On October 13 at 2:00 pm author John MacFarlane will give a virtual presentation about how Captain Voss’s voyage on the Tilikum changed recreational yachting forever.

Tilikum at Margate Harbour

Have you heard of Captain Voss and his around-the-world voyage in the dugout canoe Tilikum? Do you know the real story?

Voss was an international celebrity 120 years ago when he sailed a 38-foot Nuu-chah-nulth dugout canoe from Victoria, British Columbia to London, England.

If you’ve read John M. MacFarlane and Lynn J. Salmon’s book Around the World in a Dugout Canoe: The Untold story of Captain John Voss and the Tilikum you know as much of the story as anyone does. If you haven’t read the book but you’re aware of the voyage, there’s a chance you’re misinformed. That’s because until recently the official accounts of the voyage were riddled with inaccuracies.

A book that is said to be penned by Captain John Voss, The Venturesome Voyages of Captain Voss, has been in print continuously for 110 years. But the details of the voyage have been obscured by editors who got facts wrong and left out some of the most interesting parts of the story. Norman Luxton was Voss’s partner on the voyage. After Luxton’s death, his family published a book called Luxton’s Pacific Crossing. This book presents an unfavourable picture of Voss, and many of the details fail to correlate with Voss’s account.

John MacFarlane discovered some of these inconsistencies when he was asked to write a four-page article about Voss for a book. In his research for the article, he discovered contradictions in the two main accounts of the voyage. And he realized that the story was larger and more interesting than a four-page article could accommodate. So MacFarlane did what any writer would do: he turned the article into a book co-authored with Lynn Salmon. Through careful international research MacFarlane and Salmon have straightened out the facts and addressed the lingering rumors of murder on the voyage.

One fact that survived the rigours of research is that Voss is among the 100 greatest small craft voyagers of all time. The Tilikum voyage was a stunt that had long-lasting effects on recreational yachting. In those days, yachtsmen stuck close to the coast, but Voss demonstrated that offshore recreational cruising was both feasible and enjoyable. He also advanced the handling of small craft in heavy seas and popularized the use of sea anchors.

John MacFarlane is the author of 14 books on maritime and naval history as well as heritage and protected areas. He is the curator of The Nauticapedia and is Curator Emeritus of the Maritime Museum of British Columbia.  MacFarlane is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (London) and was awarded the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers in 2018.

Around the World in a Dugout Canoe the Untold Story of Captain John Voss and the Tilikum was on the B.C. Best Seller List for 25 weeks.

Tickets for this presentation are free. Use the button below to reserve your spot.