Ireland – Newport, Rhode Island
Chapter 1 -
What makes a person decide to sail the Atlantic single handed in a boat under 26'. In my particular case it was a dream I have always had since I bought my first boat at sixteen.
At fifteen, when I joined the Limerick Boat Club to row, the Captain said I was too light to row, so they put me coxing. Among the pleasure boats in the club was a 17' half decked sloop, called the "Falcon". One day at the slipway she was being rigged by a senior member nicknamed Admiral Bottles, who asked me would I like to crew. From that day on whenever |I got the chance I was his crew and I will never forget my first sail, being pushed along by the wind. Eventually I passed my sailing test by the sailing captain and was given my ticket to sail in the “Falcon”.
There was a library in the club and the first book I read on ocean voyaging was "The Fight of the Firecrest", written by Alain Gerbault, a Frenchman. In it he described stitching his way with bad sails, and pumping a leaking hull, from Gibraltar via the southern route to New York in the year 1923.
The River Shannon, from the bridge at Limerick, is sixty miles from the Atlantic. The first fifteen miles downstream is very serpentine, having mud-
At that time I was an apprentice cabinet-
There are two islands at the mouth of the Bunratty River, one of which is Greene's Island. Until recently Johnny Green lived there. At that time his father and mother and family lived on the island; farming, fishing and fowling. To me this was heaven and in the winter months I learnt to wildfowl there.
So here I was in my teens, sailing in summer, shooting in the, winter and fishing in between. All of these sports being near the water, which I loved. The weather and its symptoms always intrigued me and I well remember judging dawns while cycling to work, making my own diagnosis. It stood me well in later years.
On the east-
People still ask me: “Did you read a lot at sea”? Actually, you get very little time at sea, between cooking, eating, sleeping, navigating, sail changing, maintenance, tidying lockers, etc. I had Tabarly's “Lonely Victory”, which is crammed with information on the North Atlantic; Glennan's book of weather forecasting and various books on navigation. These were the only books I had and they were well read. The Glennan book, with illustrations of clouds, etc., is excellent. On later, longer voyages I read whenever time allowed as I like reading. When I was young my mother saw me reading comics close up and since then I have work glasses, which if I got a penny for wiping at sea, I would be a lot richer now.
During those early years I often sailed single-
There is one lesson I learned during those early years in my open boat, “The Irish Rover”, and that is a great respect for the sea. A friend and I were running home under jib on the 13th May, about eighteen miles downstream when we were broached and capsized. I well remember being on the keel, bone dry, but do not remember getting there. Charlie who has been on the tiller, was nowhere to be seen. I know he could not swim and just as I was adjusting to being on the keel, with waves flying over me, from being dry and comfortable, Charlie surfaced. The upturned hull was reasonably high at this stage, as she had not found her air level with the centre casing, for the dagger board. His hands were doing a non-
If he had been able to swim, I would hardly be alive today. We drifted very close to a beacon marker on Sod Island, its base dries at low water. The springtide was running, at maximum and I said if I left before we came abeam I could swim it, if I took off all my clothes. Sod Island is about half an acre in area with little cover and to be naked on it, unless help arrived soon, exposure would get to you fast.
Anyway, I did not try it. After drifting in this manner for 2½ miles, a friend of ours in a sailing cruiser was seen upwind, coming down on us under bare poles. When he came abeam, they threw us a rope. The rope made contact, but as they were going so fast with a spring tide and a gale behind them, we had to let it go. Any-
What had happened was the owner got into the punt and told Paddy, who was his crew, to let go the anchor. When Paddy was trying to delay the chain, which was flying out like quick silver, he caught two of his fingers, which were badly torn, and which immobilised him. The owner was carried away in the punt, by the wind and tide, when his boat's anchor gripped.
Eventually I got Charlie up on deck and down the bow hatch. My shins were sore later, 'I can tell you. After unshackling the end of the anchor chain down below, I buoyed it with an old oblong two gallon petrol can and let it all run away. The good folk on Green's Island, who had seen the manoeuvring, picked it up the next day. After rounding up to the punt and getting the owner aboard, everything was O.K. Charlie made a rapid recovery in the cabin, but he told me he was afraid he was going to be whipped out the hawse hole when the anchor chain was running out. Both my knees were raw from rubbing off the upturned hull and were in bandages for two weeks.
Ten years ago I had to undergo an operation to remove a pea sized bit of grizzle, which used to float under the skin and sometimes lock the knee joint. A mouse in the joint, the medics called it.
Often, since then, when I am sailing alone, comfortable in the cockpit and dry, I say to myself that it will never happen again, and so far it has not. It is good to realize the danger. I progressed to a 30' Galway Hooker after selling my sloop. The hooker type is a traditional West of Ireland fishing boat and would be extinct now but for a band of enthusiasts who race them annually. Money being short made it necessary to go for this type, as yachts were expensive. She was purchased for £60 and I made my first sea voyage in her from Galway, on the hom I purchased her, told me she was fast, saying that: "She beat all the yachts in a regatta in Galway Bay". When they were presented with the cup the said: "We would rather money for Guinness", and they got it. She certainly was fast, especially off the wind and
until I married, she served me well up and down the Shannon.
After seven years of marriage, the bug bit again and I decided to build my own boat. Various plans were looked at some of which would cost £50 or more, which amount would go a long way towards materials. So, I decided to design my own sailing boat.
This was done in my garage, by adjusting long thin lengths of wood to form the hull shape. Something like a skeleton of a boat. When this was done, measurements were taken every two feet on the length and every foot from the keel. From these measurements the frames were made and fixed to the keel. She was plywood skinned and had an iron keel. The family and I enjoyed her for many years.
In between all this I still read everything I could about Ocean Voyaging.
At one stage I had seven boats: a sailing cruiser, sailing dinghy, clinker built lake fishing boat, outboard runabout, shooting punt and a rowing punt. Nancy, my wife, has a sister in Dublin, Celia, who rang her asking us to go to Spain with Seamus and herself. Being busy I said to Nance that I could not spare the time, the money was tight anyway. I did not say that I would be bored to death on a beach in Spain. I will never forget Nance's answer: “Sure I know that Pat, all your money is tied up in floating assets”.
It was not selfishness that I had so many boats, four of them were wooden built. Anyone who has a wooden boat will know the work they require.
The children, five boys and my favourite daughter all grew up in them. Two of my married sons own their own boats now and take their children away in them and another fishes lobsters in his boat off the S.W. coast. So it is satisfying for Nance and I to know we have given them an appreciation of nature.
I became aware at some stage in my life that there was one thing I could do well and that was to sail a boat. We all have talents they say, and I do not say it boastfully, but if I get into a sailing boat I feel very confident and happy, knowing that I am completely at home. I would imagine that anyone who takes on an Ocean would want to feel this way, but I have never heard or read about it. They would also want to have confidence in their boat and gear.
Chapter 2 – The Boat
Iniscealtra Sailing Club, to which I belong is based in Mount Shannon, Co. Clare. From it, fifty odd sailing cruisers sail on Lough Derg. This is the first and biggest lake of three, which you meet going upstream from Limerick. Being twenty miles long by nine miles at it widest, it affords marvellous sailing water. Here I was in 1985, at 59 years of age, cruising in my own boat and crewing an odd time with my friends in their racing machines.
During the winter months the club runs a series of lectures in a hostelry in Limerick. It was at one of these, when I was commodore, that I met Mike Gill (Col. ret'd.) he described a voyage from Sweden, in a Nordic Folkboat, which he had bought there. They met very bad weather in the North Sea and as a result his daughter-
In Garrykennedy, on the Tipperary shores of the lake, I met Mike one week-
During the race, Mike, who is over six feet tall sat to leeward and said: "This boat is not like the others we are racing against, which you have to trim constantly". He was right, she had a long keel with a lead encapsulated in it. We did not win the race but nevertheless did well in light conditions.
I sailed with Mike again shortly after, and he told me the boat was for sale. He wanted a boat that could sail into a harbour he had dug out under his house on the Tipperary shore.
At £8,000 she was a bargain. I said nothing and returned home, thinking: “Here is a boat, on my doorstep that can cross the Atlantic”.
Peter, the youngest of my family, was seventeen at this stage and they were all settled in various jobs. Three of the boys were married and I had three grand-
A lot of thoughts buzzed in my mind for the next few days.
I live on the border of Limerick and Clare, which the Shannon divides approx. two miles North of Limerick. Returning home from a meeting on the Thursday after the week-
My brother Pete and I have both owned boats all our lives and yet neither my father or any relations had a yearning for the shining tides. My maternal grandfather, whom I loved, and miss to this day, was secretary to the Limerick Harbour Commissioners and when I was very small, I remember being taken by him to the docks and the quays of Limerick and Liverpool. I was born in what was then known as the capital of Ireland, Liverpool on St. Patrick’s Day, but when my dad who was from Dublin died when I was ten, we came to live in Limerick with my mum’s dad.
I remember as a youth I haunted the docks; watching ships unloading from all parts of the world. After spending holidays in Tarbert Island with my grandfather, when I was thirteen and meeting pilots for the Shannon and sailors home on leave, I decided to go to sea. My mother, whom I had told, saw the Harbour Master before me and he painted a dismal picture of coal boats covered with dust, which put me off.
Anyway, here I was with a free hand from Nance and all the family to sail the-
Money was the problem. Few people can lay their hands on £8,000. I had two boats at this stage: another Galway Hooker – and a Maurice Griffiths -
Mike Gill, I must say, is a gentleman. I have seen boats sold where even the toilet paper and tea bags were taken out before sale. She came to be mine with two compasses; Stowe trailing log, echo sounder; R.D.F. and spray hood, which was invaluable at sea, as the hatch could be left open. You could also nearly always get out of wet gear outside the cabin, unless you were running. Her biggest asset, I came to realize later, was her storm main and jib. They were both excellent sails. The storm main had an area between a trysail and single reef mainsail. It had a wire leech line sewn in.
Under it alone, or under jib alone, or both, it carried me many thousands of miles. It is the rig I most favour her under, and as you shall see later, it carried us 750 miles in five days, which for a boat under 26’ is not bad.
The boat gave me tremendous confidence. Blondie Hasler’s famous “Jester”, a sister ship competed in the first singlehanded Trans-
Word soon got around that I had bought a boat to cross the Atlantic. The month was November and the year 1985 and I was planning to leave the following year in May/June.
