Sailor, 16, feared leak on boat

Mike Perham has had a worrying, sleepless 24 hours in his bid to become the youngest person to sail around the world, non-stop and single-handed. The 16-year-old from Potters Bar, Herts, has endured fickle winds, feisty shipping and, most alarmingly, water ‘sloshing about inside the boat’ as he has sailed his Open 50,, south off the coast of Africa. For a brief moment, Mike thought he might have sprung a leak.

‘It was then that I heard the most worrying noise any sailor can hear: water sloshing about inside the boat.

I immediately scooted round and discovered that the area where the batteries were stored was two-thirds underwater and also that the forpeak had taken on loads of water.

All sorts of thoughts came into my head – could I have sprung a leak? Was there a growing crack? Was one of the forward compartments filling? Something wrong with the ballast?”

I immediately called dad to ask him to talk to the shore team to try and come up with some possibilities…

I then grabbed a bucket, bailer and sponge and rushed to clear out the area around the batteries. I could afford to have wet sails but I couldn’t afford to lose my batteries! This done, I then searched around the boat again looking for signs of how it all got in and found that the forward starboard ballast tank was full. Odd I thought, as I had never filled it in the first place! I looked more carefully at the system and realised that something had been knocked onto the bailer and had pushed it in the water. This causes water to run up the system and if none of the other tanks are being filled or emptied then it goes straight into the forward ballast tank. Now the tank was full, it was spilling out into the boat via an access hatch on the top of the tank.

I set to work pumping out the ballast and, once that was done, I began the long process of bailing out all the water that had collected in the forepeak. I began this wearing my normal casual trousers and t-shirt. Bad idea as I became immediately drenched. I then threw on my dry-suit despite the boiling weather, jumped into the forepeak and began shifting the water out bucketful by bucketful. I literally shifted around a tonne of water out of the boat!

I took a ten-minute break to grab some curry for lunch and whilst the kettle was boiling I looked over the side of and – whoa, what a sight! At least one hundred dolphins decided to join me for lunch!’