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Dom's Round Britain Journal

This section contains my detailed set of blogs on my activities and thoughts

It's been 6 weeks ...

posted 26 Oct 2015, 09:55 by Dominic Thwaites   [ updated 26 Oct 2015, 09:58 ]

Yes, 6 weeks already! Do I miss it? Strangely not. It was a great adventure. But not something I'd perpetuate. Been there, done that, time to move on.

The boat's up for sale - any one fancy buying her? I got her all polished up inside and out and she looks as good as new apparently, though I've not seen her since this sprucing up.

I've also written a slide show and talk about my venture. It's about an hour long and I've already given two presentations to critical acclaim, ha ha. I'll probably do more as it's quite fun to do and people seem to like it.

I get loads of encouragement to write a book about it all, but I remain sceptical about that, to be honest. God knows, I've written enough passage notes and blogs to fill one though.

Speaking of which, I've set aside a few pages on my site that list some of my highlights:
Just for kicks and giggles, Enjoy.

Venture complete, wrap up

posted 14 Sept 2015, 07:06 by Dominic Thwaites   [ updated 14 Sept 2015, 09:18 ]

OK, so here's the skinny on this whole thing.

First I am very satisfied to have done this. It's a good life's achievement to chalk up. I can't recommend doing something like this highly enough. It gives you fresh perspective and is truly invigorating. I've learned a huge amount and have some rich experiences to take away.

Second, I'm very happy to have paid attention to documenting the experience. Sure, my blogs, videos, photos and passage notes have kept people involved which is great, but it's now my own detailed record of the experience. I've a terrible memory for this sort of thing so I'm especially pleased to have taken the considerable amount of ongoing effort to record it all.

Third, I'm pleased that I involved Honeypot and to have raised money for children who are young carers. It added a challenging dimension to the venture which, I'm slightly ashamed to say, I've never really done before, i.e. actively trying to raise money for a charity. I'm particularly proud of the cause I chose and, having had no idea how much I could raise, I'm very happy how things have gone so far. It's difficult continuously asking for money from people! Many people have been very generous (thanks by the way).

Not only do I have my experiences and passages recorded but I have also recorded details of miles covered, how they were covered, the conditions, the costs ... and the cycling miles. I'm a quantitative kind of guy and with all this data I love to produce summary statistics. My graphs page breaks down these statistics in all sorts of ways which I find interesting but which, I hope, says a lot about what the venture involved. Check these graphs out - they're all up to date and new ones added since last time.

Equally important is I have a complete record of my track in google maps. Which is fun as you can zoom in and see my track in detail at any point in the venture. I've a pin for each stop which contains a link to the passage note associated with that stop (click on the pin). I've got white pins for each of my blogs as well (you have to turn them on at the bottom of the index bar). In total, I sailed 2,064 nautical miles (2,375 road miles) and cycled 707 miles in 82 days.

Spares and repairs cost a little more than I expected, but otherwise costs were fine, though getting back and forth between stages added somewhat to bill. All in all, it cost me £7,500 over 5 months. I've a separate finances page detailing this.

How did it compare with my expectations? Surprisingly accurately. I never thought it was going to be a piece of cake yet it was all quite manageable. It's a task that could be broken down. I broke it down into 5 stages and within each stage I had a passage to do. If you just take one passage at a time it's fine. I made sure I was fully prepared, had contingencies and basically was sensible about the whole thing and this simply meant that it was safe and achievable. I was never in real danger. Most of the time, I was having a really enjoyable time.

People are starting to ask me things like what was the best place you went to or your worst experience. I've not worked out an answer because of the diversity of experience. It's a bit like asking someone if they prefer chocolate cake over a good book. Depends what you're into at the time. But I can safely say that my time ashore far outstripped my time at sea in terms of enjoyment. The bicycle allowed me to discover our land. I didn't discover much at sea apart from a few distant views of the coast line and dolphins. And to be honest, one bit of coast line looks a lot like another from a few miles out (as my photos will testify). The sailing was a means to an end. The bit that made it into a challenge. My time on land was the reward. I'm very pleased to have taken advantage of that. Having said that, I now feel pretty competent as a coastal sailor.

