The book The Voyage of The Aegre by Nicholas Grainger, contains many maps , drawings and photos from the preparation time and the voyage itself. Many photos suffered water damage in the latter part of the voyage and became unuseable but still I have more than it has been possible to include in the book
Below is a small selection, most are in the book but some are not. I’ll add more photos here that we had to cut from the final book due to costs.
The picture on the cover of the book is of The Aegre, a traditional Shetland boat, on Loch a’chad’fi, at Ardmore, in NW Scotland, shortly before her departure to sail across The Atlantic and the Pacific.
The photo was taken in early July 1973 by Jim Archer-Burton. The cover design is by Gene Carl Feldman .
Nicholas was employed as an instructor at the Ridgway School of Adventure in 1971-2 and this largely inspired and prepared him for The Aegre voyage. The school had been set up by John and Marie Christine Ridgway. John, the 1966 Atlantic rower, ocean sailor, and adventurer in Peru, the Amazon, Antarctica and Patagonia appears here, with a backdrop of Ardmore, NW Scotland, for the dustcover of his early autobiography, Journey to Ardmore.
Launching The Aegre on Loch a’chad’fi near Ardmore, NW Scotland, with the help of two other instructors from the Adventure School. It was the 26th August 1972, Julie’s 19th birthday. Nick and Julie had found The Aegre in a small harbour on Scotland’s north coast and she’d been brought across to the north-west coast on the back of a truck. She just had a small foredeck. With nearly 9ft of tide, launching was easy. You just had to wait. The water came to you.
Nick and Julie’s cabin at Ridgway’s Adventure School, near Ardmore, NW Scotland. After a winter working in London earning money to equip The Aegre, Julie and Nick returned to the empty adventure school and their cabin in the early spring to start working on The Aegre. Just after they arrived, a blizzard engulfed the northwest coast.
One of the water-damaged photos. Boatbuilder Bob McInness in NW Scotland, putting the finishing touches to the strong deck beams that spanned The Aegre from bow to stern at 2ft intervals. Unfortunately, this photo got wet on The Aegre, as did most things at one time or another
Now fully decked, The Aegre emerges from Bob MacInness’s boatshed. The only breaks in the curved decking were the mid-ship perspex deck lights on each side and the 2×2 ft cockpit, and the adjacent 2×2 hatch. The bow of the boat is to the right, and her asymmetrical shape can be seen. Without any ballast, she wasn’t very heavy, and Bob Macinness and Nicholas, together with two helpers, Angus Mackenzie and Robert McLeod, could move her out of the boatshed.
Freshly arrived in Funchal harbour, Madeira, after the 34-day, 1,800 mile non-stop passage from Scotland. Nick and Julie draped their heavy gaff stormsail over the boom to get some shade from the burning sun. Notice how low in the water The Aegre is, full of stores for long passages.
The Aegre becalmed mid-Atlantic, more than 1,000 miles from anywhere October 1973. Nick and Julie had been running before a strong north-easterly wind for a week or two, sailing fast under their makeshift square sail, (actually their heavy weather gaff sail set upside down on a spar). And then the wind died. After a few days, the sea flattened out and Nick went for a swim holding their little pocket camera high to keep it dry.
Mid-Atlantic, with the squaresail pulling strongly, The Aegre steering herself, Nick could stand in the hatchway to ‘shoot the sun’ with their little half-size sextant to determine their latitude and longitude. There was no GPS in 1973.
Another mid-Atlantic day running under the squaresail. The simple wind vane self-steering system could easily keep The Aegre on course, but with the constant movement day and night of the lines through blocks, everything had to be frequently lubricated to avoid chafe. As the wind vane system was off the stern on a beam (to be in clear air), it was tricky to reach while underway. Luckily the water was warm. The line disappearing in the wake is towing the antique log loaned to them, a device measuring the distance travelled through the water each day.
Cruising photographer David Samuelson took this shot of The Aegre with Julie and Nick aboard, anchored in the bay adjacent to Atuona on Hiva Oa in the Marquesas Islands, in the middle of the South Pacific. To reach Hiva Oa they had sailed 4,200 miles (7,778 km) non-stop from Panama, taking 65 days. Their longest passage.
In the picture, they are about to sail away to the nearby island of Nuku Hiva. The sails are raised and Nick is about to go forward to lift the anchor and then set the white flying jib. Julie is on the helm.
To Nick and Julie’s surprise, the picture appeared on the cover of the May 1977 issue of the US magazine Pacific Skipper.
The Aegre anchored in Papeete, Tahiti, in July 1974. 5,000 miles (9,260 km) out from Panama City. The varnish has been almost completely washed off one side of the hull.
The Aegre’s fishing boat registration, LK92, was soon to be cancelled by the authorities in Lerwick, Shetland. Perhaps they lacked humour.
In Tahiti, The Aegre was anchored close by Varua, William Albert Robinson’s iconic 74 ft brigantine in which he sailed around the Pacific in the 1950s looking for the ultimate storm. The story is told in To the Great Southern Sea. Robinson was living ashore nearby and he gave Nick the full tour.
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