Letter from George Millar to David Japp, January 1996

Dear Mr Japp

It certainly was a good day’s work when you bought Amokura. She was, almost certainly is, a great boat, a joy to handle, a truly wonderful seaboat. Isabel never forgave me for selling her. She wanted me to enter her in the first single-handed transatlantic race, but I had a new job in London, and wouldn’t go. That race was won by old Francis Chichester in a much smaller boat, and had we entered we’d have won by a mile, many miles.

Richard Carr was a POW with me in Italy, then Germany, and was a dear friend. I did not know the man who bought her from me, but Isabel and I, sailing up Falmouth Harbour, came upon her by happy chance. She was lying, miserable, in an outside berth. It broke our hearts. But Richard and Susan came to stay with us on our then Dorset house and farm. The four of us drove down and Richard, who had sailed with us, sail-stretching in the Solent when we had first bought her, did an instant deal with the Falmouth yard and got sea-jockeys to deliver her immediately to Groves & Gutteridge, then the best of the Cowes yards, for a very complete refit.

Richard and self both being Squadron members, we stayed there with our wives in comfort, and spent hours going over Amokura in her shed. We were deep-sea sailers, while Richard and Susan were then more Solent-orientated. They had every right to do what they wanted to her (and Richard already had heart trouble. They put Proctor spars in her (which I would have done because her spruce ones were worn out), but I would NEVER have cut down the height of her mainmast because she needed that big mainsail, especially to windward. The second alteration with which we disagreed was that they widened the self-draining cockpit, and the third that they installed a big Mercedes engine. Of course I know we were sailing cranks. Isabel got seasick when one motored.

When I bought her (in the Menai Straits) I sailed her round night and day with the yacht hand on her (She had been bought from Sir Ernest Harston, who built her at Moodys in 1939.) I sailed her with the Welsh hand, very good, Crosby’s young son, and couple picked up in a bar ashore. We went watch and watch and made a fast passage to Moodys, where I had Robert Clark waiting to survey. He gave her bad marks because he wanted me to buy one of his boats, but I didn’t believe him, for I knew she was a cracker. The following spring Isabel and I sailed her out to Malta, and all over the Western Med on the way. The RCC gave us the Romola Cup for that. We were out in Malta beginning of May to fit out alongside Fort St Angelo, following which we sailed to Corfu, always just the two of us, spent a long time in the Greek Islands, then whipped up, usually hard on the wind, through the Dardanelles and on to Constantinople. We roared down from there, the Meltem pursuing us, to Rhodes, then Crete.

Then a hard-weather passage to Malta. Next year we explored the southern, Lycian, coasts of Turkey, Cyprus, crossed to Israel then back to Malta. Still restless, we sailed along the south coast of Sicily to the island at the corner.

From there to Sardinia, then to friends in Majorca, on to Gibraltar, and from there to Lisbon, beating up the coast against the Portuguese Trades. A weeks rest, and we sailed for England. No stops, but in the Bay of Biscay we ran into our last and worst gale. We had to snug down all sail, and lay a-try in the troughs for three days. I don’t think many sailing yachts would have been as comfortable and as safe in such conditions. From then on, for the next few years we were too busy to go far in Amokura and it was then I wrote Oyster River. She wintered always chez Mashford Bros, at Cremyll, the best yard in the South of England.

I’ve just had an ankle operation, and will be on crutches for another six weeks. But Venetia and I go to London for the RCC annual dinner on 1st March. Perhaps we might meet then, or just before or after?

Yours sincerely,