A Tale of Two Yachts is a fascinating account of two voyages, over 85 years apart, to New Zealand, says Julia Jones

A Tale of Two Yachts
Barbara White
Self-Publishing House, £12.99

There’s an interesting concept behind this volume. Barbara White and her husband Rob completed a six-year circumnavigation on their Oyster 406 yacht Zoonie between 2015-2021 and recorded it on Barbara’s blog.

Erling Tambs and his wife Julie left Norway in 1928 on the Colin Archer-designed former pilot cutter Teddy but lost her off New Zealand in 1932.

They, their two children and their dog were lucky to survive.

Locked down in Australia during 2020 Barbara retyped Tambs’s Cruise of the Teddy as a basis for the new edition published by Lodestar Books.

Here she interweaves events from Teddy’s voyage, with Zoonie’s progress as far as New Zealand.

Her subtitle describes the sailing couple’s voyages as ‘remarkably similar’ yet, perhaps inevitably, it is the differences that are most obvious: Teddy’s lack of an engine, lack of navigational or communication equipment, her wooden construction, the gender of the skipper, the comparative ages, motivations and financial resources of each couple, the degree of hardship experienced.

The tracks they follow are similar but not the same.

Barbara and Rob leave Plymouth peacefully for A Coruna, enjoying fond memories of the Tall Ship Stavros S Niarchos where they had met: Erling and Julie were defying the Norwegian authorities when they set out from Ulvoysund.

They endured a rough North Sea passage before putting into Le Havre, then were forced into Cedeira by a further storm.

Continues below…

Theirs is always the more dramatic and elemental voyage.

Stylistically The Cruise of the Teddy rarely fails to grip and startle, whereas A Tale of Two Yachts is closer to an agreeable travel journal, recording places visited, impressions gained and meals eaten.

Barbara and Rob took time away from their circumnavigation to travel to Norway and meet Erling Tambs’s grandson (also named Erling) and his aunt, Tui, the baby girl born on the voyage.

They paid tribute to the extraordinary spirit of Tui’s mother, Julie.

Despite dissimilarities, Barbara White’s feeling of connection is real and her insights valuable.

Fundamentally both couples are not only seeking adventure and experience together but the elusive quality of happiness.

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Buy The Cruise of the Teddy at Waterstones (UK)

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