Caprice and I are now lying in a harbour after 67 days at sea. We arrived here yesterday. My original plan was to sail non stop all the way home but as we have been becalmed a lot throughout my passage, my food supply would not last all the way and I had no fishing luck since the South Atlantic.
Due to unusual weather conditions in the north, the last few days had been VERY slow with very light headwinds or no wind at all and yet another test for the patience. But once you get over the frustration, those calm days at sea can be the most beautiful ones. My first sight of land was the enchanted island St Kilda where a small abandoned village lies tucked into a bay. I decided to save the experience of exploring this island for a later date in my life with company and a working engine. I sailed close by to look into the beautiful bay and then spent the last 4 days sailing very slowly along the coast. The feeling of being close to land again gave me an unexpected kick of energy as the starved social side of me really at this point felt the excitement of being near other people again.
All the big oceans were crossed and I was nearing home, a good feeling though with a tint of sadness of my trip coming to an end. There is so much I could write about the experience of being alone with the sea for so long, all the emotional waves of ups and downs, all the deep feelings of gratitude of everything in life, another kind of understanding of myself, good and bad times – it definitely has changed me, and the experience is something so valuable that I will always carry with me.
For now, I will tell you about the end of our trip. Because we did not quite SAIL all the way to Scotland, we cheated a little and got towed the last 11 miles by an immaculate sea rescue boat with a delighted crew who got to have a day off work and go out and save a crazy solo sailor in the sunshine.
The night before I had had what was so far the worst moment of my whole trip. As any sailor would know, land is your enemy and that is usually where you have problems, not in the middle of the Atlantic. What happened to me and Caprice was that we eventually managed to tack around the Butt of Lewis after hours of slow tacking, then started heading down the channel towards Stornoway town. But the wind completely dropped dead and the tide was going against us and started moving us back in the direction of the rocks of the Butt at 1,5 knots. It was the first time I felt out of control of Caprice and just did not know what to do. Darkness was falling. I was a couple of miles away from the rocks. The tide was due to change direction 2 hours later.
In desperation I decided to call Stornoway Coast Guard to figure out my options. I did the girl thing and broke down in tears (embarrassed!) – think I was just mentally exhausted. The gentleman was ever so calm and wonderful, talked through the movement of the tides with me and told me that the rescue boat could be there in an hour. I decided against that option, feeling that I was not yet in any real danger but assured with having the option and shortly afterwards the tide plus a small wind started carrying us away from the rocks going north – opposite to where we wanted to go but away from the unfriendly rocks.
Through the night we then eventually made some progress down the channel. In the morning I was called on the VHF by the wonderful coast guard enquiring of my situation. At this point our speed was so slow that I would not have made the 20 miles to the harbour before the end of the day. They offered to come and get me which was truly amazing, however I still felt that I was not in any real danger and was hesitant to accept the offer. Thinking it through though, I figured that it was much more pleasant for everyone to tow me in daylight and of course I was at this point SO frustrated of being becalmed and dying to just get there. My food supply was also literally running out. We made an arrangement that they would come for me in the afternoon. And by the time they arrived the wind had also arrived. This did not matter and I happily pulled my sails down and enjoyed being towed at 6-7 knots for a couple of hours whilst dreaming about all the things I would eat upon arrival, fish and chips being at the top of the list. My diet the last period has largely consisted of lentils, rice, dried vegetables and small portions of my treasured dried fish fillets which I caught in the south.
By pure chance my friend Jen’s parents Jerry and Sue are moored here with their boat and they have spoiled me with delicious food and wonderful company. Jerry also took the photos of my arrival.
I am happy to be here but now really want to get home to Gothenburg and all the people that mean so much to me. The weather situation though is not on my side. Literally no wind for a few days in this area which usually has prevailing strong westerlies. Being near rocks on a tidal coast with no engine and no wind is not a good place to be, as I have learned, so I will just have to stay put, add some lost kilos and rest till the wind decides to change. I am at the mercy of the wind, as I have been for quite a while now.
I will tell you more and there will be more photos too.
Below- 1. the lovely sea rescue crew 2. Sue, Jerry and I in Caprice´s cockpit.