Adrian Flanagan waits patiently for weather window home as he recounts two years at sea 30/10/07
Last weekend marked the second anniversary of Adrian Flanagan’s departure from southern England on his Alpha Global Expedition. Two years ago Flanagan sailed off in his 40 foot yacht Barrabas hoping to be the first single-handed yachtsman to circumnavigate the globe vertically. Here he looks back on the trials and timing of both a physical and psychological marathon:
“All circumnavigations, which until the Alpha-Global Expedition have been exclusively west to east or east to west, conform to a guiding principle: you hit the hotspots at the best time of year. Traditional circumnavigation routes have two established danger areas – the Cape of Good Hope and of course the infamous Cape Horn. The idea is to navigate these areas in the summer months of the southern hemisphere when storm frequency (though not necessarily intensity) is less.
“On the route of the Alpha Global Expedition the count of danger areas is higher. There was of course Cape Horn westabout against the prevailing weather. Then the northwest Pacific at the start of the Typhoon season, an area also recognized as a rogue wave hot-spot. Following closely on from there, the Aleutian Trench and the rips between the islands then the Bering Strait which has opposed currents running simultaneously – hit those in a big wind and it would be akin to putting a toy boat in a washing machine. The unique aspect of the ‘vertical’ is the ice, which presents a physical barrier rather than a weather danger. Lying west of there is the Norwegian Sea and the North Sea. My planning called for me to make each of these areas within certain reasonably tight time slots. The ramifications of delay at any one would be felt all the way down the track.
“This area [the Norwegian coastline] experiences force 7-12 conditions 30% of the time in November. The winds are predominantly southwest?The coast south of Vestfjorden is littered with unmarked rocks [and] the quickly shoaling landmass provides an environment for monstrous seas to build quickly, and in the prevailing winds is a lee shore. I have been watching the weather and waiting. There has been little respite. In short, I’ve missed the window.
“During this voyage I have learnt many things, one of which is to trust my instincts. Just before Cape Horn, I backed off to south of the Falkland Islands for three days. There are high pressure systems which can block the lows. I couldn’t tell you much about the technicalities of weather systems – how they work, why they do what they do, but I can feel them. It is impossible to articulate.
“Every instinctual alarm bell is sounding not to try this area now. I am so tantalizingly close to the finish – the temptation is huge. There are commercial pressures for me to get the boat home. Financially, I am running on empty. But?I’ve decided to stay my hand.
“Barrabas will winter here in Mehamn and I will return at the earliest date in 2008 to finally bring her home.”