Sir Robin cuts himself free at last
Sir Robin Knox-Johnston sailing his Open 60 Saga Insurance in the Velux 5 Oceans race, went over the side in a dry suit to cut himself free from the fishing lines impeding his progress in the Southern Ocean.
Robin had been here before while sailing Suhaili round the world alone in 1969, when he went over the side in the Atlantic to caulk the garboard.
“The fishing net that got caught round the keel yesterday morning is not the last straw, its just yet another piece of misfortune just as I was getting moving. The trouble is that it was 4.5 metres below the surface and so very hard to get at. I tried for 6 hours yesterday but to no avail. Admittedly the seas were still big so trying to get a knife down on the end of some pieces of lashed together battens was almost impossible. I eventually gave up as I realised I would have to wait for calmer conditions. I was just hoping the rope was not damaging the fin too much. I could see where it had sawed into the fairing.
But today Saga Insurance and I are on our way again. I spent the night thinking but knew that there was only one way I could really get at the problem and that was by going swimming. I put on a sailing dry suit, then a harness, attached it to a nice long line, and went over the transom. I swam out as far as my safety line but could not get down to the main anchor line. I got its partner though and brought it back on board. Interesting watching the boat from maybe 100 feet away. She was rolling horribly. I was also not too excited about the sudden attention of 3 Albatross who clearly saw my floundering as some sign of potential dinner in an hour or two! Back aboard Saga Insurance I winched in the line I had and because it was twisted round the main line, it brought that close to the surface. Using an empty cooking propane container as a float, I attached a line to it, and then pushed it down with a batten to the up tide side of the line and then let go. It floated nicely up the other side of the line. Now it was just down to brute force, hauling in on my messenger until the main anchor line was at the surface at which point I was able to reach down and cut it with a hacksaw. I then spent 20 minutes slowly removing the turns between the two lines with the aid of a batten, and was able eventually to pull it clear of the keel. We are now sailing again but not very aggressively at the moment as I am tired and still feel very cold.
One bit of good news. I had trouble getting to sleep last night, it was rather like those soldiers and the King discussing their future in the night before Agincourt in Henry V, so I decided since we were almost stopped to have another go with the water maker and this time I did get it to work, so am now topped up again!
The problem with the sailing dry suit is that although it did keep me dry, it did not insulate me, and I did not want too many clothes underneath as they would have given buoyancy and made it even harder to dive, so by the time I got back to the boat, my hands were very cold and blue but still able to grip fortunately. Hot breakfast this morning, hamburger and beans, to try and get rid of the chill in my stomach.”