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27 Tales: Solo Atlantic Crossing by Denis Linton
Hailfax May 16 1992 Portrush June 17 1992
The following are my thoughts at the time of writing. No attempt has been made to turn these thoughts into a novel, short story, or poetry. They may at times seem clumsy, awkward, and even irrelevant, however they are "as is".
-It is not totally clear that this is the start of another diary..... Like the one I kept for Bermuda trip in 1990. A summary of the present situation is as follows:
-Boat (Quanda...meaning Queen or companion) is OK. A C & C 27 MK5 1983
-Rudder may need new fittings to replace some wear.
-I need improvement on self-steering. The self-steering sail is not 100%...only about 70%.
-A GPS receiver. Can I rent one?
-Sailing directions / charts
-Otherwise I would go at the drop of a hat.
June 15 91
-A significant event. Denise gave me a U.K. courtesy flag for my 50th b'day. There could be no nicer present.
July 14 91
-Have just returned from Marblehead race with nephew Patrick (Roxbee Cox) and long-time friend Dawson (Miller). The boat handled marvellously but it was hand steered the entire time.
-A couple of minor items but none are issues. (VHF Radio)
-My goal, at the moment is "If I'm here in Halifax next spring then I should seize the opportunity. I'm for ever preaching "make the most of your opportunities" so I should practise what I preach!!
-Wouldn't it be nice (fabulous) to sail into Portrush for a day or two and then take the boat around to Coleraine. The stuff of dreams.
July 18 91
-I feel I should set off tomorrow. Just 3 things Self Steering....GPS..... Minor repair on sails.
-I'm completely convinced Quanda can do it. She is truly a "queen and companion".
-Spoke with Ian Hill re GPS. He had won one at Marblehead. He mentioned a simple product (Raytheon) that just gives position, no way points etc. That is all I want or need.
-Spoke with a man in Chester about an Aires self-steering system. Mechanical. Sounds promising but too early to tell. I will research this more.
-Will I be here next spring? I can taste an ice-cream at Barry’s in Portrush!!
July 22 91
-Spoke with Mike at Boat US on Aires self-steering gear. He will send details but a) one size fits all and b) two spots lock up with salt corrosion. (Locking mechanism at top of universal sleeve on rudder)
July 29 91
-I have decided to spend more time working with my own self steering system. ( a steering sail which is ultimately connected to tiller by its own sheet) A very light block and tackle system will be my next area of concentration. It has 4 settings so there is promise there. Ie: 2:1 3:1 4:1 and 5:1. And of course there is 1:1 namely direct from steering sheet to tiller.
-I have asked Margaret (King) to keep an eye open for a simple alarm clock. On Bermuda trip I missed a couple of 45 minute buzzes
-Yesterday I met Sally Norwood. We have something in common, the silent lure of independent/solo sailing. She is obviously her “own person”. What a marvellous quality. She will look into the Ocean Cruising Club for me.
Aug 6 91
-Patrick returned to England today. We had a rugged hour of sailing yesterday, in fact we aborted going to Chester when we came out of Rogues Roost.
-May 16 92 is a Saturday. It is a good day/date to start across the ocean. One of the reasons, apart from 16 being my lucky #, is that there are no hurricanes.
-My mind is starting to focus!! I will take the mast off this winter to have it checked.
-I want to have a spare halyard AFT of the spreaders. There are 2 spares forward.
-I have just learned that Loran (which I have) covers a fair bit of the crossing, especially within 200 miles of land. There are various Loran chains, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Iceland and Norway.
-I’m completely convinced I can do all this successfully, with a bit of fine tuning.
-A new pressure cooker is a must. The old one is dying- almost dead – a rubber seal that I can’t replace, is the culprit.
-As I see others lose jobs, loose health, die, I think it is important to seize the opportunity, and this is likely to be mine. I will plan for success.
-I must start using every opportunity to tinker with the self-steering system so that I know how it performs in a wide variety of conditions. I may get a chance with Don Wilcox on Thursday as I have to bring the boat back.
-Took sun sights on the way to Rogues Roost. Very good. 1.7 miles out on all 5 sights. WOW!!
-The Binnacle carry sailing directions for Ireland $80 Maybe it will come on sail. Oops!! Sale I saw Portrush mentioned in it. Didn’t get a chance to read it.
-Think May 16 1992 10:00 local unless it is raining like hell and a weather system is going thru.
Aug 11 91
-Margaret K got an alarm clock at flea market. That is another piece of good news.
-Today I did the course line on a gnomic chart (Great circle stuff) and transferred it to a N.A. Mercator chart. The curved line shows up well.
-Don Wilcox thinks he has stops that will fit the storm track, (for try sail). That is great if they do.
-Took a star sight on Thursday night. Very poor horizon and got 7, 3, and 0 miles. At sea I would have averaged these which is nicely within the 5 mile “acceptability”.
-Brought home a pressure cooker to see if I can get a new ring/gasket.
Aug 12 91
-The Binnacle had a sale. I bought the “Irish Coast Pilot”. It has an immense amount of detail. I’m looking forward to reading it at my leisure instead of jumping to the Portrush / Portstewart pages.
-I asked Bob Kelly, my boss, if I could take my 5 weeks all at once next year, if I was still in Halifax. “OK”
-2 big things. Getting the boat back and of course ourselves back. I have not spent any time trying to deal with this.
-There is a hurricane coming up the eastern seaboard today. Just a gentle reminder that May / June is the right time to go.
-Picked up a pad of Universal plotting paper at the Binnacle. The pad is much better than the big sheets I used before. Much more compact.
Aug 19 91
-Hurricane Bob tonight. I hope no one is out there in a small boat. Went round to Club and put extra lines on Quanda.
-Spoke with Peter (Drillio) about mast, an extra halyard aft of spreaders, and a general look at the condition of it.
Sept 2 91
-Long weekend. Mike, Helen, and Cameron on way back after week vacation. Lost genoa on trip to Baddeck which (partially) forced abandonment of trip.
-They gave me a present of a wool blanket. It is almost as good as a sleeping bag.
-Ian Clark cut off the end of a bolt to make a stop for tri sail track.
-When I plan the menu(s) I will plan for 40 days. All things the trip should take 30.
Sept 4 91
-A good news day. Fritz (King) head of Atlantic Container Lines Halifax, called and indicated he could help get the boat back if I got it to Liverpool. He also indicated that I could, if I wanted to, sail back on the A.C.L. ship. $70 / day and trip about 6 days. That may be too much time. He also recommended me getting the boat to Liverpool because of 3rd party costs.
-Did some sights last night. Not bad, but not good either! Pierre Vallee gave me a level for my sextant so I will see if it improves the results.
Sept 23 91
-3 things happened today
Reply that I cannot get a replacement gasket for pressure cooker
John (Fraser) called to say that I can get insurance for about $2,000
Sister Anne called with info on yacht clubs near Liverpool.
Sept 24 91
-Anne called with more info on yacht clubs. I will write and see where that takes me.
-It is coming together. I have decided to forego mechanical self-steering gear. It would add too much cost and my method is acceptable. Maybe by May 92 I will have fine-tuned it even more.
-I have been buying small things. 15 Lip balm, 15 sun screen, note book paper etc.
-I still have to get info for Denise on the Irish equivalent of Halifax Coast Guard. As I said to her last night, I can hear her say…..”That little bugger- he is going to make it” Yes he is!!!
-New genoa last weekend. Looks great. Am 100% convinced on fully battened main sail.
Sept 27 91
-Sent letters to Royal Mersey and West Kirby yacht clubs.
-Bought N.Atlantic chart # 4011
-Called Ottawa on boat registration (613 998 0624)
Builders Cert, Bill of sale and Measurement (Surveyor)
Sept 29 91
-Came across something in the book How to sail the Atlantic alone by Ed and Fran Lormand. It is to do with the question….. Why are you doing this…..?
Joshua Slocum…You must get to know the sea, and know that you know it, and not forget that it was made to be sailed over
Morris West (in summer of Red Wolf)….There is no purer or more healing pleasure for a man than to stand helm watch, a fair wind, and feel the buck of the sea and watch the tight belly of well set canvas.
Hemmingway…. If you serve time for society, democracy, and other things quite young, and, declining any further enlistment, making yourself responsible only to yourself, you exchange the pleasant comforting stench of comrades for something you can never feel in any other way than by yourself.
-My own thoughts would be to make the most of what opportunities are available to me. Being in Halifax, the ocean just a couple of miles away, own a boat that is seaworthy, know how to sail,….surely an opportunity
Oct 5 91
-Bought a few odds and ends. Lamp fuel, water tank etc.
-Did some sights today, results quite poor. Mike (Patrick) and Tony (McGuinness) passed me on their way to Rogues Roost. This would be a great weekend for it.
-Picked up some new surgical tubing today. Also cut it into lengths and whipped them. I was amazed how much the old stuff had deteriorated. Surgical tubing is a key component in the self-steering system. Unlike other rubber, it has excellent memory. Meaning it does not stretch when under load for an extended period of time. It is located on the lee side of the tiller and is the balance to the sheet coming from the steering sail on the windward side.
-Denise had a call from Cousin Sandra (Bryson) last night. She has a relative in Portrush (my likely destination) so I will pursue that.
-Had a letter from Sister Anne with more info on Liverpool marina.
Oct 8 91
-If the decision to go is linked to buying / ordering the charts then today was the day. I ordered 3 charts covering Ireland.
-Have been quite busy over the last few days. Went out Sunday p.m. and spent time with Coast Guard (Ketch Hbr) Very useful Got all the R.D.F. frequencies /call letters for radio beacons in the U.K.
-Started the paper work for measurement and registration.
-Spoke with Carol Higgins (previous owner of Quanda.) She would like a card from Portrush!!
-Prepared an extensive letter for John (Fraser) re insurance. Actually it looks quite impressive, if I do say so myself.
-Am satisfied that things are progressing nicely. As Denise said…”.I suppose you wish you were doing this tomorrow”…. My answer ….”Yes”!!
-Boat is to be measured this Saturday. The name Quanda is not taken on the shipping registry. That is good news. I didn’t want to change it.
Oct 10 91
-Went over to boat registration. Katrina Naud. She was most helpful. The process is now fully underway.
-Spoke with Carol (former owner) on getting a letter from them to assist in the registration process. She wants to be kept in the picture on Quanda. Sounds like she is still attached to her! I would understand that. Quanda is a special boat.
-Picked up 3 canisters of butane for heat cutter.
Oct 15 91
-What a marvellous evening. Went to Maritime Museum to hear Frank Dye (and see his film) on sailing a 16 ft. Wayfarer from U.K. To Norway. Stirring stuff. He has apparently written quite extensively so I will start to look for a book by him. There was footage of him lying to a sea anchor in a force 9. I could relate to what I was seeing.
-Hope to unstep the mast this Friday and take the boat out next week. Virtually everything if off it.
-I must start to think of a 2nd line of defence for the stove (alcohol) I may have to get the old Optimus 8 hiking stove back in business! Hot food is important.
Oct 25 91
-What a downer. John F called to say that the situation (solo crossing) is uninsurable. He had someone check with Lloyds and other companies. If I can’t obtain insurance it means a) don’t go or b) Get a crew and they might insure. It is not uncommon for yachtsmen to not insure. If I go uninsured, it doesn’t matter to me. If I make it (as I will) then I have saved money! If the Gods declare that I don’t make it them my family go without boat insurance proceeds.
-A deal breaker? NO. Every once in a while in life I get a major urge / focal point to do or achieve something special. Some of these included emigrating to Canada, Moving out west to Alberta, Marriage (this was not an achievement, rather a mutual thing, but I did want it with Denise), obtain a pilot licence, Harvard Business School, learn to safely winter camp, sail across lake Ontario, sail to Bermuda and back, and now planning to sail the Atlantic, solo. Insurance, rather the lack of it won’t get in the way of all this!!!
-Picked up the 92 Nautical Almanac. Bad news. Venus is not visible in May or June (too close to the sun) but at least there are alternatives. Sun Moon 3 planets and 57 stars.
Oct 23 91
-Boat out of water and all lines washed. Am in the upper yard, fairly sheltered.
-Took round dodger for some repair. I told Angus he should have a special interest in it – He installed it just before I went to Bermuda. He gave me the name of an insurance person with whom to speak. I will follow up, but I’m OK sailing without it.
-Got time frequencies and other programmes. Sent letter to Anne for BBC stuff.
Oct 24 91
-John F called about insurance. It is becoming very clear that there is not a market. He checked with Ed Lumley Ins in England. They used to be in that business. John also sail that I can get insurance once I get there and am in the process of getting Quanda back.
Nov 2 91
-Spoke with ACL. I have to get measurement of cradle / boat etc. I have to call Customs and see what their requirements are.
-Spoke with Michael (Patrick) He knows someone with Canadian Airlines. I will write to them in a week or so to see if I could get some relief from full fare, as I don’t know the exact dates on anything.
-Bought a variety of shock cords that will come in useful. Also bought a Radio Shack watch that will act as backup to other one. This particular one is very good for taking the time during celestial sights.
-Some bad news. Took in VHF radio for a tune up. It shows some evidence of (salt water) corrosion. There is also some corrosion on RDF terminals. Since VHF is my only means of communication, it must be 100% Nothing less is acceptable.
-Phoned Manorhouse Flags and ordered Republic of Ireland. It is possible that I may have to go in there, if there is something wrong.
-George Rogers says that there are 2 other boats going over next summer. Peggy Bill Dingle and Don Dorothy Peer from Hubbards.
Nov 26 91
Denise and I were in Miami last week on a mini cruise. I picked up 2 more significant items. A new 4qt pressure cooker and a very good pair of sun glasses. They should both make a valuable contribution in May / June 92.
-My new slogan to myself is “Think 92…meaning 1992 and 92 miles / day which is a mileage goal for the trip.
-Charmaine (The Binnacle, Blowers St) provided me with information on lights and tides out of Reeds Almanac. She is always most helpful.
-Got the boat covered last week when Robert was here.
-Had a lengthy letter from Anne on efforts to locate information on BBC and tides.
