John Heath is one of those larger than life characters. He undertakes things that make the achievements of the average man pale into insignificance. He however dismisses these exploits as mere challenges along the way to achieving the goal. The goal in question, and the subject of John's presentation at the start of season party, was the trifling problems of building, from scratch, on a beach in Turkey, in 14 months, an 18th century square rigged galleon!
The problems associated with a lack of plans, unavailability of the right kind of wood in the sheer sizes required, a Turkish workforce who didn't speak English, and a site which was on a sandbar just seemed to be minor inconveniences to be overcome. And overcome they were. John's lecture was riveting, you could have heard a pin drop in the clubhouse. His easy going manner and humours approach to his subject was as amusing as it was informative. The statistics that John kept throwing out were mind boggling. The logistics, sizes and weights involved were apparent in the excellent photographs. This included at one point the hull beginning to sink into the sandbar because of its daily increasing weight. John went to great lengths to praise the skill of his team. Mostly Turkish builders armed with chain saws and an ability to use whatever materials were to hand even when this include the wooden scaffolding originally erected around the ship, and at one point John's own drawing board.
Even when the hull was finished, complete with twin diesel engines the problems didn't stop. The intended launch ramp had been filled in and the boat had to be manhandled to a different spot. The launch itself was a story in its own right, with the galleon vanishing out into the harbour, and having to be rescued the following morning. A throw away line at the end concerned the fact that the two propellers had been mounted on the wrong shafts and the services of a salvage company were required to swap them over underwater !
The saddest part of the whole evening had to be John's comment that after all of this 'Grand Turk' will hardly ever be sailed in the way for which she was design and built. There are so few people qualified to Master and Crew such a boat, she will spend most of her life as a diesel powered motor cruiser ……. Ironic isn't it !
Many thanks to John Heath and his team for the presentation and to everybody involved in putting the evening together, it was a classic !
Mike (Over Easy) Baker