From the Archive — From the April 2015 issue

A Floating Freehold

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It was a strange and pleasant life for me all this summer, sailing entirely alone by sea and river fifteen hundred miles, and with its toils, perils, and adventures heartily enjoyed.” Thus opens Captain MacGregor’s account of his third summer voyage in the Rob Roy. The two earlier voyages — one through Central Europe and the other over Norway and Sweden — have already been described in the pages of this Magazine; and it may certainly be presumed that this third voyage, more interesting than the former two, will command the attention of our readers.

The previous voyages were made in an oak canoe; their progress was mainly dependent upon muscular effort, and in the matter of food as well as of sleep they never permitted an absolute divorce from the land. So Captain MacGregor cogitated during the winter of 1866–67 how he might make the pleasure of a voyage complete by effecting a release from this degrading necessity of seeking rations and rest on shore. The result was that a beautiful little sailing boat took the place of the oak canoe, but the familiar name of “Rob Roy” was retained. “Once afloat in this,” says the Captain, “the water was my road, my home, my very world, for a long and splendid summer.”

The yawl has been carefully prepared in the most minute details. The Captain has no idea of getting swamped, smashed, stove in, or turned over by going adrift in a craft which has been huddled into being by some builder ignorant of what is wanted for a sailor traveler. “I resolved,” he says, “to have a thoroughly good sailing boat — the largest that could be well managed in rough weather by one strong man — and with every bolt, cleat, sheave, and rope well considered in relation to the questions: How will this work in a squall? on a rock? in the dark? or in a rushing tide? a crowded lock? — not to say in a storm?” The new boat was “first safe, next comfortable, and then fast.” Speed might have been insisted upon as the first quality if there had been two men to go aboard, one to pick up the other when he should fall over; but in this case the Captain was also to constitute the crew. The Rob Roy then is a lifeboat to begin with. She is seven feet breadth of beam and twenty-one feet long, and is thus capable of carrying in her cabin another boat — a little dinghy or punt — which is also a lifeboat, eight feet long, “to go ashore by, to take exercise in, and to use for a refuge in last resource if shipwrecked.”

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