As a child, lying in bed at night when staying with my grandparents in a cottage near Bamburgh (Northumberland), I’d watch the flash of the Longstone Lighthouse illuminating the room as I fell asleep. Also in my younger years were holidays on Arran, with bike rides along lanes, fishing from beaches and walking up the 2,000′ of Goat Fell.
Years later, I would walk along the Purbeck coastline, sail in the Hebrides, and along the South Coast and in the Solent. I’d also visit other coastal towns and ports by bicycle, car and by sea. Marking these locations as dots on a blank page would provide a sketchy outline of some of Britain’s varied and frequently beautiful coastline.
On 6th June I set off sailing from the end of my garden, near the Solent, intent on adding more dots to this outline and (by sailing between them, anticlockwise, as far as I could get) on joining up the dots to create a more complete picture of the glorious British coast.
My venture started with a fairly laborious slog along the south coast to Rye: ~100 nautical miles of hard sailing, made easier by wonderfully warm welcomes at Cowes, Hayling Island, Newhaven, Hastings and Rye. Fortunately, after being pinned in by storms for a couple of days… I flew past Dover and had an enjoyable potter to Botany Bay and Whitstable… from where I was able to cross the Thames to Brightlingsea and round the corner to Shotley before completing a not-to-be-repeated leg up to Lowestoft in squalls and with a large, following sea. Personal highlights included discovering Rye and Whitstable: places to which I’m sure I shall return.
The day I left Lowestoft ended in undignified fashion with a capsize in shallow water whilst attempting to land through dumping surf at Winterton Ness, and the next day was gruelling, involving 38 nautical miles in a 13 hour day (with some inhospitable looking surf discouraging any approach to the shore), but from Wells I discovered a very special stretch of coastline with huge (largely deserted) sandy beaches and sand dunes hidden behind salt marshes with a profusion of wild flowers and birds. Attractive staithes, pasture land and distant woodland added to the charms, and I vowed to return as I crossed the Wash took to another series of warm welcomes, starting at Wainfleet Haven.
Since then I’ve been working my way further up the East Coast. The “latest news” pages of this blog bring the story up to date: I try to write each day, but at least every 2-3 days.
Anyone keen to track my ongoing progress can sign up to a “feed” from this blog (updated most days), or follow in real-time with on my Spot Messenger page). Friends help bring further updates through a specially-created “Canoe Sailor” Facebook page (which also contains a gallery of the best photos to date) and on the Open Canoe Sailing Group’s Facebook page.
Last but not least, I’m hoping interest in this challenge together with the generosity of colleagues, friends, and people in the catering industry, or involved in sailing or canoeing will enable me to raise at least £10,000 through my Just Giving page for the charity Hospitality Action, which offers support and vital assistance for those who work, or have worked in the Hospitality and Catering Industries.