Cap’n Jack’s Short Stories

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True Stories from the Sea and faraway places.

Our most popular short stories will soon be in print along with two new major works, African Honeymoon and Malpelo Lessons as well as several others from our early years when sailing with our sons.

reflections in a Sailor's Eyes

our latest book – Available Feb 2015

An odyssey lasting not the one year first imagined, but the rest of their lives
A great book for all ages filled with adventures, courage, and encouragement .

They met in a German pub, raced one another to Paris, fell in love in America and were married in England. Their African Honeymoon took them overland to Johannesburg and from there to Australia where Jack and Jude found space everywhere and a feeling of ‘she’ll be right’ that encouraged them to not only start a family, but to also start building an ocean going yacht.

Three arduous years later, with little sailing experience, their sons just two and three, they began a journey into the unknown. Frightened with mountainous obstacles to overcome their sea roving life took them in ever-increasing circles around the world touching 80 countries in an odyssey that lasted not the one year first imagined, but the rest of their lives.

Jack and Jude have many grandchildren now. Their physical forms may have weakened, their confidence has been tempered, but they still hear the call of the wild. Aboard Banyandah they explore every nook of the vast Australian coastline and surrounding seas.

This book of short stories is a celebration of an adventurous exploration of life together.

African Honeymoon

Our route through Africa

Our route through Africa

When we were just kids and about to be married, we bought a rusty VW van that had languished in a field for nearly forever. Our first sight of it was a pair of sad eyes, its divided windscreen peeking over tall grass, so we bought that cute little box. Not out of pity, but thinking we could use its new tyres on our honeymoon trip to Southern Africa.

The year is 1968. The Sahara is a vast unmarked area without fuel or water. Nigeria is still in the grips of the Biafran War. Central Africa, a chaotic mess struggling to overcome colonialism, many still hate whites. The Congo, filled with illiterate warring factions, still believes in voodoo. Only East Africa offers a ray of hope. That too is snatch from us by Rhodesia’s quest for freedom.

Desperate people do desperate things. And you can imagine after so many upsets and roadblocks, when this close to our goal, I was not going to let anything stop us from reaching it. But even way back then, I had a creed. I would never physically hurt any other person or prevent them from perusing their goals as long as they didn’t hurt others too. My course of action seemed to fit that guide, so we told everyone we’d be travelling to RSA to pick up our baggage, and set off hitchhiking to Beitbridge, where without one hiccup we entered South Africa on the 14th of May 1969.

Ceuta, North Africa to Johannesburg, 12,720 km in a five month African Honeymoon.

Malpelo Lessons

Malpelo before discoveryThe day began like many others aboard the good ship Banyandah. At first light our anchorage was found to be encased in a wispy mist that softened the morning’s warmth and light, making sounds far-away whispers. There in the timeless stillness our floating home lay so quietly at rest she felt afloat in space instead of on the calm waters off Colon at the entrance to the busy Panama Canal.

Banyandah’s aft cabin is a lovely place to dream of far away places. Like a mother’s womb holding tranquil peace that on such a quiet day was perfect for meditation. With eyes partly closed and my ship smooth and quiet under me, my fingers traced routes while I imagined the passage miles sliding past. For a time I was lost in this make believe world, lost in what soon might be real life.

“Hey Kids! Guess what!” I blurted out breaking into their work as I stepped across the forward companionway waving the chart. “There’s an enormous rock jutting out the ocean right on our route to South America.”

Tears in Paradise

Jack navigating

Young family chance their luck, visit forbidden island and find themselves fighting for their lives. A true story written in 1983 aboard Banyandah in Indian Ocean.

Madagascar! Jude loved the sound and wanted it to roll off her tongue as easily as it had off the stranger’s and she repeated, “Madagascar.” The sound igniting visions of green mountains and primitive people.

Failed Again

Failure is a word that can strike despair in many young minds. And yet, now that I am older I’m proud to admit that I’ve failed several times. My first failure was a boat I built which simply would not float. It was suppose to be fast, so I thought it had to be sleek and narrow. But, while sketching its design, I realized I’d never built anything. Never used fiberglass, never made a mold nor knew anything about sailing. But building that boat changed my life forever.

As a young boy I remember traipsing back from the beach late one day and passing these two large open doors where a great hubbub was erupting from the room’s smoke filled interior. Peeking in, men were shouting, and a fellow at the front was waving a wooden hammer as if stirring a hornets nest. For awhile I watched amused, and then became transfixed by a rough timber box banged down upon the auctioneer’s desk.

“What will you bid for this mystery box,” the auctioneer called to the crowd who laughed while a few elbowed their mates.

