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 23 March 2011

Equinox - Sea trial -Tuesday 22nd March 2011

Fully restored to her prime, Equinox sits back on her berth in Chichester Marina looking splendid after a day's sailing. The Gammon Iron, Autohelm, Thru-hull Speed Sensor, Cutlass Bearing and Rev-counter replaced or repaired and the cost of it all partly forgotten; as yesterday I took her out for her first sea trial in glorious spring weather. I must have put 30 full days of labour into varnishing, antifouling,scrubbing and polishing; the last vestiges of detritus from the round Britain voyage removed from her bilges and intimate crevices.The smell of fresh varnish and Flash all pervasive; everything gleams and for the time being, is sweet smelling. Chichester Harbour with an exceptionally high tide, all but empty of other vessels, was utterly perfect. An hour spend going round in circles at slack water in order to re-calibrate the wind direction and water speed sensors, and the autohelm's internal compass worth every second, as it all works and interfaces as it should. A bonus is I now have accurate sea water temperature readings again having lost it early in the voyage; and when you leap over the side most mornings for a dip, it's nice to know how far up into your body your shocked testicles are going to ascend first!
Her new antifoul makes an amazing difference; in just over 9 knots of wind without the topsail we scudded along on a reach at between 4.8 - 5.1knots SOG; an impressive difference. How wonderful to have the sun on your back, a half pint mug of builder's tea in hand and Equinox balanced and heeling gently, the crystal clear cold water creaming down her sides, her taught sails. wrinkle free, doing their duty to perfection and the Solent largely to yourself. Finding the time to once again dream and plan future passages, reassured by your efforts over the winter, to make good and mend; efforts that have renewed your confidence in Equinox's strength and ability to take you safely to new shores.  Southern Ireland is a must this year, with some company for parts of the passage, to share the chores, the exhilaration and the fun.