Dramatic weekend for young circumnavigator

Mike Perham, the British teenager attempting to become the youngest person to sail around the world, suffered a knock down over the weekend. The 16-year-old from Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, was sailing in the Southern Ocean beneath Australia when his Open 50,Totallymoney.com, was hit by a wave sending her on to her side and ‘forcing Mike to brace himself by putting his foot on the deck head’.

The young sailor was all the more shaken by the night-time incident because water from the bilges escaped when the boat rolled and took out the electrics, plunging him into complete darkness. The boat righted itself in a couple of seconds. Above deck, one of the lazy jack lines became wrapped around the main halyard during the knock down and Mike was later forced to climb the mast to fix it. To add insult to injury, his keel was fouled by a line the following morning.

Mike writes:

‘The phrase “When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” is something that’s really been pushing me along in the last couple of days and I think it’s the right title for this blog.

‘Thursday night brought with it some strong conditions but I’d set the boat up really well and was totally shipshape. I spent most of the time inside, as that was the safest place to be in these conditions.

‘During the night we were moving along just fine and I was sitting at the chart table doing some work when a freak wave pickedTotallymoney.comup and knocked us down – past 90degrees!

‘I had to brace my feet on the ceiling and watch my world literally turn on its side. As quick as we went over, the keel and the ballast brought me smartly back upright.Totallymoney.comsailed on as if nothing had happened, showing what a truly remarkable and safe boat she is.

‘After the momentary shock of being knocked down eased, I shined a torch up at the rig; it looked fine, which was a relief. I immediately did a quick boat check from front to back, and despite a bit of water in the bilges, everything looked just fine. In the main cabin a few bits and bobs had been thrown about off the shelves, it was a bit of a bombshell. One of my 20l diesel tanks had sprung a leak and oil covered the floor turning it into an ice rink. So much for my nice and tidy cabin!

‘After a very quick tidy up, I found that my charging equipment wasn’t working with the batteries. After speaking with the brilliant people from Mastervolt I made some progress but it seemed the chargers still weren’t responding as they should, so that remains a little bit of a mystery.

‘This morning I was woken byTotallymoney.combroaching pretty spectacularly. I threw on some oiles and my harness and dashed outside to tend to my now virtually head-to-wind boat. What I saw really made my heart skip a beat. We had managed to sail directly over and a 10inch-thick rope (if you can imagine that!) was caught around the keel. This line was now trailing behind me further than I could see over the waves! It was like having an almighty drouge and I had horrible thoughts about having to dive in and cut it away. This was the last thing I wanted to do as the water is so cold and with 12m waves this would be far too dangerous.

‘I quickly furled away the Solent that was shaking all over the place and the boat came to a complete standstill with my fourth tiny reef not doing much. As I was desperately thirsty, I went inside to find and fill up a bottle of water. After a couple of minutes went back outside. The boat started to bear away downwind and immediate massive relief swept through me, as by some miracle the line had dropped off the keel whilst I was getting some water!

‘We were making 8knots and there was no way we would be doing that trailing the line so I was extremely relieved that it had gone. A line so long and so thick out here – maybe it was one for towing large ships and the line was lost at sea?

‘I’ve spent the afternoon working on getting my engine up and running, as it wasn’t behaving itself and, after failing all attempts to fix the water inlet and suction system, I finally managed to construct a way of using the water maker and a separate water pump to pump sea water through the engine to keep it nice and cool whilst in use!

‘This evening came the grand final tidy up of the last two pretty tough days and things are now back to being fully organized. One major thing is I’ve lost my fork! I do have a couple of spares somewhere but for now I’m happy to use a wooden spatula to eat my freeze-dried meals! I’m sure it will turn up soon enough.

‘The last two days have been the toughest on this trip so far, with some very high breaking seas, winds at over 50 knots and I have to admit it’s been pretty emotionally tough, too. However, an email from Oliver, one of my lifelong best friends said: “Keep on smiling and don’t let the smile turn into a frown. – And if you are frowning just remember what’s a frown? Just a smile upside down!'”

