Posts Tagged ‘Spirit of Cardiff’

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.

Auction for Nepal

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

The next few weeks will see an Ebay “Auction for Nepal”, for which I hope my donation may raise a little money. It may be just a jacket, but it’s a jacket with “history”. I’ve joined the ranks of famous people from the outdoors world by donating something special to a charity auction to raise money to help the people of Nepal in the wake of the recent devastating earthquakes.

Spirit of Cardiff off the Welsh coast, 2001My special item is the Sprayway Impulse 226 waterproof jacket which I wore on board the powerboat Spirit of Cardiff in 2001 on its world record transatlantic from New York to Lizard Point, a record which has stood unchallenged ever since.

Famous outdoors personalities donating items to the auction include mountaineers Sir Chris Bonington, Doug Scott CBE, Kenton Cool, Alan Hinkes OBE and Rebecca Stephens MBE. Organised by the British Mountaineering Council, the auction will be held on Ebay, raising money for UK charity Community Action Nepal. Founded by Doug Scott, who made the first British ascent of Everest in 1975, CAN has worked in Nepal for many years building schools and health centres, and installing clean water supplies in many of the areas hardest hit by the earthquakes.

The jacket itself is in good condition, and in fact I still use it now and then as I really like it (it’s the bright yellow that does it…) It’ll be a wrench to part with it, but if it can serve a better purpose, it’ll be worth it.

The lucky winner of the charity auction for my transatlantic jacket will also receive a signed copy of my book “Confronting Poseidon”, which tells the story of the powerboat Spirit of Cardiff and its epic voyage around the world in 2002.

Update 29/06/15: The auction went live on Ebay yesterday, running to 5th July. View the auction and bid for a little piece of transatlantic history here!

Cardiff – where’s that?

Friday, September 5th, 2014

With President Obama in Wales this week for the Nato conference, I wonder how it’s being reported back in the USA. Specifically, will the American press actually know where Cardiff and Wales are?

In 2001, I was a member of the crew of the 33ft Rigid Inflatable powerboat Spirit of Cardiff. We’d had the boat shipped over to the USA in order to attempt a record powerboat Transatlantic from New York to Lizard Point. Prior to the trip, we spent three weeks touring up and down the eastern seaboard of the US, promoting the boat, and the attempt which we would make on the global circumnavigation record the following year.

With Cardiff our home port, we’d also been charged by the Welsh Development Agency to gauge whether the Americans knew much about Wales and its capital city. Sadly, all too often, the response was “Wales – is that in England?” We duly reported back that Wales definitely had an awareness problem on the other side of the Atlantic. It was rather reinforced when First Minister Rhodri Morgan made an official visit six months later, and came back with the same message.

But even if the Americans weren’t sure where Cardiff was, the plus side for Alan Priddy, Jan Falkowski, Steve Lloyd and me was that we set a new official UIM world record for a powerboat Transatlantic, celebrated in grand style when we arrived back in Cardiff to be the first boat to pass through the newly opened Cardiff Bay Barrage. And 13 years on, our Transatlantic record has never been challenged!

Confronting Poseidon

Saturday, April 5th, 2014

Twelve years ago on the 7th April, I set off from Gibraltar with Alan Priddy into the Mediterranean on the 33ft powerboat Spirit of Cardiff. It was an attempt to break what was then the 75 day record for circumnavigating the world. It turned into an epic voyage over three months, with the first major problem hitting us (quite literally) at the end of the very first leg of the trip. We made a night approach into Valletta in Malta, and ran into an unlit and unmapped fish farm. From there, we experienced shocking corruption as we made our transit of the Suez Canal, and our first encounters with pirates at the southern end of the Red Sea, and again in the Gulf of Aden.

We had numerous mechanical problems. Apart from replacing a £30,000 gearbox and outdrive in Malta as a result of the tangle with the fish farm, we had to have a further two replacements as a result of burning out the clutches – a consequence of overheating through running 24 hours a day in tropical conditions with low grade fuel. And I’ll never forget our night arrival at Galle harbour in Sri Lanka, where my calling across to a guy on a nearby boat resulted in him unslinging his AK47 and aiming it directly at me. It’s a strange sensation looking down the barrel of a gun when you know the safety catch is off! Then there was the moment we arrived at a port in the far east of Russia to be placed under “house arrest” the moment we tied up.

Needless to say we didn’t break the record for circumnavigating the world, but we did have the most incredible adventure trying. It made for a pretty good TV documentary, and an even better book. “Confronting Poseidon” was released last year on Amazon Kindle – when it was published in print in 2002, it was hailed as a major contribution to marine journalism, and was nominated for the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award 2003. I know quite a few people who found it so difficult to put down they had to read it in one long sitting – sometimes throughout the night. That’s quite a compliment for me, and quite a recommendation for anyone else looking to read about the first major maritime adventure of this century.

