Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Queequeg's Odyssey - Quen Cultra

MY THOUGHTS: A friend of mine, not long ago, was talking to me about his hero - a man by the name of Quen Cultra - who built a ship and sailed it around the world. He had no sailing experience, but woke up one day and knew that sailing was what he needed to do. Quen Cultra was born in north-eastern Illinois, actually only about 20 miles from where I'm from, and dreamed of the far seas. In the early 1970's, he gathered a plan, some building supplies, and a couple friends and built his trimaran and sailed it around the world. This is his story, written about his high seas adventure - who he met, where he went, and the struggles he endured.


From the back cover:

"Quen Cultra built Queequeg in a barnyard, motored down the Mississippi - and sailed around the world. His previous experience was limited to rowboats. The total cost of his boat, a trimaran, was $6,000. His expenses at sea were less than three dollars a day. The pay-off? Three years of high adventure, fascinating sights, and a communion with nature that no amount of money could buy the conventional traveler.

Cultra sailed with friends and took his time, staying long enough at each port to really sample the local cultures and sights. These ranged from the Small Nambas of Malakula (naked tribesmen who had never before seen a white man) to the socialites at the Cape Town Yacht Club. But there was also danger. Their first storm at sea was a hurricane; they were rammed by a freighter off Madagascar; becalmed and out of fresh water in the doldrums; attacked by sharks inside the Great Barrier Reef; washed up on a deserted coast. The book is must reading for anyone considering such an adventure, or for the adventurous armchair reader."



I was absolutely amazed by this story. And moreso amazed that is was written (and lived) by a man who grew up in a small town right down the road from where I grew up. I would highly recommend this to anyone and everyone. I'm glad to have friends who have read books like this and can recommend them to me.

In late January of this year, Quen Cultra's boat, Queequeg II capsized in the Indian Ocean. Of the three crewmen, only one has been found. Quen Cultra is feared to have been taken by the sea. I'm hoping that he and his fellow crewman have somehow made it to some exotic land and are living their next great adventure. To read more about this story, visit this link.


  1. Thank you for turning me on to this story. Someday I'll be picking this up as well I think.

  2. I bought the trimaran queequeg and lived aboard her for 6 years in the florida keys '89 to '95. part of her ships equipment was a signed copy of 'queequegs odyssey' signed by Mr. Cultra. What a Great and Inspiring Story
    I spent years rebuilding her, piver lodestars are in essence plywood boats with a skin of fiberglass, and years in the tropics had taken their toll. queequeg was a fine home for my wife 3 kids and I. after sailing her to and moving to Mississippi in '95 I sold her. she went through 2 other owners and she was finally destroyed in hurricane katrina in '05.
    I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of Quen Cultra at sea early this year.

  3. I am a friend of Quens. I first met him in Chicago at the Planetarium many years ago. He was teaching celestial navigation. I was a sailor and one of his students. But more than that we became friends and went out after class and had a few beers and talked about his adventures and many other things that inspire me to this day. I am now an American ex-pat living in Thailand for the last year after traveling all over China for 3 years. I have a copy of Queequeg's Odyssey that Quen signed for me, To Harry...Fair winds...Quen Cultra. I too am deeply saddened to hear Quen was lost at sea. The only consolation is that when he was lost he was doing what he loved most.

  4. I met Quen Cultra the first time when he sailed into Chicago at the end of his first time around the world enjoyed his slide talk about his 1st world sail. (Read his book-autographed copy, -lent to others to read- never got it back) a truly amazing man who lived a "real life: family and adventure. Saddens me to know he is lost

  5. I met Quen Cultra in Onarga, Illinois.

    I was a former Onarga Military School (OMS) cadet in the early 1960's. Back in Onarga for homecoming in 2005 I happened to tell the wife of the former OMS Superintendent that I was planning to take my sailboat on a trip. She suggested I meet Quen that afternoon and I looked him up at the farm. Had a pleasant couple hours talking sailing and sailboats.

    I was not aware till tonight that Quen was gone. I'm glad to have met him.