Many years ago I came across a copy of “The Venturesome Voyage of Captain Voss” which describes his journey around the world in a British Columbian war canoe. For those of you haven’t read it is well worth seeking as there are some fascinating sections, for example, about his development of sea anchors as well as the numerous adventures which would occur whilst sailing a small boat around the world, although loosing your crew overboard whilst in the middle of the Pacific could be viewed as a bit extreme. What does come through the book is that he is a superb sailor although perhaps not a very pleasant human being and there have been discussions as to whether the mate was washed overboard or murdered.
There are numerous facts about the voyage which are indisputable. The “Tilikum” was purchased from a Nootka Indian on Vancouver Island. It was a red cedar dug out canoe and to make it seaworthy there were a number of modifications including raising the top sides and adding a cabin. The canoe had a length of 38 feet, so when Voss and his partner Norman Luxton, a journalist set sail from Victoria, on May 20th 1901, it was in one of the smallest craft to attempt a circumnavigation of the world.
The voyage last 3 years and 3 months, finishing in England. Although they didn’t return to the west of America, Voss considered that he had completed a circumnavigation because he had crossed all 3 of the major oceans, covering approximately 40,000 miles in the process.
Ownership of the Tilikum changed hands several times in the first 2 decades but the reality was she was falling into a very poor state. This was brought to the attention of some prominent inhabitants of Victoria and arrangements were made to ship the vessel back to Vancouver Island in 1930. Over the next 30 or so years the Tilikum was exhibited in various locations around Victoria until in 1965 she was moved to the Maritime Museum of British Columbia in 1965 and has remained on display there ever since.
You can imagine my frustration on returning home to Jersey, after some kayaking on Vancouver Island, to discover where the boat was on display. I had read the book but at this time was unaware of the history of the craft after 1904. Fortunately I returned to the west coast of Canada about 18 months later and pretty much at the top of my to do list was to visit the museum to see the Tilikum.
I wasn’t disappointed and if you ever find yourself in Victoria with a couple of spare hours head towards the Maritime Museum and acquaint yourself with one of the more significant small boat journeys of the early 20th Century.