The astonishing story of Askoy II, Jacques Brel’s boat…

As this little video shows, the Askoy II is a yacht with a remarkable history.

Originally built by the Vandevoorde shipyard for renowned Belgian architect Hugo Van Kuyck in 1960, Askoy II was named after an island off the Norwegian coast, just off the port of Bergen, and designed by Raymond Derkinderen.

At 20m long, 5m wide and rated at 40tons, she’s said to have been the largest yacht ever to be built in Belgium.

Van Kuyck sailed Askoy II on the Baltic Sea, the coast of Norway and round Scotland, and in 1974 sold her to Jacques Brel, who attempted to sail around the world until he was defeated by illness and forced to tie the yacht up for the last time in the Marquesas.

In 1976 the yacht was sold to two Americans, Cathy Cleveland and Lee Adamsson, who cruised to French Polynesia and New Zealand, and finally Hawaii. She was then bought by Harlow Jones, who used her for fishing in the Pacific Islands, working with local people.

Next she passed to a drug smuggler, who was caught at Santa Cruz carrying a record amount of marijuana, got confiscated in the Fiji Islands and in 1993 was sold by auction to Lindsay Wright, a maritime journalist from New Zealand.

He sailed her solo to New Zealand but near his destination was caught in a storm and was finally stranded on Baylys Beach on New Zealand’s north-west coast and remained in the sand there for many years.

But, amazingly, that wasn’t the end. In 2007 she was rescued by two brothers, Piet and Staf Wittevrongel, who as young men had worked on Brel’s sails, and is now back in Belgium and being slowly being brought back to sailing life. I have to say she looks magnificent – I’m very much looking forward to seeing her back on the water. But then I’m a boat nut who also happens to be a fan of both Belgium and Jacques Brel…

Some more videos can be found here:

 

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