Smitten by Spidsgatters, photographs and story in the 2019 Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival program. ©Kaci Cronkhite, 2019
To see the legendary yacht MAIDEN sail into Port Townsend Bay last week, 26 years after she’d been a part of the inspiration that led me to a life on the ocean, was surreal. Yet, as King Hussein had said to Tracy Edwards and Edwards continues to say to girls around the world… “anything is possible.” I believed it then. I believe it now more than ever.
With little sailing experience and in her late 50s, Gina de Vere left her comfortable home……15 years on, she’s still a full time cruiser and on her adventures has met countless other inspirational and courageous Blue Water Women, 40 of whom she has interviewed for this book.
In this book, Gina DeVere has given a gift to us all—by asking the questions and gathering answers from women around the world. Our experience is too often invisible.
It is with deep gratitude and honor that I share the news that FINDING PAX: one woman’s journey for the love of her wooden boat has made the “shortlist” (meaning top 9 books this year) for the UK Maritime Foundation’s annual Mountbatten Media Awards in the category “Best Book.” I have been invited to attend the ceremony October 31, 2018, in London’s, Draper’s Hall.
Congratulations to my fellow shortlist nominees….
The Mountbatten Award for Best Book:
• Naomi Austin – The Call of the Sea: A visual timeline of Sunderland's shipbuilding history through to the Tall Ships Race of 2018 (Consilience Media)
• Iain Ballantyne – The Deadly Trade: The Complete History of Submarine Warfare From Archimedes to the Present (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
• Mike Bender – A New History of Yachting (Boydell Press)
• Kaci Cronkhite – Finding Pax: One Woman's journey for the love of her wooden boat (Adlard Coles)
• J David Davies – Kings of the Sea: Charles II, James II and the Royal Navy (Seaforth Publishing)
• Barry Gough – Churchill and Fisher: Titans at the Admiralty (Seaforth Publishing)
• Gillian Hutchinson – Sir John Franklin's Erebus and Terror Expedition: Lost and Found (Adlard Coles)
• David Mearns – The Shipwreck Hunter: A lifetome of extraordinary deep-sea discoveries (Allen & Unwin)
• Robert C Stern – The Battleship Holiday: The Naval Treaties and Capital Ship Design (Seaforth Publishing)
• Eric Thompson – On Her Majesty's Nuclear Service (Casemate Publishers).
The Award is made to the author of the work of literature published in English during the qualifying period that, in the opinion of the Awards Committee, has contributed most significantly to public awareness of maritime issues.
Eligible work must have a maritime focus, and includes scholarly or popular non-fiction on a technical, scientific, environmental, economic, industrial, legal, administrative, social or defence-related theme, as well as works of biography, history, fiction and poetry.
Dora Birtles journey from Newcastle, Australia to Singapore in 1935.
Finding PAX is dedicated to my grandmother, Lillian Clark Cronkhite, for a reason. She taught me to love poetry, stories, and shared my love of books. Even now, decades after her death, I hear the cadence and intonations of her voice in the syllables of poems she read and ones I know she might have or would definitely enjoy with me now.
Here are a couple of favorites:
Wild Nights by Emily Dickinson
Wild nights - wild nights
Were I with thee
Wild nights should be
To a heart in port.
Done with the compass.
Done with the chart!
Rowing in Eden -
Ah, the sea!
Might I but moor - tonight
The Set of the Sails by Ella Wheeler Willcox
One ship drives east, and another west
With the self-same winds that blow;
'Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales
That decides the way to go.
Like the winds of the sea are the ways of fate,
As they voyage along through life;
'Tis the will of the soul
That decides its goal,
And not the calm or the strife.
25 years ago, I started compiling a list of woman captains and crew who inspired me. Back then, the closest thing to internet research was a clunky combination of search terms in the Unix system, linked to databases of books and published work, typed on a fat keyed monitor's keyboard at some hard to access university library. It required exorbitant amounts of patience to wait while a green cursor blinked and came up with the names. Maybe.
By the end of 1995, my doctoral dissertation, called Women of the Wind, was well underway and Women's Studies scholars in US, England, and Australia, weighed in on my effort. My own sailing adventure caused me to drop out of the Ph.d. in 1997 (for reasons that will become clear in the book.), but my files of interviews and notes stayed wrapped up in a dry bag while I sailed around the world, then moved to boxes in the basement when I dropped anchor in 2001, in Port Townsend.
Today, while working on my second book When a Cowgirl Goes to Sea, I've been reading through my notes and zipping around the internet searching again.
