Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cape Horn to Starboard

Cape Horn to Starboard by John KretschmerI recently finished reading my friend John Kretschmer's first book, Cape Horn to Starboard: The Classic Chronicle of Rounding the Horn in a 32-foot Sloop. It had been out of print for a few years, but it was republished last fall with a new introduction and afterword. I have enjoyed all of John's other books, so I was excited to read this one. It didn't disappoint.

In the fall of 1983, when he was only 25 years old, John and his crew sailed a Contessa 32 from New York to San Francisco by way of Cape Horn, replicating the route of the nineteenth-century clipper ships. His youth and relative lack of sailing experience proved to be an asset, as he didn't know what he didn't know, or he never would have considered such a crazy adventure. As John wrote to me in an email message last week, "Rereading the galleys I was amazed at my own audacity, what was I thinking?"

The feat gained him and his crew instant fame for sailing the smallest boat to date around the Horn. John states modestly in his afterword that their arrival in San Francisco must have occurred on "a slow news day" based on the grand reception they received from Mayor Dianne Feinstein and the local news media and later from Dan Rather and CBS News. When the commotion died down, John embarked on a career as a delivery captain, which is detailed in his second book, Flirting with Mermaids: The Unpredictable Life of a Sailboat Delivery Skipper.

John and I are the same age, so as I read his book I couldn't help but think about what I was doing with my life while John was sailing around the Horn. All I was doing was trying to get a second degree, in engineering this time, and working part-time at a Milwaukee hospital, where I met my future wife, Nan. My greatest ambitions revolved around planning annual backpacking trips with my friend, Dave Beckwith. It all seems so "small potatoes" compared to what John was doing. Maybe, at an unconscious level, that's why my ambitions now are so, well, ambitious.


twonoahs said...

I am looking forward to reading this one too, John. After reading your blog months ago and seeing John K's name, I downloaded John K.'s book about the "wrong-way" hurricane back in the day and how it turned to tragedy for his friend sailing to the Carribean and some of the other ships on the water that day.
I also read "Flirting with Mermaids". It's amazing how things don't seem to phase someone that's been through a lot already! I'd have been panicking at some of the spots he was in. You are a good ambassador for his writing. You sold him two books!
I hope one day to sign up for one of John's blue water training/round trips to the Bahamas. I think that would be a great learning experience. I am starting off with Keel Boat 101 here first though :-)
- Steve

John Lichty said...

Thank you for your comment, Steve. I have forwarded it on to John K., who I believe is speaking at the Miami Strictly Sail Show this week. If he responds, I will post it here. Best of luck in your sailing endeavors!

John Lichty said...

John K.'s response:


You are a good ambassador and a good friend, thanks so much brother.


Steven said...

His books are excellent. When you read his books it doesn't seem like it's by a sailor who wrote a book. It seems like John's a writer that's an amazing sailor.
I am really looking forward to doing that sail to the Bahamas on one of his trips one day. Like I said, it's a dream of mine to do that before it's too late...