He would lie in his bunk,
The weather became squally in the
second half of the crossing, a common
phenomenon on this passage, and from
then on his nights became very trying.
It was with considerable relief that he
dropped anchor in Carlisle Bay,
Barbados, after 31 days at sea. The
waters of Carlisle Bay were so clear,
with the bottom looming up, that he
feared he would run aground until he
saw some of his cruising friends from
Las Palmas anchored up ahead of him.
Erik the Red sailed from Antigua
on 14 June 1971. Amusingly,
listening to the boat rushing through the
seas, sounding like a rocket-ship
blasting through space. Through the
hatch, he watched the moon and stars
wheeling across the sky.
Donald though he’d left on the
7th: somewhere along the way
he’d lost a whole week! This was
t o c a u s e s o m e n a v i g a t i o n
problems as he approached
Bermuda, but initially, with the
sun high overhead in the tropical
summer, he did not notice any
differences between his DR and
Sometimes the boat would suffer an
accidental gybe and he would have to
scramble on deck, untangle everything
and re-set the self-steering lines. This
inevitably meant sail repairs, as the
sheets would tear the leech of the sails,
but, having junk rig, he could usually
keep sailing until dawn. Eventually he
tied rope between the batten ends, as an
external bolt rope, which helped
support the luff and leech.
After a pleasant few weeks in Barbados,
enjoying the company of hospitable
locals and other voyagers, he began to
think about what came next. Most of
the other voyagers were in no hurry to
go anywhere, having spent a lifetime
dreaming of the West Indies, but Donald
astonished them by declaring he
intended to sail back to England. The
trip out had been just too easy, he
He broke a batten on the first day
out, once again as a result of
sheeting his sails out beyond 90°
for self-steering purposes.
continued to experiment with the
best arrangement for self-steering, this
time setting both sails to leeward but
running the mainsheet to the windward
charts of this reef-beset island, but
tacked in by eye, lamenting how
reluctant Erik was to come about when
on starboard tack.
Erik covered 1,000 miles in the first 11
days, and then had a spell of 120-mile
days. The boat had a fast, quick roll
which he found exhausting, but
eventually he realized he could go a few
degrees off a dead run and the rolling
stopped. More troubling, was that the
masts began to move about, loosening
their wedges and banging around. The
noise almost drove him crazy until he
jammed an old chisel into the mainmast
side of the tiller.
It worked, but if
possible he preferred to lash the tiller.
Bermuda was far too expensive for
penniless ocean vagabonds, despite the
generous assistance of a local tourist
operator, and he left after one week. He
headed north, looking for the Westerlies,
and in order to skirt around the Azores
High that lay on the direct route.
He felt that crossing the
On this homeward passage, he decided
to sleep in the day and stay awake all
night, due to being close to shipping
Atlantic in the Westerlies would be more
of a test.
However, first of all he had to get some
money together so off he went looking
for work in the charter fleet. He worked
for a month in Grenada, made a few
memorable friends but found the
lanes all the way.
The first week
provided easy sailing with steady beam
winds, but then they ran into squalls.
One of these damaged the main and he
lowered all of it except for the top
panels. Erik continued sailing at the
same speed but was much easier on the
helm, with less tendency to depress the
Donald soon settled back into his ocean
routines. Although his logbooks were
just ordinary exercise books, arising, he
said, from the English law of Not Taking
Things Too Seriously, he was a good
navigator by this stage and kept an
accurate record. At night he listened to
the radio and read, looking out every 15
minutes. He kept the lamp burning all
night, in the cabin, ready for immediate
deployment on deck if needed. When
he was sleepy he used an alarm to make
sure he kept to his regular lookout.
Donald was initially enchanted with the
voyage, looking about him with a keen
eye, hoping for interesting sights, sea
monsters perhaps, or at least the odd
whale or sea-bird. Mostly, though, he
just saw an empty ocean and fell to
musing. What a strange feeling it is to sail
a small boat alone in the middle of an ocean!
It is a feeling of such unreality. The boat
himself seems to have purpose enough but
what of you? What are you doing here
being carried endlessly over surging waves
in a world of nothingness?
political atmosphere oppressive.
then sailed to English Harbour on
Antigua, where he worked for 6 months.
The political climate on Antigua was
much the same as Grenada, but the
charter boat fleet of English Harbour,
existed in a world of its own. In the end
he decided it was too close-knit, riven
with rivalries, affairs and feuds. He was
glad when he’d made enough money to
set sail once again.
They arrived in Bermuda on 29 June,
discovering that they were 9 miles out in
longitude due to his error with the date.
Apart from the broken batten, a broken
halyard and a near collision with a
whale (he was alerted by the whale
slapping its tail on the water), it had
been an uneventful passage. He had no