Pedaling to Bermuda

I once sailed my Westsail 32, Antares, from Virginia to Bermuda. Through 760 miles of open ocean, Gulf Stream storms with towering seas, setbacks and survival, I was completely alone. I’ve crewed aboard boats all over the world, but I had never experienced conditions like those of the first days of the passage.I was mugged by a nasty northerly gale just off Cape Hatteras. Battered
Author:
Updated:
Original:

I once sailed my Westsail 32, Antares, from Virginia to Bermuda. Through 760 miles of open ocean, Gulf Stream storms with towering seas, setbacks and survival, I was completely alone. I’ve crewed aboard boats all over the world, but I had never experienced conditions like those of the first days of the passage.

I was mugged by a nasty northerly gale just off Cape Hatteras. Battered and bruised by steep, breaking seas, I lay ahull, pummeled by the storm for 36 hours. Great walls of water like giant wrecking balls slammed into Antares, tossing her sideways and throwing me violently across the dark cabin. Water seeped through the companionway hatch, and the contents of broken lockers floated across the floor. Lightning flashed, torrential rain pounded the deck, and wind shrieked through the bare rigging. When the storm blew over, I found a jibsheet wrapped around the propeller and a cat’s cradle of lines and halyards encircling the mast.

The interior of the boat was soaked. I hadn’t eaten for two days, and I was a wreck. Without sails or power, Antares rolled wildly in the big seas.

I had to get the sails up, and there was no choice but to climb the mast. Swinging in a giant arc far above the deck, I held on with a viselike grip and untangled the mess of loose lines. At last I was under way, but I just didn’t have the heart to continue on. I turned back, beaten and exhausted, and headed home.

I collapsed into my bunk, feeling despair on the one hand and relief on the other. In a few days I’d be back in port. For three hours I slept like a dead man.

Then I woke with a jolt. I could hear my mother saying to me when I was 14 years old, “You can make it. Just keep riding and you’ll be home in a few days.” At the time I was far from home on a 760-mile solo bicycle journey around Michigan. I’d been riding for four days when, sore, tired, and lonely, I called her to come and pick me up. “If you quit now, you’ll always regret it,” she said. “You’ll make it. Just keep pedaling.” So I did, and four days later, overjoyed, sunburned, and triumphant, I pedaled up the driveway to home.

Now, 30 years later, I lay in my bunk, looking at the clouds sweeping across the hatch, and thought, I can’t quit. I’ve worked five years toward this, and I won’t give up. Just keep pedaling.

So I did. I turned Antares around and reset the course for Bermuda. The next day, in calming seas, I climbed over the side (I had to) and unwrapped the line from the propeller. After that things began to look up, and in four more days, overjoyed, sunburned, and triumphant, I sailed down the channel into St. George, Bermuda.

I don’t know if Mom ever had any idea how much her words of encouragement would mean to me, but I’ve thought of them often through the years, and they have served me well through a lifetime of ocean adventure and world travel. They have kept me pushing on when I felt I could push no more, they have given me strength on the darkest nights, and they have made all the difference.

Charles Scott has made numerous distance passages as crew all over the world and lived aboard Antares for ten years.

Related

Shelly-forward-last-day

Charter Advice for First-Timers

Never chartered? No worries. A vacation under sail can be the most memorable time of your life. That said, it also pays to be prepared by doing some reading, building your skills and listening to what the experts say. First and foremost, not all charter grounds are created ...read more

HugoBoss

Video: Vendeé Update

Last week Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) led the fleet across the equator. As one of the class' top sailors who's been on the Vendeé Podium twice, it seemed possible that Thomson was going to grab an early lead and hold on to it all the way around the world. But early on Saturday, he ...read more

AdobeStock_229409051

Chartering Again for the First Time

It’s been a rocky road of late for the charter industry, especially here in the Western Hemisphere. First came hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Caribbean followed by Dorian in the Bahamas. There has also, of course, been the coronavirus, which burst into global prominence ...read more

01 LEAD cedaryachtclub_onedesign18_hike

An Interview with Ayme Sinclair

In recent months, US Sailing, like many organizations, has been taking a closer look at diversity to ensure it’s doing the best job it can of introducing people from all backgrounds and ethnicities to the sport. As part of this effort, this past summer it organized an online ...read more

125768940_10222759720523627_5373654001582879638_n

US Sailing Presents Adaptive Sailing Panel

On Tuesday, November 24, US Sailing’s Leadership Forum will present the latest panel discussion in their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion series. This event will focus on adaptive sailing and provide practical recommendations for organizations looking to expand their adaptive ...read more

02-IMG_5971

A Carbon Neutral Circumnav with Jimmy Cornell

Historic anniversaries have always held a special fascination for me, especially if they mark a significant nautical achievement. In 1992, on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ would-be voyage to India, I organized a transatlantic rally that followed the historic route of the ...read more

DJI_0068

SAIL Podcast: Jimmy Cornell’s Carbon-free Circumnav

In this episode of Point of SAIL, Principal Editor Adam Cort talks with bestselling author and pioneering bluewater sailor Jimmy Cornell, who set out November 19 on yet another circumnavigation aboard a newly designed, carbon-neutral Outremer 4Zero catamaran. The voyage, which ...read more

emirates-600x

Emirates Team New Zealand Splashes the last of the AC75s

Emirates Team New Zealand unveiled its second-generation AC75 yesterday, joining the other three America's Cup teams with boats in the water. In just over 100 days, this boat will attempt to defend the Cup for the Kiwis, but there's plenty of racing between now and then, with ...read more