Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

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.

Having an ice time

Saturday, April 15th, 2017

July 2003: Round the world powerboat Spirit of Cardiff south of Cape Farewell, Greenland. We’re hove to, deciding on our best course of action – the wind is blowing Force 11, and we’ve seen growlers in the water. These chunks of clear ice, some of them the size of cars, are very difficult to spot until you’re virtually on top of them. Having one come through the windscreen would definitely have spoiled our day. While we’re sloshing about in the swell, I nip outside with the camera and narrowly avoid taking a swim. In the end we retreat to our refuelling point at Nanortalik and wait two days for the storm to pass. Even so, we still set an unofficial record for the fastest transatlantic in a RIB.

Read all about it in Memoirs of a Record-Breaker: Ocean adventures on the powerboat Spirit of Cardiff 1999 – 2003.

Hog roast in action

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

When Team Britannia‘s round the world superboat was turned right side up – once described to me as “like a giant hog roast” – at the beginning of December, we had no shortage of still photographs showing the hull at different angles through its 180 degree turn until she was resting on blocks looking much more like a boat. But this recently released video conveys something more of the drama and tension of the day – a day with one or two moments where it looked as though things could have gone horribly wrong. But the professionalism of the skilled workers at the Aluminium Boatbuilding Company shone throughout.

Since my last post about the project, team boss Alan Priddy has also confirmed that the round the world attempt will now take place in October 2017. A variety of technical problems have contributed to delays so far, and after the boat was turned, a couple more came to light which have since been rectified. But that, combined with the Christmas break has meant we would be pushed to be ready to go in the spring weather window. At the very least, if we went at the tail end of it, we would be looking at a bumpier and therefore slower circumnavigation – not what we want at all!

With the boat not far from completion, we’re still hopeful of getting her in the water by the end of March or early April, and sea trials including a couple of world record runs before basing her in Gibraltar.

Onboard video

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

This rather handsome beastie supplied by Wex Photographic in Norwich is going to be my main camera on board Team Britannia‘s superboat when we circumnavigate the world next year. It has a number of features which make it my perfect choice, including enhanced focus and aperture control, dual-codec recording, fantastic low light performance, very good built-in image stabilisation, and abilty to transfer files direct to a USB drive without using a host computer.

Rather than filming a typical “point and shoot” adventure documentary, what I have in mind will be somewhat more cinematic in style, which I suppose may come down to the fact that I’ve been an avid movie-watcher my entire life!

One good turn

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

Monday 5th December was quite literally a pivotal moment for Team Britannia. It was the day the hull of the round the world superboat was finally turned right side up. Since construction began in June at the Aluminium Boatbuilding Company on Hayling Island, the internal framework and hull plates had all been assembled with the boat upside down, purely because it makes the job a lot easier, with gravity lending a helping hand as well. With all the continuous welding completed, the lower part of the hull was sanded down and given a coat of primer.

The actual process of turning the boat was painstaking, and took a whole day. The boat had already had parts welded on at bow and stern to support it during its rotation, held up at the bow by an “A” frame, and at the stern, suspended from a crane. But before the “giant hog roast” took place, the upside down hull had to be jacked up on wooden blocks before the crane took over. Team Britannia boss Alan Priddy admitted to one or two nervous flutters during the operation, but was delighted with the outcome.

With the boat finally the right way up, one gets a much better appreciation of its size, and that’s still without the wheelhouse, which has been assembled in the unit next door. Apart from craning the wheelhouse and fore and aft decks into place, the internal fit-out will be preceded by fitting the six massive fuel tanks, the engines and jet drives.

Gibraltar charity fundraiser

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

The end of last month should have seen Team Britannia set off from Gibraltar on our bid to break the 60 days 23 hours 49 minutes record for circumnavigating the world by powerboat. After a week of festivities in Gibraltar, we’d planned on holding a gala dinner on board the five-star Sunborn floating hotel the night before our departure. Of course, we could have just cancelled everything, but we decided to get something positive out of our delay.