Doing it on your own was also very liberating. You do what you want when you want. You can't beat that freedom. I'm not a gregarious type, but I did meet and get to know many people along the way and these encounters were very welcome. I was rarely lonely or bored (though long sails tended to be boring). Doing this with others would add a whole different dimension and I can honestly say that there were relatively few times when I really wished someone was with me. The experience was too diverse to feel that any one person would want to go through it all with me. Obviously, for lovely walks on the cliff tops or for quiet evenings on the boat I'd want my wife with me. But she'd not appreciate the sailing nor the bike rides! I adjusted my expectations accordingly because with company I'd expect to have gone to the pub or eaten out and things like that. I did none of that.

Has this given me a taste for further challenges? Not really. I'm no adventurer. Someone windsurfed round Britain without any shore support this year. Another started a solo row round Britain (and had to stop due to the horrible weather). These are the preserve of real adventurers. Not for me. This venture was a good balance for me as a relatively tame thing to do yet still quite significant and unusual. Fitted the bill perfectly.

Finally, of course, thanks to everyone who has supported me, for taking an interest and for donating to Honeypot. I'm building up a presentation so that I can give talks about my venture if anyone is interested and I will share that when it's complete.

Final stage 5 summary

posted 14 Sept 2015, 05:17 by Dominic Thwaites   [ updated 14 Sept 2015, 06:13 ]

As expected, this was the easiest stage of the lot. I only had a couple of tough sails and nothing went wrong except for my autopilot misbehaving occasionally.

This stage consisted of the most passages - 15 in all. So many of them were short, lasting only a few hours. This gave me the opportunity to explore many harbours and coastal towns which I enjoyed enormously. I especially took advantage of the light winds while I was in the Solent and so spent quite a few days hanging around there. I cycled around the Isle of Wight and saw all the maritime museum pieces in Portsmouth amongst other explorations.

Maybe because it was warm or maybe because I was in familiar territory, but I think it's the stage I enjoyed most in terms of the scenery and my coastal discovery days. They say that the west coast of Scotland is unbeatable. There's no doubt it was spectacular, but the fact is that when I was up there the weather was pretty dire and it was still cold which did put a dampener on things. However, the white cliffs on the south-east are truly fantastic and I got to see them thoroughly from both the sea and on land. I guess we're all quite familiar with them which reduces the impact. I cycled 250 miles during this stage which is far more than any other stage and this reflects the fact that I simply got to see more stuff.

I had quite a few nice sunny days and, comparatively, it was warm. I never had to wrap up in a ridiculous number of layers and my sleeping cabin never got damp so I slept dry - luxury.

I made a special effort of avoiding the motor as much as possible and have succeeded in bring my motoring proportion for the total venture down to 30% which was a target I really wanted to hit. So I'm very pleased about that.

I'll blog separately to wrap up the venture as a whole but with this stage over, my work is done.

Sacrifice

posted 12 Sept 2015, 11:39 by Dominic Thwaites   [ updated 12 Sept 2015, 12:32 ]

I sit here, blogging on my boat for the very last time. Tonight will be my last night on this boat, ever. Tomorrow will be my last sail in it, ever. I am selling it.


So I am excused some reflection on the venture past. And my last discovery day on Beachy Head shone the spot light on a theme that presented itself over and over as I went around this country.


There is a memorial stone on Beachy Head in tribute to the 110,000 aircrew of the Royal Airforce Bomber Command. 55,573 gave their lives in the cause of freedom. Beachy Head, for many of them, was the last they ever saw of England.


Every place I visited had some story to tell of their involvement in the 2nd World War. Stories of great bravery and sacrifice. Many of the coastal towns also had stories of the RNLI. In its infancy, men in the RNLI would take huge risks to go out in awful conditions with paltry equipment to save foreigners who’d lost control of their ship. I have read so many stories of people sacrificing all for others. More in the last few months than I have in my entire lifetime.


