des

A Mariner’s Life

On the trail that is always new.

In the 60’s we sailed the world when the oceans were clean.

Outside the system, carving out destiny on our terms, beholden to no one, no country and no rules.

We stayed a day, a week, or a year at any island or in any country we chose.

An hour’s notice was all we needed to up anchor and set sail towards the horizon.

Qualifications

Bio

Des Kearns is a professional mariner and author.

Born 4th August 1944, he was educated at Epping Boys High School in Sydney. The school motto was Strive To Achieve, which has guided Des throughout his life.

His nautical training began at King Edward VII Nautical College in London and was completed at the Pacific Marine Training Institute in Vancouver.

Later in life he studied Marine Arbitration Law in Singapore.

Beyond Boundaries is the follow-up book to “World Wanderer – 100,000 miles under sail” published by Angus & Robertson (Australia) in 1971.

He has three daughters and five grandchildren. Currently he lives with his wife Ked in his adopted country of Thailand.

BEYOND BOUNDARIES

A Mariner’s Life

On the trail that is always new

First Edition 2019 – Popeye Publishing (Thailand)

Size 6” x 9” – 328 pages.

Available now!

2nd Edition 2019 – Popeye Publishing (Thailand)

Same book – different cover.

Available now!

About Beyond Boundaries.

Beyond Boundaries begins with a young Australian surfer who first learnt about the ocean by physically challenging its waves. His circumnavigation of the world under sail served as an apprenticeship to a commercial career at sea treating work as adventure. This work would take him from Cape Horn to exploring for oil under the Polar Ice Cap and eventually earn him the title of Master Mariner with a sobering weight of responsibility when moving the world’s largest oil structures on the oceans. It is a story of one man’s lifelong voyage facing unpredictable events, unclear odds, and stacked decks. An insightful look into the human condition and into the importance of truths, morals and integrity.

Writers are called ‘word smiths’ and Des has perfected his craft –

wielding his hammer skilfully to shape his words on a paper anvil.

Mike Wall – Mike Wall and Associates.

Your good memory and very vivid prose bring the stories alive to me, I enjoyed every page. I read your book with the same enthusiasm and sense of adventure as I did reading many of the great adventure classics as a boy.

Jim Guthrie, Gulf – Beaudril, Canada.

Amazing mate. Can’t put it down.

Gotta say that integrity shines through as an underlying motif.

Andrew de Bruin – Multihull Solutions Asia.

A book to be read slowly and digested.

Len White – Author “Why Me”

Excerpts.

Eight bells. Midnight.

Stumble on deck. Black, black night. Wind and rushing water. Flying fish flapping in the scuppers. Drowsiness suddenly disappears. Seamen’s instincts suddenly come to light. A missed footing or handhold could mean going overboard. Six luminous dials. The red glow of the compass. The sheets are cracked and the ship flies into the night. Hands grip the wheel. You gauge the heft of the wind and the run of the ship. Hmmm. This is the life. Maybe I will stay at sea a little longer.

 

Tahiti.

The night we invited some rather upper-class girls on board for sunset drinks. They were visiting for one night only on a P&O passenger liner. We had no money so we mixed a rum punch in a bucket. Cheap rum, vanilla beans to improve the taste, and various fruit juices. Ice from a street vendor. One girl asked, “Where is the toilet?” to which we answered, “You’re drinking out of it.” And so ended the party.

Jakarta. Adrenalin pumping taxi ride towards the airport fleeing firebombing, weaving through cars ablaze during riots in Indonesia.

 

Saigon.

Far reaching tentacles of American influence. A neon sign proclaims Hollywood East and illuminates a girl in a tight white dress in contrast with riot of colour of Bougainvillea, feeding a three- legged dog a piece of chicken she bought from a nearby roadside stall. Inside the girls all wear numbers, a cash and carry rent a wife for the night system. A tout with an American flag draped around his shoulders hails, “What’s that I smell in the air? Aha, the American Dream, Hollywood.” The tout looks in my direction, “What’s your dream, boy?”

