When Elsi Arrub was built it was my intention to do a singlehanded, non stop world trip. Circumstances changed and when Elsi set off on her first circumnavigation there were two of us onboard, my brother Terry and me. We finished the trip 5 years later with three of us as I had married Jenny in Melbourne and she sailed back from there with us.
The first trip was a fairly conventional world trip. We left Shetland in June 1988 and headed down the British coast to Spain, Portugal, Madeira and the Canaries. We sailed from the Canaries to sail across the Atlantic in late November that year and made landfall in Antigua after a 26 day passage.
We spent a year in the Caribbean, mainly in St. Maarten, and left there in February 1990 to cruise down the Caribbean chain and Venezuela and head through the Panama Canal and out into the Pacific. First stop was the Galapagos then south to Easter Island and back up to the Marquesas. From there we cruised down through the South Sea atolls of the Tuamotus to Tahiti, where I first met Jenny who was working on the square rigger “Soren Larsen”.
After leaving French Polynesia we sailed to Samoa and Tonga before heading south to New Zealand to sit out the cyclone season. We spent eight months in New Zealand and because we liked the Pacific islands so much we headed back up to Tonga again in June 1991 this time with Jenny also onboard.
We spent some time in Tonga, Fiji and New Caledonia before sailing on to Australia. Newcastle was the first port of call then Sydney and on to Melbourne where we spent six months and Jenny and I got married.
From Melbourne, now with three of us onboard, we sailed the whole length of the east coast of Australia and had some of the best sailing of the whole trip heading north inside the shelter of the Great Barrier Reef.
We passed through the Torres Straits and across the top of Australia and onto Christmas Island and the beautiful atolls of Cocos Keeling. Then, north to spend two months in Sri Lanka sitting out the cyclone season. We celebrated Christmas 1992 there and sailed again just after New Year.
The Maldives were the next stop then across the Indian Ocean to Oman and down around the Arabian peninsula to Aden and South Yemen. In the Red Sea we stopped in North Yemen and the marsas of Sudan before we reached Egypt and passed through the Suez Canal and into the Mediterranean. In the Med we spent some time in Greece, Italy, Sardinia and Corsica then reached the entrance of the Canal du Midi in the south of France.
The Canal du Midi, which links the Mediterranean with the Bay of Biscay was a very interesting diversion from what we had been doing so far. Motoring through avenues of trees and across viaducts was certainly something different. From the French Atlantic coast we made our way back north up the British west coast to arrive home again to a fantastic reception on 23rd August 1993. It had been just over five years and I had loved every minute of it.
First attempt at a non-stop, singlehanded circumnavigation
The first circumnavigation had been really good but I still had an ambition to do a non-stop, singlehanded trip. In late 2005 Elsi began to be converted over to a yacht fit to do the job.
Her inside was altered to provide storage for food, spares and all the other equipment I would need to be self sufficient for a year at sea. Alyson suggested it would be a good idea to do the trip just relying on renewable power. A “green” trip in a green boat! It was a great idea and that is what I did.
I knew from our first trip that the only time we used the engine at sea was to charge the batteries. We only really needed it when we came into a port. Since I wasn’t going to put in anywhere the engine was of little use to me. If I carried it I would have to carry a huge weight of diesel plus engine spares as well. Instead I carried a wind turbine, a solar panel and I rigged a permanent magnet alternator in a direct drive on the prop shaft where the engine had been.
I left Shetland in June 2006 on an eastabout circumnavigation south of all the great capes. Basically everything went well except that the bottom of the boat got covered in goose barnacles which slowed me up a lot. The other problem I had was that my appendix burst when I was 300 miles SW of Australia and I had to get taken off Elsi and on to a cargo ship. I was in hospital in Albany, West Australia for ten days and Elsi drifted around in the South Indian Ocean for seven weeks before she was spotted and eventually towed in by a local fishing boat.
We got her shipped back to the UK on a container ship. She had suffered a bit of damage drifting around on her own for so long but it was all fixed up and she was ready to set off again on another voyage.