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.


At 57 I'd never, as far as I can recall, been to hospital other than as a visitor, rarely taken a day off sick and was certainly not suffering any of the recognised symptoms associated with prostate cancer. I was however, encouraged by my wife to have my PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) checked along with the usual cholesterol test - a single combined blood test - taking just a few minutes - a male MOT! She is a Practice Nurse and knew it made sense for a man of my age. I agreed; but did not fully understand what the PSA test signified and thought the exercise was rather pointless, being so fit and symptomless.
When the PSA test result came back 5 days later, in October 2008, my GP deemed the level a little high so a second test, a month later, was arranged. This was higher still so a third test was considered obligatory. The result, alarmingly, indicated my PSA had risen both further and faster. On the strength of which, I was immediately referred to an Urologist a few weeks later. He decided immediately that the next step was to have confirmed or otherwise the presence of cancer and to grade it for severity (a Gleason Score). A biopsy was organised at the Royal Surrey Hospital in Guildford. It took just a few minutes to perform and, I have to say, was not a particularly pleasant experience; being uncomfortable and stressful rather than painful. A short course of antibiotics accompanied the procedure. My anxiety grew daily while waiting for the results and became all thought consuming. Looking back, as I write this, I had already resigned myself to the fact that the news would be grim.
An appointment was made with the Urologist on St Valentine's Day 2009. “I'm sorry to have to tell you” he said, “You have mildly aggressive cancer of your prostate”. Despite being mentally prepared for it; the news is absolutely devastating. My wife and I just looked at each another in total silence as the ramifications slowly sank in. I recall her face drain of colour before her tears arrived as the news sunk in. Mine did the same as we tightly held each other’s hands for support. I recall being angry during the drive home. I went through the “Why me?” and, “Could I have lived my life differently and been spared.” As in the interim, I had already read that diet and lifestyle could well have played a role.
In the weeks following the news I read everything I could lay my hands on about the condition, spending hours on the internet and reading countless research papers, books and pamphlets. Information overload! The Prostate Cancer Charity is by far the best site and I would recommend that anyone wanting information pays it a visit first. In fact with hindsight I wouldn't bother looking at anything else.  The emotional roller coaster totally and utterly envelopes you. Not least, the dilemma of how best to tell your close and extended family and friends? And which, unfulfilled dreams and plans will need reappraising? I clearly recall feeling terribly fragile, very vulnerable and more than a little scared. My destiny was no longer entirely my own; no longer the invincible person I thought I was.
The Urologist gave sound advice, outlined treatment choices, made recommendations and asked me to give thought to what I would like to do. He recognised and acknowledged I had done my homework. The choice, he said, had to be mine and it needed to be made before I met him again a few weeks later. He said, I had to factor in that I was considered young and the cancer quite aggressive, so 'Watching and Waiting' - one of the many options -was ruled out. Looking back, it seemed odd, that the treatment had to be my choice and not totally prescriptive. This is a positive attribute of modern medical practice. It meant that I took ownership of my cancer and how I was going to beat it. We are, after all, unique; and what is an acceptable side-effect for me may not be acceptable to another sufferer.
For the non-medical, there is a bewildering choice of treatments to consider. Some tried and tested, some new with, of course, less long-term supporting evidence. The pace of change for prostate cancer treatment is exciting and relentless. For example, robotic aided laparoscopic surgery has very recently been introduced; barely a month goes by without a fresh approach tabled.
The main options for treatment are: External Beam Radiotherapy often combined with Hormone Therapy, Conformal Radiotherapy, Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy, Surgical Removal, HIFU (High Intensity Focused Ultrasound), Brachytherapy (injecting low or high dose radiation seeds directly into the prostate) and Cryotherapy (freezing). All sounded intimidating and complex; again the Prostate Cancer Charity helped. The various treatments; their pros and cons raised with case studies of those that had undergone them; all tremendously helpful.
After much soul searching and deliberation I opted for surgical removal. It seemed the best solution and, if successful, a complete cure as long as the cancer was contained within the prostate. A MRI and bone scan in April suggested that it probably was. My elected treatment would mean, however, I would, for ever, be sterile. You can perhaps see why treatment is such a personal choice?
A laparoscopic procedure was carried out in August 2009 by the most wonderful surgeon – Mr Chris Eden, at the Royal Surrey Hospital in Guildford - it took rather longer than usual as I was told later that I had a narrow pelvis - my tailor wouldn't agree!
Mr Eden said my cancer was only just contained within the prostate. I had, he said, been very fortunate to catch it when I had! How I now wish I had undergone my first PSA test when I was 50 and not left it until I was 57. Hindsight is the only exact science!
Since the operation, there are regular three monthly PSA checks together with a short consultation with Chris Eden to attend and these will continue for some years. Cancers, as I understand it, are named after their origin which means if my cancer has spread, it will produce the same antigen that the prostate did; making the same PSA test applicable and valid. In the future, a rising PSA level would indicate secondary tumour/s developing elsewhere - even thought I no longer have a prostate.
My aim was that the media attention the voyage attracted would support the work of the Prostate Cancer Charity; assisting their twin goals of promoting both early detection and research.
Since completing the voyage I continue to actively promote Prostate Cancer awareness. Giving talks to clubs, businesses and hospitals in conjunction with the charity. I've also made TV appearances and had articles published about the importance of early detection. The Prostate Cancer Charity can arrange for a speaker like me if you have an idea or an audience.
Fund raising is vital to them and if you care to make a donation I've set up a JustGiving page at www.justgiving.com/sailingchallenge. Or, of course contact them direct.

