I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied.
For all their fiercely independent ways, the intrepid mariners who ply vast oceans alone in small sailing vessels have two traits in common: an advanced case of sea fever and an overdeveloped sixth sense. So says Tristan Jones, the Welsh explorer, adventurer and author who has logged more miles in small sailboats—350,000 at last count, 200,000 of those by himself—than anyone else on the planet. Jones's record mileage, in fact, exceeds the distance to the moon, which may account for his claim that singlehanders, their senses whetted by the primal forces of the sea, develop a certain otherworldly gift for "perceiving the future."
Last summer, for example, while holed up in Key West finishing the latest of his richly evocative books about his adventures at sea, Jones didn't really feel like flying to San Diego to give one of his patented lectures on the joys of long-distance cruising. But he accepted the offer anyway, he says, because of "an incessant, nagging feeling that somehow destiny was pushing me." Indeed, barely had he touched down in San Diego than the premonitions were hard upon him. "This is where I'm meant to be," he said solemnly. "This is where my next voyage will begin."
No matter that Jones had just turned 59, or that he had been shorebound since March 1982, when, because of complications from a World War II shrapnel wound, his left leg was amputated above the knee. If the medical expenses had so drained his modest resources that he had neither a boat nor the means to float a loan, much less an ocean voyage, so what? Destiny had spoken.
May 13, 1984
So had Jones, avowing, "Nothing can keep me from the wide waters of the world!" Remarkably, nothing has for long in 45 hard and often harrowing years a-sea—not the hit-and-run whale that shipwrecked him in mid-Atlantic; not the typhoons and torpedoes that sank five other boats under him; not the clashes with pirates in Indonesia, assassins in Zanzibar and drug-runners in Cartagena; not even the shelling by Arab guerrillas that blew him out of the Royal Navy with a spinal injury. Though partly paralyzed, Jones refused to believe the doctors, who said he would never walk properly, much less sail a boat again. Instead, by dint of willpower, he not only got his sea legs back, but he also shoved off in a converted lifeboat with a one-eyed, three-legged, beer-drinking Labrador named Nelson and, while seeking to sail farther north than any man—or dog—had ever dared, was trapped in an Arctic ice pack northeast of Greenland, subsisting on little more than raw seal blubber for 366 days. He killed the seals with a harpoon.
Clearly, it would take more than an amputation and destitution to beach Jones, a gritty campaigner who has sailed, portaged and, when necessary, dragged his oceangoing vessels through forbidden waters patrolled by Soviet gunboats, across the steaming Sinai desert, up the snow-capped Andes, down uncharted jungle rivers and in and out of Times Square traffic. And through it all, through the seaquakes, hurricanes and avalanches, through the strafings, bombings, arrests and imprisonments, through the near-fatal bouts with malnutrition, malaria, dehydration and dysentery, and through the attacks of piranhas, vampire bats, poisonous spiders, a 15-foot boa constrictor, a ravenous polar bear and what he considers the most predatory and dangerous of all man's natural enemies—customs officials—Jones never failed to rail against every injustice he encountered, from the suppression of freedom in Argentina to exorbitant berthing fees in Tahiti. All the while, Jones was establishing nine world records for sailing craft under 40 feet, including most transatlantic crossings (18) and most circumnavigations (three), without being able to swim.
For Jones had a clear call: He must, he damn well would, go down to the seas again. Right there in San Diego. He was certain of it, he says, because of a compelling sense that he was being led by "synchronistic fate," occurrences that others call coincidence but which Jones sees as "fateful meetings that at first do not seem to signify anything but in which, in retrospect, the presence of some guiding hand, call it God or what you will, is startlingly clear. There have been so many instances of synchronism in my life that the navigator in me will not allow me 10 believe they were mere accidents. "
Don't scoff Just know that within a few hours of his arrival in San Diego, Jones experienced a fateful encounter with a group of strangers, the upshot of which was that, just as he had foreseen, against all odds and in defiance of every obstacle, he set sail from San Diego on Oct. 17 on his fourth voyage around the world And not just in any old tub, but in a sleek new $180,000, 36-foot trimaran of such advanced design, including yet another "secret Australian keel," that, Jones says, "She is nothing less than the first of the great cruising vessels of the next century."
The trimaran is also the prototype for what Jones envisions as a great fleet of multihull sailboats built specifically for the handicapped. "That's the whole point," the noted singlehander said shortly before his first voyage single-legged. "I'm not doing this for thrills. I'm doing it to give some hope and inspiration to people who've been disabled like me, especially the young people. I want them to say, 'Look, if that old bugger can do it at 60, maybe I can do it at 18.' "
Jones's yarns and his accomplishments make him seem almost a fictional character—and he looks it. From his rumpled skipper's cap, scrubby gray beard and tiny blue star tattooed on his left earlobe right down to his growing assortment of peg legs, one of which is a magnificent specimen hand-carved from a yardarm of Burma teak, he appears to be the very personification of the crusty old sea dog. Jones rankles at the notion, yet the gruff manner and salty language he uses to reject the "romantic claptrap," rendered in accents as rich and resonant as the green valleys of his boyhood in Wales, only sharpen the image.
