to get out of their way, as the engine, which developed a “temperament” directly we left England, was out of action. Off the Burlings a gale started to spring up from the north, and we sped into the Tagus at a great pace one sunset, bringing up off Cascaes, a seaside resort of Lisbon, as darkness was falling and during a gale. In the morning the gale increased in shrieking fury, and a trawler dragged her anchor, crashed down on to another fishing vessel and caused her to drag, so that both vessels’ anchors fouled our anchor chain. The strong ground tackle of the Pacific Moon hell, but the two vessels threatened to swing inwards and crack the little ship between their cumbersome hulls. The trawler paid out more cable and dropped clear astern, but the other vessel, a schooner, touched our starboard bow. John scrambled aboard this vessel and helped the men to fish up the trawler’s anchor - a miserable little grapnel that would not have held a launch - while I did my best to fend off. Then John jumped back aboard as the schooner drifted clear and was taken in tow by the trawler, which had raised steam. We suffered no damage beyond a broken boat-hook.


Lisbon marked a long struggle with the engine, which, however, refused to function. So we sailed for Gibraltar, putting in at Cadiz. The engine was taken out and overhauled at Gibraltar and the yacht was hauled out, painted, and tuned up for the Atlantic passage. The next stop was Tangier, after which we made for Casablanca. This is a desolate part of the African coast; rollers form a good way out, and on one occasion we had an anxious time. We were approaching the shore with a commanding breeze to look for a shore mark mentioned in the pilot book, when the breeze failed and we were in the influence of the rollers. The engine, despite its recent overhaul, was already out of action, but we were saved by a light breeze which enabled us to claw off shore.


N THE WEST INDIES. The Pacific Moon (left) near the SS Dominica, in the harbour of Port Castries, St. Lucia





















IN THE WEST INDIES. The Pacific Moon (left) near the SS Dominica, in the harbour of Port Castries, St. Lucia. The Dominica (4,856 gross registered tonnage) formerly belonged to the Bermuda and West Indies S.S. Co, Ltd., and was built in 1913. The Crown Colony of St. Lucia is the largest and the most attractive of the Windward Islands.




Getting into Casablanca Harbour at night caused anxiety. There was only a breath of wind, and we were worried because a light did not show the colours recorded on the chart. The wind dropped, and the current swept the yacht towards the harbour breakwater; but John dropped the dinghy over the side, and managed to pull the head of the yacht round while I steered. We nursed her out of the shadow of the breakwater and anchored till the morning brought a faint air enabling us to sail into the harbour. I doctored the engine in Casablanca Harbour, and thus we were able to leave under power one afternoon until, picking up a nice breeze off shore, the engine was stopped. That night we had a typical tornado. This is not the type of hurricane known under the name of tornado in America, but is a storm peculiar to that part of the African coast. It is accompanied by thunder and lightning, and is remarkable for a peculiar lull during which rain falls in torrents. This tornado was a mild affair, but it was wonderful to see the lightning play over the hills of Africa. Then came a pause and rain, followed by the wind, which arrived with a bang from the opposite point of the compass.


Taking our departure from Cape Kantin, we set a course for Las Palmas, Canary Islands. The wind increased to gale-force one night with much lightning in the distance over Africa; so at midnight we reefed and hove-to. This was the only occasion on which the Pacific Moon was hove-to when the wind was in her favour, and this was merely a measure of caution as we were not sure whether the storm would develop into a tornado. In the morning the wind had eased and we put the yacht on her course again. John suggested taking the reefs out, but the sea was lumpy and I told him not to, and went below to sleep. I was awakened by a call, and went on deck but could see no one. Then I saw a pair of hands gripping the taffrail. I dashed up, grabbed John’s wrists and pulled him aboard. He had decided to take the reefs out without waking me up, and had completed the task when an unexpected lurch of the yacht had sent him overboard. He grabbed the log-line as he fell and then worked his way to the taffrail and called me. But for the log-line he would have lost his life; for I doubt whether I should have heard him or seen him in the confused sea that was running at the time.


We left Las Palmas and intended to sail non-stop to Barbados; but we reckoned without a patch of calm beyond the Canaries. For nine days the Pacific Moon wallowed in the ocean swell. Then we altered course to the south for the island of St. Vincent, in the Cape Verde group. At last we found a fair breeze and entered the harbour, where we replenished our potato store.


