John Claus Voss

(c. 1854—1922)

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Canadian sea captain and pioneer small-boat ocean navigator. He spent many years at sea in square-rigged ships before being induced in 1897 to buy a 9-metre (30-ft) sloop, Xora, and sail with a companion some 9,600 kilometres (6,000 mls.) on a treasure-seeking voyage to the Cocos Islands. No treasure was found, but during this cruise Voss learned how safe even such a small vessel could be at sea. Slocum's solo circumnavigation in his 11-metre (36-ft) Spray had caused widespread interest after its completion in 1895, and in 1901 a Canadian newspaper reporter suggested to Voss that a fortune could be made from stories if, between them, they sailed round the world in a boat that was smaller than the Spray. Voss was attracted by the idea, but instead of acquiring a smaller version of the Spray, he fitted out an old 11.6-metre (38-ft) Indian war canoe, rigged her as a schooner with three short masts, and, accompanied by the reporter, set sail from Victoria, British Columbia. A severe gale in which the Tilikum, as Voss had named the canoe, rode to a drogue which he had contrived proved enough ocean experience for the reporter, who left at the next port of call. Voss continued the voyage across the Pacific to Australia and New Zealand, across the Indian Ocean to the Cape, and thence by way of Pernambuco in Brazil to London after a combined sailing and lecture tour of some three and a quarter years. The Tilikum was shown at a marine exhibition at Earls Court, London, in 1905, while Voss continued to give lectures on the voyage and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

After parting with his war canoe Voss next bought a tiny yawl, 5.8 metres (19 ft) on the waterline, and called her Sea Queen. Sailing with a companion around the islands of Japan he rode out a typhoon, again using the sea anchor he advocated for small craft. His voyages are described in his book The Venturesome Voyages of Captain Voss, which was first published in Japan in 1913. He died in reduced circumstances near San Francisco.

Subjects: Maritime History.

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