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Without Rival - A Nonsuch Sailboat's Saga

Updated on May 12, 2014

Without Rival: The Voyages of SACI IV

Without Rival is a sailing saga about a Nonsuch yacht with day to day fun and challenges, as well as lost and found trials. Although its of specific interest to sailors, particularly those familiar with the Nonsuch, its appeal reaches beyond the nautical world. On one hand you'll discover truculent roguery, on the other lifelong friendships and thoughtfulness from strangers passing by. Join Brian Shelley as he sails the Great Lakes, the Atlantic, through canals in Europe, the Caribbean, and the Mississippi. Join him too for the heartbreak of a lost boat and the satisfaction of recovery.

My late father wrote this book, which attracted a loyal following, and we still have copies available. This lens provides background on the book, reviews/comments, details on where you can purchase it and links to related sites.

Brian H. Shelley at the helm.
Brian H. Shelley at the helm.


We got the tow lines organized and were casting off SACI IV's mooring ropes when a shout from the sentry on the dock brought us up short.

"Alto!" the sentry repeated, brandishing his automatic rifle at us in an alarming manner.

"We have the colonel's permission to leave," I shouted back.

"No one told me so," the sentry replied, pointing the rifle at my chest. I now recognized the sentry as one of the sailors I had paid to clean up SACI IV on my first visit to Guiria.

I turned to Fidel and whispered urgently, "Have one of your men find Julio Caesar and bring him here as fast as possible."

Julio was prompt. He asked for my documents, and after some loud argument with the sentry, he departed, taking the fellow with him. Fidel, his crew and I drank coffee and waited impatiently. Meanwhile, Fidel warned me that the passage through the "Dragon's Mouth" between Venezuela and Trinidad could be rough and he wanted to be clear of it before dawn. The wind usually rose up by first light, so that this delay might cause a postponement to Tuesday night. If we did not get away tonight, I agonized, what new delays would the beastly Coast Guard Colonel think up tomorrow? The wait became ever more stressful.

An hour passed before Julio reappeared, alone -- without the sentry. He handed me my papers and man of foresight that he was, a portable VHF radio so that I could communicate with the Trinidadian harbour personnel when the time came.

"Go," Julio said urgently.

This incident at Guiria, Venezuela, was neither the beginning nor the ending of the saga of SACI IV. It is just a small part of her history. SACI's early career, and my own preoccupation with being waterborne, explains what to some people must seem to border on obsession. Having lost her and now found her, I was prepared to go to almost any length to retrieve her so that I could feel her wheel in my hands once more.

Mary Beacock Fryer's Books
Mary Beacock Fryer's Books


From Co-Author: Mary Beacock Fryer

The heart of this story is the devotion of a sailor for his ship. On the surface it might seem a tale of a retired businessman and a yacht; it is much more than that. Every story needs a hero. This one has two, three once we give proper credit to the loyalty of a devoted wife.

I will not easily forget the first time I noticed SACI IV. She was in her cradle, her topside streaked with grime, hole in her port rail, devoid of mast or pulpit. Then I learned what she had been through in a Venezuelan backwater. On second inspection my heart went out to both boat and owners.

SACI IV belongs to the Nonsuch class of sailboats. "Nonsuch" means "without rival," a fitting title for Brian Shelley's story of SACI. Brian named her for the Brazilian folklore character, not unlike certain leprechauns of Ireland and the pixies and elves of other Celtic folklore who are supposed to bring good fortune. Like her namesake, SACI IV stands for luck, both in her seaworthiness and in the devotion of her owner. I am fortunate in being able to share in putting the story together.

Mary Beacock Fryer is a "Shark" sailor and author of several books about Canadian History.

A depiction of Saci at sea.
A depiction of Saci at sea.

Saci Pererê

Origin of the "heroine's" name

The name of Without Rival's "heroine" or the featured Nonsuch sailboat is "Saci" (pronounced sa si), which is what Brian Shelley called all his boats up to SACI IV.

A Brazilian folklore character, Saci Pererê is a one-legged black-skinned elf (or in some cases a youngster) who has holes in his hands, smokes a pipe and wears a magical red cap that enables him to disappear and reappear wherever he wishes (usually in the middle of a dust devil). In some parts of Brazil, he is considered an annoying prankster and a potentially dangerous and malicious creature in others. He is thought to grant wishes to anyone who manages to trap him or steal his magic cap but it is also often depicted as having a bad smell, those who claim to have stolen it can never wash away.

Although Saci Pererê, with "black as coal" skin is the best known depiction of Saci, there are variations: Saci-trique who is mulatto and more benign; Saci-saçurá who has red eyes.

As Brian Shelley and his wife Pauline lived in Brazil for eight years and had their son Martin there in 1951, the grew familiar with the culture and learned of Saci. They learned that in spite of being single-legged, Saci is believed to be very agile and powerful, always defeating his enemies. The found the Brazilians also considered Saci a good luck charm to carry with you for safety -- ultimately what you need when at sea in turbulent weather.

From drinks to satellites, Saci it seems is still popular in Brazil, as:

* A Brazilian cocktail considered a home remedy for the common cold (1/4 cup of cachaça and 3 tablespoons honey)

* A mascot of some sport clubs in Brazil (Sport Club Internacional and Social Futebol Clube)

* A popular children's book O Saci, by Monteiro Lobato

* A four retrotransposons in the DNA of the fluke Schistosoma mansoni that jump around in the parasite's genome (named Saci-1, Saci-2, Saci-3 and Perere)

* A social network SACI (acronym for Solidariedade, Apoio, Comunicação e Informação, or Solidarity, Support, Communication and Information) created at the University of São Paulo to support social and medical rehabilitation of physically disabled people (due to Saci's single leg).

* Brazilian satellites SACI-1 and SACI-2

Without Rival: Voyages of SACI IV - Paperback book by Brian H. Shelley & Mary Beacock Fryer

This book is for sale on at:

Without Rival is the story of a tenacious Nonsuch sailboat. It's part day to day adventures and part dramatic tale of lost and found. On one hand is truculent roguery, on the other lifelong friendships and thoughtfulness from strangers passing by. Join Brian as he sails the Great Lakes, the Atlantic, through canals in Europe, the Caribbean, and the Mississippi. Join him, too, for the heartbreak of a lost boat and the satisfaction of recovery.

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