Voyager eager to return to sea
By Loren Moreno
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Loren Moreno
What should have been a routine pit stop for supplies and replacement navigational equipment now has Adrian Flanagan — a British sailor attempting to be the first to complete a solo polar circumnavigation of the world — docked at the Waikiki Yacht Club awaiting structural repairs to his boat.
Flanagan, 45, arrived in Ho-nolulu just past 11:30 a.m. yesterday, marking the first time in 6 1/2 months that he has been on land or had face-to-face contact with other people. Though he wore braces on both wrists, dislocated in a storm, and his legs were wobbly as he stepped onto land for the first time, Flanagan appeared fit both mentally and physically.
Had his boat not needed repairs, the stop would have been for supplies only. But the repairs are expected to keep Flanagan here for three days to two weeks, endangering his attempt to be the first to circle the world through the Arctic Ocean. The damage to his boat already has foiled his attempt to single-handedly circumnavigate the world without stopping.
"No matter what he does, he's the first," said Michael Roth, rear commodore for sail at the Waikiki Yacht Club. Roth helped arrange for Flanagan to dock in Honolulu for repairs to his boat.
Flanagan said it's been a dream since he was 15 to be the first to sail the world through the frigid Arctic Ocean instead of the more traditional Pacific/Atlantic route. He has already become the first person to sail solo from Britain to Hawai'i, westward via Cape Horn, said Roth, citing known sailing records.
His voyage is being sponsored by various businesses, and he's paying some of the expenses himself. He and his ex-wife, who is managing his expedition, have set up a Web site (www.alpha globalex.com) for people to track Flanagan's progress. The site includes a global tracking system that pinpoints where the boat is, a map, an up-to-the-second expedition timer and news about his voyage — such as the first time he saw another boat in more than three months at sea.
The biggest challenge he's faced thus far was weathering "a very big storm" while rounding Cape Horn. That's where a steel wire that keeps pressure off the sail tore a 2-inch gash in the 55-foot mast.
"If I didn't repair that, and I was in another big storm ... (the mast) would bow out and snap like a match. The whole rig would come down," said Flanagan, standing on the edge of his boat after docking in Honolulu.
He was greeted by other boaters from the yacht club bearing a can of chilled Guinness ale, served from a silver tray.
"That feels strange. That feels very strange," he said while bracing himself after stepping off his boat and onto dry land for the first time in months.
Flanagan said the repairs will take some time because his mast is steel, not aluminum like many boats use. That it could be ripped in a storm tells of the magnitude of what he was fighting alone at sea.
The days of rough weather while rounding the southern tip of South America is to blame for the damage to his boat and to his wrists, he said, calling the storm "the second worst I've been in."
Cape Horn is known for its unpredictable weather patterns, and Flanagan said he was already "psychologically weakened" by the area's fearsome reputation before the storm hit.
Assuming his boat can be repaired while docked at the yacht harbor, Flanagan will continue his voyage west to a point just southeast of Japan, antipodal to another point he passed off the coast of Brazil, he said.
"If you were to draw a circle around the earth, those two points would be on the circle. You need to have at least one pair of antipodal points for circumnavigation. So I need to go there, touch that point," he said.
From there, he would head north into the Bering Strait, and then into the Arctic Ocean.
"When I'm in the Arctic Ocean, I'll either turn right over to the Canadian side or turn left and go over to the Russian side," Flanagan said.
To go through the Russian Arctic, he would need permission from the Russian transport secretary, which his ex-wife is attempting to obtain. He would not need permission to go through the Canadian Arctic.
If he makes it to the Arctic, he would surely be greeted by icy conditions. And for those conditions to be passable, he would need to go through the Bering Strait by July 15.
It would take about two months for him to make it to the Bering Strait from Hawai'i, meaning the sooner he leaves Hawai'i the better.
The fact that Flanagan has been through tough weather, including some of the worst of what's between the Pacific equator and Hawai'i, has made him more confident that his 40-foot sailboat can make it through the Arctic.
"This is another psychological hurdle to overcome," he said. "This boat has taken a huge amount of punishment, a huge amount of punishment."
Flanagan says he has developed a relationship with his boat Barrabas, talking it through storms, fishing attempts and about life at sea.
"The boat is very important. The boat can survive on the water without me. I cannot survive without her," he said.
If the Arctic is blocked by ice, Flanagan would likely head back down the West Coast of the U.S., through the Panama Canal and back up to Britain, a more traditional route for circumnavigating the world.
Local boaters called what Flanagan is attempting to do "crazy."
Eight years ago, James Park, of 'Ewa Beach, sailed from Hawai'i to Long Beach, Calif. — a total of 17 days at sea.
"Six months at sea is torture. You've got to admire that," said Park, 48. "It's so hard on the body when you're out there. I think it's more hard mentally then it is anything else."
For Flanagan, the worst part of being at sea is not the storms or the physical challenge.
"The most difficult part is being away" from his sons, he said.
Reach Loren Moreno at firstname.lastname@example.org.