I had telephone calls from two of my sailing friends, within a day of each other, wishing me luck and saying that I would need help, planning etc. As it turned out later I finished up with a Support Committee of seven, each with responsibility for different aspects of the voyage. As each of these friends are busy men and as it was approaching Christmas, we decided to have weekly meetings from the first week in January until departure.In-
Never having had a thorough bred keel boat under me before, I really enjoyed sailing her during that winter. It was a cold winter and it amuses me when I recall waking one frosty morning to find my top denture frozen solid in a glass.
It is one thing to say you will sail the Atlantic and it is another to plan and do it. The enormity of it hit me occasionally. Navigation was my biggest worry, as up to this stage I was only seldom out of sight of land, having only made some passages up and down the west coast of Ireland. The route to take was also a poser, there being a choice of three.
Chapter 3 – Preparation
The inaugural meeting of my support committee was held at my house on January 8th, 1986. We elected a chairman, secretary and treasurer. It comprised of seven friends, and I mean friends. Each one was a sailor and a member of the Iniscealtra Sailing Club. When I departed from the Mouth of the Shannon, at the end of May, there was not one item short. Thank you gentlemen.
Each member was given a task, having established the priorities. Most of them were amazed to hear I had little money left after buying the boat, so after navigation followed sponsorship and then the person; safety; the boat and equipment.
My own list of priorities included self steering. I had already written to the major British manufacturers, but their equipment was too heavy for a boat my size. We wrote to Mike Gill's son who was working in Sweden, asking him to find out what the other Folkboats used on their Atlantic crossings.
Sponsorship was high on the list and plans were drawn up for a campaign. Navigation saw me with another friend who taught the subject at adult education classes. He familiarised me with his sextant on artificial horizons. I spent many days, when there was sun, that winter and spring in my garden, taking noon sights.
Our local paper, at this time, heard about my plans and interviewed me, with the result that another sailing friend, Martin Burke, knocked at the door, one wet evening. He had two cardboard cartons containing 26 tins of peas and 27 tins of beans. He had asked his boss at Quinnsworth Supermarket, where he is a butcher, for tins which had been squashed, which are normally given to charity, to be given to me. That was the first of much help and assistance which I received. Later when I approached his boss to thank him, he asked me did I need any more supplies. I told him a list had been made out by one of my supporter's wife. As a result, before I left Limerick Docks, three trolley baskets of provisions, with the-
The single, most expensive piece of equipment, would be the self steering. I had told my daughter that without it I could not sail. She immediately planned a "Pat Lawless Trans-
My committee arranged for free insurance for the "Iniscealtra", which was the new name I had given the Iniscealtra is gaelic for Holy Island. An island with a round tower and holistic ruins on Lough Derg. The insurance covered the boat until such time as I left the coast. They also arranged free lift out and storage with Brian Cullen of Derg Line Marina at Killaloe. Here I spent February and March, fifteen miles from Limerick, making her seaworthy.
The modifications I carried out are as follows:-
Boring the bulkheads (two) in the bilge, to allow any water that might enter to go aft to the deepest section.
Fitting two pumps -
Fitting bunk locker lids with catches, in the event of a knockdown, or 360º roll, so that contents would be secure
Replacing spirit stove with Gimballed two burner and grill gas cooker
Making and fitting storm boards for windows
New and stronger shrouds
New halliards, plus spare foresail halliard. Topping lift, fitting covers over catches: on the inside of locker doors, underneath side decks, to stop contents opening catches.
VHF radio and aerial
Navigation mast light
Fitting two strong washboards. The top one being one-
Word came back from Sweden, advising “Wind Pilot” self steering, manufactured in Hamburg was used by the Mariehold boats. This was ordered and paid for in German marks by another friend of mine, Manfred, who was travelling to Germany. He was leaving the morning after my daughters dance. Some of us were worried that evening, as we gave him the envelope containing £750 in German marks. When he got overheated dancing, he removed his coat and the envelope was sticking out of his back pocket. Carriage, insurance and freight, plus VAT were going to cost £250., so I called on the national airline, without success and then tried T.N.T. I.P.E.C., who very kindly brought it overland, free of charge.
During this time, apart from sextant practice, I studied the two position fix from a video tape.
The safety, and extra navigational equipment were ordered, including-
Six man life raft.
Watchman Locata Radar Alarm, which warns of approaching shipping at horizon range. It will also give a bearing of the approaching ship and this can be switched to local or distant.
The Seavoice V.H.F. was loaned by a friend, as was the sextant with which I was practising. Another friend presented me with a sextant before I left.
In March I went to the Irish Boat Show in Dublin, where I was interviewed on opening day for a T.V. slot.
International Paints Sales Manager, Graham Hill, gave me a free hand to draw on Antifouling from Derg Line, Killaloe. Hot Can promised two dozen cans, which they delivered the day before departure. Western Marine, Dalkey, gave me a fine pump, which I fitted in the cabin.
A spare storm jib was ordered, along with a trysail. All my other sails -
With two of the support committee I visited Jack Coffey, who was the only Trans-
A visit to drydock (doctor) for a checkout at the insistence of the committee, found me hale and hearty. The boat was also surveyed at a cost of £250 and was found to have wear in the rudder pintles. This I knew of when first she was lifted out. The boat was only ten years old but it was nevertheless reassuring.
After ensuring that everything aboard which could move in a roll was secure, the self steering arrived. Looking back it is humorous -
It is annoying when working to find someone telling you how to do it, even though you know how. Apart from that, unless you ignore them, which is difficult, they annoy and delay you. My advice to anyone planning a voyage, similar to mine, would be to try and get her into the yard of a jail and keep the real Harvey Wall Bangers out.
Anyway I fitted the self steering, which I christened: "Nellie" after my favourite daughter. It was fitted to port of the transom hung rudder. I was advised it was too high -
The American magazine "Rudder" had a letter to the editor, which I once read, that said: "That article of four pages printed last month on how to buy a boat is all baloney. When I saw her being craned from the trailer, my heart soared -
Speed, ease of handling and comfort are paramount for single handers. A long keel may not be as fast as the modern fin keel racers, but it gives immense directional, and lateral stability. The only three races in which I entered with her, we had two firsts and a third. We came third in a fleet of thirty two boats, in a race of thirty odd miles; my son and I crewing. Winds that day were gusting Force 7-
In the other two races I was singlehanded for one, and had a friend for the other. Which gives a good indication of her ease of handling, if not her speed and comfort.
Self steering trials on the lake were satisfactory, but with constant wind shifts it was difficult to keep her on a straight course. On the return voyage, when I entered the mouth of the Shannon, which is a dozen miles wide, the same difficulty was encountered.
Chapter 4 – Trials and Route
Having a 4 h.p. outboard engine in a well in the stern locker, we descended the one hundred and odd feet on the fifteen mile run downstream to Limerick Docks. The Electricity Supply Board control this stretch of water. At Ardnacrusha you descend in two fifty foot locks at the hydro electric dam.
This was now early May and with my departure scheduled for the end of the month I was kept busy. Navigation took two nights a week, in a friend's house. Sea trials off the mouth of the Shannon in ferocious conditions. Provisions and rigging.
The route I decided upon eventually was the Southern one. My original intention was to have taken the direct route. While it is shorter, it is more hazardous: -
Everyone I spoke with advised me to go SOUTH. The only 'yes' for the direct route, as I see it, is that it is the fastest -
The main dangers as I saw them were: falling overboard being run down, or running into a ship at night; hitting floating objects; whales; navigation; breaking a limb or even losing the mast. If I lost the mast I may not lose my life, but the boat would certainly be lost, and as Nance said my "floating assets".
Two factors eventually decided my choice of route. Navigation, which never grabbed me as it did some of my sailing friends, because I never had a natural aptitude or talent for maths.
Charlie McDonnell (Gybe) of the support committee, who was my professor of navigation, once said: "Pat's main worry is navigation. In this respect one must recall the words of M.J. Rantzen in 'Little Ships Astro Navigation', i.e. it is the man who writes the navigation tables who must be the mathematician, not the navigator, who merely uses them".
The second route was via the Azores, not that I intended stopping there, unless I had gear failure.
A reply from Bob Bunker, whose name we had received through The British Folkboat Association, and who took part in the 1964 O.S.T.A.R., was also very helpful, as he took the Azores route, completing the voyage in 49 days and 18 hours.
Therefore, with the route decided, plotting charts were got and entered for the three legs of the voyage: S.W. to pass between the Azores and down to Lat. 36° N, 1,200 N.M then West on the low powered steamer route for 1,700 miles to the Gulf Stream to Long 64° W. and then the final leg in the Gulf Stream to Newport, Rhode Island, of 600 miles.
Favourable winds and currents present this route as sensible for cruising. Looking back on my return voyage, by the direct route, I would most certainly agree. Nevertheless, the direct route presents a challenge, and that is what it is all about.
The largest of the Galway Hooker type, of which there are three, was also, at this stage, preparing an assault on the Atlantic. She was the 40’ "Cliona" and in fact left Galway Bay the day after my departure from the Shannon. I had read that she received, by way of sponsorship, nearly £20,000. Through the good work of Eddie McCarthy, who was in charge of sponsorship on my committee, we netted £2,500. The largest amounts received were three £200's: one from my sister, Betty, one anonymous, and one from the I.S.C. The balance came from relations, friends, firms and individuals.
Physical fitness never worried me. All my life I had worked hard, and in between had walked with a gun and dog; sailed; fished and rowed. Anyway a boat is a natural gymnasium. After both voyages, apart from a few days, adjusting to land legs, I never felt fitter in my life. On the day after my arrival at Newport, RI, three of my children and some friends and I were dining at the Marina Pub on Goat Island. After the meal I leaned back in the chair and crashed to the floor.
Everyone there looked to see who was the drunk on the floor. Another time, only because I was held, I would have swayed in off a wharf. The first day I came ashore, the road up from the wharf was rolling like the Ocean.
The hurricane season (described as J.A.S.O.N. the initials for the six months June to November) hits the South East coast of the U.S.A. during those months. My departure of late May should see me safely through, as they rarely occur in June. I remember on the 1,700 mile leg to the Gulf Stream speaking on the VHF radio with the nicest skipper en route, a Captain Tosche, a German who promised to relay my position to the M.R.C.C. (Marine Rescue Co-
M.R.C.C. had arranged with Portishead that should they receive a message it would be passed on to them. In this way my family would know of my safety and progress.
Captain Tosche asked for my E.T.A., which I gave at twenty-
We seldom know of hurricanes in Ireland, only occasionally getting the remains of one in its dying stages having crossed the Atlantic and they are bad enough. Being particularly interested in weather all my life, I remember asking a couple at a bar in Newport one evening about hurricanes. The last big whack one of them said was in the fifties. The tide surged sixteen feet 12’ above normal boats were in spaghetti on the roads and trees and houses torn down. As a result, Newport has a new waterfront with beautifully landscaped gardens and trees.
