Global adventurer Adrian Flanagan has concerns about slow progress 1/6/06

In his last e-mail sent back from the Pacific, global adventurer Adrian Flanagan was sounding desperate, commenting: “Every moment I am out here danger is my neighbour and fear is my shadow.” See previous news story here. 

Concerns began to grow that this solo adventurer’s fears of ‘pending’ storms seemed to be escalating out of control, but news from the boat earlier this week confirms that, although the his lack of wind situation is not ideal, there seems to be more stability in his tone.

Flanagan who set sail from Falmouth last October aboard his 11m stainless steel sloop encountered gear damage when he was knocked down in a storm off Cape Horn. He was then forced to take a 10-day pitstop in Honolulu to carry out emergency repairs to his mast. Now heading slowly towards the Bering Strait Flanagan admits he’s never felt so pressurized commenting: “The thumbscrew is the clock – seconds dribbling inexorably into the infinite void never to be recovered. With each moment of time that ticks by, my window for making the Bering Strait and the Arctic shrinks.”

Flanagan has been becalmed for five days and his anticipated fast run towards his antipodal point has so far failed to materialise. Flanagan continued: “I imagined flying a spinnaker most of the way. Boat speed of 5 to 6 knots was pretty much a foregone conclusion. My routing charts indicate that here the winds come from the west less than one per cent of the time, but for the last five days the wind, what little there has been of it has been form the west.

“I have made no appreciable gains for over 100 hours. I have lost 500 miles. It’s depressing and frustrating. The slower the boat is in the water the better the opportunities for marine growth to colonize the hull and with that comes drag which progressively erodes boat speed and increases time to target, thus closing my window even more. I try to remain positive and optimistic. To do otherwise is foolish and unproductive.

“Since I am bound more or less due west, I clean the boat, check the rig, service the engine, ensure emergency procedures are practiced, plan ahead and correspond. But mostly, I read – escapism that eats time and neuters frustration. I have consumed three novels, one excellent, one okay and one so unbelievably poor I wonder how stuff like that ever gets published. My friend, Campbell Armstrong has sent out more of his thrillers, so I am saving the best till last.

“At the moment my literary diet is a book on Pyscho-Cybernetics by an American plastic surgeon, Maxwell Maltz MD. He died in 1975 and the book was first published in 1960 – the year of my birth. Maltz was way ahead of his time in his evaluation of the self and what it means to be productive and happy as opposed to stressed. It’s apposite reading for me at the moment and conducive to the introspection and self-searching that inevitably results from long periods of isolation such as I am experiencing. I try to remain focused. I remind myself constantly that the lack of fuel to fill my sails is not some divine conspiracy to thwart my goal but nature working to nature’s laws in which the irrelevance of a lone yachtsman on a small boat is not a factor to be considered. I accept, albeit grudgingly that I am at the mercy of some greater power and my mind bends to a Taoist belief that I must be as water and flow easily around obstructions rather than try to hard to roll them aside. But flow as I might, my eye is still drawn to the clock and the sweep of the hands around its face, leaking time.”

Flanagan’s route across the northern Pacific is taking him towards the Bering Strait. From here a westward passage through the Arctic will lead to the final stage of his expedition – south-westerly across the North Sea and back into The Channel.