Skip to content

A mid-Atlantic encounter

This post tells of a remarkable mid-Atlantic rendezvous in 2015. It is an extract from the log of 45′ gaff ketch ‘Zeb’, skippered by Solent OGA member Paul Baker. He’s on passage from Canada to the UK and crosses track with ‘Ocean Valour’, with two trans-Atlantic rowers aboard! Tom Rainey and Lawrence Walters set out from Manhattan, New York in ‘Ocean Valour’ to row 3,800 miles, unsupported, across the North Atlantic to honour the memory of Tom’s father, Luke, who died from a brain tumour. A mutual friend, Ben Collins, had suggested a mid-Atlantic rendezvous with ‘Zeb’ might be fun!

“OK all hands. Let’s get the hell out of here.” It was about this time that Ben Collins got in touch via sat-phone and mentioned the ‘Ocean Valour’ rowing boys. “A mid atlantic RV would be brilliant!” I pondered the notion and asked for their current position, heading and speed. Looks like they are only a day or two ahead. Umm let’s give it a go. But again Neptune had an alternative plan and cooked up another storm. This time it came from the NW and with backed headsail, deep reefed mizzen and helm a-lee ‘Zeb’ gently rolled and nudged her way through it. No problem other than it lasted 12 hrs at least and when I contacted ‘Ocean Valour’ they had surged ahead by another 100 miles plus! Now that was impressive.

Then the storm caught up with them (we were talking directly by this time on sat-phone) and they took a battering. We gradually hauled them in and by early morning 7 July I reckoned we should be within VHF range by the end of the day. I sent out a text advising them of our proximity and silence! Nothing from them all day. A sense of foreboding gripped my stomach. And then a text from them late afternoon apologising but they were sleeping after the storm. Phew. I plotted an intercept and off we went. At 1800 I called them on the VHF. An indecipherable response but a response never the less. “I have my lights on, our course is 090, position such and such. We are making towards you as best we can. I will call again in an hour. Out.”
1900 hrs. “’Ocean Valour’, ‘Ocean Valour’ this is sailing yacht ‘Zeb’. Do you read me. Over.”
“’Zeb’ this is ‘Ocean Valour’. Read you loud and clear!” Our collective excitement was palpable. A quick exchange of positions and a re-plot. “Change course to 115 please, engine on and all eyes forward!” My crew responded instantly. We furled the genoa, maintained staysail and mizzen. I wanted no mishaps.
“‘OceanValour’, ‘Zeb’. Suggest you look out for us as we are the bigger target. On our way”. By this time it was raining, the mist was coming down and the light fading. Nothing seemed certain even now.

Mid Atlantic rendezvous Photo: Lawrence Walters

“’Zeb’, ‘Zeb’ this is ‘OceanValour’. We have a visual on you!”
“We have them lads.”
And a collective roar went up from us all. But still we could not see them. Nothing.
“Keep your heading please, Max eyes front. Expect them on the starboard bow.” And then a flash of light right where we expected. Then nothing! “Are you sure you saw it Max!”
“There they are! Yes look!” And so their tiny eggshell boat bobbed into view and we gently rolled in along side to leeward. “What the fuck are you boys doing out here?” I yelled and huge smiles and laughter all round. We did not stay long, somehow there did not seem much to say, but a sense passed between us which still gives me goosebumps even now when I think or talk about it. Despite them wanting no outside assistance, there was a connection, a coupling of the human sprit that demonstrated that we, at our best, are capable of incredible feats. We all felt deeply moved and to cap it all it was Will’s birthday. What a present! We slipped past and into the gloaming, waves, a last VHF call which brought me to tears and then alone again. All I could think about was if it feels like this for us, then how must it feel for Tom and Lawrence?

Paul Baker, Solent OGA Member, skipper of ‘Zeb’

Paul Baker, Solent OGA Member