It is an historical fact in Ireland that it was hit in 1847 by what is referred to as "The Big Wind" or "The Great Wind" and it was I would imagine a hurricane. There was enormous damage as a result of it and one fact which emerged was that all the tinkers wives conceived, because, it is said: "the tinker men lid on them in fear that they would be blown away”.
Considering it was barely eight months since I had my first sail in the boat, it was now a week to our departure. Everything was in order. R.T.E. inter-
Chapter 5 – Departure
Funnily enough, I slept well, rising at 0600 hours. Spectators, well wishers, family and friends, including the support committee, arrived. By 1000 hours a large crowd had assembled, including T.V. cameras. As the dock gates opened I motored out under the outboard, to ships sirens, lorry horns and cheering. I remember looking up passing the Pier Head and saw my sister with a long face, in tears; Nance and Helen, I could not see, but much later I heard they had moved back, as they were in tears, also.
Belting down the narrows -
Anchoring at Foynes, home of Ocean sailor, Conor O'Brien, my sons Dan and Peter met me with fruit and veg. and my charts. The car had been located with these items intact. Nance had got onto Chloride and explained the position and they very decently provided another free battery. She, also, bought and sent down more cigarettes. The booze did not worry me. It is interesting to know that spirits, if taken when you are cold or exhausted, push the blood to the peripheries, leaving the vital organs without it. This piece of advice was given to me when I got my free medical, from another friend.
My son, John, is on a tug at Foynes. That evening, with the skipper and crew, after a few pints, we were having tea in the saloon. Walter, the engineer, had been on the tug "Turmoil". In December, 1951, the "Flying Enterprise" had listed when her cargo had shifted in mid Atlantic. For sixteen days the world had held its breath. Captain Carlsen, a Dane, had refused to leave his sinking ship. Eventually the tug "Turmoil" got her to within fifty-
Walter, as many others before him, asked me had I ever been out in the Atlantic before. Another two friends had earlier in the year suggested that I sail to Vigo, in Spain, before tackling the Ocean.
When I was on the same latitude as Vigo, outward bound, I was not too far from Lat. 40°N. Below that you are not supposed to receive the North Atlantic depressions, which hit Europe so frequently. So much for Vigo. Anyway, a year later, at my age, was a big thing.
You can be influenced by advice and after Walter had painted a not too rosy picture of winter North Atlantic, Joe, a Corkman, who was skipper, God bless him, said to Walter: "It has been done before Walter". Those words of support are still vivid to me.
After all, I was not sure at that time if I was ever to make it.
Son Pat, who had given me invaluable assistance, had sailed down from Limerick, during the night, in his own boat. So, together we both tacked away from Foynes, down stream to Carrigaholt. Pat sailed back to Limerick that evening and it was not an easy parting. We were both emotional, but tried not to show it. The cracked voices were the only sign.
I was at a mooring, off the pier, as there was still some tidying and stowing to be done. People, well meaning, used to come aboard, some with their children, at Limerick Docks, when I was working. They meant well, but unfortunately were of no help to me.
R.T.E. and B.B.C., that evening, were forecasting S.W. force 4.5-
So it was, at high water on Friday May 30th, at noon, I slipped moorings at Carrigaholt, under storm jib and main in rain and strong S.W. winds -
Once passed the pier, with wind against tide, we were being lashed by every second wave. I had made a flask of Ovaltine and some sandwiches, before departure. At 1600 hours, being wet and cold, I ate under the spray hood. Shortly after this I felt sick and vomited the lot. It wasn't sea sickness, as I knew when I was eating I wasn't hungry, but I said I needed it for warmth. It was just plain nerves. The same symptoms were with me when I left Newport the following year, but I was wiser and nibbled. However, the weather was good, with sun, which is a great help.
Loop Head, the northerly headland of the Shannon, disappeared in poor visibility and looking at my watch at six o'clock, I said: "What am I doing out here -
Every two hours I. checked our compass course. Dingle Peninsula, with its outward lying Blasket Islands, was south. This is the most westerly point of Europe. In Ireland they call it: “the next parish to America”.
Shortly after dawn the wind veered N.W. I was able to lay a course for the Azores. According to my log, we were not off the continental shelf. Seas were still lumpy but not as bad as the mouth of the Shannon yesterday.
Repaired bunk lee canvas, which broke during the night. Ever after, unless we were on the port tack, I used the cabin sole, as a bunk, bringing the cushions down. My galley and chart table occupied the port bunk.
The log, for the next few days, reads:-
Sat 2040 Hours Did not touch tiller since change of course this morning.
2130 hours Overcast all day, but dry
Sun 0430 hours Boat on course 236º true. Wind N.W. 4-
0530 hours Hove to wind, clack
0630 hours Wind up again and off we go
0900 hours Wind eased and had no. 2 jib in cockpit when it increased again. Odd lump of sea flying over bow and into cockpit. Overcast with mist.
1100 hours Wind backed to West and eased. Changed to no. 2 jib – first sail change.
1200 hours Changed course to South, for maximum speed.
1345 hours Changed to full main. Pigeon on board. I christen him Charlie.
2130 hours Reefed main for night.
I found it took nearly an hour to change jibs and main sails. The full main with battens and slab reefing pennants is slow. The storm main without reefing gears is faster.
Mon 0645 hours Full main
1100 hours Wind F.2, but still sailing in moderate swell.
1420 hours Up Genoa
1630 hours Visibility hardly one mile
1700 hours Log not working
1800 hours Storm jib and one reef main
2150 hours Second reef main. N.W. 4.5.6
Mist all day.
Tues 0700 hours W.N.W. F.3. Barometer 1025 M.B. Much the same since departure. Still overcast. Sea short and lumpy.
1000 hours Changed to Genoa
1800 hours first rise in barometer – 1027 M.B. N.W. F. 4.
2150 hours Down Genoa and storm jib instead and took 2nd reef main. Hit the bunk. Wind N.N.W. F.4.5. Doing at least 5 knots.
The log not working was a serious set-
I tried another rotator and line, but no good. Am eating well and find I am settling down to a routine. Two boiled eggs in a cup for breakfast. Ham, cabbage and potatoes for dinner.
We have a member from Newport, Co. Tipperary, in the I.S.C. He lives in the Silvermine Mountains -
Two items, purchased before leaving, prove to be invaluable. They are springs with wire hooks and are used for holding antique plates to a wall. They hook onto each side of the cooker fiddle, over the kettle or pots. Never once did they let me down on either crossing.
Boiling water and sharp knives can be dangerous at sea and I never relaxed whilst handling either. The name of the game out there is survival and arrival.
On the third day out, Stormy Petrels appeared, or Mother Carey's Chickens, as they are called. They are roughly the size of our Blackbird and fly erratically, like a swallow. Flying in pairs, they seem to dance on the water. Later I met Shearwaters, which I christened "Gliders". They never flap their wings. I have seen them lifting off the water by just spreading their wings and running with their feet -
At about this time, I heard my first sonic boom. It is a double bang, at least five times louder than thunder. Charlie (the pigeon) and I were in the cockpit, but he did not seem to mind, but it gave me a start before I realised what it was.
My morale was excellent, bolstered by the fair winds and good progress. It was great to be awakened by the light of dawn. First thing check our course. It was also great to be able to cover the miles by night. Later the wind often died with the sun and often with the dawn.
The winds were steady, I noticed, and unless it blew strongly, did not gust.
Wed. 0900 hours Up Genoa
1000 hours Full main
1500 hours Changed ma to storm main. Now under storm jibe also. Plenty white horses. N.W. 15-
2200 hours Furled storm main and reaching under jib. Wind W.N.W. F. 6-
Thurs. 0700 hours Changed up to Genoa before breakfast. N.N.W. 3. Sky overcast, but mist clearing.
0900 hours Up storm main. N.N.W. 3-
1800 hours Down Genoa and up storm jib.
2100 hours Down main. Under storm jib for night. W.N.W. F5-
Very lumpy sea. First sun today -
Besides the navigation log, I kept a daily journal. On the days when it was too bad to write, or if I did not get time, I always filled it in the next day. I enjoyed putting my thoughts and experiences together. Writing, I discovered, is similar to talking. If you write a letter, you are all but talking.
On Thursday, June 5th, a ship was coming up astern. She had “Equadorian Reefer” painted in large letters amidships. While she overtook me to leeward, we made V.H.F. contact. They gave me a satellite position and promised to relay it to Portishead. (Lat. 44º 51' N. Long. 19.7’ W). I felt greatly relieved, knowing that my family would have word of me. After thanking them sincerely, I hot footed it to the chart and to my amazement it turned out we had covered 774 nautical miles in five days and three hours -
I had voyaged more or less directly, with N.W. winds, to within 400 odd miles of the Azores -
The next three days, we covered three hundred miles.
It is funny how it goes at sea, prior to meeting the Equadorian Reefer, I had seen five different ships lights one night. Later I was to notice, nine or ten days could pass without seeing one. Then you might meet one every second day. One thing I will say, they were all very nice. Most of them flashed my position, and that I was well. None of them caused me hassle and always kept downwind. If, by any chance, any of you: merchant gentlemen are reading this, THANK YOU.
The first job, after checking the compass, in the morning, was to put on the porridge. I never tired of it. I had plenty of long life milk, which I kept for it I and I really looked forward to it. The hunger often drove me out of the bunk in the mornings. The eggs lasted three weeks -
The tins I had were all too big. I discovered that, with the exception of Hot Can and Creamed Ambrosia Rice, which you could make a meal of on their own, the others would be left half full after a meal and you would like a change for the next meal. Anyway, it was not easy to keep a half full tin aboard as many the one was strewn around, no matter how well stowed.
Eventually I would dump what was left after opening them, even though I hate waste. The half size tins of beans, peas, macaroni, spaghetti, etc., would have been ample.
Water I had in plenty, but never used it, except for cooking. Apart from bathing my eyes, I never used it to wash. The boat tank held eighteen gallons and I also had 48 x 11, litre bottles, courtesy Ballygowan Spring Water. The Ballygowan bottles were first used, as they were taking up space. I found over the days that if I opened one for breakfast, I generally had enough for my break-
Up to now, I had used the safety harness when going forward. It is a cumbersome apparatus, which restricts movement. I used it two or three times only, later on, in heavy weather.
