Atlantic Crossing in a Catalac 9M Continued

Continued from Part 1

By Christopher Langham and Esther Minter

During my brief stop in Spain, my paternal Grandfather passed away and in the midst of trying to compose myself in dealing with my grief, I continued moving forward despite my lapse in funds and having to refit the Genoa. I tried to figure out a way to leave the boat and fly home, but I couldn’t. No more credit, no money to pay the marina, and only provisions to do one thing… Continue moving forward and I’m glad I did, because God always provided enough funds to keep moving forward.  (Nothing more:-) While in Muxía, two lovely people from Frankfurt were in the slip next to mine; they fed me, played my granddads favorite game Yahtzee with me, lit candles in memory of him, and were there for me in all capacities. Although my family isn’t German, my Grandfather spent a lot of time there while working with the Army Corps of Engineers.

Of course this couple was dealing with their own issues but they accessed their humanity to help me cope with my grief and sorrow, aiding me through the initial stages of grieving the loss of my grandfather. 

I had to continue moving forward, so with only God, and Blue Belle my blue tick beagle, we set sail for The Canary Islands.  It was here my steering cable broke again and I was left floating adrift for 7 days trying to rig the steering the way it was supposed to be. My spotter, who was in contact with me via my satellite phone; contacted Jon Lack, the son of the Catalac maker. 30 minutes and one email later I was all fixed up and back on my way.  Simultaneously, I learned a valuable lesson, if you are having a problem; go to the Maker or the Maker’s son. Because like Jesus said: “If you have seen the Son, you have seen the Father”.  He knew the intricate details and from the time I arrived in La Palma, and rewired the steering until today, I have had no trouble with the pulley system or the cables.  

Catalac 9M Atlantic crossing

La Palma was a wonderful place; I was tempted to stay there and find work, however, I’d given my word to the people of the Virgin Islands that I would return to resume my teaching commitments.  So after fixing the steering, I was assisted by the Spanish Social Services with enough provisions to restock the boat for what I thought would be a three week Atlantic crossing home. With it now being early December, I was eagerly off when 7 days and 700 miles out, the rudder was violently ripped off by something, and the pressure on the other rudder deemed it useless, forcing a big hole in the back of the boat. 

I attempted to steer a rudderless boat to the safety of one of the Cape Verde Islands. 

During the duration of those 22 days, I was aided by three different ships stopping to deliver gas to me, for the outboard, I used my boom and a cabin door as a makeshift gondolier to steer. 40 miles near Sao Vicente, a sailing vessel heard my distress call and towed me in the rest of the way. 

Catalac 9M Atlantic crossing

I spent the next 10 weeks, calling everyone I could to get help, including the U.S. Embassy, selling everything I could, even attempting to sell the boat at one point. Being in Sao Vicente was a very hard place to be; the winds are violent, the terrain desolate, the people hardened by their conditions, but happy in a content way.  When it was time to go, I worked as a cook for about $4 a day in order to eat and stock my boat with a few provisions. So many people contributed towards my cause, and on March 4, 2016 at around 15:30 God, my dog, and I took off, bound for St. Thomas.  

Two days later the auto pilot drive motor stopped.  It was chock full of black carbon, and that little motor had given up the ghost.

Consequently, I had to sail as long as I could each day and at night I had to anchor the Genoa while simultaneously trying to maintain direction while I rested.  

A three week journey home escalated into 8 weeks and a day. 

The weather was spectacular; except for a few short violent squaws, we had earned peace for the duration of the trip.  Other than the auto pilot, only the anemometer broke during a squall.  

We did get marooned 500 miles from St. Thomas, and provisions were running slim; miraculously a tanker stopped and supplied me with fresh pineapple, watermelon, apples, oranges, juice, water, milk, bread, jam, noodles, etc. all of which put me over the top and got me through the becalmed time.  

Unaware of what issues may arise besides the auto pilot breaking, as well as limited finances I had about 30 days of solid food, and 2 months of water and staples like lentils, rice, etc. so this miracle from the tanker was so welcomed and I was elated like a child on Christmas morning.After 8 weeks and one day we arrived safely to St. Thomas, and although the weather was the worst I have ever seen it here, I kept plowing forward and by the time I reached the AYH Marina, the clouds, rain, and drama broke, and we were guided right into the slip with the help of the marina staff.  I was so glad to be on land.  After passing St. Martin the day before, both Blue Belle and I realized how much we longed for land.  

Catalac 9M Atlantic crossing

We immediately went for a 2 mile run, and then on to an AA meeting; it all felt so surreal because I felt drunk for days after arriving.  

So many things are still to be determined. I’m in debt up to my eyes because of this journey, but I wouldn’t trade it for all the tea in China. It was life changing in ways I can’t explain, and I’ll conclude  the way I opened; 

“Had you told me up front what I would face on a daily basis with this journey, and how long it was going to take, I would have ran … not walked from the idea”.  That said, it was the worst time of my life, and also the best time of my life. 

Thank you for reading my story.  

There are a lot of details as you can imagine omitted in order to keep it readable on a website.  If you have any questions, comments, or ideas for me to get out of my current predicament, you may contact me by commenting below.


By Rick

Owner of a Catalac 8M and Catamaransite webmaster.

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