Philosopher of sailing

The letter below was published in Cruising magazine this month:

If it does not prompt a few cross letters from traditionalists in the next edition, I’ll be surprised, especially after the recent finish of the Golden Globe round-the-world race using sextants and traditional navigation – just as they did on the first race 50 years ago, which was won by Sir Robin Knox Johnston in Suhaili. It was also the race in which the sad figure of Donald Crowhurst cheated in desperation and then disappeared from his yacht.

A victorious Knox-Johnston 50 years ago

Electronics were banned in the anniversary race, though I did read somewhere that they all had to sneak in a satellite phone just in case.

If the old guard don’t complain about my letter, then things have changed more than I expected….

 

PS I know I’m more than old enough to be part of the Old Guard, but I think modern electronic navigation is wonderful, and it leaves more time for actually handling the boat.

Greek pilotage puzzle: where’s Ithaca?

On an Ionian holiday a few years ago, I walked straight off a modern cruising yacht into an argument about an ancient voyage that has been unresolved for well over 2,000 years. We had moored at Vathi, the main town on Ithaca, where in a first floor room down a side street I came across an exhibition of photographs of Homeric sites on the island.  There I fell into conversation with a white-haired, distinguished looking man who described himself as director of the archaeological excavations on Ithaca.

Looking down to the sea from one of the archaeological excavations on Ithaca
Looking down to the sea from the site of excavations on Ithaca.

Naturally, we got onto the Odysseus connection, for  the exhibition was designed to connect present day sites on the island with the wanderings of Homer’s hero. I had just read in Rod Heikell’s Ionian pilot book that the island of Levkas, a few miles to the north, had been put forward by some as the true Ithaca. What did the director think of that?

It was as if I had insulted his family, his religion and his country all at once. He exploded.

For the full article – a long read follow this link. Or look under ‘old stories’ above.