The painting depicts Captain John Voss at the helm of the 38ft wood dugout sailing canoe, Tilikum, off Tasman Island, Tasmania, bound for Invercargill New Zealand, having departed Hobart on the 9th February 1903. His crew member is Ed O.Donner who had joined him in Adelaide and was known as the Tattooed Man of Australia.
Captain Voss had sailed from Victoria B.C. across the Pacific to Australia and then to New Zealand, South Africa, South America and on to London sailing either solo or at most times with one crew member.The remarkable voyage is described in detail in his book The Venturesome Voyages of Captain Voss and although there are some issues raised about his character, there can be no denying that his seamanship skills were outstanding.
Tilikum was eventually restored and is now on display at the Maritime Museum of British Columbia and their website includes further details on this remarkable craft.
One item I struggled with in the painting was to portray the unusual bow figurehead of the canoe. I opted to represent it as it appears in a photograph in his book, when it was slipped in New Plymouth, New Zealand, rather than the fully decorated version on the restored canoe. There were also some inconsistencies with his departure date from Hobart with a reference to 27 January 1903 in his book whereas the local Hobart Newspaper on the 7th February reported he would be departing on the 9th of February.
Tilikum’s specifications are:-
Type of Vessel:- Nuu-chah-nulth cedar dug-out canoe
Name “Tilikum” Indian meaning is “Friend”
LOA including figurehead 38ft
Rigged with three short masts and total of 230sq ft sail.
All running gear led to the cockpit allowing for all sails to be set or taken in by the helmsman.
Waterline length 30ft