The fore hatch began to leak, when I was on the same latitude as the Bay of Biscay. Having sealed it with a squeeze gun and mastic, the cabin was now, if anything, very warm. As a result, the only clothes I now wore were a pair of underpants. Whether or not it was the heat of the deck or the fibreglass, I do not know, but the soles of my feet became tender. From then on, I always kept a pair of old socks, in a handhold, near the hatch, for deck work. The top of my ears were tender, which I noticed in the bunk. Whether or not it was the salt or wind, or even sun, I do not know to this day. I had to put sticking plaster on them. From dull overcast weather to a clear horizon, with sun, was marvellous. Charlie was enjoying himself, no end, preening himself daily. My journal of Saturday, June 7th, reads:
"Now south of Bay of Biscay, with Cap Finisterre abeam, over the horizon. Cabin Temp.70º when I woke this morning. Now below B.B.C. shipping forecast areas. Soon will be down to Lat 40º N, and below area of North Atlantic depressions in summer.
Reaching under storm main and jib, with strong westerly. Got up during the night a few times -
I was beginning to realise there are a lot of things worth coming out here to see:-
"Charlie is in better form than I am. That is a good sign of him, for I feel as healthy as a young trout. All my life the Atlantic bugged me, not so much to cross, but to see it. It is marvellous and I am in my element”.
0730 hours W.N.W. F2 Baro 1027 M.B. Genoa and storm main,
1450 hours Clouds filling in from N.W., fast. 6-
1530 hours 6-
2300 hours Bunk. Sky now clear -
Sunday, June 8th Day 9
Got another one of Helen's notes. (She darned socks and old pullovers (and put notes in my clothes, when packing them for me. She is one great girl. It is hard to believe the boost to morale, a small note, from someone you love and from one who loves you, can give. They are in the oatmeal today. Thanks Nellie. Breakfast: porridge and long-
Have taken two noon sun sights to-
Cooking, washing up, eating, sleeping, sailing and navigating are keeping me busy. Plus, checking rigging screws, shackles, etc.
Three waves filled cockpit today, but the motion quickly shook them out again. Have to brace myself against motion constantly. Heading south since mid-
So far, have not put up top washboard, which is only six inches high. I was caught out, a couple of times, with the bottom one out. Waves coming into the cockpit, splash off the cockpit seats and come into the cabin.
Pale diffused sun. Wind now W.S.W. F.6. At 2100 hours, I lash the storm main to boom for night and lash the helm alee. The motion is much easier. Before that, the lee bow used to slam, coming off a wave. It still does, but not as badly. The whine in the rigging is less noticeable, also. Barometer: 1024 M.B. 5-
MONDAY, JUNE 9th
0700 hours Good sleep. Wind got up before I left bunk; you ears become very sensitive to its whine. Barometer dropped 2 M.B. during night.
What will I do? After two slices of grilled chopped ham and pork, a fried egg, wholemeal brown bread and marmalade and two cups of tea, I am feeling lazy. Am toying with the idea of trysail. The storm main was too much, at times, yesterday.
The odd breaking crest is flying over us, even under jib. I know I was lucky, on the way down, weather wise, but I worked hard taking advantage of it. (I pondered it, over a cigarette.)
Trysail up at 0930 hours and tearing south for next parallel 5-
Longest waves of voyage, with cross-
1500 hours Fine drizzle or mist. First rain since departure. No let up in wind or swell.
1700 hours Wind veering to west by 10° and easing now and then.
1900 hours Wind northerly and down to F.3-
2130 hours Bunk. Left storm jib and trysail up for night. Bar 1024 M.B.
2330 hours Up. Could not sleep. Temp. 60°. Cocoa and biscuits. Wind light but sailing N.2-
Still a lumpy sea, after two days of Force 6 wind. Plenty of noise, but I can hear that lovely bow wave, through the hull.
Checked navigation light and it is working -
TUESDAY, JUNE 10th
0630 hours. Am eleven days out now. A beautiful dawn. The rising sun showing an artists dawn. Wind F.3. Few clouds. After breakfast. Genoa and full main. Wind easing. Gigantic swell.
Looking down, whilst changing to Genoa, from the bow, was like looking into a wide deep valley. A few times I said “She will dip her bows" and I gripped the pulpit stanchions, but she lifted her nose only dipping.
0810 hours. Sails down -
What happened when I dropped it deeper was that the nylon top bearing was inside the two semi-
Am now 480 miles east of the Azores and rolling, for the first time since leaving, and without wind in the sails, to steady the boat it is dangerous; the deck is particularly so.
1600 hours S.W. wind. Becalmed since 0800 hours. Set Genoa first, as still a big swell from N.W. Sky dotted with small cotton wool clouds, Cumulus Humulus – the clouds of fine weather -
First day of calm and warmest.
Find, after experimenting, that she will self steer with mainsheet eased slightly.
2200 hours: Bunk.
0630 hours -
Mist now turning to rain. You know, I have not taken an hour off since I started. Am going to the bunk now with a cigarette. Then, will work out yesterday's sun sight.
Just after a beautiful shower in the cockpit. Wind backed to south and we are on the first port tack since the Shannon.
0900 hours Noise of light plane. Must be a shuttle Lisbon to the Azores.
0930 hours Shuttle noise again. If it is a shuttle, that cannot leave me too far from the Azores. Tried R.D.F, without success. Can get two stations on transistor, which are directional with my position. Luckily the wind is onto the Island.
Big swell of yesterday down by half. Are we getting into a high?
1230 hours Must prepare lunch. Hard-
Still drizzling, but wind holding. S.W. x S F.2-
1300 hours Temp. 70° in cabin. Sun breaking through; mist gone and fierce glare.
1345 hours Boom beginning to fly about. Saw what I took to be my first bit of flotsom and altered course to investigate. A beautiful turtle, about two feet long, swimming away without compass or log and not in the least bit worried by the 'looks of him'. Becalmed again.
1600 hours Sea calmest yet; big swell gone.
1700 hours Sky clearing to N.W. now, with light breeze. Total clearance now with brilliant sun and blue sky. Another turtle plodding the Atlantic, with dolphins leaping completely out of the water.
1800 hours Swell now longer. Checked all bottle screws and shackles AGAIN.
Will not get a chance to see Azores now. Was going to disembark Charlie, by air. Anyone want a locker full of pigeon shit?
Sea to the west sparkling, like diamonds. If only to see this blue water, it was worth coming.
1900 hours Sky filling in with soft clouds. Becalmed again. Cannot wait to get to Lat. 36° N and those reaching S.W. winds.
2230 hours – Wind S.E. and running under twin jibs. Main would not fill, due to swell.
2300 hours -
Thursday June 12th -
0700 hours – Rose and adjusted sails. Weetabix and back to bunk. Wind E. F.2.
0845 hours -
1000 hours -
1100 hours -
1200 hours – Up Genoa -
1800 hours -
2000 hours -
Dinner today too much for heat, i.e., stew, spuds, cabbage and carrots. I am stuffed after it. Tea much nicer -
Contacted Greek M.V. "Acarta" and confirmed my position.
Pigeon now dropping Creme de Menthe, wherever he can. He is a nuisance, at times, but has got really tame.
Only 100 miles to Lat 36° N and then we go west.
Heard two jet planes today, first in a long time.
22.00 hours -
Friday 13th June Day 14
0600 hours -
Bread showing green mould on crust, which I cut off and got four slices. Took tin foil from remaining loaves, as I think it is causing condensation in this heat. Yes, paper wrapping, inside tinfoil, damp. They will get hard and stale, but, I think, it will hold off mould. Eggs still O.K.
Most of my food was vacuum packed in plastic bags and is perfect -
1200 hours -
Have a hard-
This is the worst sea motion Sun and clouds, but mostly latter. Strong glare. Wind easing and veering. Jib flopping. Force 3.
1430 hours – sun now with intense heat.
1530 hours -
Spoke to a skipper Philipino, who said he would relay my position.
2000 hours – going for a well earned rest now – before tea.
2200 hours – read for a while, then bunk.
June 14 – Day 15
0600 hours – still becalmed.
0830 hours – Rose, after deciding conditions were OK to dismantle self steering. I was lucky with wind direction for the first half of the way down. (After that it was mostly West and S.W.) as on many route you can be lucky. I had read of boats sailing into the Azores High Pressure System, being becalmed for two weeks.
You might say, “Why did you not to go windward and through the Azores, as intended?” Better boat speed and the Azores current decided me. Also when I was under trysail and storm jib, with the strong west winds, she was taking all she could. Anyway, while I always pushed her, I never overdid it.
Am now approximately 60 miles east of and 30 miles north of Santa Maria, the most easterly of the Azores Archipelago. Pretty soon I am looking forward to light reaching and mostly quarterly winds. I am no superman and will have to get the self-
1100 hours -
Not a puff of wind. I come up for air and find millions of sardine sized fish all around and under the boat.
Was refixing self steering to transom and was hanging over the stern, fixing the lower clamps, when I thought I heard a breaking wave. Never, I said, and came up to see a whale, breaking the surface, off my starboard beam. Then others started surfacing. A pod of whales, numbering ten or twelve, going south. Never having seen a whale before, I thought of my life raft. They were on a steady course, about a hundred yards, or more, from me. So I went for the camera. They were beautiful, giving the impression of great strength and power. Only their backs showed and you could hear them spouting. The surface boiled as they submerged. I watched until they went out of sight, which wasn't long; they must travel very fast. If anyone asks me what impressed me most out there, without doubt, that pod of whales comes first.
Finished refitting self steering, which seems much easier to move. Must have some grub. I am only wearing my glasses (!) as temperature in cabin is 73º. Have bread, an apple and blackcurrant juice.
1430 hours -
1530 hours -
1930 hours -
1800 hours. Just after tomatoes, hard-
Lockers are beginning to empty, so I bring goods from bow and quarter berth lockers and top up lockers under bunks.
2100 hours -
SUNDAY, JUNE 15 -
0100 hours -
0700 hours -
1300 hours -
Unusual sea, short, steep and cresting. Is it because we are to leeward of the Azores? Nellie working great in this quatering sea. An odd crest slops into cockpit. Only 2,800 miles left now.
Pyjamas hanging up to dry in cabin. Got wet changing sails. Wind came up fast. Charlie in his locker -
1400 hours -
Last of my first toilet roll, after 1300 miles. That would make a good T.V. advt.
To a visitor, the cabin would not smell nice: Laundry bag, mouldy bread, socks, long johns, pigeon shirt, etc.
1500 hours -
1600 hours -
1930 hours – Nellie only magic. Plotted days run at 130 miles. Had dinner of ham, spuds and cabbage, since, followed by fresh fruit.
