The wife of boat builder James Wharram has passed away, aged 92
I’m very sad to announce that Ruth Wharram (née
Merseburger) has departed this life at
the age of 92, at home in Devoran, writes Hanneke Boon.
Ruth passed away in the early morning of 4 September.
Her health had been failing over the last
two years after a stroke the day after a fantastic 90th Birthday party
Ruth has been a great strength in our lives;
ever since she met James Wharram in 1951 she has guided and supported him
in his life’s efforts.
I first met Ruth in 1967 and have shared my life
with James and her since 1973. She has been a great friend to me and close ally
in all the work, travelling and sailing we have done together.
She never had children herself, but during her
life she has been ‘mother’ to Jutta’s son Hannes and ‘grandmother’ to my son
She was a great ocean sailor, sailing with James
and Jutta on their pioneering catamaranvoyages
across the Atlantic in the 1950, then more Atlantic crossings with Tehini, and
on Spirit of Gaia, when she was already in her
70s, she voyaged half way round the world.
friends invited her to join them on their boats, mostly Wharram catamarans, but
also other boats, even a monohull. Thus she crossed the Tasman Sea and made
more Atlantic crossings.
A woman of many talents
Ruth was a skilled navigator, managing to find her way
across the Atlantic on their first voyage with just a pocket watch and valve
radio. Later she was an expert at navigating by sextant in the days before GPS.
Besides this she was also an eager photographer, doing her own darkroom work
and she filmed the building of Tehini on a
hand-wound Bolex cine-camera.
She wrote articles about her sailing ventures,
which inspired others to try the sailing life.As
a pioneer woman ocean sailor and navigator she was an inspiration to many other
woman sailors that followed in her wake.
Since 1980 she ran the Wharram office,
communicating with customers all round the world, often writing letters late
into the night. The big family of Wharram catamaran owners and sailors was her
world; she was ‘mother’ to them all.
Whilst writing at her desk she would be
listening to classical music on Radio 3.
She only slowed down in this work in her mid
80s, when two knee replacements and a broken thigh made her no longer able to
travel easily, but she then learned to use a computer and she started to keep
in touch with her friends by email, she was also able to follow James and
myself on our Lapita Voyage via Internet.
This unfortunately came to an end by
a stroke at the age of 90, which deprived her of the ability to read and
affected her memory.
She had a second stroke last May and after
spending 2 months in hospital she was desperate to come home. She has been at
peace here and has said her farewells to all her close friends.
We all loved her dearly and will never forget
Ruth’ funeral will be on Friday 13 September – a
propitious date in the pagan calendar, dedicated to the goddess.