The strange story of Constellation

This is a bit of a long-winded story, but bear with me: I've somehow regained ownership of Constellation, the boat I sailed from Europe to Australia, and I want to tell the story from the beginning - I promise it's interesting, and it all starts at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, 55km southwest of London... Next to the training ship Wishstream, a Camper & Nicholson 43, lay Prince Hamad, a Jeremy Rogers Contessa 26. Prince Hamad had been given to Sandhurst by a Middle Eastern prince as a leaving present for his son, who had done a course at the facility. The purpose of Prince Hamad, was to let competent cadets take her out by themselves, rather than sail Wishstream, which required an office to accompany them.

Unfortunately Prince Hamad broke free from her mooring in Alderney, when the crew were ashore and was a complete loss. Fortunately, Prince Hamad was replaced with a second Contessa 26, the aptly named Prince Hamad II, a baby-blue yacht launched 1972.

Prince Hamad II lived the life of a training ship for many years, before being bought up by a young family in the Southampton area, where she was sailed on weekends, and occasionally tacked across the channel to France. Renamed to Constellation, I like to think she was sailed to France purely for the purposes of loading the bilge up with Sauvignon Blanc and Gitanes, perilously returning on a lee-shore past the the foggy white cliffs of Dover...

Some years past, and Constellation ended up in Bursledon, a for-sale sign hanging from her bow: This is the bit where I come in. One cold day in Berlin, I called the yacht broker and offered them a quarter of the asking price, and a promise to pay the rest every month until the transaction was complete. The owners were romantics at heart, and decided it would be nice to have their old boat sail such a long way, and so the madness began. From that day in Berlin, until the day I arrived in Sydney, was very close to four years.

Constellation went on to: Sail through storms in the North Sea, ply the canals of Holland, cross the notorious Bay of Biscay, sail over the waters of Spain & Portugal in winter, voyage across the Atlantic ocean, visit the West Indies, haunt the Bermuda Triangle, anchor out front the Statue of Liberty, and hop a truck across the Rockies to 10,000ft, eventually arriving in Berkeley, California.

Re-assembled, she sailed to Hawaii, came within 50meters of being run down by a Korean tanker, dodged hurricanes en route to the mysterious Palmyra Atoll, survived a tsunami in Samoa, brought emergency rations to a stricken South Pacific Island, and eventually made her way to Sydney.

While my arrival in Australia was anti-climatic to say the least, it wasn't long before the deluge of red tape and paperwork weighed me under, and I put Constellation up for sale, despite her charismatic sense of adventure. The combination of shear tiredness, and the monies needed to import the boat were beyond me - I sold Constellation in Sydney to a man named Chris, and six months later, Chris asked me to re-advertise Constellation, which is where Dave appears. Dave had a great sense of adventure, and dreamed of sailing to New Zealand. He bought and trucked Constellation to Melbourne, renamed her to Constellation II (for federal registration purposes), and we were all oddly re-aquatinted again. Dave worked on Constellation for a year, replaced the engine, installed a life raft, bought all the necessary accoutrements for offshore sailing, and set off for New Zealand.

Unfortunately the voyage didn't go as planned, and Constellation II ended up being salvaged by fishermen in Bass Straight. Requiring emergency assistance, Dave was rescued by a Japanese grain tanker, and Constellation II was strapped to her tall sides. Unfortunately the speed of such a large vessel tore the cleats off, and Constellation II was set adrift, without her captain into the feared Straight.

Salvaged and returned to Dave after much negotiation, Constellation II has sat on her hard stand on the outskirts of Melbourne for over a year, in a dilapidated state. This is the part where I come in again...

Due to personal reasons and to ensure Constellation II might live on, Dave generously sold Constellation II back to me for $1, in the kind hope that I would have the energy and resources to revitalise her - he recognises she's a special boat with a special history, and wishes her to live on as much as I do:


This is very exciting, surprising, and very generous - however Constellation II will take many man-hours, and many thousands of dollars to bring back to life, coupled with some immediate storage issues in her current situation. I cannot afford to do a refit at the moment, never expecting to be the owner of two ships - barely able to afford the fees to keep her locked up in the few greedy Australian marinas (that's another story I might go into some other time)... So I'm not really sure what to do... However, I've vowed to make sure this old boat will live!

