By Richard Crockett
While working on the SAILING Mag archives in the last few days I stumbled across 2 pics of a very old yacht taken in Durban Bay, so chose to do some super sleuthing to find out more.
My sleuthing took me to some editorial David Cox wrote in the January 2010 issue of SAILING. Having refreshed my memory I took to the internet and found a Blog entitled: Vixen’s Voyage – Around the World in a 34-foot Sailboat.
Pics of the boat looked like a match so I mailed Bruce Halabisky who now owns the boat and he confirmed that the pics were indeed of Vixen and must have been taken in 1958, and that he remembered David Cox from when Vixen visited Durban in 2010.
This is his reply to me:
“Good to hear from you and wonderful to see those photos of Vixen in Durban. I have never seen those photos.
“In John Guzzwell’s book Trekka Round the World he mentions anchoring next to Vixen on Christmas Day 1958 in Durban Harbor. For this reason we made a point of going into the Royal Natal Yacht Club in 2010 on our trip around the world.
“We had not been dockside for more than an hour or two when David Cox, who writes about sailing in SA, came down and said he knew Vixen from 1958! In fact, he had two different photos which he took of Vixen and later sent me.
“I suppose David might also be the photographer of the photos you sent. I can send you the article he wrote about the encounter if you are interested.
“Oddly enough, John Guzzwell, who was born in SA, is still alive and lives on this small island where we have landed north of Seattle in the Puget Sound. My daughters are friends with his grandchildren! Small world. I am looking at Vixen right now on her mooring with Mount Baker in the background.”
So with the pics positively identified, and having been taken 50 years ago on Durban Bay I have a sense of satisfaction in being able to identify them and also establishing contact with her current owner.
Below is what David Cox wrote in the January 2010 issue of SAILING Mag:
Vixen of Victoria B.C.
Late in 1958 I clearly remember the visit of Vixen from America. Owned and built for Jim Stark, she was a good seaworthy gaff cutter designed by William Atkin. She somewhat resembles Eric, a 32-footer, of which many have been built, also designed by Atkin.
Well, Vixen, at age 60, has just visited Durban again. I did wonder about it when I first saw her, but on going along and making myself known to the owners, I found that she was indeed the same boat.
Looking back into my archives, I found two pictures of her taken in a very different looking Durban yacht basin. According to her present owners, Bruce and Tiffany Halabisky, she was extensively restored by her last owner. They have been cruising in her for five years and have had no problems whatsoever. Bruce and Tiffany have a three-year-old daughter born in New Zealand. In this day of boats with refrigeration, water makers, hot and cold water and the like, it is great to see a couple travelling in this simple way in a (by today’s standards) very basic boat.
To elaborate on Eric, the Westsail 32 is based on her, as is Robin Knox- Johnston’s Suhaili of round the world fame. The original Eric, built in 1924, is still sailing in her original form, with very few changes having been made. Let’s wish the Halabisky couple good luck and a successful completion of their voyage. Perhaps we will see Vixen again sometime.