Henryk Jaskuła was undoubtedly a man who achieved nationwide or even worldwide fame. He had no connections to the sea either through his profession or his place of residence. Still, he had become the most popular Polish sailor. He was the first one to have sailed the globe on a single yacht without calling at any port in the world. So, his curriculum vitae is worth at least a brief look.
Henryk Jaskuła was born in 1923 in Radziszów, where his parents had a small farm which was not enough to maintain the family. For this reason, in 1926, his father emigrated to Argentina. For several years, he would send the earned money home, which allowed his mother to build a single family house in Radziszów.
However, the deteriorating economic situation in the world, and especially in Poland, forced the family to change their life plans. Instead of the father returning to the country, the Jaskułas decided to move to Brazil.
In late 1932, through Gdynia and London, along with his mother and three years younger brother Bolek, he took a long journey by sea to the other hemisphere, to meet with his father in Buenos Aires after more than six years of separation on January 8, 1933. Here, he and his younger brother found themselves in a completely foreign environment. Other than his parents, no one around understood or spoke Polish. The young Jaskułas were in danger of losing their sense of national identity. Henry escaped that through three years at school back in Radziszów and a fairly extensive Polish library collected by his father, consisting of volumes that formed a supplement to the weekly “Ameryka Echo.” Jaskuła himself said:
“Sienkiewicz was the one who told me that I was Polish. My brother had missed several years of elementary school, he could not read Polish, he has become an Argentine although he still has Polish citizenship.”
As a top student, Henryk graduated from the Argentine elementary school and then a three-year vocational school. Then, while continuing to work, he graduated from high school as an external student and in 1943, he began his studies at the electromechanical faculty of National University de La Plata.
After three years of studies at said university, he was troubled by depression caused by longing for his home country he had not seen for over 10 years. It was then that he began his efforts to enrol at a Polish technical university, which was a success. He was admitted to the electromechanical faculty department at the University of Science and Technology in Kraków.
After a month at sea, he reached Europe and then, by train, Kraków. Because the Argentinean program of study did not fully cover the curriculum of the Polish university, he had to start from the beginning. A modest scholarship, living in a dormitory, casual jobs, and above all perseverance and innate abilities allowed him to complete the study and defend his thesis in 1951. While still a student, at the age of 25, he married a student of chemistry at the Jagiellonian University, Zofia Kiełtyka from Przemyśl.
After graduation, he got a three-year work assignment at the M-7 electric motor manufacturing plant in Tarnów and, having completed the work assignment, he moved to Przemyśl where he found his ultimate haven with his wife and two daughters.
Until that moment, there was no indication of the great sailor he was to become. It was the longing for his mother whom he had left behind in Argentina that sealed his interest in sailing. To visit her using regular means of transportation was not possible for financial reasons. So, at the age of 40, he received the yacht skipper certificate at the maritime training centre in Jastarnia, and in 1964 he completed his first cruise on a small boat “Syriusz” on the Baltic Sea. In 1971, he led the ship “Karawela” to Spain. It was the first serious naval expedition and, including the Rias Bajas regatta, it took two months to complete.
In 1973, his dream had come true. After getting in touch with the yacht club KKS “Brda” in Bydgoszcz, with the yacht “Euros” and its crew, he left for Valparaiso in Chile, and then on to Buenos Aires, where he landed after 40 days of sailing, on March 20, 1973 having rounded Cape Horn. There he met his mother, with whom he spent a month. On 25 April 1973, he set off home as captain on the “Euros.” After 90 days of sailing, he reached his destination.
The experience gained on the voyage to Argentina, often in extremely harsh weather conditions, gave him a boost for a solitary cruise around the world. At that moment, he started his tour of offices, institutions and shipyards until, on 23 September 1978, there was a christening celebration of “Dar Przemyśla” (the gift of Przemyśl) – a yacht capable of crossing the Atlantic.
A few months later, on June 12, 1979 in the morning hours, Jaskuła embarked on his single-handed voyage around the world, which took nearly a year. It should be noted that before his historic journey Jaskuła was already an experienced sailor.
Let us hear what he said on this subject:
On my cruise around the world, I sailed a total of 40,000 nautical miles (53,000 km). Across the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, the Atlantic and the Pacific. 33,400 miles in the rank of Captain, 23,000 miles as the practical captain. My longest cruises: three months on the Canary Islands in 1970, two months to Spain in 1971, 40 days from Valparaiso ( Chile ) around Cape Horn to Buenos Aires ( Argentina ) in 1973. 3 months to the Canary Islands in the 1970s, two months to Spain in 1971, 40 days from Valparaiso (Chile) around Horn to Buenos Aires (Argentina) in 1973. Four single-handed cruises on the Baltic Sea, including two on “Dar Przemyśla,” 1565 miles (2900 km). I've been overboard three times: twice in the harbour, once in the Atlantic with a wind force and sea state of 7 Beaufort scale. I passed through the Danish straits four times, seven times along or across the English Channel. Overall, I have had 28 cruises to my credit, including 19 as captain. I received my coastal skipper licence in Trzebież in 1965, the seagoing yacht master licence in 1968 in Gdynia, and the seagoing yacht licence in 1971 before the Szczecin examination board.
His single-handed circumnavigation of the globe, which took 344 days (12.06.1979-20.05.1980), gave Jaskuła a permanent place in the history of not just Polish but also worldwide yacht sailing. Before him, only three sailors could boast a single-handed multi-day cruise, but captain Jaskuła’s cruise was the longest. Jaskuła had been preceded by:
1. Knox-Johnston on the yacht "Suhaili" from Falmouth to Falmouth (16.06.1968-22.04.1969) – the cruise lasted 313 days.
2. Moitessier on "Joshua" from Plymouth to Tahiti - 307 days
3. Chay Blyth on “British Steel”
from Hamble to Hamble (18.10.1970 - 6.08.1971) – 292 days.
So, in this good company, Captain Jaskuła is an unquestionable record holder, both due to the duration of the solitary voyage, and the route.
The single-handed trip was full of surprises, the equipment would often fail, there were frequent dangerous encounters with the ocean hosts – the killer whales, sometimes his iron physical constitution failed. A result of this trip was a vividly written 230-page travelogue "Non-stop around the world" - Gdańsk, 1983.
The hardships of lonely sailing did not put the sailor off the sea. Already on 23 October 1980, so only five months after the completion of the historic voyage, the "Gift of Przemysl" commanded by Captain Jaskuła with a crew of seven sailed for Buenos Aires.
Jaskuła took a few touching keepsakes with him: 2 bags of earth from Radziszów, his parents’ birthplace, and it is a well-known fact that for expatriates such mementos are the most valuable.
Five years after the famous voyage, Jaskuła decided to take a second single-handed trip around the world, but in an opposite direction compared with the previous trip, that is east to west. As in the previous trip, the start and the finish were supposed to be Gdynia. The route was to be based on the southernmost forelands of our globe: Cape Horn, South Cape, on Stewart Island in New Zealand, South East in Tasmania, Leeuwin in the south-western Australia and the Cape of Good Hope. The cruise was to last 380 days (from 2 August 1984 until 26 August 1985). Everything was prepared properly. Unfortunately, this time luck was not on their side. Blame fate and people. In the meantime, with a group of "sports activists" on board, the "Gift of Przemyśl" went on a cruise of the Atlantic. For unknown reasons, perhaps crew inexperience and recklessness, the famous "Gift of Przemyśl” sank near Cuba in the Atlantic Ocean.
And that put an end to the dreams of success that a double lone voyage around the world by the same sailor would undoubtedly have been.
Bibliography used for the material:
Henryk Jaskuła: "Non stop dookoła świata"
M. Nyczek, J. Woś: "Nad Jaskufowym gniazdem"
(a notice in "Echo Krakowa"- No. 42/1984-02-28)
Tadeusz Dybeł, "Głos Radziszowa" no. 12, VII 2001, p. 3-4.
ul. Jana Pawła II 7
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