In truth, Jones is an original, the sum of his considerable parts being far beyond the ken of any fabulist. For one thing, the best of his dozen books—Ice!, The Incredible Voyage and Saga of a Wayward Sailor—are laced with the kind of pithy historical and anthropological insights that bespeak serious scholarship, and they rank among the very finest writing about the sea and real-life adventure. For another, how many other old salts, fictional and otherwise, are accustomed to socializing with such notables as Walter Cronkite and Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia one night and half the bums on the Bowery the next?
Still, late of a foggy night last fall in San Diego, as he swayed along a stone jetty with his peg leg tap-tapping, tap-tapping, seabag slung over his shoulder and jacket collar turned up against the wind, Jones seemed for all the world to have come clomping straight out of the pages of Treasure Island. All that was missing was a squawky parrot riding on his shoulder.
Charlie the foul-mouthed parrot has, in fact, been missing for some time now. And on this hangs a yarn, one of the dozens Jones delights in spinning and his listeners delight in hearing, regardless of how improbable they may be.
To wit: Seems that while Jones was visiting in Asunción, Paraguay a few years ago, one of the children of some friends who were seeing him off at the airport gave him an egg, which he absent-mindedly tucked in his shirt pocket. Upon arriving in New York, where he kept a writer's garret in Greenwich Village, he went straightaway to the nearby Lion's Head pub to have a drink with his friend John Cheever, the late novelist.
As Cheever launched into a vivid description of his recent heart attack, Jones suddenly felt a strange throbbing and clutching in his chest, nervously reached inside his jacket and, he says, "pulled out this dripping bird—a bloody parrot that had hatched in my shirt pocket! And right away the bar cat made a lunge for the bird. I swatted it away, shoved the bird back in my pocket and then was thrown out of the bar for assaulting the cat, while Cheever was about to have another heart attack he was laughing so hard."
Jones raised Charlie the parrot and painstakingly taught him to swear in three languages, but one day, while left in the care of friends, the parrot disappeared through an open window. "Charlie is a tough, crafty bird," Jones says. "I suspect he's still in New York, most probably living in Grand Central Station and giving hell to the pigeons."
Though a tough old bird himself, two years ago Jones couldn't navigate across the emergency room in St. Vincent's Hospital in New York. He collapsed there, suffering from a circulation problem that developed when bits of magnesium shrapnel that were lodged in his left heel bone somehow shifted into his bloodstream and caused clotting. "Gangrene had spread all the way up my left leg," he says. "I was unconscious, and I was dying."
When he awoke, Jones recalls, "I was confronted by this Irish-American nurse who had it in for me because she assumed I was English. She said, 'I've got some bad news for you. The Argentinians invaded the Falkland Islands last night.' And I said, 'The bastards! They waited until I was in here!' Then she said, 'I've got some other bad news. We had to take your leg off.' And I said, 'Well, I hope to Christ you send it to Bangladesh!' She gave up the contest then. She realized I was a Welshman."
Jones certainly felt like an alien when he was transferred to the convalescent ward. "I was surrounded by maybe 100 other amputees," he says, "many of them young people who had lost limbs in various accidents, various operations, and the atmosphere was absolutely doom-laden. What really upset me more than my own pain and suffering was seeing all these young people—an 18-year-old who had lost both legs in a car accident, for example—with absolutely no hope, their lives finished. Some of them died while I was there because they had no reason to live. And that I refuse to accept. So right then I vowed to do everything I could to restore some hope, to demonstrate that being handicapped isn't the end of the world, and that instead of being mollycoddled and isolated from society, we disabled people should help ourselves, get off our tails and start moving again as soon as possible."
After being reprimanded for organizing a wheelchair race, Jones snuck out of the hospital two weeks before his release date, wobbly but unbowed. "I fell down a few times," he says. "But they're used to people falling down on the street in New York, so I was just part of the scenery."
During his convalescence, Jones received more than 8,000 cards and letters from his readers and other yachting friends around the world. By way of reply, he tried to visit as many of his well-wishers as possible by giving lectures and appearing at boat shows in 42 cities, from Anchorage to Amsterdam. He says, "The more people I met, the more I realized that they expected me to do a lot more than just chat and show slides. They fully expected me to be back at sea as soon as possible. And they were right. So, early in '83 I began looking for a boat that would do the job."
