Our resident YouTube fanatic marvels at the generations of women who have crossed (and continue to cross) oceans on Wharram catamarans.
As I write, friends and admirers of the maverick multihull designer and occasional PBO contributor James Wharram, who passed away last November, are gathering in Cornwall to celebrate his remarkable life.
A parade of sail, including many of his designs, has set out from Falmouth to scatter his ashes, along with those of his wife Ruth Wharram (neé Merseburger), who passed away eight years ago.
It was 67 years ago that James, Ruth and Jutta Schultze-Rohnhof famously set off from Custom House Quay on the 23-foot Tanagaroa, on the first of many journeys that would inspire many over generations.
One of the oldest Wharram designs still afloat, the 41-foot plywood 1974 Narai Mara Noka was notably absent, having only just completed a lengthy – but obviously very low budget and at times ingenious – refit in St. Augustine Florida and set out towards Flores in the Azores.
Kiana Weltzien, the 26 year old American owner, acquired the boat in Panama in 2018 and is already on her third transatlantic passage with it.
Kiana has chosen to document her journey predominantly in prose on her blog, but recently tried her hand at vlogging, producing a couple of beautifully poetic videos.
The first borrows heavily from Ruth Wharram’s documentary about the building of their 51ft catamaran Tehini in the late 1960s by an army of young women (including Hanneke Boon, who would become James’ design partner and mother of his second son), segueing into her own refit of Mara Noka and subsequent Atlantic circuit.
The second video tells the story of Kiana’s gutsy solo passage from the Canaries to Guadeloupe during the early months of the pandemic.
For her current adventure, Kiana has teamed up with the Danish surfer/artist/activist Lærke Heilmann, and Chicago-based photographer Alizé Jireh to form the Women and the Wind project, which aims to promote positive action against plastic pollution while touring the Azores, Canary Islands and Cape Verde under sail.
They have been sharing short-form, playful videos of their preparations in the Captain’s log section of their website, and occasional photos and position reports via their Instagram account @womenandthewind.
I’m looking forward to the promised documentary series about this latest generation of independent, intelligent Wharram women.