-Joan’s (Sayers) friend in Carrickfergus is apparently sending me some charts.. Will just have to wait and see what arrives.
-Have not been able to get Loran C charts for N.Irish shore.
-Denise spotted some good tins of meat at marks and Spencer. Bought 10. They will balance the corned beef and salt cod!
-Taking sights has taken a back seat. I will have to get them going again. I Hope to borrow Pierre V sextant as a back up to mine.
Dec 20 91
-Wow A lot has happened since I last wrote.
-Ken Isles phoned to say that measurement / survey details now back from Ottawa and he will forward to Katrina Naud.
-Spoke with Jim Gould on “limiting liability” as offered by registration. I.e.: if Quanda caused some major disaster. I will put this fact and Jim’s name in an envelope that is only to be opened in the event I don’t return.
-Fritz King called and we talked about the cradle. He pointed out that it would be cheaper to buy a cradle on the other side rather than putting it on here, and off there. He said to call him closer to the time and he will give me some names of the ACL people over there.
-Spoke with Andrew Rosthorn of Sealand Boat Deliveries. I bought a cradle for $400…200 now and 200 then. If I don’t sail he will return my money less $60. He sounded most helpful and knowledgeable. I will write in next short while and reconfirm.
-Canadian Airlines wrote. It gave me a name to contact closer to the time. Sounds promising.
-Spoke with Don Wilcox on antenna for shortwave radio. He suggested soft speaker wire.
-Overall I’m pleased with the way things are going. The work on the mast will be the next thing.
Dec 27 91
-Yesterday I made a system to catch fresh water. (Rugged but pliable plastic with strong grommets)
-Mike Woolnough gave me a present of glasses that will be useful for night work inside the cabin. Actually there are a lot of things on board that he has given me over the years.
-Came across a good product in Marks and Spencer…pre-packaged breakfast…mostly fried potatoes.
Dec 28 91
-I hope I can find a way to reassure Trish about the trip. I know she is very concerned. (Understandably)
-A quote from Tristan Jones, a famous solo sailor. “Fear is probably the single handers greatest hazard…..Fear is a nuisance and clogs up the brain. Concern is another thing altogether. That is facing up to the reality of any given situation. Worry, often confused with concern, is nature’s way of getting her foot in the door so that fear can come in, bringing panic with her. Concern is worry without fear. Concern is the hallmark of a good seaman. Concern about himself, his ship, other people, and the situation with which he is confronted. Concern is the harbinger of solutions, the defeater of fear.” GOOD CLEAR STUFF.
Dec 31 91
-Asked Bill Fullerton if he could make me a “hay box”. It was written up in one of the “solo books”. Its purpose is to keep the pressure cooker warm for a long period. Indirectly, it cuts fuel consumption.
Jan 14 92
-Bought 2 sets of long underwear (wool) at Stanfields in Truro last Saturday.
-Ordered netting, a mega phone, and wicks from Boat US.
-Had a letter from James Heaney (Denise’s cousin in law in Portrush) Most encouraging.
-Ordered spare rubber plug and rubber seal for pressure cooker. Cost about ½ of what the original cooker cost! Hot food is too important to put in jeopardy.
-Boat registration only awaits warmer weather to put name / registration on, in 4 inch letters, and then that phase is completed.
-Bought an electronic chess set (Radio Shack) it should be good company. It can play any one of 16 levels. It will either drive me mad or I will become a better player at the end of this.
-I wish I was out at sea….say 2 days….settled… and saying Pawn to K4
-Received a letter from Liverpool Marina giving details. All is well and falling into place.
Jan 16 92
-Training started today. I hope to be as fit as I have ever been on May 16 92. 4 months to go.
Jan 17 92
-Started buying groceries. (Corned beef, sardines, canned ham, etc.) Also bought special hand cream. A month working with lines in a salt environment will be hard on them.
-Spoke with Andrew R about cost of transporting boat from Coleraine (near Portrush) to Liverpool. While expensive, it would create time for me.
-Spoke with Don Webster. He is going to x ray the bottom of the mast. He also offered the use of a single side band radio.
-Peter Green spoke to me about the Toronto Boat Show. He also kindly gave me a head lamp that will have application on the trip. He had passed the Advanced Piloting course. He (and all other students) had put a lot of work into it.
-Had a nice little surprise. Wicks for my miners’ lamp came from Fred Woods in Marblehead, where I bought it.
Jan 23 92
-John F called to indicate that he had obtained insurance on Quanda while over there and on the way back. ACL do not insure cargo.
Jan 30 92
-I’m really looking forward to May 16 The opportunity to indulge myself for a month in sailing…my favourite recreation. (beats skiing, flying, camping etc.)
-3 boxes of groceries have been bought and are ready to be stowed.
-The charts and local Almanac arrived from Carrickfergus. The rest are to come from The Binnacle, and they should be here any day soon.
-Bill F tells me the hay box is completed and modified. No hay but impressive results.
-Training going OK but it means an early start….05:15.
-Have prepared a lengthy list for Peter / Don. This is the last major part of the equation. Both think all is OK and manageable.
-I have been reworking old sights as it has been too cold to get new ones.
-Spare gasket and plug arrived for pressure cooker.
Feb 6 92
-2 major snow storms last week. 60cms on first one and 20cms on second one.
-North Atlantic chart up on kitchen wall.
-Picked up 36 chocolate bars which I had ordered last week.
-Don W gave me an adapter for hand held VHF
-Training going nicely but 05:15 am is a bit tough this time of year.
-Denise suggested leaving the boat in Portrush (rather than sailing it to Liverpool) and enjoying the few extra days that it would offer. While it adds to the expense it sounds good to me. I will probably have had enough sailing for a day or two.
Few 12 92
-Just over 3 months to go.
-Spoke with James (Heaney) He suggested going to Coleraine for mast, bottom wash etc. He also indicated Malin Head Radio is the initial radio contact when I close the N. Ireland shore.
-Spoke with Sandy MacMillan and asked him to round up my sails. He said he would.
-Spoke with Bart R (T.D.) He was letting me know that the bank’s insurance would not pay off for a year if there was a “missing body”. I appreciated this information and I don’t view it as a morbid topic. I’m always hooked on so the body will always be there!
-Was at the Club with Jack Flemming. Darlene brought me my letter of introduction, burgee, and a copy of First in Class.
Feb 18 92
-Manor Hill Flag called. Republic of Ireland flag now in. Will pick it up at the boat show.
-Don Webster called to confirm that the mast is #1 priority and that the ball is in his court.
-North Sails called to discuss the placement of the hanks. I couldn’t advise about a skirt on the new genoa as it hadn’t been used enough. Dodger has also been repaired.
-Had a call from Lonnie Holland of Beacon Securities. He, Jack Caroll (Sea Hawk) and a 3rd person had sailed a 28 ftboat across to Isle of Wight. We are to have lunch next week. I’m looking forward to hearing of his experiences.
-Tempo of everything starting to pick up. Less than 3 months to go.
Feb 25 92
-Sir Alec Rose commenting on “why alone?” See the photocopied pages at the end. Truly the best summary of feelings / answer to the question.
Feb 27 92
-A good day. Had lunch with Lonnie Holland and Jack Caroll. They had taken 27 days to cross in a 28ft boat. I soaked up their experiences like a sponge. This get together started at the suggestion of Norm Newman. I’m glad he suggested it.
They swore by Aires self-steering gear. They also spoke of a radar detector. I was not familiar with such a product. (Have since seen it in Boat US and will get one) They had only 6 days of sun and saw only 5 ships. They ate very well. Lonnie had brought along dry ice which lasted 12 days. It is my sense that the trip was Lonnie’s dream.
Mar 1 92
-Weather very cold -20*C and only 11 weeks to go.
-Picked up sails yesterday from Angus B. I think I will modify the lazy jack system so that I can get the lines out of the way when I want. Angus also thought he might be able to borrow a GPS receiver for me. That would be great!
-Mike W phoned yesterday. We made a date for a sailing vacation in the sun for his 50th b’day.
Mar 6 92
-Xmas cake finished today. Denise very pleased with it. She said “My best ever”
-Spoke with Brian McInnes on the Aires Self steering gear. He has a used one for sale.
Mar 15 92
Looked at self-steering gear yesterday. While it probably is a good buy at $1500 it is too expensive for me. I would rather have a GPS
-Less than 10 weeks to go.
Some of the books I have been reading and the message inside the cover (Message written by me) “How to sail The Atlantic”… Toronto Harbour front ’89 “Is this the one that brings it all into focus? “The Atlantic Crossing Guide”….To Denis with love Denise Xmas 87 “Offshore” Time life Summer 89 “Heavy weather cruising” Tom Cunliffe Dec 88 “Sailing Directions North Atlantic Ocean” “Whatever little doubt there was about going is now even less.”
-Charts without Loran overlay arrived yesterday.
-Started an extensive “to do” list that I will update weekly
Mar 21 92
-A few more things done. Spare mike for VHF. Chart for Foyle River Bann area. There is a buoy named “Linton’s” opposite Drumslade. (Family farm of my grandfather). How I wish Dad was alive to share this joy. When I pass it on the way up to Coleraine Marina I will toast him and thank him for the great start he gave me.
-Weather very cold -12*C Have been bringing stuff around from locker to Jubilee.
-8 weeks today will have me on my way. Marvellous!
Mar 26 92
-Got another chart for NW Ireland (Instrahull). I think that is it for charts.
-Went to a GPS demonstration at the Maritime Museum Trimble equipment. Al St John indicated that he might be able to do something for me. That would be great. They have a little hand held portable unit.
-Did some more grocery shopping. First Aid kit now complete. Dr Cote helped on this. It covers most situations I can think of.
-Picked up a set of sheets for genoa to make life on the foredeck a little easier.
Mar 29 92
-Spent yesterday and today bringing round items to boat. (That do not freeze) Just 7 weeks to go. Hard to believe.
-Picked up CBC shortwave radio guide.
April 6 92
-Did most of the undercoating last weekend.
-Decided to forego Don Webster’s offer of single sideband radio. The antenna is very large. Further I believe you have to be totally self-reliant (other than an EPIRB) when you set off on something like this.
-Weather is still poor. Some snow left on the ground. Cape Breton had 20cms yesterday. As soon as night time temps are above 0*C I will bring around canned food.
-Everything falling into place and I’m comfortable with myself, and my preparations.
April 7 92
-Pierre V is lending me his sextant for the trip. (There will be 2 sextants aboard).
--Don W and Peter d to put rudder on before weekend.
-Took sights at Herring cove. Again results not impressive. Jupiter nicely visible about 6 minutes after sunset. The cut is about 60* so that will give a good fix at sunset. Jupiter is the “replacement” for Venus which is not visible in May or June.
-Lows for next few days at -2*C - -4*C. Not very good. Hope to go out at dawn and see what is prominent in the morning sky.
April 12 92.
-I hadn’t made myself clear on my new registration #. Peter D had got the old # in 4 “ letters. My fault for not making myself clear.
-Took round some more boxes, nothing that could freeze. Temp last night -4*C
-Denise very busy with daffodil campaign.
-Made a couple of special fittings. (Bronze snap shackles and 2 blocks) to stop the sheets touching the shrouds when the boat is hove-to. The too will make life on the foredeck a little easier.
-Was able to buy 4 Velcro straps at Can Tire. A little bonus as they are now almost impossible to find.
April 16 92
-BOAT LAUNCHED TODAY, 1 month before departure. Mast won’t be on for a few days but that’s fine. Don W has done an aluminium weld around the base of the mast. Eliminates cracking and subsequent weakness.
-This is a long weekend so I have 3 days to spend getting things in their correct place. It is only 4 weeks to go, or 3 weekends as I’m in Toronto for one of them. Time is short but I’m happy with the way things are progressing. Peter D has been a big help and has been working hard for me over the last week. Don W also called to assure me that all was progressing.
-The Foghorn “publicised” my departure. I hadn’t sought it, but I suppose it is part of the scene.
-Lonnie Holland lent me 2 books on the N Atlantic. More useful information. I photocopied a number of pages.
April 21 92
-Last weekend was a long weekend. Got a lot done. Most things are now onboard except perishable food and fresh water.
-mast should go on this week.
-Ken Byrt helped me with the final step in the registration process. One more thing off the list.
-Bought some (more!!) surgical tubing. I don’t know it’s ability to resist weather, including sunlight.
-Fitness doing nicely. 1hour per day and 100 pushups. I have been on a prednisone treatment so this has come easy!!!
-Got the netting on the boat. That is as much to keep the sails inside as to keep me from falling over. It looks a bit untidy but it is functional.
-Obtained lat / Long for Lasmo Panuke Cohasset oil field. It turns out that it is almost on the course line. Actually this is a plus in that I will be able to speak to them on the VHF. They can pass along my position to Halifax Coast Guard.
April 26 92
-2cms snow yesterday, and only 3 weeks to departure date.
Got locker all cleaned out. One more thing off the list. Everything on board except perishable food.
-Don hopes to get the mast up this weekend. That will give me 1 week to check things. It is shaping up that the first trip of this year will be an Atlantic crossing.
May 3 92
-Had a nice couple of days in Toronto. Bill and Mai put on a dinner. Robert/Janet Trish were there.
Also had a dinner with Trish, Sandy, Chris at hotel.
-Picked up a few small items at Genco. I can’t resist sailing shops.
-Here it is May 3 and the mast isn’t up. Waiting for a cable for wind instrument at mast head.
-Less than 2 weeks to go. Took out my sail plan to Coast Guard at Ketch Harbour. They appreciated all the information I had included.
-I have now logged where everything is on the boat, and the “to do” list is getting shorter.
-Took the boat out and ran it for 2 hours. Everything seemed in order. Now if only I could get the mast. I want to spend a bit of time deciding what is the best was on the lazy jack system.
-The whole affair is starting to get “busier” (many calls as well.) so it is up to me to manage it carefully.
-Anne called to see if the BBC material had arrived. It had come Thursday and it is just what the Dr ordered.
May 7 92
-THE MAST IS ON. I will be able to tune it this weekend.
-Pierre V brought a Sony shortwave radio. It is a Cadillac of radios. He also had 2 books on short wave, all the stations etc.