Topping lift swivel, at end boom, parted today -
2200 hours -
MONDAY, JUNE 16th – DAY 17
0530 hours – saw a ship during night, Radar Alarm did not bleep (?)
0730 hours – full main and Genoa. Wind S.S.E 2-
You would have to love this life of hard work, changing sails and having to brace yourself constantly. I lost the skin from the palms of my hands during the first week but grew tougher new skin, from many sail changes and pulling of halliards and sheets. Upstarts were also a problem from my hands being constantly wet. Now that we are in sunny climes they are O.K. I feel great strength in my arms. When I go forward on deck, I am always very careful, as one is very conscious of falling overboard, especially working on the bow. After leaving the cabin tops rails, forward of the mast, the deck is bare and when I grip anything on deck, in fair weather or foul, it is like a weld. When I empty rubbish, to judge boat speed, I always say: "that could be you (This eventually became ingrained in me).
The only occasions when I had near misses, were both at the mast, while hoisting sails. The first was when she lurched and having to use both hands on the halliard, I was flung against the mast. My shoulder was sore for a couple of days.
The second time, I was very lucky -
My knees were tender at this stage, from changing foresails, I now use a pair of well salted cords, which I kept near the hatch – they are like cardboard.
The 0530 hour start of day has my eating habits gone haywire:-
Not that I kept special meal times. Hunger is the best sauce. I ate when hungry. "The time of day, out here, is not important, anyway."
When cooking I always put on extra potatoes or boiled eggs, which can be used later in a salad. Lately they are salad days.
Going to miss tomatoes, I have only three left they are lovely, but then I will have onions, fruit, carrots, spuds and half a head of cabbage.
Beautiful sunny day with Nellie. I seldom mention you (family) because it only makes me lonely, but you are all in my thoughts – always.
These must be the start of the reaching winds to bring me to the West 1700 miles to the Gulf Stream. It is S.E. now and we are on 240°M -
Sun and full canvas flying. 5-
1430 hours -
Was wearing my last clean pair of underpants, which were soaked along with pyjamas and towel, which had been airing. Feel fresher now though.
A third of mileage now completed -
1700 hours -
All the fruit cakes are delicious (baked specially by Liz; Shibby; Mona; Brenda and Winnie.)
Charlie must have got that splash today, also, as he only came out a short while ago.
Pity I did not get to see the Azores. I was going directly to them and within 300 miles when I was pushed east on a dog leg. A-
1945 hours – YIPEE! Just got my position relayed home by Greek Skipper of Liberian Tanker 35º 59 º 25º 13’ W. Feeling great, as it is good to know the family are aware that I am OK and making progress. I worry a lot about them, worrying about me.
2100 hours -
2230 hours -
TUESDAY, JUNE 17 -
0800 hours -
Toasting remains of bread, with marmalade it is delicious.
0900 hours – broad reaching until 0830 hours when wind veered 30º to W.S.W. Now close reaching, with motion lively. Lucky it did not change during night. That is one of the many chances you have to 1ake in this ball game. Sun peeping through clouds now and looking watery. It rained during the night. High Cirrus clouds, with Strato-
1300 hours -
1400 hours -
1620 hours -
1900 hours -
2100 hours – Another big black mass ahead. The rain I don't mind. Wind shifts are the problem. During the last one, I found we were heading north.
2130 hours -
The life raft was stowed under the cockpit floor, which is the most inaccessible place in the boat, and the step leading to the cockpit would first have to be removed. Originally, when I enquired about one, I was advised that due to the size of the boat, a canister type one, lashed on deck, would be swept overboard.
The valise type, which weighed 75kgs, fitted ideally in the compartment designed for an inboard engine, and there it would not be tossed around. Often, up to this, I had pondered on this matter, along with a survival kit, containing iron rations and, also, with my emergency beacon. I think in this regard I was like someone who is afraid to make a will in case he might die. Anyway, the emergency bean was kept in the locker, nearest the hatch.
Mike O'Donnell of my support committee, will smile when he hears that I did a 360º in mid Atlantic. He is Racing Captain of I.S.C. normally when taking down a headsail I head her up into the wind after disengaging Nellie, adjust the tiller with shock coad and also ease the main. This time I did all that, but did not wait for her to lose way. As a result, when I dropped the Genoa she kept going and gybed. That will not happen again.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE `18th Day 19
0700 hours -
Relying on radar reflector and alarm now.
1000 hours -
1100 hours – Wind from W. F.2. Visibility improving. The ocean to myself and Portuguese Men-
Checked all rigging screws, shackles and oiled Nellie.
1200 hours -
1400 hours -
1500 hours W.N.W. Breeze. Genoa and main. 2 knots.
1630 hours -
1800 hours -
Now find when I am changing, up head sails, that it is easier to leave storm jib and No. 2 hanked to forestay and lashed to deck. Lashed Genoa to deck also for night.
Plenty of flotsam and rubbish for last week. Is it the Azores or low powered steamer route? Coke bottles, plastic bags, rubber, polystyrene and fishing floats, some with marked poles. Fluorescent tubes, hard safety hats.
THURSDAY 19th Day 20
0900 hours – Baro 1025 M.B. Light easterly breezed Sails barely filling and hand steering. Only heading they will fill on is 220º. Patience my boy. You learn it out here.
Passed what I took to be three sods of turf or peat. Is the “Cliona” ahead of me and is she lightening ship? I had heard they were to have carried some turf to America.
An armada of Portuguese Men-
Charlie has a ring on each leg. The starboard ring is red -
1330 hours -
1800 hours -
Am now 80 miles west of Azores.
No. 2, just keeping her going to the west. As it is the only sail that will fill in these conditions. Days run 84 miles. Total miles sailed to date 1,655m.
1900 hours -
Two good things about a calm: you get a rest and some work done.
Tried to cut mould from bread but only crumbs left. Charlie likes it. He is getting fat and I doubt if he could fly very far now. He is now with me eighteen days, which is two days less than myself.
0900 hours – Baro 1025 M.B. Good morning everybody. Brilliant day for anything but sailing. Will just have to wait it out. Was up at 0700 hrs, wind E. F.1. back to bunk. Must be above the six o’clock of a ridge of high pressure.
1000 hours -
Found a hard boiled egg in tea and sugar locker and grand it was for lunch. Will finish other work on list later. Will have a cigarette. Charlie on the bridge on watch. I am like Long John Silver with his parrot.
I am getting time today to think of my family, who never once showed one ounce of doubt in my Atlantic venture. My support group, who were marvellous, all said they would love to do the same and until such time as they could, this was the nearest they could get to it. Everyone of them told me that they enjoyed being involved over the winter. Also, friends who helped and new friends I made as a result of this voyage. God bless them all, who made this possible. I am enjoying it immensely, forgetting the cold wet clothes and the strong winds. To be able to switch off the bad days, when the sun shines, is a great escape to happiness.
Robin Knox Johnson, who sailed solo non stop on a circumnavigation, was once described by medics as, distressingly normal. I only hope I am the same. I feel very happy and content out here in mid Atlantic, doing something I have read and dreamed of all my life.
Yes, of course, I am lonely at times, especially for my family, which is normal. But, it is not going to last forever and I know that, which is what keeps me going to the West.
I hope some, if not all, of my position reports got home. Am writing this with one leg on the other bunk to counteract the rolling.
Saw my first Sargasso weed, or Gulf weed, today. A beautiful bracken brown of many shades. Reminds me of a tree without a trunk and yet having foliage.
1100 hours -
2000 hours -
2100 hours -
2200 hours -
0130 hours SATURDAY JUNE 21-
Radar alarm bleeping and no ships. The second time this has happened! Is it a submarine? Or maybe a high flying plane.
0830 hours -
1100 hours – Baro 1030 M.B. Highest of voyage so far. Nellie trying to work in this light wind. Still on 220° and doing 4 kn. now.
Feel lazy today. Had to force myself out of the bunk, even though I slept well. If this weather persists, will be like a grilled rasher. My hands are gnarled and still shedding skin from hauling sheets and halliards.
When am I to get the reaching wind that prevails in these latitudes?
Today, longest day of year.
1600 hours Shower ahead. Wind W.S.W up 5-
1700 hours Grated carrot, onion and sardines, with mayonnaise, or late lunch. Shook reef from main.
1900 hours Just had to disconnect Little Nell, as wind light, but she more or less steers herself when reaching.
2100 hours Tin of rice with raisins. Cannot eat muesli as it acts as a laxative, but breaking myself into it by mixing it with rice, etc. It seems to have the same effect on Charlie -
2300 hours -
SUNDAY 22nd JUNE -
0830 hours -
Physically I am fine, and morale is great, and I must say I am happy out here.
1200 hours -
1700 hours -
1900 hours – N.W x N. F 4 – 5. One reef main. Spray flying and bow slamming. Will need to check rigging again immediately this thumping we are getting ceases.
Repaired leech line in Genoa sleeve by cutting slot, where it parted. Fed new line by pushing light wire cable up to slot and tied 'new line to old one.
Estimate days run at 120 miles.
Not worried about lack of sun sights. Still 2,000 miles to go with no reefs around.
Navigation was my biggest worry before departure and now it is my least. I well remember Gerry Corcoran saying: "Sure, so long as you keep going west, you can't miss America, unless you go South of Cape Horn". He was on my support committee and has a great sense of humour.
Taking a sun sight at sea is not the easiest thing. The books tell you to stand at the mast, but most days, even in calm conditions, you would need both hands to hold the mast, never mind a sextant. The only way I found, was to brace yourself in the cockpit. Your two hands are then free with one to actually hold the sextant and the other to adjust the degrees. The last sight, which I took three days ago, was with sweat running into my eyes.
Another few miles to the fold of the North Atlantic Chart, which shows my track from the Shannon.
Wedged between bunks, on floor, having a cigarette. Today was hectic; sail changing and sea motion more than keep you going. Am feeling tired now. But strong and healthy.
1900 hours – barometer dropped 2 M.B. to 1027 M.B. and wind, therefore is unlikely to veer. Course now 300º. Just checked and it has veered. Wind easing, speed down and lumpy lop is slowing us.
2100 hours -
2300 hours -
Until the following Sunday, week showed us being 627 miles further west; the Barometer dropping only to 1022 M.B. Winds were generally from the S.W. and light to moderate, with an odd burst of F. 5-
Showers and lightening were quite frequent. Lightening flashes always caused the Radar Alarm to bleep. When you consider the waves I have met, so far, she is a superb boat, and, a dry boat, considering her size. The lee bow slamming after coming off a wave and making the boat shudder, is the only unnerving experience, so far. Waves coming into the cockpit, an odd time, are part of life out here and are no problem.
