National Geographic : 1949 Jan
The Yankee's Wander-world Retired skippers of the fastest Brixham trawlers came aboard to pass judgment. We beamed when they pronounced, "She'll take a heap of drivin' . . ." "Her'll go; ain't nothin' to stop her." And go she did. At midnight she put out into the foggy darkness. The English Chan nel was kind; we had two mild nights and one sunny day to shake out the kinks in the running rigging and the stretch in the shrouds. In France we tied up in the shadow of St. Malo's medieval walls.* At first glance the city looked like a fairy-tale illustration. A closer look showed war's grim ruins. More than a week of rain, head winds, and calms slowed our progress to the Azores. We had no real gale, but the sea was against us; as we drove into it, Yankee pitched and heeled for the first time. Oilskins were needed on watch. Things not properly stowed flew out of windward bunks. New sailors learned to hang on even in their sleep; and few customers appeared at the swinging mess table (page 11). "They ought to make square peas for weather like this," said Merrill, watching the little green spheres roll around his plate. The whole 1,400 miles to the Azores was not like that. We sailed into better weather with wind a little abaft the beam and a warm sun tanning our skin. The boys had a chance to paint the bulwarks red, practice sun sights, and cut each other's hair on deck. Coming from England and France, we were charmed by the Azores' unspoiled simplicity and their remoteness from war's effects.t Country roads we found bordered with fields of blue hydrangeas, all growing wild. Horse carriages easily outnumbered automobiles. We encountered one donkey seemingly uttering porcine squeals; actually these came from two pigs carried in covered baskets. Yankee Wears Her Stylish Nylons To Bermuda we had ideal stunsail weather. When the skipper planned the brigantine rig to include three square yards on the fore mast, he couldn't resist adding stunsails (short for studding sails), though he had never seen one except in pictures. These sails make the great spread of canvas in the old paintings, almost doubling the width of the square sails (pages 2 and 12). Tea clippers of the 1850's and '60's, grand est ocean racers of all time, were the real stunsail carriers. Some years clippers left China on the same tide and the fleetest finished in the Thames within hours of one another. Ordinary sail could not win a race like that; and so, despite the cloud of canvas they already carried, the clippers reached higher with moonsails, skysails, angels' whispers, Jimmy Greens, and even a trust-in-God set above a moonsail. To reach wider for the breeze, the clippers added stunsails. No clipper, however, ever matched Yankee's stunsails-hers were of nylon. Now, having just the right little breeze aft with a smooth sea, we decided to try our wings. We set one stunsail to windward, the other to leeward, but could scarcely keep both full. Then we rigged a small spar out from the bulwarks and set the second sail below the first, both to windward. In that way they went to work in earnest. Our lovely decora tions could pull as well as look pretty. We set the big ballooner, too, and then Yankee had everything we could hang on her 7,775 square feet of sail, all of it full and drawing. Brigantine Wins Ordeal by Storm Four thousand miles of easy sailing across the Atlantic left the crew praying for a foul blow to test the ship. No storm appeared until we entered Cape Cod Canal. There the brigantine was sailing as if she knew the way when the squall struck. Yankee lay over on her beam ends till her foreyard chased spectators off a dock. Near-by Boston Airport's anemometer regis tered one 116-mile-an-hour gust; so we knew our ship could stand a bit of breeze. Yankee eased gently into Gloucester, her new home. There we spent two months fit ting out, adding diving equipment, outboard motors, and supplies for friends on lonely islands. A new crew of young landlubbers, pledged to share the work and the expenses, assembled. First mate was Stephen Johnson, our nephew, who sailed in the old Yankee and in the Merchant Marine. Jack Braidwood, a veteran Canadian Navy commander who had sailed boats all his life, signed as second mate (page 50). Third was Frank Power, of California, formerly a lieutenant in the U. S. Naval Reserve. Dr. Charles Bothamley, of Hollywood, was ship's surgeon. Four girls signed on for old square-rigger jobs-Mary Booth, a Lightning skipper, as blacksmith; Meg Young as sailmaker; Terry Glenn, a former airplane engineer, as cooper; and Louise Stewart, a wartime captain in * See "St. Malo, Ancient City of Corsairs," by Junius B. Wood, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, August, 1929. t See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE: "European Outpost: The Azores," by Harriet Chal mers Adams, January, 1935; and "American Airmen in the Azores," 10 ills. in color, February, 1946.