- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
And so it came to pass that Haftl and Smith, looking to buy a more commodious craft for their family outings, read an article in Multihull magazine about this radical new "self-righting trimaran" and decided to drive down to San Diego one fine June day and check this thing out. And who should be there, clomping about the boat's cockpit, thumping the hull with his cane and checking the rigging, but the ancient mariner himself.
"This is exactly the kind of boat I've been searching for for months," Jones declared. Haftl and Smith allowed that it was precisely what they'd been looking for, too.
Adjourning to a dockside patio for coffee, the three men started chatting "about human potential," Smith recalls, "about assisting youngsters who've been disabled in car crashes, about doing something that would benefit more people than I could ever touch in a lifetime." Six hours later, after "a lot of heavy talk," says Haftl, "some of it emotional, even spiritual at times," an agreement was struck: Haftl and Smith would buy the trimaran, modify and outfit her to accommodate Jones's handicap and then lease her to him for $1 a year, for three years.
Was it coincidence? Synchronistic fate? "Magic time all the way," says Smith. Haftl prefers to think of it as "an elegant solution to a lot of people's problems. Tristan Jones gets the boat he needs, Leo Surtees is getting the recognition he deserves, Bob Smith gets the opportunity to give something back to the world, and me, well, I got a few dreams fulfilled, as well. One of them was to help Tristan continue his writing, and we've done that. I don't think the world has given him sufficient material reward for what he has given the world. And I think we helped correct that situation a little, too."
Jones didn't begin writing his autobiographical sagas until he was past 50, presumably because he was too busy living the chapters of a wayfaring life that began in typical storybook fashion with a baptism at sea. He was born aboard a tramp steamer, skippered by his father, in the South Atlantic near a volcanic island called Tristan da Cunha that was as remote as the ship's cargo was far out—1,000 tons of sheep bones and a roller-skating rink, bound for Nova Scotia.
Jones was raised in the seaside hamlet of Llangareth, Wales and is the descendant of a long line of mariners, including, he claims, Christian Jones, captain of the Mayflower, and the pirate Henry Morgan. Thus it was only a matter of time—until his 14th birthday, to be exact—before young Tristan went to sea himself.
After two years as a deck boy on the sailing barge Second Apprentice, hauling coal and grain across the North Sea in the last days of the Age of Sail, Jones joined the Royal Navy, and before he was 18, three ships on which he served were sunk under him in World War II action. It was in Aden, in 1952, that guerrillas blew up his Royal Hydrographic Service survey ship, leaving him temporarily paralyzed and with a meager invalid's pension of $6 a week. He was rich in resolve, however, swearing, "I will go back to the sea, even if it kills me."
It almost did. By hook and a lot of crook, scrounging much of the needed gear from a Navy dockyard, Jones refurbished the antique 36-foot lifeboat Cresswell and, with a London Fire Brigade pumping engine that was rigged Rube Goldberg-style to the propeller, set sail on May 7, 1959—the eve of his 35th birthday—for the Arctic. There, icebound in a fjord and once almost crushed by a toppling iceberg, he spent 15 consecutive months without any human contact whatsoever.
Lonely? "Never," says Jones in response to the question he's asked most often, "mainly because no one ever told me I should be. Loneliness is, in fact, learned. It's imposed by society, along with a lot of other vices. Fear of being alone is nothing more than a symptom of self-pity, and to me there is simply no sense in feeling sorry for myself merely because some Viennese cocaine-sniffer scribbled that I should. So I don't."
Besides, there are always books. In Jones's case this means a shipboard library of some 150 volumes, mostly poetry, philosophy and history, which reflects the refined tastes of a self-taught grade-school dropout. While in the Arctic deep freeze, for example, he read The Complete Works of William Shakespeare twice, as well as other classic literature, and on command can summon an apt quotation to suit most any situation. Icebound in the Arctic? Easy. "A ddioddefwys a orfu," he says, citing an old Welsh proverb. "Who has endured has overcome."