Before this voyage, I had seen the cockpit filled on one occasion only and that was whilst doing sea trials.
Now 700 miles from the Gulf Stream and a great chance to get clothes desalted during rain showers, some of which were very heavy. I used to close self-
Saved myself a few quid on a haircut. Ran my fingers through my hair and cut off the air above them, butt left hair over ears and nape of neck, and should arrive with plenty to spare. Had a decent wash, also. Ate last apple during week, but plenty of oranges and grapefruit left.
Hate being becalmed at night, as you are a sitting duck if a ship comes out of the night.
Charlie circled boat again and I hope he did what you know out there. Have never seen the decks looking so clean; salt is a great purifier.
Spoke to ship on Friday and got word home and also confirmed my position and chronometer time. The captain said my transmission was 'weak', so I must change battery.
Charlie getting bold and he now perches on cabin top handrail. The weeks have flown and except for sticking plaster, have not had a pain or an ache in a month at sea.
A week of S.W. winds have pushed us to the north; our Latitude now is 37° 56' north.
THURSDAY 3RD JULY 1986 (day 35)
Temp 72º. Will leave Genoa up. We are doing 5-
FRIDAY 4th JULY, 1986 (DAY 36)
0300 Sleep would not come – it must be the dozing during day – going to make cocoa. Wind holding steady. Sky glittering with stars. Temperature 71º.
0100 Going grand – 5 knots
0200 Going grand – 5 knots
0300 Going grand – 5 knots
0900 Going grand – 5 knots. Temp 72º course 300º. Still W.S.W., force 3. Only 10º off desired course. Stratus with Cirro Cumulouse above it. Must get the porridge on.
1000 Waves or swell today like a succession of Ferry bridges. Grilling some ham now.
1100 Sky clearing now and leaving Cirro Cumulouse (mackerel). 24 hours steady going now since 9.30 yesterday – still Genoa and storm main – eating up miles to westward – maximum sail for wind over that period. Thermometer creeping up now -
1120 Still close hauled on port tack.
1200 have storm jib ready if wind increases any more – for sail change – now 3-
1300 Wind held steady – course 300º steady – temp 80º -
2100 Wind eased slightly. Less spray flying and little or no slamming now hope it carries us through the night. I suppose Pa Joe is up the lake tonight. He was one good son to me before I left. -
2200 Wind now eased but an odd spray flying and rigging still humming away. Force 3.4
You'll never guess what I am eating? A Mars bar. If I know Harry he called another support committee meeting or two -
Did Gybe and crew get to Blighty? I heard the weather is bad up North. Mickey McMahon was also to go. And, how did Austies Armada make out? Will have to wait and see. I was bloody lucky coming down – hope it holds. Last four days and nights a great boost to my westing. Still can't get over how good everyone was to me before leaving.
2300 Sea flattening with wind decrease. Looks like sailing again tonight. Fairly moving now you can feel her lepping west. The lumpy sea was a bastard. Wind coming up now and again. Temp. 72º Sun. much paler than others.
2330 At this this time -
2340 copper and clear
2347 Sunset with hint of red -
END Will chance leaving up Genoa, as I predict drizzle or mist. We shall see.
SATURDAY, 5th. JULY 1986 – DAY 35
0130 Ship going west to port. Could barely see her green starboard light – but it was forward – unusual – she had four white lights – one low down aft. Wind force 3.
0300 Genoa fluttering now and then and odd slam – will adjust Nellie. Wind still steady.
0900 Still W.S.W – Force 3. 5 Knots.
Good morning. Same wind, and barometer steady.
2300 hours Barometer has dropped 3 M.B. since 1900 hours. Wind WXS – Force 4. Was under storm main and Genoa for 48 hours until 0900 this morning. Now under Now under storm main and storm jib. Motion very lively, going to windward. It is my favourite rig on her; she sails herself under it and is beautifully balanced. Will have lee bunk if I want it tonight. Saw a 'windog' on horizon (what we in Ireland call a 'butt of a rainbow'), which is a sure sign of wind. Plenty of showers around, also, which are hiding the sunset and it is not looking healthy at all; short deep swell.
I have been using water from 18 gallon holding tank, in bow, for last few days. I have plenty of bottled left but I want to trim her.
Had a shower in cockpit, during rain and the pigeon also. He held up one wing at a time to the sky and looked like a rag doll after it. He will do some preening after this. Had f my washing out for it, also.
Charlie disappeared on Monday -
Two, different birds, all white with long forked A tails, chirping.
Spoke to Noel Cummins, from Cork, a 90,000 ton bulk carrier. He told men divorce bill has been thrown out in Ireland. Will have to stay with Nance now. It is a great facility, when you meet a ship, to be able to get word home. It is nearly as good as having a telephone. Most skippers to whom I spoke enjoyed talking to me, asking me how many days I was out and if I was O.K. for everything, etc. They were amazed when they heard I was 60 years of age and a grandfather. They all wished me a safe and pleasant journey.
Was lucky not to have set fire to boat. Had kept a cigarette lighter between edge of bunk and bunk cushion. When I was pulling it out to light the stove, it must have flicked on. A piece of towel roll, wedged there was in flames. Lucky.
Find I have t steer in winds under Force2 les. Spent ten hours at it on Monday. The self steering bearing is still too stiff for light winds.
Half way now to the Gulf Stream, where we turn N.W. for Newport.
It is great, having spoken to a nice guy, what it does for morale. Spoke to a Filipino, who said he would post a card to Nance from Mobile, Alabama. He told me there was a gale off Newport and Cape Cod.
It is amazing what you can learn, when you have to. Six months ago I hardly knew latitude from longitude and seldom did chart work, or used a compass, not to mind a sextant. Colombus and even the early single handers were great men. No self steering, V.H.F. or radar alarms. It is much easier now.
Took my second towel out of its vac pack and it has a beautiful clean fresh smell of the hot press at home.
I find my dead reckoning is very accurate, as once after eight days, without either a sun sight or a confirmation of my position, we were only 25 miles out.
But, that was in reaching, or close reaching conditions and beating would be much more difficult.
Watchman bleeped and I looked out and saw this huge ship approaching. We passed red to red. M.V. “American” Italian and bound from Norfolk to Tenerife. Good progress.
Another two degree of longitude and we will be on same meridian as St. Johns, Newfoundland.
SUNDAY, 6th JULY -
0040 hours -
We are now on a heading of 320° and 340 ° is my maximum on port tack. If it veers, will come about. Very satisfied with progress over last four days, and, indeed whole voyage. Could have been held up in an Azores high pressure system. Was I lucky to have been pushed east of the Azores?
Lucky I shortened sail, lightening to south and wind now up -
0900 hours Sky looks tossed, ragged Strato Cumulus. Barometer down 4 M.B. to1023 M.B.
1900 hours Barometer down another 4 M.B. to 1018 M.B. Wind still S.W. Force 6. Waves much longer, with lumps between crests, slowing her down, but at least we are on course. Plenty of spray and slamming coming off crests. Still holding storm main and stern jib.
START OF OUR SIXTH WEEK
Very difficult emptying bladder in these conditions. Find I have to kneel on floor with bucket and with both hands braced on handholds.
Find my digital wrist watch has gone haywire. One of the buttons must have been depressed. Bought three of them before leaving; two of which were set at G.M.T. and the one on my wrist was set at Irish time and I have kept it at Irish time to give me a link with home. Got booklet on it and best I can do is to fix it seven minutes fast. Prior to voyage I used a mechanical wrist watch but as it was not waterproof, I left it at home. I think you have to grow up with them to be in tune to digitals and computers.
Heavy rain now, which is flattening sea somewhat. A downpour now and wind increasing. Lee deck under now and then. Have mainsheet fed into hatchway, to ease it if necessary.
White water everywhere and had to ease main. Slamming reduced but losing heading. Starboard dodger has come adrift and is kicking up an awful racket.
Very difficult to estimate speed in these conditions. Have entered 4 knots in fog, but I am sure it is more.
Get into oilskins and put a shock cord on dodger. I am not being vain when I say this caper is not for the faint hearted. A wave half filled the cockpit from windward, when I was fixing dodger. Very short swell with deep troughs.
Find this journal a great help. Deeps your mind off slapping of waves, slamming of bows. rolling and shriek of wind in the rigging. But you know, I would not swap places with anyone this minute.
2200 hours -
2300 hours -
I noticed while on deck that the lower jib hank was off the forestay.
An odd breaking wave slams over us. Estimate S.W. wind at F. 7-
2400 hours the Barometer dropped another 2 M.B. 1014 M.B. Wind still S.W. -
2400 hours – a drop of 13 M.B. in last 24 hours. Raining since 2030 hours.
MONDAY 7th JULY – DAY 37
0045 hours – Port dodger, this time making a hell of a racket. Easier fixed as it is the forward end and I have shelter of spray hood. Will have a lot of maintenance to do after this. Thank heavens jib gave no trouble.
0120 hours. – wind shift to the south; wore ship, i.e., gybed her into the other tack. Heading now 260º. Wind dropping fast – barometer up by 1 M.B. Heavy wind.
0200 hours – bunk and little sleep. Like being on the inside of a drum being played. Baro 1012 M.B.
0530 hours -
0930 hours -
Something about this morning I have not seen in any other -
Had safety harness on again on deck. Course 260º -
1100 hours -
Have only one pair of dry pants left now and three others waiting for a chance to dry. Rolling and bucking, but no great spray flying.
Going south of west. Was at 37º N, when plotting yesterday.
1300 hours – 1015 M.B. Temperature down to 70º. Had a Hot Can and cannot praise them enough. Sweets and oranges getting low and will miss them as they are tasty. You miss tasty food, like rashers, sausages, etc. Should have brought some snack food like crisps.
Barometer beginning to creep up and an odd blue patch showing in sky.
1500 hours -
Today's plotting shows 420 miles to Gulf Stream -
Pruning last of carrots for grating. Tea: Sardines, carrots, onions and last of mayonnaise.
Was very lucky not to have lost wind vane from self steering. Looked out and saw split pin, which holds frame of wind vane, and it was hanging loose by its nylon cord.
The wind vane frame is stain-
1900 hours – Barometer 1017 M.B. up 1 M.B. Showers moving rapidly North South, got one of them with sharp wind increase.
