Boats of a certain age have history, but not always a history as interesting as Gjoa’s. I’ve written previously about the two-year Northwest Passage just completed by Gjoa’s most recent owners, Ann and Glenn Bainbridge. It was on this passage and a waylay in Arctic Bay, Nunavut, that I first met them both.
The Bainbridges remained the winter in the Arctic. They put Gjoa on the hard in Cambridge Bay in the fall of 2014 and moved aboard a tug, Tandberg Polar, which they maintained until spring when the Norwegian crew returned, and then they, in Gjoa, continued on to Nome and eventually Homer.
For most boats that would be history enough. But not this boat.
Gjoa was built in Germany in 1989 for journalist, photographer, adventurer, Clark Stede, who, with Delius Klasing sailed then-named Asma around the Americas (west through the Northwest Passage, east about the Horn) between 1990 and 1993. Their book, Rund Amerika, is aboard, and is simply full of boat construction details, outfitting details, route details, weather details … all in German. I can’t read a word.
Gjoa’s next owners were at least as adventurous, maybe more so. Tony and Coryn Gooch bought Asma in 1994, renamed her Taonui and took off. They had been cruising for a number of years in smaller, fiberglass boats, but were keen to explore the high latitudes, for whose demanding conditions a stronger vessel was needed. For 16 years they crisscrossed the globe every which way, sailing summers and putting Taonui on the hard in winter, such that a map of their travels looks like a game of cat’s cradle approaching its maturity.
In 2002, Tony set out from Victoria, BC to solo the globe via the southern ocean because, “I wanted to get down there one last time while I was still fit and healthy enough to handle hard sailing and enjoy it all.” He was in his sixties. Tony made the loop in 177 days. Distance: 24,000 miles. Average speed: 137 miles a day.
This brief history of Gjoa / Taonui / Asma may go some way to explaining my initial and continued attraction.