SPEAKER PROFILE: John Passmore
On a miserable night in December 1960, Francis Chichester found his way to the Walton and Frinton Yacht Club on the East Coast of England. He had just won the first Single-handed Transatlantic race and become an instant celebrity.
It seems that one of the members knew the great man well enough to persuade him to come and give a talk about his experiences. This he did at some length with a series of colour transparencies (very new and exciting – although, of course, the projector broke down half-way through).
Somewhere towards the back was an eleven-year-old boy sitting with his family. That was me and I was transfixed. Here were stories of gales and self-steering failure and the pigeon who hitched a ride in mid-Atlantic – and through it all, one man alone against the elements. That was the day I decided I was going to live on a boat and sail across oceans alone.
It took 57 years with a series of false starts; but in 2017, at the age of 68, I set off with my ideal boat, enough money and my good health – and the most wonderful sense of euphoria.
If you are interested in this sort of thing. If you too have a dream which somehow got lost as life took its convoluted course, then you might be interested to read my story…
I first set foot on a boat at the age of five. My family were on holiday in Cornwall which is the bit that sticks out of the British Isles at the bottom left. My father had sailed before the war (he bought his first boat off Eric Hiscock, author of Around the World in Wanderer III). Anyway, here he was with his wife and three children, the sun was shining, the breeze was gentle – and he hired a sailing dinghy on the Helford River. He gave me the tiller and told me to steer for “that yellow cornfield”. I did just that… until we grounded in the reeds at the edge of the field.
When we got home, Father bought a 14ft dinghy called Wilkie. She had a tiny foredeck which meant that I could pretend that the cuddy underneath was my cabin. However Mother wanted somewhere to boil a kettle and so, by the time I was eight, we had a 25ft Folkboat called Torgunn and found ourselves in Holland.
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