Some recent videos and articles about migrant rescues have got our resident YouTube fanatic up on a soapbox


Last year Sailing La Vagabonde highlighted the humanitarian issue of migrant vessels in distress when Riley spent a week volunteering with a charity which charters yachts out of the Canaries to search for migrant boats in danger of drifting past the islands and raise the alarm with rescue services.

A recent thoughtful and well-researched article by Elaine Bunting in PBO’s sister title Yachting Monthly explored the topic of encounters between cruising sailors and migrants at sea.

These are sadly becoming increasingly frequent, particularly between West Africa and the Canary Islands.

Ryan & Sophie Sailing YouTubers

Ryan (American) and Sophie (French) are a couple in their 30s who met when living in Stockholm.

Inspired, in part, by the example of longtime sailing YouTubers MJSailing they acquired their Beneteau Oceanis 40 Polar Seal in 2018 and started documenting the journey from newbies to blue water veterans on their channel Ryan & Sophie Sailing.

Ryan & Sophie Sailing YouTube screengrab

Since then they’ve ventured up to Orkney, into the Mediterranean, and then on an Atlantic circuit via the Canary Islands, Cape Verde, the Caribbean, and the Azores

Contemplating a second Atlantic circuit, Ryan’s curiosity about solo sailing got the better of him, and he convinced Sophie to let him sail Polar Seal from Lanzarote to Antigua alone.

Migrant boat in distress

A recent episode talks us through the extensive preparations he undertook to ensure both he and the boat could surmount any challenges encountered.

Of course it’s impossible to consider all possible ‘what ifs’, and in Ryan’s case, a situation he appears not to have imagined is being asked by MRCC Las Palmas to assist in locating a reported migrant boat in distress.

Making it more challenging, the request comes nearly two days into the passage, a point where many solo sailors report hitting ‘the wall’ of tiredness before adjusting to the new sleep patterns required for round-the-clock watch-keeping, and he is required to travel against the wind in a deteriorating sea state.

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The outcome is slightly less dramatic but happier than that of the thought-provoking 2019 film Styx, in which a solo-sailing doctor finds herself in a similar situation.

Ryan & Sophie Sailing YouTube screengrab

While I commend Ryan for his actions, which very likely helped save dozens of lives, and wish all involved a quick recovery from the traumatic experience, my biggest wish is for an end to conditions which make people so desperate that these horrific journeys look attractive, and the policies that deny them safer options.