Saga Insurance gets hit by a squall during Sir Robin Knox-Johnston's interview with Radio 2 28/2/07
Log date28 February 2007
PositionLat 39 32S Long 46 59W
Miles to Norfolk, USA5,657 nm
Distance In 24 Hours166.5 nm
Average Speed In 24 Hours6.94
I am a keen listener of Radio 2, so when the opportunity arose to talk with Chris Evans and Johnny Saunders I jumped at it. Great fun and the good news was that the circuit did not break. It came as I was going through a white out squall of course, but it wasn’t the first so Saga Insurance was under easy sail, I had already taken the third reef, but nevertheless part of my mind was on the wind speed indicator as the wind rose and our angle of heel increased, so I probably did not give very thoughtful answers. There was a front going through with attendant squalls. You cannot be right in those circumstances. You have too little sail between squalls and too much in them; the result is the average speed drops. I stay in my oilskins in these circumstances as you never know when you might have to react to something.
Within ten minutes of the interview I was harnessed to the jack line on the foredeck, waves coming over, as we were heeled 40 degrees, connecting the halyard to the storm jib. Once set, I bore away to roll the Solent, as there is no point in damaging it by letting it thrash around, it is too important. Next reduce the pounding, as we are close hauled. Crawl through the watertight door into the sail locker and fill the port ballast tank. Whilst doing this I am lying on the reacher listening to the howl of the wind outside. Saga Insurance is immediately easier. Notice water in the bilge. Take a 5-gallon container of diesel back with me, now there’s a competition for an obstacle course. By now I am ready for a drink but first some work with the bilge pump to clear the sail locker. Then a drink, then dinner. Freeze dried, I put my hand in the box and took out the first one that it felt. Cod and potato, one of my favourites, with a bit of onion added left over from lunch.
In the meantime the main clew outhaul turning block had got caught between the boom and the mast step. Carbon fibre has, I think, proved stronger than aluminium, as the block is a write off. It takes time on these boats to learn what is really reliable at sea and what looks a good idea in port.
Suddenly at 22:50 my time, I am three hours behind the UK, the wind dropped away almost completely. I didn’t trust that and in any case the seas were still steep so I gave it the cup of tea test. Then set the Solent and let out a reef and checked the weather picture. The strong north westerlies should still have been with us but we were getting what had been predicted for 100 miles west of us. This was confirmed when the wind backed. Set the jib and furled the Solent. It was now 01:15 on the 28th. At 02:15 I decided to let out a reef but the lazyjack had caught round a batten pocket so I hauled it back in again. That is a job for daylight. So we’ll lose time until then.
I have now had seven hours sleep in the last 80 hours, it is time to charge my batteries and ignore completely all the various tasks people ashore have sent me. I don’t think people appreciate just how much there is to do when single-handing. It’s not just sailing the boat and changing sails, much more of that here in the variables, it’s navigating, studying the weather, thinking about tactics, maintenance, nurse, engineer (not bad), electrician (not good), electronics (pretty hopeless), communications (humph), cooking (inventive), dealing with endless computer problems (humph), media demands (fine), and somehow, sometime, getting some rest. It’s fair to say I chose to do this, but shorebased 9-5 peoples expectations may have to suffer a bit for a while.
Of course all this activity removed the scabs of the various wounds on my hands. They look like they happened yesterday, not ten days ago. Add to that I cannot find my own first aid kit, which has useful things in it like Savlon, lint and plaster I am not allergic to. The massively expensive first aid kit we were recommended to have, which could probably cope with an outbreak of almost any contagious disease in a whole African country, does not appear to have either, but there is too much in it to find what you want. It even came with an instrument for looking into my ears, but no instructions as to how I am expected to remove my eyeball to achieve this!
So that’s where the time between the radio interview and the sudden decrease in wind went when it should have been spent getting some rest. Ah well, in the immortal last words of that classic Gone With The Wind – “Tomorrow is another day.”