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Mustoe returns to Lerwick to complete Bergen trip

| Written by Chris Cope

Julian Mustoe will be hoping for a smoother journey to Bergen this time. Photo: Garry Sandison Julian Mustoe will be hoping for a smoother journey to Bergen this time. Photo: Garry Sandison AN EIGHTY four year old yachtsman who lost his boat in the middle of the North Sea nearly two years ago has returned to Shetland to complete his ill-fated trip from Lerwick to Bergen.

Julian Mustoe's 25ft boat Harrier of Down, which he had been living on for over a decade, sank to the seabed when it was being towed by the Norwegian coastguard to Bergen after suffering rudder problems in strong winds 100 miles from Shetland.

He arrived back in Shetland in late July as he prepares to revisit the scene of his heartbreaking loss before heading on a tour of Hanseatic cities to pen a book about his travels.

Backed by £10,000 raised from a crowdfunding appeal, the veteran yachtsman - who previously circumnavigated the globe in Harrier - bought a new boat, the Zepherus.

Recalling his fateful trip in October 2015, which saw him come within half a mile of Total's Alwyn platform, Mustoe said it was a "serious blow" that effectively left him homeless.

He blames the Norwegian coastguard for the loss of his boat, claiming that the cutter ship Bergen was travelling too fast and caused the Harrier to take on water.

The Englishman slept overnight on the coastguard vessel but he awoke to see his boat submerged under water as it was being towed to Bergen.

"I felt pretty helpless," Mustoe said. "I had this boat for about 12 years, so I got to know it quite well, and there she was being towed under.

"The Norwegian coastguard just don't give a damn."

Mustoe said he escaped Harrier with a small bag of personal items, including his passport, but among the possessions left on board included an external hard drive of important files.

The rescue as it happened in October 2015. Photo: Norwegian coastguard The rescue as it happened in October 2015. Photo: Norwegian coastguard He managed to persuade Shetland coastguard that he didn't need to be airlifted, but he was too far from the isles for the Lerwick lifeboat to attend so the Norwegian coastguard sent out a ship to tow him to Bergen.

"The gear failure...literally it was a lump of stainless steel which weighed a couple of kilos," he added.

"It had a hole drilled in the middle of it and the rudder stock came up through it. It connected the tiller to the rudder.

"This lump of stainless steel split in half. It must have been from some kind of fatigue, I suppose. Of all the things that could go wrong, I thought this lump of stainless steel would be the last."

Before the fateful incident in 2015, Mustoe wrote a book about how he recreated the global voyage taken by the HMS Beagle in the 1830s.

Now the intrepid yachtsman intends to pen another book about his journey through the Baltic sea as he explores the medieval Hanseatic League, which brought together a number of cities in Europe to protect trade and interests.

Mustoe expects to leave Lerwick for Bergen on Tuesday and the 200 mile journey should be completed in two days.

Thankfully, his new boat has a space for a spare rudder should lightning strike twice in the North Sea.

At the age of 84, it's fair to say Mustoe is no spring chicken, but his enthusiasm and attentiveness does not reflect his years.

Having essentially lived on a boat for around two decades, he said he is used to life on board a cramped yacht and has no intention of calling it quits yet.

The adventurer thinks his ability to cope with living on a boat has come in part from his upbringing, with his steadfast American mother - who came from a pioneer family - "refusing" to use central heating.

"I've done it ever since I retired, so what other life do I have?" Mustoe said.

"I'll keep going. I don't have any plans to retire ashore. I think if I lived in a cottage in the country, I don't know what I'd do with myself. A boat gives you something to do, the opportunity to travel, and an occupation.

"I think my qualification for this kind of life is that I'm fairly tolerant of discomfort. I don't have to have comfortable sofas and feather bed mattresses and central heating to survive. I can manage without that."

 

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