Sunday, May 10 at 20H00, the World Tour ends. Our video equipment, worth 10,000€ has been stolen, it’s the cherry on the cake!
We spoke about the possibility of heading toward Walvis Bay (Namibia), finding a boat… etc., etc. Serge could accept that the challenge would stop there; but our finances are not flourishing and buying a boat would be inconceivable unless we went to our bank for a loan! However, this did not keep us from looking at the maps and having pipe dreams, all more or less realistic. Because of the theft tonight we have to look at the evidence: nor more boat, no more video equipment for a film. What is the next stage?
It is 20H00, End of the story.
This Monday, May 11, we will be communicating with: the AFP, i.e. the press; we have never had so many calls, our partners, our friends, the family, and our supporters.
This is the first time Serge has had to abandon a challenge but reason got the upper hand. Since Friday morning, the situation became uncontrollable and Serge took off like a flash for the north. The waves increased to a height of 4 meters, and the wind at 6 to 7 on the Beaufort scale (25 to 30 knots) created wave trains that produced an uncontrollable drift. Serge lived for 60 hours closed in his cabin without being able to eat. Middleton was submerged by the waves which broke on the porthole of the cabin. After 15 days of struggling, Serge was exhausted and ready to give up. He expected to capsize and put on his helmet and braced himself and all his equipment inside Middleton. He capsized several times but Middleton righted herself and continued to resist the storm. On the Far Scotsman the situation was not good either. Serge learned that the crew was unable to sleep that night and half the men were vomiting.
It can be said that Serge was in the wrong place at the wrong time but neither Pemba nor Palma was possible and the northerly drift was taking him straight to Kenya or Somalia.
This crossing of the Mozambique Channel was in itself an adventure and from the first night everything was wrong and Serge took his heading too soon (there was an easterly wind and Serge was afraid he was too near the Madagascar coast and that he would be sucked back on the ebb tide. The heading was not very clear from 18H00). In short, Serge went into terrible turbulence, which is visible on the track of the website. From that moment exhaustion began: Serge got up 12 times per night to adjust the rudder, rowing like a madman to try to get out of the stalemate. After 6 days we decided to provide solutions and since at that point the routers said that they should not have waited so long, I began to take a serious look at the Sat Ocean maps to better understand the situation.
April 28, after 6 days of struggling, 3 options were proposed:
– Find a boat out of Madagascar and tow Serge for 15 km. Serge was only 15 km from favorable wind and wave currents (the mind boggles at the thought of it when you know what follows). However, now you know you can’t find a boat easily in African countries and we were unable to find a boat to help us, as,we had hoped before we left Majunga.
-Return to Majunga and start again.
-Northern Option proposed by Maxime and Xavier of Sat-Ocean. According to their statistics, it’s possible to reach Pemba but there is a question: Can Pemba accommodate Middleton? In 15 minutes I have a reply, yes, the boat can be handled. Serge reminds them that in a crosswind situation Middleton has little room for maneuvering and asks them how long it will take. 13 days and they take note of Middleton’s sensitivity, with her high cabin in cross winds. Everyone votes for the Northern option.
Serge swiftly changes course, the trade winds are there and the current is strong and favorable. 100 nautical miles covered in 2 days. CROSS, to whom we extend our thanks again, solved the drinking water problem. But here stress begins again. Mayotte and then Grande Comore must not be too far or too close and then there is the Grande Comore passage. Serge is rowing, Serge is thinking and Serge is making progress but he lacks confidence to hold a heading and not drift during the night. The nights are not good, there are lots of boats (not small clandestine vessels) but big boats without lights who come to fish illegally. Serge is in a state of permanent nausea, physical fatigue accumulates day after day and there is nervous tension at the same time. And there is also the promise to arrive Friday evening, perhaps a bit optimistic or hasty, which quickly becomes Sunday evening and the weather turns bad. Friday morning I realize that we have to leave quickly because Serge is heading due north. There is a current that should take him straight in the right direction but the SE trade winds are contrary. Middleton has a 20° margin of maneuver in cross winds and can’t go upwind when it hits her at 90°. It’s an impossible situation. Serge is rowing but the routers think he isn’t rowing. I realize that there is a discrepancy between the reality of what Serge is living with Middleton, that he is unable to maneuver, and what we see on the tracker and the maps.
Bad luck, the Immarsat telephone goes out Thursday morning. The batteries are weak and the weather gets worse. We don’t talk about the storm of the century but it is sufficiently strong that the small boats don’t go out, especially pleasure boats. When Serge turned over with Middleton he lost part of his water supply and then the crazy drifting is taking him where…….
The Mozambique Channel is a jumble of currents and winds. Having missed the southern route, the northern route was ambitious, even impossible, unless there was luck, which frankly Serge did not have. Lots of small factors followed one after the other and Serge was heading for Somalia. Do you let him drift in an ocean with plenty of space, knowing that it is an area full of pirates (for information, the boat that rescued Serge has 2 escort boats with 8 heavily armed military aboard! Right now in the Indian Ocean area, there are 3 ships of the French navy. One wonders why). So, what do you do with Serge in Somalia? What do you do if he runs out of water or if he is knocked out when the boat capsizes while waiting for the weather to improve Sunday? Serge is in a state of advanced denutrition; how long could he last at this rhythm? He told me he didn’t even think about hunger or that he could eat.
If it had been possible to tow Middleton, we could have considered going on, even if for the sticklers he would lack nautical miles rowed. But the question does not arise. Middleton “is LOST” and we even had bad luck on land. It is time to stop and go home. The outcome might have been dramatic if we had not taken action. It certainly is not a happy ending but Serge had to reach his physical and mental limits. And the road will be long for he who has not achieved his dream!