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Thread: John Sowden and Tarmin, three times solo circumnavigator

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2021

    Default John Sowden and Tarmin, three times solo circumnavigator

    John Sowden was an unsung hero of the ocean voyaging world. Between 1966 and 1986, he completed three singlehanded tradewind circumnavigations of the world via the Panama Canal and the Cape of Good Hope, aboard his 25ft plank-on-frame Yachting World 5-tonner, Tarmin, designed by Robert Clark. The boat was built in by William King and Son in England in 1948, and John bought her in Mallorca in 1966. Tarmin had an 8hp Stuart Turner petrol engine but it was unreliable, and for much of his voyaging he sailed engineless. This may have been because Tarmin had an open cockpit, and any seawater that slopped in went straight into the bilges. He covered the engine with waterproof material, but the salty atmosphere would not have done the magneto much good. I asked John about that open cockpit when I met him in Durban in 1969, when I was an impressionable 17-year-old, and he just laughed. He said pumping the seawater out in gales kept the bilges sweet. During a ferocious gale off the Cape of Good Hope a few weeks later, he woke from a short sleep to find four inches of water slopping over the cabin sole, but he never did make that cockpit self-draining. He stated, and the record bears it out, that the Yachting World 5-tonner was a wonderful seaboat. Unfortunately, she was iron-fastened, like so many boat of her era, and getting a bit sick towards the end of her voyaging days. John died in 1990 and his logbooks were posthumously published by his sister, Joan Sowden Deily, titled, Alone on the Sea.
    Here Tarmin and John are in St Lucia in the late 1980s.
    Tarmin in St Lucia, West Indies.jpg
    And here Tarmin is on the slips in Durban in 1969.
    PICT0002 (13).jpg
    Attached Images Attached Images

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2000
    Conway, MA

    Default Re: John Sowden and Tarmin, three times solo circumnavigator

    Thank you, Graham!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Uki, NSW, Australia

    Default Re: John Sowden and Tarmin, three times solo circumnavigator

    Thanks Graham, I like the yacht.
    be modest, and be proud of it.

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