In twenty days the Pacific Moon blew before the trade wind to Barbados, covering some 2,100 miles. Sailing before the trade wind is a delightful experience. The light clouds, the sun, the moon, the stars and the vessel all seem to be caught by the great urge westward and the whole universe is in harmony. For nearly three weeks we had the sea to ourselves, sighting the lights of only one steamer when we were nearing Barbados. Being so close to the sea that we could touch it by putting a hand over the side enabled us to obtain a close view of the wonders of the ocean. I never knew before that fish are so playful. I have seen a school of them pitch-poling, that is, jumping out of the water and standing upright on their tails. One calm afternoon, when the face of the ocean was a blue sheen of gently heaving water, we saw Portuguese men-o’-war floating past. These are purple jelly-fish which hoist a membrane to serve as a sail. A porpoise, out of sheer mischief, took a delight in swimming a few feet off the yacht, putting his snout under the jelly fish and tossing them into the air so that they flopped wrong-side-up into the sea, and struggled to right themselves.


Map showing the voyage of the Pacific Moon



















TWO OF THE WORLD’S GREAT OCEANS, the Atlantic and the Pacific, were crossed in the Pacific Moon by Sidney Howard and his companion, John W. Johnstone. The Pacific Moon was 10 ft 6 in beam, and drew 6 feet. Her net registered tonnage was eight, and her Thames measurement fourteen tons. She set sail from Dover on Friday, June 12, and from Falmouth on July 7, 1931, crossing the Bay of Biscay to Gijon, in northern Spain. After having called at various ports in the Iberian Peninsula, the Pacific Moon was overhauled at Gibraltar for  the Atlantic voyage. Casablanca was the next port of call; then the route was via the Canary Islands and Cape Verde Islands to Barbados, in the West Indies. After the passage of the Panama Canal, the intrepid yachtsmen sailed via the Galapagos Islands across the Pacific to the Marquesas. Tahiti was reached on July 12, 1932, after a voyage of 12,000 miles.


Map showing the voyage of the Pacific Moon


















 

We kept four-hour watches. I went on at six pm until ten, two am to six, and ten am to two pm, I thus had two of the three night watches. At six am I made breakfast; we had a light meal about one pm, and about four pm. I cooked a hot meal, the most important of the day. Generally three sights were taken - the principal one at noon for latitude; and the others at ten am and two pm for longitude. As it was during my watch at the helm, John took the noon sight while I stood by with a stop-watch. I handed the tiller over to him and went down into the cabin and worked out the latitude, which took only a few minutes. The longitude was generally decided at two o’clock. After I had worked out the figures and established the position and marked it on the chart I began preparing the main meal of the day.


I was navigator, cook, and engineer in my spare time, while John was marline-spike seaman and co-partner in navigation.


We were both keen oil getting the best out of the yacht. Possibly we should have had an easier time had we been less particular, but we should not have gone so fast nor so far without stranding or other mishap due to slackness. The first storm in the Channel had convinced me of my luck; in finding John I had lighted upon a born sailor and a great-hearted companion. A first-class helmsman, he was a fine shipmate at sea, and despite a difference of years in our ages we were united in our love of sailing. My fault was cracking on sail long past the danger point, and poor John had to get the rags down and sew them together if possible. John was impatient during calms.


The Pacific Moon moored in Papeete Harbour, Tahiti, after a voyage lasting a year and five daysA calm means that there is no wind, yet the ocean is never still. Idle sails flap-flap and the small yacht, groaning under the torture to her gear, merely drifts. John used to pore over the wind charts and get fretful with impatience. With the impetuosity of youth, he always wanted to be getting somewhere; but experience had taught me that patience was frequently necessary.






THE END OF THE VOYAGE. The Pacific Moon moored in Papeete Harbour, Tahiti, after a voyage lasting a year and five days. Here the yacht was sold to a young Argentine. Sidney Howard, after spending some time in the South Seas, went by steamer to New Zealand and Australia, and then returned to England. Johnstone returned from Tahiti to Europe in a French vessel.







We picked up Barbados on the end of the bowsprit, and anchored. A long period of refitting began, during which we enjoyed ourselves ashore. When the yacht was refitted we went from island to island in the West Indies, finishing at Kingston, Jamaica, where we had to consider fresh plans. John proved amenable to my idea of going to the South Seas, but protested that we had no chronometer. To satisfy him, I bought a second-hand one for £15 from a German resident in Jamaica. But before the Pacific Moon reached Colon I had great doubts about it, for I had checked it by my pocket watch and by an alarm clock, to say nothing of the sextant and what the ship-log and common sense told me. The engine failed in sight of the Spanish Main, and we sailed into Colon and began a long struggle with the interior of the engine before attempting to make the transit of the Panama Canal.


