Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Closer to launching

Saturday, July 7th, 2018

The last month has seen significant progress with Team Britannia‘s round the world powerboat Excalibur. Not only are the engines in place, but we’ve had a trial fitting of one of the jets in order to get precise measurements for the way they fit to the transom. And the complex skeleton of aluminium framework, exposed for so long, is now hidden from view with all the deck plates having been welded into place. The 3/4 inch plywood floor has been fitted in the wheelhouse, the lower part of which is taking shape, so there is now no longer an uninterrupted view from bow to stern. The upper section incorporating roof has already been fabricated, and will be lifted into place very soon.

What hasn’t been shown photographically is the system of pipes and pumps interconnecting the six huge fuel tanks. Apart from delivering fuel to the engine room ready to be mixed with the Clean Fuel emulsifier and water, there’s another purpose. The attitude of a powerboat in the water is generally controlled by trim tabs acting as trailing edge flaps on the underside of the hull at the stern. They work well, but in so doing, they introduce extra drag. Excalibur will be trimmed rather the way Concorde was in flight, by pumping fuel from one tank to another to distribute the weight.

We also hosted our first public open day on 30th June, when around 150 people visited the boatyard, some travelling from as far away as Scotland. They included partners and supporters, enjoying a close-up look at the boat and chatting to members of the crew, all in glorious sunshine, with the barbecue and bar kept pretty busy throughout. We were delighted to welcome Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt, and the media were there too, including Portsmouth News, Express FM and That’s Solent News.

Top calibre Excalibur

Saturday, June 2nd, 2018

As construction of Team Britannia’s round the world powerboat Excalibur approaches its final stages, here are some of the technical questions which have cropped up recently from social media followers.

State of the art round the world sailing yachts are made from carbon fibre composite. So why not Excalibur? We’ve had a strong eco theme running all the way through the project, and for that reason, we couldn’t consider carbon fibre. Light and strong it may be, but in some quarters it’s regarded as the next asbestos time bomb. It simply isn’t an environmentally friendly material – there’s no responsible way of disposing of it once it’s done with. Excalibur, on the other hand, is not only made from recycled aluminium, but in the event that she’s ever scrapped, over 90% of the boat will be recyclable.

The way she’s been put together is also worthy of note. We’ve used pulsed MIG (Metal Inert Gas), an efficient form of welding which provides a neat strong weld, and is particularly favoured for welding thinner aluminium plate, where the problem of warping and burnthrough would otherwise be a risk. Unlike other forms of welding, there is no spatter which has to be cleaned up afterwards, and it’s also favoured where the welder is operating in a confined space.

One of the great advantages of working in aluminium is the way bits can be added and removed to assist with the construction process. An early example of this would be the extra lugs welded on fore and aft to allow the boat to be turned over from its initial state upside down. With the installation of the six fuel tanks and retaining beams which will also support the wheelhouse floor, the top parts of the original frames in the wheelhouse area have now been removed. And with the FPT engines bolted in, you might wonder too how major servicing or replacement would take place, as the photos show the tops of the frames in the way. Here, too, when the transom is in position, the ceiling of the engine room will be remodelled to allow for a bolt-down hatch which can be unsealed if we need to lift anything in and out. Why did the engines go in first? Simply because it’s a lot easier sliding them in from the back rather than craning them in from above!

The boat has been built to conform to a whole raft of codings, verified at every stage of construction by an independent inspector. Excalibur won’t just be A1 – Lloyds of London’s highest shipbuilding quality – but well in excess!

With the installation of our two FPT diesel engines, some have questioned whether they have the power to push a boat of over 50 tons through the water. But having to run passages of over 3,500 nautical miles, the focus is not on brute force, but maintaining a modest average overall speed. This means that when the boat leaves each port fully fuelled, its initial speed will be quite slow. Then as the fuel burns off and the weight reduces, so the boat picks up speed. More powerful engines wouldn’t necessarily add much to our overall average speed, but could burn significantly more fuel.

Apart from a fuel-saving hull design, we have the most efficient power transmission, with the FPT engines coupled directly to our Castoldi jet drives with no intermediary gearboxes. The final piece of the jigsaw comes with our use of Clean Fuel, the diesel, water and emulsifier mixing process which will not only extend the boat’s range, but power it without emitting any of the pollutants normally associated with diesel engines.

Light at the end of the tunnel

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018

Yesterday saw Team Britannia boss Alan Priddy talking technical stuff at ABC Marine on Hayling Island. They always knew that the mooring posts and cleats for the boat would have to be immensely strong, but just as importantly, they had to be sited in the correct positions.

