Over the next seven days I shall have extensive meetings with the sail maker, designer, builder and others to determine the best course of action that will restore my confidence in the boat and its fittings, which would allow me to make a second, and hopefully successful, attempt. Over the past two weeks, since my arrival home, I have become very aware that most solo attempts have failed and for a great variety of reasons. I have also become aware of the many who have been following my blogs and forwarding them to others. That brings me great pleasure.
The question I now most frequently get is “will you try again?” By contrast, my close friends don’t ask that question – they know me better and they all say “when will you try again?” My response to both is that I am proceeding as though there will be a restart this November, but I am not yet willing to make that an affirmative statement. After all, as stated above, I must regain my confidence in the boat. Additionally, there is a matter of my age and maintaining the excellent health that I now enjoy. But it looks almost certain that I shall restart, so stay tuned. I will keep updating. In the meantime, three crew members are arriving in Cape Town Sth. Africa and will bring the boat back to Antigua, where it shall stay until the spring when it will come back to New England, most likely with me at the helm.
It was a rough entry to Cape Town, as a gale blew from the south east and winds were consistent at some 35-40 miles per hour. There was in addition, a great deal of shipping traffic rounding the Cape, going from and to Europe or Asia. When approaching land, there is a fear of over sleeping and ending up on the rocks. I was awake for the 36 hours, given the winds, traffic and fast approaching land.
The boat is now being given the attention it needs. Sails off to the loft, boom to the spar makers and me to a hotel. The damage to the boat is even more extensive than I had thought and could be seen from the dock. But all will be taken care of as there are excellent facilities and talent here in Cape Town. All are agreed that coming to port was a wise choice.
Catherine and I will be touring a wine district today and flying home this weekend. Delivery crew will bring the boat back to the USA. It’s been quite an adventure.
As I write this blog, I am less than a day out of Cape Town after a total of 50 days at sea. It’s bright and sunny, and I have favorable winds. Once I draw near, I shall be greeted with an escort boat, a crew will jump aboard with fenders and dock lines, for these I do not carry given the nature of the voyage, and we shall dock and be greeted by Customs and Immigration…and most importantly, my wife Catherine. There will be papers to sign, champagne to drink (a tradition on all my voyages), then it’s briefly to work. Steve Tofield from Lyman Morse, their customer relations representative and general all-rounder, will meet with me for a quick rundown on the condition of the vessel. Repair crew, from sail makers, spar people, water making, etc., will descend on the boat.
Then I shall go to a lovely hotel for a hot shower, bath, and another hot shower, before going out to dinner where someone else cooks and I get to eat with a white table cloth and proper cutlery – and of course a fine wine – but I had some of that aboard. How good being on shore will be.
I think the hardest moment for me was the cutting of the three seals that had closed off the fuel tanks and the engine. The moment I cut these, the “green” challenge was over, and a few minutes later, when I started the engine, so was the solo non-stop and non-assisted circumnavigation. But, I know it was the right and only decision, a decision endorsed by all who knew what was happening. It was not at all due to my chest injury, which still bothers me, but to the safety of the boat, and its ability to handle gales and storms, which cannot be avoided and always occur on the route I was having to take.
As soon as essential repairs and replacements are made, a delivery crew will take the boat to Antigua in the Caribbean, and in May, once the weather improves, it will be taken to Lyman Morse yards in Maine, and the serious work will begin. Prior to then, I will have conversed and met with everyone from design and build, to sail and spar makers, riggers and plumbers. The result is that Kiwi Spirit is going to be upgraded from the lessons learned and experienced gained. I know she will appreciate the loving care – she deserves it. Boats are “she’s” because in a family, it’s the female that provides the love and nurturing of the family. She took care of me by getting me safely to port, and now it’s my turn to show appreciation.
It has been asked by quite a few, “shall I restart?” As to it being from Cape Town where I am now headed, the answer is a clear and concise “no!” My goal was to leave from St. Augustine, during its 450th celebration (now my adopted home), via Bermuda, where I lived for three years and from where the record of 150 days was set by Dodge Morgan. My eldest son, Alan, is a Bermudian, and the first from that nation to have circumnavigated – something we have both done in years past- he solo, me with friends and family. So, it’s St. Augustine via Bermuda or not at all.
