Largs to Stranraer: Part 2
It doesn’t matter how advanced modern-day technology might end up on this planet, mother nature will always be superior. Mother nature is bigger and stronger than all of us combined, and she will always remind us that we are smaller and weaker.
We had been stuck in Troon for too long now and I finally had a chance to carry on to Stranraer, forty-five nautical miles away. To be frank, I was relieved more than anything to get going again. I had been driving myself crazy in Troon and I just needed to get moving. The weather looked good too, we had a forecast of fifteen to twenty knots, gusting slightly more, coming from the north east so we were going to be on a broad reach1.
We left early in the morning and the first hour of the passage was great. Alchemy was flying along, at times the boat was even beginning to vibrate a little as she surfed down the waves! It was demanding sailing, the boat was happier being hand-steered so I was spending as much time as possible doing that, only using the auto-pilot for ten minutes or so of every hour. All was under control though, and the key thing was that the weather was stable… or so I thought. Then, there was the subtlest of changes in the wind direction. No more than five degrees to the north, but you could tell that something wasn’t right, the conditions were going to change and I knew it. What I also knew was that I couldn’t turn back. Turning back would mean sailing dangerously hard upwind for at least three hours which was increasingly likely to break the boat. This left me with only one option, to sail the eight hours to Stranraer.
In the moment when I realised all of this, I felt physically sick and numb. The next eight hours were going to be the toughest yet and I genuinely did not know if I could do it. For a minute I just sat there unable to think, it was like my brain had switched off. Mentally I had hit rock-bottom and I was scared, really scared. The situation was slowly slipping out of my control and it was dangerous.
It is really difficult to explain how I got over this moment of being in a complete state of mental overload. However, in short, I simply had to, because if I didn’t get my act together we could be up against the rocks in a matter of hours. We were on a lee shore which meant that the wind and waves were pushing us towards the land. This was actually the most alarming thing at the time because being on a lee shore meant that if we were to stop, say if the mast fell down, then we would be drifting towards the shore. Effectively, if something went wrong we were only two miles offshore so we would have drifted onto the rocks within four hours. Four hours isn’t very long to fix something or be rescued. This was at the forefront of my mind and that, coupled with an intense dose of adrenaline rushing through my body, got me moving again!
It is incredible how, when faced with adversity, our bodies and minds respond. From that point a state of mental calmness and focus took over, allowing me to do what I needed to do.
The first thing was to completely take over the steering, I stuffed my pockets full of snacks and then prepared to steer for the duration. This made Alchemy a lot more stable and less brutally knocked around in the waves, therefore reducing the loads on the boat. I then altered Alchemy’s course, and we began to head further offshore so that in the event of something happening we would have more time to react.
Despite this, it was still incredibly violent sailing and something which needed immense concentration. At times the whole boat was literally shuddering as we went down the face of a wave. The wind was strong as well, we had a consistent force 7 (27-34kts) wind range for seven hours which is a lot of wind for a small boat. I was glad I packed some snacks in my pocket too, as I ended up steering for seven hours straight.
I don’t normally say this, but I was quite happy to come back into a marina that day…