Solo adventurer Adrian Flanagan passes antipodal waypoint and heads north 28/6/06

Adrian Flanagan who set sail from Falmouth last October aboard his 11m stainless steel sloop Barrabas has now been at sea for eight months on his north-south record attempt. He passed his antipodal waypoint a week ago and is now heading towards the Bering Strait.

Commenting from the boat last week Flanagan said: “Since making my turn at the antipodal point, I have moved beyond the reach of the north east trades. Winds will now become much more variable, particularly as I aproach and transit the ‘horse latitudes’ between 30 degrees and 40 degrees north, some 300 miles from my current position.

“A high pressure system is centred directly over me, so very little wind. The sky is blue, the sea calm. But this is a dangerous area. The typhoon (translated from Chinese to mean “Great Wind”) season has begun – Japan was hit last month – news I learnt while in Honolulu. I am in the path that typhoons tend to track along. These systems can develop suddenly and move with ferocious velocity. For the moment though, I have only the warm zephyrs of the dragon’s breath to propel me north.

“The other danger comes from rogue waves and tsunami. The Izu-Ogasawara and Japan trenchs, submarine cracks in the earth’s crust ten miles beneath my keel, run along Japan’s eastern seaboard. As a child living in Yokohama, I remember the frequency of earth tremors as these tectonic plates jarred and slid against one another. A teacher’s instruction to get beneath our desks as the classroom vibrated was almost as routine as basic arithmetic and playing marbles in the wire-meshed recreation compound.

“My defence against a hurricane is a piece of equipment called a Jordan Series Drogue – constructed specially for Barrabas and flown over from the US just prior to my departure. It is a 300ft length of one and a half inch braided line into which are sewn 160 mini drogues or pararchutes each of about 8in diameter.

“The JSD, designed by a former US aeronautical engineer and sailor, Don Jordon and developed with the US Coast Guard was conceived in the aftermath of the Fastnet and Sydney-Hobart disasters. The drogue is deployed from the stern and will bring the stern to wind and sea thereby and reducing risk of broach (sideways knockdown as happened to Barrabas at Cape Horn) or worse, side impact from a breaking wave which could roll the boat 360. Its effect is also to slow the boat (carrying no sail or just a handkerchief of headsail). The sensation is apparently as though the boat were attached to a giant bungee. I had two steel brackets welded to the aft edge of the after deck to which the drogue’s bridles are attached. The JSD is stowed on deck ready for rapid deployment.”

Despite feeling slightly concerned about energy consumption Flanagan has been spending a fair amount of time recently enjoying his on-board music collection adding:

“There are of course my favourites – music of the seventies generation, among them The Eagles, unquestioningly (in my opinion) the finest group ever to strike a drum and strum a guitar. ‘Desperado’ was selected by a friend of mine as my theme tune (it was even played at my wedding). The indefatigable Stones and the timelessness of Billy Joel, The Kinks, Marmalade and, of course, The King all remind me of a partially mis-spent youth.

“In more mellow mood, I enjoy George Michael – a fabulous voice and the ability to match it to the right lyrics: Eva Cassidy, who sadly never won the recognition she deserved while she was alive – ‘The Water is Wide’ is a beautiful number: Roberta Flack’s rendition of ‘Killing Me Softly’ always touches me: Bond’s classsic rock variations, Simon and Garfunkel, Elton John…the Bhuddha Bar collections.

“I tend to sail the boat more aggressively in harsher weather. Then it’s time, at maximum volume, for Gun’s ‘n’ Roses and The Manics (who play the best version of ‘Suicide is Painless’).

“When I need pumping up, there is one number that never fails to deliver
– Bon Jovi’s ‘It’s My Life’…’I just want to live while I’m alive…

“The music of the Gipsy Kings is as evocative as it is unique – for some reason, I am always reminded of driving around in a red, soft-top BMW…

Filtered in among all these are the show tunes, Bernstein’s America and the triumphalism of Edward Elgar. There is one song from the stage production of Bombay Dreams – I think of my sons – ‘The Journey Home Is Never Too Long’…”