‘I think this is very, very true – it’s a good example of how to be when it gets really tough. You’ve got to keep on smiling and think, yes this is tough, but I am tougher.’

In his next posting Mike describes how he climbed the mast:

‘I made sure that I got a really good night’s sleep and so this morning I rose feeling very refreshed. Good thing too, as today involved a major operation! I started by doing odd jobs around and about, mainly getting ready and preparing everything for climbing up the mast this afternoon.

‘Yes, that’s right, it was time to climb the mast. I needed to fix the lazy jacks that had snapped when I was knocked down. The broken bits of the lazy jacks had gotten wrapped around the main halyard which was really impairingTotallymoney.com’s sailing ability – just having a fourth reef up is a tiny, tiny amount of sail area – brilliant for 55knots of wind but not so great in 18knots.

‘I got everything ready, checked and rechecked all my gear for the climb and once I was totally happy I set off, up and away. Climbing up is always much easier and I was there within five minutes having had a little rest at the first spreader.

‘Once at the middle of the halyard I was really getting checked about a fair bit as the sea was still quite lumpy and it slammed me up against the mast. I was wearing near full-body padding and protection – this helped enormously!

‘Having done what I needed to and set up a new line, I started climbing back down. This took much longer and was a lot harder. However, with me singing a few random songs at the top of my voice that were running through my head at the time, it wasn’t so bad.

‘I was back on deck 15minutes later and was happy to ditch the climbing harness as it isn’t the most comfortable item of clothing in the world!

‘Elated that I’d ticked another box, I rang home to let them know that it was all done and dusted, thank goodness.

‘I’ve now hoisted the main all the way up from fourth reef right to the top and it’s good to see her up there, nice and happy, and, of course, to be moving along faster!’

Peter Perham, Mike’s father, wrote about the moment he received the call from his son, informing him about the knock down:

‘The wind was up to about 50 knots and the seas a lumpy 10m high. Mike was wedged at the chart table and had been happily sailing along with three reefs in the main and his tiny staysail whenTotallymoney.comwas hit by a wave sending her onto her side, forcing Mike to brace himself by putting his foot on the deck head (ceiling). The weighty keel soon kicked in and hadTotallymoney.comback upright in a couple of seconds. This all happened close to mid-night Mike time. He was plunged into darkness but quickly located one of his emergency torches. A bit shaken, Mike surveyed the scene: a few items had decided to relocate themselves and the bilge water which resides under the engine (which is very difficult to get to) was now everywhere and had taken out the electrics.

‘I received the phone call: “Dad I’ve been knocked down, I’m OK, the mast is still up but I’ve lost my electrics.” Relieved that Mike was OK we decided on a plan of action. First, he had to phone in regularly and keep well fed. He had to secure down anything heavy that might have been dislodged. He then went to work on the electrics and successfully got them mostly back up and running and with the help of Mastervolt we have since managed to sort out the battery status controls.

‘Totallymoney.comseemed settled, so once daylight came, Mike decided to go into the cockpit to have a proper look at the rigging and all seemed fine, except one of the lazy jacks had come away.

‘Unfortunately, the lazy jack line managed to wrap its way round the main halyard forcing Mike to continue sailing with three reefs in the main. To sort this out Mike will have to climb the mast to the first spreaders. For now he is content to sail a little de-powered until conditions make mast climbing possible.

‘Totallymoney.comwas still surfing down waves at a good rate of knots (big smile on Mike’s face) but he decided to throw out a drouge to act as a break and reduce the amount of work the auto-pilot was having to do, as this would help reduce the slewing motion.

‘Once all this was done, Mike hungrily consumed an entire half-pound chocolate bar!

‘At the moment Mike is unable to re-charge his batteries to their normal capacity so he is playing safe and has powered down his lap-top and a few other non-essential items which explains why I’m hitting the key board in place of Mike.’