29,700 miles sailed with only another 1,000 to go

AGXfacingthearcticsun-august2007

I’ve been lucky with the weather so far since departing Mehamn. It’s been said that luck is preparation multiplied by opportunity – who knows. Gary Player, the great South African golfer once said, ‘The more I practice, the luckier I get.’ I hooked onto a band of east winds to ride over the top of northern Norway, then north-easterlies chased me down the coast as far as Vestfjorden. Since then the wind combos have been more or less kind allowing Barrabas to weave a track towards the Shetland Islands. Tomorrow, some big weather will come in from the west. My plan is to get as far west as I can in the next 24 hours so Barrabas can take the big winds on her starboard side and reach south. The other day, we were beating into wind. I had Barrabas up as tight to wind as I could get her, lashing the wheel to help the sails hold her bow to wave. She took some might wallops, Cape Horn quality thumps. My faith in this boat just grows stronger, like a child held in the safe embrace of its father. I can’t sleep on the starboard bunk. The angle of heel is too acute and I slide off (the port bunk is covered with fuel cans). So, at night, I make my bed on the floor at the base of the companionway steps. I feel like an astronaut, looking up at the control panels studded with dials, read-outs, switches, lights. I am cocooned in darkness but for the orange glow of the panel.

At the outset of the expedition, I figured Barrabas would have sailed 30,000 miles to circumnavigate the earth via Cape Horn and the Russian Arctic. As I write, the log has just clicked over to 29,700 miles. I am now less than 1,000 miles from home. It seems like an eternity. Despite over-wintering the boat, time compresses. As I stepped back on board and prepared her for this last leg, it was like I had never been away. The strain returned, the fatigue – a remnant of the past come to life like the phantom pain from an amputated limb. I sleep as much as possible and try not to let my excitement get the better of me.

I had a problem with the heater. Kruger Marine installed the Eberspacher system, and they did it very well. The burner unit was firing then quitting.I couldn’t find the filter. I called Louise. She spoke to Matt Allun at Kruger. Within minutes I had the location of the filter and three minutes later warm air was once more infusing the cabin. Diddums, you might think.No heater. So? A bit of cold never hurt anyone. True enough. But my concern with the heater was not about comfort, but safety. If you get cold, you get tired more quickly. When you are tired, you make more mistakes. Mistakes can be fatal. You get my point. I nearly snuffed it five days out. I don’t want a repeat so close to home.

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