-George and Carol Rogers were around. George smiled when he saw the sight reduction tables.
-I continue to feel good about the whole adventure, Concern, excitement about what will be a once in a lifetime adventure all rolled into one emotion…one I can’t eloquently record. 9 days to go.
May 8 92
-Today was not eventful as far as boat concerned, however there was a real highlight. We were with David and Annie Prior and David and I started to talk about Dr Joe Cunningham and his solo trip across the Atlantic. (He had given a talk to the boarders at our school) We phoned him in B.C. There was a bit of a bonus as his brother Dan had taught (or tried to) both of us physics.
It was quite remarkable what David and I remembered about his talk. Year 57 Landfall Dunmore East Ireland, boat name Icebird, Him being washed overboard on one wave and washed back on board on the next. We had a great call. We guessed that t5hese men would be near 75. It was truly one of life’s moments, and I bet they got a shock and pleasant surprise that they got a call some 35 years after the event.
May 9 92
-Day very wet.
-Got the rigging organised, mast centered, and lazy jack system the way I want it.
-I kept thinking about how Dr Joe Cunningham must have felt last night as he put his head on his pillow….2 CAI old boys calling him 35 years after he sailed over and that we could recall soo much. Surely he had a smile as he went to sleep remembering the good (and bad) bits from the safety of his bed. He did say last evening that the only way to do a long journey is by oneself. I agree and will prove it in just over a month. June 14 if I’m lucky. June 15 is my birthday.
May 10 92
-I still have not been sailing!!!
-John Hancock of CBC coming over tomorrow to do an interview.
-Topping lift badly chaffed and must be replaced.
-Boat seems to be 100% and that can quickly be confirmed with a short sail. First trip of the year The Atlantic. It is not that Quanda and I don’t know each other.
-The electronics being connected below deck is a definitive plus.
May 11 92
-CBC Radio, Customs clearance, Chronicle Herald and topping lift replaced. Not bad for a day!
-Topped diesel fuel and added another tool box. There are now 5.
-Compass to be swung tomorrow.
-Received a nice “care package” from TD in St John’s. Hard Tack, 100% rum, smoked capelin, candy and best wishes.
May 14 92
-Compass swung yesterday. There was some movement in 1 quadrant over the winter.
-Checked all lights, Loran, sails, topping lift, lazy jack systems.
-Vegetables now on board. Fruit and unrefrigerated eggs are the only things left.
--Getting lots of phone calls pm messages, and gifts. Mike’s parcel arrived. It is intriguing, 4 separate ones to be opened at different points along the way. He understands what I will be going thru.
-Called Betty Heaney in Portrush to let her know that all is a go. Incidentally the forecast for the weekend is good except that winds from SE. How come they are on the nose and I haven’t even started. Such is the joy/love of sailing.
-Did an interview with George Jordan (Main Street CBC radio.) It is to be played on the 15th when we went into the studio I was interested in knowing if Max Ferguson had broadcast here. Yes. I have never met max but I listen to him every weekend and just read his book.
-AS I write, “Oh Danny Boy” is playing on the radio. “Oh come ye back with summer in the meadow” . Just hold on…I’ll be there in a month. I hope nobody comes along in the next 5 minutes. I could not easily explain my tears. They are not sad tears. I know that I will have the same tears / feelings / emotions when I see Mt Erigle from the water.
-Life/circumstances can be very cruel sometimes. Here I am on the verge of a great adventure and the Westray mine disaster has unfolded over the past 5 days. Today it was announced that the rescue effort was being suspended. My prayers go out to those families that have lost a loved one in the disaster. Actually I had not realized until this week just how much tragedy there has been in Pictou. May God help each and all of them.
-Tomorrow is last day at work for 5 weeks.
-I truly am fortunate and can only thank the ladies of my life who are special. My Mum, Denise, Sister Anne, and Trish…and let’s not forget Quanda . She too is a lady and in a sense I’m entrusting my life to her, and have no qualms. Quanda means Queen or Companion. She is both to me.
-Spoke with Sid and Margaret. It is always a joy to talk to them. Sid’s words “our hearts soared when we heard that you were doing this - and we know that you will do it.”
May 15 92
-God is with me. I had asked my subconscious to let me know what I had not checked. It told me first thing this a.m. that I had not checked the stove. I went round in the afternoon …. An O ring had hardened. Don W fixed it for me. That could have been a major blunder.
-Had a strong rum at Don’s place with Wayne C, Wayne B, Fred and Bruce.
May 16 92 4a.m.!!
-I couldn’t sleep.
-The BIG SURPRISE. Robert/Janet and Trish flew down from Toronto for the send-off. Marvellous. We all went out and had dinner at the Birmingham Street Grill. I was “well on”. Tension / relief as the time gets closer.
-Did an interview yesterday with ATV. It was OK. There will be commotion in a few hours. I hope all goes well.
May 16 92 on the water
-I departed at 09:59, a minute early!!!
-Clear of the harbour and on way to Chebucto Head. Have activated sail plan with Coast Guard.
-A marvellous send off. Lots of people / champagne / etc. Quite emotional for my family and ME. Trish was very emotional. I hope everybody helps her get over this. I hope she will be able to be proud when I arrive in Portrush.
-The weather was very kind to me.
-The kids being there was a lovely touch, even if they had private thoughts about when they would next see me.
-How do I feel right at this moment? It is the end of a chapter (the last 7 months) and the start of a new one, one month.
-I just found the card that Denise had slipped under the log on the chart table. Moving.
May 16 15:30
-The nice glow of the card lingers. It is as if Denise is on board.
-While it is sunny it is cold. Have put on 2 sets of Stanfields finest. Got a little sleep. Joan’s alarm clock is good and will obviously get lots of use.
-Obviously I’m not in the rhythm of all this, but God was good to me with a dry start.
-Large Japanese car boat coming off the high seas for Eastern Passage.
-I can still see land but it is almost gone. Another hour and it will be.
-Can still pick up Sun FM
-Robert and Janet will be heading back.
-I will have a hot meal soonto get me thru the night.
-Endeavour (space shuttle) has just used a chute for the first time. Several first time things today.!!! Am listening to Voice of America.
-May 16 21:30
-Virtually dark. Started motor..no wind. I only ran it 10 minutes coming out of RNSYS
-Did a simple position report to Coast Guard.
-Winds predicted to freshen tomorrow and Monday.
-Beef chunky soup + smoked oysters. Have put salt cod in fresh water for tomorrow.
-It is clear that the 2 successes so far are Joan’s timer and the fully battened main sail.
-I wonder what my family are thinking? I hope and pray that they don’t worry too much.
-Sky is clear but with shifting to the southwest can expect fog. Quit complaining Denis – you had a dry easy start.
-Have been listening to BBC world service. Sussex defeated Pakistan in a 1 day cricket match.
May 17 04:30 local time
-Denis. I’m really pleased with you. A sail change. Genoa to reefed jib and full main to 2nd reef. Forecast is for increasing winds through to Monday. All this took the better part of 1 1/2 hrs, all in the dark. Down hauls, different sheets. Splendid work Denis.
-Quanda is very comfortable and we must remember to look after each other!!! I’m quite tired now so I will do a bit of navigation and then try for a snooze.
-The wind is in the direction I want to go! Sound familiar! I’m south of my optimum course and leeway will make it worse.
-I continue to be very “fidgety”. 10 minutes radio, try a snooze, then clean up a bit and so on.
-Tummy ((really appetite) is not great. It was a bouncy, noisy sail last night.
-What a marvellous sail change last night. Quit bragging Denis.
-Little tiny drops of water coming in at chain plate on port side. Nothing alarming, but I’ll keep an eye on it. I hope I’m in the Gulf Stream Monday night. It is cool even in the cabin.
-Still have not rigged up the steering sail. Because we have been going up wind I just balanced the 2 sails.
-Still being set below but hope I can pick it back up tomorrow. Not quite becalmed…1 ½ to 2 kts.
-Salt cod very tasty. Maybe I should have changed the water after 12 hours.
-Got a fair bit of sleep in today. (In 45 minute increments)
-I think about family a lot. They have not heard from me as I haven’t seen anything today.
May 18 1992 Monday 1:30
-Good news and bad news. Very foggy so I have switched on the radar watch. It alerted me to a vessel in my area. I could hear its’ engines. Tried calling several times but no response.
-Aquatic Pioneer responded and they will file my position with Coast Guard. 44* 29’N 61*48W) He (Perry Morris) was very helpful. Then I remembered that this was the same vessel that helped me when I was almost overdue (and still days from home) coming from Bermuda. I asked if he recalled the incident. He did. I didn’t realize till today but they had stopped fishing to come over. I had no radio and was using a spot light. He asked me to let him know how I make out.
-The forecast for the next 2 days is for a fair blow. 20/25kts. So far, everything has been forward. I.e.: no following winds.
-Had a Marks and Spencer breakfast. Very good. If I was asked to name it, it would be “heat ‘n eat”
-Put on a new patch. (Prevent seasickness)
-Bill Koch won Americas Cup yesterday. If I recall earlier broadcasts, he had spent $60 million.
-17:00 I had a cleanup. I had forgotten the pleasures of Johnston Baby powder.
Mike’s blanket ideal
-Veggies and corned beef tonight
-Trish should be back in Toronto (last night)
-Got 2nd cartoon from Shirley. A good idea.
May 19th Tuesday Noon
-The last 15 hours were very difficult. About 6pm I had started to motor as there was no wind. The calm before the storm as I was to find out.
-Within minutes there was torrential rain and winds of 25+kts. It was a sharp cold front going thru. Just getting everything down and secured was difficult. The lazy jack system was terrific. Decided to lie a hull as I was too tired to make good decisions. I tried the storm jib and tri sail but it was too much. The winds had picked up to 35kts + or -. Quanda does quite well as long as the tiller is lashed to leeward. Also used a “rubber snubber” to minimise shock loads on rudder fittings.
-A screw that supported the frame of the dodger was “lost at sea”. I had a spare but repairing it under these conditions is quite different than at a marina.
-Got off a position report With Atlantic Forest. They also gave me the weather. More of the same Yuck.
-The important thing is for Quanda and me to look after each other. She is taking a fair bit of punishment but is up to the task.
-I hope all is well with the Lyttle family. Today is the day that Denise’s Dad goes in for observation. I hope my clan are OK. I’m glad they are not here to see what it is like.
-During the night I was doing a difficult sail change, and I kept thinking of R.W.K words “Strength and fair winds” . Now I know why I trained soo hard…to build up strength. I needed it all.
May 19 later
-It has been a very rough 24 hours. I can’t light the stove as I don’t want to risk an additional set of problems, not to mention the possibility of a burn.
-This will clearly add a day or two at the other end although over a month I may get some back.
-I was hoping to shave today but am not able to heat water.
Today was a BUMMER. My major concern was to ensure that nothing (equipment) broke. I hope the winds and sea settle a bit by tomorrow. I will concentrate on sleep. My radar DECTECTOR is great. I can go to sleep without worrying. (Quite so much!!)
-I think about Denise a lot. Her support for all this in the last 6 months has been splendid. When we are reunited in Portrush a new chapter of our lives will start. I’m forever grateful that she did not object to all this. Next year it is her turn! I wonder what she will pick?
-Gorp, Xmas cake, and fruit were the order of the day. Maybe an omelet tomorrow.
-Quanda is a lovely little lady, strong, and has behaved great in the last 24 hours.
_ I still haven’t read any of my bridge book. There will be lots of time. We have only been away from RNSYS 3 days and I can see where keeping track of time could be a problem.
May 20 Wednesday
-Winds still 20 kts and seas quit big. Decided to go with double reefed main and storm jib. As I like to say “keep it moving”
-Monty Sunshine is on the radio. (Bobbie S is going to town)
-Lots of dolphins this a.m. With the winds from NE the air is cold to start with and the Labrador Current keeps it cold.
-I was able to hear Sydney Coast Guard / Sable Island. I tried to transmit to them but was too far away. I could also hear 2 fisherman on 69.
-I got off a position report to Coast Guard “Petro 5”. I could not see her.
-On reflection I was pleased with my decision to lie a hull. Others might have been tempted to go with one sail and perhaps risk equipment failure. It was early in the trip and I knew I was giving away a day.
-Had my first shave. Feels good. Already I’m looking forward to a shower in Portrush. Just thinking about it gives me a good feeling.
-I’ve started to read my bridge book. Will try for 2 chapters a day. Remember I want to learn it, not just read it. “Right Denise”. Incidentally the author of the bridge book has a nice start to the book. “Dedicated to my dear wife, my favourite partner…..in everything”
-I have been humming “Putting on the Ritz” I was standing naked having a head to toe wash (bow to stern?) and as was putting on my deodorant it occurred to me that I was “putting on the Ritz”
-Today has been a spirit lifting day and am getting clothes dried from a couple of days ago.
-It feels great to be clean and I’m looking forward to my happy hour and a bit of BBC. Not a cloud in the sky. What more could I ask.
-Barcelona beat Santorini 1 – 0 in European Cup final. (Extra time)
--It is amazing how in touch you are with your feelings and body. I’m very tired at this time. Will have a hot meal and try for a sleep.
May 21 Thursday
-I made another key decision during the night. (I won’t know the outcome till the end of the trip) The trip is going much slower than expected. The wind has been FORWARD for 5 days. And one was spent lying a hull. I will not turn back because of time, only equipment failure. I have always preached about making the most of opportunities and here I am. What is a few days in a lifetime? I wanted this decision out of the way as time considerations were creeping into seamanship decisions. The boat / seamanship must have absolute priority.
-A couple of minor mistakes last night. One wave came over and filled the cockpit sole, about 1 inch. I had some loose rope on the sole and it was covering a drain. This is a NO NO. I had only one wave so I was lucky to learn the lesson at no expense. I didn’t have the hatch cover handy. It was buried in the sail locker and took a minute plus to retrieve. Use your head Denis. A successful trip is doing a million small things right, and the mission is to sail into Portrush harbour.
