Monday, November 16, 2009
In 1968, John Riding’s book, ‘The Voyage of the Sea Egg’ was published by Pelham Books, UK. It gave an account of his adventuresome single-handed voyage aboard a 12’ micro-yacht across the Atlantic from France to New York. Later, Riding wrote a sequel, ‘Sea Egg Again: From Atlantic to Pacific’, describing his follow-on cruise southwards along the American coastline to the Panama Canal and into the Pacific, before heading northwards to Mexico. Departing from San Diego, he made the extraordinary crossing of the Pacific to New Zealand, effectively sailing halfway around the World.
Very little is known about what happened to the intrepid long-distance sailor and his tiny yacht after sailing from Kawau Island, on the NE coast of New Zealand’s North Island, in 1973. He expected the crossing of the Tasman Sea would take about 66 days, but he never arrived at Sydney, Australia, and in due time, he was declared, ‘lost at sea’. No trace of the vessel has ever been found. Possibly the last person to have had a conversation with the 33 year old British sailor was Michael Brien, who owned the yacht, ‘Swirly World’, which he used to tow ‘Sea Egg’ from Auckland to Kawua.
The seaworthiness of ‘Sea Egg’ was well proven and the competence of her crew was beyond question. So what did happen? Possible scenarios are: Total loss by fire; run down by ship; starvation and dehydration of crew due to being at sea too long through contrary currents and lack of wind, with the consequential loss of the vessel on reefs; dismasting, with similar consequences; vessel sunk by predator; loss of rudder or one of the keels, disabling the yacht; deliberate scuttling of the vessel and possible suicide though imbalance of mind, though this is unlikely because of Riding’s past achievements.