Whilst crunching the numbers on this, they also ascertained the kind of stresses on the deck likely to be encountered in the extreme event of what is known in the boating world as “stuffing” – where the boat ploughs into a wave at speed. One hopes this isn’t too often, but it happens! On the round the world powerboat Spirit of Cardiff, the most impressive stuffs resulted in broken windscreens! While Excalibur has already been designed to withstand everything that can be imagined, they decided to add some extra upright bars between the keel and deck to provide additional bracing in the event of a full stuff, which could see as much as 100 tons of water on top.

They’ve decided too that the cabin floor will be made from 3/4 inch plywood, with substantial aluminium bracing underneath. With all six 6,000 litre fuel tanks and all the bulkheads in place, they’ve started attaching the deck panels, and the wheelhouse – already assembled – will soon be craned into place and welded on. If that isn’t exciting enough, I can also report that the engines are booked up to be installed in the first week of June. We’ve been down an extremely long tunnel, but the light at the end is now getting very close…

Progress at the boatyard

Sunday, April 22nd, 2018

This photo of Team Britannia‘s round the world powerboat Excalibur caused a bit of a stir when it first appeared on Facebook. Was it Halloween? Evidence of Excalibur’s sharp edge? In fact it’s a special red dye used by our boatbuilders to check the quality of the welds, here along the position of two bulkheads.

And while the views inside the hull, steadily filling up with fuel tanks and bulkheads, look impressive, this above-deck shot with crew member Steve Mason standing through the deck on top of one of the forward fuel tanks conveys the real scale of the boat. It’s going to look even bigger when the wheelhouse and inflatable tubes are in place!

Tanks for the memory

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

The first full week of resumed work at the Hayling Island boatyard building Team Britannia‘s round the world powerboat Excalibur produced some pretty impressive progress. First a bulkhead was welded into position, then the two forward fuel tanks, 6,000 litres capacity each, were manhandled into place and secured on beds of high-density rubber.

With the tanks in the bow, another bulkhead was welded behind them, followed by another further back, separating the main cabin area from the six-berth forward sleeping area. The main cabin area will actually be above the remaining four fuel tanks to go in – it will all make rather more sense when the already completed wheelhouse is welded into place on top of the hull.

And even as our ace welders from Latvia and Russia continue to work in confined spaces inside the boat, Team Britannia project leader and skipper Alan Priddy has concluded a deal with Technifast, a company manufacturing special mechanical fixings which will attach Excalibur’s enormous inflatable tubes around the sides of the boat.

At the current rate of progress, we’re hoping the boat will be in the water by late June or early July, at which point sea trials will begin, with one or two smaller world record runs before we base Excalibur in Gibraltar ready to tackle the big trip around the world.

Going to the movies

Friday, February 23rd, 2018

Last weekend saw me celebrate a birthday which some might regard as “significant.” Having survived quite a few close shaves over the years, I’m inclined to think that every birthday is significant!

But it has led me to think about one or two changes, including starting a long overdue project – making a movie about my first attempt to break the record for circumnavigating the world by powerboat, which took place in 2002. It produced at the time a highly acclaimed book, “Confronting Poseidon,” and I shot a lot of video which was turned into short TV documentaries as well as news output. But TV producers have different priorities when they’re making a programme, and I wasn’t really happy with any of them.

So the plan, once I’ve transferred about 20 hours of video from MiniDV tapes on to a new computer, is to turn them into a full-length feature documentary. I recently bought the DVD of a British-made production called “Mission Control” (reviewed below), all about the back-room boys of the Apollo moon landing programme. It intersperses lots of archive footage with present day interviews with surviving flight controllers and astronauts. “Confronting Poseidon – the movie” will have a similar kind of construction. Mine is even going to go one better – as a musician, I’m intending to compose my own soundtrack. I’ve already come up with a lot of ideas, and doubtless more will surface as I put the film together.

With the new record attempt with Team Britannia (which I will also be documenting in words, pictures and video) likely to eat more into my time as this year wears on, I’m not really sure about the timescale, but I don’t feel the need to rush it – I want to get it right. But in the meantime, if anyone wants a flavour of what to expect, they can of course download the book.

Down at the boatyard

Monday, February 5th, 2018

You might think that not a lot has been happening on the Team Britannia front, but things have been quietly moving forward. Having negotiated the funding to finish building the round-the-world powerboat Excalibur, the ABC Marine boatyard on Hayling Island is gearing up to resume construction, with launching projected for late spring / early summer 2018. Sea trials will include one or two record attempts before basing the boat in Gibraltar, and the round the world record attempt commencing in October.

In the meantime, there’s a bumper bundle newsletter to provide a little catch-up on the news. Download directly from here, or visit www.teambritannia.co.uk and enjoy a browse before finding the download link.