And it makes you think. If anyone should think that mine was a brave venture; Please, with no false modesty, I can assure you it was not. I’m a family man and I wrapped myself in cotton wool before cavorting around the coast. What inconveniences or stresses I have experienced are but nothing to what I’m alluding to. To be perfectly frank, the times I’ve felt in most danger was when riding along A roads.


Which brings me on to Honeypot. Because they support children who are sacrificing themselves. Children who are sacrificing their childhood, and by implication jeopardising their future, to do good for others. Children need to be children.


I remember at my prep school a teacher used to threaten us with the words “If you can’t behave like adults then I won’t treat you as adults”. And I remember thinking, “But I’m not an adult and I want to be treated as a child”.


So my take home message for this venture is to recognise the enormous sacrifices that people have made and the sacrifices that are still being made. And the children that Honeypot support are making sacrifices, big ones. Please help them: http://www.domsroundbritainsail.uk/charity or http://www.honeypot.org.uk

2,000 miles now covered, 1 day to go

posted 12 Sept 2015, 11:35 by Dominic Thwaites

I'm now in Ramsgate after my fastest passage of the whole venture - 9 hours to cover 60 miles from Eastbourne to Ramsgate. Passage 53 also describes a fantastic discovery day on the Beachy Head cliff tops.

Passage 52 was a tough one against strong winds and waves, the last part in darkness. A change from the easy times I'd been having in the Solent.

So, having cracked 2,000 miles I've only got about 45 miles to go. And it'll be all over by mid afternoon tomorrow, Sunday 13th September. Let's hope I don't do anything stupid on the last passage - that would look silly.

In other news, my motoring milage for the whole venture is now below my target 30%. In order to keep that, all I have to do is sail more than 17 miles tomorrow. So I'm very pleased that my Stage 5 push to reduce motoring has payed off ... I hope (there's not much wind tomorrow, gulp).

Nearing the finish line

posted 10 Sept 2015, 12:46 by Dominic Thwaites

I think I'm two longish passages away from the end. My last passage 52 was a tough one working against strong winds partly in the dark to get to Eastbourne. It also followed a very busy discovery ride in Brighton that same morning as described in my passage 51 notes to Brighton. But what a discovery!

Strong contra winds persist for Thursday and Friday and I am thus harbour bound for these two days. But it's all change on Saturday. The wind starts blowing from the South or West and I will make the most of these for a long trip to Ramsgate on the Saturday - 60 miles.

I then head for my original departing port, Burnham on Crouch, on the Sunday - a further 50 miles - again with helpful winds. The original plan to arrive on Monday has changed due to family availability changes. So two remaining trips, albeit longish ones, and I'm round!

In the meantime, I'm enjoying the hot and sunny weather in Eastbourne.

I do hope patience is a virtue

posted 8 Sept 2015, 13:46 by Dominic Thwaites   [ updated 8 Sept 2015, 13:50 ]

Because I have exercised buckets full of the stuff. The last two passages have been in the lightest of light winds. But sailable, all the same. Which means I will not shirk my responsibilities and bung the motor on like everyone else as I'm trying to sail round this island, not motor.

So you get this rather comical picture of silly old me flapping about in the open sea while every one else is whizzing by getting from A to B in a business like fashion using propellors.

Passage 49 was pretty slow getting to Chichester, but leaving Chichester, in passage 50 was super slow. I literally drifted out with the tide. I could have pointed the boat towards the harbour and I'd still have got carried out. That would have looked hilarious to all the boats motoring past me with quizzical smiles on their faces. Passage 50 was my record slowest passage. Go me.

But each time my patience was rewarded as, eventually, some wind does appear and I did get to my destination. And that in itself is a source of (retrospective) satisfaction that I held out and got there in the end.

Sadly these testing times are about to come to an end to be replaced with a different situation - winds against me. Ah, the good old days.

