If at first you don’t succeed…

Plaque 19 Tzu Hang

Plaque 19 Tzu Hang

MIles and Beryl Smeeton

MIles and Beryl Smeeton

Brigadier Miles Richard Smeeton, DSO, MBE, MC (1906 -1988) and Beryl (1905 – 1979) bought Tzu Hang a 46′ Bermudian ketch In 1951 while visiting England from their home in Victoria. The vessel had been designed by HS Rouse and built in Hong Kong in 1939. Her name was believed to mean “under the protection of Guanyin”, the Taoist goddess of the sea and protector of sailors. They returned to Victoria, learning to sail on the way. In 1955 they sold their farm and sailed to Australia.

In December 1956 the Smeetons departed Melbourne to visit their daughter Clio at school in England, intending to follow the old clipper route eastbound around Cape Horn. It was a voyage very rarely been accomplished in small boats. They met by John Guzzwell who was sailing from Victoria to Hawaii in his self-made 20’6” yawl Trekka. Guzzwell stored Trekka with friends in New Zealand and joined the Smeetons aboard Tzu Hang for an exploration of the Hawaiian Islands. Later Guzzwell re-boarded Trekka to complete his circumnavigation later recounted in the book Trekka.

Tzu Hang

Tzu Hang

The Smeetons pressed on though when approaching Cape Horn, Tzu Hang was pitch poled by a rogue wave. Beryl, who had been on the helm, was tossed from the boat and injured. Tzu Hang was dismasted, partially submerged, with her topsides severely damaged, but they managed to sail their damaged vessel to Chile, where extensive repairs were undertaken. A year later, In 1957, Miles and Beryl again departed to round Cape Horn. However, in approximately the same position, beset by storms, another dismasting took place. Again, they managed to make the coast of Chile. Tzu Hang was shipped to England for repairs. These adventures were published in their acclaimed cruising book, Once is Enough.

After repairing the vessel, they embarked on a multi-year east-about circumnavigation. In 1968, they again attempted Cape Horn, this time west-about, and successfully rounded.

In 1969 the Smeetons sold Tzu Hang to thier friend, Bob Nance, and moved to Alberta to found the Cochrane Ecological Institute dedicated to breeding endangered wildlife. In 1982 Nance sold Tzu Hang reportedly to a drug dealer who used her for smuggling marijuana from Colombia to the United States. She was seized by US federal agents in the Virgin Islands in 1988 and sank at her moorings during hurricane Hugo in 1989. She was refloated but in 1990 she was destroyed by a bulldozer on a landfill in San Juan, Puerto Rico, allegedly the day funds to rescue her had arrived.

Miles Smeeton authored ten books and Beryl two. For their lifetime sailing achievements, the Smeetons were awarded the Blue Water Medal for 1973 by the Cruising Club of America, and the Royal Cruising Club’s Medal for Seamanship.

Beryl Smeeton died in Cochrane, and Miles died in Calgary at the age of 83.

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