INTREPID sailor Andrew Halcrow says he “definitely” won’t be making a third attempt to sail singlehandedly around the globe after returning home to Shetland this week.
The 54 year old is safely back in the village of Hamnavoe with his wife Alyson after having to be rescued from his self-built boat Elsi Arrub off the Chilean coast a fortnight ago.
After the 31-foot yacht’s mast snapped in a huge storm, he was left drifting at sea for more than 24 hours having alerted the coastguard in Punta Arenas. He was then airlifted to safety around 150 miles west of Chile’s southernmost province Magallenes and Antartica Chilena.
While relieved to be home unscathed, Halcrow feels “downcast” at being back much earlier than expected. He set off from Falmouth in November for what was anticipated to be a 12 or 13-month trip.
“It’s good to be back, but obviously it’s not the homecoming I thought it was going to be,” he told Shetland News. “I wasn’t due back until the end of November, and I should have come back here with a boat as well.”
Halcrow’s first circumnavigation attempt in 2006 was foiled when he suffered a burst appendix, coming within 24 hours of losing his life before being rescued 300 miles south west of Australia.
Though he also vowed eight years ago that there would be no second attempt, he insists he really does mean it this time.
“I definitely won’t have another try. For one thing, I don’t have Elsi, but even if I did it’s a huge amount of preparation and time and effort that goes into planning a trip like this.
“It’s not something that you can just do on the spur of the moment. It probably took about a year to get Elsi ready, get everything on board that was needed, check through all the charts, the wind and the weather, and then being away – it takes you away from your family and friends for about two years.”
Halcrow believes that, had he been able to get clear of the choppy seas near southern Chile, he would have been able to complete the mammoth voyage.
“I think so, yeah. Three or four days would have made a good difference, getting out of that area into a different weather system – a bit further north and west where you’d have more options where to sail to.
“I was fairly limited where I could go – North East and I would have come into land, and I couldn’t get North West because of the weather. If it had been a south westerly or westerly it would have been fine, but the wind just wasn’t there.”
Following the 2006 rescue he was reunited with the much-loved Elsi Arrub a few months later. But he holds out little hope that the yacht, which he built himself and launched way back in 1987, will be retrieved this time.
“It’s just a real shame, because the boat has been a big part of my life,” Halcrow says. “I’m not really that optimistic [of recovering her] because it’s such a bad coastline, it’s rocky – it’s like Eshaness, if a boat was drifting into there, it’s not as if she was drifting into a soft sandy beach or something like that.
“There’s an outside chance that she might have drifted between some islands and got into a calmer bit of water, but it would need to be everything working right.”
It’s not only the boat itself that he has lost: there was “so much stuff on board – so many tools, books, charts, and the sextant that I got from my father 30 years ago”.
“If I’d had even a shadow of a doubt that the boat wasn’t coming back, I would have taken so much stuff that was precious on board.”
Alyson is “very relieved that Andrew is back safe and well”, but also feels “sadness” at the trip being cut short. Though she remained at home, the couple worked very closely together: they spoke together daily and she tried to get weather forecasts out to him every day.
“We were in it jointly,” she said, “although he was getting the rough end of the stick.”
Speaking on a glorious day of blue skies and sunshine, Halcrow said the one plus side was that his premature return coincides with the end, rather than the beginning, of winter.
“The nights are getting lighter and the weather’s getting better, hopefully,” he added. “We have a bit of a croft, and there are a few things to be done around here. I’ll be doing that first before doing anything else.”
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