 

Shanghai.

Peace Hotel. Breakfast in the fantastic Dragon Phoenix Restaurant overlooking the Bund. Outside China recovering from the Cultural Revolution, its people shedding their drab Mao suits.

 

India.

A night taxi ride from Pondicherry to Madras hidden under a blanket in the back seat of an old Ambassador car on the day Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Ghandi was assassinated.

 

High Arctic.

Smell of raw jet fuel from a Sikorsky S61 helicopter with doors open in -41 degrees, searching for hazardous ice that could impede the drill ships exploring for oil under the polar ice cap.

 

Singapore.

In the marine office of Noble Denton’s Singapore headquarters captains Dawson, Janse, Murphy and Kearns jointly study Shell Oil’s application for transport approval for the newbuild $400 million Galaxy III from Singapore to the North Sea via the Cape of Good Hope in winter, as deck cargo on Mighty Servant 3. We captains are faced with a dilemma. Galaxy III is the world’s largest jack up drilling rig and we consider it too big for the world’s largest heavy lift carrier vessel Mighty Servant 3. We are caught between a rock and a hard place. This meant the size and capability of heavy lift transport ships had not kept pace with the size of ‘cargoes’ for which they were destined to carry.

WORLD WANDERER

100,000 MILES UNDER SAIL.

2022 – 50 Year Anniversary Edition.
Published by Popeye Publishing (Thailand)

Available now! www.deskearns.com

1971 Edition – First Published by Angus & Robertson (Australia)

30,000 copies sold worldwide.

About World Wanderer.

World Wanderer tells the story of a young Australian who went in search of adventure on the sea. He sailed 100,000 miles on six sailing ships – three schooners, a barque, a sloop, and a ketch -circumnavigating the world.

When eighteen years old he learnt to handle seacraft through the treacherous corals of the Great Barrier Reef, and then set off eastwards across the Pacific, to make his first landfalls on the fabled South Sea Islands. In these islands he was shipwrecked while at the helm of the French schooner Valrosa on a Tuamotuan atoll and lived for a time with the Polynesians. At the age of 21, he commanded another schooner, 50-foot Monsoon, with a Tahitian crew on a journey from Tahiti to Honolulu. Then as First Mate aboard the three-masted barque Carthaginian, he sailed from Hawaii to the United States – booming under San Francisco’s Golden gate Bridge with all seventeen sails set.

Southwards bound again on Andy Wall’s 30-foot sloop Carronade he touched down at Tahiti, then headed for the grey dangers of Cape Horn. A monstrous storm rolled the little craft. She rounded the Cape nine days after Chichester. Carronade became the first yacht ever to cruise the Cape Horn waters – and Des Kearns photographic record is unique.

A very literate voyager.

Leonard Ward – Sydney Morning Herald.

A book that has something to say.

Yachting Monthly.

Untitled-1
50th Anniversary of publication Capt. Graeme Lawrence, master

of the super yacht Lethantia, reading World Wanderer at the Royal

Yacht Squadron library in Cowes..

Untitled-2
Qantas Pilot, Capt. Steve reading the timeless book.

Still selling after 50 years.

SONG SAIGON

When Destiny becomes a Roller Coaster

A Love Story

Marine consultant, Capt. Ben Rutland chose his destiny, but soon became recklessly enmeshed in a tapestry of torn loyalties, a clashing of cultural and philosophical gears, British and Vietnamese. He saved a soul, who reciprocated. Stoically she always waited. When his moral compass lost direction she picked him up and pointed him on the right path.

The determined but strong-willed Nguyên Thi Hoàng is portrayed as overcome, but not conquered, not servile but a survivor. Forced to submit to every humiliation she emerges true to herself. This story reveals her dignity, passion and melancholia in a country torn apart by war.

 

****

 

This is Rutland’s story but given circumstances, it could be your story. Des Kearns wrote this novel in the early 90’s. The text sat in his computer for the next 33 years. In 2023 the manuscript was edited to emerge as his first novel.

