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Mariner's Library

Hands Open

By Leslie Powles

Published by Kenneth Mason Publications 1987

In 1975 with eight hours sailing experience beneath his harness, Les Powles set off from Lymington in the south of England bound for Barbados in the West Indies. 

His boat, Solitaire, was a Bruce Roberts 34 which he’d built himself for £1,300 and his navigation equipment consisted of “a plastic sextant, Walker trailing log, Seafarer depth sounder, RDF set, portable radio, old car clock, almanac and Bible.”

After victualling his boat with fresh food from Falmouth he set off across the Atlantic and 57 days later picked up a lighthouse that should not have been there. Solitaire then ran aground in a heavy swell thumping on a sandbar. The solo sailor managed to get her afloat and later made harbour in…Brazil!

Halfway across the Atlantic, the declination for taking a noon sight had changed from north to south, but Les had continued to add the figure instead of subtracting it…

This graphic confessional of misadventure marked Les Powles down as one of Britain’s great Corinthian sailors: A true amateur who learned the hard way from his mistakes and went on to sail three times around the world. 

Read it and shiver.

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