An ordinary adventure


David Vann, the not-so well-known author of a book called ‘A Mile Down: The True Story Of A Disastrous Career At Sea’ has set sail again, this time on a solo circumnavigation. No, it gets better. This time, he’s made an aluminium trimaran called Tin Can himself, entirely out of materials bought from US DIY chain Home Depot. Maybe he took MacArthur’s B&Q too seriously!

The signs were there. The sail plan is based on a second hand Dacron main he picked up free. When the boat was launched, the designer (yep, there was one) couldn’t attend because of an urgent holiday in Puerto Vallarta. On launch, the meagre crowd gasped as the escape hatch in the main hull sank below the surface. The Napa Valley Marina’s owners towed him out of the marina themselves, no doubt high-fiving all the way.

When he set sail from San Francisco (already confounding many critics) he made it as far as Santa Cruz, a full 80 miles south. The alarmingly ladder-like cross beams had stood the rigours of the gruelling voyage but associated scaffolding had failed. Square one. But are we disheartened? No!

‘The additions to the structure won’t take long,’ says Vann in his Esquire blog, ‘most likely not more than a week or two. But I was already pushing late into the season, leaving much later than I had wanted, and now it’s simply too late for this year. I’ll have to wait until December to set sail again.’

The thing is: is he so much different to Knox-Johnston, Moitessier, Blyth, Tetley, Crowhurst et al, when they set off on their impossible journey? Weren’t they setting sail for certain death too? Vann himself aggrandises ridiculously by comparing himself to Sir Edmund Hillary, another man attempting the impossible: ‘He said that ordinary people go on adventures, an encouraging and inspiring comment if ever there was one.’

So is he nuts, or is he guts?