Round Britain By Sailing Canoe

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GregS
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Round Britain By Sailing Canoe

Post by GregS » Sun May 27, 2012 11:01 pm

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OK - we're looking at most of (rather than all of) mainland Britain... and limited window of opportunity (a 3 month sabbatical c/o a supportive employer)... but Gavin Millar's about to join the ranks of Circumnavigation of Britain 2012 - attempts.

Here's his introduction from elsewhere:
GavinM wrote:Around the 5th of June, weather permitting, I hope to set out from home, near the Solent, on an attempt to sail and paddle solo round most of mainland Britain in a sailing canoe. I say "most" of mainland Britain because in the three months I have available it will not be possible to go all the way round - but I just might be able to return to my starting point by "keeping left" for three months and crossing the Highlands of Scotland via the Caledonian Canal. This is a little over 2,000 miles (or about 1,800 nautical miles).

I expect the voyage to be challenging at times and, allowing for days ashore due to bad weather or for rest, I will need to maintain an average daily run of about 25 to 30 nautical miles. Keeping this pace up for three months will be physically and mentally demanding. Also, navigating the coastal waters of Britain in a small open boat, 16' long by 40' wide with no engine, is not without its risks. So I'll need to exercise caution at times and it's by no means certain I'll be able to get all the way round as prolonged spells of bad weather could lead to long delays. However, I am determined to try and am sure it will be a memorable experience, whatever the outcome.

There is a website, www.canoesailor.com, where there is some background information about the voyage, my boat and a blog. I hope to be able to update the blog and upload photos on the way round.

A sailing canoe, specially designed for the voyage, has been built by Solway Dory who have made several modifications to their Shearwater sailing canoe design, so as to increase suitability for long offshore passages. Some of the design features include; an extra long crowned foredeck with coaming to shed waves, additional storage in large buoyancy tanks and a cockpit shape suitable for occasionally sleeping aboard under a small boom tent. I expect to paddle when there is no wind and to "paddle sail" (paddling and sailing at the same time) in light winds.

Setting off on this solo adventure will be a bit of an act of faith - severely testing my capabilities and dependent on support from friends, acquaintances and strangers to help me out along the way by doing things like; helping me organise a bit of shopping for supplies, or offering a night under a roof now and then so I can recharge my batteries (electronic, physical and mental). A bit of company on the water sometimes would also be good. So if any experienced coastal paddlers or sailors with suitably designed and equipped boats would like to accompany me for a day of two please get in touch.

As a warm up for the expedition I recently paddled and sailed round the Isle of Wight. Paddling through a Starlit Night and off to the Races - 25th March is an account of this round the Island voyage and describes some of the challenges of coastal sailing and paddling.

I will also be raising money for a charity called Hospitality Action which offers support and vital assistance for those who work, or have worked in the Hospitality and Catering Industries. Many have been helped by Hospitality Action, including those who may have experienced life-long debilitating illnesses, poverty, bereavement, domestic violence, or have sick or disabled children. www.canoesailor.com has a link to "Just Giving" where it is possible to donate on line. I chose this charity because they do great work, the company I work for has strong links with the Catering and Hospitality industries and because I previously worked in this sector.

Above is a video I put together from a few slides Gavin had assembled...

I've been trying to help out with the above-mentioned blog, which contains an introduction to Gavin, to his canoe, Stacey and to my rather less glamorous role.

A few initial posts from the blog: A photo from Gavin and Stacey's First Encounter...

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...and some key links: ImageImage . . Image

There's also more discussion at the CanoeSailor Facebook Page: Image

I'm trusting some on here will find this all of interest and will enjoy tracking his progress: I certainly am. Feel free to ask questions here: I'm usually browsing this site at least once a day.... and will endeavour to answer what I can and to get answers from elsewhere when I'm unsure :)

GregS
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Re: Round Britain By Sailing Canoe

Post by GregS » Mon May 28, 2012 8:23 am

For those not familiar with canoe sailing... this photo (Bala, 2001) shows what was "state of the art" until fairly recently:

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The modern "revival" in the 19th C past-time of sailing rather than paddling canoes really got going a decade earlier, when John Bull advertised a challenge for a 23 mile long open canoe sailing race on Ullswater. By 1994, Keith Morris and friends had taken things onwards... logging a stunning expedition from Crinan to Portree...

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There's more information to be found on the Open Canoe Sailing Group website (which has lots on members' boats and on other expeditions) and on the Solway Dory website (which shows state of the art boats and also has video reports and articles of general interest).

GregS
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Re: Round Britain By Sailing Canoe

Post by GregS » Tue Jul 03, 2012 10:04 pm

As some will have noted, Gavin Millar launched his canoe from his back garden in Southampton on 6th June... and set off to see how far around Britain he could get before his scheduled return to work in September... having downsized from yachts to a 16' sailing canoe :)

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That's my favourite photo to date: Gavin nonchalantly chattering away.... quite possibly moments before this :o
Gavin wrote:As we approached Dover I radioed Dover Port Control to let them know we’d be crossing the busy harbour entrance. As we past the harbour there were no ships in sight until suddenly four ferries appeared from different directions, either heading toward or out of the harbour entrance. A couple of large course changes were needed to keep out of their way and we were glad when we left Dover behind and passed the white cliffs of South Foreland.
That passage was arguably the highlight of what would become a challenging slog (in singularly unhelpful conditions) around the south coast... but things started more brightly, with a memorable first day saying goodbye to colleagues:

