Day 249: Sail of the Century

06.09.09:

After yesterday’s epic sail we only had about 70 nautical miles to go today. I woke to find myself staring transfixed over the silver – and by silver I mean seriously, it looked like we were floating on mercury – sea, a line of gold trailing towards the rising sun which beckoned us back to Africa.

However, the wind gods were not as kind to us and by 3pm we had gone a paltry twenty miles and once again had dipped below the Equator. Something must be done! I persuaded Marc to let me fire up the outboard for a bit, which we did and covered a respectable seven miles in just one hour. But conscious of fuel consumption etc, he chose to throw out the spinnaker again. And my word – with the other sails down and the outboard off, we cut through the waves like a hot knife through butter.

Now you may not consider travelling at seven miles an hour to be very exciting, but when you are holding onto the stick which controls the rudder for dear life struggling to keep DEAD ON a bearing of 30 degrees lest the boat goes one way and the sail goes the other, man you’re riding the primordial forces of nature. Marc and I helmed in half-hour shifts, neither of us had the sheer brute strength needed to do more.

Then when the sun goes down, the moon has not yet risen, clouds obscure the stars and the solar power for the GPS conks out – you find yourself in a tiny ball of light in a literal ocean of darkness – you cannot see the sea, the sky, the horizon – land, rocks, islands, anything… you finally understand the thrill of life on the ocean wave – the only thing keeping us from being dashed like siren-beckoned sailors on the rocks was the dear old compass and a plank of wood that was the rudder – old school baby yeah.

When we reached Libreville it was midnight. Too late to come into port, we came up with the rather natty idea of heading out to Tatayo’s place on the beach and getting Alex The Yank to build a fire on the beach so we could find the damn place. However, by the time we got to the other side of the estuary it was half one and we decided it would be best to just anchor down and wait until first light.

Graham Hughes

Graham Hughes is a British adventurer, presenter, filmmaker and author. He is the only person to have travelled to every country in the world without flying. From 2014 to 2017 he lived off-grid on a private island that he won in a game show, before returning to the UK to campaign for a better future for the generations to come.

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  1. Hugh

    I am so jealous – I’m pleased you now fully understand that you can get lost on the sea but you always have the compass. Always know where North is.

    H

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