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NI sailor stranded in Caribbean making slow progress in race home for daughter's wedding


Garry Crothers on his boat

Garry Crothers on his boat

Garry Crothers on his boat

A Co Londonderry sailor who found himself stranded in the Caribbean when coronavirus struck is making slow but steady progress in his race to get home in time for his daughter's wedding.

Garry Crothers (64) is making the epic 3,600-mile journey on his yacht single-handed - in more ways than one.

Having left port from the island of St Martin last Friday, Garry is currently riding the waves in the Atlantic Ocean, somewhere between the islands of Bermuda and Anguilla, on a journey that is likely to take him more than a month.

Waiting, too, are his daughters, dentist Amy living in London and Una, a GP in Newcastle in England, who has a special reason to see her father make it safely home - as he is due to walk her down the aisle in September.

With all other avenues back to Derry closed off, Garry had little option other than starting the journey on his own. No easy task, especially as he lost an arm following an horrific motorcycle accident and was facing the fast-approaching dangers of the hurricane season.

Just over one week into his lone voyage, his friend and sailing partner from disabled sailing charity Foyle Sailability, Ken Curry, said he has been keeping a close eye on Garry's progress.

"It's been very slow going since he left last Friday and he's probably not as close to home as he wanted to be," said Ken, who is in regular touch by email.

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"The winds have been very light so he's had to change course and is heading north. Sailing's not just about going in a straight line, but it is a bit of a struggle at the minute." Ken, along with Garry's daughter Amy, had been due to fly out to help crew the yacht on the journey home, but coronavirus put an end to any plans, leaving Garry alone with his yacht at the end of March.

Wife Marie, at home awaiting Garry's return, admitted her nerves are wrecked. "The last few weeks we'd been desperately trying to find ways of getting him home," she said.

"Each one has shut down as coronavirus kicked in. There's been a constant knot in my stomach, I try not to think about it any more. I'm not sure anyone can do this as a hobby."

It was a long-held ambition of Garry, a former Merchant Navy man, to own his own yacht and sail the world. But the chance to realise his dream only came after nearly losing his life in 2007.

Compensation from the accident was ploughed into fulfilling his sailing dream and the physical and mental injuries - his arm was finally amputated in 2017 - enabled him, along with Ken Curry, to help start Foyle Sailability, a charity which gives people with disabilities the chance to experience the thrill of sailing. "We're all following Garry's progress now and wishing him all the best," said Ken.

"And I think he'll likely take an easier route by flying over to Oonagh's wedding in September."

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