After last monthís article I decided to take my own advice and checked Irving Johnson: High Seas Adventurer from our local library. Reading about this dynamic couple can be impressive, but seeing footage of them is astounding!
As you may recall I mentioned 7 global circumnavigationís the Johnsonís would embark upon during their marriage. The film focuses on two of these, as they are the most unique. These two voyages also became fantastic books, credited to Irving, but also penned by Electa Johnson.
The first book, and coinciding 1961-62 voyage, Yankee Sails Across Europe, follows the Johnsonís as they cruise the canals and intercoastal waterways of Western and Northern Europe. In order to make the canal portions of the journey, Yankeeís mast was modified so it could be laid lengthwise across her deck. This enabled the Johnsonís to maneuver through the tight tunnels lying ahead in their path. The film shows footage of one such tunneling. It is the one time you see concern on Captain Johnsonís face throughout the film. With less than a foot of clearance on either side, in a dark tunnel, utilizing navigation & flashlights, and crew to spot, Irving successfully makes the tunnel. (Gripping footage for any sailor, to say the least.)
The Yankee then made itís way to Egypt. A following book, Yankee Sails the Nile (1966), documents this trip. Footage captures Yankee sailing right up to ancient monuments as she makes her way through the Nile. At one point, the vessel entered open water where the tide was falling drastically. Irving grounded the boat, tossed a ladder overboard, and scrubbed the hull on the sandy beach. When the tide came back up, Yankee was one her way.
Aside from their life at sea the Johnsonís penned a total of 9 books, and 14 articles. They traveled across the United States and spoke publicly for most of their lives. Their entire collection of papers and correspondence is housed at the Mystic Seaport: Museum of America and the Sea.
In 2002 The Los Angeles Maritime Institute unveiled their new training Brigantine, Exy Johnson. Itís mate, the Brigantine Irving Johnson was launched in 2003. These vessels were built for the purpose of training in a ďhands onĒ style similar to that of the Johnsonís. (In March of 2005 the Irving Johnson went aground near Oxnard, California. The re-commissioning of the vessel was scheduled for earlier this year.)
Their books are out of print, but can be purchased online with various booksellers and auction houses. Mystic Seaport carries copies of Irving Johnson: High Seas Adventurer. And of course, donít forget your library system.
I also suggest searching the Johnsonís on the web. They are not always easy to find, so try using the boat names, along with their names. Back issues of National Geographic can be purchased featuring articles by the Johnsonís.
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