The true story of a singlehanded survival in the Atlantic

My mother asked me to look after my brother as she lay dying of Cancer in hospital. He had always been her favourite child.  So now years later I still worry about my younger brother out in the Atlantic all alone on a sailing boat he built himself.

He set off from St. Kitts in the Caribbean where he lived to sail to Nova Scotia. He had no Satellite phone (they are so expensive to run but can save lives) so as usual we were all worried about his delay. It turned out that he had been becalmed & was living on raw potatoes because he had run out of food. The people of Lunenberg where he landed were stalwarts, kind & helpful towing him into the Marina & looking after him. He could not leave his boat there forever, so he decided to sail single handed to Falmouth, Cornwall.

He has raced across Atlantic from Plymouth to Newport Rhode Island many times & is an experienced sailor but no-one has sailed a 12 metre (60ft long) alone, especially at the age of 68. So once again we, his family, were all worried. This time he had a Satellite phone & the messages were upbeat to start with. Sailing amongst whales & sea birds etc.  But then a hurricane hit him off Cap Breton, which damaged his self steering gear. Much needed piece of equipment for single handers.  So more worries.  A few days later we heard that he had balanced his yacht to sail herself but would have to detour to the Azores for repairs. He knew the Azores from previous adventures.

With no engine, getting into a Marina is difficult if not impossible. But he managed somehow & once again the islanders & sailors were impressed & very helpful. He had a happy time exploring the islands which are very beautiful. He tried to get hold of a crew to help him sail to Falmouth but somehow no-one was keen to sail a racing boat without many mod cons (no winches or engine) so once again he set off all alone.  How many worries can a sister be expected to cope with.

We heard stories of gales in the Atlantic that was bringing bad weather to the UK & I thought of him alone out there slowly sailing the 1000 miles from the Azores. Other helmsman have been know to jump overboard as they could not cope with the loneliness. Or have been washed overboard, or fallen overboard & seen their boat sail on without them.  Or hit a Container floating by.  My vivid imagination held no bounds.

Now he is becalmed in the Atlantic but with 400 miles left.   The good news is that this these two trips have finally convinced him to sell his beautiful yacht.  A boatyard in Falmouth awaits his arrival & will tow him in to safety all being well. An incredible feat of seamanship. My mother would have been proud but worried sick. Now I take that responsibility!

Postscript added 4th August 2015 ….

Sadly my brother was found dead floating in the sea near the Lizzard. Life can be so cruel. He & his boat had made it to the finishing line but while waiting for high tide in foul weather, he must have tripped & fallen overboard. The boat was found going round in circles. A huge air & sea rescue was taking place but a local yacht pulled him out of the water. He had been in it too long & was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.  A sad ending to an epic voyage.

Written by Susie Groom

BBC News Report

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Grand mother of 6. Enjoy walking on Dartmoor, sailing, travel, reading etc.

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We were saddened to hear of the loss of your brave brother. He was doing what he loved to do, and achieved so much .. a sad ending to what was an epic voyage ... I am sure your mother would have been proud of him, as I know you are ... our thoughts are with you and your family Susie x

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