-It all started at lunch time. I was opening a can of corned beef and as I looked up I could see a ship on the horizon. Naturally I decided to get off a position report. When I called the ship (I was calling “any station”) Halifax Coast Guard answered (500+ miles away) apparently the atmospherics were unusual. Then I decided to give them a direct position. Then I decided I will call home! I got our voice mail!!!! Position 41*44’N and 59*11’W. Light winds from NE useless for me.
-Already I’m out of touch. What’s happening in Larne? How is Patricia doing? And Robert? And most of all Denise? I think about her often. I hope the position reports are helpful.
-I feel better today. I’m not wearing a patch any more. (Stopped yesterday) I wonder if that has anything to do with it.
-Trish will be surprised, it is late in the day and I haven’t had a chocolate bar. I will correct that shortly.
-I still haven’t adjusted to sleeping in the day although I try lots.
--Thank God for short wave radio. It is good company. Today the big news is about the dropping of agricultural subsidies. That will affect all of the developed world.
-This evening I’m almost becalmed. Will motor tonight to charge the batteries and make a little distance.
-I keep “bumping into Mike” on the boat. Some mountaineering equipment from the Bermuda trip, head lamp, green over pants, 2nd safety harness, Helen’s yellow wool sweater, (it is great with high neck) and the wool blanket he gave me last year. They must have known it would get put to good use!!
May 22 Friday.
-What a lot has happened since I last wrote. I motored for a couple of hours till midnight and stopped to get some sleep. I could hear “Pfff” about 100 yards away, about every 30 seconds. I think it was one or two whales. I was going to shine my spotlight on them but then remembered that I’m a guest on the sea and this is their domain. As I fell asleep a million possibilities went thru my mind.
-Woke up to a nice surprise. We had drifted 4 miles north in 5 hours. Lovely sunrise.
-Wind freshened to 10/15 astern
-Got off a position report with Clipper Pacific. She was travelling from Eastport Maine to Montrose Scotland. In amongst this and getting the weather from them a piece of equipment on my self-steering arrangement gave way. The boat was all over the place. They must have wondered about a small boat, 3 sails, and almost literally going in circles. The weather report did not sound promising. A storm at 57*N and 69*W travelling SE. It should pass ahead of my track but its effects can be felt many hundreds of miles away.
-Then I had a chat (they called me) with “Mistress” a Swedish vessel, also bound for UK. She indicated she was following from my Lat and Long but I haven’t seen her yet.
-Then I discovered another wrinkle / improvement in the self-steering system when going dead downwind. Just use the main (as jib is totally blanketed anyway. Plus it is easier to balance. Also it is important to position the initial block on the lifeline “just so”.
-I should get a lot of miles under the keel today, and I should move onto page 2 of my plotting sheets. That in itself will be a morale booster!! Must go and have a nap. (Just saw a Portuguese man of war jelly fish)
-Still no nap!!
-Sailing has been exquisite. Dead down wind, the hardest point to self-steer and my improvised system is working like a charm. Because everything is near the limit (Strong winds biggish seas) I have not left the cockpit. Quanda has priority throughout the trip. What a great little lady!
-I’m so delighted to get these miles in the right direction. It does not make up for all the lost ones but it does put a dent in it. If it holds I can see turning the corner tomorrow.
-Tomorrow is opening regatta at RNSYS I hope the get good weather.
-Today is the first day I have to be concerned with sunburn. I hope the winds soften a bit or I will soon have to power down.
-“Putting on the Ritz” Had a wash all over. Thank goodness for Johnston’s baby powder. Feel human again.
-Making great progress but still don’t want to leave the cockpit. Everything working hard and it is important to be close at hand.
May 23 Saturday 04:20 GMT
-Training Training. That’s what I need!! I just took down storm jib + steering sail and put up main and jib. By the time all that was done the wind died. Wow- fun? Right? Good night I hope!
-Where are my 2 beer before Saturday lunch? It has been a real Saturday morning in that I have been listening to CBC Arthur Black, Double exposure. He did a great copy of Clive Gilmour. “Ha-llow”. The station is the Quebec northern service on short wave. The transmitter is in Sackville New Brunswick.
-Still not sleeping as well as I should during the day. The body is much slower to make this adjustment.
-Today is a clear sunny blue sky day, gentle winds, just right. From land progress will seem slow but luck was not on my side the first few days, forcing me to lie a hull.
-Today is opening regatta at RNSYS. I hope the weather is as good there as it is here.
-I don’t think I wrote about David Prior’s letter. It will surely make the COBA Magazine
-I continue to feel good about the trip, myself, the preparation, etc. Last night when I was doing all those sail changes I kept thinking about Robin Korthals phone call….”Strength and Fair winds” I also remembered all those push ups and extra miles run in training (50 miles/week) They were necessary and worthwhile.
-It was very hot today. 27*C I stayed inside most of the day or I would have fried.
-As I write this I’m standing by (radio) hoping to file a position report. They seemed quite confused by it all and are looking up the frequencies for Halifax. No other boat had to do this. In fact many call back after 10 minutes saying it is done! Regardless, it has been 1 ½ days since I got the position off and you never know when the next one comes along. (or doesn’t)
-Progress slow today. DSR BALTIC just called back to say they sent the message via satellite and that there are no storms in the High Seas forecast.
-My planning was put to the test today. The bulb on the rubber enclosed flashlight died. I has 2 spare bulbs so I can stand one more failure. I also have another all-weather flashlight!!
May 24 Sunday
-There is excitement building on Quanda. It will be later, all things equal, that we “turn the corner” and head for Ireland.
-it is wonderfully warm and sunny with gentle breezes. I feel how lucky I have been…great parents, great wife, great kids, great education, lucky decision to emigrate, then moving to western Canada, then eastern Canada. My life has had more experiences than most. I have been truly fortunate.
-Did some sextant sights this morning on sun and moon. Will check out later how good they were.
-I have been listening to FRESH AIR. (A CBC early morning programme Sat and Sun) And then Mary Lou Findlay. Also did a wash this a.m. (Clothes and self!!)
-When Denise gets the next position report she will realize that we are on the last leg, albeit a long one.
-The jokes from Les and Shirley are very good. She must have got them made as the name Quanda in on the boat in the cartoons.
-Temp now 29*C
-Temp now 8*C Wow.
-“Cutting across the bottom” was not such a good idea. I sailed into cold water, fog, and had to dig out the Stanfields. It was only earlier today that I packed them away. For the sake of a bit of cold I will carry on knowing that I will be out of it by tomorrow.
-Today was a big day. Denise will be surprised by the progress.
-David Prior said on a trip like this, you can experience, and explore, human emotions from peak to valley. It is now a valley, earlier today it was a peak!
Later (may 24)
-120 miles in 24 hours. Wow. I don’t think I could cover more than this. Everything was right.
-We are on our way. Set the course for Ireland at 5a.m.
-When I came up this morning (4a.m.) I had company…a little bird. It seems to have injured itself as I can handle it without it flying away. It does not look well. He/She eventually found the most sheltered and comfortable place in the cockpit, the rope bag for the main sheet.
-Yesterday was a funny day. I must have been sailing near the famous “northern wall” – where the Labrador Current and the Gulf Stream meet. IT rained about midnight and I was thinking it was a repeat of day 4. It was eerie sailing in frigid damp and foggy conditions, in the dark. The little radar detector give me great comfort. I don’t think anybody would have wanted to be out there.
-The bird has not stirred for several hours and I thought it was dead. I reached in and threw him over only to see him struggle for a few flaps and the see him fly away. I was relieved at this. I suppose I didn’t want death on the boat.
-As I write this I’m having my morning “cuppa” on the aft deck still intrigued about the little bird fooling me. As Betty would say “wasn’t that a good one”.
-There have been only 3 rain showers since May 16, 2 of them heavy. I did not catch any water but I’m comfortable with the way water is being consumed.
-I wonder what is happening at T.D.? Running the boat is a full time job and I seldom think of work.
-The porpoises have been here for 10 minutes between the last sentence and this one. Were there hundreds?? Well at least 20…honest.
-An idyllic morning. Warm winds 10 kts Quanda is behaving like the Queen that she is.
-10 minutes later. A propeller aircraft went by, but very high. I tried to call him but no response. Must not be one of ours. Canadian military always answer if they are in the area and no one else does. I always say I’m a CANADIAN sail craft when I call.
- Just checked my position and it shows me on a true course of 20*T Something is wrong or I’m getting a huge lift from the current. Could the compass be wrong? Denis…Remember what you told George Jordan. TRUST YOUR COMPASS It must be something else.
-I just had a very pleasant surprise. Mike had given me 4 envelopes and when I packed them I only saw the first half of the instructions which said “Do not open till 42*20’N and 50*45W or May 21 whichever is first” . Well I was like a kid on Xmas morning, a parcel, something special, and something new. It contained a nice letter, a miniature bottle of Grand Marnier liqueur, a tin of British candies, a carbine clip, and a photo of Halifax Harbour on a sunny day. Nice stuff. It came at a good time as we are now back in fog. It seems my route is very close to the boundary between the 2 currents. Mike’s predictions seem optimistic, although if I had not lost the 1 ½ days I wouldn’t be too far off. The good news is that I will have 2 treats this week!
-I haven’t been able to get off a position report for a couple of days. I know this is worrisome. I will try at every opportunity. I can’t see more than 50 yards as I write.
-The day has deteriorated into a bummer. Fog, damp, and now motoring. (I did have to charge the batteries anyway) I can see just dropping the main, and “pulling over” and going to sleep. I have checked all the information I have on board, which is quite a lot, on the Labrador Current. I would have needed much more time to go far enough south to completely avoid it.
May 26 Tuesday
-The boat made all kinds of nasty noises as she rolled around, no sails up and me trying to sleep.
-I had accidently left the radio on and I heard a voice. I got off a position report. The vessel was SYUI. It was a difficult exchange as we were far apart. The boat rolling affects the quality of the transmission. We stayed on 16 as 72 was even worse.
-About 07:00 enough wind came up to move the boat but she is still slopping around and not doing very well. Quit complaining Denis. She is moving. The next thing (to wish for0 is to be out of the fog. It is DREARY. It is hard to visualise, the men fishing from their dories and then trying to find the mother ship, in conditions like this, when a day’s work was done.
-With the wind now coming from the north there is obviously some change in weather. There must be cloud cover as well as the fog as I can’t find a hint of the sun. Think I’ll light the lantern and give the cabin some light and a little bit of heat.
-I hope the fellow who is sailing from St John’s in his 5ft 6” boat doesn’t have to go thru as much fog. I can’t think of anything more depressing than to start a trip with 5 days of fog. Regardless, we wish him well and if he gets the Guinness record then that is a bonus.
-The good thing about today is that the boat is sailing at about 3 ½ kts enough not to “give time back”. The best I can do to get time back would be about 20 miles in any given day.
-I have been trying to read the Bridge book but without a lot of success. I can’t settle on anything till I get thru the fog. I thought my luck was back as I could see about a mile or so however my joy was short-lived. It is back and visibility is about 50 yards.
-_ have been getting erratic readings from the Loran. I’m close to the limit of the 5930 chain.
May 27 Wednesday.
-The gods are with me, not to mention the love of my family, friends, and best wishes from many others. The fog has persisted and is extracting its toll. (Or I’m paying my dues) I did a sail change at daybreak. It was damp and very cold. I could barely clip on the hanks as my hands and fingers were almost numb. I went back to bed to thaw out and warm up. (2 sets of Stansfield’s and a wool toque) I was feeling quite down when I woke up a couple of hours later. Then I noticed the cabin temp was 3*C. Anyway I kept going and had a hot breakfast and a cleanup. Then I decided to try and get off a position report, although I couldn’t see a thing. SARAGASSO answered so I was in business. He explained that he was giving the Coast Guard the position of an iceberg. (42*42’N 50*35W – Dimension 200’ by 50’ by 50’.) My last position was 42*30’N and 50*09’W but it has been jumping around by 10 miles so I was not sure. And I had no way to do a sextant shot because of fog. That explained the 3*C. I was somewhere in the vicinity but fortunately as I write I’m now to the east of it. As Bob Kelly would say “Put it in your rear view mirror and drive on”.
-As the SARAGASSO said “You are one lucky guy”. I agree fully. He did say it was extremely unusual to have one this large, so far south, at this time of year. I recall John Hughes writing about an iceberg encounter. There is a big difference. He knew in advance that there was on his approximate track. I didn’t find out till I had passed it. I’m always thankful for my blessings/ luck / good fortune but tonight I’ll say a special Thank You at the happy hour. I also got the weather forecast and regretfully the fog will last another 2 days.
-The good news is that I did not sail into it. I must have been close because of 3*C temperature. The bad news is that I studied the Sailing Directions for the North Atlantic. I have clearly made a major error in this segment of the route. I should have gone 200 miles due east “along the bottom” and then angled up to Ireland. My route has me inside the extensive limits of icebergs in May and June. I must have been focusing on Sea Ice limits. At night, the visibility in fog is non-existent. Unless I stop and only sail when I can see there is a far element of chance involved.
-I was calling later in the day and Canadian Military 109 answered. (An Aroura aircraft in Greenwood) I did a position report and asked them to ask Coast Guard if any other icebergs ahead of me.
-Can Military called back. THIS TRIP WAS MEANT TO BE AND THE GODS ARE WITH ME. They confirmed that they had given my position to Coast Guard but regretfully advised that they do not monitor individual icebergs, just sea ice. HOWEVER THEY THEN TOLD ME THAT THEY HAD FLOWN DOWN MY ROUTE FOR 100+ MILES WITH THE RADAR AND THERE ARE NO ICEBERGS. This is marvellous and it takes a load of my mind. I had no defence other than stopping when I could not see. I don’t know if they do that routinely or if they did it specifically for me. I assume it was special. Thank goodness I’m a Canadian Taxpayer. (Editor note: I spoke with the Captain of Canadian 109 when I returned to Canada. I thanked him again and yes, they went out of their way for me.)
-It continues very cold 2 Stanfields and 2 wool sweaters. This is now just “a gut it out” part of the trip, and I’m fortunate there are no high winds.
-A flock of biggish birds have been following me. I wish I knew what they were. They are very graceful just above the swells and apparently without effort.
