Skip Allan's log

Skip Allan, who was on his way home from Hawaii after winning the Singlehanded TransPac aboard his Wylie 27 Wildflower, had to abandon his boat amid extreme weather, and was picked up by a freighter 250 miles west of San Francisco.

“During the long night, my third in this particular gale, breaking crests would
poop the boat about every five minutes, filling the cockpit and surging against
the companionway hatch boards. Even though I had gone to lengths for many years
to insure fire hose watertight integrity of the companionway hatch, I found the
power of the breaking wave crests slamming the boat would cause water to
forcefully spray around the edges of the hatchboards and into the cabin.

“During the long wait for daylight, I had more than enough time to ponder what
might happen if the autopilot was damaged or was washed off its mount. I had two
spare tiller pilots. But it would take several minutes, exposed in the cockpit,
on my knees, to hook up a replacement in the cockpit, on a dark night, when the
boat was being periodically knocked down and the cockpit swept.

“In addition, I pondered the fate of the DAISY that was lost in the spring’s
Lightship Race, when presumably a large breaking wave crushed and sank DAISY. I
also reminded myself I was responsible for not only my own life, but was also a
family care giver at home.

“There was no doubt that if WILDFLOWER’s tiller pilot was lost that we would
round up and be at the mercy of these breaking waves, some of which I estimate
to be in the vicinity of 25-35 feet, and as big as I hadn’t seen since the ’79
Fastnet Race storm on IMP.

“The anxiety and stress of this night, with the whine of the wind in the
rigging, the wave crests slamming into the hatch boards, and the 70 degree
knockdowns that would launch me across the cabin, created serious doubts that we
could continue this for another night, much less the 3-4 days the conditions
were expected to continue. “