Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Hopelessly doomed, but the little ship was in no hurry

I've sailed round the world in a homemade sailing boat so skinny that surely no fellow in his right mind would try to cross the Channel in her. Yet she took me through the Atlantics, across the Indian and Pacific Oceans, through the Southern Ocean, and ... well, quite a few thousand sea miles more.
However, on the night of the shipwreck, which I began telling about yesterday, sliding into a craft specifically designed to save life, I felt very, very unsafe.

The yacht that a girl shipmate and I were sailing from Rio towards the Cape ran into a container, presumably a container, around midnight. The damage must have been extensive because the yacht filled with water very quickly.
The advice for emergencies like this is not to abandon ship until the deck is level with the entrance to the liferaft. That's how it was when we left the awash Baltic Wind.

Bound for Davy Jones

We paddled a few feet away, then a little distance. I've not lost a vessel before. However, she was full of water. It seemed logical that she would go to Davy Jones immediately.
She didn't. We sat in the raft looking at the desperate sight, hoping that another yacht we believed to be nearby would sail over the horizon at any moment. Only waves and clouds dominated the distance.
After a few hours, Nature demanded attention. The liferaft resembled a paddling pool, a very small paddling pool, with a canopy. How on earth, on water, were we to follow the demands of nature?
In the story I am writing of the loss of the beautiful yacht, Drifting to Hell, I tell how we managed it. However, that was later in the drama. At this present time, we expected to be rescued within hours.
Baltic Wind still floated. Well, why not return to her? She seemed stable enough. My shipmate could follow Nature's demands with some semblance of privacy.
We returned to the ship, clambered onto the awash deck. She went to the other side, out of sight.
Continues on the blogs for my sailing adventure story, Sailing to Purgatory, at

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Anniversary of a mid-ocean shipwreck

Twenty-five years ago to the day, the luxury superyacht I was delivering from Rio to the Cape ran into a container. I had not long gone off-watch, as the maritime expression goes, and my mate took over the wheel. It was just after midnight.
The yacht slammed into the submerged container. It punctured the hull near the keel. Moments later, I was woken by water pouring into my cabin and over the bunk.
The yacht was seriously damaged, and beyond repair out in the South Atlantic, very far from either South America or South Africa.
My shipmate was a young woman who volunteered to help as I was leaving the marina alone. Poor Beth. I'm sure she'll never forget that moment, and nor the very scary time to come.
The yacht filled very quickly and we had no option but to take to a liferaft.

The wrong class of raft

We were lucky in a way that the weather was not stormy.
Although liferaft drill was part of my nautical college training for my DoT Commercial Yachtmaster ticket, the raft Beth and I climbed into seemed very different indeed.
It was much smaller than rafts used in training. And as we soon learned, it was the wrong class of raft for an ocean. Documentation in the raft showed it was built for brief rescue efforts in the English Channel.
Continues on the blogs for my sailing adventure story, Sailing to Purgatory, at

When giving birth was a bride's wartime duty

On a belated birthday pilgrimage to the historic city of Salisbury, I set off to look at places I would have seen as a war-time baby in mother's arms.
That poor lady brought me into the world at a very grim early stage of WW2. Women were
encouraged to give birth at that worrying time, history books tell us, as part of the gender's 'wartime effort'.
She and my father and an older brother were lodged with a lady who was also well pregnant.
My family had lost their house in a bombing raid, and this dispersing of pregnant women to the homes of other expecting mothers seemed to be the practice back then.
Both were told to act as midwife to the other. Hopefully, some training was offered. The house where I happened stands in a very modest part of the city, yet offers a fabulous view right across the Avon valley.

Swapping war images

On pilgrimages, I walk where I imagine my mother took me in a pram as she swapped war images for wonderful views of the gorgeous countryside, only a few hundred metres away.
A footpath leads down to a bridge over the beautiful Avon, with extraordinary pastoral views that seem to belong more to yesteryear.
There are beautiful oaks, a wonderful and large assortment of birds in the hedgerows, a mesmerising view across fields to distant Salisbury Cathedral, fields all around, and plenty of fish in the Avon.
On my mother's walks, it must have seemed a million miles from the war.
People settled in Avon Valley since about 3,000 BC. My baby view would have been across to historic Old Sarum. I climbed up the valley sides a day or two ago and trod where other Moonrakers have stood since ancient times. It left me with a very good feeling.      
Continues on the blogs for my sailing adventure story, Sailing to Purgatory, at