Posts Tagged ‘RIB’

The unsuspecting blogger

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

When I went around the world on Spirit of Cardiff in 2002 with Alan Priddy and Steve Lloyd, I used a tiny Psion Series 5mx palmtop computer linked to an Iridium satphone handset to transmit daily updates about our progress. What I didn’t realise at the time was that I was probably one of the first adventure travel bloggers!

Now I’ve released on Amazon Kindle the full collection of web updates (or blogs) covering the entire voyage. Unlike my subsequent book “Confronting Poseidon”, there’s an immediacy in the writing – this is adventure as it was happening, and of course, no benefit of hindsight!

And while some parts of the web updates did find their way into “Confronting Poseidon”, a testament to the quality of the writing, there’s a lot which didn’t. It comes with an introduction from me explaining the challenges of producing daily journals while bouncing around in angry seas, and a foreword from ocean adventurer and Spirit of Cardiff skipper Alan Priddy.

Back in 2002, both “Confronting Poseidon” and the web updates were hailed by leading boating magazines as an important contribution to marine journalism. Now at last both are available in the easily accessible Kindle format.



Confronting Poseidon – Around the world against the odds

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

It’s taken a while to get round to it, but Confronting Poseidon has finally been released on Amazon Kindle, and for less than the price of a pint! The original print book was published at the end of 2002, the same year as the extraordinary journey I took around the world on the Rigid Inflatable Boat Spirit of Cardiff.

This is a “lite” version – all the text, but no photographs apart from the cover. If you read it and fancy a hardback copy for your bookshelf or coffee table, there are details on how you can purchase at the end of the Kindle book. Click here to download your copy.

Picture this

Friday, August 17th, 2012

This week I succumbed to the inevitable, something I’ve been staving off as long as possible. Someone still needs to explain to me how a timeline of two columns with entries staggered on either side is more logical or easier to navigate than a single column with consecutive entries falling one after the other, or why Facebook should impose a layout on its users when surely they could have provided a choice. But then maybe that “we know best” attitude has contributed to the dramatic plunge in their stock value. Anyway, I digress.

Faced with a choice of thousands of photographs I could have used as my cover image – which spans the width of the page at the top – I opted for a picture that shows me in what was arguably one of the happiest and most memorable days of my life, and coincidentally, it was something that happened nine years ago this month. I’m standing on the aft deck of Spirit of Cardiff, renamed Jolly Sailor for her recently completed transatlantic. We’d already set the official New York to Lizard Point record in 2001, but this one from St John’s to Cape Wrath gave us 2,102 nautical miles with an at sea time of under 120 hours, which remains the fastest crossing for a RIB. More to the point, it was Spirit of Cardiff coming home after circumnavigating the world, and a winter in Newfoundland.

With me in the picture are Alan Priddy and Jan Falkowski, with numerous RIBs and other powerboats following behind, our flotilla of honour escorting us into Portsmouth Harbour. I seem to remember some of them slightly bemused when they saw the entire crew out on the aft deck (Newfoundlander Eg Walters took the photo), but not only was Spirit on autopilot, Alan had a remote control in his hand that could steer the boat from anywhere on board.

It was the hottest day of 2003, the temperature up to 34 degrees. As we approached Gunwharf Quays, packed with hundreds of people, the world-famous Portsmouth Field Gun Crew fired a six-gun salute. After the champagne and speeches, we took the boat around to the historic Camber Dock of Old Portsmouth, where she was craned out of the water, lifted on to a trailer, and then manhandled through the streets of Portsmouth by those burly tough guys of the Field Gun Crew.

Looking ahead, I can see it might take more than a single field gun crew to pull Accomplish More along on a trailer, but I’m sure we’ll come up with something equally eye-catching when we have something to celebrate. Meantime, there’s still a lot of hard work to put in before we even get the boat to the start line, but we’re getting there!

