Jan White 1942 – Sailing heroes

Sails his round-the-world trips (2x) in silence, without GPS, but with compass, sextant and tow log. Special details: during his world tours he regularly sent ‘bottle mail’. An empty bottle with the details of the voyage and position was thrown overboard. He got many of those bottles back. Below from an Irish fisherman in 2009.

Little can be found about Jan Wit and his sailing trips. Although he has been a loyal member of the Coastal Sailing Association for many years, he has written accounts of his travels that have also been published in the yearbooks, but otherwise almost nothing has been recorded about his special journeys. And he is fine with that, he prefers no contact, he let us know via-via. So why the attention on his double-round-the-world tour? That’s exactly why! Two solo round-the-world trips using traditional navigation equipment only, the first with 1 stop and the second non-stop. Yes, seriously, it’s worth mentioning.

The first Bastaert van Campen (1973) is a steel turret set designed by GS Kroes and built at the W.Visscher shipyard in De Zande. In 1977, Jan takes a trip to Lofoten with this ship, in 4 weeks from and home; the report is concise and ends with “who is more interested in the details of the trip, just stop by and you are most welcome”.

After this, there are no reports of trips to be read at Kystsejlerne for several years. It may have to do with the sale of the old and the construction of the new Bastaert van Campen. It will be a steel set-rigged yacht designed by Dick Koopmans and, like the previous Bastaert, built at Visscher in De Zande. The first trip in 1983 goes to Spitsbergen. Conditions are so extreme on the ninth day of the trip that the ship slams flat 3 times within an hour at bft 10. After 14 days they enter the Barents Sea and anchor after 1600 miles on the east side of Bear Island. After 38 days, including 5 days in the Shetland Islands, Bastaert is back in the home port.

Jan Wit made the first solo round-the-world voyage from 1 July 1991 to 22 March 1992. The only stopover is in Hobart, Tasmania, where friends live. During the trip, Jan Wit used only conventional navigational tools such as compass, log and sextant. With signal flags and pennants “carefully sewn by my mother”, he could hail a ship en route six times, which reported its position to Scheveningen Radio. He also used empty bottles as “Bottle Mail” with a waterproof letter of position and a friendly chat inside. Although he ‘felt a polluter’, he ‘always cheerfully threw them over the wall’.

Bastaert van Campen sailed from Plymouth to Hobart in 118 days and needed 108 days for the return journey, including 42 days from Hobart to Cape Horn.

In July 1995, Jan travels again on a circumnavigation of the world. About his reasons for going around for the second time, he writes in his report: “Some people think that you can only have one great experience in your life, and that the secret of life is to reproduce that experience as often as possible. The way to get rid of that temptation is to give in to it.” He navigates again exclusively with the classic tools, compass, log and sextant.

In his opinion, Jan Wit and Bastaert hardly encounter difficulties along the way, although the circumstances are regularly very difficult. He mentions: “just opposite Tristan da Cunha we lie down for a night. The lengths beyond Cape Town at the entrance to the Indian Ocean form a high threshold where we almost trip. After two, what the English call ‘knock downs’, the keel out of the water, it is still unsettling when the cold seawater splashes violently through the slits around the sliding hatch”.

In the report we read further: “On the morning of the 120e Today, in ideal conditions in Stormbay, below Tasmania, I will drop my mail to my friends from the previous trip and catch a bag of fresh onions and the letters from home from them. I could have reached them by VHF at night and they would have let loose immediately. Beautiful moment.”

“On the previous trip we rounded Cape Horn on January 17, the same day as Robin Knox Johnston and now, after 169 days, Bernard de Moitessier needed the same number from Plymouth. I had hoped for it, I was in the best and much admired company. After the equator we have had no more running wind, two months crossing; very satisfied we returned to Plymouth on April 7th after 263 days.”

For the Coastal Sailors Association, Jan Wit is 3e member who sailed around the world on his own, and he is the first to do so non-stop. For this unique achievement in the history of the Coastal Sailing Association, he received the President’s Award and the Jubilee Scale. Jan van de Kustzeilers has previously received the President’s Award and the Jubilee Scale. His partner Paula received the Women’s Award in 1977 for the two-handed journey to Lofoten.

After these trips, the Far North continues to move. After 1997, we find annual mentions of trips to Iceland or Spitsbergen in the Coastal Sailors’ yearbooks. In 2000, Spitsbergen was again the intended destination, but a stationary high over the British Isles and an unsettled low over Scandinavia caused them to turn to the Azores. After two days in Fayal they sailed for Lerwick. Even after that, Jan Wit still makes good trips; in 2008 he and still the same Bastaert van Campen were awarded the Jubilee Scale for a trip to New Foundland.

Thanks to Jasper Bruinsma from Kystsejlerne

Every week, a mini-biography is published on Zeilhelden about a Dutch or Flemish sailor m/k who has accomplished something special. If you think you have a name that shouldn’t be missing from this gallery, send an email to redactie@zeilhelden.nl

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