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Alan Mulholland, P.E.I. sailor, experiences the wonders and frustrations of the North Atlantic Ocean

Once a day Glenda Mulholland is sent a text message by her husband, Alan, currently navigating the Atlantic Ocean alone in a 26-foot Contessa sailboat named Wave Rover.
Once a day Glenda Mulholland is sent a text message by her husband, Alan, currently navigating the Atlantic Ocean alone in a 26-foot Contessa sailboat named Wave Rover. - Desiree Anstey

There’s not much sense of relaxation when wild North Atlantic Ocean waves crash the sides of the 26-foot sailboat, cold and sharp sprays hit the face, and gusting winds whistle overhead causing unexpected blows.

But Summerside’s Alan Mulholland is unhindered by wave or spray during his third week into his sailing solo-adventure around the world.

With years of sailing experience under his belt, Mulholland knows this storm will pass. The crested, threatening swells will whip into choppy and then calm reflections, as he handles the weather systems and presses on in his 40-year-old Contessa called Wave Rover.

“It’s been variable weather because when he first started out there wasn’t much wind at all, and then he navigated through a couple of gale-force winds,” said his wife Glenda, who receives a text message every day by Mulholland and follows his progress closely on a (satellite) GPS map.

Alan wrote a short message on the Wave Rover Facebook page on Aug. 7 saying a 40-foot vessel had capsized nearby.

“Presumably during the storm. He reported to coast guard. All well here,” wrote Alan.

On Aug. 8, he reported that he was struck by another gale force wind and was safely waiting it out.

“There was a spot where Alan wasn’t moving in the easterly direction that he needed to go, and he seemed to be backtracking. It was probably because he was caught in a storm, and at times, I am concerned but not frantic because I know he is capable. Alan has done big sailing trips before," said Glenda.

He sailed solo from Nanaimo, B.C., to Brisbane in Australia over a 52-day stretch, all done on his handmade boat called Wren – but that was more than 20 years ago.

“The trip to the Azores is a lot less time to complete, three to four weeks,” said Glenda.

Alan Mulholland, left, departs Summerside Harbour on Wave Rover, bound for Port Hawkesbury, N.S., with Darren Bulger.
Alan Mulholland, left, departs Summerside Harbour on Wave Rover, bound for Port Hawkesbury, N.S., with Darren Bulger.

“I’m going to meet up with Alan in the Azores. In fact, I just booked the flight and I’m excited about it. It’s quite a trip to get there for me. It will take three days of flying but it will be worth it, of course. I will spend 10-days there before Alan departs for the Canary Islands.”

The vessel currently has a two-foot gash in the smaller sail (jib) that needs to be repaired, as a result of the strong winds.

“I think it would be quite difficult to repair because you have to wait for the wind to stop and the weather to be calm. He has needles and twine on board, and hopefully he can use the larger sail until it is safe to repair the jib sheet,” Glenda said.

The ocean is often a place of fleeting and intense acquaintance.

“Alan saw a pod of whales with an escort of dolphins. Two of the whales came within 20 feet of the boat, so I hope he got lots of pictures,” she said.

Lyman Duggan is working with Glenda to keep social media websites and sailing groups updated on Mulholland’s progress.

“I had a 27-foot boat about the same size as Alan and I did a lot of cruising around Florida and across to the Bahamas – just me, my little dog and my books,” said the former Summerside resident.

“The fact that Alan is sailing from Summerside where I’m from is a big part of why I got involved,” said Duggan.

“I have read many books on sailing, usually when I am out on the water. And I followed the sailing adventure many years ago of a young teenager by the name Tania Aebi. She sailed on the exact same boat as Alan (a Contessa) around the world solo.”

Duggan said there’s no time to ever be bored while out on the open waters.

“He will have routines to do, books to read, and obviously a creative imagination. You have to eat, so you do some fishing and there are skills to learn how to fish at sea. He’s probably learning a lot from reading. Alan also has a two-way radio, so he can talk to other vessels nearby.”

Glenda thanked all those that have been following Mulholland’s adventure.

“It’s great the support and well-wishers of people, some I don’t even know."

"His message this morning (Sunday), Alan said he knew the North Atlantic would be the most challenging part of the circumnavigation and it hasn't let him down. He also said, 'The smaller the boat the bigger the adventure,' so I can tell from that he is enjoying it," Glenda said.

To follow Mulholland’s around-the-world adventure, visit MapShare on https://us0-share.inreach.garmin.com/WaveRover.

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