The canal looms large in the thoughts of every yachtsman bound for the Pacific. At sea we had room and were in nobody’s way, but I was haunted by the fear of engine trouble in the middle of the canal, through which the authorities do not allow vessels to sail. After various opinions had been given on the failure of the engine, and the magneto had been examined and blowlamps had been applied to the cylinders, John discovered the cause of the trouble. One of the two water-pumps had stopped working and one pair of cylinders had become heated, causing a misfire, which had put the chain of the sleeve-valve mechanism slightly out of gear, so that the engine would not fire. Directly this chain was adjusted the engine behaved itself. It gave no trouble for some time.


Eighty-five Feet Above the Atlantic


One afternoon the pilot came aboard and we motored up to the Gatun Locks. There are three series of twin lock chambers here, each chamber being 1,000 feet long and 110 feet wide, and vessels are raised a total of 85 feet above the Atlantic. We tucked in behind a steamer in the first chamber, and the great gate closed silently behind us. To my surprise the attendants did not arrange to have warps from either side so that the yacht could be kept in the middle of the chamber clear of the sides. When I questioned the pilot he said they always locked yachts through with one set of warps on one side; everything was going to be all right, and as long as I saw that the engine was running he would look after the boat. Each chamber uses about 3,000,000 cubic feet of water at a filling, the total capacity being double this amount. Flooding began, and mad eddies and boiling currents gripped the yacht, tossing her about as if she were a match. There was little purchase from the almost vertical warps, and when I let in the clutch, in response to the pilot’s order, the propeller had no effect in the turmoil of water that shot into the chamber with terrific force. The port quarter of the yacht was pinned against the side of the lock as the yacht began to rise towards a projection. Silence is the order of the Panama Canal, but John let out a yell of warning that shocked the pilot and scared the negro attendant, who was sitting on the cabin top. Frantically we tried to shove off. Then another eddy swung the stem clear, but shot the bowsprit against the wall. I jabbed at the wall with a deck-mop, and the bowsprit bounced off before it caught any projection.


By the time the first chamber was full and we moved into the second, the pilot realized that the propeller had no effect when the water was boiling in. But the attendant was now wide awake and therefore taking greater care, so that we had better luck in the second chamber, and again in the third. We were ordered to moor for the night in Gatun Lake. The pilot left us, but the negro had to stay for the whole transit. Next morning a new pilot arrived at dawn, and we started. The pilot said he owned a sailing boat, so we set the mainsail and this helped the engine. Unfortunately the pilot let the sail gybe and carried away the socket for the flagstaff on the stern, so that the Pacific Moon finished the transit without showing the Red Ensign.


THE HARBOUR OF PAPEETE, Tahiti





























THE HARBOUR OF PAPEETE, Tahiti. South Sea Island schooners are moored at the wharf. These schooners have auxiliary power and are manned by the Islanders who are expert seamen, at home in all weathers. They are familiar with all the intricacies of the coral reefs of the South Sea Islands.




We entered Pedro Miguel Lock behind a big Japanese liner and descended 30 feet. We passed through Miraflores Locks in company with the same vessel, dropping another 55 feet to the level of the Pacific Ocean. As the yacht left the lock chamber I felt a thrill, for I realized that at last the water of the Pacific was under her keel, and her name, Pacific Moon, was now justified. No one would be able to point to her and say, “She never got there!”.


We brought up opposite the Balboa Boat Club. Later we went on the blocks alongside the boathouse and got loads of barnacles off the copper of the hull. The harbour-master at Balboa took charge of the chronometer and confirmed my fears; it was defective and quite unreliable. He kindly rated my pocket watch for me. There was no alternative but to make do with that. A study of the chart will show the importance of accurate navigation in the Pacific. Provided the owner of a small yacht carries adequate provisions and water and is a capable helmsman, he will find America when he sails from Europe or Africa, for America is too big to miss. But the Pacific is another problem. Magellan and his men, the first Europeans to cross it, suffered severe privations because Magellan had the misfortune to miss the fertile islands of Polynesia on his way to the East Indies. He did not, of course, know they were there. Ua Huka, an island in the Marquesas is about seven and a half miles long and five miles broad, and is about 4,000 miles from Panama. We were both confident of finding it, despite the fact that the chronometer was unreliable. With the prospect of a voyage equal to the distance from London to the Middle West of the United States before us, we went shopping in Balboa. We filled the yacht with stores and water and petrol for the engine, which at that period was working satisfactorily. We knew that we should hardly find shops in the Marquesas, so we loaded up for beyond them. Then I started the engine and we went to Taboga Isle, about ten miles from Balboa, and one of the islands that guard the western side of the Panama Canal, to wait for a breeze.


