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Solo Sailor in ICU After Suffering Stroke at Sea

On September 16, solo sailor Glenn Wakefield suffered a massive stroke 10 days into his third attempt at a westabout circumnavigation. He was approximately 500 miles west of San Francisco aboard his Sparkman & Stephens Comanche 42 West Wind II when the stroke occurred. Fortunately Glenn was able to send out a distress message to his wife, Mary-Lou, before losing consciousness.

Wakefield family
The Wakefield family gathered for a dockside photo before Glenn’s September 6 departure.
© 2020 Going Solo

The USCG immediately issued a Safety Net broadcast seeking assistance from any nearby vessels. The container ship Colombo Express was nearby and helped the Coast Guard transfer Glenn to the larger ship. From there the sailor was airlifted to San Jose Regional Hospital in an operation that involved five separate aircraft and took almost 48 hours. Glenn has undergone surgery to remove a blood clot in his brain and is currently in stable but critical condition.

Glenn’s circumnavigation began on Sunday, September 6, 2020, at 11 a.m. from Victoria, BC, Canada. “I can hear the fog horns blowing as the local sea gull choir announces the sun rising. I slept well and feel good. Today will be the beginning of another adventure,” he wrote on his blog, Going Solo. Glenn anticipated the voyage would take around 10 months and that he would be sailing back up the Pacific in March/April 2021.

West Wind II on mooring
West Wind II sits in her mooring after an earlier refit.
© 2020 Going Solo

Due to current COVID restrictions, Glenn’s family is unable to come to the US to be by his side and would like to bring him home. “All the hours we have spent worrying about the gales and seas he has to manage … but never this,” Mary-Lou wrote. The family has launched a GoFundMe page to raise money for Glenn’s transfer to a Canadian hospital, and help cover the costs of his treatment in the US.

We wrote about Glenn’s first westabout circumnavigation attempt in April 2008. Glenn was forced to abort this mission about 1,000 miles off the coast of Argentina due to a rollover in the South Atlantic that claimed his solar panels, liferaft and a hatch. He had been at sea for 220 days.

A new westabout solo nonstop circumnavigation will start from San Francisco in October, assuming all goes according to plan. Philippe Jamotte of Redwood City, the reigning Singlehanded Transpacific Race champion, will make the attempt in a Class 40. You’ll be able to read about that in Sightings, coming out in the next issue of Latitude 38 on October 1.

2 Comments

  1. Glenn T Shinn 1 year ago

    What happened to his boat ?

  2. Ros de Vries 1 year ago

    Oh goodness – love and best wishes to Glenn and his family. One tends to think about the possibility of gear failure on extended trips; while most gear is replaceable, there’s only one of you on earth.

    I am glad the GoFundMe is getting traction. Sending my support <3

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