Just put on pants and find the belt needs an extra notch -
2100 hours – Belting West for last twelve hours at 5-
2300 hours -
Reading for last hour on cabin sole, at a difficult angle. Motion wild, but at least when reaching you do not get a whine in rigging. The shrieking in the rigging, last night, was unnerving and I feared for the mast.
Night time, I find, is the worst, as at least in daylight you have something to occupy you. At night, when it is bad, you cannot sleep and only doze fitfully. Also, your morale is low.
A doctor friend told me before leaving, that you are at your lowest ebb at three in the morning; your reactions are slow and the human spirit is weary and depressed. Not the best symptoms for having to go on deck. That, apart from comfort, is why I used to pay particular attention to the barometer and weather symptoms, especially sunsets, before deciding what rig to leave up at night.
I have noted, at sea, that winds are generally constant in strength, unless in showers, which bring squalls. They are also constant in direction and on average, last from twelve to eighteen hours. I would say that for the last hour we are at maximum speed, whatever that is: 8 knots?
Down to my last bag of sweets and trying to spare them. Running out of all the nice things; no wonder I am losing weight. Apart from strenuous exercise, I am on dietary food, i.e., powdered non-
2400 hours -
TUESDAY 8th JULY
Rosy sunset behind clouds -
0130 hours -
0950 hours -
Constantly at helm now in between porridge and kettle. Would dearly love bacon, egg, sausage and toast. Have christened biscuits: "slates". "Miss the Times with breakfast” (to see how my shares are doing). That gave me one good laugh as the last thing you think of out here is 'money', or the Gulf Stream, or food, family and friends and enemies of the Atlantic venture camp. You get time to think out here, but definitely not money. Survival is uppermost and arrival next
1200 hours – Wind now backed to S.W. x W. Force 2-
1500 hours -
1300 hours -
1600 hours -
Stripped and retrieved kicking strap, which was banging off lee window. Pin must have come off swivel on deck.
1800 hours -
Lying in lee bunk, hoping the wind will ease, listening to whine, thump and slam. The thump is when a wave hits her to windward, below the belt. No Queensbury rules out here, or soft-
1900 hours -
2100 hours -
Have kettle on for Bovril and Rye King, even though I feel as if I am in a tumbledryer.
The topping lift fall, frapping all the other halliards are inside the mast and the whine from the rigging is the only noise now, except for the odd breaking wave slapping over her.
Sky a leaden grey now. Temperature 72º -
2300 hours -
WEDNESDAY, 9th JULY
24 hours under storm jib, going south. Wind still westerly, Force 8-
THURSDAY 10th JULY
0200 hours -
0300 hours -
2100 hours -
SATURDAY 10th July
0500 Hours –W.S.W. – Force 6
0900 hours -
The next few days saw fair runs, with 120 miles the best and 60 miles the worst and much sail changing. The winds mainly from W. X S. and not exceeding Force 5, with a calm of six hours. Also, lightning at night.
There is no doubt but that the ocean is very beautiful, especially at dawn, giving red hues to east; grey sheet clouds drifting and parting, revealing higher mackerel clouds, with blues here and there and every colour one could name.
1840 hours – spoke with M.V. “American Rover” the Bridge put me on to the radio officer, Bill Yerger, after confirming my position they will contact Portishead, Yippee.
Only made 265 miles last week, due to three days of gale from west.
Have been finding flying fish on deck an odd morning. They are transparent and are supposed to make tasty breakfasts, but not for me, thank you. I noticed that my wind instruments, the ribbons on the main shrouds, had climbed up to the spreaders during the gale, which gives a fair idea of how we were pressed over at times.
For the first time, I felt lonely one evening. I always missed the family, but never felt really lonely before that. The following morning, after a good sleep, I felt great. It was lack of sleep and tension, during the gale that had made me feel low.
Passed a baulk of timber, about 20" long x 11" x 6", at a distance of ten feet. God only knows what we pass and don't see.
As it is Sunday, must say a few prayers to thank the Lord for my progress and safe journeying, so far. Also, to ask him to guide me safely to Newport.
When we hit the Gulf Stream, it will assist us from ten to seventy miles, per day. Why they call it a stream is beyond me. There is nothing like it in the world; its volume equals twenty five times all the rivers of the world. I am apprehensive approaching it, as Bob Bunker had told me in his letter, that he met four short sharp gales in it, from N.S.W. & E, with another on entering the Labrador Current, together with vicious line squalls,
Checked navigation light and it is still working as is V.H.F. and Radar. Got a position report home, after nine days.
Big patches of waves constantly around now, some as big as carpets and have to push them off self-
Bermuda now only 350 miles to S.W.
Cannot understand short steep swell. Bow dipping changing jibs. Is there a west flowing current being sucked towards the Gulf Stream? This, by my reckoning, is only 200 miles away.
Would like to have T.V. now and watch a good western, or play a game of pool or snooker.
120 miles now to Gulf Stream. Heard first thunder with lightning, does that mean it is fork lightening? Other lightening was the sheet type, which is not dangerous. You feel vulnerable out here in it with the mast pointing up to it.
Cannot help thinking of the history of this route: Explorers, galleons, privateers, ship-
0430 hours -
A month since Azores. Unlikely to make it in fifty days now.
Not being used to ocean conditions, my ears and the sails we could carry, gave me a fair guide to wind forces, together with wind and sea conditions. When you seek breaking crests being torn off by wind, or rogue waves, separate and isolate, lumping up vertically, or long rolling waves, with crests 200 yds. Apart, and God only knows what height, it takes strong wind.
Took the opportunity to extract light sequence; from Buzzard Bay, south, to Block Island, together with Radio Beacon signals. Have them in a zip type plastic folder. A beautiful day with minimum swell; mentally very relaxing. No Whine in rigging, thunder storm, high seas or sail changing and a day like this, without anxiety of any kind, is great for morale.
At no time, with the strong south wind did the waves get longer; short and deep they were with white water everywhere. Marvellous sailing without any strain on gear, although towards the end, when we got the squall, we could have had the storm jib up. The whine in the rigging was the worst of the voyage -
I had no way of judging wind speed, other than books. The beaufort scale is a help, though at times confusing. After forty years of sailing, shooting and fishing, I firmly believe there is no substitute for experience.
Plotted days run, 50 miles. Sitting on Long.65° West. All we need now is WIND. 420 miles to Newport. Very warm and hazy all day with a frightful thunderstorm and a deluge. It is still cracking away on horizon.
2100 hours -
Two to three days of thunder storms are normal upon entering the Gulf Stream, so let's hope we are now past them. They play hell with the wind. Flying fish all day, skimming over the waves. They clear 40 to 50 and 60 feet at a time.
THURSDAY, JULY 17th
Awakened by thunder and lightning, rain wind – Force 3-
FRIDAY, JULY 18th
0100 hours 4 hours of wind -
0800 hours South wind -
1000 hours Now Force 4 -
1100 hours Force 5-
2000 hours Force 6-
2200 hours Force 7-
2400 hours Force 8-
SATURDAY, JULY 9th
Ran all night until 1100 hours under No. 2 jib. 1010 M.B., dropped 6 M.B. overnight. Wind now N.E. F. 4. Main up and broad reaching. Fifteen hours under No. 2. We are moving at last.
Find it hard to believe we are on the home stretch, at last. Gulf weed aplenty: Carpets and rugs of it. Plenty of Portuguese Men-
That southerly wind was the second I have met, the other one being near the Azores. Was that rain squall which hit us last evening a line squall? Before it eased, we had, for a short time, as strong a wind as any so far. I would not like to have met it against the Gulf Stream -
Like an autumn day now, with N.E. wind; temperature down, even with clear sky.
1200 hours – Just spoke with Indian tanker. They wanted to know if I was an Italian yacht. The U.S. Coast Guards asked them to look out for it, as it is overdue, with two of a crew. They are to send my position. Very nice fellow, Savio de Costa. Hope those two guys are O.K. Now 350 miles from Newport and it is very reassuring to get your position confirmed.. Reefed N.E. wind now -
Had spuds, spinach and ham for lunch, and it was like cooking and eating on a bucking bronco. How my stomach is sticking all the sloshing around, I do not know.
Hope my position gets home O.K. The tanker was outward bound, from Philadelphia to the Mediterranean.
1700 hours Wind still N.E., but down to Force 4. Have non-
2000 hours Wind dying -
2100 hours Becalmed. Not a cloud in sky all day. After all the miles, it is hard to believe I am nearly there. Will find the land strange again and will miss the ocean. It is really very beautiful and much better than anything I had ever read about it. It has a magic, which I find fascinating and in which I am completely in tune.
Boston forecasting fine weather, with odd thunder showers, until Monday.
2200 hours Wind up again-
It is great to be in the Gulf Stream; the colour of the water is an indescribable blue. Its temperature runs from 70°-
Making a landfall has me nervous, after seeing nothing but clear water since leaving Ireland. A lee shore, poor visibility, tides, and navigation -
American Dolphins are showing how they can do it.
SUNDAY, 20th JULY
Sailed throughout night under one reefed main and Genoa. Set alarm every two hours. Have not forgotten that line squall yet.
1000 hours -
Still short steep swell, even with Force 3. Sail gives odd slat – prevent on boom. Porridge is the one food I now look forward to. Have been out of Long-
1400 hours -
Days run, at noon, showed 120 miles. Radio W.G.S.M., Long Island, giving good forecast until Tuesday. N.E. wind variable in strength and direction now. Find myself easing and tightening sheets. Tiller steering, off and on, since dawn. Wind Force 2-
1600 hours -
1800 hours Still becalmed. If we do not get wind, could drift back to Ireland at approximately 40 miles per day. Sure is warm on deck -
2100 hours -
Just after having a bath in a basin. Can now afford to waste water. Very refreshing. Have to eat something. Mix Macaroni, cheese and a grated onion, in a pot, and heat it.
2200 hours -
2230 hours -
The Gulf Stream, where I am crossing it, diagonally, is some fifty miles wide. When leaving it, some 50 miles offshore, I would then enter the Cabot Current, which flows south from Canada at 10-
MONDAY, 21st JULY
Wind light during night but kept us going; S.W. Force 2. On tiller most of the time.
0600 hours -
Not as bad as last as most of it moved astern, with smaller one passing bow.
1130 hours -
1800 hours -
We still have a medium swell from the east, with a counter swell now from the north. Fierce heat and glare, have my pyjamas on all day.
2400 hours – tiller steered for last six hours. Light winds and smooth swells. We, at least, did 84 miles.
TUESDAY 22nd JULY
0130 hours – wind up slightly; will stay up if it holds. Moon came up large and red, as it did last night. 5 knots now. Lovely to hear the bow wave.
