It's far from plain sailing as missiles fly on GMIV - but a warm welcome awaits
Dick Durham reports from onboard Gipsy Moth as she sails south from Gibraltar to the Canaries
Dick’s report from Friday:
Position: 29 degrees 39.71 N 13 degrees 45.01 W
Weather: wind North 25-35 knots, sea rough
Solo circumnavigator Francis Chichester always complained about his boat’s readiness to stick her rail in the water on the wind and of her capacity to stick both rails in when off it.
The last 18 hours have shown that 40 years on nothing has changed. Gipsy Moth IV rolls maddeningly.
We have been under staysail only, since the early hours when an ugly cross sea and up to 40 knots of wind caused us to drop the mainsail which can’t be reefed effectively and the large jib which was still overpowering her narrow hull.
We tried to re-set the mizzen which on most ketch-rigged craft should have produced a good heavy weather sail plan. But this caused her to stall.
So all day and all night the miniscule staysail has been the only sail dragging her towards the Canaries although at an acceptable 4-6 knots. Meanwhile she has rolled, rolled, rolled.
The motion has sent Martin, sick and back to his bunk, has hurled Rahim bodily onto the chart table where he sat like a mystic in a kasbah coffee shop, and thrown Myles completely off the helm and onto the cockpit floor.
The locker drawers open as she rolls to port then shut as she rolls to starboard. Locker doors wave at you from head to galley as though in some abandoned house.
When Mrs Mate, Antonia, started making supper she opened the one locker which hadn’t opened itself as GMIV rolled to port and was showered with jars of jam, Lea & Perrins sauce bottles, plastic tubs of peanut butter and narrowly missed being brained by a heavy duty jar of Marmite.
‘**** this,’ said skipper Steve, ‘those ******* bottles are going over the side this is like the first day on the Somme’.
Just making a cup of tea is a major offensive in the lurching bedlam of the Mad Hatter’s kitchen. Firing up the Primus means liberally hosing down the stove with methelated spirit, followed by the conflagration from the too-cold paraffin jets. It’s like trying to cook a three minute egg with napalm.
The galley has been pebble-dashed with milk, tea, sugar and Irish stew. It is described as ‘minging’, whatever that means, by Mrs Mate who lives in hope that her three young charges will one day clean up after them.
Gipsy Moth arrived in Tenerife on Sunday. Dick Durham put finger to keyboard as soon as he could:
Position: Berth 69, pontoon 2, Santa Cruz, Tenerife
Forty years ago they took her hull out of salt water and placed it in a dry-dock beside another of Britain’s famous world-girdling ships, the Cutty Sark.
There was nowhere else for the old tea clipper to go: all the people who could rig her, mend her and sail her engineless hull had taken their skills to the grave. But Gipsy Moth IV sat abandoned by the sea, promenaded, paid-off and prematurely retired. Her skipper had closed the circle, written the book and signed the tea-cloths.
He had no further need for the ‘rocker’ and unsentimentally moved on to the fifth – and last – of his record-chasing mistresses. Now all THAT is history, too. GMIV sits rocking gently more than 2.000 miles from Greenwich.
A woman passes by on the pontoon. She does a double-take. She stops. She says: ‘Chichester’s boat?’ Yes.
‘Bravo,’ comes the reply. She is just one of dozens of folk who have prevented the ship clean-up operation with their requests to come aboard.
Women, children and passers-by of all nationalities have come to take a look. They included Alice Dearlove, 8, from Woodbridge, Suffolk who is sailing with her sister and mum and dad to the Caribbean. But already the sight of GMIV has inspired her: she wants her parents to take out even more down time and cross the Pacific, too!
Then there was Carole May, 69. She approached skipper Steve Rouse, 50, with her dog-eared copy of Gipsy Moth Circles The World to be signed. Her late husband Ronald had died four years ago and she was determined nevertheless to sail on in their 52 ft catamaran on a second circumnavigation to return the book to the immigration officer in Niue Island in the Pacific who gave it to her husband in the first place.
With all the goodwill going on around GMIV it was difficult for her crew to get the necessary cleaning and watering completed. But what a way to have your day spoiled!