So the two days of Thundercats powerboat racing went ahead, along with a music festival. Instead of the gala dinner, we held a champagne and canapés reception on board the Sunborn, and we turned the event into a charity fundraiser benefiting our chosen charity Blesma, and Gibraltar’s Calpe House Trust, which provides a home from home in London for any Gibraltarians who have to visit for medical treatment.

Earlier in the week, some of our team had met crew members from the Type 45 destroyer HMS Diamond, in port in Gibraltar after two months in the Mediterranean. They were lucky enough to be invited aboard for a tour of the ship, which included looking at things team photographer Chris Davies wasn’t allowed to take pictures of! The courtesy was returned when Commander Marcus Hember and a sizeable proportion of his crew came to our reception, looking fantastic in their Number One dress uniforms and medals. The charity auction was pretty amazing, too, raising over £15,000 to be divided between the two charities.

My “day off” in Gibraltar saw me taking a little hike – first to the nature reserve on the Upper Rock, then to the top of the cable car station. It was here whilst photographing one of the famous Barbary macaques that another jumped up at me and scratched my arm. Had it bitten me, it would have entailed a trip to Gibraltar’s hospital, but I managed to escape that. And while the tourist areas such as St Michael’s Cave see queues of taxis and tour buses, I managed to avoid them on a delightful footpath taking me down to Jews’ Gate Cemetery, a recently renovated historic burial ground. Past the Pillars of Hercules and I had the wind in my sails, so I carried on south to Europa Point, whose Trinity House lighthouse will be Excalibur’s timing mark when we do eventually set off around the world next year.

Inferno

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

As Ron Howard’s movie of Dan Brown’s bestselling novel “Inferno” comes out this week, I’m reminded of a couple of years ago, when the original thriller was republished as a hefty illustrated coffee table version. It was a surprise to me, as it included a couple of my photographs of the Vasari Corridor in Florence.

I confess I have yet to read this fourth mystery thriller featuring Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, but I’m rather more likely to see the movie, which stars Tom Hanks. And I shall be fascinated to see how the Vasari Corridor is woven into the plot.

One kilometre long, the Vasari Corridor is an aerial passageway built in 1565 by artist and architect Giorgio Vasari for the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo I. It linked the Tuscan Government offices (hence Uffizi, the name of the art gallery) in the Palazzo Vecchio, then a public building, and the Palazzo Pitti, the Medicis’ home. Apart from allowing them to walk to work and back without having to mix with the hoi polloi, and thus obviating the need for any special security measures, it was also a potent symbol of Medici power. They were, quite literally “up there,” with the masses down below.

Even now it’s still quite elite. It’s the longest single passageway of paintings and portraits in the world, and to see it, you have to book up months in advance, not least because the short-staffed Uffizi Gallery has to send escorts along with each party that goes through.

Around the world in 2017

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

You’ll probably have gathered from previous blog posts that things were getting tight with the construction of Team Britannia’s round the world superboat, but we were still moving heaven and earth to get the boat finished in time for our planned departure from Gibraltar on 23rd October. We’d already eaten into a lot of our contingency time when we discovered last week that a couple of hull plates needed re-cutting. As we’ve found previously, the place in Southampton that does this is extremely busy, and there’s now no chance of getting the new plates for several weeks.

So Alan Priddy made the only logical decision to postpone the trip. The most favourable times to attempt a circumnavigation of the world are spring or autumn, and after our meteorologist in Gibraltar analysed 10 years-worth of weather data, our revised departure date is Sunday 12th March 2017.

In the meantime, we expect the boat to be in the water by the end of November, which means we’ll have the time we always wanted to complete full sea trials, which now may include a record run around Britain. There’s a good chance, too, that we will be able to display the boat at the London Boat Show in January. Yes, it’s a disappointment to have another delay, but bearing in mind that by the time we do the trip, this project will have been on the go for eight years, it’s not too desperate a burden. At least this time we actually have a boat!