Trekka Round the World
Paperback, 283 pages, photographs
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In our writing for Fore and Aft we like to serve the broad appreciation of small, simple boats well adapted to their intended use. We are always interested in the baseline—what is the smallest and simplest boat that will do the job—and if we are to move away from that baseline how far should we go and at what cost?
To us the absolute baseline in a cruising boat is a small double-paddle canoe capable of carrying backpacker-level shelter, clothing, tools, food and water. The boat can be carried in one hand, and folding canoes could be carried on a bus.
Just above this is a sailing canoe, which can be carried around.
Just above this is a cruising dinghy such as is described in the highly recommended Dinghy Cruising, by Margaret Dye (available from Fore and Aft). It has major advantages over a canoe in terms of stability, comfort, and volume if you are willing to give up the portability of the canoe.
Just above this is a small, trailerable shoal draft cruising boat with a cabin, such as our own Amphibi-ette Spar Hawk. She has many advantages over the dinghy cruiser in terms of comfort, volume, convenience, and rough water ability if you are willing to give up the beachable nature of the cruising dinghy.
Above this level comes the option of a small offshore-capable cruiser, with which you acquire global mobility at the lowest possible cost if you are willing to give up the shoal draft and large deck openings of the inshore cruiser.
To us this idea of a minimalist global voyager has enormous appeal, and just as the double-paddle canoe opens up worlds for her cost, so does a baseline voyager.
At the time the 20’ Trekka sailed around the world she was the smallest boat to have done so, and I believe that record stood for some time. She made her voyage at an interesting time in the history of yachting. New glues and methods of building which had been developed during World War II permitted the construction of strong and practical light displacement boats, and with them came dinghy-shaped hulls in larger boats. In preceding decades it had become apparent that the seaworthiness of a yacht was a function of its design and construction rather than its size, and some were interested in developing extremely small and inexpensive yachts.
The Atlantic had recently been crossed by Sopranino, a Laurent Giles-designed 19-footer which in its design and construction was very much like an enlarged inshore racing dinghy with a deep fin keel and a deck. The voyage had attracted a lot of attention and must have partly inspired John Guzzwell to choose Giles for the design of Trekka.
On the racing end of things the yachting world had recently been rocked by the success of Myth of Malham, a light displacement yacht that had proven herself in tough offshore conditions and brought into the world a different look: short, nearly vertical overhangs, a relatively dinghy-shaped hull, and somewhat abbreviated underbody.
In my late teens I was privileged to own a tiny ocean racer designed by Cy Hamlin for the then-new MORC, back when it was in my opinion much more interesting because of the 24’ hull length restriction. Later it was made 30’ which made sense in all sorts of ways but still something was lost. Her original name was Mite O’ Maine, and she had a shapely, blunt, short bow and a vertical transom, all nods to the Myth directly or indirectly. In her general concept she bore a strong resemblance to Trekka, and I wish I had read this book when I had her.
Several larger and smaller boats later I am back to the 24’ Amphibiette, of which Mite was something of a prototype, having the same length, hull shape, and construction. Spar Hawk is quite a different thing, having shoal draft, more beam, and a main cabin covered by a large removable canvas top, but I still see a little Trekka in her and that made it fun to read this book.
While she was not much larger in her overall dimensions, Trekka’s design was a great leap forward from Sopranino, and seemingly created a whole new design niche in one stroke. Her light displacement, dinghy-shaped hull had a reverse sheer, allowing much greater freeboard than older views of aesthetics would have allowed, in a new aesthetic that clearly had something all its own. Her short overhangs and blunt stem looked like Myth of Malham. With a tiny footwell and deckhouse and minimum sized ports and hatches, she was a buoyant, corked bottle, and ballast carried on a relatively deep fin keel gave her good power to carry sail, for the light displacement type. Her all-glued strip planked construction was a big improvement over Sopranino’s lapstrake construction, achieving greater rigidity and watertightness while still maintaining very light weight.
In one respect Trekka was a transitional design because she was in many ways so modern, but she was created in the era just before the widespread use of wind vane self-steering. This is the reason for her divided rig, which at that time was seldom used on such small boats—it was useful for balancing the boat and getting her to steer herself, at sea. Vane gears have reduced the number of mizzens in small yachts over succeeding years, and have revolutionized the convenience of offshore voyaging.
I always enjoy reading detailed accounts of well-executed cruises and voyages. These accounts enable us to stock up on other peoples’ experience, and if we are lucky are a good read. This book has a lot of great information in it, but it is also a very well-told story reflecting the can-do attitude of John Guzzwell, his optimism, and his appreciation of everyone and everything he encountered on the voyage. His voyage was no stunt. He and the boat were fully up to the job and the circumnavigation was treated as an extended cruise for pleasure, not a record-breaking attempt.
I highly recommend this book as an account of a well-executed voyage in a baseline vessel, a good look at the influential Trekka, and a great, positive read of John Guzzwell’s well-told story.
Aboard Spar Hawk
Rockport Harbor, Maine
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