Near Miss

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

With the news today that adventurer Benedict Allen has gone missing in the remote jungles of Papua New Guinea, I’m reminded of my own plans to visit the island in 1995, and what could have been a near miss. The idea was to join the very first British “package holiday” to trek to the summit of Puncak Trikora (Wilhelmina Peak) – at 4,750 metres, the second highest mountain in West Papua (Irian Jaya), and just 150 metres lower than neighbouring Puncak Jaya (Carstenz Pyramid), the one which any monied mountaineer ticking off highest continental summits heads for as the tallest lump of rock in Australasia.

Although nowhere near as technical a climb – simply a trek through remote leech-infested jungle, with some modest scrambling along a rather exposed summit ridge – Trikora had been visited a good deal less than Carstenz. Apart from the jungle trek and climb itself, the trip also offered the opportunity of contact with the fascinatingly primitive Dani tribes in the Baleim Valley, and even the possibility of me modelling the traditional mud-smeared naked body and penis gourd! As with any such small tourist groups, there is always a minimum number of participants required to make the trip viable, and in this instance it was cancelled not long before departure as they were one or two short.

I’d already moved on to other projects when a couple of months after my cancelled trip, I heard in the news that a group of Cambridge scientists visiting the same area to study the Lorentz National Park had been taken hostage by separatist rebels belonging to the Free Papua Movement. They were held in captivity for over four months until a dramatic rescue by Indonesian special forces, during which a couple of their Indonesian fellow hostages were killed. And so I pondered, had my trip gone ahead, it could very easily have been me kidnapped by terrorists. It makes you wonder how you would have reacted, how you would have borne such a traumatic experience over a period of time, not knowing what the outcome might be. Of course, I also reasoned that had I survived such a situation, it would have resulted in a fantastic book!

Whatever the circumstances of Benedict Allen’s disappearance, I do hope he turns up alive and well very soon.

Update 16th November 2017: News report from PNG saying Benedict Allen has been spotted, and arrangements are being made for his rescue.

Telly Tully

Saturday, June 3rd, 2017

Back in the mid-1990s, when I was equipment editor of two walking magazines, and regular outdoors contributor to the Daily Telegraph, I went through a period of guesting on a number of TV shows – a lot of them daytime TV, but one or two prime time jobs as well. It always struck me as somewhat ironic, as a TV producer putting together an outdoors series for Channel 4 had previously told me more or less that I had a great face for radio! The clips from these shows have been languishing for years on VHS cassettes, and I finally got around to digitising them. At some point I’ll put them on their own page on my website, but in the meantime, here’s a small selection in all their glory – and yes, these were the days when I still had hair!

 

It’s not everyone who gets to be called a girl guide by TV star Nick Knowles! This was something I did on a travel programme called “The Great Escape” on BBC1. The studio part of the programme was live, while the outdoor segment with the tents was recorded earlier, but it was recorded “as live” – so no rehearsals, and no retakes. Considering I had no advance warning that I was expected to do what they call in the trade a PTC (piece to camera), and I’d never done one before, I thought I did pretty well. But the “as live” filming proved to be a slight problem when I came to putting up my previously reliable fast-pitch tent, when one of the pole joints pulled apart.

 

This one was for the BBC2 programme “Tracks,” with a nice dash of Jean-Michel Jarre in the soundtrack. It was shot on a roasting hot summer’s day, and one sequence which didn’t make the final edit was the cameraman’s bright idea of simulating night-time in the tent by draping a large blanket over it to black it out. We spent about half an hour inside doing things like sleeping bags and lanterns, but it was like a sauna! Something else that didn’t make the final cut was my closing quip as Nick Fisher and I walk off. He wishes survival guru Ray Mears was here, and I ask why. “He’d know what to do,” replies Nick. My parting “Nah” was edited out.

 

A BBC researcher rang me up asking me to do a telly spot on BBC2’s “The Leisure Hour” talking about camping. My speciality is lightweight camping rather than the family stuff, and yet still they wanted me! Former Eurovision winner Cheryl Baker did a brilliant job whizzing us around the studio, and at the end of it all, there was a post-shoot meal where I got to dine with Cheryl and her co-presenter, former “Tomorrow’s World” man Howard Stableford.

Trending theme

Sunday, May 14th, 2017

Over the last few months, Team Britannia has been putting out press releases every so often for individual members of the crew, targeting them at publications in their own locality, as well as in Portsmouth, the home of the project. It’s a great way of keeping the publicity ticking over, even when there isn’t much else to report.

The middle of May finally saw my turn. and it’s been interesting following it up to see who decided to run with the story. Not surprisingly, my local newspapers the Eastern Daily Press and Eastern Evening News ran it, along with Teamlocals and The News in Portsmouth.

It also featured in the marine press, including All About Shipping, and sporting publication The Sport Feed. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of it all was to find that the phrase “Clive’s skills and experience” had popped up as a trending theme on Team Britannia’s word cloud, which highlights the most often used words or phrases in our current media coverage.