A steady job, that is, without the heaving, pitching decks that are hard enough to negotiate on two legs. "The first time I ever hobbled onto a sloping sidewalk," Jones explains, "it was clear that I would find a heeling vessel problematical, if not impossible, to get around on with one leg." A quick test run on a Hobie Cat confirmed his suspicions: "The only kind of vessel that would allow me to properly maintain my balance was a multihull, either a catamaran or a trimaran."
Meanwhile, back in San Diego an Australian boat designer named Leo Surtees was busily, if unknowingly, preparing to meet his synchronistic fate. Surtees, 33, had first become fascinated with multihull design in 1972. "It was a freak accident," he says. "I was on a world tour and was driving in Vancouver when I saw this weird-looking boat being built in someone's backyard." Surtees stopped and talked to the builder, an amateur, who told him he planned to sail the yacht around the world. Surtees was hooked. In 1977, after what amounted to a four-year shakedown cruise on a trimaran of his own construction, he settled in San Diego to design a new class of luxury multihulls aimed at the growing number of families who were taking up ocean voyaging.
The result of four years of development was Osprey, a 36-foot, deep-water cruiser with the emphasis on comfort, stability and safety. Among other departures from standard trimaran design, her overall beam of 26 feet was wider, her narrow V-shaped amas (a word for outriggers that comes from the Polynesian) longer and her ballasted concrete keel design absolutely unheard of. And in defiance of the old multihull maxim that says everything should be kept as light as possible, her squat U-shaped main hull was designed to accommodate a 4,000-pound payload and up to six people comfortably. "She's one of the most radically advanced cruising ladies ever," Surtees says, "a whole new concept in trimaran sailing from her keel up."
The keel was conceived as an intrinsic part of an even more innovative feature, a successful rerighting system (see illustration above). To prove it, Surtees simulated a capsize situation by launching Osprey upside down, towing her to the edge of the San Diego channel and leaving her to kick about in the chop and wake for six days, the approximate time it might take a crew to ride out a severe storm in the buoyant foam-and-fiber-glass hull.
On the seventh day, Surtees slipped back aboard through an escape hatch in Osprey's starboard ama and unscrewed two plugs inside the main hull, which caused the forward sections of the amas to begin flooding with seawater. Slowly at first, with the weighted keel and Surtees, poised on the transom with a block and tackle and two aluminum poles supporting a canvas bag filled with 500 pounds of water, providing leverage, Osprey began to rotate bows first in the water. Then she completed her final turn in an arcing 30-second roll and—kersplash!—flopped upright to the cheers of onlookers on shore.
The baptism finished to his satisfaction, Surtees pronounced himself "bloody well delighted" and put Osprey on the market for $65,000.
Enter Larry Haftl, 37, and Bob Smith, 46, both of whom had prospered handsomely as managers and major shareholders of the Tandon Corporation, an electronics firm in suburban Los Angeles that struck it rich in the booming computer software market. Haftl, an avid weekend sailor, had gotten Smith interested in the sport by taking him out in his Cal 20 and reading aloud to him from the works of his favorite author, one Tristan Jones.
Haftl says, "Tristan's writing leads you to the sea. It's unique; so human, so entertaining, so subliminally inspiring. While most people have a built-in failure mechanism and will grab at any excuse for being unable to succeed, he's one of those rare individuals who won't let anything stand between him and his goal. His message is, go for it, go for it all! And anyone who can inspire people to do that should be amply compensated, which Tristan never has been. In Japan he would be a national treasure; here he's forced to scramble and live hand-to-mouth."
Smith, who was once pronounced dead after an auto accident but survived by means of "a strong dose of hope," figured he had more than one reason to be thankful. A onetime mechanic who decided "no more black hand," he had been so successful in the managerial ranks that he felt it his moral duty "to give something back."
And so it came to pass that Haftl and Smith, looking to buy a more commodious craft for their family outings, read an article in Multihull magazine about this radical new "self-righting trimaran" and decided to drive down to San Diego one fine June day and check this thing out. And who should be there, clomping about the boat's cockpit, thumping the hull with his cane and checking the rigging, but the ancient mariner himself.
"This is exactly the kind of boat I've been searching for for months," Jones declared. Haftl and Smith allowed that it was precisely what they'd been looking for, too.
Adjourning to a dockside patio for coffee, the three men started chatting "about human potential," Smith recalls, "about assisting youngsters who've been disabled in car crashes, about doing something that would benefit more people than I could ever touch in a lifetime." Six hours later, after "a lot of heavy talk," says Haftl, "some of it emotional, even spiritual at times," an agreement was struck: Haftl and Smith would buy the trimaran, modify and outfit her to accommodate Jones's handicap and then lease her to him for $1 a year, for three years.
