Today sees the publication of “Flares Up: A Story Bigger Than The Atlantic” by Niamh McAnally, an Irish-born author and adventurer.
“Life offers us millions of moments. From the mundane to the extraordinary, the familiar to the exotic. Some pass us by, so wrapped up are we in blinkered routine. But, if we remain open to possibilities we’ll witness one of those magical moments that may change the course of our lives.
And so it was, on 20 February 2020, at 5.30pm Atlantic Standard Time, my husband, Gary Krieger, and I happened to capture such a moment.
We’d been sailing north from Grenada through the Caribbean islands aboard, Freed Spirit, our Caliber 40 cutter rig sloop. Heavy weather and blue water sailing instructor, John Kretschmer, had invited us to give a presentation about our life as fulltime liveaboard cruisers at one of his courses in Antigua. Normally, we anchor out, sometimes take a mooring ball, but this time we were berthed on the wall of Nelson’s Dockyard next to John’s famous Quetzal, a 47 Kaufman.
We’d just finished lunch when we heard someone shout “They’re coming!” Two British middle-aged men were about to cross the finish line of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge having rowed 3,000 nautical miles from the Canaries Islands.
I’d never heard of ocean rowing and couldn’t fathom the idea that someone would get in a tiny boat and row it across the Atlantic. My longest open water passage had been 10 days beating east against the trades from the Bahamas to Puerto Rico and I wasn’t planning on repeating it any time soon.
Rather than wait ashore, I grabbed my camera and we dinghied out to the mouth of the harbour. We were just west of the channel buoys marking the finish line, when they crossed. The cannon fired; horns and whistles blew. Like a sports photographer, I began to click. The media boats circled them. Outside the white-water ring they churned, Gary motored us in the opposite direction. Click, click, click.
And then the moment came — they held their flares up. Red sparks reflected on the water below casting a sunset over the rowboat and the now silent oars. And there, in the centre, suspended in triumph, stood the two men who had dared to dream.
That final shot would become the front cover of Flares Up: A Story Bigger Than The Atlantic and inspire me to write this book about why they rowed that ocean. “Not the prepared why they told the press or the noble why they told their friends, but the real why they told themselves in the dark of night. The why that drove them during the years of preparation and enabled them to say goodbye to loved ones they prayed they would see again. The why that made quitting not an option when they faced storms and equipment failure in the middle of Poseidon’s rage, and the why they had yet to discover once they’d stepped on dry land and reflected on who they had become during those 70 days, 9 hours and 11 minutes at sea.”
Niamh McAnally, The Writer On The Water, is an Irish-born author and adventurer. Many of her stories are inspired by her travels on land and at sea. She helped a solo sailor crew his boat from Florida to the Bahamas and not only found a life she loved but the love of her life. Her short story 'Haul Out' about how she and Gary coped when ports closed all around them due to the pandemic, is featured in the anthology A Page from My Life, and she has been published in Sail, The Journal and Subsea magazines. Flares Up: A Story Bigger Than The Atlantic (Pitch Publishing) Release date: 5 September 2022