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Spirit of Cardiff – mid-Atlantic drama

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

Followers of the Company85 Global Challenge Facebook page will note that over the last few weeks, I’ve been taking the occasional look back as we pass various 10th anniversary milestones of the epic voyage that Alan Priddy and I undertook in 2002 in the 33ft RIB Spirit of Cardiff. This time 10 years ago we’d set off from St John’s in Newfoundland, with just a stop in the Azores and five days to our welcome return to Gibraltar. After 100 days, and numerous beatings at the hands of the weather, not to mention a catalogue of other trials and tribulations, Alan, Steve Lloyd and I were physically and mentally exhausted, with weeks of sleep deprivation having taken a serious toll.

Of course, by now we’d overshot the Cable and Wireless Adventurer round the world record by more than three weeks, but provided we made it back to Gibraltar, we would still establish a world record circumnavigation for a powerboat under 50ft. I remember vividly the bright light on the horizon lingering seemingly endlessly throughout my first watch that first night out of St John’s. It was the Hibernia oil platform, and little was I to know at the time just how crucial a role it would play in subsequent events.

The following morning Steve Lloyd complained of feeling unwell, and before we knew it, he was gripped with terrible pains in his chest, and numbness creeping down his left arm. Alan and I realised we had a serious problem on our hands, not least because by now we were 320 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean. And only when we got on the satphone to the Canadian Coastguard did we realise how big a problem that would be.

The nearest Search and Rescue helicopter was a CH-113 Labrador based in Gander. It had a limited range, so it would have to fly from Gander to St John’s, refuel, on to the Hibernia oil platform to refuel again, and then come on to us. But we were a good hundred miles beyond the limit of their range, so we would have to turn back to meet them.

That nine hour journey will remain ingrained in my memory for the rest of my life. In most situations, when someone suffers a heart attack or stroke, medical attention is likely to arrive in minutes. How quickly we closed that gap might determine whether Steve lived or died, and if he lived, what quality of life he might enjoy afterwards. We were in a hurry in a nasty following sea, and Alan drove that boat like a man possessed. There were times when I wondered whether Steve would die, or whether we all would.

The first inkling we had of the huge rescue effort on our behalf was a voice in our radio from a Royal Canadian Air Force C130 Hercules, scrambled from its base in Halifax to act as spotter in order to avoid the helicopter wasting fuel searching for us. Ironically, by now the sea had calmed down, there was a beautiful sunset, and Steve was almost back to his usual chirpy self.

After removing all our aerials and flag pole, and turning the boat into the wind, we could see the Labrador approach us from behind, the downdraught from its twin rotors flattening the sea in a blizzard of spray. Two men were lowered down to us, one of them a paramedic. He confirmed Steve needed immediate hospitalisation, and before we knew it, they were winched up into the helicopter, and Alan and I watched the Labrador depart along with the Hercules, which had been circling overhead.

By now there was no question of Alan and me turning back on track towards the Azores – we wouldn’t have had the fuel, and of course we were more concerned about Steve, so we started on what would be an overnight return to St John’s. The guys in the Hercules called us up to invite us for a drink (they were going to spend the night in St John’s before heading back to Halifax, but we wouldn’t get back in time for that), and to tell us they’d shot some spectacular video of the rescue. Sadly we never got to see that, but my own video is – though I say so myself – also pretty spectacular, even if it was an ending we couldn’t possibly have imagined. You can see the full documentary here.

The postscript to it all is that Steve had indeed suffered a heart attack, and after surgery he was fine. Despite exhortations from many, Alan and I decided it wouldn’t be prudent to continue Spirit’s journey. A crew of two for a major ocean crossing wouldn’t be particularly sensible, and besides, neither of us was really up to it anyway.

