To celebrate Captain George Vancouver's charting expeditions of 1792-1794, Sam McKinney sailed and motored in his 25-foot sailboat Kea in areas between Puget Sound and the Queen Charlotte Islands.

At age 70, fortified by his pipe and the occasional glass of rum, McKinney leisurely emulated the various voyages of the strict disciplinarian Vancouver and his less-than-faithful crew, once experimenting with the anti-scurvy recipe given to botanist Archibald Menzies (an adversary of Vancouver) by Sir Joseph Banks. "I wanted to see what spruce beer tasted like," McKinney writes. "I boiled some spruce needles in water, added brown sugar, and came up with something that tasted like sweet turpentine."

McKinney is far from being the first person to follow the paths of explorers to write a book about the coast--it's been done by Robin Fisher, Gary Geddes, Rosemary Neering, Barry Lopez and Wylie Blanchet, among others--but McKinney is the first to give credit to an invisible crew.

"Germany's Rudolph Diesel invented the diesel engine and to him I am indebted," he writes in Sailing with Vancouver: A Modern Sea Dog, Antique Charts and a Voyage Through Time (Touchwood, $17.95 2004), "because on many windless days I used Kea's small diesel engine."

McKinney explains that when Diesel was in polytechnic school he was fascinated by the pneumatic tinder igniter. Looking like a simple bicycle pump, it demonstrated how heat generated by compression in the pump could ignite a piece of tinder in the end of the pump. Diesel never forgot this demonstration and he dedicated his life and fortune to incorporating the principle of his 'Black Mistress' into an efficient power engine.

"My 10-horsepower Yanmar engine was developed by the Japanese industrialist Magokicki Yamaoka, who saw his first diesel engine at an industrial fair in Leipzig, Germany, in 1932. Something of a visionary, as was Diesel himself, Yamaoka thought that a small diesel engine with fuel economy would suit the needs of the Japanese farmer. In 1933, he developed a very small, five-horsepower engine, believing that in oil-poor Japan, a drop of fuel was equal to a drop of blood."

Similarly McKinney acknowledges Greek scientist Archimedes for the principle of leverage, Swiss physicist Daniel Bernoulli for his law of physics that explained the dynamics of sailing and French chef Nicolas Appert who invented the canning process in the early 19th century. "My canned dinners did become monotonous, but remembering the food choices of Vancouver's men -- salt pork and beef -- made them more palatable. With these companions--my English, French and American sailing heroes, Greek and Swiss scientists, a German inventor and a French chef--I was able to sail behind the Vancouver expedition, eat well and keep Kea moving in wind or calm."

McKinney based his research for his sailing book on W. Kaye Lamb's classic George Vancouver: A Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific. Maps were provided by Portland designer Les Hopkins. McKinney is a former research associate at the Vancouver Maritime Museum and a builder of small boats, journalist and teacher of Outward Bound. Sailing with Vancouver is his fourth nautical title.

He lives in Portland, Oregon.


Sailing Uphill: An Unconventional Life on the Water (Touchwood)

Reach of Tide, Ring of History

Bligh! The Whole Story of the Mutiny aboard H.M.S. Bounty (Horsdal & Schubart $15.95)

Sailing with Vancouver: A Modern Sea Dog, Antique Charts and a Voyage Through Time (Touchwood, 2004)

[BCBW 2004] "Maritime" "George Vancouver"