Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Spirit of Mystery

Pete Goss, that ocean hero with a quarter of a million miles under his belt and who earned the admiration of the watching world with the incredible feat of turning his downwind racer into a storm in the Southern Ocean, retracking his path, and locating and saving the life of fellow competitor Raphael Dinelli in 1996, has a bit of a problem with some storms off the coast of Africa.

Pete has built his boat Spirit of Mystery to shine a light on the bravery of the seven Cornishmen who made the heroic journey to Melbourne in 1854to escape poverty, follow the gold rush – gold had been discovered in 1851 and the gold-fever had spread around the world - and seek out a new life in Australia. Sail-World Cruising has been following the journey, which will end in Australia's southerly port of Melbourne sometime in 2009.

Like the original crew, who were all related by either blood or marriage, it it is a family affair with the crew comprising: Pete Goss; his younger brother Andy; Pete's youngest son Eliot, 14; and Pete's brother in law Andy Maidment.

So with such a complete crew, you'd think a few doldrum (or ITCZ if you're acronym crazy) storms wouldn't worry him. However, while he reports that they are all 'happy', the latest blog from the Spirit of Mystery as they sail towards the equator off the coast of Africa doesn't sound like the same sailor. Not only that, the boat, manufactured with care over many months back in the U.K., is apparently leaking.

"This is going to be a very short blog as I need some kip. The last 24hrs have been non-stop with huge storm clouds every six hours or so, and when I say huge they are something to both behold and experience. In a sense they are potential hurricanes in the making, for if the conditions are right these are the sort of things that go on to grow into a self generating force of destruction. You can watch them grow, sometimes very quickly as a number of clouds merge as if under the hand of some hidden conductor. Then they grow vertically as if reaching for the sky and you just know that there's trouble on the way. They don't necessarily follow the prevailing winds so a 360 degree watch is important.

They are so big that they appear stationary until quite close and then it happens very quickly with a burst of cold air preceding, anything up to a thirty to forty knot wind line that is so distinct that you can watch it tearing up the water as it bears down. 'All hands on deck', 'all hands on deck' and we tumble up with the sole aim of getting the big lug down and secure as fast as possible. Just throw off the halyard and let it run for if it's not down by the time the screeching wind and heavy rain arrives the other end of the boat can start to get obscured, damage will be done.

In most cases we have then had to rush aft and drop the mizzen and run off under the jib alone as we marvel at the power of the thing. They are completely unpredictable in that we had one blow for four hours and another lost its puff in half an hour, and yet made up for it by dumping such heavy rain for a couple of hours that it flattened the sea. The problem is that once they have past there is just this great void of energy, they just hoover it up. We are then left to wallow in a confused sea to await the return of a gradient wind. Up go the sails and off we go again, the next squall cloud already in site and so we go through the routine all over again.

Rest is impossible as she wallows, sometimes scupper to scupper as the crew on deck secure the mast to save it being torn out of her. Everything is wet above and below decks so it's a case of snoozing, working and eating. Funny thing is we are all as happy as ever as we work for every mile that we can - there's nothing else we can do!"

For more info, visit his blog.

1 comment:

The O'Sheas said...

Man, that is good stuff. Thanks for posting that.