A trailer from the movie "Ein Mann und sein Boot" which shows Rollo Gebhard's
third circumnaviagtion in 1983 when he was accompanied by his wife Angelika Gebhard.
When Joshua Slocum left Boston in 1895 in his 11.20m-long gaff-rigged sloop oyster boat named "Spray" to become the first person to single-handedly circumnavigate the world, he was 51 years old.
The Panama Canal hadn't even been built yet, and Slocum had to take the dangerous route around Cape Horn. You can read about his more-than-three-year-year-long voyage in "Sailing Alone Around the World".
When Rollo Gebhard left Genoa in Italy in August 1967 in his 7.25m-long yacht "Solveig III" on his first of two single-handed circumnavigations, he was 46 years old. It took him just under three years, and he chose the Panama Canal instead because it was there. His second single-handed circumnavigation in the same boat at the age of 53 took him over four years, from March 1975 to November 1979, and he, too, wrote a book about it (in German), "Ein Mann und sein Boot - 4 Jahre allein um die Welt" ("A Man and his Boat - 4 years alone around the world").
What made this book particularly interesting to me was Rollo's meeting with Tom Neale on Suwarrow Atoll. Not only did he visit him on his "Island to Oneself" on both his first and second circumnavigation, but he also wrote that he had taped an interview with Tom in November 1976.
He wrote about it in "Ein Mann und sein Boot" in German but how much better would it be to hear it in English from the man himself! I emailed Rollo's wife Angelika Gebhard in Bad Wiessee in Germany who promptly replied, "In dem Film über die zweite Allein-Weltumsegelung (1975-79) meines Mannes ist ein Interview mit Tom Neale enthalten. Der Film wurde damals im ZDF ausgestrahlt." ("The interview is included in the movie my husband made during his second circumnavigation which back then had gone to air on the commercial television station ZDF.")
How to get hold of that movie? It was not on YouTube - except for the short trailer shown above - and not available on ebay or anywhere else. Frau Gebhard had the solution, "Das ZDF besitzt die Urheberrechte an dem Film, und ich vermute, dass es sehr schwierig bis unmöglich sein wird, ihn über das ZDF zu erwerben. Aber ich habe den Film, den wir für die Vorträge geschnitten haben. Ich könnte Ihnen den Teil mit dem Interview zukommen lassen, wenn Sie den Film nur privat einsetzen." ("The television station owns the copyrights to the movie, and it would be difficult if not impossible to get a copy. However, I could send you a copy of the part containing the interview for your own personal use.")
And so it came to pass that for the first time ever I was able to listen to the voice of my long-time hero Tom Neale and watch him as he was interviewed by my new hero, Rollo Gebhard. Obviously, I cannot show you the footage for copyright reasons but I can give you a transcript:
(Rollo) "You have done something many people dream about. You are living on a small island far away from civilisation. Are you happy?"
(Tom) "Yes, yes, I'm happy here."
(Rollo) "And would you recommend this lifestyle to other people?"
(Tom) "No, not exactly. I would have to know a person very, very well first before I could recommend a life like this. You must remember, before I came here I had many years of experience of life in these Pacific islands and I knew what to expect. How could I tell if someone else could cope with things here or whether he could stand being alone. We are not all the same, you know. I'm a person who doesn't mind being alone. I've always been that way, more or less."
One, no, two voices from beyond the grave because Tom Neale died the following year in Rarotonga, aged 75, and Rollo Gebhard passed away at his home in Bad Wiessee in 2013, aged 92. Two lives well lived!
Thank you, Frau Gebhard, for allowing me to view this rare and historic movie clip, and I wish you continuing success with the "Gesellschaft zur Rettung der Delphine (GRD)" ("Society to Save the Dolphins"), started in 1991 by your husband and of which you are still the chairperson.