02 - Anniversaries
15th July is a date that is never going to be easy for me to forget.
It was the day in 1999 that I set off in the boat - then called Spirit of Portsmouth - with Alan, Steve and Jan on the very first attempt to set a new record at circumnavigating the British Isles. It started out with a pleasant meal and a few drinks at the Bridge Tavern on Portsmouth’s historic Camber, then setting off at around midnight, picking our way out of the harbour, eyes straining to spot the various buoys and markers. It was a rough night - quite a baptism of fire for me, given my only previous experience in RIBs was a two-day RYA level 2 powerboat course in Dartmouth. And then of course the next day we made headlines when the boat was disabled near Lizard Point. The drive was ripped off when we ran over an unseen object - possibly a container just below the surface - and we were towed ashore by the Lizard lifeboat.
The 15th July 2002 will remain indelibly ingrained in my memory. We’d left St John’s the day before on the penultimate leg of our eventful and epic voyage around the world. Alan, Steve and I were all exhausted, running on empty, but buoyed up by the thought that after three and a half months and 23,000 miles we were just days away from the finish. And then Steve had his heart attack.
If you’ve read “Confronting Poseidon”, you’ll already know. It was a day of nightmare proportions. A day where we didn’t know whether Steve would live or die, where for many hours we were absolutely on our own, beyond any rescue - one of the few days in my life when I’ve felt completely and utterly helpless. And it’s a day that reminds me now, as we look forward to finishing the job and bringing Jolly Sailor home, that offshore powerboating is indeed a serious business.
On Thursday, Alan travels to St John’s to begin work on the boat. We have a fully serviced engine and drive, and the flooring and other items wrecked by the sewage-tainted water from St John’s harbour last September need to be replaced. I’ll be keeping you updated on the progress, and hopefully have a few photos to show you as well. Then Jan and I will be flying to St John’s on the 25th, ready for a weekend of frantic preparation before setting off on the 27th.
Clive’s obscure quote of the day (courtesy William Butler Yeats):
Where, where but here have Pride and Truth,
That long to give themselves for wage,
To shake their wicked sides at youth
Restraining reckless middle age?
© Copyright Clive Tully 2003