‘Imag­i­nary voices haunted the boat for two weeks’

James Mug­goch learns the hard way that solo ocean cruis­ing is all about prac­tice, more prac­tice, and yet more prac­tice

Yachting Monthly - - ADVENTURE -

Ifirst crossed the At­lantic over 49 years ago, aged 18, as one of 16 crew on­board the 180ft mo­to­ry­acht Ca­margo V. I felt awe and fear at the vast­ness and re­lent­less power of the ocean and vowed never to go near it again. So when, in 2014, my wife Louise asked: ‘What do you want to do for your 65th birthday?’ I have no idea why I replied ‘I’m go­ing to cross the At­lantic sin­gle-handed.’

I planned to buy a small yacht, sail the At­lantic, run her up a Caribbean beach and give the keys to the first lo­cal I met, pro­vided they drove me to the near­est airport. My friend Ian Joseph, who comes from Gre­nada, sug­gested that I give her to the Grande Anse Sea Scouts in St Ge­orge’s, Gre­nada, in­stead.

Sev­eral months later, with the sup­port of the Gre­na­dian High Com­mis­sioner in Lon­don, His Ex­cel­lency Joslyn White­man, and the Deputy Com­mis­sioner of Scouts, Tim Kidd, Louise and I started look­ing for a yacht that was up to the passage and would suit the Sea Scouts.

Fi­nally we found a David Sadlerde­signed Fri­gate 27 in East Cowes. The owner of An­nie of Or­ford knocked £2,000 off the price as it was for a good cause and threw in ev­ery spare part he could find. I’ve been afloat all my life but I’m very short on ocean sailing ex­pe­ri­ence, and I only man­aged a few week­ends sailing An­nie in the So­lent be­fore leav­ing.

The bro­ker, Boat­shed’s Cor­rine Wil­lard, proved an ex­pert in her field and a good friend – in­deed her hus­band Si­mon Judge de­liv­ered An­nie sin­gle-handed to Ma­rina Ru­bi­con in Lan­zarote and had to be re­strained from do­ing the whole trip.

When I ar­rived in Lan­zarote, friends of friends Mike and Jean met me at the airport, took me to Mike’s ra­dio sta­tion (The Mix) for a two-hour lo­cal ra­dio chat show, then down to the Ma­rina to find An­nie. With the vict­ualling done, I had to wait for two days while a gale blew it­self out – not a lux­ury I was to be af­forded for the next 42 days. Fi­nally I spent my last euros on ten lemons and a Mars Bar.

I set off at 0800 on 2 Fe­bru­ary 2016, or tried to. The 7hp Volvo en­gine re­fused to start de­spite an ex­pen­sive ser­vice in Cowes. The spares would take 2-3 weeks to ar­rive so I asked the ma­rina to tow me out of the har­bour. The en­gine only had a range of 200nm any­way, and I would be able to sail her all the way. I had a so­lar panel and a wind gen­er­a­tor to charge up the bat­ter­ies to power the nav lights, GPS, AIS and VHF.

Once out­side, I raised main and genoa and sailed slowly South down the coast of Fuerteven­tura. I’d been told that the north­east winds funnel be­tween the is­lands but I left the sails up too late and, as dark­ness fell, I was go­ing too fast. I had stupidly se­cured the pre­ven­ter to the boom, so I had to cut it and, hav­ing opted for han­ked-on fore­sails, had to go for­ward to change sails. An ear­lier ac­ci­dent, while break­ing a stick to throw for my dog, left me night-blind in my left eye, and a mo­tor­bike ac­ci­dent four years ear­lier hurt my right shoul­der so I was in con­sid­er­able dis­com­fort. While low­er­ing the sails, I caught my right hand in the main­sheet track, fell into the cock­pit, land­ing on my head, and had my first, but not last, to­tally sleep­less night of the next 41.

In the first few days of the cross­ing James al­ways wore a har­ness. It didn’t last long

Forty-two days af­ter set­ting out, An­nie of nears Port Louis Ma­rina, Gre­nada

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.