The Sketch

posted 19 Feb 2015, 06:45 by Dominic Thwaites   [ updated 3 Mar 2015, 09:54 ]

It’s mid February, 2015. Where do I start? Let’s sketch out the big picture. It’s 2,000 nautical miles around Britain. My boat can do about four of those per hour, on average. That’s 500 hours or about 60 sailing days; 9 weeks or 2 months.

Now, I’m not going to sail every day. In fact, the more elapsed time you have the easier it is as you can afford to both pause and rest as well as to pick and choose your days to suit weather conditions. Besides, I do not want to be away from home for too long at a time. I will want to come back periodically for work and family reasons. So I am going to stretch the total period for as long as the season will allow - 5 months from mid April to mid September.

I will split the challenge up into 5 segments meaning that I get to come home 4 times, up to 2 weeks at a time. For each segment I should have at least 1 day off for every 2 days sailing. This all sounds quite achievable.

There are two ways to sail around Britain. Clockwise and anti-clockwise. Clockwise seems to be the more popular choice, though for pretty marginal reasons as far as I can see, mainly to do with currents and where you are based. Prevailing winds favour anti clockwise, and since I'll be timing my tides I couldn't care about overall currents. I am based in Burnham (Essex; South-East) and I think it makes sense to go anti-clockwise. I will then be in Scotland at the height of summer and I will get the East coast over and done with while I am still fresh during the worst of the season. The delights of the West and South coasts will then await me as rewards for my initial hard labour (sorry, East coast). I’m pretty familiar with the South East coast, so may as well get that out of the way as soon as. I could cut a bit of Scotland off by going through the Caledonian canal, but this seems a bit of a cheat. Instead I’ll go properly around Scotland but inside the Orkneys. On the West coast I’ll go down the Irish sea as going outside Ireland would involve significant extra distance as well as exposure to the full force of the mighty Atlantic. This would make the trip unnecessarily difficult and long.

To make this a bit more of a challenge, I will do the trip single handed. I’m used to sailing my boat on my own. Besides, it’s difficult finding crew and this would introduce unnecessary dependencies. Not having people with you is, however, much harder. You have no one to share the rough with the smooth. When the going gets tough you cannot rely on others to share the burden. When the going is smooth you’ve no one to share the experience. And, of course, if you get into serious difficulties, your chances of survival are considerably reduced! Still, with proper precautions, care and planning, sailing single handed can be, and will be, safe enough.

Partly, I think, to offset the loneliness of single handed sailing, I will want to share my experiences and try to build a community of friends and family to follow my exploits. So I will maintain an active social media campaign throughout. To complement this I will attempt to raise money for a charity of my choosing by inviting sponsorship from anyone and everyone. I have an idea of the type of charity, but I need to decide which.

Better get a grip of how much it’s going to cost me. Let’s do a back-of-the-envelope calculation: I’ve already got the boat and most of the equipment. But I’ll need to top up my equipment as well as buy loads more charts and pilot books. First impressions are that I may need up to £1,000 for this. The other costs will be travel (to & from home); £400, food & living expenses; £800, Berthing; £1,200, Fuel; £600, Contingency (repairs etc); £500. That’s £4,500. But wait, I’m saving money too. For example, my current marina costs and my current living expenses. It may be reasonable to suggest that the actual, net cost of my venture could be half that. So perhaps the true cost is more like £2,500. £500 per month. This seems reasonable. I’m speculating on most of these cost so I’ll need to redo them with real info pretty soon.

So the sketch is complete. I need to build a plan of action…