-Mike asked me to keep track of sails, sail changes, and how they performed. I have used them all so far and it is only day 12. I’m also pleased with the steering sail. The fully battened main has been a big success and I’ll never be without one again. Very easy to get under control quickly in a take down. Going up it can be a bit fussy with the head of the sail catching (on the lazy jacks. ) The benefits far outweigh the one small shortcoming.
May 28 THURSDAY
-It was dark when I woke up. A couple of seconds of discerning the heel, the level of noise, and generally sensing the stress , Quanda was letting me know she was not a happy camper. I quickly had to change from genoa and full main to jib and double reef main only to find that I had to put up the storm jib. All this done in the dark and no lost halyards. The mind goes thru a set routine….downhaul ready…Halyard clear and ready… open track on main traveller…loosen boom vang…topping lift on…clear reef line…boar to windward..drop halyard to set height..reattach main at gooseneck…tighten halyard…outhaul for reef…tie up excess sail… release topping lift.. tighten boom vang
-Now the jib!!!!
-The boat is taking quite a pounding so I’m bearing away into the mid-Atlantic. 120*T is far from where I want to go, but then I’m reminded of a saying that I coined “There are 2 places in the Atlantic you can go in a smaller boat namely… where it lets you go and where it puts you”. Today I’ll have to be content with #2. Looking after the boat is more important than the course line. I kept saying “Strength and focus” when I was making those sail changes. My mind has no clutter. Just looked at watch 6:30 N.S. time. Great start to the day.
-09:30 N.S. time and still no breakfast. Very windy with big quartering seas. I have to help the self-steering system. THEN
-I saw a big swirl in the water about 100 yards fine on starboard bow. Then I saw this tiny fin. At first I thought it was a shark. Then I looked to my immediate right and was looking directly into the eye of a huge whale. The tiny fin was the smaller fin near the end of the whale’s body. The whole incident was over in 10 seconds. Then I could see a second whale. I think they were fin whales. They were massive.
-Had my first orange today. Great. The fruit has kept very well. There are still a few bananas and lots of apples. Also had rusks and jam that Marlene Ridgewell had given me.
Later (Like 2 more sail changes later)
-It is the happy hour aboard Quanda. 18:00 GMT A toast to Quanda She is a great little boat. “TO QUANDA”.
-I’m preparing tomorrow supper. Hard Tack and salt cod. Today was also a treat day from Uncle Mike. (A letter, a photo of Cam and me, a carbine hook, a grand Marnier miniature liqueur and a chocolate bar. (I opened it at 43*49’N and 47*24’W) A toast to Uncle Mike. “TO UNCLE MIKE” And Thank you…the packages were a nice touch.
-All day I have been wondering how Denise’s Dad is. I suspect there will be a lot of “people news” when I make landfall.
-Had a stem to gudgeon wash in cold sea water earlier. It feels good. I can’t imagine what a hot shower will be like in Portrush. It will be exquisite.
-I’m fairly certain that the cold and fog are behind us. That was a gruelling segment of the voyage. The transition happened during the night so it was a pleasant surprise when I woke up.
-I still can’t get over looking the whale right in the eye. It was just like the opening scene in Moby Dick except that I have no nasty intentions.
-I listen to BBC about this time every night. The news is very depressing, killings, uprisings, disputes, human rights violations, natural disasters are the main stories. As I write I’m just hearing that the air quality and noise levels in Cairo are at very high levels. Allan Bond has just been found guilty of misrepresentation. The world is in a dreadful state. Enough writing for now.
May 29 Friday.
- Day started for me at daybreak with, you guessed it, another sail change. It was raining for a while but cleared and became a lovely day. 25*C however the winds have died and the self-steering would not work in the swells. (And very light winds)
-Murphy’s Law. I had a lovely wash but I could see a cold front coming. Yes…fog and winter woollies. Fortunately it only lasted a couple of hours. The temp dropped 5*C in an hour.
-I will be truly able to say I SAILED my boat across the Atlantic. Anyone ready for another sail change? More dolphins.
-Had Hard tack and salt cod. Good. I can see how it became standard fare for seafarers. I made too much but Bill Fullerton’s hay box keeps things warm for a very long time.
-Today has been poor. Fog on and off (mostly on) little wind and swelly seas. The boat just flops around and I have to be careful not to break anything or get clobbered myself.
-Wonder if there is a good turnout (TD folks) at Scoundrels? A beer would taste good right now.
May 30 Saturday 02:45 GMT
-Great start to the day. Put the sails up in the dark. The fog is gone. Here’s hoping for a good day. Days can start early when you are a sailor.
Later 10:15 GMT
-Conditions for sailing are very good. Steady winds and relatively flat water. I hope it lasts.
-In 2 hours and 45 minutes I will be on the water 2 weeks exactly. Bermuda Halifax was 15 days. I have learned a lot since then and am doing much better distance wise. I should pass the 1000 mile mark today.
-Got off a position report during the night and they think they can get it to Halifax tomorrow. The Radio Officer was sleeping. Let’s hope he / she knows their stuff when they are given the details at the change of watch.
-One banana left for Sunday. The fruit has been terrific.
Later 13:00 GMT
-2 weeks exactly (+ 1 minute!)
-Robert / Janet, and Trish Thank you for coming to Halifax for my send off. Your presence made it very special. I’m quite sure that underneath it all you had reservations about the trip. Trish, you touched me deeply with the look on your face as I left the dock. It haunted me for days. I know that nothing I could have said would have provided the comfort or security I would like to give. In any event I hope we call you not long after we arrive in Portrush. Robert, you seemed to handle this quite differently. Calm on the outside. Then there is Denise. You grew very supportive as time went on not ever revealing any doubts that you were entitled to have. The last month you were terrific. At the very end the call from Sid and Margaret, and then Robin Korthals really put you in a great frame of mind. I see a parallel in the situation for you in the months of May and June 92 to fall of 1976 when we, really you, moved us from Edmonton to Calgary when I was in Harvard, Boston. Every time I get off a position report I include “all OK”. I hope it gives you some comfort. You will presently be fielding calls and questions and of course making plans for your trip. Anyway, as I write this I want you to know that I appreciate what you did and what you have done in the months prior. “love Ya”
-Today is the environmental risk course and all commercial lenders are in Halifax. I hope it is going well. In fact there probably wasn’t a get together at Scoundrels last evening.
-I have just rigged a 2nd radio antenna so that I can enjoy the radio in 2 places on the boat.
May 31 Sunday
-Progress satisfactory. I should cross 40*W tonight. The day is clear blur but quite cool.
-POTENTIAL BIG TROUBLE. Both lower shrouds seem to have weakened underneath the spreaders at the swage fitting. The wires seem to have “untwisted” a bit. All I can do is to keep an eye on it and ensure I don’t allow the mast to take a pounding or flexing from side to side.
-So much for crossing 40*W That is more likely to be 1 ½ days away. We are becalmed. It is the pits having a lovely day, a destination, and no wind. It puts me on edge. What is more worrisome is there is no sign of a weather change, so only God knows how much more time I will drop. Had the motor on but I can’t keep doing this too often.
-2 small killer whales alongside for about 10 minutes. I was happy when they moved on. There were reports of a pod of them attacking a sail boat some years ago.
-Heard quite a bit of the Mary-Lou Findlay show this a.m. There was a great documentary on the Alaska Highway. CBC do a good job on radio.
-Has a shave wash etc. today.
-Have not seen or heard a ship or aircraft for 2 days. The charts show that I’m close to the shipping lanes. Maybe with luck I will get off a position report tonight.
June 1 Monday
-Saw the sun come up. It is a wonderful sight at sea and you realize how small we are in the universe.
-I did something naughty. I had a chocolate bar before breakfast. Trish would have laughed. Then I had a Kraft dinner for breakfast. Trish would have really questioned this!! It was good although I did smother it in cheese and margarine.
-Did some range navigation. 1500 miles + or – to go. It is sounding more manageable all the time. Would the Lord give me 100 miles per day? I have been a good boy, honest!
-The wind has died. I won’t make Portrush till June 23 at this rate.
-I’m “newsed out” listening to shortwave. By a large margin, it is firstly news, then religion, then and only then music. Don’t complain. It is good company.
-Today being June 1st I read “London Calling”. This is the BBC magazine and programme guide. It is like having a postman deliver something.
-Water is 100%, fuel lamps same, fuel stove same. Corned beef….I could overdose, and I will run out of chocolate bars.
-Today is soo sunny I have to come inside. I had been putting on 15 strength sunblock but that was not enough. My legs are turning quite brown. I don’t feel I have lost any weight, in fact I’m eating very well.
June 18 Tuesday (Day 18)
-The weather closed in quite a bit, however the wind speed and direction are good for me to put on a few miles under the keel. I can use them.
-Had a wash inside the cabin as it was too cold and windy outside.
-I will have to extend my arrival date with Coast Guard by 3 or 4 days. All of this will depend on my progress in the next 3 or 4 days and how much contact I have with them. Last night some ship answered as I tried to get off a position report but we were just too far apart.
-Wow. I knew the boat was starting to strain before lunch. A lot of wind. I decided, right in the middle of lunch to drop the genoa. OK I thought. Then I realized I had to go down to a double reefed main. Then after that was done I realized I had to lie a hull, which is what we are doing as I write. It all happened in an hour. So much for mega mileage today. I have the responsibility of looking after Quanda and she the same for me. The sea was a foaming fury for a while. I decided to close all seacocks. I was not thinking of any difficulty, rather it seemed an ideal time for a test. All done BUT a life jacket had got in front of one of the valve handles. This took an extra 20 seconds to sort out. In a real distress you can’t afford to give away 20 seconds. Another little lesson learned, fortunately at no cost. I also rigged up the plastic sheet to help prevent sea water splashing in on the electronic instruments.
-Lunch today…. A can of mandarin oranges + Xmas cake. Lovely. It is far too rough to light the stove.
-Had a nap. When I awoke I decided the wind had abated a little. I hand sailed on the storm jib, dead downwind. While doing this we had an experience that I would NOT want to duplicate. Off on the starboard bow I could see a lot of birds together, a sign of something. Then as I got closer I could see a lot of porpoises. Fine I thought they often come over and swim around the boat. Then I saw it, the back of a huge whale in amongst all the porpoises, and we were on a collision course 10 yards apart. I turned to port (was afraid I might around in time and hit him head on) but wasn’t able to let go the sheet. The boat was now back winded in v. strong winds. Quanda was screaming at me for putting her in this position and I knew I had to go dead downwind or risk being broadsided by a wave. By now I have lost sight of the whale although I think we are on parallel paths. Then a sonic boom (The Concord jet) goes off at that precise moment. My heartbeat must surly have set a record. Now I know what is meant by acute stress!! I turned downwind hoping I wouldn’t hit the whale. He was about 3 boat lengths long. I was a much relieved person when I heard him go PFFF about 30 yards astern. God is with me, and I’ll be dreaming of whales for a while. They are magnificent creatures. The whale and the porpoises all around was a bit like a king and an entourage.
-Right now I miss my family very much. I’m sure they are a bit worried, no position report for several days.
-Today started off well, covering 60 miles in 14 hours, then it all came to a screeching halt as a front went thru. As I write this we are lying a hull. Hopefully it will be better tomorrow. It isn’t a total waste as we are still getting 1 to 1 ½ kts.
-Yesterday I was thinking how many opportunities one has, on something like this, to freak out. Yesterday I had the ability to say “no sweat, no problem,” but I do confess the whale incident this afternoon has come very close for me. Since then my mind has been working overtime in a negative way. Then I remembered Tristan Jones on what a sailor must do. He cannot think in terms of fear but rather in terms of concern. Yes, be concerned but that is all you can do. Fear destroys the mind, concern keeps it “on its toes”.
June 3 Wed Day 19
-Today is Derby day and I hope to listen to it live. I couldn’t believe it , but Lester Piggott is riding in it. He had his first Derby victory in 1954 on Never Say Die. I was in Form 2!!! Quite a sporting flavour, tomorrow the first test starts at Edgbaston…England vs Pakistan. I wonder if Peter West or John Arlott do the commentary?
-Am running under jib and steering sail only. We are very comfortable, but my concern is my inability to get off a position report.
Later (2 sail changes later)
-Very foggy If I didn’t know differently I would think we were on the Grand Banks. There has been much more fog that I ever envisaged.
-Very boring today. Hope some sun comes out and brightened up and DRIES the place
-Fog now gone for a while, but cloudy.
-The big news on all stations is Denmark’s rejection of economic or monetary union with Europe. Shades of Meech Lake, so near yet so far.
-An uneventful and boring afternoon. For something to do I looked at the Donegal chart very closely. I see Ardarah is marked on it. Denise will remember the delightful weekend we spent there.
LATE IN THE DAY
-I have abandoned Nova Scotia time. which is just 3 hours different than GMT. I haven’t had my watch on since day 1. I didn’t want to get salt water in it!
I’m at the point of “going on”. It would be too difficult so sail back thru the Grand Banks with fog and icebergs. The warmer water, shipping lanes and a small current (0.5kts) are the pluses and are enough to tip the scale.
June 4 Thursday Day 20 04:00GMT
-Was under full main + steering sail but Quanda was letting me know it was too much. Now I must thank the crew for the manner in which they responded and got the job done. Auto pilot on, steering sail down, main down, jib up, steering sail up, course change turned out to be something that could not be maintained. The crew told him this but he did not listen, steering sail down, gybe the jib, steering sail up. (The steering sail has separate sheets and the sail is near the jib so it is a messy manoeuvre. The crew got out a warm blanket knowing it was raining above but never complained even when the skipper made a poor choice ½ way through. Ed note: Good help is hard to find these days and the skipper would be well advised to hang onto this crew.
-The fog continues. I had not anticipated this amount of fog. The wind is up and the seas are running high so am under jib and steering sail only. The good news is that the direction is favourable, so the miles are just clicking along. I have only had the motor on once in the last 3 days. Fuel is not a problem so I will not hesitate to use it if we are becalmed.
