During the first day of June 2010 I set sail in 'Equinox' my 24ft 6' Cornish Crabber from Chichester Marina and headed West down the Solent on a once in a lifetime adventure. Three and a half months later I completed my challenge; having sailed solo around the entire UK; visiting the Scillies, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and the Hebrides; going with huge trepidation over the top via Cape Wrath - the 'big right turn', before the next 'big right turn' heading south, at John o'Groats. This blog is my diary, written most evenings as I took stock of the day's progress; often with a huge lump of Cheddar cheese in hand and a pint of Speckled Hen to keep it company. Sometimes I was almost in tears; tiredness and frustration having taken its toll. Other nights exhuberant after breathtakingly beautiful passages along our stunning coastline with favourable following winds. It describes the ups and downs; the tears and laughter; the extraordinary kindness shown by complete strangers who offered a tired sailor in their midst refuge, solace, warmth and company; their generosity often humbling. My hormones were, I'm sure, in a mess making me perhaps rather vulnerble; as just six months earlier I'd endured the surgical removal of a cancerous prostate gland; laprascopically - a six hour procedure that left me physically weaker than before. You can read the background to the illness and the reasons for the challenge - to raise awareness of this terribe disease; that could have so easily have killed me elsewhere on this blog.

I am indebted to many; and recorded their names elsewhere; but as I reflect on the voyage many months later, I have not fully sung the praise of Cornish Crabbers, the builders of my sturdy little yacht and Roger Dongray the yacht's brilliant designer who drew upon a hull shape that had developed over hundreds of years by men who worked and fished at sea and whose very life depended on their vessel's seaworthiness. It's long keel, sail configuration and weight distribution in seemingly monsterous seas; quite incredible for a yacht so small. A Crabber 24 is not the swiftest yacht to be had for her size, for sure. But what she lacks in that respect she makes up for by her abilty to take heavy weather and harsh conditions in her stride. Built solidly without compromise, Equinox delivered me safely home after a voyage of well over 2500 miles in some of the most hostile and dangerously tidal waters you can find anywhere in Europe. In Wales, for example, the RNLI were phoned by an experienced commercial fisherman watching Equinox from his harbourside office; reporting to them, that a yacht was struggling in heavy seas and a F7 a mile outside the harbour entrance. By the time the lifeboat had been launched, I was tucked up in Aberystwyth marina; a little bruised and battered it has to be said, but safe and sound; I never even saw the lifeboat!

I've recently set up the blog so that readers can cover numerous diary entries in one go. To access earlier diary entries just click on the link 'Older Posts' at the foot of each page. Only a few clicks are needed to get to the entries at the beginning of the voyage and my preparation beforehand.

I hope you enjoy reading it; and if you do, or have done, please be kind enough to leave me a message. For which, in anticipation, I thank you.
The voyage also raised over £10,000 for the Prostate Cancer Charity - not my main goal but those who donated on my 'Just Giving ' page made a huge contribution too; as I was notified by email of each donation as it was made; each raising my spirits immeasurably. My main goal was to encourage 2500 men to get PSA tested - one for each mile sailed; and I beleive that goal was achieved too. And finally, I would also like to thank the growing number of men who have, both during and after the voyage ended, taken a PSA test, as a result of the publicty the voyage attracted; been diagnosed with the disease and taken the time and trouble to email me.

Wednesday 21 April 2010

Charts, Tidal Predictions and Pilot Books

Spent a wonderful two hours at Kelvin Hughes in Southampton who were incredibly helpful sorting out all the charts and books needed for the circumnavigation; to add to those I already had.  What a fantastic shop with every publication needed under one roof. And so helpful. A massive additional weight penalty though!  But needs must; and they give me confidence to have a paper backup to the electronic charts for the entire coast. If the weather continues fine tomorrow, I'm planning on going down to the boat for the next few days. I'll sail her to East Head and spend the time on 'beeching legs' polishing her hull and getting the garden of weed off her hull! It's still bloody cold for wadding about with a scrapper and brush... but it has to be done! Water temperature is still just 10c despite all the sun we've had!

Wednesday 7 April 2010

Getting ready....still!

Just come off the phone to Roger Upham who said he has all but completed the electrical work on Equinox - or will have by close of play today. The car is loaded to the roof with kit – most of it in waterproof boxes ready to be stowed aboard. The Prostate Cancer Charity has confirmed the size of the sticker that will adorn Equinox's hull – it’s big - but there remains some confusion over the message!

Specsavers have been brilliant. I decided a few weeks ago to try out contact lenses, as glasses can be a real pain sailing when the going gets a tad rough and they constantly run the risk of being whipped into the sea as you wrestle with canvas and cordage. I’ve worn glasses for close up work for 15 years and more recently needed a different prescription for distance too. Low and behold they’ve come up with a solution that seems perfect. One prescription for one eye for close work and the other for distance! Hard to believe it, but the brain switches from one to the other, as required. What is even more remarkable is that they can stay in while I’m sleeping and for weeks at a time! The Farnham Specsavers team were very professional and thorough, performing numerous tests for suitability, before allowing me to trial a pair. Within an hour I felt totally at ease and could easily forgot I was wearig them. With hindsight, I really should have tried these years ago.

Hugh Draper the Branch Director on hearing about the challenge has also generously given me a 6 months supply of lenses as part of a sponsorship package he is putting together with his head office. His brilliant idea is for me to pick up sponsorship cheques for the Prostate Charity as I sail around the coast from their numerous branches. Good publicity and the cash raised could amount to quite something!

Our three children are scheduled to run in the Edinburgh Marathon on May 23rd on behalf of the Prostate Cancer Charity. A ‘Just Giving’ website is under construction and will be linked from here soon.