Was it coincidence? Synchronistic fate? "Magic time all the way," says Smith. Haftl prefers to think of it as "an elegant solution to a lot of people's problems. Tristan Jones gets the boat he needs, Leo Surtees is getting the recognition he deserves, Bob Smith gets the opportunity to give something back to the world, and me, well, I got a few dreams fulfilled, as well. One of them was to help Tristan continue his writing, and we've done that. I don't think the world has given him sufficient material reward for what he has given the world. And I think we helped correct that situation a little, too."
Jones didn't begin writing his autobiographical sagas until he was past 50, presumably because he was too busy living the chapters of a wayfaring life that began in typical storybook fashion with a baptism at sea. He was born aboard a tramp steamer, skippered by his father, in the South Atlantic near a volcanic island called Tristan da Cunha that was as remote as the ship's cargo was far out—1,000 tons of sheep bones and a roller-skating rink, bound for Nova Scotia.
Jones was raised in the seaside hamlet of Llangareth, Wales and is the descendant of a long line of mariners, including, he claims, Christian Jones, captain of the Mayflower, and the pirate Henry Morgan. Thus it was only a matter of time—until his 14th birthday, to be exact—before young Tristan went to sea himself.
After two years as a deck boy on the sailing barge Second Apprentice, hauling coal and grain across the North Sea in the last days of the Age of Sail, Jones joined the Royal Navy, and before he was 18, three ships on which he served were sunk under him in World War II action. It was in Aden, in 1952, that guerrillas blew up his Royal Hydrographic Service survey ship, leaving him temporarily paralyzed and with a meager invalid's pension of $6 a week. He was rich in resolve, however, swearing, "I will go back to the sea, even if it kills me."
It almost did. By hook and a lot of crook, scrounging much of the needed gear from a Navy dockyard, Jones refurbished the antique 36-foot lifeboat Cresswell and, with a London Fire Brigade pumping engine that was rigged Rube Goldberg-style to the propeller, set sail on May 7, 1959—the eve of his 35th birthday—for the Arctic. There, icebound in a fjord and once almost crushed by a toppling iceberg, he spent 15 consecutive months without any human contact whatsoever.
Lonely? "Never," says Jones in response to the question he's asked most often, "mainly because no one ever told me I should be. Loneliness is, in fact, learned. It's imposed by society, along with a lot of other vices. Fear of being alone is nothing more than a symptom of self-pity, and to me there is simply no sense in feeling sorry for myself merely because some Viennese cocaine-sniffer scribbled that I should. So I don't."
Besides, there are always books. In Jones's case this means a shipboard library of some 150 volumes, mostly poetry, philosophy and history, which reflects the refined tastes of a self-taught grade-school dropout. While in the Arctic deep freeze, for example, he read The Complete Works of William Shakespeare twice, as well as other classic literature, and on command can summon an apt quotation to suit most any situation. Icebound in the Arctic? Easy. "A ddioddefwys a orfu," he says, citing an old Welsh proverb. "Who has endured has overcome."
Freed from the big chill in 1961, Jones endured by running day charters out of the Balearic Islands, delivering luxury yachts to distant ports and wangling such cushy deals as teaching a course in "pub culture" at the University of Toulouse in southern France.
By the mid-1960s, following the well-publicized lead of solo circumnavigator Sir Francis Chichester, a virtual flotilla of ocean voyagers and racers, many with the backing of commercial interests, was loose on the high seas. In 1969, concerned that "by offering huge sums of money, big business and the communications media had made a mockery out of ocean cruising," Jones decided that "a humorous gesture" was needed "to point out the ridiculous direction in which the sport was heading." Since everyone else was "going round and round," he says, "I thought I'd do something different and go up and down." His goal was to set the world's "vertical sailing record," that is, to sail the 38-foot yawl Barbara on the Dead Sea, which at 1,292 feet below sea level is the world's lowest body of water, and then sail on to the highest, Lake Titicaca in the Peruvian Andes, at an elevation of 12,507 feet.
The voyage to and from the Dead Sea, which required passing through some of the most volatile areas of the strife-torn Middle East, was demanding and dangerous enough. But when Jones attempted to reach Lake Titicaca via the upper reaches of the Amazon, he spent three months sailing, hacking and hauling his way a record 1,400 miles up that wild and mighty stretch of water, only to find the river so impenetrable that he was forced to turn back. By then, three years and all the humor of the vertical record had expired. He says, "What had started off as an amusing venture had now become a deadly serious matter—a pilgrimage to my pride!"
Aware now that the only route to Titicaca was by portage, Jones relinquished Barbara in the U.S. Virgin Islands and then purchased a much smaller craft, Sea Dart, which was just 17 feet on the waterline. Reaffirming his original proud claim—"I will set a record that will not be broken until man finds water amongst the stars!"—he sailed through the Panama Canal and down the coast of South America to Peru.