To make this decision, I need to have complete confidence in the repairs, modifications and replacements to Kiwi Spirit. We have in this past year gained a great deal of experience that will help us enhance performance and increase safety. It would be a pity to waste this learning, but I shall remain cautious and delay a final decision until I am completely satisfied on all counts. In the meantime, we will proceed as though we are going to restart in late November from St. Augustine.
I am at present proceeding to Cape Town and expected to arrive Monday or Tuesday. I will be met by my wife, Catherine, and Steve Tofield. Steve is from Lyman Morse in Maine, who did a great job in building the boat. Once he is onboard, he will take over. Needed repairs will be done in Cape Town, then the boat, with a crew of two or three, will sail to Antigua and be docked there, awaiting weather in May to proceed to Maine for all necessary work.
By the time Kiwi Spirit arrives in Maine, much consultation and planning will have taken place, so that we get it right. I will be responsible for this.
I suspect I can now consider myself an experienced “solo” sailor, having logged some 62 solo days at sea by the time I reach Cape Town – 48 since the departure from St. Augustine. Experience should never be wasted.
It’s now clear to me that there are times in life where we defensively deny giving thought to our innermost fears. Such is the situation with me aboard Kiwi Spirit. After 41 days at sea, I was beginning to see that bit-by-bit the yacht was not ready for the worst that the Southern Ocean could deliver – anywhere from five to ten gales, and one or two storms. This boat could no longer, in its present state, handle such forces, and I knew deep down that I was not prepared to give voice to it. Then a member of my team did, and the rest, including me, agreed. Surprisingly a great sense of relief came over me, for now I could recognize and give voice to my mounting concerns and fears. Yes, I still have to get through the next six days in this ocean and make it to Cape Town. I will do my best to nurse her along. The fat lady has not yet been heard singing.
I still have to make it to Cape Town and will need to nurse this ship all the way.
The President of the boat designers at Farr Yacht Design, after seeing the photos of the failures and repairs, as well as his recognizing that the design of the rigging attachments to the yacht were inadequate for ocean sailing, emailed me to say:
“I have to say looking through them that I’ve become really concerned. My recommendation is to stop and regroup. I know that isn’t what you want to hear, but I don’t believe that you should continue into the Southern Ocean in this state. I think it would be irresponsible to do it. I think you have too many substantial problems to head into harm’s way. The boom end failure is a substantial one. The jury rigged mainsheet arrangement looks very prone to chafe. That, combined with the jury rigged reefing arrangement, leads me to believe that a substantial failure is possible. If that occurs, you will quickly end up in a loss of mainsail situation. That by itself could quickly lead to a dismasting… I think the widespread failures across so many systems, would have kept a crewed grand prix boat on shore. To have this combination of problems in your injured state is inviting disaster… Please make the prudent decision and stop.”
From Commanders Weather who have been routing me, stated after a comprehensive outline of various strategies:
“I am very sorry, but the safest decision will be to head for Cape Town. And, getting into Cape Town is sometimes not very easy!”
From Cabot Lyman, the owner of Lyman Morse, the builders:
“I am in complete amazement and awe of your accomplishment so far -you have the complete respect of everyone who has any knowledge of this project and the many thousands of miles you have already sailed puts you in the category of the very few. Is it prudent for you to stop in Cape Town. Yes, are we all disappointed – yes – extremely so.
And so I have decided to abandon and head for Cape Town, some 1,700 miles away. To continue in the face of the sage advice above would be foolish in the extreme, and cruel to my wife, family and friends. I must now abandon this dream.
Life is full of disappointments- some big, some small. This is a big one as it involved four years of planning and execution. Made bigger still by the involvement of so many others, designers, builders, family, friends, and through social media, several thousand more, all now disappointed and perhaps relieved that with the mounting difficulties that the only right decision has been made.
I should say I am sorry to disappoint so many. But there is one thing I can say and that is, “I tried,” and that my spirit did not give up until those that I must respect made it clear to me that it was over. My physical condition improves daily and is not part of the decision.
There will be no second attempt. It will be a full year before I could start again and I have asked enough of my wife and family already. The boat will be shipped from Cape Town to Maine, restored with the lessons learned, and be the fast family cruiser for which she was intended.
There will be more blogs. In the meantime, to one and all, thank you for your support. Now, some eight days to Cape Town.
