You absolutely cannot make this stuff up! The true story of Thomas Tangvald—born and raised at sea, orphaned in a wreck and cast ashore at age 15—is finding traction with both sailors and land folk fascinated by “the freedom one finds in any life close to nature.”
I have many interesting pix that were not published in the biography I wrote about Thomas and have been sharing them here. Today’s dose of extracurricular art focuses on the “nativo” sloop Oasis that Thomas sailed with his heavily pregnant wife, Christina, and young son, Gaston, 1,300 hard upwind miles from Puerto Rico to Brazil. (The photo up top, which does appear in the book, shows Thomas aboard Oasis off the island of St. John, en route to Brazil.) This was Thomas’ penultimate voyage. This in a life that was full of voyages, starting from the moment he was born. Truly he led a life like no other.
The first photo (below) shows Oasis with her original rig. The nativo sailing sloops of Puerto Rico’s east coast were traditionally designed as fishing boats, but later (as is common in the Caribbean) were modified with enormous rigs and sails and used for racing. Note that the hull of the boat is very low to the water and the mast is very tall! The unpainted plywood box in the middle of the deck is the cabinhouse Thomas tacked on after he bought the boat in 2010, with the explicit intention of sailing her to Brazil. Originally, in place of the house, there was only an open cockpit:
To get a sense of what the boat was like before Thomas made any changes, you can watch this video he posted to YouTube, which shows him, Christina, and Gaston taking the boat on a short trip soon after she was purchased. Thomas, who spent a good part of his childhood in Puerto Rico, was a big fan of nativo racing sloops and believed Oasis was the finest one ever built.
The photo to the right shows how much Thomas shortened the mast to turn Oasis into an ocean cruiser. You can see also how he resized the original mainsail to fit the new gaff rig.
Next we see Oasis out of the water (in St. Martin, on the way to Brazil). Like any nativo sloop, she was very deep, with a full keel, and carried no engine. You can see the end of the sculling oar that Thomas used instead of an engine poking out over the transom to the right.
And here we see Thomas actually sculling with the oar to propel the boat into a harbor.
This next shot shows the helm position on the boat and Thomas steering with a tiller. This remained unchanged and is how the boat was steered all the way across the ocean to Brazil.
Here we see the middle of the interior of the boat after it was modified. Not exactly luxury accommodations.
And this is Christina working in the very simple galley, which was right beneath the companionway hatch.
Thomas and Christina shared one double berth aft, crammed in with very little vertical clearance under the aft deck.
Gaston, meanwhile, slept in this little bunk berth forward of the mast.
As I mentioned, Christina was heavily pregnant during the voyage to Brazil. Here we see her buying provisions at the island of Dominica, just before Oasis and her crew took off on the longest leg of their journey.
Nineteen days after leaving Dominica, Oasis finally arrived at Oiapoque, Brazil. She was towed the last few miles up the river there by a friendly local fishing boat.
Thomas on deck, with gear drying out, after anchoring off Oiapoque
Just three days after the family arrived in Brazil, Christina gave birth to a second son, Lucio, on the deck of Oasis, under a makeshift tent Thomas slung over the boom. Lucio was the third in his line born afloat, after Thomas (born on his dad’s boat in the middle of the Indian Ocean) and Thomas’s mom, Lydia, (born on an inter-island ferry in New Caledonia).
The family on deck together, not long after the birth of Lucio.
Unfortunately, the family wasn’t allowed to stay in Brazil and had to sail on to Cayenne, French Guiana, to straighten out their immigration paperwork. Here we see Thomas (in the background) working on the boat in Cayenne.
And here’s the boat at the Marina Degrad des Cannes, not long before Thomas set out on her, singlehanded, bound back to Brazil.
Thomas sailed alone out of Cayenne on March 4, 2014, and was never seen again. Some believe that he must by now be “king of a lost tribe up a river somewhere.”
To learn all the details of what happened aboard Oasis—including a pirate boarding and what Christina described as “a shipwreck”—you’ll have to check out my book! You’ll find that the rest of Thomas’s life was pretty dramatic too!
You can also listen to a podcast of me discussing the book with Andy Schell of 59 North. Or read a brief review from Ocean Navigator. Or check out an adapted excerpt in SAIL Magazine that tells of Thomas and another boat he owned that he sailed solo across the Atlantic. For more cool pix check out earlier posts on WaveTrain!!!
Shared with permission by SAIL Cruising Editor Charlie Doane, from Wavetrain