Nearly two weeks after setting out on a solo transatlantic voyage, British quadriplegic sailor Geoff Holt is back underway after seeking temporary shelter in the Cape Verde islands to refuel and repair his boat’s engines.
On December 10, Holt set sail from the island of Lanzarote aboard the 60-foot catamaran Impossible Dream bound for Tortola and almost immediately encountered unseasonal headwinds from the southwest. The rough conditions further complicated things when contaminants in the fuel—stirred up by the lumpy seas—knocked out first his port, then his starboard engine, so that he could no longer motorsail to stay on schedule.
An onboard physical assistant, Susana Scott, who is not otherwise taking any part in the actual sailing of the vessel, did her best to keep the engines working, but with only partial success.
“The honeymoon period of calm seas after leaving Lanzarote is now a distant memory,” Holt reported shortly after getting underway. “The real debilitating factor is the sea state…. It is nothing too bad, at worst waves are only 2 meters and the Atlantic swells barely 3 meters. The problem is that it is a very confused sea, waves and swells coming from all directions and the wind is blowing directly on the starboard beam, not good for a lightweight catamaran. Impossible Dream is bobbing like a cork, pitching and yawing, snatching and jerking, her 60-foot length belying her skinny 17 tons as she gets picked up and slapped broadside by the seas.”
To make things worse, Holt also lost all his electronic wind instruments, making it extremely difficult to trim sails effectively after dark.
After logging barely 500 miles in six days, Holt decided to alter course for the Cape Verde islands when he realized he was already running low on fuel—crucial to running the generator that powers the systems allowing Holt to handle Impossible Dream’s sails. The original plan had been to cover the 2,700 miles from Lanzarote to Tortola in about three weeks. Unfortunately, even making it to Cape Verde proved to be a challenge, due to yet more contrary winds.
“Here we go again, back on the rollercoaster ride and have been for the past 24 hours,” Holt reported on December 17, after making the decision to alter course. “We are still making for the Cape Verde islands on a course of 220 degrees, exactly the same direction the wind is blowing…. One of the engines is as good as dead as the fuel in that tank is now so concentrated with crap in the fuel we cannot run it any more. The other engine cannot rev above 1,100 revs for the same reason and is pushing us along at a paltry 2 knots. At this rate, our ETA in Cape Verde isles is early next week. Considering we left Lanzarote a week ago today, our progress has been dire.”
For all that, Holt has been maintaining his spirits, applauding Scott’s efforts to get the boat’s engines running again (Scott had essentially no previous sailing experience before setting out on Impossible Dream) as well as their success in catching fresh fish to supplement their rations.
A lifelong sailor with three Atlantic crossings to his credit by the age of 18, Holt was paralyzed from the neck down in 1984 in a diving accident. Although he is wheelchair bound and has only partial use of his arms, he has remained an avid sailor, becoming the first quadriplegic to sail single-handed around Great Britain in an expedition he called his “Personal Everest.”
For more on the voyage, visit www.geoffholt.com