-A couple of days ago I indicated I would like 100 miles per day. It is holding true. In fact progress has been remarkable given the sea / wind conditions.
-Regretfully, I’m still unable to get off a position report. It has been 4 days. I hope something happens soon.
-There are 2 events on the “on board” calendar today. 1) Today is Treat Day from Uncle Mike. A very interesting letter, a miniature liqueur, a tin of candies, a photo, and a carbine clip. It is nice to have something to look forward to. My English teacher always said you should never use a preposition to end a sentence with!! I’m not sure how I will answer these letters- maybe a project near the end of the voyage. 2) Tonight is the dinner at HMCE Sackville for CPS Instructors hosted by Peter T. I had written to him declining the invitation but pointing out that I would propose a toast to CPS at 23::00GMT (8:00 N.S. Time. It will be a privilege for me to propose that toast.
-Repaired a little gap on the safety netting. It was easy to do. I had lots of spare line!!
-I will have to conserve my film. I have 48 shots left and I want to save them for landfall \ Mt Erigal \ Portrush. I have enough pictures of whales, porpoises, birds and the self steering gear. I can imagine many saying….I have never heard of such an arrangement… I hadn’t either till I procured the book Self Steering without a wind vane. Regretfully the cover has long since disappeared so I can’t say anything about the author. However a few excerpts from the forward will (I think) a sense of the person and the book.
This Manual was written for sailors who want simple methods of making their sail boats self-steer…………………………sheet to tiller self-steering, to put it simply harnesses the power of a sail to supply corrective steering steering action to the rudder………..and there is another positive reward that transcends function, the marvellous satisfaction one derives from harnessing the existing qualities from one’s boat…… I sailed a 28ft Pearson Triton sloop (Carl Alberg design) singlehanded from Florida to St Barthelemy French Antilles and back, relying solely on natural or sheet to tiller systems…….I believe that any sailor planning to cross a large expanse of ocean shorthanded should consider sheet to tiller knowledge MANDATORY even if the boat is equipped with an excellent wind vane or auto pilot
-I have read this book 1\2 doz times and will likely have a re-read today. There are always more nuggets buried in the text especially when you have accumulated 20 days (24hr days!) experience that is fresh.
-Today the 1st cricket test starts and I’m reminded of the first summer that TV came to Ballyconnell, in someone else’s house. I was allowed to watch BUT DO NOT TOUCH THE SET!!
-I had a good afternoon in the cabin. Got out the Ireland charts and studied them from a navigational / landfall point of view. E.g.: which comes first? Tory Head Malin Head Instrahull? (They come in the order written.) I guesstimate that I will have almost 2 days of seeing along the coast. However these will be fun days.
-I just did another sail change only to find 30 minutes later I went back to what I had. I could suggest the need for practise but it is a bit late for that now. Actually I have almost got it down to a fine art. I used to make 4 small mistakes per change, now only 1 per change.
-Still very grey but no fog. It has been days (4) since I have seen the sun. Maybe tomorrow.
-I just toasted CPS. I hope they did the same on HMCS Sackville. I had some Irish Mist which came from George and Carol Rogers.
Friday June 5 Day 21
-Now using Margaret’s pen.
-Very frustrating not being able to get off position report. In fact my last position (report) was 46*45’N 41*30’W and I’m now at 50*27’N 33*22’W. If Denise hasn’t left for Ireland she will get a pleasant surprise when she gets the next one. Pleasant in both terms of hearing from me and the distance covered.
-While today’s weather is poor I should be able to get another 100+ miles under the keel.
-Would a single sideband have been a good arrangement? Right now it would have been nice but I had concerns about a huge antenna (20’ +) on the stern. Another thing to go wrong!!
-Other than a shave and a wash there is nothing on the ship’s social calendar today. In fact I intend spending it reading the Irish Coast Pilot. I don’t want to make some dumb mistake closing Ireland. There are 2 tricky bits, one near Tory Island and the 2nd near Instrahull Sound. The route taken will depend on whether day or night.
-I had New England clam chunky soup for breakfast. Quanda’s crew is not bound by convention. Just open a can, heat, and consume.
-One thing that is intriguing me is how one deals with “freaking out”. A couple of nights ago I was on the foredeck changing a sail (what else is there to do in the middle of the night…which is the most likely time for a sail change!) and looked ahead into total darkness. I remember thinking that it could well trigger “freaking out”. I know I walked down the road but I don’t know how close I came on 2 occasions on this trip. (The iceberg incident and the whale incident) The iceberg was behind me when the gravity of it set in. “No sweat” Right? Well, all that day I was imagining thru the night in fog, and suddenly scrape, thump, thud, grind and being stopped dead in my tracks. The same for the whale incident. It was only after that that I imagined sailing into a whale in the middle if the night. Its tail could do a lot of damage. In any event I’m still of sound mind as I write this, but it is an interesting question.
-I can sense my body is not quite as sharp as it was 3 weeks ago. Just little things like having to be a bit more careful with my back, or needing an extra Ventolin puff. Actually my asthma has been very good and that is a great blessing.
-I wonder if Caroline had her baby yet. Anne will have had a busy summer…grandchild and maybe a trip to Portrush, and a trip to Canada.
-Another good wash. Now it may seem I’m writing a lot about washing, but….Day 21, no hot water, only cold sea water. I think I should audition for a ballet company. Standing (naked) inside the cabin trying to soap down, and “dance” with the motion of the boat. I’m sure I have invented some moves that have never been envisaged. Twirling pirouettes on a tilted floor.
-It is still dreary and windy and I was thinking about 1 day of sun to dry things out. Then I decided I would rather have the miles and some things can just stay damp.
-Looking forward to a Kraft dinner with lots of margarine.
-I almost forgot one of my cardinal rules. “Don’t compromise a good seamanship decision for some other consideration, in this case speed / more miles. It had been creeping up on me that I was gradually pushing my perception of Quanda’s limits. I suspect her real limits are beyond that but I want to keep that margin “in the bank”. The boat was rumbling, the lines vibrating, and she hit any wave with authority, and then shuddered momentarily. Up went the storm jib when I smartened up!
-I hope I get a chance (photo) to show what I have done with the 2 sails forward. Storm Jib for a C&C 27 and the steering sail which was a storm jib on an 18ft Sandpiper. I recall Denise giving it to me for a present . She drove from Mississauga to Pickering. Little did either of us know it would yeoman like work ½ way across the Atlantic. Great stuff. Now Quanda is peacefully sailing thru the big and confused seas, and almost on course. And I’m much more relaxed below, writing this entry in the diary. It was a good decision to change and perhaps I should have done it sooner.
-The bottle with the 2 messages was “dispatched” today. 10:45 GMT at 50*35N & 33*06W. I wrote a note to Margaret King (and made a copy for her) and took the liberty of including it with the one from Brian Byrne. I sealed the bottle with Bond fast so it would stay afloat. Good luck.
-It just got too much for Quanda and me. As I write, we are lying a hull with the hatch in and tied. The wind has been rising in a constant direction. I estimate 25 / 30 kts. Fortunately the set/drift are not too far of my course line. With the current we are probably getting 2 kts. I have taken a precise Loran fix when we stopped so we will see what happens. WE have done 70 miles today so I don’t feel bad about it. Even the birds are taking a rest. I was watching how they land in behind a wave. They are THE ABSOLUTE MASTERS OF THE WIND OVER WATER. I wonder what they live on out here.
-What a fascinating world. I was dozing after lying a hull for 3 hours. I realized the wind wasn’t whistling in the rigging as much. WE are sailing again. While not on course we can put some “latitude” in the bank. I assume it was a cold front. The only clue was a drop in the barometer from 1010 to 1006. I didn’t think 4 mlbs made that much difference.
-God I’m glad I did a lot of training. It has paid big dividends. While I was sagging just before we lay a hull, a rest, some hot soup, I’m raring to go. In fact 2 sails up and a gybe done. I feel like I’m part of a perpetual motion machine. The boat has not stopped moving since May 16.
-Did a tide graph for Londonderry for mid-June. It is a primary port and Tory Island is aligned with it. (as is Portrush)
-Only 2 balls bowled, not overs, in Test match today. Why did they bother? I can see Americans don’t understand 5 day test cricket.
June 6 Saturday Day 22
-In a couple of hours I will have been on the water for 3 full weeks. Perpetual motion. I can’t imagine how I will stagger off in Portrush.
-Very windy but it is from the south and am able to stay close to the course line. The sun is finally out. I think it is about 5 days since I have seen it. Temp 09*C
-Covered 25 miles in 5 hours during the night. That is impressive in these conditions.
-This morning I was reminded of the hazards of a stove in a rolling boat. I had a 6th sense and put on rain gear in case anything spilled on me. (To avoid burns) My soup did spill but not on me. You can never be too careful. I recall a man sailing from where down the South Shore to the Azores and he got a bad burn from his stove. He required medical attention.
-What would I give to get off a position report? A lot! I recall the look on Trish’s face when I left and it is killing me what must be going thru her mind, not to mention Denise and Robert. I broadcast about 20 times yesterday…it goes like this: Calling any station Calling any station Calling any station This is a small Canadian sail craft QUANDA Quebec Uniform Alpha November Delta Alpha Call sign Victor Xray 9064 Quanda is seeking assistance ONLY in the form of passing along a radio message. Quanda calling any station on Channel 16 Over
I likely say it in my sleep. I recall Lonnie Holland telling me they only saw 4 ships in 29 days on their crossing. I should have stressed t5hat before I left. At least I know where I am, and what’s going on. I’m doing nicely but I wish I could let someone know.
-My earlier fears turned out to be well founded. 2 strands of wire have given way just below the lower spreader. Obviously this means no excessive or shock loads. There is nothing I can do to solve this. If it gives way completely I will have to put a rope up and around the mast and bring it back down to the rail. I have several block and tackles so it would be enough to support the mast. I don’t know when this happened, yesterday or last night. Anyway I’m past the point of no return so whatever the Gods dish out is what I will have to deal with. Simple as that.
-I will be very glad when this day is behind us. It has been gruelling. I tried to rest / doze this afternoon and I couldn’t even close my eyes.!! On edge. The stay problem is up there to look at and obviously I’ll be looking at it all the time. I must be careful not to let it consume my mind.
-Monica Selles beat Steffi Graff for the French Open tennis today. 10-8 in the 3rd set. It was carried on BBC World service.
-Uncle Alex will not be a happy camper today. Ireland suffered their worst EVER defeat in New Zealand. I hope he hasn’t been phoning Coast Guard wondering where I am! I can’t even tell my wife.
-The question now is whether the shroud will hold for a few days. I have a fair bit of fuel, but nowhere enough to motor to Ireland.
June 7 Sunday Day 23
-Very cold 5*C Yesterday was a very long day. Today seems to be shaping up for more of the same. Rained during the night. One minute excursions into the cockpit to adjust the steering sail sheets is enough to get wet and “bring it back inside”.
-The stay does not seem to have deteriorated but I’m sailing cautiously…storm jib. Actually I don’t think I would have more even if there wasn’t a problem.
-I should be able to hear Mary Lou Findlay and Fresh Air later on today.
-I have just run out of jelly beans, however there is one more package of liquorice all sorts + 12 chocolate bars. With prudent rationing I should be OK.
-Still no position report. I would like to communicate the position but not communicate the stay problem. It would serve no purpose yet. Denise will be able to see the immense progress and that I will be close to June 15
June 8 Monday Day 24
-Yesterday was quite successful in terms of putting miles under the keel. I had a late supper as I wanted to hand steer the boat. It is more accurate. I am starting to sense the end.
-Today should be the day Denise says (with my encouragement) “the little bugger….he is going to make it” , except she does not know where I am. If I ever get off a position report she will know we are on our way.
-Quite cool 10*C at the moment (near noon) Winds quite reasonable and seas, while lumpy are quite manageable.
-The boat was sailing nicely and I had an afternoon nap. The combination of a wool blanket and a down bag make a snooze nice and cozy.
-My denture is still very sore and a quick visit to the dentist will be in order. I know it will only take the dentist 2 or 3 minutes to smooth out the bottom of the denture…where it is cutting into my gum.
-I have started to cheat! I have started to visualize Mt Erigal, then Muckish Mt, then Portrush harbour.
Is there still a diving platform quite near the entrance? Bathing boxes? Then the Lifeboat house just opposite the entrance? I can see where I’ll need ½ or 1 day to decommission the boat in preparation for shipping back. While Quanda will be in good hands (A.C.L.) she will wonder where I am. We have become quite attached. She is transportation, home for a month, and most of all a queen or companion. The former owners named her well.
-I took a food inventory today. Found things that I had stashed away (Smoked mussels yum yum) I have enough food and then some. In fairness I had planned for 40 days and this is only day 24.
-Wrote a 5 page note to Mike yesterday. Outside of my immediate family, he has a special interest in this trip.
June 9 Tuesday Day 25
-25 days. God, that is a long time to be alone.
-Winds non-existent. Motored for a few hours in the night to charge the batteries and then pulled over into a lay by and had a sleep. When I awoke there was still no wind so I motored some more. I decided to go with one of my principles…Use it or lose it. I’m showing ¾ full with ½ tank in reserve.
-Today is partially cloudy and cool. Hopefully the wind, and temperature, will pick up later on.
-I can see a vapour trail, and the aircraft, going east. Obviously left N America last evening in dark and will arrive first thing this a.m. in broad daylight. I wouldn’t trade them places.
-Only someone in the direct Linton group, my generation, will relate / appreciate the next little bit. I was reading the Irish Coast Pilot (I will soon know it off by heart) There was information on the River Bann, and Coleraine, and the pilots that go on board and guide the commercial vessels up the river. (Coastal steamers) It says “Pilots are based in Portstewart 55*11’N and 06*43’W and are available day or night. They board, from a motor launch with a blue hull, white topsides, Call sign S.G Martin ¼ mile west of Portstewart Point” S.G. Martin was Aunt Mary’s next door neighbour in Redcliff in Portstewart. And who said the world isn’t a small place, says me, sitting in the middle of the Atlantic reading a technical book!!!! If my childhood memory isn’t betraying me, Mr. Martin was a big burly man. The description on the launch is 100%. It was always the best kept boat in the harbour and had the most protected corner in the harbour. The fishing on the pier nearby used to be quite good. I love my childhood memories and all of this brought a big smile away out here. Bill and Anne and a few others will understand the Portstewart stuff.
