'Nova Espero' sailing
'Nova Espero' with cabin
When I was 15, I had the privilege of being the regular crew aboard a miniature converted St Ives lugger. She had been converted to a gaff cutter with a low profile cabin, and she was kept on a mooring at Dartmouth, Devon, England. One particular weekend in 1949, hoards of people gathered by the quayside where there was a tiny clinker sloop. Strapped over her cockpit was an inverted pram dinghy acting as a cabin for her crew. I learned that Stanley and Colin Smith had recently arrived there in this 20’ boat from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. To me, she looked like a day sailer, but I realized her sea-keeping qualities must have been up to the job, as she had sailed thousands of miles from a land far beyond the horizon. She certainly had attractive, easy going lines, incorporating a buoyant bow and a wineglass shaped transom, the base of which was just clear of the water. The simplicity of her gunter-lug rig was evident, there being no backstay, only two shrouds either side of the mast and a double forestay. I have since learned that her waterline length was 16 feet, and her beam was 6 feet 3 inches. She drew 2 feet 10 inches when fully loaded with equipment, food and water for her North Atlantic crossing. That left just sufficient space for the two brothers to lie side by side, i.e., 6 feet by 4 feet. She had 3 feet 6 inches headroom. While on passage, generally one brother would be below, while the other would be at the helm. In their book, ‘Smiths at Sea’, published in 1951, they explained that through lack of funds they could not afford a sea-anchor, a chronometer, a log, oil-bags, or even oilskins! The only thing going for them was ‘hope’ for the future – hence they called their vessel, ‘Nova Espero’, meaning ‘new hope’.
On 17th May, 1951, Stanley Smith and Charles Violet departed from the Festival of Britain Site, London, aboard the ‘Nova Espero’ bound for New York. They were given a letter from the Mayor of London for the Mayor of New York. Damage sustained to the boat during a storm caused them top stop at the Azores to effect repairs. Wisely, before setting out on the voyage, ‘Nova Espero’ had been equipped with a proper cabin and a mizzen sail which would enable her to lie more comfortably to her sea anchor. The North Atlantic adventure to New York took about 18 weeks, via Newfoundland. In 1952 their book, ‘The Wind Calls the Tune’, describing the voyage, was published.
I can’t recollect how the ‘Nova Espero’ arrived back in England, but she may have been shipped on a cargo vessel. In 1962, Rupert Hart-Davis published, ‘Nova Espero’s Third Voyage’, written by Charles Violet, telling of his journey in the little boat through the French canals and of his adventures while exploring the Mediterranean.