Sarah Outen and Gulliver have had to call it a day after a right royal savaging by tropical storm Mawar – which euphemistically tanslates to Rose and nicknamed by Sarah, in an attempt to make her sound more friendly – Rosie. Charlie Martell and sister ship Blossom, who were several hundred miles to the North of Sarah, were also savaged and also had to be rescued after suffering serious boat damage.
She and Charlie Martell had a harrowing escape from the deep.
On the 5th June, Sarah was aware that Rosie was on her way and was doing what she could to anticipate the worst that the typhoon could throw at her. All this she had to take on board, whereas just days before, if not hours, she’d been enjoying blissful conditions and had even had her first ocean swim:
An idyllic dip in the Pacific Ocean with Gulliver standing guard
The dip hadn’t been altogether idyllic – she had to defeat her fear of swimming in deep water, “the simple act of stepping over the edge and letting go of the boat freaks me out” she wrote. “It took two attempts and 8 full minutes of sitting on the side of the boat but eventually I got in. I loved it – naturally. I always do.”
From that to storm warnings. “Waiting for Rosie is a weird mix of adrenaline, calm and anticipated fear,” she wrote in the calm before the storm. “By lunchtime tomorrow we will have 45 knots with gusts of 55, later peaking at 55 knots with gusts of 60. There will be forty eight hours of that madness before everything starts dropping, bit by bit.”
Typhoon Mawar, or Rosie, was very bad luck. After all this is not the typhoon season in Japan. “We had worked hard over the last 30 months liaising with the Japan Coast Guard and Weather Bureau to make sure we were as prepared as possible and that they were happy with our plans. We took on the North Pacific knowing the risks but with the best team, knowledge and boat we could build, hoping that the likes of ‘Rosie’ would leave us in relative peace.”
But that was not to be, and Rosie struck with a vengeance and by the evening of the 6th June the sea was a roaring nightmare and “knockdowns and capsizes became the norm as waves throttled us from all angles.” As night fell the conditions worsened and she was now facing waves of 10m and over, waves which continued to grow until they were 15m tall. She had no alternative but to batten down the hatches and take refuge in the cabin, strapped down to avoid injury. “By daylight we had rolled eight times and been knocked right over onto the side many more,” and by this time Gulliver was critically damaged and Sarah, powerless to do anything, had no option but to radio for help. She had had the night that nightmares are made of, and had to wait another 32 hours and several more capsizes before being rescued by the Coast Guard.
She was only 500 miles into her epic Pacific crossing and the gut reaction of having to abandon her boat and her passage must have been shattering. She spent a few hours in hospital on a drip to rehydrate before being driven south to rest for a few days with friends. She then flew back to the UK.
“This storm battered more than just Gulliver and me. And Charlie and Blossom. Our families and teams, and sponsors and supporters and followers have also taken a hit. I am just thankful we made it out alive. (Charlie and his boat Blossom were picked up the morning after I was by the crew of MV Last Tycoon, and they landed safely in Vancouver last week,)” she wrote.
And so it’s a sad goodbye to Gulliver. “It might seem strange that I should be so attached to a boat, but that’s what happens. We were a team, each looking out for the other. Any boatie, especially the soloists, will tell you what it’s like. It is gutting and feels like I have lost a friend. Were it not for him being so brilliantly built, I wouldn’t have made it out of the storm in one piece,” she explains.
However, you can’t keep a good man (or woman) down. “The next goal after getting back to normal and catching up with friends and family and sponsors, will be to plan how to continue the London2London journey in some form, staying true to the spirit and ideals which we set out with 14 months ago. I am determined that this is not the end of the journey, but will become a chapter in the story.”
We’re glad you’re safe Sarah, we’re glad you’re home, and we really look forward to hearing what comes next!