Anne Gaugue is a geographer and lecturer at Clermont-Ferrand University. She has kindly agreed to talk to Grand Large Café about her research on “Living at sea for pleasure”. She tells us of the characteristics and of the development of the population tempted to sail far away by addressing the following themes: typology, itineraries, duration of voyages, life on board and destinations off the beaten track.
Grand Large Café: What is the subject of your studies and how did you become interested in it?
Anne Gaugue – I am a geographer and I teach subjects related to tourism at university. For a few years now, geographers have been working on “the living”. To quote the title of Augustin Berque’s book, what does it mean to be a “human being on earth”? I thought of changing the subject by asking: What does it mean to be a “human being at sea”? Initially, I worked with fishermen who have no choice but to live at sea for their work. Then I turned my attention to long distance sailors around the world or across the Atlantic for periods of one or two years at a time. I chose this subject because I know people around me who live like this.
Grand Large Café: Where do you find your sources of information?
Anne Gaugue – I have three sources of information:
- lThe books, numerous books written by famous sailors, from Slocum to Moitessier and the crew of Damien…
- The Internet, by consulting Websites like Sail The World, your own – Grand Large Café, Borabora.com, Hisse et Oh or the Websites of navigators who have created their own blogs.
- Face to face interviews with sailors in harbours in France or during their travels, for instance in the Canaries where I conducted 10 days of interviews with competitors before the start of the ARC. .
Grand Large Café: Can we talk about the evolution of the population?
Anne Gaugue: My studies begin at the onset of ocean cruising, which dates from the end of the 19th century. I think, in particular, of Lord Thomas Brassey and his wife who, in 1876, left for an 11 month round-the-world cruise with more than 40 people on board, including children, their guests and the crew. That was the English aristocracy. Since then, blue water cruising has developed enormously. It can be said that at first, one took to the sea, because it was what aristocrats did or for scientific research or to conquer the world like Slocum or Gerbault. Then from the 30s to the 80s, sea adventurers got younger. They decided to ’see the world’ before starting work, like for example Ella Maillart, the Damien and Moitessier. Nowadays, they start later in life, in their forties or once retired. In the first case, they already have a professional life but go while the children are still young.
Grand Large Café: What are their motivations?
Anne Gaugue: Between the wars and until the 80s, the motivation was to break away from the modern world and western civilisation. Since the 80s, it is more like running away from an excessively stressful way of life. Sailors take their time, live close to nature and discover the world.
Grand Large Café: What are the preferred itineraries?
Anne Gaugue: The shorter the trip, the more precise the itinerary. Those who plan a one to three year cruise, generally adopt in general a classic itinerary around the Atlantic: from a European harbour to the Canaries and maybe Cape Verde Islands, across to the West Indies with a stopover in the Azores on the way back. Those who have three to five years ahead of them will sail around the world via the Panama Canal, the Polynesian islands and, for the last few years, back round the Cape of Good Hope rather risk than the Red Sea because of pirates. It seems clear that the longer the trip, the looser the itinerary. Those who manage to spend 20 years or even 30 years at sea, will crisscross the oceans, as did for instance, Tim and Pauline Carr, an English couple who even lived in South Georgia.
Grand Large Café: Are there different ways of travelling?
Anne Gaugue: Yes. Some leave for a set time, usually they have a residence ashore, sail for one to five years, and then come back home. Others will make several long cruises returning home each time. Finally, there are those who come and go, having kept a pied-à-terre in France. Their absence may last for one year or just six months; their return depending on the weather or family commitments… This is often the case with retired people who like spending some time with their children and grandchildren. These return trips have been made easier by the fact that there are more and more places in the world where boats can be left safely and by cheaper and cheaper flights.
Grand Large Café: Have you looked for stopovers off the beaten tracks?
Anne Gaugue: The preferred stopovers are often small islands not always easily accessible and where safe havens for sailing yachts are few and far between; such as Pitcairn and Easter Islands, Barrington west of the Galapagos, the Chagos and Tristan da Cunha.
Grand Large Café: Have you noticed during your studies, some rules emerging for the organisation of life aboard sailing yachts?
Anne Gaugue: Nowadays, couples share watches. In the 50s, until Moitessier, women did not take a watch so often because they cooked. For example, the Smeetons, when the couple rounded Cape Horn, Mrs Smeeton was at the helm, but she had set time aside for domestic chores. The same applied to the Van de Wieles and even the Moitessiers. There are also differences as far as the children are concerned. In the 50s, the children went to boarding school like in the case of the Smeetons. Also, during his first voyage with Françoise, Moitessier sent the children to a boarding school arguing that they could do what they wanted when they were older but in order to do so they must finish their studies. He totally changed his views with his last child, when they lived in the Pacific he forbade his son to go to school, however the child ran away to attend school.
When there are children on board, life is organised around their studies. Some parents even stop somewhere to send their children to school, and therefore choose their stopovers accordingly. This is often in Polynesia, Saint-Pierre and Miquelon or in Australia.
Département Métiers de la Culture
University of Clermont-Ferrand II and Equipe M.I.T.
Anne Gaugue has written “Affronter la mer, les marins pêcheurs au XXéme siècle” – Collection: La vie quotidienne – Published by Hachette – 2003
Some great navigators mentioned in this article and some useful links:
- Joshua Slocum – Joshua Slocum Society international
- Lord Thomas Brassey – A voyage on the “Sunbeam” by Mrs Brassey Edition Belford Clarke and Co, 1881.
- Bernard Moitessier – List of his publications.
- Damien – List of publications
- Michka – “Le grand départ et la vie sur l’eau” Albin Michel, 1977.
- Carr Tom and Pauline – Antarctic Oasis, under the spell of South Georgia Longitude – 1998
- Miles Smeeton – “Une fois suffit”, Arthaud, 1972
- Ella Maillart – List of publications.
- Annie Van de Wiele – Article in the magazine Voiles et Voiliers