USA, Virginia: Cruising Great Loses Second Boat

Jack van Ommen has lost his second Naja 30 cruising boat Fleetwood after a grounding on Mink Island, Virginia, at 4 a.m. on Wednesday.

Published 7 years ago, updated 6 years ago

As reported by Latitude 38.

For 12 years and 60,000 ocean miles, Jack van Ommen demonstrated that it’s almost impossible to be too old or too poor to cruise. Photo by Latitude 38.

June 30, 2017 – Mink Island, Virginia

Thanks to the Coast Guard, the stalwart adventurer, originally from Gig Harbor, Washington, is all right — although he’s still suffering back problems from a nasty onboard fall near Cabo Malo, Panama. He is now shipless and thus homeless but is being cared for by one of his daughters who lives only a three-hour drive from the wreck site.

Van Ommen had lost his first Naja 30 on a rocky corner of tiny Tagomago near Ibiza in Spain’s Balearic Islands in November 2013 after a series of storms. He was able to replace her with a sistership that he found in the Pacific Northwest.

Despite having lost two boats, both of which were plywood kit boats built in 1979, van Ommen remains a sailing hero of the Wanderer’s and a member of the Latitude 38Sailing Hall of Fame. And with good reason. Van Ommen, who turned 80 in February, didn’t start cruising until after he had gone bankrupt and turned 68.

Living exclusively on a Social Security budget of about $1,500 a month, van Ommen has managed to complete a 12-year circumnavigation that saw him singlehand 60,000 ocean miles and visit 60 countries. In the process, he also negotiated 570 locks, mostly during a circumnavigation of Western Europe via the Danube River and the Black Sea.

Van Ommen has emphatically demonstrated that age and a lack of money are almost never true obstacles to ocean adventuring.

Jack attributes the loss of his current Fleetwood to a lack of prudence. A problem with an engine ignition switch resulted in his not being ready to leave the dock until 4:30 p.m. Having already paid his bill at the marina and looking at favorable tides, he decided to take off rather than wait until morning. As a result, he believes he may have slept through his alarm going off. A shift in the wind direction put the boat on the beach.

Unable to get the boat off, he eventually had to take to his liferaft. A Coast Guard swimmer was lowered to help get him up to the chopper. Thus ended, almost before it started, his attempt at a Great Loop of the Eastern United States.

One of van Ommen’s great attributes is his positive outlook on life. “I have no idea what my next destination will be. My reputation as a navigator may be somewhat dubious, but I am a good multi-language boathand and cook, and excel as a house, pet and chicken sitter. Keep that in mind.  Something good will come out of the loss and disappointment.”

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