To the Naval of the World

“You’re on your way where? To Easter Island! Wow, that’ll be great!” My friend’s voice, sounding awed and impressed, came clearly over the Ham radio in Banyandah’s aft cabin. “But isn’t this the wrong time of year?” Skepticism had crept into his voice. “You do know it’s winter down there.”

Of course I knew – hadn’t I sat for hours with those dog-eared weather charts before me? Hadn’t I tracked over and over July’s wind patterns for the deep South Pacific. My friend had voiced his worry over storms, but it wasn’t storms that were shown in the ocean before Easter Island, it was frustrating calms and contrary winds from around the clock.

Moonlight across the Southern Ocean

Waychinicup: the locals swear it is safe, but that’s the Southern Ocean just outside that narrow crack.

By the time the Roaring Forties pass under Australia, they have gathered energy from halfway around Earth and are either driving the sea wild or are ready to pounce when next provoked by a depression from Antarctica.

Now imagine two aging flower powers, are their petals shriveling, yet with bright strong hearts, aboard a homemade sailboat crossing this most feared stretch of water. Alone, they must look after themselves and God forbid either be injured or suffer a body malfunction.

Running Scared at Spratly

Back in 1979, the world had no satellites guiding our every movement day and night. Instead, all ships used the heavens to navigate, and our maps, what we called charts, we’re inaccurate – some made by aerial surveillance during WWII with soundings dating back to the earliest explorers.

Running scared at Spratly
Only steel nerves and luck stood between the
1979 Amateur Radio expedition and disaster

From the log of the Banyandah -South China Sea, March 31, 1979

Late Night Visitor

While alongside at Emu Point Slipway in Albany, I heard my dear lady shouting in the night. “Put that down. Get out of it.”

Groggy, coming out a deep sleep, I thought she was dreaming, and was about to comfort her back to sleep, when I felt her crawl over me. That got me wide awake. I sleep next to the companionway.

Rising in the dim light, I heard Jude shout that someone had been on our boat and had just gotten off. So without a thought, I was away like a shot, over the rail, onto the dock and off towards the empty parking lot. In the dim single lamp, a large figure was walking off with something in his arms. I ran after, shouting, “Put that stuff down! Walk away and nothing more will happen!”

Reaching the figure, he was bigger than me, shirtless and carrying our two green shopping bags in one hand, and in the other, swishing round n’round something like a long Kungfu stick, which I carefully kept out of its range.

The People You Meet

When we were guests of the Fremantle Sailing Club, I awoke feeling a bit old this particular morning. Too much booze or one too many stories the night before had me feeling every one of my sixty-four years and I was crawling rather lethargically round the cabin when I heard a rap on our railing. Coming up my eyes clasped onto a man my age inspecting my boat.

“Bonny wee sailing ship you have laddie,” were his first words, and I smiled. I love people who like my boat. And replied, “She’s stout and looks after you in a storm and that’s what matters, plus she’s a treat to live aboard.”

“Aye, I can see that”, this fellow went on, his bushy eyebrows going up and down as he ran his eye over our craft.
“You’re a Scots, I can tell. My wife’s a Geordie.” And with that disclosure, he ambled closer.
“Aye, a bonny lad from the old country.” He said when we were eyeball to eyeball.
“Been back lately?” I asked, thinking of our own trip home to England in 1999.
“Aye, went back in 2005.”
“Good flight?”
“Did nay fly, I sailed.”
“You sailed back to Scotland!” I exclaimed suddenly reassess this man. I had been more concerned with my own problems that morning as we’d been meeting so many full of dreams and claims.

Fishing for Monsters

Aboard Banyandah, off North West Cape WA

Walking aft I saw our Ocky strap bowstring tight and the trolling line singing. Shocked and alarmed I jumped back shouting, “Hey Jude! Come look. Something huge is hooked up.”

We nearly always troll a fishing lure when sailing during daylight hours. In the past, we also dragged them during the night, but too many lures got taken by Noahs even after we devised a simple alarm consisting of an empty tin that fell to the deck whenever we had a strike. Whether then or now our setup has always been a simple handline. Attach the lure by a few metres of wire trace to a swivel then 50m of 100kg tested monofilament that’s attached by another swivel to nearly 100m of small-diameter braided sash cord that makes the initial haul-in a little easier on our hands. The boat end is attached to a strong Ocky strap held in a bight of line that only lets the strap stretch to its maximum length without breaking, and seeing how far it stretches is something like watching it weigh the fish. A normal-sized fish usually just takes the catenary out the line, but on this bright Sunday morn motoring over some of the world’s best fishing ground it was like a guitar string. We had just hooked a monster.

Cap’n Jack


Cap’n Jack’s Short Stories — 1 Comment

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