Saturday, 20 September 2008

4950 00703 A line in the imagination

There's a line between The Lizard and Ushant, familiar to sailors down the ages. Nelson used it - can't remember the exact words, but to the effect that, once past Ushant, every sailor considers himself single, Nelson himself included, it seems. Poor Cloudesley Shovell and several hundreds of his sailors didn't quite get back there, which itself is an interesting story about notions of discipline and knowledge. World records start and end there, famous circumnavigations and Atlantic crossings too. And it marks the entrance to the English Channel. I've crossed it a few times - less that 10 times each way - but it still has enormous significance as a symbolic marker.

For us, when we cross it, as we definitely will, sometime real soon now, it marks the end of a biggish undertaking. Berri and I will have completed perhaps only the second ever circumnavigation of the world via the North West Passage, after David Cowper. We have also completed a circumnavigation via Cape Horn and Berri may be the very first boat ever to get close to claiming the two, although the claim is dubious because the two circs stared from opposite ends and share the Falmouth - Sydney leg. However, each is complete in itself. Sydney, Cape Horn, Falmouth, Sydney in 2005 and Falmouth, Sydney, NWP, Falmouth Aug 20 2005 to tomorrow? And Kimbra and McQ have a nice new line of a different sort for their CVs.

I think that I can safely say the following: Berri is, we think, the 77th boat to have completed a transit of the North West Passage, the third smallest and one of only about 25 sailing yachts. Only about half of these yachts have done it in one season. All the other vessels have been icebreakers or ice-strengthened ships. Some of these have made multiple trips - 14 is the record so far, I think - so our transit was the 114th since Amundsen in 1903-5. We are probably the only vessel ever to have sailed from Sydney to the UK via the NWP (Fine Tolerance may have beaten us to it) and we are the first Australian boat to have done it in one season and without icebreaker assistance. Again, Fine Tolerance beat us through but they took a couple of years and I think were assisted by an icebreaker after they had abandoned the boat. I've said before how astoundingly lucky we have been - could'a easily been us.

But we still have to cross that line!

Sending this today because tomoz might get busy and a bit vortexy. Izz, there will definitely be an orange sail, but not sure which, or whether the angle will allow you to see it at the Manacles from Pendennis. And all y'all, come join us at the Harbourmaster's jetty for a bit of a celebration. My guess - very dodgy still - would be tomorrow evening, 1800 UTCish.

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