BACK IN UK TERRITORY

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Adrian leaving the Norwegian Sea

A number of noteworthy occurrences today – since departing UK shores, I heard my first British weather broadcast courtesy of Shetland Island coastguard at 6.00pm. I figured Barrabas would have to travel 30,000 nautical miles from the Hamble River to the bottom of the world round Cape Horn then all the way up the Pacific Ocean and over the top of the world through Russia’s Northern Sea Route to get me back. This afternoon at 9 minutes and 13 seconds past two o’clock, the log clicked onto 30,000. It read 30,041 when I sighted British land once more – an hour ago, in the pink tinged dusk I saw Unst, northernmost of the Shetland Islands some 20 miles west – my first sighting of UK territory from the deck since the Cornish coast faded behind me in the mist on a drizzly November morning in 2005. 700 miles is all that remains for Barrabas to complete her vertical circumnavigation. But this is no gimme. I expected heavy weather on Saturday evening but the storm’s severity exceeded my worst fears. The winds were not overly strong, touching 40 knots at times, but somehow the collusion of wind and water conjured a monstrous demonstration of raw, unbridled power. I shortened sail to second reef – most boats would be down to storm sails, but I wanted to generate good boat speed as a defence. The light dimmed to a grey so resonant that it appeared blue. A bizarre band of pink striped the gunmetal sky. Barrabas ripped into the feast, insatiable it seemed. Green water spumed over her decks as waves bayoneted by her prow collapsed. She took some truly jaw-shuddering impacts. This storm certainly ranked in the worst five we’ve experienced on the entire voyage but again, Barrabas performed magnificently. Our reward has been to enter a high pressure system providing gentle following winds, blue skies and warmth – exactly what I wanted and needed to pass over the 200m contour line from the deep, deep water of the Norwegian Sea onto the shallow North Sea plateau. My plan is to make for Kinnaird Head then hug the east coast of England and when I’ve hugged it all I can, I will get off my boat and kiss the ground – that’s the plan.

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