Bob Shepton, the reverend who navigates the northern ice.

5-looking-down-Seagulls-garden_smThere is a whole world, that of sailor-mountaineers, that is increasingly proselytizing. You take the boat, reach extreme latitudes and drop anchor directly at the foot of the walls you want to climb. There is one man who has twice won the most important award dedicated to them, the Tilman Medal (named after Bill Tilman, the explorer whose adventurous life you will find in the May issue of GdV, now on newsstands): his name is Bob Shepton, in 2014 also awarded the title of Yachting Journalists Association Yachtsman of the Year, an award won over the years by the likes of Eric Tabarly or Robin Knox-Johnston. Now 81 years old, Shepton started sailing late, when he was already touring Britain for work.


_mg_7764-1Bob in fact is a Reverend, a pastor in the Anglican Church. He bought his first boat in 1978, a wooden cutter, and then replaced it with a 33-foot Westerly Discus. He submits to the ship registry as many as nine different names to be given to the boat, but they are all rejected because they have already been assigned to him. It is then his youngest daughter (in the Anglican Church pastors can have families) who advises him to use the title of the book he was reading, Dodo’s Delight.
First came Atlantic crossings with students at Kingman Hill School, where he served as chaplain, until the big leap in 1992, the year Shepton retired. Cape Horn to the great north.

Shepton sets sail with five trainees: everything seems to be going well, but after rounding the cape he dismasts: no problem for Bob. After a makeshift repair and a crew change, he returns to Britain–but via the Cape of Good Hope! “I love Antarctica“, he comments on his return, “But it’s way too far away“. Thus begins Shepton’s new life, starring for a good 20 years in the seas of the Great North, where he accompanies as a guide, always with his Dodo’s Delight, mountaineers from all over the world.


In 2005, at the tender age of 70, he found himself trapped in Arctic ice. In a few hours the ice floe takes her thirty-three feet, sinking her. It looks like the end of adventures. Instead, Shepton does not give up. “I looked for all kinds of boats, but money was tight and I finally decided to buy back a Westerly Discus.” Naming him, needless to say, once again Dodo’s Delight. Bob recently returned home after a double crossing of the Northwest Passage. “I’m addicted to adventure,” he related upon his return. “The man is a little crazy. But it is a beautiful way of life, and to me God has given a wonderful life“.



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