By Aisling Meath
LAST week the RNLI crew at Castletownbere responded to their first call of 2016. A lone small boat had been spotted in the water in Dunmanus Bay and the lifeboat, which had welcomed the Queen on board in 2004, was launched and the boat towed to safety.
With Happy Socks safely secured, crewmember Dave Fenton climbed on board.
‘I didn’t know what I would find, to be honest,’ said Dave. But what he actually found was a note attached to a panel which read – “Hello, if you find this boat, please contact Sarah Outen who was picked up N44 31 W029910443, due to hurricane forecast on 3/10/2015”, along with her contact details.
Sarah Outen MBE had celebrated her 30th birthday at sea last May, part of a mammoth round-the-world charity trip.
A British adventurer and motivational speaker, she was forced to abandon Happy Socks, with the warning of the approach of hurricane Joaquin. She was rowing, kayaking and biking her way around the northern hemisphere for her London2London challenge, which she completed in November.
The boat had drifted for 143 days moving northwards where it ended up 870 miles from where Sarah had been forced to leave it – west of Portugal – on October 3rd.
‘It was nothing short of a miracle that it was spotted when it was, another 50m and it would have been smashed up on the rocks,’ said RNLI coxswain Brian O’Driscoll.
‘The timing was incredible,’ said Sarah, when she heard how close it was to being destroyed. She immediately began to make plans to go to Catletownbere to retrieve Happy Socks and shake the hands of the crew who had saved it.
On Monday she was reunited with her little boat. Made from carbon fibre, and worth around stg£60,000 when it was first constructed, she was amazed that it remained intact, despite its solo journey at sea.
‘Once it has been dried out, cleaned up and the algae removed, I’m going to sell it on for somebody else to have another adventure in her,’ she said, as she climbed aboard and began to open the little compartments of the boat.
‘This is surreal – it’s like being reunited with a friend who has come back from the dead. We’re a team,’ she said.
Along the interior of Happy Socks are inspirational quotes printed including one from Winnie the Pooh, by AA Milne: ‘What day is it?’ – asked Pooh. ‘It’s today,’ – squeaked Piglet. ‘My favourite day’ – said Pooh.
As Sarah opened the storage compartments to check what remained, Happy Socks yielded another reward – a little bottle of bubbly which had survived throughout its long voyage alone. As well as welcoming the return of her boat, Sarah has plenty of cause for celebration as she is getting married to her fiancée Lucy next June. She is also writing a book about her adventures entitled “Dare to do” which she’s hoping to have published in May 2016.
‘There will be a happy ending to the story,thanks to the RNLI crew at Castletownbere and I’m so grateful to them,’ she said, adding that having had a taste of the warmth of a West Cork welcome, she is looking forward to returning some day.