Sailing around Alaska with a new hip

Not many people are up to the task of crewing a 43ft yacht round the choppy and chilly waters of Alaska. Fewer still would attempt it following major surgery. But Nicholas Evans, former High Court Judge is a man that clearly relishes a challenge, and with his new hip he felt that he was even better equipped to take on this one.

Nick had his hip replacement only 6 months before, under Marcus Bankes, Fortius Consultant Hip Surgeon. When we spoke to him he was confident, ready, and raring to go. So much so that he promised to keep us updated on his journey, sending us regular posts so that we can follow his progress.

“I suppose what you want is a snap of me strapped to the wheel, fighting a gale in a huge sea, with a conveniently photogenic killer whale surfacing in shot? I’ll see what I can do…”.

On the first day of my Alaskan adventure, I set off with my brother-in-law, Tim, who is the owner and skipper of "Serein" a 43 foot Sceptre. She is an elegant sloop and her gross weight is 7.2 tons. She is new to Tim but was built in 1988.

We crack on as we have a great distance to cover. We hoped to meet Diana and a good friend and neighbour from London, Tom, in Juneau (Alaska's capital) which is 850 miles from Vancouver. As the sea is remarkably calm we planned to keep going until about 2300 that night and we estimate we will have done about 90 miles!

We expected there to be many days when progress will be much less impressive. We probably will not have such benign weather the further north we travel. Alaskan summer temperatures rarely exceed the 70s and average in the 50s. It is necessary to be prepared for rain, fog, and low visibility. One must be prepared for precipitation at all times and, of course, black flies and mosquitos are plentiful and ravenous. What fun. As the saying goes 'there is no such thing as bad weather just having inappropriate clothing.'

After 48 days at sea and having covered something like 2,000 miles we arrived back safe and sound. Skipper and crew are still on speaking terms and I am very grateful to Tim to have had the opportunity to sail the Inside Passage. The first week was bloody cold and wet, but thereafter the temperature was fine and occasionally hot. The winds were either non- existent or too strong and almost always coming from the wrong direction, but we survived. An experience not to be forgotten.