- 'JAHO' -
2. THE LITTLE SHIP
John Doherty in his book, has pointed out that an 18,000 lbs displacement in a thirty foot LOA leads not so much to a large boat but to a little ship. 'JAHO's keel was laid in 1936 in Durban by boat-builder Herby Spradbrow at his yard on Durban Bay, thus putting her amongst the first of these 'Little Ships' to be built after Hanna's 'Tahiti' design had been featured in Westy Farmer's
'How to Build 20 Boats' in 1935 -
for as Doherty points out, although Hanna had got 'Tahiti' off his drawing board in the 1920's it had not achieved its great popularity until this subsequent promotion as a way for amateur 'back-yard' builders to get out of the great 1930's depression. A copy of that very book was aboard in 'JAHO's library when I bought her nearly 45 years later! Although by then the final pages including the one with 'Tahiti's Bill of Materials' and 'Address for Plans' had fallen away and were lost, two interesting articles one by John Hanna himself and the other by two young fellows who had sailed with Captain Littchen in his 'Tahiti' -'NAHRA'- across the Pacific from San Francisco to the Marquesas, were there in their entirety.
Our builder, Herby Spradbrow, could have been the son or possibly the grandson of Captain Spradbrow of the 'Royal Natal' Yacht Club with whom the renowned Captain Joshua Slocum went out sailing and later wrote about in his equally famous book - 'Sailing Alone Around The World' amongst the stories relating to the time he spent in Durban during his solo circumnavigation in the 'SPRAY' some forty years earlier in the 1890's.
This 'Tahiti's owners were to have been two young fellows planning a similar adventure, but they got caught up by the call to war in 1939 and vanished from the scene thereafter. Just how many others lost or carried their 'Tahiti' plans and dreams into the battle-fields of those WW2 years apart from three young South Africans, these two and Gerry Trowbridge the other, we well may wonder.
Spradbrow having apparently been left with a completed hull on his hands put in an old 'Chevy' engine and having rather ignominiously dubbed her 'JUNIOR' proceeded to use her as an open work-boat transporting dock-workers around the Durban Bay waters during those war years.
When the conflict finally ended in 1945, an officer leaving the South African Navy spotted this 'work-boat' one day on Spradbrow's Slipway. Recognising by her lines what she really was, he too fell a typical victim of 'Tahiti Fever' and eventually persuaded a very reluctant builder to sell her to him. His name was Jack Polson and it fell to him to deck and rig her to the originally intended design and name her - 'JAHO'.
All this I gleaned in 1980 from Seychelles after I had managed to locate Jack through an address found in an old copy of 'Lloyd's Register of Yachts' in which 'JAHO' was quite naturally listed and we struck up a correspondence from which I was able to acquire much more of 'JAHO's history, for he had owned her for about 25 years.
Another interesting link with John Doherty now comes to light, for with his first letter, Jack enclosed an old snapshot of 'JAHO' and wrote "I am enclosing a little old snapshot of 'JAHO' beating out to sea with a reef in her main. The ship in the foreground incidentally is Gerry Trowbridge's 'WHITE SEAL'. She was a 'Carol' also designed by Hanna, she is 36 ft long, just a bigger version of the 'Tahiti' (30 ft). The 'Carol' was not as popular or as successful as the 'Tahiti', however Gerry made a very successful circumnavigation among other voyages"
Doherty's book now puts the date to this snapshot taken off Durban, as during the period April '52 - February '53, that is between the time when Gerry was ready for his shakedown cruise upto that of his departure on his circumnavigation and any 'Hanna detractors' should please note that the 'Tahiti' doesn't appear to be making too much 'heavy weather' of the beat either! They could also see that in this snap the designer's original Sail-plan with the single club-footed Jib is being used.
John Doherty later bought 'WHITE SEAL' from Trowbridge after the latter settled in the States.......So, it seems that the small world of ocean cruisers really does go full circle!
the story continues.................
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