In a place that won’t let us feel.
In a life where nothing seems real,
I have found you.
Truth lit up the street.
The tiger we were stalking,
Walked on paper feet
And in the clear white heat of dawn, was gone.

A Day in the Life of Des Kearns

A member of the Institute since 2007, Des Kearns MIIMS, will reach a milestone when he turns 80 in 2024. Not only is he a highly experienced marine surveyor, but he is also a published author. These days he lives in Thailand, but over his career, he has been located all over the world. Des is a member of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners and also of the Singapore Institute of Marine Arbitrators. In this interview, Mike Schwarz poses the questions for Des to answer.

Q1 & Q2. Let’s start by going back in time. What was the appeal of the surveying profession and how did you make your mark as a marine surveyor when you arrived on the stage? What training did you need to help you develop your skills as you moved from your career at sea into a new role and did you have a mentor?

(Mike, I took the liberty of combining Q1 and Q2 because they were interlinked)

I was still a teenager when I sailed around the world in a thirty-foot sloop. Then I spent two years chasing large schooners and square-rigged ships working for no wages with the sole purpose of learning seamanship. This background sparked my interest in pleasure craft surveying. In the early years as a surveyor I learnt by jumping in the deep end, mainly because no training was available.

Small craft surveying and my commercial career ran parallel. In 1982 I was running an icebreaking, anchor handling tug in the Arctic Beaufort Sea. Eight tugs were involved mating a 270,000-ton super tanker with a 200,000-ton ‘steel island’ to form a hybrid mobile oil exploration drilling unit capable of withstanding the global forces exerted by winter ice.

Capt. Mike Jacobs from the prestigious survey firm of Noble Denton was the warranty surveyor. I mention this because that event, that day, was my career turning point. I developed a burning desire to become a marine warranty surveyor like Mike Jacobs. Fear also crept in. I did not know whether I could fill his shoes. Regardless, I wanted in.

Later when I became an Arctic drillship captain, Mike Jacobs representing Underwriters attended with me during rig moves. He became my mentor and window of opportunity to become a Noble Denton surveyor.

During my 1988 job interview in Singapore Capt. John Killick with a pair of half glasses perched on the end of his nose said to me…. “If you want to be a Noble Denton surveyor you will meet challenges requiring you to draw on inner strength. We want men who make shit happen, even the seemingly impossible. You must possess a knack for breaking down overwhelming projects into chewable pieces, find solutions and appreciate lessons learned, even in failed attempts. You must be able to hold your ground. Never bend to commercial pressure. If you believe you are right, you must stand on the platform of right. I am of course talking about moving the world’s largest oil structures on the oceans which is what we do here.”

Those words inspired me for the next 16 years.

Q3. During your career you will have seen many changes in the maritime sector and the marine surveying profession. Going forward what do you think, in your opinion, the surveying profession needs to do to enhance its image?

The biggest change I’ve witnessed comes from mergers and acquisitions. Proud professional companies of engineers and master mariners who once provided high-end technical services to clients lost their identity when taken over by larger companies. Corporate platitudes aside, our opinion was the new mega-companies were nothing more than a giant melting pots of mediocrity where surveyor’s technical expertise/recommendations were frequently squashed in favour of commercial interests.

Underwriter’s attitude is the second point. Underwriters have become profit driven while making it difficult for the Insured to get Cover. The current marine insurance market can be described as ‘risk averse’. This especially applies to the traditional western insurance companies and syndicates whose Underwriters are under considerable pressure from their capital providers to show good profits year after year.

Their financiers seem to forget insurance is a risk business.

This has resulted in reduced capacity being offered and Underwriters only accepting risks that ‘fit the box’ relating to a narrow range of parameters provided by their actuaries who only look at the numbers and the past records. Stepping outside these parameters becomes a serious personal risk for the underwriter. As the yacht insurance market has many parameters influencing ‘risk’, the number of underwriters now willing to insure in this area has dropped substantially which has reduced competition and given them more ability to be selective and charge higher premiums.

The surveyor must now work his way through this quagmire.

