Tristan Jones is dead now but he left behind a remarkable life. Let's let the opening page of his book To Venture Further describe it for us: "Tristan Jones was born at sea off the island of Tristan de Cunha. At fourteen he left school for a seafaring life. In World War II, he served in Royal Navy destroyers on convoy duties to the USSR and later in the Far East. In 1952, he was severely wounded, physically discharged and told he would never walk again.
"Since then he has, unsponsored, sailed a record 420,000 miles in small ocean-craft: 180,000 of these solo. He has sailed the Atlantic twenty times, nine times alone. As a result of a war wound, Tristan's left leg was amputated just below the thigh in 1982 (he has had his right leg amputated as well just before he died.) Since then he ocean-sailed 26,000 miles to inspire other amputees.
"Tristan was a fellow of the Royal Geographic Society and the Explorer's Club, a member of the Royal Institute of Navigation, the Royal Naval Sailing Association, the Royal Yatching Association, an honorary life-member of the Slocum Society, and member of the Society of Authors. For his book The Incredible Voyage, he received a Distinguished Book Award from the Welsh Arts Society in 1978. He was among the first elected members of the "Cruising Hall of Fame" in the USA (Newport). Tristan was president of the Atlantis Society, which he formed to foster improved attitudes towards the disabled."
Before his death, Scott Murray, interviewed Mr Jones, and here are excerpts from that interview.
What projects have you recently initiated to help the handicapped here in Thailand?
I have now started work on a Wheelchair Access Guide to South-East Asia. The information is coming in steadily, and I am promised a load of stuff on Singapore soon. I have commenced a - so far - small campaign among hoteliers, to point out the vast market they are missing.
How do you think a greater general awareness of the handicapped can be achieved here in the Kingdom of Thailand, so that the disabled people can gain more respect and understanding?
By encouraging disabled foreigners to come here as tourists. Tourism = money, and money = at least acceptance as people. It's as simple as that. Once disabled people, especially in wheelchairs, are seen to spend money, they will not be looked down upon as much. Foreign disabled will come if they know where they can go safely, or more easily.
You are a modern day Marco Polo, or Christopher Columbus, with the spirit of a Norse Viking. Which past explorers influenced you the most, and why?
Merryweather Lewis (of the Lewis & Clarke expedition) because his descriptive prose is, to my mind, the best of all well-known explorers. Otherwise, Sir Ernest Shackleton - for his true courage.
Of all the trips you've made was there one that was more satisfying than all the others?
Probably the voyage on the twelve meter catamaran Gabriel which is described in my seventeenth book, to be published in October next by Sheridan House, USA. The voyage was out into the Andaman Sea, and returning to Phuket. It was made by myself, and one crew who has only one arm, and we reached speeds of sixteen knots. His name is Som, and people know of him from one of my previous books (To Venture Further), which describes a voyage right through Thailand, by sea and rivers, in 1987-1988.
Please tell us what the handicapped lads who accompanied you on your journey across the Kra are doing today?
Som is captain of his own passenger long-tail, also part-owner of a fish farm. Nok is employed on a deep-sea trawler, and Anant works as a gardener's assistant at a local hotel.
Since you first came to Thailand, have you noticed any consciousness raising in the way people treat the handicapped?
If you mean an improvement in public attitude; yes, very much so. Disabled kids are no longer hidden when strangers come by, or stopped from entering their family's home, as they were nine years ago. I like to think that our efforts, and my book helped towards this change in attitude.
In the past you have expressed your disdain for celebrities who have aligned themselves with causes for selfish purposes. Would you please mention a few noted personalities you respect for their work with either the handicapped, underprivileged, or indigenous people?
You do not specify "celebrities." You might celebrate someone I would not. The well-known people I admire for their work for others are far too many to list here. In modern times we could start with Father Damien, who gave his life to helping the Pacific Island lepers, and perhaps end up with some "rock musician" who, with little or no talent, tries to cheer up stricken people who have no idea what he's ranting about, and smile at him only because it's polite. I may admire neither his motives nor his "music", but by God I admire the persistence of those around him.
If someone wanted to pledge time or money to help a handicapped organization, would you please suggest some worthy organizations?
The most worthy organization I can suggest is my own Atlantis Society, a non-profit organization, the terms of which are to "improve the lot of disabled youngters everywhere in any way." I mostly support it myself from my book-earnings, but right now we would welcome donations. Anything donated goes into our work, and is tax deductible in the USA. The details are: Atlantic Society, a/c 3 043-114440, Chembank, 204, West 4th St., New York, NY 10014, USA.
Please describe some projects that you have initiated with the Atlantis Society to help the handicapped?
Read my books Outward leg, The Improbable Voyage, Somewheres East of Suez, and To Venture Further. These describe some Atlantis endeavors from 1982 to 1988. For more recent efforts, there's a conflict of interest here, as they are described in my upcoming book, Encounters, which is to be published in the fall. I don't wish to dilute anticipation of the events decribed in this book any further than they already have been in a 1993 issue of Sail magazine, USA. You must realize that by far the greatest part of the income of the Atlantis Society comes from my writings and royalties, and in these days of "instant fame" and "brief attention-spans" I don't want our voyage of "Gabriel" to be "old hat" before the book comes out. My most recent (written for the disabled) endeavor is ongoing now; I don't want to discuss it much before it reaches much further completion.
With reference to helping the "handicapped", hardly a day goes by when I do not receive notes of appreciation about this from some country, and often from craft at sea. Now they arrive by e-mail. I cannot reply to most of them, but it is always encouraging to know that efforts lead to results, even though these results, may not be immediately obvious. As for Thai people, (especially visitors from Bangkok) they greet me so effusively I am shy to go out at weekends.
For further information:WWW.tristanjones.20m.com