Weather forecasts

They’re talking on Facebook about mid-ocean weather forecasts. They’re always talking on Facebook about mid-ocean weather forecasts – Iridium and grib files and SSB modems and whatnot. The Old Man’s head is beginning to hurt.

Actually, it put me in mind of a time, years ago, when I was talking to a fellow competitor at the sponsor’s reception on the night before the OSTAR.  He seemed a pleasant fellow. I invited him to join our SSB schedule.

“Ah,” he said, holding up an admonishing finger. “With such a radio, you are not truly alone.”

He was right, of course. The singlehanded passage from Plymouth to Newport was terribly convivial: 32 days in the middle of nowhere, meeting up three times a day on the megahertz to compare notes, make silly jokes and drool over each other’s culinary imagination (the reality was something different).

At one point I threw a party to celebrate James Hatfield’s MBE (please don’t park on the south lawn and remember to close the gate because the polo ponies are out).

Of course, you could argue that a long-range radio was a safety feature: When Robin Knox-Johnson went quiet half way across, we could have raised the alarm. Instead, we judged (rightly) that there was probably a good reason for it and he would be furious if we launched an international search and rescue operation.*

Aboard Samsara, I did invest in an Iridium Go for a trip to the Azores a couple of years ago. I thought I was rich at the time – and bright enough to understand the instructions.

It was awful, I spent hours crouching over the tiny screen worrying about how much it was costing as the microchips attempted to download civilization.

In the end I sold it on eBay. Now it’s just me and the VHF which stays on all the time. Mind you, that was nearly the end of me one dark night on the Grand Banks when some anonymous trawler skipper woke me up with: “Hey sailboat that just crossed my bow: Say, Buddy, you don’t wanna try that too many times.”

I ejected through the companionway without touching the sides, landing in a heap on the cockpit floor, still with my sleeping bag round my ankles … and absolutely nothing in sight. We never did find out which of us it was that nearly went to the bottom that night.

*There was a good reason for Robin Knox-Johnston dropping out of the radio net. The doyen of solo yachtsmen had needed to shift his battery to get at something or other and reconnected it back to front, producing lots of smoke and blowing up his alternator. Then he discovered Suhaili was sinking – albeit very slowly. He limped back to Plymouth pumping all the way but with reputation intact.

Largo ready for the 1988 OSTAR