There, in the port city of Callao, he arranged to have Sea Dart lifted onto a broken-down truck belonging to a driver he had met in a waterfront dive. Then, with a portrait of Che Guevara painted on the truck's mudguard, and in contravention of all known customs regulations, Jones and the driver proceeded to smuggle Sea Dart, which had entered the country illegally, 700 miles across Peru and up, up into the Andes, over rickety, swaying bridges slung across chasms and through tunnels so tight the truck's tires had to be deflated to allow passage, to the shimmering shores of Titicaca.
The final leg of Jones's incredible voyage, beginning with a truck portage through the sniper fire of an abortive military coup in Bolivia, was the worst. Writes Jones: "After a hand-and-muscle haul of some miles through the scrub to the piranha-infested headwaters of the Paraguay River in the green hell of the Mato Grosso, Sea Dart was navigated by Huanapaco, my Quechua Indian mate, me, guess and God through seemingly limitless jungle swamps—a devilish maze of tortuous, stinking water traps alive with malicious life and the screams of sudden death—until, almost dead with hunger and despair, we broke out into the clear pampas of Paraguay."
Ahead lay another treacherous run of 2,050 miles down the Paranà River to Buenos Aires. But the memory of the hardships encountered in the mad riot of vegetation in the green hell, including malnutrition, tapeworms and leeches that drained his body weight from 120 to 80 pounds, is so indelible, Jones claims, that even today the sight of a tossed salad makes him uneasy.
Upon returning to London after this quest, which took more than six years and in which he covered a distance more than twice the circumference of the earth, Jones discovered that his old friends, the customs officials, had prepared a special surprise: they impounded Sea Dart on a Newhaven quay, subject to the payment of a $1,600 "import" tax.
Dead broke, Jones took a job stoking the furnaces in Harrods department store, where he at one time slept in the boiler room and lived off the scraps discarded by the store's greengrocer.
Eventually, in 1976, determined to earn enough to rescue Sea Dart from the clutches of the "bureaucratic troglodytes," he made his way to New York City with the promise to himself that he would write seven books in five years. The first, The Incredible Voyage, he tapped out on a typewriter balanced on a chair in the janitor's room of a Manhattan flophouse, where he bedded down in a dormitory with the flotsam and jetsam of the Bowery. Incredible also was the fact that by pure chance/fate, a publisher crossed his bow and bought the rights to the book, the advance for which Jones used to have Sea Dart shipped to New York.
Inevitably, somewhere between his accounts of being plucked unconscious from a rubber raft in the mid-Atlantic by Portuguese sailors and using the mast of Sea Dart as a fishing pole to winch in the makings for shark sushi, some skeptics might wonder, despite the documentary evidence, if some of the episodes were perhaps, maybe.... "Yes, I know," Jones interjects, "a little exaggerated, dreams in the night. The simple reply to that is that one does not publish dreams under the scrutiny of the Royal Geographic Society, the world's foremost authority on exploration."
Jones's books carry the imprimatur of not only the RGS, but also the Explorers Club. The latter showed its esteem by honoring Jones and his date at the club's annual dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria in 1977. His date was Sea Dart, which arrived at the grand ballroom atop a freight elevator and, after the tuxedoed guests supped on loin of lion and llama hump, shared the stage with astronaut James Lovell as one of the evening's featured attractions. Her exit was no less grand. Lowered onto a float, Sea Dart was towed by mules through the streets of New York City and placed on exhibit for a few weeks at the South Street Seaport Museum.
True to his word, Jones finished the seven books between brief recuperative cruises in the Baltic, the West Indies and among the Greek Islands. Subsequently, he says, once "the fates had decided, in the form of a leg amputation, that it was time for me to set off again, back to the ocean, which gave me life in the first place," the extraordinary series of events in San Diego last summer "did not at all take me by surprise." Indeed, he says, given the intensity of his premonitions, "it was somewhat like following a film scenario."
Eager to see the drama unfold, Jones moved to San Diego in early July and, as authoritatively as Captain Bligh reassuming the quarterdeck, he ordered that the boat be rechristened, aptly enough, Outward Leg, and a triskelion—an ancient emblem of three pinwheeling legs that connotes energy, motion and victory—be emblazoned on the mainsail and amas. "That was the coat of arms of Manannàn," he explains, "a legendary one-legged Celtic warrior-king who rode the white horses of the wind across the Irish Sea. His motto—mine now, as well—was 'Whichever way you turn me, I will stand.' "
A believer in the "power of colors," Jones also decreed that the hulls be painted pale green and turquoise, the "two shades that are easiest on the eyes and nerves," he says. "Never paint a hull red; it upsets whales." As for his insistence on tanbark sails, he says, "the dark-brown hue reduces glare and, surprisingly enough, is more visible at night."
