My story

Gaia II

The new main hull was 40 foot long. Being as yet inexperienced in building ocean-going proas, I built her so that she would tack like a conventional proa, a different approach from a true shunting proa.

Back then all young Dutchmen were required to do national service. Before I had managed to finish the new boat it was time for my mandatory stint in the army.  After being conscripted in the army I had the opportunity to volunteer for service as a peacekeeper in the former Yugoslavia, working as a communications technician.

The time served I served in this war torn country gave me many new insights into human behaviour. And how frankly ridiculous it can all seem. People who’d been happily coexisting all of a sudden started to kill each other. It made me wonder what I should do with my life.

I finished the boat and she was to serve me well for some time. Despite her three-ton displacement I set off along the coast of France of England and to the Bay of Biscay with just a 4hp outboard for auxiliary power. Still don’t know how I did that. Later I managed to upgrade to a 10hp outboard with remote throttle. Sheer luxury! I would need it as I was planning a trip with no end in sight for her.

On the 7th of may 1993, I left The Netherlands for the last time under sail, with no fixed destination in mind. My charts only went as far as Greece in the Mediterranean and the Canary islands in the Atlantic.

The trip to England was pretty uneventful. I left from Falmouth bound for Lacaruna, with a good weather forecast for crossing the Bay of Biscay. But halfway across the weather turned bad. Really bad. A southwesterly storm whipped up a huge sea.

My little boat got a very good test. The Bay of Biscay is notorious, with a reputation as one of the toughest seas in the world. The legendary yachtsmen Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and Sir Peter Blake encountered their worst weather there during their record-breaking circumnavigation aboard the super catamaran ENZA.

Shaken but not stirred, I got to Lacaruna with no more damage than some flaky paint. A 50foot catamaran arrived a few days later looking far worse for wear, with her bulkheads and bridge deck damaged.


1 comment

  1. wakataitea

    we have been in the caroline islands this year… nice proas there..
    good luck hans

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