Schooner to the Southern Oceans: The Captain James Cook Bicentenary Voyage 1776-1976
I enjoyed this book. It is a cracking good story for sailors about accomplishing, but only just, a voyage that was the first half of the first voyage of Resolution aboard a schooner of significant size (greater in length than the Cook’s Grenville). The author and skipper is a tough, resilient sailor with exceptional navigational skills, and his ambition was to replicate the Resolution voyage of 1776 in the bicentennial year of 1976.
Gordon Cook is certainly worthy of his namesake. His tenacity and dogged determination to prosecute the voyage after a rogue wave of incredible size had smashed over the vessel, seriously damaging, almost beyond repair, her rigging and the starboard side of the deck and hull, is proof of his special qualities.
His eventual accomplishment of the re-enactment of the Resolution voyage after his reconstruction of the vessel in Australia was also remarkable, and I look forward to reading the second half of the story of Schooner to the Southern Oceans.
My only minor reservations about the project are in the choice of vessel. At 70 feet long with considerable freeboard and high square stern she must have presented enormous resistance to the power of the following seas, particularly to an east bound ship in the southern ocean. Being crewed only by four adults in that part of the voyage, one unreliable, one a wife and mother responsible for two small children, and all subjected to a watch system aboard a vessel without self-steering, there must have been a heavy burden on everyone.
However they were not to know that the weather in the Southern Ocean was to be the worst for many years. Sailors understand that one needs luck as well as skill and knowledge, understanding that out there on the most remote parts of the oceans one must be utterly self-reliant.
On a personal note, when I followed the Endeavour voyage to coincide with the 1988 Australian Bicentennial Celebrations,1 it was for this reason that I chose to build a steel yacht, with a similar long keel, plus clear decks, and to sail her well crewed, and with a simple single mast and cutter rig.
- See Cook's Log, page 803, vol. 14, no. 4 (1991) and page 32, vol. 33, no. 1 (2010).
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 27, volume 35, number 1 (2012).