Time was short. To take advantage of favorable weather conditions on the first leg of his around-the-world voyage, which by now has taken him through the Panama Canal and into the Caribbean Sea, Jones decided that Outward Leg must depart San Diego no later than mid-October. "Normally," Surtees explains, "it takes anywhere from 18 months to two years to outfit a boat for circumnavigation. To do it in 3½ months is a world record in itself."
Nonetheless, toiling 18 hours a day, Jones, Surtees, Smith, who took a leave of absence from his job to devote himself full-time to the project, and a growing work force of volunteers set about modifying Outward Leg. "One reason you can't sell a sailboat to an amputee is because they learn to overcome problems by avoiding them," Jones says. "Conversely, we've solved them by confronting them. For instance, if you can't reach the winches because the cockpit's too big, then you make the cockpit smaller and bring the winches to you. If you can't get under the walkway between the aft and forward cabin, then raise it so you can walk through."
In addition, the workers installed outsize handgrips and toeholds at key points, and ingenious systems for hauling the anchor and launching the dinghy from the comfort of the cockpit. Of one other innovation, an anticapsize device dubbed "cool tubes" that was conceived by Jones and installed by Surtees, the pair would initially say little until patent formalities were cleared up. Basically their "secret weapon" consists of a copper-lined pipe molded onto the main keel (see illustration, page 89), which, when the boat heels 20 degrees or more, captures enough seawater to exert two tons of downward thrust.
All too aware that traditional sailors scorn trimarans as "monohulls with training wheels," Jones contends that the cool tubes, so called because of their shape and "the cool feeling they give me just knowing they're there," have overcome the biggest bugaboo of multihull vessels—capsizing in heavy weather. Moreover, by "reducing the capsize probability of Outward Leg to that of a monohull of the same length in the same weather conditions," Jones feels that he has the safest sailing craft afloat. "After all," he says, "if a monohull capsizes, it can sink. If a multihull capsizes, well, you're left with a quite dry, comfortable, amenable, weatherproof and very expensive life raft."
Nonetheless, many of the yachtsmen who visited Outward Leg to wish Jones a safe journey asked the same question: Why a trimaran? And invariably, Jones would pat his peg leg and say, "Because they, like me, suffer from a severe lack of heel."
But Jones never realized how severe the lack—or how reassuringly stable the ride—until he put Outward Leg through her first sea trials in the turbulent waters off Point Conception, otherwise known as "the Cape Horn of North America," which is off Santa Barbara. At one point, in winds of 25 to 30 knots and 8- to 12-foot seas, one of the crew set a cup of coffee down on the cockpit seat and went below. Instinctively, Jones lunged for the cup, but stopped short. "I couldn't believe my eyes," he says. "There we were in a bloody Force 5 wind, and here sits this cup of coffee, and not only is it staying in the same spot, it's not even slopping out a bloody bit!"
Another time during the two-day-long sea trials, Jones says, "I awoke in the middle of the night, and the bloody boat was so steady I thought we'd gone aground. Unloaded, she sailed like a witch on all points. She pointed, she even heaved to properly, and she tracked as straight as an arrow on a dead downwind run with minimum attention to the wheel. All in all, the only thing missing in the sea trials was anxiety. And maybe a mini-pool table; that's how dead steady she was."
Convinced that they had invested in "what will prove to be a watershed in sailboat design," says Smith, he and Haftl formed H & S Bluewater Multihulls Inc. and hired Surtees to supervise the building of "a whole new generation of trimarans." While noting that Outward Leg is capable of doing 20 knots, Haftl stresses that speed isn't the point. "Instead of a Porsche, we've built a Rolls-Royce," he says, "and you don't race a Rolls, you enjoy it."
Originally, Jones intended to make the trip alone, except for a dog trained to fetch lines and stand watch, which had been a great success on his voyage to the Arctic. But lest the endeavor "reek of a stunt," says Jones, and because "I'm not sure yet just how well I'll manage at sea after the shock of losing my leg," he decided after the sea trials that "it's just common sense to take safety precautions." Which was thrilling news for Wally Rediske, a 24-year-old rock climber and trimaran sailor from Yakima, Wash., whom Jones tapped to be his mate on Outward Leg. Even so, Jones adds, "I still intend to get across one of the oceans alone if I can."
Two weeks before D day—departure day—Jones boarded a flight for Seattle, where he was booked to "do a chat." Once airborne, the grand overview of the coastline seemed to stir some equally long-range perceptions about his being "a direct link between the past centuries of sail-in-trade and the future, when sail will come into its own again."
