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Sir James McAlpine Brooks of Redonda – An Intrepid Aussie

Well, they all are, aren’t they? Intrepid, I mean.

This one is special. His name is Sir James McAlpine Brooks of Redonda and he can’t even remember when he first became interested in sailing. He thinks about five. His dad was a founding member of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia so there were always many boats in the family. So far Jim has owned ten.

At sixteen he helped bring a boat back to Sydney from the Hobart Race.

His first job was as an apprentice shipwright and he moved on to work at Swanson’s. The two owners of this yard retired so Jim bought the mould for a particular boat called the Carmen (31′) and went into business for himself.

He then was foreman of the shipyard in Middle Harbour, staying twelve years. and during this time he built his own boat, a 32′ Albatross.

His dad retired so Jim bought his father’s share of “Charinga” (an Aborigine word meaning a vessel full of stories).

His own big sailing story began with this hardy steel boat. Off he went up the east coast of Australia, across the South Java Sea, on to Borneo and across to northern Indonesia and then to Singapore. From there he sailed up the Mallaca Straits to Penang and Thailand where he spent five months. On the passage to Sri Lanka he picked up a distress call from a sailing boat they could just see on the horizon so he and his crewman went to investigate. There was the boat with an injured skipper, his head a mess of cuts and bruises. They got him down below and then found a doctor on the SSB who helped them with treatment until they managed to deliver him to a Sri Lankan hospital.

On their way again they were hit by a typhoon and suffered through four days of high seas, the boat proving her worth once again. They met another yacht off Oman that had been damaged by machine gun fire from pirates so they stopped to help with repairs.

Off Sudan they were sheltering from bad winds when they spotted a Coca Cola sign on the opposite shore of the bay they’d anchored in. It was too tempting so they hopped in the dinghy. As they finished a meager lunch a group of guys stood up and motioned that the two go outside and into a truck. They were all B-movie villains so their captives did as they were told and arrived soon at a police
station. Nobody spoke English and they were treated like bad guys themselves. After a whole day they began to concoct a whispered plan of escape which involved Jim throwing a plant pot full of gravel in the armed guard’s face, Jim would grab his rifle so at least it pointed up while his crewman laid out the other unarmed guard.

During the countdown to the dusk attack a truck drew up to the prison and a harassed bureaucrat came into the jail waving papers. In broken English he explained that all telephones were out so they’d tried to use their radio to try and release the two lads. The man, amazed and triumphant at finding Jim and his pal unharmed, drove them to their dinghy and happily waived goodbye.

Whew. The day of their arrival in Egypt Jim discovered that there was a Sting concert that night in the pyramid area. Tickets were $150 each so they hopped on a bus that was going to the ticket wicket five miles away (this was a pretty big concert).

The bus was full of Italians who all had tickets so when the bus went noisily through the gates Jim and his friend simply kept their seats while it was ushered through.

Jim stayed in Israel for a year working on several boats just north of Gaza. Then on to Cyprus, Turkey, the Corinth Canal, Corsica, Sardinia, Spain and Gibraltar.

He arrived in the Canaries, via a side-trip to Casablanca (Jim was a Bogart Fan and had to stop over). There he met the Lovely Elsa (not a Swedish beauty but aWelsh one) – they sailed across the Atlantic together and are still the best of friends. He arrived in Antigua with $20 and has been working for Woodstock Boatbuilding.

As you read this Jim is probably in the Southern Ocean or rounding the Horn delivering a three-masted schooner from New
Zealand to Maine.

Well, I told you he’s intrepid.

 

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