Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Sailing the world's a full-time pleasure

An interesting question surfaced today after my recounting of an agonising 4,000-plus mile sail with a damaged yacht and seriously bruised ribs in the Southern Ocean - from a little east of South Africa to Australia.
Solo sailor Morten Bråthen, who kept Facebookers up to date with the rescue of Abhilash Tommy in the singlehanded Golden Globe round-the-world race, wondered on the Sailing Solo part of Facebook if I did much writing at sea.
Apart from keeping my log book up to date, I had to confess that I didn’t.

It's a full-time job

I replied, ‘Not a chance for writing at sea, Morten. I've always found sailing, particularly sailing alone, a full-time job.
You need to keep an eye to the wind because sail areas need to be increased or decreased as conditions change. That's the way it is in yacht racing and of course that applies to cruising, particularly alone, which most of my sailing has been.
'Of course, a good eye is essential when shipping is about. I seldom had the advantage of radar, so not being run down required a good lookout.
‘Another reason I didn't write at sea: every day was like a quite special and very unique performance.
As well as the action of the sea, I could enjoy the performances of huge schools of fish that travel in massive schools very long distances, and the off-shore birds, particularly albatross which, with Pentax, often cruised up there between the masts.

Blank the biped

‘Spirit of Pentax was 56-ft in length, but often gliding albatross seemed almost bigger than the yacht.
'Sometimes they would show an interest in the schooner and sail changes and the human clambering about, and at other times seem to totally ignore the sailing vessel just below them, and (as the expression goes) completely blank the gaudily dressed biped on deck.
‘You won't need me to remind you of the pleasure of seeing whales, and schools of dolphins. So, as well as keeping the yacht efficiently on course, there is that utterly different oceanic world which only a lucky few of us get to know.
'I'd happily write about it afterwards - and long afterwards - but being at sea was a busy entertainment that felt full-time. And a bit more. …Continues on the blogs for my ocean adventure book, Sailing to Purgatory, at

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Shipwrecked in the world's largest ocean

Lucky yachtsman Abhilash Tomy to be rescued from the Southern Ocean, remarkably close to the track from my singlehanded voyage around the world.
He was both lucky to be rescued and very lucky that the calamity happened these days when world-wide communication is so efficient.
The yachtsman was able to call for help when he was injured in the Golden Globe round the world yacht race, a very long way from civilisation in the mighty Southern Ocean.
He seems to have been almost midway between South Africa and Australia.
On my circumnavigation, the yacht Spirit of Pentax was rolled quite close to South Africa.

Broken ribs

The schooner’s foremast was badly damaged, and as my book of the voyage records, Loner, I was hurt with what I took to be a few broken ribs.
Lucky Globe’s Abhilash Tomy, according to the news reports, was able to lie in his berth till help arrived.
How amazing, it seems to me, because on my journey I was unable to get anyone to hear of my distress.
The choice at that time was to lie down and die, or get up on deck somehow.
And - somehow, in spite of the rather painful injuries - I'd have to reinforce the damaged foremast with some ropes. That included climbing the mast, a not-too-simple achievement with a very painful chest, and then staying the mast somehow with an assortment of rope stays, and once that was managed, to sail for the nearest land.
The Cape of Good Hope was just over the stern, but Southern Ocean currents would never let a damaged yacht go against the eastward stream.
Perth lay a little more than 4,000 miles off, and the yacht and I sailed at not much more than two or three knots towards the city and hope.
Continues on the blogs for my ocean adventure book, Sailing to Purgatory, at

Monday, September 24, 2018

Nationalise the water industry? That's right up our street

The Opposition’s conference could be forgiven for thinking that water companies haven't really made a great job of taking over water distribution to we seven million or so Brits, and industry.
I experienced the grab from councils and wouldn't exactly describe it as slick, which Google’s
dictionary defines as ‘done or operating in an impressively smooth and efficient way.’
The recent experience of the water takeover in my street offers a picture that doesn't really suggest competence.
The water supply for we social housing folk was handled by our very able council, then for some reason – probably best known to politicians – the task was handed over to a water company.

A flat, not-negotiable rate

The water company promptly told us what to pay and how to pay, and it seemed – well, I do say seemed – to be rather higher than before. And it was a flat, non-negotiable rate.
I asked what about when we are away: surely we don't still pay for the water we don't use?
Yes, came the answer. I added that I don’t bathe, I shower, and I buy spring water for all consumption. I definitely don’t drink or cook with water from the tap.
The price stays the same, they said. To be certain they understood what I understood, I asked: If my neighbour uses one hundred gallons of water and I use ten, we’ll both pay the same?
You’ll both pay the same.

No, not possible

In that case, may I have a meter installed? A company engineer arrived, looked, found that the communal block has a communal hot water system, and said no. No meter for Paul, not for these flats.
I argued. A meter could go on the communal hot water system as well as the normal inlet, and then the exact amount of water used would be known.
No. Not possible. Why? No explanation. I moaned a little to a neighbour who seemed surprised.
‘Why can’t you have a meter?’ neighbour Tony asked.
‘For the same reason you can’t.’
‘But I can. I've got one. I phoned and said I’d like one and the engineer came they and installed it.’ And sure enough, there it was in a cupboard doing its water meter metering. Continues on the blogs for my ocean adventure book, Sailing to Purgatory, at