"Monohulls are dead, on their way to being historic curiosities," Jones says. "It's possible that we'll reach speeds of 50 or even 60 knots in boats designed by Leo Surtees in just the next few years, with myself as test pilot, God willing. I think we'll reach 100 knots before the end of the century. By then I suggest that it will be possible to cross the Pacific from San Francisco to Australia in two weeks, New York to London in seven days. I suggest that 400 to 500 miles a day will be highly possible. I dare say that by the end of the century a man will be able to take his wife, four kids and a dog to Hawaii for a two-week holiday, and spend eight days under sail, the rest touring the islands. The average family cruiser will be like the average family motorcar. What Henry Ford did for the motorcar, multihulls will do for the sailing vessel."
Contemplating a return to the Golden Age of Sail, a time when "again we will use the winds of God and bend them to man's will, when again merchant seamen will eye their vessels with love and pride, as they once did, instead of thinking of them as mobile factories," Jones confessed that he can hardly wait for the day when sailing craft will attain "such high speeds that it's likely some kind of pilot's license will be needed. It is my hope, in fact, that within the next few years I'll be able to receive the first sea-flying license."
Further proving that he's made of the right stuff, when Jones was met by friends at the Seattle airport, he immediately showed off his new "Calvin Klein designer leg," a seagoing prosthesis—lightweight, rustproof, buoyant—specially designed for him by Glen Elia, a Philadelphia physical therapist and sailor, and one of the many professionals who volunteered their time and services on behalf of the Outward Leg venture.
Informed that tickets for the lecture were selling briskly, Jones said, "I've always tried to write on behalf of the average sailor, the little guy who builds his boat in the backyard, and that's mainly who attends my lectures. You won't see William Buckley there, I assure you. He writes for the café society of sailing, and I'm strictly Nescafé. Buckley wrote a book called Airborne about a transatlantic trip with some guests, all of whom he wrote about in great detail—all very charming, all very nice. But forward in that boat were four crewmen and there were bloody few words about them. I could never, never do that, and that's the essential difference between the Buckley school and myself."
That and the fact that Jones denounces snobbism in sailing at every turn, particularly as practiced by those "dawdling old dinosaurs" of the New York Yacht Club. Such was the case when Jones arrived at the Seattle Civic Center. Finding its auditorium sold out and dozens of rejected fans milling about outside, he decreed with a grand wave of his cane that the doors be opened to all, free of charge, and to hell with the restrictions on standing room.
Right off, referring to a team of electricians who were attempting to fix a faulty slide projector with little success, Jones told the audience, "No wonder the America's Cup is in Australia. Frankly, I'm relieved, not because America has lost the Cup, but because it has left that dusty shelf in the New York Yacht Club and ended 132 years of unfair, ungentlemanly behavior that is notorious throughout the sailing world."
The broadside drew a round of applause that quickly escalated into a cheering, foot-stomping ovation. These were Jones's kind of people. And just as well they were, for the slide presentation by Jones, the self-proclaimed—and definitely undisputed—"world's worst photographer," might have been titled Waterlogged. Murky, lopsided and stained by algae, many of the slides looked as though they had been taken by Nelson, the one-eyed dog, after one too many beers.
"I thought this would cheer you up," Jones said of one fuzzy shot. "It's a photograph of some birds on an island, but I can't remember where or what's happening." Of another scene that looked suspiciously like the Dead Sea—or downtown Cleveland—sideways, he explained, "I took it like this because I didn't want the Arabs to know what we were doing."
Jones's audience knew what he was doing, and they loved every overexposed, understated minute of it. Best of all, the duller the slide, it seemed, the more diverting the string of yarns it unraveled, beginning with such titillating lines as "I once went to deliver an Arab dhow to an insane English colonel in Malta," and concluding with an account of teaching a primitive Amazon tribe how to fish because "they were starving to death, and all around them were the biggest catfish in the world, 15 feet long."
Talk of the Amazon inspired Jones to show a slide of a herd of cattle corralled on a Jesuit river settlement—"the only ones I know of that are rustled by sail," he said. The native rustlers, he explained, sail the cattle downriver and trade them for whiskey, which they then sell to the Jesuits for a tidy profit. "My kind of economics," he said.
Asked the whereabouts of his earlier boats, Jones noted that Barbara "turned up out of the blue about a year ago. Her name had been changed, and a gentleman in New Jersey bought her without realizing she was the Barbara until he lowered the mast and saw painted on top in block letters: TRISTAN JONES. AMMA, ISRAEL. BUGGER THE ARABS.
Finally, while commenting on the motivations of ocean voyagers, Jones touched on the Ulysses factor—"a mysterious drive, a power which drags us sometimes even against our will, back to the sea," he said of the one force that seems dominant in his life and in the realization of Outward Leg. "With me, it's as if my body, not me but my body, remembers a time when humanity belonged in the sea, and as if the sea, like a mother whom I have abandoned, is drawing me to her with arms strong and implacable."
