Skip to content

Solo sailor found some surprises during his transatlantic crossing

Thunder Bay's Dan Turk is resting in the Azores as he prepares for the final leg of his epic sail journey.

HORTA, AZORES ISLANDS — The next time Dan Turk rides his handmade 5.8-metre sailboat across the Atlantic Ocean, he may not take along as much cold-weather gear.

The Thunder Bay man was resting Friday in the town of Horta on the island of Faial in the Azores, 1,800 kilometres from Portugal.

He set sail alone from Halifax in the Little Bea on July 10, expecting to encounter periods of chilly weather during the journey to Europe.

But in an interview, he told TBnewswatch, "The temperature surprised me. Open ocean, two or three o'clock in the morning, it's still 26 or 27 degrees Celsius. I brought enough clothing thinking that I was going to be sailing on Lake Superior. I brought lots of warm clothing, blankets, all kinds of stuff that I've not even touched. That was one big surprise."

Turk said he was also caught off guard by how quickly time passed on the boat during his first 21 days on the water en route to Flores Island.

"When I think back on it now, it flew by pretty quickly, which is okay. I had lots of documentation [to do] in terms of video and texting, journaling, that sort of thing."

The fact that he's in a small boat on constantly choppy water means Turk has to ensure he'll always be able to get back on board.

"We have a term called 'tender.' The boat is quite tender, and it moves around a lot. I had to have one hand hanging onto something all the time, which was a challenge in itself, because you're preparing food or trying to have a coffee, navigating, moving from one spot to the next, coming into the cabin or out of the cabin, and always tethered to a lanyard. It took a bit of getting used to."

Turk said he can nap now and then, but sustained sleep is unattainable because of the need to stay alert and keep watch for 24 hours a day.

For the most part, weather conditions have been pretty favourable, but Tropical Storm Don forced him to alter his route at one point.

"The only weather issue we had was a small tropical depression. It was pretty significant, but that's where the weather routing guys helped me out lots..I went way south on the 13th day...then we realized the tropical depression was going to head northwest, so I was able to head directly east."

Turk stays in touch with a small group of people who monitor weather conditions and supply him with updated meteorological information via a satellite-based texting device.

He's confident in Little Bea's capabilities.

"This boat is designed for ocean passages. Structurally, there are safety issues that are inherent to the design that make it such. So I feel really comfortable in terms of the boat itself. I can probably ride out a near-hurricane and I would still be okay."

Nonetheless, sailing the ocean in a small boat by oneself carries serious risks, but Turk said he's always considered himself an adventurer.

"There's hazards in everything that we do in life. I've got a fair bit of experience sailing just on Lake Superior, and know the risks and how to mitigate them. I have a four-person life raft, immersion suits, all kinds of different things, a tracking unit, a unit that sends messages if there's a drastic emergency."

In Horta, he's already made friends with people and plans to spend two more days there to take in an annual festival.

Then he'll head back onto the ocean for an expected eight-day voyage to Portugal.

"With my weather-routing people we're going to take a look at what the next leg looks like. There may be one more island, maybe not, and then to Lagos, Portugal, directly east from here. That's the plan."

His target for distance is about 100 nautical miles per day.

Turk plans to leave his boat docked in Portugal and travel to France where he'll reunite with his wife before they fly back to Thunder Bay.

After that, he said, "We'll have to see what the next adventure is."

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks