Stokey Woodall

Having left the army in 1979, I set up Compass Yacht Delivery and was on my first delivery job with Alan Toone on 25 February 1980. I was 27 and the trip was aboard a 41-footer from Mombasa to Malta.

We basically knew nothing. We were soon to learn we were going the wrong way, at the wrong time of the year, on the wrong sort of boat. We spent 59 days doing the first 1,800 miles, ending up in Aden on a boat where nothing worked. The engine had no power, so with a two-knot current against us, we had to sail 48 miles every day to stay in the same place. We replaced the batteries in Port Sudan, but they were topped up with fresh water not distilled, so died. We ended up becalmed in the Red Sea 50 miles from land.

The water was glassy and there was no shipping around, so I went below to prepare an early meal. Before Alan came down below he scanned the horizon for ships. While we were enjoying a fine meal we heard a sudden rumbling. I leap on deck to find a ship looming down on us. Before we had time to think, it sailed straight through us, chopping the stern of the yacht clean off. We went down in less than eight seconds. As the ship hit, our yacht spun round, sucking her down and along the side of the ship and the wash from the propeller filled our little boat with water. Alan was trying to …

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