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Making waves

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Ten years ago, Alan Priddy and I were well into our first attempt at the round the world powerboat record in the 33ft RIB Spirit of Cardiff. We’d survived all manner of adventures around the North Pacific, then come all the way down the west coast of Canada and the USA, in the process trashing our third outdrive and gearbox. After stops in Mexico and Guatemala, we’d arrived in Panama, where we were feted like superstars before transiting the Panama Canal, with the British Ambassador on board.

From Colon, the port at the northern end of the canal, to Port Antonio in Jamaica, it should in theory have been a short hop across the Caribbean – a passage of around one and a half days. It proved to be anything but, courtesy of a depression which had started in Newfoundland and come all the way down to the Caribbean. And so we set off for Jamaica in 50 knots of wind – in other words, a storm force 10!

That amount of wind might be fabulous for sailing boats, but for a powerboat, it’s a nightmare. Contrary to what many might think, you can’t just power through it. At the very least you’ll burn so much fuel you might not make the next port, and at most, you’ll do injury to the crew and damage the boat. At times we were reduced to not much more than headway speed as we did battle with numerous 20ft breaking waves. These are the ones with white foamy crests, analysed and described in surgical detail in Sebastian Junger’s excellent book “The Perfect Storm”. Heavy seas can be incredibly uncomfortable, but when the waves are breaking, it’s like surviving an endless succession of car crashes.

Spirit of Cardiff in Port Antonio harbour, Jamaica, drying out after a marathon crossing from Panama. In the background is Navy Island, once owned by Hollywood movie legend Errol Flynn. Both Alan Priddy and I met his widow, Pat.

This was all happening in brilliant sunshine – the wind had taken all the clouds away. Every so often we’d get a freak wave come past – one significantly higher than the average. Sitting low in the water, we could hear it coming before we saw it, the noise like a 747 on take-off.

The pounding certainly affected our morale, as we realised it would take a good five days to get to port. But the immediate concern was the boat. Spirit of Cardiff had three hatches – one on the roof of the forward cabin, and two on the wheelhouse roof. They were the most expensive hatches money could buy, and they leaked horribly. Everything inside the cabin was soaked, and every day we would have to stop to bail out the front lockers of the boat. The first time we took about an hour to remove around quarter of a ton of water.

We passed a recently wrecked sailing yacht, and Bertie, our home-based weather router later confided that this was the leg of our voyage where he was most concerned for our safety. And by the time we arrived in Port Antonio, five and a half days after leaving Panama, we were down to our last litre of drinking water!

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Dateline Blues

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

Ten years ago this month I took part in the very last ever Camel Trophy. What used to be an annual international competitive event involving driving hundreds of miles through impenetrable jungles in sand-coloured Land Rovers was coming to an end – a product of the change in rules in tobacco advertising and sponsorship. So they decided to go out with a bang, organising Camel Trophy 2000 as the first (and last) to be on the water in Rigid Inflatable Boats.

Camel Trophy British team RIBFresh from my first world record (126 hours and 5 minutes around the British Isles in Spirit of Cardiff) the previous month, I was up for a spot more ribbing, particularly as it was going to be in the rather more pleasant climes of the South Pacific. In fact, I wasn’t really interested in the competitive element of the event – rather that when they moved locations from Vava’u in Tonga across the International Date Line to Salelologa in Samoa, it would be a unique open sea crossing by over 40 RIBs, and I would accompany the British team in their boat.

Camel Trophy British team RIB in open seaI did the first leg with them – 175 miles from Vava’u to Niuatoputapu – but it was during our rest day in what we dubbed “New Potato” that I managed to sprain my ankle and simultaneously gash the edge of my foot on some coral. Not only was I unable to walk, the wound went septic. After completing the crossing in the event’s support ship with all the camera crews, I was helicoptered off to a hospital in Apia where I spent the next 36 hours on an IV antibiotic drip.

Flying back home via New Zealand with wheelchair assistance every step of the way proved eye-opening in its own right. It certainly gave me a valuable insight into the way people somehow assume that being sat in a wheelchair also means you’ve lost the ability to communicate, but that’s another story. My feature about the trip was originally in the Independent on Sunday – they don’t seem to have it on their website, but you can read it here.