I think there are few boats on this earth with such a great story, although perhaps I'm biased...

What would you do? Any bright ideas?

Constellation's dramatic adventure

It's been quite awhile since I've written an update. I guess not a lot has been happening in my world of sailing... Until Dave (for those who missed it, Dave is the second owner of Constellation since I sailed into Australia almost exactly two years ago) decided to head off across the Tasman sea from Melbourne, for Opua, NZ. Unfortunately, he didn't get very far. The whole story involves hitting the EPIRB, being rescued by a Japanese freighter, Constellation being towed alongside said merchant vessel, pulling her cleats and going adrift, Dave being picked up by the water police, and a local fisherman salvaging Constellation and requesting a tidy ransom for her return... Read on for the full story from Dave.

This has all just unfolded over the last few days... I went down to see Dave near Wilson's Prom and see how he was going. Shaken, but otherwise physically fine. Constellation is being held by the fishermen, and Dave is in negotiations to come to an agreement on a reasonable salvage fee. There is a short article in the news about the retrieval here.

Constellation has sustained quite a lot of damage, all inflicted by being towed along the Japanese grain ship, and subsequent salvage. It breaks my heart to see her like this, having traveled with me for so many thousands of nautical miles, across two oceans, and even across America to 10,000ft above sea level, atop a sketchy trailer. She is a true battle ship, and thankfully will live to see another day. Another ocean. Another adventure. But right now she lays alongside an old fishing vessel, as the privateers negotiate with Dave and his understandably emotional and shaken headspace.

Read the full account from Dave himself on what happened here.

Dave and I before his departure

There is other damage including broken spreaders, most cleats being pulled off the deck, etc... But I think you get the idea, and I don't really like dwelling on the photos that much.





One year ago...

I finished sailing from Europe, and sold SV Constellation this time last year. So yesterday I put this on my leg:

To which I was sent this today from Captain Ted.


Jesse has hopped off to start sailing. Responses to questions soon...


Ask Jesse Martin a question about his upcoming adventure

Soon after I returned to Melbourne, Jesse Martin sent me an email asking if I was interested in having a drink. Of course I was. We met at the Grace Darling in Collingwood, which was rather fitting for two Melbourne-based sailors both born in 1981. I remember reading Jesse's book soon after his epic solo circumnavigation... I had zero interest in sailing. I was simply attracted to the adventure of it all, and also the fact that we were the same age, both doing such immensely different things... But, perhaps in reality, Jesse's voyage, and subsequent book is really what planted the seed. For those that need a really quick catch up; Jesse completed his solo circumnavigation in 1999 with great success, and became the youngest solo nonstop circumnavigator on the planet. Afterwards he went off on a voyage with a bunch of friends, which wasn't quite as successful (in the traditional sense). His proposed group circumnavigation fell less than a year after departing Melbourne - However Jesse made both a documentary, and wrote a book about the experience. That documentary, '5 Lost at Sea' didn't air until 2010. After the Kijana adventure, Jesse went on co-own and run a yacht charter company focusing on the areas around PNG.

Fast-forward nearly a year after our first meeting in early 2010 (with a few more in between), and Jesse is off on a brand new adventure. This time it's slightly different. There are no big sponsors. There are no great expectations from others. There is no grand plan other than 'to get to the other side', and there are no promises. Jesse has bought himself one of the world's most iconic small boats for doing exactly this kind of trip: The humble Contessa 26. Setting off this year from Panama, he will cross the Pacific on his own terms, alone; or however it turns out.

I've asked Jesse if I could ask him a few things about his trip, life, sailing, the past, and turning thirty this year. An interview of sorts. And in order to open it up and hopefully ask some really great questions, I'm opening it up to everyone who reads my blog. I'd like to focus on his upcoming trip, however, I think if you have some questions about Jesse you've never heard answered, and would like to ask him - This is your chance. Please ask your question in the comments field below.

Questions will be open for exactly one week - After that, they'll be locked down, and I will compile a list of your questions, and add a few of my own own. Not all questions will be put to Jesse - Only the best will be chosen - They will be moderated, so please do not ask anything rude or inappropriate, because I will just delete them.

These questions will be asked on camera in a video interview with Jesse before he heads off in Feb.

Thanks Jesse!