Round Trip Flight To New York

By noon I had made good only 9 miles towards New York, although I had sailed 70 miles. My hands were numb after only twenty minutes of handling ropes in the cockpit. The gale had now backed, and I was headed east of south. I decided to hold on to the southerly course, however, to get clear of the icebergs. I had made a blunder heading north-west the day before. The sea was very rough, with plenty of surf from the combers, and the breakers twisting in all directions. I could not keep warm, though I had on my long woollen underpants, a thick knitted ski-sweater and a padded nylon jacket, with the heater going full blast. Every time I came below I propped my sea boots upside down on top of the heater, and hung my scarf and storm stalker on a hook above it. The storm stalker was saturated, but I put it back on wet and clammy each time because it was invaluable for protecting my eyes against flogging ropes. The most I could hope for was that the stove heat would warm it, and dry it a little each time.

Round Trip Flight To New York Photo Gallery

I finished repairing the burst exhaust pipe, and started charging, but there was no oil pressure until I added another pint to the engine. I was amazed that I succeeded in transmitting to London with green seas catching the aerial. I lowered Miranda’s gaff, furled her sail, and secured the whole to a backstay. I thought Gipsy Moth would sail herself in that gale without Miranda, but as soon as I got below and started cooking some vegetables, she tacked herself, putting the sails aback. I had to dress up again and jib the ship back on to her old heading.

By 9 o’clock that night the gale had veered 45 degrees. The ship’s heading had improved as a result, but she was taking a frightful bashing. I felt I should do something drastic before she was damaged. I tacked ship, leaving the sails aback. This slowed her up, but she was still being knocked over. Then I lowered the trysail, leaving only the tiny spitfire. I let this draw, and then tacked again, so that the spitfire would be aback on the southerly heading. This was an improvement below, except when green seas hit the deck. Once I was standing in the cabin facing forward when a big sea broke on top. A little cloud of fine spray shaped like a ball appeared in front of my eyes below the cabin roof. That cabin top is one solid piece of thick plywood, with no break in it anywhere, except where a ring bolt passes through. That was the only place where the spray could have been forced through, and showed the tremendous pressure which a big wave must exert.

An hour after midnight on 20 June I logged that I had spent nearly an hour trying to get the anchor light to stay alight. It went out in the calm of the cabin before it even met the gale. Finally I decided that I must sail without a light, or use electricity and be damned. In this rough weather the light was most needed, so I rigged the electric light.

At three in the morning I changed over to a leeward berth to avoid being thrown across the cabin. We were still going much too fast, although it was only 3 knots. I pondered how I could slow the ship up. I went on deck, and lashed the tiller hard alee. This headed the ship closer to the wind by 30 degrees, and slowed the speed down to 1% knots. An occasional heavy wave came on board, and one put out the cabin light; I suppose the shock caused by the bang did it. I reckoned that the wind on deck was 60 knots.

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