The reader may recall that one of the records I am after is to be the first to complete a circumnavigation without the use of any hydrocarbons – no diesel, gasoline, propane or butane – not even a butane lighter which would be helpful in sealing the end of ropes. No one has done this. I need power principally for the autopilot which steers the boat, instruments of navigation and communication, refrigerator/freezer, and lighting, so I can be seen at night. The solar panels do not give a lot of power, very little on a gray day and none at all when the shadow of the sails fall across them. The wind generators give even less at times, especially when traveling down wind. It’s the hydro generators and their powerful turbines that create most of my power. When we sail at less than 9 knots, I am not making enough power to keep the batteries charged. As a result, I sometimes head off in a direction that allows me to sail faster, although it might not be such a good direction to get me to where I want to go – but I must have the power. I think I have perhaps lost two days already in this pursuit. With two hydro generators in the water and doing 9 or more knots of boat speed, events are positive and best of all is when I hear their high pitched whine when they hit their limits – oh what joy. Such is happening right now as I type on this bouncy ocean – I will be able to have a hot meal tonight for I need power to cook.
Now in the deep-south Atlantic, I need to be aware that there are some islands. Among which are the ones mentioned in the title of this post. I also might see more. They are small dots on the map/charts, but oh my, how they can hurt if not respected. “Inaccessible” is a good name for one of the three islands, and should make it clear to me that I should not under any circumstances attempt a landing – which of course I will not do, for it would disqualify me from this non-stop event. The only problem is that throughout my adventurous life words and phrases like “inaccessible,” “you can’t do that,” “it’s not possible,” and “there is no way,” and even at times “no entry,” have been nothing but challenges to me… and at times led me into hot water. And so, I find myself here in the South Atlantic, approaching the formidable Southern Ocean because when some said “you’re too old for that,” “you’ll be lonely, over exerted, you can’t cook,” “you won’t be able to find the time” and other such remarks, they were the words that made it even more likely that I would give it a try. It is within my norms and what my life has been all about to challenge. Challenge, adventure, pushing the envelope, and striving for, but not always attaining success. Never…never being handicapped by the fear of failure.
Yes, it’s been 30 days since I left Bermuda and five more since I left St. Augustine. In the last week I have not seen a ship, and have had only a half dozen birds and one school of dolphin give me company.
At this, the 30th day, Dodge Morgan’s position relative to mine (he did his in 1986) is that he is 350 miles north east of me. So, essentially given that we are heading south east at this time, we are neck and neck.
Yesterday evening, and into this morning, there was no wind and I think it’s going to happen again. When there is no wind the yacht rolls around on the swells left over from the weather, and so the sails, useless for propulsion without wind, slap and bang in a maddening and expensive manner. So last night, it was windless and I dropped all sails. It was a sleepless night waiting for wind to return, and everything in the boat banging and sliding every few seconds as we rolled one way then the other. All this will end once I can get far enough south to get into the westerlies, but without much wind it will take time.
Power management is a real challenge. I have shut down my refrigerator and everything else that I don’t need.
New Years Eve started out well, but by early morning the wind picked up and I was caught with a light headwind sail, which was in danger of being overloaded. On several occasions I had to take the helm. It was a scary situation and no sleep for me. The 1/2 bottle of champagne to celebrate the new year had not been touched. Finally at 4:00 am, a gust blew out the sail and torn fabric filled the air with a swooshing sound. It was dark and there was nothing I could do but watch the sail self destruct. Come dawn, I started the long process of getting the sail down and on deck before stuffing it away below. This would have been too dangerous to do at night. It is a pile of scraps.
While pulling on some pieces stuck in the shrouds, one piece suddenly gave way and I fell flat on my back onto an extrusion of the deck. The pain just below my left scapula was in as much as any pain I have ever experienced. I lay still for a few minutes testing my lungs and then started to get going. I could feel a rib cracking in my back. Crawling was out, as my left arm could take no weight. A few more actions and I collapsed for several hours in the cockpit.
Today, three days later, I am doing better, but am very limited with what I can do with the left arm. It’s getting better and will take a few more days before some of the needed tasks on the boat can be attended to. I am now sailing conservatively and gently, until such time as I am ready again and can attend to a number of tasks. Sorry to have to convey this news. I shall be fine, just need take it easy as best I can for now. Regardless – Happy New Year.