-Emily (Miller) this section is for you and your husband. This a.m. BBC were doing a special on Paul McCartney. Anyway, the played him doing “Mull of Kintyre”. I thought of you both. And I love the ballad.
-It was an idyllic morning. Full sails up, and wind just right. Quanda was peacefully clocking off the miles. I had a snooze after lunch but quickly awoke hearing all the signals that the wind had freshened. Then came the best sail change of the trip. Full mail + Genoa + steering sail to double reef main jib and steering sail, WITHOUT ENGINE WITHOUT AUTOHELM AND STAYED ON COURSE!! I feel like I’m in the Americas Cup and have just rounded one of the marks.
-I’m a bit disappointed on the different readings on the Loran (I shouldn’t be as Loran is really only good to 300 + or- offshore.) Readings bounce 10 miles here and there. I have just read the Loran manual and they have an internal lithium battery that goes for “3 to 5” years. I bought the set in Jan 89 so only 3 have gone by. I never thought to put a new battery in. I hope I don’t regret that oversight in planning. Navigation with a sextant, close to landfall, can be challenging.
-It has been raining for the last couple of hours and we are starting to slow down. When I came up there were 2 whales about 50 yds. astern. Not that large compared to the 2 big sightings. I prefer to see them from the apparent safety of a commercial vessel.
-Maybe I will get lucky tonight and get off a position report. I wonder who Halifax Coast Guard will call, or has Denise left instructions. Denise could be well on her way to Ireland by now. When I pick up Malin Head I will ask them to notify James Heaney. Presumably they will be talking with each other at some point.
-I wonder what is the archaeological significance, if any, of the stone that Annie Prior gave me? I had decided dockside in Halifax, that it would be my good luck stone. She did explain what it was minutes before departure, however you could have told me I won a million dollars and it would not have registered. I was focused on what was ahead and at that moment I mean focused! I barely remembered to kiss my family goodbye but Denise made sue I didn’t forget. Thank goodness for that. I also think I called Brenda Reid BETH? I will call her when I get back.
-I did make arrangements for Lotto 6-49 while I was away. I wonder how my luck was. Something to look forward to when I get back to
June 10 Wednesday 05:00
-Got off a position report. 53*27’N 23*30’W
-I got soaked making a sail change however that does not seem important now that somebody has my position. Will they call Denise anywhere? Because of my sail plan they also have a direct interest in my position.
-I’m tired now as I haven’t slept much in the last 24 hours. Am going to crawl into the sleeping bag.
-Had a snooze and feel much better. Winds very strong and won’t get much sailing in today. Today is going to be one of those days “Where it puts you”. I have very little say where I can go in circumstances like this. In fact if we were close to land we would turn around and go back to sea.
-Caroline is probably a Mum by now as due date was a few days ago. Hope all went well.
-Weather still awful but breakfast was interesting. I opened the Hopper treat parcel. Xmas cake. Now I can tell from the way it is so neatly packaged, card and ribbon that is the work of Carmella. It has her signature of neatness all over it. The cake was excellent. Anyway, breakfast was split pea soup, Xmas cake, an orange and tea to make it all civilised.
-Then some good news. I thought I would get off another position report. (Although the position had not changed much) I did want to extend the sail plan from 28 to 31 days. Can Force 113 (Military aircraft) answered and said they would assist. Nothing for almost 10 days and then 2 within 12 hours!
-It happened 16:10 My worst fears. The port inside (lower) stay gave way. What an awful noise. Immediately tacked the boat to put the load on the starboard side. Got the spinnaker halyard attached to the port rail to provide a little support. It seemed like an eternity to get this done. Then I tried to throw a monkey fist, with a messenger line) over the starboard spreader. I abandoned this after getting the monkey fist wrapped in the lazy jack lines. I will have to think of another way. I said I would only say it ONCE on this trip “You didn’t have to do this and you wouldn’t have to go through this” I JUST SAID IT. NOW LET’S GET ON WITH HOW DO WE GET OURSELVES TO PORT. What an awful noise to hear a stay give way. It could have been worse. It could have been the upper stay and happened at night. There!!
-The situation now much more manageable. I came up with a terrific solution to getting a messenger line over the starboard spreader. I lashed a wooden pole and telescopic boat hook at full extension with a small block at end. Then a monkey fist with a very light messenger. Hoisted it up till I could get the block/monkey fist through the triangle above the spreader.. Then I let go the messenger and the monkey fist dropped at my feet. That was the hard part. Then I used the messenger to get a double ½ inch line up and around and back down to opposite rail. Then I got a block and tackle for last 4 feet to rail. Then I could get terrific leverage on the whole arrangement. I was pleased with this. The downside is that it takes away the use of the main sail because my support line crosses the main sail track. Now the next thing to wish for is steady 8 kt breeze from the south, for 4 or 5 days. If this gets us home it will be seamanship of the highest order, even if I do say so myself.
-Then more good luck (things can change quickly out here depending on your perception of the situation!) I was able to get another position report via Melanga Queen. The message was Position 19:45 GMT June 10 54*38’N 23*09’W. Inside stay has given way. Have jury rigged support. No danger. Restricted to light downwind sailing, fuel for a full day and could Halifax Coast Guard please advise Malin Head radio. Melanga Queen said she would try and send messages to both places. I also asked them to ask Malin Head radio to advise James Heaney.
-I could kick myself for not asking for the weather from Melanga Queen. I called back but they were on the fringe and we could not really make each other out.
-One of the rotor cups on the wind meter has gone. Wouldn’t surprise me if it was a bird. They kept hovering over it the last couple of weeks. Then the latch gave way on the stove so it swings. I have since put in wooden wedges to restrict it. If it isn’t one thing it is another!!!
June 11 Thursday Day 27
-I’m trying hard not to cry but it is getting to me. So near (3/4 of the way) and yet so far. Who know what next week holds? This sort of thing saps ones energy and I was surprised that I slept at all.
-I’m much further north that I want to be, but not a thing I can do. I motored lightly thru the night probably more for r psychological reasons. This morning I put all the fuel in the main tank. It is over ¾ full and that is about 18 hours at 2400 rpm. Use it well Denis.
I finally figured out a way to get the trysail up the mast on the external track. I keep the top 4 slides outside the track with the rest below being in the track. This allows the head of the sail to get past the rope that I have jury rigged. (To support the mast). While the writing of this takes just a few sentences, the actual doing took a couple of hours.
-I now have the boat hove to on its good side but I will be taken further off course. At least it is slow and the rigging is not being stressed. What is needed now is no wind for say 6 hours to let the water settle.
-The weather has been very poor. I have been inside most of the morning as there is nothing I can do. This regretfully allows me to think of all the options. EPIRB + abandon Quanda…cost? Delay of 1 or 2 weeks, What if the weather does not change for days, how much sailing will I be able to do? It hasn’t been put to the test since the stay parted, and the mental anguish on family and me. I’m too far off to seek help and I’m not sure what help I can use. Fuel perhaps. Motoring in heavy seas is a big burden unless they are beam on with a steadying sail. What will I do next?
-Is this despair? In actual fact if the wind was just in the right direction we could toddle along at 2 kts and it would seem much better. SO STAND BACK AND SAY No imminent danger, you have done all you can do, lots of food and so on. Despair is when you give up hope and I have NOT done that. It is very frustrating to sit here helpless for the now.
June 12 04:30 GMT Friday Day 28
-This is shear survival at this stage. The weather has handed me a dreadful pounding and it seems only a matter of time before the mast completely goes. It is the up and down, back and forth movement of the waves plus being stopped in your tracks every now and then. It puts a dreadful load on everything. I have put up the trysail to dampen the sea saw effect. (Reduce rolling a bit)
-It is daylight but there is no sign of the weather letting up. I tried 3 times during the night to get off a position report, but no luck
-The wind has veered by 15 / 20* but in the circumstances I don’t know what it means, if anything.
-I have been rehearsing what to do if the mast goes. (Wire cutters, re-secure life raft, cut lines (halyards) etc. THE THING TO REMEMBER IS THAT THE BOAT ITSELF IS THE BEST LIFERAFT.
-I’m now north of the top of Ireland at 55*32’N and Instrahull is 55*26’N. Great circle no longer applies. If I get a chance, it is now a straight line. I estimate my position at 420 miles from the top corner of Ireland. Some days ago when I was doing 100+ I would have been smiling. I will now be happy to knock off 30 / 40 miles per day.
-I have 2 wishes at this time. 1) Nothing further gives way, (equipment / rigging) and 2) change to softer weather. If the seas go down I would use some fuel to make a dent in the 420 miles. I would then have access to other ships and in turn radio contact. Keep fighting Denis. Remember one of life’s big lessons from Mum “You just can’t just give up when it gets difficult” She was right. That plus my love for my wife are what’s working for me.
-Things looking up a little. Winds have lost their ferocity. I am now actually sailing. Storm jib + trysail and no steering sail as opposed to lying hove to. I was getting some miles on hove to but this should be slightly better. The next goal is to have less than 400 to go. I estimate that it will happen at approx. 18*30’W This assumes I won’t change latitude too much. (Figure right to Portrush) All of this is a real rollercoaster. I have been in the depths of despair in the last 48 hours and here I am coming out of a trough.
-I have conserved fuel by lying hove to. Others might have used the engine to keep the boat quartering on the waves. I see the fuel as money in the bank although I will not hesitate to use it if the opportunity presents itself.
-I haven’t washed for 3 days and know it. It is cold and I don’t feel up to it yet. Will have to by tomorrow latest.
-If my jury rig holds it will have been a great improvisation and effort. I keep thinking about the Robert Bruce story and the spider trying and trying and finally succeeding in getting its web built.
-Had a wash! It was a cold affair but I do feel better for it. Did some regular washing also. Other than the winter woollies I’m up to date.
-Scotland lost 0 – 1 to the Netherlands in the opening round of the European Championship. The 2nd half was broadcast on BBC world service.
-A change in the weather is coming. There has been low cloud for 2 or 3 days. And I can now see it lifting to reveal high cloud!
-Got off a position report but it was difficult. It will represent good news for my family. They will see from the position that I’m still going and there is no danger.
-Am sailing at this time with a minimum of sail. If this lasts thru the night there will be measureable progress on the plotting sheet. Every mile of progress is a bonus of sorts. Any subsequent problem is one mile closer to land and you can be sure I’m counting.
-One item that I forgot to mention was the rail rider pants. They are a very good product.
-There are still 6 oranges left. They have been great and taste just as good as day 1. Then there was the closed cell foamy (Bought garage sale .25c) It is great for keeping the cushions dry. Just wipe it dry and it is a great base for a warm bed.
-I have started to pick up “noise” on the a.m. band. One seems to be a French station. In another day I could well be able to pick up regular stations from the U.K. Here I go again, starting to taste it. Look what happened the last time I did that. Right up to 16:00 on June 10. “Denis – Just hold your “whisht” as Dad would say. OK Dad but are we there yet? !!
I’m really glad not to be going to I’m really glad not to be going to Liverpool. The thought of stopping and starting again.
June 13 Day 29 Saturday
-Just think. I left 4 weeks ago today. I have not seen a soul, just talked to about 16 ships, a couple of aircraft, and myself a lot.
-I have just worked it out. It is 432 to Portrush and less than 400 to the top corner of N. Ireland. I’m right on the right latitude for Instrahull Just worked out that 1* of longitude at this latitude is about 36 nautical miles.
-During the night the radio was full of European stations.
-Was unable to get off position report.
-I can now guessimate my time to Portrush. 75 miles / day + Thursday Ouch 100 miles / day Tuesday I like it. Stop dreaming.
-Got great distance covered in the night. I have done 35 miles in 7 hours on tri sail, storm jib and steering sail. Everything was right. Beam reach plus quartering sea.
I should be able to see Mt Erigal Monday. I wonder what emotions I will feel when I first see land? Based on the emotion I’m experiencing just writing this I suspect I will have “a big happy cry”. I wonder if I shouldn’t go directly to Coleraine. That would save the guts of a day. I would like to wash and dry the sails, otherwise I could have a big mess on my hands in Halifax.
-Just 20 minutes ago I was exactly 4 weeks on the water. That is a long time but I did predict a “month on the water” I will be accurate within a day.
-Being Saturday, radio programmes are different which is a pleasant change from news.
-I wonder how the fellow who sailed from St John’s on May 23 in his 5ft 6 inch is making out. I just can’t comprehend 5ft 6 inch. Not to worry, many couldn’t understand me going in a 27 ft. boat.
-I’m really glad not to be going to Liverpool. The thought of stopping and starting again is awful. Actually with the mast this way I would not go on unless it was repaired. (2 new stays to the spreaders.) I recall Denise saying away back last February that I should forget Portrush Liverpool. She was right. Just the thought of not having to do it gives me pleasure at the moment.
-It is the Queen’s birthday today, 68. Michael Caine was on the Queen’s honor list OBE
-I put up the full jib as the winds had softened and boat speed was below 3 kts. Hard to believe, but if conditions remain this will be a 100 mile day. Lady luck has been kind to me the last 2 days with beam or following winds, on the boat good side. Actually lady luck has been very good to me this whole trip. E.g.: The stove incident the day before I left, the iceberg incident, the whale incident, the broken stay incident, the easy winds in the last 2 days.
-Because I was blown north on June 10 and 11 I will be north of the first chart (“Western Approaches”) to Ireland. That will make the suspense a little longer. Plotting on blank navigation paper is not the same.
-Will try and see if I can pick up Radio Luxemburg tonight. It continues to rain so I spent most of the day inside. Read half of Wind, Whales and Whiskey.
June 14 Sunday Day 30
-For the first time in a while I couldn’t sleep well. The weather is getting heavier than I would like although it is in the perfect direction.
-One wave came right over the cabin and some salt water got close to the radio. There was panic with paper towels!!