Messing around in the Solent

posted 5 Sept 2015, 11:59 by Dominic Thwaites

My last 4 passages have been in the Solent sampling a few of the multitude of ports in the area:
  • Passage 45 took me into the delightful Beaulieu river
  • Passage 46 took me up the yacht-infested Hamble river
  • Passage 47 took me across to Cowes where I cycled round the whole Island (66 miles)
  • Passage 48 took me back to the mainland to see the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
There's been precious little wind anyway, so I may as well explore this area while I'm here. Talking of wind, it seems that It's going to turn easterly for the next week which will make further progress more challenging. About time I got some serious sailing work to do, though.

I've got a rough idea of the remainder of my passages and I've made them all comparatively short hops (20 to 30 miles) because I need to pace myself to meet the agreed date of my arrival back in Burnham-on-Crouch: 3pm, Monday 14th September. That's when my wife is available to pick me up and take me home!

So just 8 days to go and it will be all over. I'm excited to be nearing the finish line. On the other hand, I know that I'll miss the experience; Soon back to normality...

The South Coast, what a doddle

posted 1 Sept 2015, 11:11 by Dominic Thwaites

It was all part of the plan to end my venture with the downhill run Eastward on the South coast. The difference between how this venture started to how it's ending is quite marked. Stages 1 and 2 were tough, there's no doubt about it and I'm relieved to have got them done while I was still "fresh". My appetite for tough sailing is somewhat diminished and I'm making the most of it.

First it's not cold. Boy, was it bitter for most of the way round. I'm not suffering from cold any more. Second, I'm getting good winds. This was always going to be more likely for my Eastward jaunt on the South coast, but this is a major boon to my peace of mind. Third, the profusion of bays, harbours and marinas gives me a luxuriant choice of stops allowing me to do trips of any length I please - generally short to sample as many places as possible.

So, anyone who's used to cruising on the South coast and who's considering going round Britain - beware, you don't know how good you have it!

Another telling statistic is the amount I've been able to sail for the last 8 passages. I've only had to motor 12% of the time against my now current venture average of 31.5%. If I can keep that up, I'll reach my target of 30% motoring for the whole way round. Which, as I've mentioned before, is very good - 50% being the norm.

Passage 43 and passage 44 are written up. I can see the Isle of White from where I am now and I'll be going up the Beaulieu River tomorrow pushing into the New Forest. Looking forward to some good cycling.

The gripometer

posted 28 Aug 2015, 10:54 by Dominic Thwaites   [ updated 28 Aug 2015, 11:42 ]

While browsing that fine museum in Dawlish, one exhibit caught my attention in particular. An old fairground device that measured the strength of your grip. What I found mildly amusing was the scale. It went from 0 to 500. And to add further context it listed a number of professions from which a sample of candidates might be expected to score. Being a seaside amusement thingy it was not too much of a surprise to see that sailors came top of the list, clocking in an expectation of a whopping 470 points from their big, hairy mitts. Guess what profession had the lowest expectation? Yes, bankers. Their puny, soft and delicate hands were expected to score a mere 310.

I passed by the machine assuming it was not in full working order, sticking to the usual no-touchy policy of museums. But a little later a 3 generation family had clearly experimented and was causing some commotion. Various members of said family were expressing mixed emotions including smug satisfaction, outrage and incredulity. Without appearing too nosey, I gathered that Granny had achieved the highest score.

Right, so I had to try this thing. I felt a little self conscious while people were watching so I waited till the coast was clear, so to speak, and then furtively approached the machine for a second time. I gave the thing a quick squeeze confidently expecting to get within spitting distance of "sailor". Um, I managed 250.

I took a quick look over my shoulder to make sure no one witnessed that. Hmm, gonna have take this thing a little more seriously. Once more double checking no one was around I crouched down to get into a good position, braced myself,  flexed my fingers for a few seconds, took firm hold of the gripper, drew a deep breath and then squeezed like my life depended on it.

I just managed banker. I don't think I want to know what Granny scored.

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