Some of the women are well-documented and rightly so, have become famous. They are using their experiences to make the world a better place. It's a joy to see and read about the accomplishments of women like Kay Cottee, Tracy Edwards, Dee Caffari, Ellen MacArthur, Isabelle Autissier as captains... and now dozens of women who are seriously competent crew onboard nearly all the top ocean racing teams.
In the Pacific northwest USA this summer, it was a thrill to watch Team Sail Like a Girl win this year's R2AK, to hear the stories of 5 other women and participate as a "teller" in She Tells Sea Tales, to watch and donate to the middle/high school girls build badairka's at this years' Girls Boat Project, to watch the launch and "victory tour" of Felicity Ann, solo sailor, Ann Davison's boat by a young woman captain, Nadja Chimenti, in the Salish Sea this summer.
It is an honor to be moderating the first Women <3 Water: The Circumnavigators (Women's Offshore Panel) at the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival. The women on the panel are not as widely know as the racers... but notable, just the same. They include Nancy Erley, Behan Gifford, Pam Wall, Wendy Hinman, Leslie Linkilla, and Carol Hasse.
There's no comprehensive website to find all woman sailors online. There are lists of record holders and every time one is posted online (yea!), someone comes up with more names in the comments. My list and this blog post have missed at least a dozen women I can rattle off in my mind and more than a hundred I don't have time to post this second. The good news is there are more of us every day. Maybe we don't need lists anymore, but I will continue finding and writing about the notable achievements of women who sail... "To make the invisible, visible." Including those I find a little too late, like Florence Arthaud. She was on my list back in the 1990s and it's sad to think, now that I am spending more time in France, that I missed the chance to meet her in person. Her life, though, is an inspiration.
If you're a woman sailor or want to share the name of a woman who's inspired you, please write and let me know. Sail on!
Australian Ann Gash sail around the world in a little wooden Folkboat. When she left, she didn't even tell her kids where she was going!
Like Nancy Erley, whom I circumnavigated with during her second circumnavigation, and I, Ann went because she wanted to. Period. No attempt at "firsts," no racing, no sponsors, no attempt to draw crowds at the beginning, middle, or end. She simply followed her heart and the winds.
According to an obituary in the Sydney Herald (Australia)..."Sailing came to her relatively late, at about 45, when she bought a little boat for the children when the family lived on Pittwater. "We put it on the water and it went round in circles, while everyone else was breezing by." Although her sailing experience before 1975 was limited, she studied coastal navigation at night school, taught herself celestial navigation from books and sought lessons from fellow sailors."
Her 26' boat... "Ilimo did not have a two-way radio but the sailor reported home by mail, firstly from Darwin. Confirmation that this was no ordinary voyage came with the next mail, from Christmas Island. She then sailed across the Indian Ocean to Mauritius, Madagascar, Durban and around Cape of Good Hope.
Ilimo was plagued by rigging problems and an unreliable engine. In A Star to Steer Her By, published in 1980, Gash described battling 10-metre waves in ferocious storms, almost being ploughed down by a supertanker and being becalmed, surrounded by a school of sharks. At other times she passed peaceful hours playing her bamboo flute to schools of frolicking dolphins.
In a storm, she missed St Helena by 112 kilometres. Thieves stole her sextant and other navigational equipment in Accra, Ghana, and a tug rammed Ilimo. After repairs she tried to sail up the African coast but, in order to reach England in time for the bamboo pipers' summer school, she put Ilimo on a ship to Southampton. Gash came home via the French canals, Spain, Gibraltar, the Canary Islands, Tobago, Trinidad, Tahiti, Rarotonga, Tonga and Ballina. She later sailed to San Francisco, Perth and four times to New Zealand."
I had a copy of her book, A Star to Steer Her By: the remarkable story of a grandmother's sail around the world, on TETHYS, but have lost it somewhere along the way. As a person circumnavigating in my 30s, I admired Ann's courage to sail alone in her 50s. Now that I'm in my 50s, I want to read it again! If you've got a copy of that book, I'd love to borrow it! I promise, I won't sail away with it;)
Sail on, you grandmothers and grandfathers!
Winter solstice day was dim and short here in Port Townsend, it is 4 hours longer than today would be in Anchorage, Alaska, where I lived nine years. I miss the sun, but I've lived through shorter days and longer winters. What got me through, was the beauty of blue.
In snow-covered parts of the world right now, the blues are brighter, tempered by the whiteness. There, like in Anchorage, the snow reflected every particle of light from the sun, moon, and stars. The hues of blue and ever-present shadows blurred the days and nights--and made both longer. Fall and spring were two flash floods of color.
So, these long gray rainy days are