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Solo One-Armed Sailor Gary Crothers Making Good Progress on Transatlantic Voyage Back to Ireland

5th June 2020
When Garry Crothers goes voyaging alone, the categorization of “single-handed sailing” has extra meaning. When Garry Crothers goes voyaging alone, the categorization of “single-handed sailing” has extra meaning.

Garry Crothers of Lough Swilly YC, who voyages extensively with his 2003-built aluminium Ovni 435 cutter Kind of Blue despite having only one arm as the result of a particularly catastrophic car accident in 2007, was facing a severe problem in the Caribbean last month as reported in

Normally he voyages in the substantial Kind of Blue with a crew of two. But when he stopped off in the Dutch Caribbean island of Sint Maarten for a crew change which would have been effected through the island’s famously beach-hopping airport, while his shipmates were able to get away, his replacement crew were unable to join him as the Caribbean Islands suddenly introduced very stringent closures to keep COVID-19 at bay.

Kind of Blue in total calm as the sun rises over a peaceful anchorage. For the next few weeksKind of Blue in total calm as the sun rises over a peaceful anchorage. For the next few weeks, the Ovni 435 will be in constant movement as she voyages home to Lough Foyle

With some very pessimistic prediction being made as to how long the COVID-19 pandemic would last in its worldwide effects, Garry reckoned that his best plan was to sail home as soon as possible to the port of Derry, very much his home town for when he’s there he plays a leading role in the Foyle Sailability Project for ability-impaired boat fans.

Garry Crothers at home in the Foyle on Kind of Blue, taking part in a Foyle Sailability Project.Garry Crothers at home in the Foyle on Kind of Blue, taking part in a Foyle Sailability Project

He had though there might be a chance of recruiting at least one crew from among the small fleet quarantined in Sint Maarten. But all the boats were dealing with personnel problems, many of them acute, and he gradually became resigned to the idea of having to sail the 3,600 miles home all-too-literally single-handed.

So although he admits to being at least 64 and thus in an at-risk cohort as regards COVID-19 in addition to his other problems, he drew on experience gained in his one single-handed voyage - a passage of five days – and prepared the boat and himself to make the 3,600 mile Transatlantic crossing to Lough Foyle in one hop, as he reckons that even thinking of diverting to the Azores on the way – as most others do - would only distract him from the single-mindedness needed for this extreme challenge.

Kind of Blue and her lone skipper took their departure on Monday, and progress has been good, but it’s still one very long way to go, and patience will be needed among those following this very special voyage.

Vera Quinlan & Peter Owens on Ketch Danu

The Quinlan-Owens family’s 39ft ketch Danu in the CaribbeanThe Quinlan-Owens family’s 39ft ketch Danu in the Caribbean. With their dreams of further Caribbean cruising curtailed by the severe COVID-19 restrictions in the islands, Danu headed for the Azores in the first and longest stage of her voyage home to Kinvara on Galway Bay, and is expected in Horta in the next few days

Meanwhile, Vera Quinlan and Peter Owens and their children Lillian and Ruari from Kinvara on Galway Bay with the 39ft ketch Duna are now within a few days of the Azores, after a month of voyaging homewards from Antigua. But as the famous Azores High Pressure is keeping wind strengths down in the approaches to the islands, a specific ETA is on hold until the weekend.

Published in Cruising
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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