Q4. When you look back over your business life of many decades, what two achievements give you the most pleasure and satisfaction?

The 30-foot yacht on which I sailed around Cape Horn had no roller furling, no anchor winch, no self-steering, no fridge, no toilet, no radio, no electronics. We had a sturdy watertight hull. Stout rig. Good sails. A place to cook, a place to navigate and a place to lie down. Good anchor gear when we got close to land. That experience opened up the world for me.

 

My second achievement was becoming a master mariner which opened career doors – and is still opening doors.

Q5. I’d like to ask you about the onslaught of modern technology, including report writing software and remote surveys amongst them. What are your views on this matter – a boon or not?

I am an old school surveyor with no experience with report writing software or remote surveys but here are my thoughts.

Our profession does appear to be leaning in this direction. Will this new technology be a good servant or a bad master? Theoretically, it is feasible option. In worst case remote surveys could put us out of business. Whether we agree or not, this new technology is already with us and brings with it a set of circumstances we must deal with but are not prepared for. The process has not been thought through. Remote surveys could be subject to abuse. The biggest danger I see is that remote ‘attendance’ could lead to mistakenly determining the safety of a vessel, and that in turn involves people’s lives.

Q6. Where the next generation of marine surveyors as well as seafarers will come from is taxing everyone’s minds. What are your thoughts on this?

I honestly do not know.

Q7. Given your broad range of experience you are uniquely placed to offer advice to the new generation of surveyors. What advice might I persuade you to pass on?

The International Institute of Marine Surveyors clearly states in their Code of Ethics:

A Surveyor member will discharge his professional responsibility with integrity and shall at all times advise or report in a fair and factual manner without prejudice or favour.”

 

Stick to that code and never waver even one millimetre off the line. Ever.

Q8. What are the main attractions of living in Thailand and how does it compare with other countries you have lived in?

Thailand is not hassle free but if you follow the law, it is freer than most western countries. It is certainly more flexible. Thailand runs on a platform of respect.

Thai people respect each other, particularly the elderly. Across the board politeness is expected. Finally, good sailing conditions, turquoise water and fabulous food rounds off the package.

Q9. I read about your involvement with the renovation of Cariad, which sounds like an extraordinary project. Indeed, you have written an article in this edition. But in brief what would you like to say about your involvement?

My involvement began 33 years ago when I carried out a routine survey on Cariad in Singapore. 16 years later in 2006 I was asked to carry out a follow-up survey while the vessel lay abandoned and derelict off the port of Bangkok. It took 30 seconds to sum up that she was uninsurable. The potential buyer, a British businessman, said he would purchase her anyway and accept the cost and challenge to restore this piece of British maritime history. I accepted his invitation to project manage the restoration.

In 2008, fifty-five people and 3 million dollars later, we launched a perfectly restored Cariad. Unfortunately, this coincided with the world financial crash and the owner was forced to sell.

The new owner treated her like a trophy on a shelf. He carried out almost no routine maintenance, inclusive of 13 years without drydocking the timber hull. Teredo worms chewed up her beautiful new planking. She also rotted from the inside because the caretaker never ventilated. She partially sank three times, completely submerging the engine room each time.

In 2021 Cariad was purchased by Tim Hartnoll, CEO of X-Press Feeders Shipping Line, a man with the passion and money to restore Cariad to former glory.

In January 2022 we again inherited a derelict. We rounded up the same team and started the heart-breaking process of restoring Cariad for the second time. Currently we are already 16 months into the project and hope to re-launch in August this year.

Q10. As a fellow wordsmith, I am interested to know what motivated and inspired you to write ‘World Wanderer – 100,000 miles under sail’ and the follow up ‘Beyond Boundaries’. Please tell me.

When I circumnavigated in our 30-foot sloop these were early ‘cruising’ days. When I arrived home, there was a book inside my head wanting to get out. I typed the manuscript on an old Olivetti typewriter – the one if you made a mistake, you had to redo the whole page.

