4. ‘TAHITI’ versus ‘tahiti’.
It was in Mahé in 1981 that I met another ‘Tahiti’ and her ‘people’ -‘DARU’- "aha" I thought, " ‘DA-vid and RU-th’ perhaps?" remembering Jack Polson's explanation. But no, upon making our introductions I found out that Bill Harrison had named his ‘Most Prized Possession’ after a Pacific Atoll on which he had served in WW2. Bill, a retired electronics engineer had been 7 years constructing his ‘Space-Age Tahiti’. With Stainless Steel and Monel replacing everything that on ‘JAHO’ was Common Iron or Bronze. With several electronic-navigation systems, radio transmitters, even electrical domestic appliances (refrigeration, microwave oven) and so on, battery-banks, endless back-up systems, generators and so forth, ‘DARU’ weighed-in at about four tons gross heavier than my vintage craft some 40 years her senior.
‘Long on equipment’ and ‘short on accommodation’ was my main impression aboard ‘DARU’ and I can't recall Bill's long-suffering wife Ginny occupying any place but perched on the companion-way whenever I was aboard and we were all (almost) below decks.
"One a’bunk and someone always in the Cockpit!"
This was, it seems, Bill's abiding rule at all times, whether underway, during nights at anchor, even in port. The ‘DARU’, out of San Diego, was certainly well turned-out. Hand-made ‘wood and stainless-steel’- blocks with ‘colour-coded half-inch braidline’ for all the running-, and stainless-steel for all the standing-rigging.
Bill became a mentor, of sorts. Being 3 or 4 years into his voyaging in ‘DARU’ he had plenty to offer, but by the same token he was as much a tor-mentor of that other Ilk - as Joshua Slocum had found when refurbishing the ‘SPRAY’.... and of whom he writes in his book.
"How many fastenings have you pulled?" Bill demanded. "How much Copper do you have left between the ends? - Do you know?"
Well, I was not about to remove 1 in 2 or even 1 in 5 plugged copper nails and roves which looked fine and seemed to be doing the job as intended and as they had for nearly...50 years...or.......was I?
"Those frames are too small!"
I felt sure he’d doubled the scantlings in ‘DARU’s construction.
"Double ‘em up or you’ll be sorry!".
"Are you SURE you want to make THAT voyage in THAT boat?".
Most of the recountals of his own hard-times would end with the line,
"If you'd been with ‘your boat’ where I was with ‘ MY BOAT’ (pronounced S H I P) , you’d have perished!".
All this and more went on right up to the time of his returning to Mahé one day, just 48 hrs after leaving, having run into some foul weather.
Pleasant chap - Bill was just the type to have around! He was at his most disparaging when it came to the compass, a ‘World War II-Era’ Grid-Ring Compass - Royal Air Force type. It had been a gift from Ann Worth the widow of Tom Worth (son of the famous English yacht designer Claud Worth) with whom she had made an early 1950's circumnavigation in an aluminium yacht. "It was", she’d said one afternoon as we sat on her live-aboard Catamaran in Mahé's Port Victoria, " always Tom's favourite," and she would like me " to have it and to put it in a binnacle on ‘JAHO’". For me, it was perfect. Right vintage and simple. Easy to read from any line of vision, in or out of the cockpit, with the grid wires showing up, optically, even the slightest deviation from the course as set. We were to have only one ‘hitch’ with it the entire voyage, once when the ‘hitch-hiker’, and after him the Crew, sailed a whole watch on an old course having decided for himself that the changed setting, which resulted from the latest Star Fix, was due to "‘the ring thing’ having slipped or been knocked!"
"Throw that thing overboard!" ordered Bill, "and get a ..."
Then followed a list of the ‘World’s 10 Best’ - and latest - Compasses by make, model, catalogue number and price (ex USA). ‘JAHO’s previous small ‘Danforth’ had been mounted with it’s bracket screwed onto the for’ard end of the ‘Bath-tub’. From this position it had been ‘Walked-off’ by so many new-comers to the cockpit that in one last desperate attempt at safeguarding the ‘once-again-repaired’ bracket I resited the whole thing on the aft-support under the saloon-table where, thereafter it remained safe and sound as a good ‘tell-tale Compass’ below deck, and besides, the "CHRISTIAN BUGGE" folk certainly wouldn't be needing it in their bath-tub!
Bill and Ginny in ‘DARU’ left Mahe - second time around - in August 1981, heading for Durban and Bill's last advice (pronounced O R D E R) had been -
"Get there by September, or you'll be anchored out with the freighters without a decent berth!"
We later heard from the local Radio-Ham in Mahé that they’d been knocked-down in the Mozambique Channel, had broken a spar and that Ginny had sustained some injuries. Later, in Durban we were to hear more.........
the story continues.................
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