Plan A Trip To Atlantic

I worked for fourteen and a half hours non-stop, repairing the damage to Miranda. There was no wind, or very little, but the seas were 24 feet from crest to trough, and steep. The rolling was really nasty, back-snapping stuff. It was difficult to stand on deck, and even when I tried sitting on it I was suddenly slid from one side of the deck to the other. I wanted to reach the top of Miranda’s mast, 14 feet above the deck, to replace a parted rope. I started climbing up, wriggling my way through the network of wires, stays and cordage. As I neared the top, the yacht rolled and I swung round with the rotating mast until I was clinging to the underside of it. I hung on tight, waiting for the yacht to roll back. She gave a kind of flick roll, which made the mast continue turning-with me clinging to it. The next roll caught it at exactly the right instant, and in a few seconds I was spinning round and round fast, clutching the mast like a scared mouse. After my first astonished fright I was not worried about myself, because the yacht was not moving, but I was scared stiff that Miranda would snap under the strain. Then it struck me what a fantastically comic sight it must appear, from a fish’s eye view, to see me spinning round like a monkey clinging to a pole. I burst out laughing. But I was relieved when I had succeeded in hooking the top of the pulpit with my instep, and managed to stop the spin.

One curious thing about the storm was that, although it blew the burgee to shreds, it left untouched a pair of underpants which I had buttoned round the handrail on the cabin top, hoping that they would dry in the calm spell before the storm started.

Plan A Trip To Atlantic Photo Gallery



I interrupted my work twice to get sunshots when the sun appeared, but did not stop to work them out. Next day, however, I worked up my dead reckoning for 8 days to 27 June, allowing for every change of course and speed, and allowing for the speed and direction in which the yacht had moved during the storm. The lie of the anchor chain with its white wake had given me our line of travel. The sun fix showed that my dead reckoning position was 98 miles too far west; I had forgotten to allow for the head-on Gulf Stream, which at half a knot would set me back 96 miles in the eight days.

On 29 June the Mauretania passed a mile away, looking vast, powerful and steady in the dirty-grey weather. I tried to signal with my Aldis lamp, but it would not work. With three blasts of her foghorn she was on her way, leaving me forlorn. This was only the third ship I had seen since the start, although I had heard two pass me in the fog.

During my third week I made good only 284 miles in a straight line. I lost two days in the storm, one day repairing the damage, and a fourth day when I was so exhausted that I sailed badly. The remaining three days of the week I was soused in fatigue, although I did not realise it at the time. The night of 1 July was a sample; the wind was dead in the eye looking at New York, the sea was rough and nasty, and I could not get off to sleep until 1.30 a.m. An hour later I was woken by the thunderous crash of a wave breaking on deck. I went on deck after donning my whole oilskin rig, but found nothing smashed or even displaced. I was overtired and jittery. I stayed on deck, trying to get more than the 2.8 knots Gipsy Moth was doing and which I thought not nearly enough, but I could not trim her to sail faster, however I tried. The truth was, that she was being overpowered. It was a Force 7 wind, and I did not realise it; I was getting used to wind. At last it dawned on my dopey brain, and I tried to reef the mainsail. I began slacking away the mainsail to ease the pressure on it, which was jamming the reefing gears. The ship at once shot ahead into the night like a scalded cat, and the more I slacked away the mainsail the faster she went until, by the time the mainsail was practically weather cocking with the sail weaving in the wind, I reckoned our speed at 10 knots.

It was exhilarating sport, tearing through the black night with the seething, foaming bow waves dazzling white in the bright light from my pressure lamp rigged in the stern. When I moved forward to the mast I saw the fantastic sight of a huge black giant in the sky ahead moving as I moved. I thought I must have rubbed Aladdin’s lamp and that here was the Genie; it was my own huge shadow, projected on the fog ahead by the lamp in the stern. In the end I lowered the mainsail and, standing on top of the dinghy lashed to the cabin roof, I gathered in the madly flapping sail by armfuls until at last I had it subdued and furled. The speed was still 5 knots with only the working jib set, so I left it like that and finally got to sleep at 8 o’clock in the morning. I was up again at 11, feeling exhausted.

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