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#234542 - 04/05/07 09:08 PM cool books
Marty Offline
"Venturesome Voyages of Captain Voss"
or the shorter version

40,000 Miles in a Canoe
by John Claus Voss

Review: 40,000 Miles in a Canoe

I have ``The Venturesome Voyages of Captain Voss'', originally published in Japan, in 1913. That book contains three stories, two of which are in 40,000 Miles. The third story, an account of an island treasure hunt, was left out of 40,000 Miles, probably because it's considerably less interesting than the other two stories. I'm recommending the book ``40,000 Miles in a Canoe'' because it has all the interesting parts of the original, and the original is hard to find, and expensive.

Captain Voss and one companion left Victoria, British Columbia in 1901, in a decked-over dugout canoe which they bought from an old Indian. Their aim was to sail around the world and make their fortune by writing about it, as Captain Joshua Slocum had recently done. Along the way, his first crew member left after a mutiny at sea, and his second crew member was lost overboard. Voss and his canoe didn't make it quite all the way around the world, since they crossed only the Pacific and Indian Oceans and stopped in England. However, he definitely accomplished his underlying goal of making some money and writing a great story.

Voss was an experienced seaman, and his book is still an excellent resource on handling a small boat in bad weather. You will find it quoted approvingly by many authors writing on the subject, including the Pardys. By all accounts, Voss was not particularly articulate or well educated, and the fact that the book is so well written has caused speculation that the book may have been ghost-written by Weston Martyr, who wrote the introduction. I'm not convinced that Voss must necessarily have been a bad writer, but certainly the writing is as good as Martyr's.

The second story in this book tells of the short voyage of the Sea Queen, a tiny yawl in which Captain Voss and two companions set out from Tokyo and weathered a hurricane. Finally, there is a short appendix in which Voss summarised his advice on weathering storms at sea. This book is still one of the best sources of wisdom for small boat seamanship, and it's still one of the best non-fiction accounts of ocean voyaging in a small boat. If you're seriously planning to take a small boat offshore, you need this book. If you enjoy reading accounts of cruises, you need it. If you just enjoy good literature, you won't go wrong with this.

"The Voyages and Journeys of Captain Nathaniel Uring". About 1/3 of the book is about British Honduras. he was shipwrecked south of Belize and he and some crew trekked up to the Bay of Campeche.

"Our Man in Belize," which is a memoir written by
Richard Timothy Conroy who served as the Vice-Consulate for the US consulate
in Belize in the late 50s and early 60s.

He's changed the names of most people, although I do recognize a few of the
people. Some of you would probably recognize more.

One interesting little tidbit was that Belize was a destination for cars
stolen from the US 50 years ago. In the book, Conroy is being pressured by
Washington to do something about a list VINs for cars stolen from the US and
suspected to be in Belize. Conroy finally pays a personal visit to a
sergeant in the police department. Here's what the sergeant tells him:

"I'm going to tell you something in confidence. Then you are to go away and
not bother me anymore. I will let you know when you will get your list
checked, and coming over here won't get it done any sooner. And if your
boss does go to the governor, he won't enjoy the embarrassment it will
cause. . . We're both in the middle of this Mr. Vice Consul. But I can tell
you this much. The commissioner of police has an American car. It isn't a
new one; he bought it used. And when he decides to sell his car, then I'm
going to check your list. And not before."

Conroy also talks about the "Indivisible Man," who I believe has been
mentioned on this list before as the "Invisible Man." He wore dark pants,
black coat, black shirt, hat and his entire face was bandaged. Conroy said
he drove one of the old delivery bicycles. Conroy also related that the
Indivisible Man came to the consulate one day to report that an American in
an American car had knocked him down, destroyed his delivery bicycle and
that he wanted the consulate to pay for the bike. In the course of the
"negotiations," the Indivisible Man removed all of his bandages, and
revealed a very normal looking face.

I'm now reading about the aftermath of Hurricane Hattie when clean drinking
water was in very short supply, but liquor was plentiful. They first
started drinking beer because of its lower alcoholic content, but soon
progressed to hard liquor, and according to Conroy, many people were
half-drunk all the time until they were finally able to convince their
"rescuers" that they needed water almost more than anything else. (This
might have been a "slight" exaggeration, but it does make for some funny

#234543 - 04/05/07 09:08 PM Re: cool books [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
Has anyone ever seen this work, or know where it might be located in Belize?

Archives of British Honduras ... Being extracts and précis from records,
with maps. Edited, with historical note, by Major Sir John Alder Burdon,
governor and commander-in-chief in and over the colony of British Honduras.
Published by authority of the Governor in council on behalf of the West
India committee.


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