In November 1969, typewritten manuscript under my arm entitled, World Wanderer –100,000 Miles Under Sail, I sheepishly entered the lobby of the Angus & Robertson publishing house on Sydney’s Castlereagh Street, an Australian flagship institution. I left the manuscript with a pleasant receptionist. Five days later I received an invitation to attend a meeting at the publishing house. My manuscript had been separated into sections along with photos, which now covered a polished table. I was in a state of shock because I was a 25-year-old youth off the streets but was treated with respect, politeness, courtesy and enthusiasm. The book quickly went into print.

In 2019, forty-eight years later, my second book Beyond Boundaries was published. The first half of Beyond Boundaries details becoming a surveyor; the second half as a Noble Denton surveyor; then latterly returning to my roots as a yacht surveyor.

Q.11 What hobbies do you most enjoy?

Sailing.

Q12. If you could change one aspect of your life if you were able to live it again, what would it be?

I would change nothing.

Cariad Article

MARINE SURVEYORS IN A PROJECT MANAGEMENT ROLE

DES KEARNS MARINE SURVEYORS (DKMS)
Marine and Engineering Consultants and Surveyors
Phithak Sinchai Shipyard & Services
349 Moo 2, Ban Chi Bi Lang, Thailand 91000.
+66 8 4846-8869 (English) +66 8 6906-2004 (Thai)
des@deskearns.com www.deskearns.com

RESTORATION OF 110 YEAR OLD CLASSIC YACHT IN DERELICT CONDITION COMMENCED IN SEPTEMBER 2006 AND COMPLETED IN OCTOBER 2008 50 MARINE SPECIALISTS WORKED FOR 2 ½ YEARS TO COMPLETE. PHITHAK SINCHAI SHIPYARD AND SERVICES (PSS) THAILAND.

CARIAD
BEKEN & COWES PHOTO TAKEN IN 1896.

CLIENT INVESTMENT BANKER STUART WILLIAMSON AND FORMER CAPTAIN ALAN PICKERING.

PROJECT MANAGER DES KEARNS WITH OWNER STUART WILLIAMSON

THE STEEL FRAMING WAS FOUND CORRODED BEYOND REPAIR.

NOTHING LEFT

THE JOB BEGINS TO REPLACE 95% OF ALL STEELWORK

WELDED STEEL BEAMS TO MAINTAIN HULL SHAPE

FRAMING RENEWED AND NEW PLANKING 50% COMPLETE

FRAME REPACEMENT WAS DONE FRAME BY FRAME WITH EACH FRAME DIFFERENT. 5,500 SILICON BRONZE BOLTS SECURED PLANKING TO FRAME

AFT DECK SECTION -­‐ BEFORE AND AFTER

ORIGINAL STEERING GEAR BEFORE AND AFTER

RESTORED 8LXB GARDNER ENGINE

“BUNG” PROJECT AUTOCAD ENGINEER

CONSULTANTS LUIGI GARGIULO AND WARWICK HILL

DESIGND AND BUILT BY OUR AUTOCAD, ENGINEERING & CARPENTRY TEAM

CARIAD JOINER WORK

THAI HEAD CARPENTER WITH MINOR BIRD ON SHOULDER.

HEAD SHIPWRIGHT MIKE HOWETT INSPECTING BOWSPRIT CONSTRUCTION.

MAST SECTION DESIGNED BY JEFF MILLS

JEFF MILLS -­‐ MAST CONSTRUCTION IN PROGRESS

MAST CONSTRUCTION BY JUHA YLI RAMA AND KID

CANADIAN SITKA SPRUCE AND DOUGLAS FIR

“CARIAD” ON LAUNCHING DAY 15TH OCTOBER 2008.

SOON AFTER LAUNCHING, CARIAD WAS RATED NUMBER 14 IN THE TOP 40 CLASSIC IN YACHTS IN THE WORLD.

WE’ RAISE OUR GLASSES AND BE UPSTRANDING’ – MAY SHE LAST ANOTHER 100 YEARS AND OUR WORK STAND THE TEST OF TIME.