Letter to Ewen

Basil Panakis
Wed 29 Jun 2016 08:09

Hello Ewen

Thank you very much about all the preps and support to us the Challengers, and indeed it was a challenge for me well before the start.
As you know it was Wednesday before I sorted the problems with my engine. Left Southampton on Thursday afternoon hoping to make it for the BBQ but this time the electrics let me down. Ended up in Cowes for the night and after the electrician declaring my alternator 100% OK left Friday afternoon. Within an hour the problem occurred again but as I had wind I carried on. Had a lovely sail while the wind helped. Total blackout by Plymouth, all electrics and engine in denial, no wind and tide against me, towed in by RNLI, problem so called fixed by Kevin in QAB on Monday morning. Hence my presence in the spectator boat on Sunday.
About 3 nights out, the engine started by itself, I managed to stop it. Then half an hour later the same. This time though all the electrics packed up, I was on survival mode from then on. During the first of the bad weather I fell in the cockpit bent the dooday on the tiller and I thought I cracked my ribs. Well there is nothing they can do about cracked ribs, and with no lights and no engine it would have been suicidal to have returned back in the channel in that state. So the best choice at the time for me was to hide in the atlantic and sort out matters as I went along. I had a third battery, spare nav lights and rigged these in time. Initially strapped a torch on the main and hung another one from the back stay.
Also found my anchor light and I had that for few nights hanging from the backstay. Eventually the spare nav lights and the anchor light gave up the ghost after repeated gales. So instead I rigged the AIS transponder and the RTE. I had a few battery operated chartplotters (3) so I could get my Lat Longs. The spot at least worked independently.
Highlights were the gale whereby the rollers were so high that you could put 50 houses in the trough. I was going NW at the time and I needed to tack the boat but after a number of failed attempts, I went down below thought it out that if I did not tack I'll end up in Iceland...eventually took the headsail off and gybed, for the next 26 hours I was going south, no matter where!
The other highlight was ETA midnight or 0200 hours in rough seas and strong winds with no lights and no engine, I thought this was not a good idea and instead headed north of Terceira and employed my sea anchor, a first for me. I thought this will be only for overnight but the strong winds persisted during the day too. I lost 17 miles in as many hours, pulled the sea anchor, to my surprise, quite easily in, and the rest is history as they say.
I was becalmed at 6 miles from the finish line and in the morning as I was approaching lost the wind again. Eventually after crossing the line Roger gave me a tow to the marina.

Kind regards, Basil