As D day neared, the growing number of workers drawn to Outward Leg—the carpenters, sailmakers, electricians, mechanics—seemed to be responding to the same siren song. When an admirer approached Jones in a restaurant for an autograph one day, he complied, but only on the condition that she and her husband show up at the jetty the next morning to help with the painting, which they most enthusiastically did. Other volunteers helped load such basics as 600 pounds of food, mostly dried, and oddments, like a parachute for experimental use as a sea anchor.
At night Jones pecked away at his typewriter in the forward cabin, working on a book he has been commissioned to write about the voyage, to be titled A Star To Steer Her By. "That would be the star of hope, of course," he says.
Jones's hope is that he can steer clear of the naval pensioners' home in Greenwich, England. "I'm entitled to end up there," he says, "to wear a blue serge suit with big silver buttons and a red stripe down the side of my pants. And I get an allowance of two pints of beer a day and two ounces of tobacco a week. Then I can hobble into the nearest pub, wait for the first tourist to come in from New York and say, 'How ya doin', mate? How's the Bowery these days?' " But long before he's beached for good, Jones plans to undertake still another adventure as the result of an official letter from the Soviet government, inviting him to make a voyage around the Caspian Sea.
But first comes his 36,000-mile turn around the globe, which Jones estimates will take him anywhere from one to three years, "God willing, and weather and politics permitting."
On the morning of D day, while he was testing his new satellite navigation and Weatherfax gear, Jones's eyes misted at the memory of "my first dear old skipper, Tansy Lee, onboard Second Apprentice, working the North Sea—a real vicious bitch of a sea in winter. His weather forecasting equipment was a broken old barometer and a half inch of candle in a jam jar." The jar was taken to the end of the jetty, he said, "and if the wind didn't blow out the candle, we'd sail."
Then, displaying the Explorers Club flag that Admiral Byrd had flown during his supposedly "impossible" Arctic expeditions, and which the club had sent him to take along on Outward Leg, Jones gestured at his snug and splendid cabin and said, "Anything is possible, mate, if you have the will to do it."
Late that afternoon, with a promising breeze building and a fading sun tinting the sky pink, Outward Leg left her mooring and glided majestically into San Diego Bay, the red dragon flag of Wales and the burgee of the Royal Navy Sailing Association flapping smartly as onlookers cheered, cameras whirred and TV news helicopters circled overhead. Finally, as Outward Leg came about and began scudding due south, and the small fleet of escort boats started turning back, Jones braced himself in the cockpit, cupped his hands to his mouth and shouted, "God bless America!"
OUTWARD LEG: HULL INVERTED
WATER GRAVITY-FED INTO AMAS THRU 3" PIPES
20' POLES HOLD CANVAS BAG WITH 500 LBS OF WATER
AIRTIGHT COMPARTMENT IN AMAS
WEIGHTED KEEL WITH 850 POUNDS OF CONCRETE HELPS BOAT ROTATE
KEEL CTR OF GRAVITY
OUTWARD LEG ROTATES HERE
OUTWARD LEG GOES FROM HERE...
OUTWARD LEG: AFTER SELF-RIGHTING
AMAS ARE PUMPED DRY FROM HERE
MAIN HULL IS SELF DRAINING
POLES ATTACH BACK UNDER CROSSARMS AFTER SELF-RIGHTING
TO HERE IN 30 SECONDS
COCKPIT NARROWED FOR OPERATING CONVENIENCE & WINCH/LINE ACCESSIBILITY TO ALL SAILS BY HELMSMAN
ELECTRIC WINDLASS FOR ANCHOR (UNDER SEAT)
ANCHOR (UNDER SEAT) OPERATED FROM COCKPIT
NET: 2" DACRON WEBBING
WEATHER CANOPY RAIL TRACK
RAINWATER CATCH SYSTEM DRAINS (4) & RUNNEL (RAIL)
TRANSOM HATCH FOR EASY ACCESS TO ARIES WINDVANE & RUDDER
ARIES WINDVANE CONTROL LINE (ATTACHED TO WHEEL)
PROPANE & LINE STOWAGE
STOWAGE FOR STORM WARP (HEAVY LINE TRAILED BEHIND CRAFT TO SLOW HER DOWN)
AMA (OUTRIGGER) 100% BUOYANCY
JIB ROLLER FURLING DRUM (BLUE LINE)
STAYSAIL ROLLER FURLING DRUM (RED LINE)
STAYSAIL BOOM (WHITE LINE)
BRONZE LEXAN PORT LIGHTS
ANCHORS & LINE STOWAGE