The painting depicts John Caldwell in 1946 on his yacht Pagan making temporary repairs to one of the starboard shrouds which has parted in the storm conditions shortly before the vessel is dismasted. Pagan is sliding off the back of a massive wave with her bow starting to plunge into the breaking seas ahead. The bow line to the sea anchor is slack as the vessel moves ahead of the line, and the remains of the trysail trail astern.
In his book Desperate Voyage which describes his attempt to sail across the Pacific from Panama, to reach his Australian bride, John describes the fearful conditions: “… She pointed in a fast glide down the back side of a moving mountain. She plunged bow-on into the base of the next, submerging the forepeak, and quaking under the load of tons of green water.” And the challenge of moving about the decks using the lifelines he had strung along the deck: “I pulled myself ahead a few feet and locked myself, feet and hands, around the knotted line. When the decks spilled themselves of eddying water, and when for a moment I could expose myself, I freed my waistline on the handrail, moved it forward a length, and slid up under it.”
Specifications and details on the Pagan:
Marconi Cutter Norwegian Design – previously a supply boat for lighthouses in the Baltic.
Previously called Dwaja and crossed Atlantic in 1934 from Poland.
Length overall 29ft
An interesting account of John Caldwell’s sailing adventure, colourful writings and subsequent life history can be found at the Caribbean Compass website.