What an ending to Kite Quest 200!
I would like to start by thanking you all for your messages of support throughout the voyage.
The final part of the expedition proved to be one of my hardest challenges so far, holding on to that which is most precious one’s life. There are so many people to thank in particular the Canadian Coastguard, JRCC Halifax, SAR Aircraft crews, the Captain and crew of the Berge Nord and the Captain and crew of the Cygnus whose kindness and support I will never forget. With thanks to the BBC for sending Clinton and Jess to meet me in St Johns.
There have also been some negative comments posted which have been left on our blog as we believe in the freedom of expression. Whilst cowardly uninformed comments can be written and transmitted in a matter of seconds their content can and have caused pain to people long after the send button is pressed. By people I mean my family. On a personal note negative or positive comments just help to convince me to continue with my work of expanding the horizons of the human experience. The world is no longer flat and we will not fall off the end our limitations only lie within ourselves.
I guess you all want to hear from me exactly what happened so hear goes
Losing the sea anchor
I had been in a gale of around 40 knots two days prior to the big storm and we were riding it out as we did for most of the trip. When the big storm came on the night of 25th September I was reading a book listening to the gale outside.
During the previous big storms I would go onto deck every hour to check the sea anchor and take a wind reading. I checked the wind at 0500hrs it was blowing at 55 knots gusting to 60 knots I had noticed that the sea anchor trip line was very tort and looked like it is was going to pull the cleat securing it out of the deck.
The trip line had become fouled on the main anchor line which was also pulling the stern of ‘Little Murka’ out to face, the by now, huge seas. After some thought I decided to let the trip line go this would make sea anchor retrieval very difficult, but I could worry about that in calmer weather. As I let the trip line go I heard the sound of a large breaking wave coming from the opposite direction of the main swell. I dived back into cabin before it hit us pretty hard. I had become accustomed to being bashed around in the night and so settled down in the cabin as I normally did.
I then felt that the boat was listing to port which was not normal so back out again for a check. To my horror, some how, the boat had spun 360 degrees and the main sea anchor line was now wrapped around the keel. This caused ‘Little Murka’ to sit beam on to the seas with the anchor rope cutting into her keel. I tried in vain to pump the rudder to bring the stern back around but it was futile in those conditions. I still can’t understand how she spun 360 degrees as it seemed impossible in the high winds. The rope finally snapped and we moved quickly into a new phase.
On being detached from the sea anchor I changed into my Gul thermals and Gul dry suit. I assembled my emergency equipment and grab bag just in case. At that time I was not in imminent danger, but still a very dangerous situation. Then we were to experience our first roll. The boat righted as designed and I struggled to keep the boat’s electronics from getting wet. We rolled a further seven times but on the last roll we stayed inverted. The cabin started to flood through the solar vent.
I waited to the last minute when there was only an inch of air left in the cabin before activating the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPRIB) and escape out of the now flooded cabin. I swam out but got entangled in the kite lines, which were now wrapped around the cockpit. After what seemed like an age I managed to escape to the surface. I was greeted by a very scary storm which reminded me of the film the ‘Perfect Storm’. I clambered onto the up turned hull and clung to the keel.
At that stage I knew I probably had a 5% chance of making it till help arrived I then activated by Personal Locater Beacon (PLB). I had to cling to the keel for five hours before a huge wave broke on top of me and the boat I thought that this was the end of us, but it turned over ‘Little Murka’ I was connected to her on a safety line. This was my chance to survive till a help arrived.
I used every bit of line I had onboard and attached it to a bucket, bags and heavy items. I also used the kite’s and improvised them to act as sea anchors it worked and I was able to stop the capsizing for a time. I then set about bailing out the main cabin this took 7 hours as I only had a small bag for the task. I was now able to get inside and out of the elements as I knew we may have to survive for a further 30 hours. The first time I realised that help was on the way was when I spotted a Hercules search and rescue aircraft over head, which has got to be one of the best things I had seen in many, many hours.
They dropped a life raft and two bags connected on one line I used these bags to further stabilise the boat using them as drogues. At around 0300hrs the Berg Nord came on station but was unable to locate me in the large swell and waited until first light to continue to search. At 0830hrs CGV Cygnus came on station and launched small rescue craft and transferred me across to the Cygnus
EPRIB activation and suitability of Little Murka for the North Atlantic.
The EPRIB carried onboard was registered with Falmouth Coastguard, in line with The Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) regulations.
St John’s Coastguard was informed 30 days prior to the voyage of the vessel dimensions and all emergency equipment on board and the route intended. On departure from St John’s the port authority was notified by VHF that vessel was departing for the voyage to Exmouth.
The EPRIB was activated when the vessel did not self right and the cabin was full of water ‘I was in immanent danger’ in line with MCA codes of practise of EPRIB activation. In the poor visibility and large sea state I activated my Personal Locater Beacon (PLB) to assist SAR aircraft to locate me in such conditions.
The kite vessel ‘Little Murka’ was designed specifically for the North Atlantic and is capable of surviving 100 knot winds and sea state. During the voyage the vessel had already comfortably survived winds of in excess of 50 knots on the Grand Banks if the vessel was not suitable it would have failed in the first two weeks. The use of the sea anchor with this vessel makes her able to ride out the biggest of storms.
In the North Pacific in a similar vessel of 23 feet we were able to ride out three typhoons with winds of up to 80 knots. The key of heavy weather survival is not the size of vessel, but its ability to be able to ride well on a sea anchor. We had a freak incident were I lost the sea anchor to put this into context it would be similar to a trawler losing its engine. However despite being rolled around 40 times during the rescue period ‘Little Murka’ remained in tack and was able to provide me with shelter, which saved my life.
I don’t know of any conventional ocean going vessels which could endure such conditions and survive in tact. ‘Little Murka’ remains afloat and may even make it to this country via the Gulf Stream.
The biggest success of the trip was how well the kites worked the total mileage achieved was done in a little over 6 days of kiting. The vessel exceeded our expeditions in performance achieving a top speed of 12.4 knots and in 15 – 18 knots of breeze was able to maintain an average of 7 knots. The majority of time was spent of the sea anchor as we endured the effects of 5 Hurricanes it wasn’t the boats fault and it highlights the importance of vessels to carry a sea anchor.
We have pioneered the use of a KITE VESSEL it works and we are happy to share our knowledge with any interested parties. We will be using kite power in the future watch this space.
Whilst I had no intention of being a drain on the tax payer as indeed I haven’t been on any of my previous expeditions this one didn’t work out that way. Maritime exploration is my job I earn my living from the ocean just as our brave fisherman do. Without people making discoveries and testing new theories we really would believe the world to be flat.
50% of Kite Quest 200 was financed personally leaving my extremely loyal sponsors to provide the rest. I must add that by losing ‘Little Murka’ along with my journals and footage not to mention the equipment I have been left in a bad place financially.
Keep coming back to the website to hear of our future plans.
Thank you all once again,
with kindest regards