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.

Thursday 9 December 2010

Is this the final Word............?

Equinox was lifted and pressure washed last week and sits on the quayside looking surprising clean and prim. I was amazed how clean her hull was as she rose up out of the water on the crane's straps.  I immediately spotted a small length of very familiar looking blue fishing net wrapped tightly around the prop shaft as it exits the cutlass bearing  - the 'Norfolk Incident' The vibrations experienced when motoring during the final stages of the voyage may well be due to this rather than a tired Cutlass Bearing. The bearing, I believe,  needs water to keep it cool and lubricated; perhaps this nylon was preventing water circulating properly. It was easy to unwind it from around the shaft to begin with but then it got tighter and tighter. Eventually I resorted to a knife and ended up with about half a meter of the stuff in bits; some looked as thought they had either been squeezed or partially melted. The Gammon Iron should have been rebuilt by now but Chris at CB Marine has slipped a disc; no doubt in agony, poor chap. Warren Butler has in hand the replacement tachometer. The one fitted to Equinox had a cracked glass and misted up. Of note, it had only three wires coming from it; easy to fit and, of course, no longer made. It's visually identical replacement from the same manufacturer, has a staggering 26 wires; and no accompanying instructions. Someone please tell me this is progress.
Tomorrow night I've been invited to join a regular gathering at Chichester Yacht Club as a guest speaker/ entertainer. Of great concern is that everyone in the audience will be far more qualified that moi; having done little if anything formal, by way of recognised courses. Gina, my wife has one more qualification than me - having done a Competent Crew; and she shows me up!  Stupidity and a little bit of courage, fortified by liberal and frequent doses of Speckled Hen are not recognised as qualifications by the RYA which, is a pity really, as I might have made Yachtmaster.

As the wise sage said when giving advice on how best to present your Christmas wines. 'Open the bottle and let it breathe. If it it's not breathing, don't hesitate, give it mouth to mouth...........!