-I junked some food. The sesame bars. They were a dead loss. They seemed to get damp when nothing else did. On the subject of dampness, cotton was a poor choice for this sort of trip. It absorbs moisture especially when it had been washed in salt water. Wool everything is the only way to go.
-I would like (again) to get off a position report. It must be an emotional roller coaster for Denise. I will never subject my family to this sort of thing again.
-The engine has not been on for 2 ½ days so I will run it later.
-I have been up since 4am and it is now 9:30. And still no breakfast. I think I will have the last marks and Spencer special. They were good.
-The weather continued to build so I elected to take down the trysail. I made a botch of it. Then when it came time to put up the steering sail with the storm jib it was flogging. I got hit a few times by the flapping sheet. It is quite sore. That will teach me not to botch it. Ed note: In defence of Denis the fitting that clips on the rail turning to the tiller gave way. The winds were very strong. Actually it all serves as a good reminder “No mistakes- focus and strength”
-While a technical item the Loran chain has moved from Iceland 9980 to Norway chain 7970. This means I should get better readings as time goes on. I need that as they had been getting spotty. In fact I was taking readings every hour to see if I could spot a pattern.
-The wind has really picked up and I had to hand steer for about 9 hours. I ate Xmas cake and dates. I was so wet and cold I was afraid my judgment might be compromised by hypothermia. I decided to take the storm jib down, tie off the tiller, and put hatch in. I’m now inside sorting myself out. 95 miles in 20 hours. 4.7 kts on a storm jib alone, almost straight downwind. She almost got away from me a couple of times. Huge following seas made it really important to concentrate. I’m reluctant to light the stove in these conditions so it is more Xmas cake and apple juice. It could be worse. I’m very tired.
June 15 Monday Day 31
-I was more tired than I realized. I slept from 19:30 to 00:00 and never heard a thing. Then came 00:15 to 02:45. Then my lust for sailing took over and I came up and started the boat sailing again. Storm jib and hand steering. That allows me to sail on track. Maybe I will see Ireland very late tonight Day light goes to about 00:00 and there is only about 3 hours of darkness. This will be another Xmas cake day and that is fine by me. Actually not much left.
-1 Chocolate bar left. When will I have it?
-Still unable to get off position report. Last one was June 12 at 17:00hrs. 270 miles since they last heard from me.
-I make it 220 to go. That suggests early Wednesday at best. Had a wash. Can’t wait for a hot shower, shampoo, and clean dry clothes.
-The weather has softened. Was able to light the stove. A HOT MEAL. 3 boiled eggs on top of a Marks and Spencer breakfast.
-I had a pod of pilot whales follow me for 2 hours. They are quite beautiful as the surface on the front side of a swell. At several stages they were above me in the following seas. It was like a ballet.
-I can now pick up BBC There was a talk show, the first person was from Portrush and the second from Denise’s home town Larne.!!!
-Earlier in the day there was a request programme on BBC world service. They played Joyce Grenfell doing “Flowers”. (Bad Sidney kept interrupting the class!!!) It was priceless and I broke out in laughter. It is an unusual experience when you are by yourself.
-Progress is slow but steady. I don’t think I can put up more sail. Every once in a while I have to remind myself we are limping home.
-There was a very nice programme on BBC 1 Music and Musings. What an interesting article on Bessbrook. In its day it was a big linen factory employing 3000+ It was a planned town and it did away with 3P’s Police, Pub, ?? . The town of Bourneville was apparently modeled after it. There was also an ad for Cecile House in Drumshambo. Also an ad for a weekend in Rosses Point. (I see on the chart there is a place called Ballyconnell Point near Sligo.
-Here I am at 55*22’N and 11*45’W reading Winds Whales and Whiskey. I get to page 144 and who do I read about? Hugh Gauntlett and Carol MacDonald. Residents at The Jubilee with us. It is a small world Bessbrook, Rosses point this a.m. and now Hugh and Carol this p.m.
-I had a nap with one ear open. I could tell we were going slower and slower so back to “use it or lose it” principle. It is my preference to pass Instrahull in day light. It is the only significant navigational item left other than bumping into Ireland or going into the North Sea. It seems the Atlantic is going to make us work right to the end.
-The pressure is the highest all trip at 1020 Mlbs. Even if it falls we should be close enough. Famous last words.
-Still no position report but she will know in less than 24 hrs that all is well and the trip will come to a safe and successful conclusion.
-My Mum used to say “there will be no peace till they are all gone” I just had last chocolate bar. All treats now consumed.
-Happy b’day Denis.
June 16 Tuesday Day 32
-I’m not going to make Portrush today. Mid Wednesday is my guess. I got off a position report last night, with some difficulty. Malin Head Radio called me this a.m. so somebody was trying to make contact. I could hear them but they could not hear me.
-I’m fortunate to have conserved so much fuel. I’m still showing more than ½ And I’ll retain ¼ for last bit. I’m using it up now so that the trip does not stretch into Thursday. So near and yet so far. I hope to see Mt Erigal this afternoon.
-Saw 2 fishing boats in the a.m. They are the first I have actually seen in over 2 weeks. I can tell this will be a frustrating 24 hours in a way. Being delayed or going slow is no price to pay. I’m truly thankful the Atlantic let me come across.
-Just spoke with Sadie. I advised her that I would likely be in Portrush at about 9a.m. tomorrow. She said Denise would be back in an hour. An Irish hour???
-Margaret’s pen just ran out.
-Glen Head Radio was loud and clear and getting through was easy. I’m to call them to close the sail plan but they prefer I don’t do it till Portrush. Coordinates for Glen Head 54*44’N 08*43’W They work on Ch. 24 and Malin Head on 23. I have just looked where Glen head is on the chart. It is near Ardara!! This community has now been mentioned 2 times in my notes.
THEN LATER 12:00
-LAND SIGHTED Mt Erigal. I cried. It was exactly as I had envisaged for months. Wow.
-Glen Head radio called. BBC want to do an interview at 19:30 local time, just a few hours from now. I said OK. I want friends in Ireland, not cold shoulders.
-I have had the motor on for 24 hours and will likely be on for most, if not all, the rest of the way. I’m glad I checked the oil a couple of days ago or I would be fretting about now.
-My goal now is to get the Instrahull light in sight and turn the corner. After that it is downhill, so to speak.
-I have seen many fishing boats today. I chatted with one of the Scottish boats for about 10 mts. I offered to change course in the event I was interfering with their fishing. He seemed to appreciate that. They were longlining for hake and ling. 3 more whales this afternoon. I may join the “save the whale” society after this trip. The big ones are magnificent.
-WHEW. What an afternoon and evening. Got in touch with Denise. It was lovely to hear her voice. Had spoken with Bobbie earlier. It sounds like tomorrow’s arrival is going to be special. James Heaney wants to come up to Instrahull. Sister Anne is here from England. (I forgot to ask if she was a grandmother yet). Joan MacDonald is / will be here. Denise has been in touch with Trish and Robert and Bok Kelly. Then the media started. BBC Radio Ulster called for an interview. We did that. Then A.T.V. from Halifax called and we ultimately did a live interview. They ran the previous footage as we talked about the trip. Malin Head Radio and myself had a good laugh while we waited to go live. We heard about 5 minutes of the Nova Scotia news. BBC may want to do a further one in the morning, a few hours before we pull into Portrush. I probably won’t have this many people “fussing” over me till the day I die!!
-I doubt I’ll sleep tonight. Not a problem if it is Portrush tomorrow.
-I have learned nothing new about myself in the last 31 days other than I was good company!! I have learned a new respect for whales. I did not do a lot of reading, or chess, or cards. Radio was good company. Running the boat was a full time job especially without a mechanical steering system.
I will one of a very small number that SAILED an ordinary boat solo…no mechanical steering…first sail of the year was to Ireland (out of the harbour, turn left and keep sun on right) resolved / jury rigged 500 miles off… and as Denise said I made my dream come true.
-It will be another challenge to get going into the rhythm of work again. At the moment my mind is absolutely uncluttered. I have had my 5 weeks my family have supported me yet I know it must have been difficult for them on several occasions, especially when they heard nothing from us. (Quanda and I) Quanda is truly a queen and companion. We know each other.
-Would I do something like this again? Yes and No. No meaning this was one of a kind. An idea, an opportunity whose time came, was met, and is over. A great chapter but it ended on June 17 92. Ireland 92 started in May 88. Then Oct 91 to May 16 92 was given a lot of time for planning / preparation phase. I said to Denise on May 16 92 at home “You have been especially great over the last 6 months” I meant it then and I will say it again. You made a big contribution and you should know it. Thank you. Without your help / support Ireland 92 would not have come to pass. It was the proverbial door. It was there and we had to walk thru it. It is dark and very late on the 16th so I will end this editorial comment. LOVE YA.
June 17 08:00 Wednesday Day 32
-Wow!! A live interview with BBC and lots of contact with Malin Head Radio, Elizabeth K and Portrush Harbour.
-Had a Kraft dinner at 03:00 and finished the last of the Xmas cake. It has been beautiful seeing the north shore of Ireland from the water. It is slipping by nice and slow. As I write this we are abeam of Lough Foyle and I’m about 2 hours from finishing the trip of a lifetime. I now understand there will be T.V. + Radio + newspapers as well as well-wishers.
Denis…savour the moment, it won’t happen again Savour the next few days. They will be special also.
-The last 2 days have been marvellously hectic. James Heaney, Robert Lynn, Tom McGaffin, Ernie Shields, and Denise came out to meet me in Elizabeth K. It was great not having to navigate the last little bit. As I came close I could see a few people on top of the breakwater. As I came around I could see what I estimate about 200 people. There was applause as I came in. What an absolutely marvellous reception.
-Arrived at 11:25 June 17 92. There were many relatives. Sister Anne, Uncle Alec, cousins Noel Albert Elizabeth Ralph Mary Gerald Mavis + their spouses, and of course Bobbie and Sadie. I could well have missed somebody. The first 15 minutes was media after Denise and relatives. After that a couple of hours of the most pleasant kind, saying hello and accepting congratulations from many people. Many of them knew our family from Drumslade. When they heard the interview on the radio it prompted a number to come down.
-The PORTRUSH YACHT CLUB put on a great reception. They served tea / sandwiches for anyone. Aileen Lynn did all the work. (Commodore’s wife) People that had come early were encouraged to come in and get off their feet and have a cup of tea. It was a lovely gesture and appreciated by the people involved and most of all by me. I really felt welcome.
- Robert Lynn The Commodore made me an Honorary Life member of the Club. Now I have further reason to revisit Ireland. The Mayor was there having left some other occasion to be at the Harbour. A Master and 2 schoolboys from CAI (my old boarding school) came down and specifically introduced themselves. Perhaps the most special effort was that of Desmond, Pat, and Victor Ennis. They came up from Ballyconnell and Virginia, Co Cavan. Pat was over from the States on vacation. They made a lot of calls to find out when I was coming in. My only regret was that I did not have more time to spend with them. Another excuse to visit Ireland.
-Then on to James and Betty Heaney’s house for a BATH. Later the 4 of us went out to a nice restaurant (The Ramore) overlooking the harbour and the lifeboat. Then I “ran out of gas” and that was the end to a wonderful and special day.
-The next day was spent decommissioning the boat to get it ready as best I could for its return. Many people came by to say hello. Billy McVicker was the most surprised when I told him that his schoolboy nickname was Slick. He went to school with my brother in the 40’s. Then in the evening Robert Lynn, Aileen, and Tom came around. We watched the video they had taken and will get to me. The chat was marvellous. Tom told some funny stories of “behind the scenes” life on one of Gt Britain lifeboats. Earlier I did a live interview with John Hancock of CBC Halifax.
-What a hectic day yesterday was. First Dan Cunningham and his wife for 1/2 hour. He was my physics teacher and brother of Joe who I spoke to just before I left. Then a drive thru Portstewart to Drumslade. An hour with Albert and Annie and then on to Coleraine to buy airline tickets. Saw Mavis then Dorothy. Then on to Noel Gault for lunch with he and his wife. (He was a fellow employee in 1959 in Londonderry) Then On to the Inst (my old school.) Denise and I had a look at the old dorms and then had tea with the Headmaster and School Sect Colin Beck. A fellow pupil in the 50’s. I delivered David’s letter to Colin. Then on to Royal Belfast Hospital. We got hopelessly lost in it! Then on to Helen’s Bay for dinner with Uncle Alec, Anne and Joan McDonald. Very nice. Then to Jane and Stephen and Edward. (Cousin) Jane looked so young. (Can’t believe she is 40. Then back to Larne and a bit of chat with Bobbie. We were exhausted.
-Went to see Aunt Eileen, Uncle Dennis, Sheelagh and her husband. I had missed them yesterday. Then on to 12 St Jude’s Cr in Belfast. Denise was born in that house. Then on to 105 Woodvale Rd. And saw Betty, Robert, Susan and families. Then back to Larne golf club for Captains day. Then on to Doagh for a Linton reunion. It was really special to see so many Linton’s in one place on a happy occasion. This was an unplanned bonus and we can thank cousin Noel and wife Betty for making it happen.
-Another busy day. First to Craythorne’s who were kind enough to invite us along with William and Christine and Billy Burns. Then to Portrush to take the boat up to Coleraine marina. IT was not to be. Big seas at the entrance to the Barmouth, River Bann were the problem. I had to turn this whole part to James Heaney. He is the only one to which I would entrust Quanda. James and Betty have been A HUGH HELP AND GENEROUS HOSTS. Then back to Belfast to see Sadie. Then to Hollywood. Uncle Alec came around and we went to my Mum and Dad’s grave. I had forgotten they were buried beside Granny and Grandpa Stewart. Then over to Ken Lynn who is 80+. He looked quite good. Then to the golf club for dinner (mixed grill) with Joan. It was her birthday.
Uncle Alec will run us up to the airport in the early a.m. and that will be the end of the N. Ireland chapter. I had not planned the N. Ireland part. From landfall in Portrush on the 17th to now was a wonderful, once in a lifetime, experience. It cannot nor should it be duplicated. The whole trip was one of a kind. My family endured the hardest part and to them I say A SIMPLE BUT SINCERE THANKYOU.