I was over on Wildwood the other day, just checking up on her after our trip to Japan, and when I was driving home I spotted a huge bright green hull with a very short mast sitting over the other side of the harbour.
Being the eagle eyed, sticky beak that I am, I simply had to find out who it was and what that boat was doing in Lyttelton.
Thanks to a bit of Google action I quickly found out that it was a Vendee Globe yacht owned by Enda O’Coineen from Ireland. I must have missed the news reports of his dismasting when I was skiing in Hokkaido.
So then I did some Facebook stalking, and sent a message through introducing myself and offering any assistance that The Little Ship Club could offer while he was here. The next day I got a reply with Enda’s phone number and I got in touch, and he invited me to come out and have a look at the boat later on that day. Ahh love the power of the internet!
The boat was parked in an inaccessible area of the Port. Nigel and his team from Maritime Specialist Services very kindly offered to play water taxi, and run my friend Victoria and I over to visit.
Kilcullen Voyager was berthed alongside some floating concrete pontoons. Her ‘new’ (recycled) short mast looking out of proportion on the huge 60′ hull. Enda popped out of the companionway and welcomed us on board, describing the mast as “a lawnmower engine in a formula one racing car”
On New Years day, in the Southern Ocean, about 200 miles South East of Stewart Island, Enda was having issues with the self steering gear. While he was attempting a repair, a squall came through, and the boat gybed. The running backstay got caught along the way and ‘bang’ the 100′ mast came tumbling down.
After some frantic chopping and cutting, he managed to get rid of the mast, sails and rig over the side. It was difficult to save anything as the conditions were challenging, especially on his own. The main concern was having the mast puncture a hole in the hull. There was already a large hole in the deck. He managed to patch it up as best as he could and then jury rig some sails to take advantage of the favourable wind conditions. When he got closer to the coastline he got a tow from a local boat and he pulled in to Otago Harbour five days later.
He was well taken care of by the Dunedin locals, who looked after him during his two week stay and also managed to assist with finding the ‘new’ mast for the boat. Then along with a fellow Irish friend who happened to be in NZ at the time, they sailed north to Lyttleton, making a brief stop in Timaru to remove a massive clump of seaweed that had wrapped itself around the keel and sail drive.
Enda then gave us a tour of Kilcullen Voyager. Composite construction with a Nomex core, the boat is super light. Weighing just over nine tonnes with half of that being in the huge canting keel. She also has two long daggerboards and a large part of the boat’s interior is made up of water ballast tanks. It apparently takes about half an hour to shift all the weight when tacking. She has already competed in the last Vendee Globe race. Enda purchased her a few years ago with a dream of being the first Irish person to circumnavigate solo.
She looks huge on the outside, but things are quite ‘cosy’ on the inside. Victoria, myself, Nigel and his team all squeezed below in to the cabin. With barely enough room to stand up, this is where the navigating, communicating, sleeping, cooking and eating all takes place. The walls were lined with photos of street scenes, photos of family and a lush green forest. All things I imagine you would miss after months alone at sea!
Beyond the watertight bulkheads you’ll find storage for sails, satellite systems, water makers, hydraulic gear for moving the canting keel, and the huge water ballast tanks. The hole in the deck had been patched up with wood. Everything is powered by hydro generators and solar panels. There is also a small auxiliary engine.
The toilet is a ‘bucket and chuck it’ arrangement, with a different bucket for washing.
It must be hard clambering around on your hands and knees below decks, particularly when it is rough – (it was hard enough when stationary!)
So where to from here?
Well Enda heads back home to Ireland on Thursday. Leaving the boat behind in Lyttelton. There are a few decisions to be made and options on the table. Big carbon masts like the one he needs are hard to come by, there is another Vendee yacht here in NZ that has hull damage, but it’s mast is ok. Perhaps they can combine both broken boats together to make one good one.
Nigel, Enda & Victoria
It was fantastic to get on board and have a look around Kilcullen Voyager and meet Enda. We don’t often get these kinds of boats in our part of the world, so we really appreciated the opportunity.
Here is a short video of what she looks like sailing with her real mast. Their best run was 400 nautical miles in one day… Wow!
I even managed to get Enda along to do a quick talk at the yacht club after our twilight sailing. He is now off to Auckland to meet with the Spirit of Adventure Trust which is associated with the Atlantic Youth Trust. Both organisations provide on water development and leadership skills for youth on board their tall ships. The Atlantic Youth Trust is Kilcullen Voyager’s charity partner.
While completing the race is now completely off the cards, we still look forward to seeing where this adventure takes them next.