After my birthday fiasco power became a serious issue. The small solar panels I picked up in Recife had stopped giving juice and my wind generator was toast. I don’t know what it is about this boat but it’s like I have some anti-solar panel voodoo curse. On April 6th I lost all my ability to charge anything and my AGM batteries were only half full. I was hoping I would be able to finish the last leg of trip with relative ease but instead it was by the skin of my teeth. Simon was bringing a 54 foot sailboat up from Tortola (Helna, which coincidentally is owned by one of my sponsors, Tom Willbanks of EdgeSource). I was becalmed for 36 hours which is usually a nuisance but under these circumstances it made our “coming together” much easier. By the time Simon arrived the seas had calmed significantly. It was 3am when we first met so I had opportunity to shoot off some flares. For the recorded, 12 gauge flares that you shoot out of that little orange flare gun are a joke! It was my 300th day at sea so I had Simon toss me a strong drink to celebrate and then we both hove to about a mile apart. I told him that I had no way to charge anything and I asked if he could swing by in the morning and I could hand him my computer, hand held VHF, iPod and satellite phone as all these items were in need of a charge. So Simon devised a system where he would slowly pass by St Brendan throw me a line that was attached to a cooler and once I had the line he would gently put the cooler in the water and I would pull it over to my boat. Then I would throw the line back on his next pass and he would retrieve the now empty cooler (coolers float). Like I said the seas were calm or else this would have been impossible. I also got him to give me whatever fresh food he could spare and some rum. After a couple hours he had charged all my various devices sent them back via the cooler (they were placed in a waterproof bag when in the cooler) and said goodbye. He raised his sails and over the horizon he went. Two days later another frontal boundary passed with a 45-50 knot squall and on the leading edge of these winds was a wave large enough that when it broke on St Brendan it knocked me over 90 degrees. I had just turned off my good laptop (I have two laptops a good one and the one I’m writing on now which is junk). Anyway my good laptop was thrown so hard by the big breaking wave that it slammed up against the other side of the cabin and is now broke. It survived the whole trip just to die at the very end. To give you some idea, at the time the wave hit I was making a cup of coffee, when my boat righted itself I looked up and I had had coffee grounds stuck to my cabin top above my head. I’ve been knocked around so many times during this voyage that I was tired of it and ready to be done. I had a few days of head winds following the front then finally some good Southwest winds that let me pass safely and easily by Cape Hatteras, the last real obstacle of any merit.
I sailed past Virginia Beach and was at the mouth of the bay when the wind died. I could see the finish line (Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel). There is a semi-strong current at the mouth of the bay that usually runs around 1.5 to 2 knots. When the wind first died I wasn’t too worried because the tide was supposed to change. I also had a sailboat (Float On) come out to meet me and they handed me some cold beer. At first I was just happy to be sitting there having a beer waiting for the tide to change and some wind to appear. A very strange thing happen, not just did the wind remain dead calm but the current never changed and it just keep pushing me south. By 3am when the wind finally picked up I was 16 miles south of Cape Henry. Since April 6th when I lost my ability to charge my batteries I haven’t had the power to run my navigation lights at night. I was in an area with a lot of freighter traffic so I didn’t sleep much. The previous three days I hadn’t slept at all. Partially because of shipping traffic – but also because I was excited. So by 3am after going backwards for 12 hours I was well beyond frustrated. The wind built through the morning and by 10am I had 25 knots out the Northeast which gave me the ability to finally get thought the Bay Bridge Tunnel and finish the trip.
When it comes to sailing it’s difficult to say who is the first person to do what because so many people have sailed so many places. In the case of this trip it becomes easier because of the Northwest Passage element. Not that many boats have sailed through the Northwest Passage and every boat that has, is listed on the Polar Scott Institutes’ (Cambridge University) web site along with the number on crew. Out of these boats very few were taken through the Northwest Passage singlehanded and out of those few only a couple boats did it both single handed and non-stop. The very very few that have, did not continue non-stop to Cape Horn and then back to their original starting point. So – long story short I’m the first person in history to have completed a non-stop singlehanded circumnavigation of the Americas.
I knew this trip would be hard for any captain on any sailboat. Although my boat was small and my budget meager it was my unwavering determination and previous sailing experience that got me through. We are all capable of incredible things; all you have to do is believe in yourself. I thank you all for following along during the trip. It’s been a great adventure and although the trip has been hard it’s also been very enjoyable. I’ll write one final update in a week or so after I’ve had some time for reflection. There are also some new pictures coming. If you can’t make it to Annapolis on April 21st (by noon) then you can watch my homecoming live on my web site (11:30 to 12:30 EST) or you can view the live show on your iPhone or iPad from http://www.livestream.com/t2ptv.
This trip is a fundraiser for C.R.A.B (Chesapeake Regional Accessible Boating). I thank all of you who have already donated and we are halfway to our goal. There has recently been a challenge; the crew of Godspeed will match the next $21,000. We are trying to raise money on a money for mile basis, a penny a mile, 10 cents a mile, a dollar a mile, etc. Or a general donation of any amount is most welcome. C.R.A.B is a great non-profit that gives sailing opportunities to people with mental and physical disabilities. I’m proud to be a part of C.R.A.B. and I thank you all for your donations.
THE FINAL TALLY
I sailed 27,077 miles in 309 days, 18 hours and 38 minutes.