RNLI Rescue

After our collission with the cargo boat and losing our mizzen mast (see previous) we sailed on towards the English Channel. We were not exactly sure where we were due to our loss of instruments and use of dead reckoning. However some of our crew had hand held VHF radios which were capable of calling up ships in sight of us. In the approaches to the channel we started sighting occassional ships and called them up to establish our position. We initially discovered that we were about 100 miles away from our estimated position (not too bad for a 3000 mile passage) and continued calling ships as we proceeded up the English Channel.

The Weymouth RNLI heard our calls and radioed to ask why we were doing this and we explained we were without a motor, electrics and a fallen mast. They provided us with a weather forecast and said that they would come out and rescue us and tow us into Weymouth. However, I could see that if the weather forecast was correct and with the tide in our favour we could make it through the Needles to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight before the tide turned against us. Consequently, I declined their offer and explained that having sailed all the way across the Atlantic for the first time and having the chance to complete the voyage myself I would prefer to give it a go. My crew were unhappy with my decision!

The RNLI accepted my decision but insisted on hourly updates from us. They asked if we needed anything. I explained that our hand held radios were getting low on power and shortly afterwards a coastguard helicopter came out to us and winched down a fresh hand held radio for communications. Impressive.

However the wind calmed to next to nothing as we rolled around mackeral fishing to kill time (we caught about 24!). As the afternoon moved on it was clear that the forecast wind was not going to appear in time to catch the tide into the Isle of Wight. The prospect of a night wallowing in the shipping lanes with no lights and no engine suddenly seemed reckless so, grudgingly, I radioed the coastguard and requested a tow into Weymouth. Apparently they sent the maroons up in Weymouth to call the lifeboat crew which attracted holiday makers to the Quay. When they saw us being towed in with our mast hanging off the back they thought it was a more serious rescue and a great cheer went up from the quay side - which was a bit embarassing really.

We had planned on a 4 week passage and made it to Weymouth in exactly 4 weeks. However I never sailed with any of that crew again. They had wanted me to divert to the Azores when we lost our engine but I new that if I did that I would lose my crew and have a boat stuck in the Azores. After all we were a sailing boat. Neither did they appreciate my declining the first offer of help from the coastguard. Unfortunately for them sailing is not a democracy and, short of mutiny, the Captain rules - not a very modern attitude I know!