British Writers in Andorra: an occasional series
Last week Edward Allcard launched his fourth book, Solo Around Cape Horn and Beyond. Now 102, he is a naval architect by profession and a solo circumnavigator and writer by inclination. You may ask what is a sailor doing living in Andorra? Some 30 years ago a concerned Andorran immigration officer (yes, here they exist!) asked much the same question. “Won’t you feel very enclosed by the mountains in Andorra after the sea’s wide horizons?”
“No,” Edward replied, “It’s all nature. Mountains are just waves standing still.”
Edward had his first sailing adventure when, aged six, he and his grandfather’s boatmen were almost swept over a weir on the river Thames. He was given his first sailing dinghy when he was 12 and made his first single-handed passage in her all the way down the Thames in his mid-teens. School over, he went north to study naval architecture in the Scottish shipbuilding yards of the Clyde. There he bought himself a larger wooden sail boat, Five Brothers. In all he was to own 18 different boats over his sailing lifetime.
It must have been around 2008 when I was busy working on a sequel to A Gypsy Life, that my husband, Edward, maybe feeling a bit left out, turned to me and said, “You know, I feel guilty I’ve never written up the extraordinary time I spent pottering around Patagonia and rounding Cape Horn.”
“Well, why not write it now?” I urged. And so he did.
The solo voyage he had in mind began on the 1st January, 1966 when he cast off his moorings in Montevideo, capital of Uruguay, and headed off for Cape Horn some 2,500 kms to the south – and then an equal distance up the Chilean coast to his relatives near Valparaiso. Luckily, whilst sailing, he always kept a daily, quite detailed descriptive log of his exploits and so he also had those logbooks to kick-start his memories.
And what stories he has to tell! The time he accidentally ate hongos mortales (deadly mushrooms to you and me), or when he was told that if he married one of two elderly sisters, then, when the chosen lady died, he would inherit a vast Argentinian estate. He fled.
Ahead lay the naked Atlantic shores of Patagonia swept by the Roaring Forties. I know no one better at describing a full force gale, nor in such varied and stylish language. But worse was to come. As he headed towards Cape Horn the weather gods swooped with ever greater fury. For four unending days and nights the man and his 55-year-old boat, Sea Wanderer (bought for $250, lying abandoned in the mud near New York), battled for their lives. Driven backwards 80 kms through the Le Maire Strait, one of the most dangerous straits in the world, Sea Wanderer sprang a sever leak. From then on Edward had to pump out with the engine every 40 minutes or drown.
Eventually, however, he arrived safely in Tierra del Fuego, the uttermost part of the earth. Here he spent six months of winter fixing his boat, rounding Cape Horn, exploring both Chile and Argentina until finally the ice had melted setting him free to head north.
The second half of the book tells tales of cruising up the Patagonian channels. Here, amongst majestic scenery and ice-blue glaciers, he had rare encounters with the Yahgan Indians, now virtually extinct, and lived, as they did, in all simplicity, scouring the rocks for mussels and the shore for geese for the pot. The book ends with his arrival in Valparaiso and meeting for the first time, his many Chilean relatives.
So what of Allcard’s other books? Single-handed Passage was first published in 1950 and told the tale of his 80 day, 9,500 km voyage from England to New York in his 34 foot wooden sailboat, Temptress. It was followed in 1952 by Temptress Returns. This book caused quite a stir. Firstly because in it Edward became the first person to sail both ways single-handedly across the Atlantic and secondly, because, 24 hours after he left the Azores for Casablanca, a very pale, very seasick, very beautiful young stowaway suddenly appeared from the fo’c’sle! The book was: ‘Dedicated to that elusive thing THE FREEDOM OF THE INDIVIDUAL’. Finally in 1964 he published Voyage Alone. This time he was aboard Sea Wanderer the boat he would eventually sail solo around the world. Here, in 1957, he sails to Tangier and then the Canaries where he meets the Norwegian Peter Tangvald. Both are in a hurry to get across the Atlantic before Christmas so, naturally, they challenge each other to a 5,000 km race — for a prize of one dollar! This was the first ever, single-handed, east–to-west, transatlantic race.
Solo Around Cape Horn and Beyond is published by Imperator Publishing and available on Amazon.
PICK OF THE WEEK.