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The next day, Gavin headed across the Solent before being stormed in for a day (an inauspicious start). That was followed by an exhilarating downwind sail past Cowes (and on to Hayling Island Sailing Club)... and then a great session with the Spot Messenger suggesting Gavin was heading to France...
Gavin wrote:I set off the next morning sailing against a NE wind for a rough upwind sail round Selsey Bill. Banks and rocks extend 4 miles offshore from the bill and cause dangerous conditions with wind against tide. I’d previously contemplated threading through the middle via a channel called the Looe but this could have been hazardous and I saw a yacht heading for the Looe make a rapid change of direction when the skipper saw an almost uninterupted line of breakers ahead.
Gavin wrote that up in Hayling Island to Newhaven... not forgetting to mention that the day ended with a night of endless rain (and for others, flooding). After another rest day, though, things did pick up... and the blog records that he then had a memorable day going past Beachy Head:

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Of course, no day is uneventful... and that day ended with a desperate search for somewhere to shelter overnight: Gavin would write of long stretches of "steeply sloping shingle with fairly large breaking waves dumping on the beach"... but not for the first time, he struck lucky - spotting dinghy sailors in the distance, he set off in pursuit... and was able to arrange assistance ashore at Hastings Sailing Club :)
Gavin wrote:St Leonards and Hastings sailing club members are Olympic class dinghy launch and recovery experts. The beach in front of their clubhouse slopes steeply down to the sea and is exposed to the South, so they have huge experience of challenging launches and landings. The method for landing is to point the boat at the beach, keep full power on, at the last second lift the centreboard and rudder and, with weight well back in the boat, simply sail up the beach on the crest of a wave to a welcoming committee of members willing to bodily haul the boat out the water. I watched the last sailing dinghy execute the manoeuvre with style and waited my turn. However, being chicken and a bit precious about Stacey’s bottom, I furled the sail before landing under paddle. Fortunately, there were enough bodies to manhandle her out the water before the next wave dumped on the beach and Stacey was none the worse for wear, apart from a few minor scratches.
The sailing club talked that evening of a "narrow channel dynamited through a reef", and suggested launching near high tide... when the tidal stream would be setting the wrong way (back towards Southampton). Aspirations to reach Folkestone were foiled as Gavin slogged his way up to Rye... meaning he'd completed ~100 nautical miles in a week - frustrating progress given that he'd aspirations for doing twice that distance most weeks!

Anyway, after being pinned in by yet more storms for a couple of days... Gavin and Ian flew past Dover, from where Gavin pottered around to Whitstable and the Isle of Sheppey - bringing to an end the first of the arbitrarily chosen "legs" of his trip.

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On 2nd July, Gavin completed the second leg, which started with the Thames Crossing and ended (last night) with a challenging crossing of the Wash to Wainfleet Haven (blog to follow).

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The rough weather that had pinned Gavin in Hunstanton gave him a chance to catch up with some writing... and a couple of the entries turned out to be quite notable. Shotley to Lowestoft, for instance, turned out to be way tougher than expected, with a squalls from the south and a large following seas...
Gavin wrote:Glancing behind revealed occasional breaking waves above head height rearing up towards me. This didn’t help so I gave up looking and concentrated on steering a straight course downwind and down the waves. Progressively reefing the sail down to less than half its full size helped to avoid the danger of slewing to one side and capsizing when flying down the face of a wave. The sailing was physically and mentally demanding...
Although we'd studied forecasts from a range of sources, and had been prepared for the day to be difficult, we hadn't anticipated conditions being that challenging, and Gavin's keen to avoid encountering such conditions again!

Anyway, Gavin then set of northward from Lowestoft:

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That was a good day, but concluded in undignified fashion with a mishap whilst attempting to land through dumping surf at Winterton Ness :o

The next day saw a mammoth: 38 nautical miles in a 13 hour day... with some inhospitable looking surf discouraging any approach to the shore:

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That got Gavin to the one quiet stretch of the trip: A day in Wells Next the Sea and then on to Hunstanton…. That's where I last met up with him, as he settled in to see out some very strong winds last weekend... waiting for yesterday's opportunity to cross the Wash.

From here, we're hoping progress will be more rapid: ideally a quick blast up to Sunderland and then on to St Andrews (if you say it quickly, that sounds easy enough), then a pootle round the corner, through the Caledonian Canal (which can, of course, be a challenge in its own right) and down to Stranraer (which currently looks an awfully long way off) before there's some prospect of Gavin heading back south of the border and homeward via St Davids, St Ives and Salcombe.

For the next week or two, the focus is very much on getting up this east coast. If you see him sailing/paddling (or paddle-sailing) up that way this next week or two, please give him a wave... and if you see he's coming past a patch you know well and would be willing to offer some local advice... please get in touch :)

For the record... apart from the day by day blog at CanoeSailor.com... there's also a Photo Gallery on Facebook. The best tracking is via Spot Messenger: click here. For the most detailed updates, see the Open Canoe Sailing Group chatter!

Ps. The point of all of this is personal adventure... though some of us are also hoping Gavin will raise the profile of canoe sailing... but I should also mention the fundraising side of things: Gavin's close to hitting £1,000 for Hospitality Action on his Just Giving page - and his employer, Agri Energy, has committed to donating up to a further £10,000 by matching every £1 raised on the round-Britain challenge :)

rowlandW
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Re: Round Britain By Sailing Canoe

Post by rowlandW » Tue Aug 21, 2012 4:17 pm

Gavin has just arrived in Oban from the north. Looks like he'll be finishing at Tighnabruaich after passing through the Crinan Canal - work calls (unfortunately).

Rowland

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