Edward Allcard, Solo Sailor on the High Seas, Dies at 102
By RICHARD SANDOMIR, NY Times – AUG. 18, 2017
Edward Allcard, who was said to be the first person to sail both ways across the Atlantic Ocean single-handedly — save for a stretch with a young woman who stowed away on his return home to England — died on July 28 in Andorra, a principality in the Pyrenees Mountains, where he lived. He was 102.
His wife, Clare Allcard, said the cause was complications of a broken leg.
A bearded adventurer who loved life alone on the sea — he also circumnavigated the globe on his own — Mr. Allcard was a child in England when he first thought of sailing for America. When that time came, in 1948, he chose to do it aboard Temptress, a 34-foot yawl, built in 1910, that had not sailed for a decade.
To test the craft, he sailed first to Gibraltar, Spain. On the way, a storm sent water pouring into the boat.
“There was no escape,” he wrote in “Single-Handed Passage” (1950), his account of his trans-Atlantic voyage. As he braced himself in his galley seat, stirring porridge with a wooden spoon, anxious thoughts began to overwhelm him.
“The boat was untested and not ready for a gale,” he recalled thinking. “Were the fastenings all right? Would a plank spring? Would she spew her caulking? And so it went on. At each heavy lurch, I whispered, `Damn.’ ”
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After reaching Gibraltar, Mr. Allcard spent the winter making repairs to Temptress before setting off for America.
During the crossing, which took 81 days, he survived fierce gales and squalls, one of which capsized his boat; a near-collision with a whale; and encounters with sharks.
“Sharks never came too near me when I was bathing,” he wrote. “However, several times in the calm, a shark came to scratch its back on the topsides, whereupon I would hold my revolver to its head and fire.”
A thousand miles before reaching Sandy Hook, N.J., he began to feel joy about soon reaching his goal. But he also wondered if leaving the comfort of the water would not suit his loner’s personality. What was there to celebrate?, he remembered thinking. “Getting near to the artificialities and impurities of civilization, where money was God?”
The voyage from Gibraltar ended in the Bronx, at City Island, on Aug. 9, 1949. His brown hair had been bleached white. He had lost about 20 pounds. And without a visa, he was temporarily detained by the immigration authorities.
Mr. Allcard stayed in the United States for about a year as he made more repairs on Temptress. On his lengthy return to England, he wrote in his log: “Hurricane. Impossible to differentiate between wind and water 60 feet high. Boat vibrating on beam ends rolled over 100 degrees.”
Six weeks later, on Oct. 21, 1950, he wrote: “Overwhelmed by gigantic sea. Upside down. Mizzen and stern mast dismantled.”
While leaving Fayal, an island in the Azores, where the boat again needed repairs (and he needed to heal from broken toes and cracked ribs), he found a young woman, Otilia Frayao, stowed away in his cabin. They had met ashore several times, and she had been on the boat in the company of others.
Miss Frayao, who was described as a poet, told reporters that she had been bored and seeking a more intellectually stimulating life — and that reading “Single-Handed Passage,” which he had lent to her, had inspired her to sneak onto his boat.
She became, in effect, his crew for a few weeks before they parted in Casablanca, where he denied rumors of a romance between the two. He continued on to Plymouth, England.
Their lives intersected decades later; she was living in Zaragoza, Spain — only hours from his home in Andorra, between France and Spain — and visited him on his 95th birthday.
When his book about his voyage home, “Temptress Returns,” was published in 1953, the marine engineer and author William McFee wrote in The New York Times: “Mr. Allcard should not be disappointed if his readers show more interest in his stowaway than in his struggles with the elements. It is no reflection on his storytelling talent.”
Edward Cecil Allcard was born on Oct. 31, 1914, in Walton-on Thames, a suburb of London. His father, Rupert, was a stockbroker; his mother, the former Helen Whitmore, was a homemaker.
By age 6, Edward was sailing; when he was 12, his grandfather gave him a 15-foot sailing dinghy, which he plied the length of the tidal Thames two years later.
He graduated from Eton College and later, while continuing his studies at Chillon College, on Lake Geneva, Switzerland, he was coxswain to a winning racing boat.
After apprenticeships in shipbuilding yards, he became a naval architect. Poor eyesight disqualified him from serving in the Royal Navy during World War II, so he went to work in the Air Ministry, supervising the building and testing of air-rescue craft. He seriously injured a leg during a bombing in London.
Mr. Allcard began his seafaring life in earnest after the war, setting sail whenever he pleased, earning money over the years as a writer, charter skipper, hotel maintenance manager and rehabilitater of old wooden boats, which he sold for a profit.
“I’m not looking for something,” he told the British newspaper The Sunday Express in the late 1960s. “I’m just living. In fact, I’m a steady, home-loving type. My boat is my home. I’ve been at home longer than most people stay in one house.”
He began his solo around-the-world odyssey in 1961, a leisurely adventure that took him about a dozen years, on a 36-foot ketch called the Sea Wanderer. The trip included a 2,800-mile race against his friend Peter Tangvald from the Canary Islands to Antigua in the Caribbean — Mr. Allcard lost and paid Mr. Tangvald a $1 prize — and a long trip around Cape Horn, the subject of his final book, “Solo Around Cape Horn,” published last year.
“He was out to see the planet,” his wife, the former Clare Thompson, said in a telephone interview. “He wasn’t out to prove anything. He was living on the boat. If he liked a place, he’d stop there.
“He stopped for six months near Cape Horn. He stayed for a year in New Zealand. He didn’t want to have any records.”
Indeed, he had stopped his trip to meet and marry her.
Clare Thompson had been a patient in a psychiatric hospital when she read The Sunday Express article about Mr. Allcard, taking particular note when he was quoted as saying that “the ideal” for him would be to find a woman who would sail with him.
She wrote to him; they met in 1967 in Hove, on the south coast of England, started traveling together soon after and married in 1973.
He continued his solo journeys. On one, in the Indian Ocean, he had been heading for Mombasa, Kenya, on he East Coast of Africa when he went off course and landed in the Seychelles instead. For three months he lost contact with his family. (He and wife had a year-old daughter by then.)
A belated telegram from Mr. Allcard told her, “Delete Mombasa substitute Seychelles have found love nest come soonest.” They bought 17 acres on a coconut plantation and lived there for several years.
Later, after hiring a small crew — they agreed to only room and board in exchange for their work — he and his wife wandered the world in a 69-foot trading vessel called the Johanne Regina.
Mr. Allcard stopped sailing, at 91, when he realized he could no longer perform strenuous onboard tasks.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his daughters, Kate Krabel and Dona Mackereth; four grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. A previous marriage ended in divorce.
The success of Mr. Allcard’s first trip across the Atlantic established him as one of the world’s foremost mariners, as well as a deft chronicler of seafaring.
In “Single-Handed Passage,” he wrote about leaving Gibraltar. He started the engine. He cast off his lines. And he thought to himself: “My last line with the shore was severed — at least for the rest of the summer and possibly for all time. Only the final reckoning would prevent me from reaching the other side of the Atlantic.”
A version of this article appears in print on August 19, 2017, on Page D6 of the New York edition with the headline: Edward Cecil Allcard, Said to Be First to Crisscross the Atlantic Alone, Dies at 102.