When size can be a problem

Friday, May 21st, 2010

As the building of Alan Priddy’s round the world powerboat number two comes closer we’ve discovered all manner of unexpected logistical details which have to be factored in.

For example, Henshaw, the company which puts the inflatable tubes on RIBs (Rigid Inflatable Boats) would normally expect a boat to be delivered to their factory in Somerset for the tubes to be attached. Only trouble is, their factory is more used to handling RIBs up to around 11 metres. There aren’t too many RIBs bigger than that, and catering for a boat 25 metres long wasn’t in their game plan. So they will manufacture the tubes in Somerset, and then bring them to the place in the Midlands where the boat is going to be built.

And it so happens that there may be a slight transportation problem once it’s finished. Twice the maximum permissible length to be towed along a road on a trailer, and not that close to any water. So we may need to be a bit creative in order to get her feet wet. RAF heavy lift Chinook helicopter, perhaps?

Boating anniversary

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

This weekend marks a very fond anniversary for me. It was six years ago that Spirit of Cardiff completed her second transatlantic (setting an unofficial record for the fastest transatlantic in a Rigid Inflatable Boat). Her first transtlantic, if you’ll excuse the digression, was accomplished in 2001, and eight years on we still hold the world record for the fastest powerboat transatlantic from New York to Lizard Point.

But 2003 was all about a homecoming. Despite the name, the boat was built in Portsmouth (home town of her skipper Alan Priddy), and this is where we brought her back as a culmination to some of the most epic adventures. It remains one of the most special days ever for me. We’d met up with a huge flotilla of welcoming boats at the Needles off the Isle of White, and then we entered Portsmouth Harbour in procession. Hundreds of people were waiting to greet us at Gunwharf Quays, and as we arrived, the world-famous Portsmouth field gun crew gave us a six-gun salute. And with the speeches over, we drove the boat round to the Camber, Portsmouth’s historic old port, where the boat was lifted out of the water onto a trailer, and then manhandled along the streets by the field gun crew!

So why the reminiscence now? Well, the fact is that while we technically completed a circumnavigation of the world, what we didn’t do was break the 75 day record set in 1998 by Cable and Wireless Adventurer. And of course that has sort of preyed on our minds. Unfinished business, and all that…

Over the intervening years, the intention was always to come back and have another go. Even while distracted by his hugely successful youth project with Sir Alec Rose’s classic yacht Lively Lady, Alan Priddy has always planned on another crack at the record with another powerboat. And the fact that New Zealander Pete Bethune managed to circumnavigate the world in 61 days last year in Earthrace has sort of concentrated minds even more.

The new boatAfter months of hard work, the boat that’s going to do it has been designed. It’s still a RIB, but unlike anything ever seen before. At 82 feet long but just 10 feet at the widest point, with an aluminium hull and wave-piercing nose, she has been described as akin to a missile. With twin 440 hp diesel engines driving powerful water jets, and a fuel range of over 5,000 miles, we expect to be able to take her around the world with just five fuel stops. That compares rather favourably to the 33 we had with Spirit of Cardiff! It also means we can take a shorter route, instead of beating the living daylights out of ourselves all the way around the North Pacific rim. And for those who chuckled at the descriptions in my book Confronting Poseidon of the rather basic “bucket and chuck it” facilities on Spirit of Cardiff, this boat will even come with its own toilet!

The last year or so has hardly been ideal for raising sponsorship, and while we have commitments to provide a lot of major equipment, we do still need a large wodge of cash to enable the project to go ahead. So the plan is to build the boat at the end of this year, sea trial her next year, ready for an attempt at the circumnavigation in spring 2011. And that sort of sits nicely with our view of media exposure. Unless Gordon surprises us with a snap election in a couple of months, next year will see a General Election, while of course 2012 it will all be Olympics.