So that you are aware....

Today and every day 100 men will be told they have Prostate Cancer in the UK!

The Prostate Cancer Charity generously supported me throughout the voyage; our common aim to highlight, in every way we can, the importance for 50+ year old men to both understand the dangers of undiagnosed prostate cancer (often symptomless, as in my case) and the importance of arranging an annual PSA test with their GP. And for men who have a family history of prostate cancer and who are as young as 40, to talk to their GP about their additional risks.
My target was to get a minimum of 2000 men to have their first PSA test. I achieved that with a huge margin and indications are that well over 10,000 men had their first PSA tests; which I am very proud of.
FACT: In the USA 70% of 55 year old men can tell you what their PSA level is. Here in the UK less than 7% can!

The voyage was the biggest personal challenge of my life after facing and hopefully beating prostate cancer. It's my contribution to the Prostate Cancer Charity's efforts to raise awareness. In turn, I desperately need your help. Either by forwarding a link to this blog to your own family, friends and work colleagues or by just logging in, sending me a message and keeping yourself updated on my progress from time to time. The biggest reward would be to learn that you have organised a PSA test for yourself, if you haven't had one, or you have recommended a friend or member of your family to do so.
I am already indebted to those helping me prepare both myself and Equinox for the journey - see my posts below. But none more so, than my surgeon, Mr Chris Eden and for my wife Gina and three children for giving this challenge their full support and blessing.
Particular thanks go to the extraordinary Andy Ripley, Rugby International, sailor, canoeist, rower, athlete, liguist and motorcycling legend and author of 'Ripley's World'. I am indebted to him. His autobiography traces his battle with Prostate Cancer, which finally beat him in June 2010. His contagious zest for life and desire to remain at levels of fitness, few of us could aspire to, even when very ill, told honesty with humour and wisdom, following diagnosis, is deeply moving, candid, enthralling and unforgettable.

If you wish to email me directly; discuss the condition or want me to give a talk on the subject I look forward to hearing from you.

Finally from the bottom of my heart may I thank all the thousands of you who emailed me during the voyage; for telling me you have been PSA tested and especially to the 51 men who following their first PSA test have subsequently been diagnosed with the disease.