The Gulf of Panama, and the area outside it, is a medley of adverse currents and calms, and is a baffling place for a sailing vessel. On the afternoon of Easter Sunday, 1932, I was reading in the cabin while John sat on the sun-drenched deck watching for a breeze. He gave a shout; up came the anchor and we were off. At eight o’clock on Monday morning we were opposite the lighthouse on Cape Mala, the western sentinel to the Gulf of Panama. With the luck of a spanking breeze, we turned south for Malpelo, a barren rock which rises out of the ocean some 200 miles away, and sighted it at sunset on the Tuesday. Then the wind failed. We had been more fortunate than most voyagers, as this fine breeze gave us a magnificent start. When the wind failed I started the engine and ran it continuously for thirty-four hours. Then one of the water pumps stuck and, as I had only a few gallons of fuel left, I stopped the engine.


This is a peculiar part of the world. We crossed the Equator, but the sky was grey and the sea the colour of lead. For several days the yacht was in the grip of varying currents; and once we saw two meeting, setting up strong ripples. One morning a gigantic swordfish shot up out of the sea and scudded along on its tail, looking at us. Fortunately, the great fish did not think the hull of the Pacific Moon worthy of its sword; I was frightened, as I feared the brute might avenge the fish I have caught in my time. The clouds shut out the sun for several days and prevented us from taking sights. We knew we had gone some miles south of the latitude of Chatham Island, one of the Galapagos, and should be near it. But visibility was bad and, although we watched, we could not see the island. One windless morning the clouds lifted and we saw a great volcano towering into the sky, and we realized that we were drifting past the whole of the group, and that the volcano was on Isabela, an island a good distance west of Chatham. We knew that there was a prospect of water at Wreck Bay, Chatham, and we tried to find some wind to work up in that direction. For two days and a half we struggled with light airs and tried to beat against the set of the current, but all the time we were swept back to the south-west corner of Isabela.


12,000 Miles for £1,000


Finally, realizing that we were using stores and water - and we had no sure knowledge that we would get either in the Galapagos - we turned away from the strange group and set a course for the Marquesas. Weeks went by and we sailed steadily on. After a passage of forty-six days from Taboga, Panama, the Pacific Moon anchored in Hannay Bay, Ua Huka. We still had a fair supply of water, but we were ravenous for fruit and fresh vegetables and anything that did not come out of a tin.


We spent some time in this island and its neighbour, Nukuhiva, and then sailed to the coral island of Takaroa, in the Tuamotu Islands, where we met Victor Berge, the famous pearling master, who was spending a month at his pearling camp on the lagoon. Victor was bound for Tahiti in his small cutter, which was smaller than the Pacific Moon, and we sailed in company into the harbour of Papeete, Tahiti.


Here John found that he had to return home. After making arrangements for his passage in a French vessel, I tried to find a buyer for my yacht. I sold her to a young Argentine, Senor Alfred Guthmann, who did not want the engine, which was removed and installed in another yacht. One night I watched the Pacific Moon sail out of the harbour with Alfred and two shipmates. She touched a reef somewhere near the Tongas but was pulled off and repaired. The two young fellows returned to Tahiti, but Alfred found a native crew and sailed on towards Java. After spending some time in the South Seas I went by steamer to New Zealand and Australia, and then returned to England.


The voyage in the Pacific Moon was one for enjoyment only, no attempts being made at records or spectacular achievements. It was, in the widest sense of the word, a pleasure cruise.


We did the 12,000 odd miles from Dover to Tahiti merely because we were fond of the sport it offered. Many times, especially round the West Indies and Spain, we deviated from our direct course for the simple reason that we wanted to visit or were attracted by some particular port or locality. The expenses of the entire venture were relatively low; from June, 1930, when I visited Oulton Broad, to the time I returned home, over two years later, I spent £1,000.


AT PORT CASTRIES, ST. LUCIA, B.W.I. The author (left) and John W. Johnstone








AT PORT CASTRIES, ST. LUCIA, B.W.I. The author (left) and John W. Johnstone, a Dover yachtsman, his sole companion, after having crossed the Atlantic Ocean. They kept four-hour watches; Howard was navigator, cook and engineer; while John was marline-spike seaman and co-partner in navigation.











[From part 3 and part 4, published 27 February & 3 March 1936]



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