Alan Priddy and I will be making another attempt on the fastest ever circumnavigation of the world by sea in the not too distant future. Hopefully the trip won’t be as eventful as the one we did in 2002, but you never know! In the meantime, read about my epic voyage around the world on Spirit of Cardiff in “Confronting Poseidon”. Click here to download your copy.

All is Lost

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Recent visits to the cinema all seem be to see movies with which I find some kind of resonance. The latest was “All is Lost”, easily Robert Redford’s finest movie. It’s just him all the way through with virtually no dialogue, a powerful and intense performance. The plot centres round his lone fight for survival after his sailing yacht hits a shipping container in the middle of the Indian Ocean. As he’s beset by each new catastrophe, you feel his pain and despair. He looks totally done in by the ordeal.

My first excursion out in Spirit of Cardiff in 1999 came to an abrupt end when we too collided with a shipping container 10 miles off Lizard Point. Unlike Redford’s, spewing trainers into the sea, ours was invisible, floating probably about a foot below the surface. Crashing into something you can’t see is quite an alarming experience. We hit it doing nearly 20 knots, and the impact was hard enough to rip the outdrive from its mountings, disabling the boat.

Had Spirit not been a RIB, there is a possibility she would have sunk. As it was, we had to be towed ashore by RNLI lifeboat – for me, the rookie powerboater, what you might call a baptism of fire. Click on the link for “Confronting Poseidon” to read about it, and the rest of Spirit of Cardiff’s remarkable story.

Moral of both tales? The sea has an awful lot of distinctly unfriendly stuff in it, mostly man-made…

Captain Phillips

Monday, October 21st, 2013

The last time I went to the cinema before this week was back in May, when I watched “A Hijacking”, a Danish movie about a cargo ship in the Indian Ocean hijacked by Somali pirates. This week it was “Captain Phillips”, a similar kind of story, this time based on a real-life hijacking in 2009. Directed by Paul Greengrass (Bourne Supremacy, United 93, Green Zone), it stars Tom Hanks and newcomer Barkhad Abdi, both of whom turn in spellbinding performances. Even if you know how it ends, it’s a real nerve-shredder getting there. Highly recommended.

It was an interesting moment of reflection, too, for me. When I went around the world in 2002 on the 33ft powerboat Spirit of Cardiff, amongst various pirate encounters, we did have a relatively close call with Somali pirates. Back then the piracy problem was in its infancy, and we knew the southern end of the Red Sea would be a hot spot, as previous piracy attempts had basically used the natural choke point of the 17 mile wide strait of Bab-el-Mendeb as an easy place to board large ships. We’d been told that anywhere within 100 miles of the North Somali coast had to be considered unsafe, but even taking a route closer to Yemen, we still came within 80 miles.

Having been overtaken by the container ship Kota Wajar, we were trying to tailgate her – following in the wash of a large ship does mitigate the effects of rough seas somewhat. We were only able to keep up with her for around 20 minutes, and it was during that time that we spotted a speedboat about a mile off our starboard beam. They were clearly having bigger problems than us in the heavy seas. As Captain Phillips reports the approach of pirates, he says “they’re not here to fish.” Likewise we knew there was no way a boat would be out for pleasure in the conditions we were facing. Clearly they were after the container ship, but I’ve no doubt they would have regarded us as a decent runner-up prize in the ransom stakes. Ironically, Kota Wajar was subsequently hijacked and held for 72 days in 2009, later in the same year as the events portrayed in “Captain Phillips”.

Read about my epic voyage around the world on Spirit of Cardiff in “Confronting Poseidon”. Click here to download your copy.

Memoirs of a Record-Breaker

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

My portfolio of Kindle publications has been added to with another book about the powerboat Spirit of Cardiff. And while my books “Confronting Poseidon” and “Blogging all over the world” might best be regarded as concentrating on the actual experience of round the world powerboating, “Memoirs of a Record-Breaker” reminds us that Spirit of Cardiff actually amassed more official UIM world records than any other boat in history.

Told through five full-length features originally written for newspapers and magazines, it traces the three attempts at the Round British Isles record, the 2001 New York to Lizard Point transatlantic (the record for which still stands, 12 years on), around the world in 2002, and the final transatlantic in 2003 which set an unofficial record for the fastest ever transatlantic in a RIB (which came after the events covered in “Confronting Poseidon”).

On sale in Amazon UK for a miserly 77p, “Memoirs of a Record-Breaker” makes perfect reading for anyone interested in boating, adventure, or indeed those who appreciate the philosophy of never giving up!

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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