OPERA DIRECT: Verdi’s opera IL TROVATORE from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. (Sung in Italian with English subtitles. 180 minutes including one interval.) Tuesday, 31st January at 20.15 at the Cinemes Illa Carlemany, Escaldes-Engordany. The first revival of David Bösch’s production, conducted by Richard Farnes and starring: DMITRI HVOROSTOVSKY, ANITA RACHVELISHVILI, LIANNA HAROUTOUNIAN and GREGORY KUNDE, Il Trovatore is one of the great operas of the Romantic period, a story of passion and blood, love and vengeance, disaster and murder. The atmospheric and poetic staging by director David Bösch puts the story of passion against the backdrop of war. Fire and snow in the landscape echo the cruelty and love of the story: soldiers and gypsies clash, a mother reveals a terrible secret and two men are engaged in a deadly fight over a woman. The famous Anvil Chorus is just one of the highlights of Verdi’s fine music, which captures the shifting emotions of the drama through impassioned love duets, fiery solos and stirring choruses.
33RD INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF THE COLOURS OF MUSIC: Saturday, 4th February at 21.30 at the La sala del Prat del Roure, Escaldes-Engordany. (Ticket sales On line here. 20€ in advance, 25€ on the day.) CHAMBAO & ANTONIO LIZANA in concert. The saxophonist and singer ANTONIO LIZANA will present his second album Quimeras del mar (chimeras of the sea), a work that soars through the world of jazz guided by the inspiration of flamenco with new themes of his own and in collaboration with the singer MARI DE CHAMBAO. For her part, CHAMBAO will also present her latest work, Nuevo cycles, and will review her hits over the past decade.
THE BURNING OF JANUARY: Tuesday, 31st January at 18h in the field next to the Socioesportiu Perecaus, Canillo (Free) An ancient folk tradition, ‘La crema de gener’ (the burning of January) will be followed by sweet coca cake and hot chocolate. A large pine tree is felled, taken to the meeting place and replanted. It is then ceremoniously burnt on the last evening of January to leave behind what is often a very long, cold month. The ceremony is also known as ‘burning the tail of January’. In the old days it was only performed if January had been particularly bitter.
SPLIT: Tuesday, 31st January at 20.10 and Wednesday 1st and Thursday, 2nd February at 19.30 at the Cinemes Illa Carlemany, Escaldes-Engordany. Directed & written by M. Night Shyamalan. Starring: JAMES MCAVOY, ANYA TAYLOR-JOY, HALEY LU RICHARDSON. Three girls are kidnapped by a man with a diagnosed 23 distinct personalities, and they must try and escape before the apparent emergence of a frightful new 24th. appears. (116 minutes long. Ages 16 and over. Drama, Horror, Mystery & Suspense.)
MOUNTAIN AND TRAVEL FILMS: Wednesday, 1st February at 21h at the Teatre de les Fontetes, La Massana. (Free) The opening film in the Mountain and Travel film series of La Massana-Ordino, 2017. In 2010, a young, 22-year-old photographer, JORDI SARAGOSSA, delved into the world of mountain sports photography. Seven years later, he has photographed more than 40 races from around the world, from the Transvulcania in the Canaries to KIMA in Italy, through the Hardrock in the US, Tromso SkyRace in Norway and HongKong50 from China. During the summer, he was mainly engaged in following the Salomon International Team and shadowing KILIAN JORNET. His work tries to explain, through photographs, what happens in front of his camera, but he cannot share everything that happens just behind the scenes. A thousand and one accompanying anecdotes, videos to laugh at, experiences to cry over, and above all, Jordi is eager to share the dream of what it is to work for fun.
FUSI (Corazón Gigante) Wednesday, 1st February at 21.30 at the Teatre Comunal, Andorra la Vella. (5€ or 3€ for members of the Cine Club de les Valls. 1h 34min. Art House, Drama, shot in Icelandic! Sadly, one cannot tell what language it will be shown in but I presume a knowledge of Spanish will be useful.) Directed by Dagur Kári Starring: GUNNAR JÓNSSON, ILMUR KRISTJÁNSDÓTTIR, SIGURJÓN KJARTANSSON. Fusi, a 43-year-old man, still lives with his mother. His daily life is characterized by one of monotonous routine. The appearance of vibrant Alma and young Hera will upset his old bachelor habits. The film’s world premiere took place at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival in the Berlinale Special programme. It won prizes for best narrative feature, actor and screenplay at the 2015 New York Tribeca Film Festival. The film also won the 2015 Nordic Council Film Prize. All Rotten Tomatoes critics are positive!
If you want to learn more in depth about Andorra try reading “Andorra Revealed”.