0930 hours – still averaging 4 knots. Went for a doss at 0530 hours and set alarm for 0630 hours, but did not wake until dawn, which is 0930 hours, (I am still chronicling this at Irish time), Nellie kept us going.
Sailed until 1530 hours, when wind died. 1021 M.B.
1600 hours – North breeze, too light for sails in swell.
Sails down until 2200 hours. N.E. – Force 3 – Main and Genoa, 40-
Constant plane noise to west all day and figure it to be from Long Island, McArthur Airport. Long Island radio forecasting N.E. Got all my clothes dry today.
Figure 150 miles left. Shortening the distance but very hard work in this heat and light winds. Another 50 miles should see us out of Gulf Stream. Big thunder storm brewing aft. Ate last of raisins, this morning, with porridge. Ocean littered with plastic plates and cups. Five bottles of Ballygowan Spring Water left. Tank water is a bit tasteless, or stale. Last tin of sardines, also. Temperature today 90º, so do not feel like eating anyway. Heat haze all day.
If this evening breeze holds, will tiller steer again tonight.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 23
0100 hours -
Saw pod of whales going north -
1800 hours -
1730 hours we were into the Labrador Current. It is quite easy to distinguish the difference by the water colour -
Tiller steering is taking up a lot of my time lately. Did my chart plotting, which leaves 120 miles to Newport. All the East Coast stations are forecasting little and light winds. Spaghetti and peas and slates for lunch; too warm for anything else. Guzzling what is left of Ballygowan Water.
Should be crossing New York shipping lanes tomorrow, if we get wind. Looking forward to seeing a liner; have never seen one of them. Not a cloud in sight. Find myself smoking a lot in this trying weather.
Long Island Round the Island Race is starting to-
The forecast is for this weather to last until Friday.
Day's run: = 28 miles.
THURSDAY 24th JULY
Still becalmed, with very little signs of wind. Sea now like glass, with medium swell from the east, Had a great sleep last night, ideal conditions for it; the heat is tiring. Opened the fore hatch, which I had sealed, due to leaking on the Azores leg.
1400 hours -
Saw my first tree in 54 days 25' to 30' long, roots and all; drifted near me and was in sight for hours. It was scoured of foliage and bark, by the sea, and bleached white by the sun. Where was it blown down?
Saw two ships on horizon today.
1500 hours -
Eventually they approach me stern on and ask what am I doing. When I tell them I am 54 days out of Ireland, they give me a Loran position of 39° 57' 70° 13' W and tell me Montauk Point is 60 miles to the west. Montauk Point is the northern extremity of Long Island.
Working at my chart sees us 90 miles from Newport. This is very reassuring, as with other position confirmations which I received en route, it is a tremendous boost to my navigational morale. When they were approaching us, stern on, I could see: "Jack Pot, Atlantic City" in beautiful blue lettering.
The skipper, who was a ball of a man, was in a pair of shorts and had a teak tan. His crew I took to be students, working for the summer and they were all beautifully togged out in multicolour tee shirts, shorts and long peaked caps. One of them raised a swordfish's head off the deck by its sword. The condition of that boat would put any yacht to shame.
An odd breeze would give us 2 knots, but it was hard work. Bucketed water over myself most of day. Long Island race is keeping me going -
In the excitement, forget to take photo of" Jack Pot". Hard to blame me as these were first people I had seen and spoken with in 54-
FRIDAY, 25th July
0100 hours -
0700 hours -
1140 hours -
Only made 14 miles yesterday -
Radio forecasting thunder showers, the last thing I want approaching the coast. Winds are very strong in them here, and the accompanying downpour reduces visibility to 'nil'.
1400 hours – Another 1½ hours of light wind.
Days run: 21 miles.
SATURDAY, 26th JULY – DAY 56
1000 hours S.W., Force 2. Full main and No. 2.
70 miles from Newport.
Wind light in Long Island race, boats averaging 3 knots. Last night and dawn, showed Cirrus, so maybe there is hope of wind. Cumulus now appearing to south. A whale now abeam for half-
Rubbish aplenty: Bottles, planks, fluorescent tubes and plastic plates and cups in hundreds.
Finished my last bottle of spring water. Hold tank shows a brown sediment at bottom, so I am boiling water and letting it cool, for drinking. Big white liner on horizon, heading for New York. Super tanker heading east.
These last few days have been trying. Feel like a boiled lobster. Patience is essential in this game and I am afraid I have not got much left. More radio forecasts for thunderstorms for New York and New Jersey. Can now pick up Providence, Rhode Island, on transistor, which is directional to my course.
Spuds nearly done. I have spinach ready to go into the pot and Hot Can Beef Casserole cooking. I won’t eat the lot but it will keep me occupied. Yes, enjoyed that meal, especially spuds; ages since I have had them.
1800 hours Wind holding true from S.W. now Force 4-
Passed sports fishermen, who are probably after sword-
Just passed my first navigation buoy since the Shannon. It was a red spherical buoy with a pillar top, showing a black asterisk on it.
Another lovely seagull. It is great to see signs of land. All nervousness approaching land has now gone. After the last days of little wind, I find myself excited.
2000 hours -
0100 hours – 2000 hours US Time E. Coast -
The wind had eased to Force 2-
Fireworks lit up the sky, approaching the entrance to Newport Harbour. I discovered, later, it was to commemorate the Black Ships Festival, a trade treaty of two centuries with the Japanese.
Identified Fort Adams Light and entered Newport Harbour, I dropped the jib, to give better forward visibility, for I was now sailing through hundreds of moored yachts. Afterwards I discovered there was a clear lane. I had, earlier in the day, prepared the anchor and eventually found space in Brenton Cove and let go at 1004 hours, local time.
I prepared tea in the first smooth water for 56 days. While I was drinking it, a thunderstorm broke loose, with strong winds and rain; halliards (rapping and the howl of wind.
I did not worry, for we had made it. I am not ashamed to say that I went on my knees and said a silent prayer and hit the bunk.
I was awakened, the following morning, by a dinghy, with an outboard, going ashore. There was a couple in it, and when it returned and I looked out to hear what I took to be an Australian accent, enquiring about my flag. Graham Perry, who was a New Zealander, invited me to his boat, where I had hot toast with peanut butter and tea. His 40' Ferrocement ketch had come from South Africa via the Caribbean. He had met a tail end of a hurricane en route and had lost his Genoa, which had flogged itself to death.
Later he took me ashore. The colour of the grass and trees was beautiful. I had forgotten what the land looked like. He took me to a giant supermarket where I bought eggs, bacon, bread, butter, milk, veg. and fruit and eventually got through, by phone, to Nance who told me that three of my kids were in Newport but where to find them?
Later, when we were having a beer at the Pier Bar, with Veronica his crew, my son, Dan, walked in. I was delighted and amazed. He told me that when they had got word from the Indian Tanker that I was 350 miles from Newport, my daughter, Helen and my youngest son, Peter and himself decided to come and meet me. They had been there for three days. He had a taxi waiting as he had done a tour of the Waterfront Bars and we all piled in to meet Helen and Peter and other Irish friends they had brought down from New York. It was so lovely for me.
They had learned, from the Coast Guards, whom I had notified by V.H.F. that I was entering the bay, that I had arrived during the night. And, they had arranged a party.
Little did I realise when I was at the supermarket, that they were aboard "Inicealtra".
The following day I was interviewed by the Providence and Newport papers, along with radio and T.V. stations.
The Mayor invited me to the City Hall for a presentation and he and his wife had me as their guest to a ball in one of Newport's famous mansions, "Rosecliff". He pitted me out in one of his long dress suits for it.
These mansions, of which there are eight, are now held in trust by the nation. They were originally built by millionaires, viz, Astors, Vanderbuilts, etc., as summer homes. They have to be seen to be believed.
The Harbour Master, Bill Meussel, who was Coastguard Commander in Newport, before retiring, had me to his house, as a guest, at another party. This time for the skippers of the B.D.C. round the world race, which they were preparing for. I met them all Robin Knox Johnston – Biltong Bertie Reed the South African and many more famous sailors.
The houses in Newport are all built of cedar wood and it is unusual to see two of the same design. Newport was once the naval base for the Atlantic Fleet. When it was moved to Norfolk V.A., prices were depressed. Upon his retirement, Bill Meussel, told me he picked up the Commanders house very cheaply. There is nothing depressed about Newport now. Property appreciates by one-
It lies half-
A sad note in Newport was that they had located the missing Italian yacht, 500 miles north of the Azores. It was found, upside down, with its keel missing.
While chatting with Graham Perry, I told him, when approaching land how invaluable the transistor radio had been. He said, he knew of five other cases of boats making landfalls with them. In my opinion they are every bit as good as an R.D.F.
Two things I could not understand in Newport: It gets dark at 7.30p.m. US time in the evening and there is only four feet of a rise and fall in the tides.
One of my support committee, Charlie McDonnell Gybe had arrived. Pete, Charlie and I took a two hour bus ride to New Bedford, home of whaling and of Moby Dick and Herman Neville fame. The museum and waterfront, with its preservations of whaling, is impressive. I would like to have seen Mystic, in Connecticut, which I believe is one of the best maritime museums in the world, relating to sailing vessels.
Time was flying. I placed "Iniscealtra" with the brokers, Bay Yacht Sales.
When I was booking my flight home, the girl in Gullivers Travel Agency said: You are the guy who sailed from Ireland, I saw you in the papers and T.V." and added: "You should be flown home free of charge". She rang some Irish travel agents but unfortunately it did not work out and the flight cost me $400. I mention this to give some idea of the kindness with which I met while there. Telephone operators were also amazingly helpful.
Through the Mayor, I got free storage until my boat was sold. The lift-
If I were crossing the Atlantic again I would carry two whisker poles, for running in light winds. I found there were many times when only the jib would stay filled, due to swells.
My compass was not which was a nuisance at night. (Your vision being lost when the torch is flashed.) I would also have a compass installed in the cabin.
Winds of Force 4-
I found the barometer, the most basic means for evaluating the weather invaluable, together with studying cloud formations. The old seamen’s rhymes in Reeds being remarkably true and very helpful.
I now have a better idea of what to bring in the food line.
Looking back it was one of the highlights of my life. Marvellous memories of new friends and old. A family who never doubted my ability to make it. I am sure they had their moments of doubt, as indeed I had, but they never showed it.
It is not something you undertake lightly, but to anyone who has the bug, as I had, and if you feel confident in yourself and your boat, I would say: "GO FOR IT".