Regattas expeditions adventures. Stories of men and their boat


Just him, the writer known for novels such as “The Iron Heel”, “Martin Eden”, “White Fang” and “The Call of the Wild” had a dream … navigate.

A dream turned into a project and then became a reality.

 The Cruise of the Snark

It began in the swimming pool at Glen Ellen. Between swims it was our wont to come out and lie in the sand and let our skins breathe the warm air and soak in the sunshine.


Roscoe was a yachtsman. I had followed the sea a bit. It was inevitable that we should talk about boats. We talked about small boats and the seaworthiness of small boats. We instanced Captain Slocum and his three years’ voyage around the world in the Spray.

We asserted that we were not afraid to go around the world in a small boat say forty feet long. We asserted furthermore that we would like to do it. We asserted finally that there was nothing in this world we’d like better than a chance to do it.

“Let us do it” we said . . . in fun.

Then I asked Charmian privily if she’d really care to do it and she said that it was too good to be true. The next time we breathed our skins in the sand by the swimming pool I said to Roscoe “Let us do it.” I was in earnest and so was he for he said:

“When shall we start?”

So the trip was decided upon and the building of the _Snark_ began. We named her the _Snark_ because we could not think of any other name—this information is given for the benefit of those who otherwise might think there is something occult in the name.

Our friends cannot understand why we make this voyage. They shudder and moan and raise their hands. No amount of explanation can make them comprehend that we are moving along the line of least resistance; that it is easier for us to go down to the sea in a small ship than to remain on dry land. They think I am crazy. In return I am sympathetic. It is a state of mind familiar to me. We are all prone to think there is something wrong with the mental processes of the man who disagrees with us.

The ultimate word is I LIKE. It lies beneath philosophy and is twined about the heart of life. When philosophy has maundered ponderously for a month telling the individual what he must do the individual says in an instant “I LIKE” and does something else and philosophy goes glimmering. It is I LIKE that makes the drunkard drink and the martyr wear a hair shirt; that makes one man a reveller and another man an anchorite; that makes one man pursue fame another gold another love and another God. Philosophy is very often a man’s way of explaining his own I LIKE.

But to return to the _Snark_ and why I for one want to journey in her around the world. The things I like constitute my set of values. The thing I like most of all is personal achievement—not achievement for the world’s applause but achievement for my own delight. It is the old “I did it! I did it! With my own hands I did it!” But personal achievement with me must be concrete. I’d rather win a water-fight in the swimming pool or remain astride a horse that is trying to get out from under me than write the great American novel. Each man to his liking. Some other fellow would prefer writing the great American novel to winning the water-fight or mastering the horse.

The _Snark_ is to be sailed. There will be a gasolene engine on board but it will be used only in case of emergency such as in bad water among reefs and shoals where a sudden calm in a swift current leaves a sailing-boat helpless. The rig of the _Snark_ is to be what is called the “ketch.” The ketch rig is a compromise between the yawl and the schooner. Of late years the yawl rig has proved the best for cruising. The ketch retains the cruising virtues of the yawl and in addition manages to embrace a few of the sailing virtues of the schooner. The foregoing must be taken with a pinch of salt. It is all theory in my head. I’ve never sailed a ketch nor even seen one. The theory commends itself to me. Wait till I get out on the ocean then I’ll be able to tell more about the cruising and sailing qualities of the ketch.

There will be no crew. Or rather Charmian Roscoe and I are the crew. We are going to do the thing with our own hands. With our own hands we’re going to circumnavigate the globe. Sail her or sink her with our own hands we’ll do it. Of course there will be a cook and a cabin-boy. Besides we’ve got to stand watch and work the ship. And also I’ve got to work at my trade of writing in order to feed us and to get new sails and tackle and keep the _Snark_ in efficient working order.

The voyage was our idea of a good time

(from: “The Cruise of the Snark” by Jack London )


  Jack London, the pseudonym of John Griffith Chaney London, was born in San Francisco January 12 of 1876, the illegitimate son of William H. Chaney, amateur astrologer, and Flora Wellman. To be his father John London, farmer grocer and overseer of the port which will accompany Jack several times along the coast to gather mussels and truffles on a boat.

And a boat of his own will be for Jack the dream of his life which was initially of hardship, odd jobs, dubious acquaintances, among the moles of Oakland and the waters of the bay of San Francisco infested with poachers, smugglers, sponges in a tavern.

With the first three hundred U.S. dollars earned in canning pickles and asparagus, he will be able to get their hands on the “Razzle Dazzle”, sloop of the oyster raider French Franck. He will become too, which has earned the nickname of Prince oyster pirate, even if, between a raid and the other, he will find the time to attend the public library in Oakland. Lost the “Razzle Dazzle”, he will embark on the “Reindeer”, a pirate ship of the bay, which will leave for the “California Fish Patrol” and, in 1893, to be a sailor on the “Sophie Sutherland” a three-masted sealers. After six months he was back in Oakland hired by a jute factory. (in the meantime he will win with Story of a Typhoon Off the Coast of Japan the literary contest of the Morning Call). Coal digger, student, worker in a laundry, in 1897 he embarked on the steamer Umatilla destination Klondike.

Meanwhile bloom his stories.

In 1902 he will be in South Africa to follow the war angloboera . Then to London to document with his cameras bellows living conditions of the proletariat of East Land . In 1904 during the Russo- Japanese is in the East as a war correspondent.

In 1905 after her divorce from Bessie Maddern wife Charmian Kittredge.

The ” Snark ” let up its moorings on April 23 1907 Hawaii destination . Aboard Jack and Charmian and Roscoe and a few crew members including Eames her uncle anything but a man of the sea which might be made to land in Hawaii along with two fake sailors.
Jack will be closed in the cockpit between tables of logarithms corrections sight lines to take care of the Snark without giving up its thousand words a day. The ticking of Remington Charmian become one of the most familiar sounds of life on board : she in fact the task of typing the manuscript of Jack.

Boarded the new crew the Snark will start at the time of the Marquesas Islands . After a brief return to San Francisco just in time to hand accounts Replace battery navigation will resume at a time of Bora Bora the
Samoa Fiji the New Hebrides the archipelago of Solomon. Mindful of the stories of Melville and Stevenson Jack London will cover the Pacific of the colonizers the unscrupulous adventurers slavers cannibals and lepers experiencing the taste of sailing with minimal technical knowledge but with a great passion.

But the crew is now exhausted and even Jack in need of care.

At Guadalcanal the Snark will be entrusted to Martin Johnson while Jack and Charmian back in America.

Escorted here in Sydney and resold intended more to transport goods to the slave trade the Snark will be seen years later on the island of Epi between poet and Ambrym New Hebrides with peeling paint the structures of the bridge dismantled without the foremast and the mizzen loose with the equipment a sign that they sailed steam.

In 1910 the couple London purchase the Roamer a yawl of nine meters on board of which will sail for months between the San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento River . The cabin is full of journals in agriculture travel projects adventurous stacks of books. And it is with one of these books in hand the story of a journey around Cape Horn on the morning of 22 November 1916 in Glen Ellen Jack London suffering from uremia sink into a coma never to return . He had had time to compose during a cruise in the Bay of San Francisco ” The joy of small boat sailing.”

“When a man has attended the school of the sea never left it. The salt soaks in the bone marrow in the air we breathe and hear the call of the sea until the end of his days.”

It was his will.

(source: S.E. Carnemolle )


Nomads in library


With this book Jack London gives to all those who cultivate the dream of escape by boat the certainty of being able to turn into reality telling all expectations and surprises but also all the hesitations and disappointments that every man of the earth turns facing the sea.

Here you will find a nice photogallery