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Chris Todd.
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Tale of the crossing attempt

Updates Posted on 25 Oct, 2012 13:10:39

Irish Sea Crossing 7 Oct 2012 …. a voyage in many respects!

The weather forecast: Wow…things
happened so quickly it is hard to know where to start…so I guess I’ll start
with the weather forecasts. Ever
changing and unstable! Just a subtle shift in the position of the high pressure is enough to change the forecast from light Easterly winds
into light Westerly winds (which would
prohibit a crossing attempt). So the
forecasts were forever giving us the run-around. On this occasion the weather initially looking
good for a crossing on Monday/Tuesday (8th/9th Oct) and we set about
making preparations in a progressive and controlled fashion, half expecting,
like so many times before that the forecast would change and become unsuitable….

The slow plan to go: However,
the conversation on Friday that set this steady action plan in place changed
radically on Saturday morning. The
weather forecast had changed over night and the window now looked good for a
crossing starting Sunday lunchtime and ending Tuesday lunch time. There were some slightly higher than desirable
winds forecast (peaking at 14 mph for a short time during Monday night), but over all it was
the desirable 7 kts or less.
The bonus was that the tides were the smallest I had ever seen them and
… although, not the best forecast for wave height I have seen, the waves were
looking good with forecasts of around 2 feet.

The “go” decision gets brought forward: The
safety boat is kept in a tidal harbour and due to the tide times needed to
leave no later than 5am Sunday, so at 09:00 on Saturday the decision was made
to go for it. Saturday was a bit of a
dash to finish some final adjustments to the Tredalo, sort kit, pack and get to
Wales. Needless to say it was a lot of work, so I
was very glad to have had the help from my wife, Joy, and supporting crew
member, Dale. Joy and I arrived in Wales in the
early hours of Sunday morning. I got a
good 5 hours of sleep but couldn’t eat much for breakfast on Sunday morning….when
daylight broke I could see the weather was looking epic. Mirror flat sea in the bay. Perfect.

The launch: Set
up of the Tredalo started at about 9am on the beach, with the arrival of Dale to
help, and everything went smoothly. The
arrival of the safety boat was a magnificent sight. To see it speeding across the flat calm sea
was very reassuring. It was great to see
Gail and Annie from the WBA and to see a lot of folk from the RNLI. When things were all set I had a moment to
realise that I hadn’t eaten anything and so started the steady guzzling of lovingly prepared flapjacks (a good mixture of fat, sugar and carbs) that
would continue for many hours to come.
The tide times meant that we needed to leave Trearddur Bay
at around 13:00. With a few delays – I’m
not sure if getting the safety boat anchor fouled on a submerged mooring chain in
the bay should have been taken as an omen?…but I thought nothing of it – and
we set off.

Tredalo leaving Trearddur Bay, Sunday lunchtime 7 Oct 2012.
[Thanks to Rachel Sayer for this photo…]

Leaving the Bay: It
was fantastic to see so many people there to see us off. I haven’t worked out if they were there to
see us, or just there anyway.
Nevertheless it was great to see everybody waving me off with good
wishes as we set out of the bay.
Howard…a local fisherman, was very kind and offered to give
Joy a lift out some of the way in his boat…so Joy was able to accompany us for
the first ½ mile or so of the journey.
This sort of interest and helpfulness typifies what I have experienced
throughout this challenge. Amazing!

RIB Energy, the Safety Boat, and Tredalo leaving Trearddur Bay.
[Thanks to Rachel Sayer for this photo…]

Getting stuck in: I
have to say, when the local boats returned to the bay, and all that remained
was the safety boat and I, then, I felt that we were “on for the task”. All the months of planning, all the little
hiccups and set backs, all the distractions……. all left behind. There was a moment of liberation. I call it the “airport lounge feeling”. When you get to the airport departure lounge….there
is nothing more that can be done, you have done it all. Now it is time for the journey. Pure single minded focus set in. All the distractions of the morning had made
it easy to forget that I still had the little job of spending the best part of
two days on a mobile stepper machine.

About 14:00 – just leaving Trearddur Bay behind.
[Thanks to Bushman Trackers for this data]

The comfort of the safety boat: As
we progressed it became obvious that the safety boat (call-sign “RIB Energy”)
had a preferred cruising speed that was slightly higher than mine. RIB Energy therefore adopted a “zig-zag”
pattern behind me, and then when the crew obviously got bored with that, they
occasionally encircled me, in a slow lazy fashion. It was a great comfort to hear those great
big diesel engines burbling away in the distance behind me. There were times when I couldn’t hear the
safety boat and these lasted right up until the point I became conscious of
this fact….which precipitated an immediate look behind me to find her. She was never too far away. Loss of contact with the safety boat would be
a bad thing. It featured top in the risk
assessment and would have required me to start the “loss of safety boat drill”

Out at sea: Conditions
for the first few hours were perfect.
Slight seas, wave heights of ½ ft to 1 ft. and the water had an oily
appearance – very calm. Winds were light
Easterlies as forecast, I would guess at 5 mph, but it was hard to tell from
the Tredalo. It was a weird picture of
the world. Nothing but open ocean and
the blur of flickering paddles as the Tredalo wheel turned. Progress was swift and we were soon out past
the furthest reaches of the Holyhead promontory, but many miles south of
it. It was at this point that I saw the
only other vessel on the whole voyage…a ferry leaving Holyhead…probably bound
for Dublin. Not long after that time I saw a formation of four “flying penguins” pass by just ahead of me
flying at what must have been about 20 feet above the waves. They may have been Puffins or Kittiwakes – I’m not sure – but it made me feel that I was “proper” out
at sea now.

Flat calm sea at the start of the crossing – sadly it didn’t stay like this.
[Image courtesy of Barcroft Media]

Hard work but fun with the Safety Boat: Whilst
I was getting down to some hard graft and sorting out some finer details of kit
arrangement – not easy when you have to be holding on with two hands most of
the time – I had the odd moment to observe the crew onboard the safety
boat. The safety boat crew had a
duty/rest/sleep rota – I could see those on “rest” amusing themselves by
fishing off the back of the boat or by standing at the bow looking longingly
towards the West like Leonardo DiCaprio.
Fun times with the sun gently setting, each hour a little lower and the
waves a little bit larger. I had worried
that I would have nothing to aim for…no landmarks on which to pin my motivation…. but it wasn’t like that at
all. Although it was hard work, the ever
changing skyscape was delightful to watch and was a great distraction…it seemed to draw me longingly
westwards and occupied my thoughts.
(Don’t tell them, but the occasional radio call from the safety crew
might have helped a bit too).

was swift:
After just over two hours Neil
informed me that we had hit 10% of the westward distance. A tenth of the way? In two hours?
Surely not! But it was true, the progress was far swifter than any
planning or testing had indicated and that was a huge motivator….this meant
that if things stayed the same that I would only have to go through one night
and not the two we were all dreading.
Get in there! As dusk set in the
waves were noticeably more “significant” the Tredalo was being rocked from plus
30 degrees to minus 30 degrees roll angle in a time period of 1 to 2 seconds
every 5 to 10 seconds. In short, it was
now “rough” (in Tredalo terms). Thirty minutes before dark I stopped to don warmer clothes. Always something that I had dreaded…but I had
planned for, everything was “zip on” – even the trousers. The worst thing to put on were the gloves….you
need to use both hands in the process…and whilst doing that it is very hard to
hold on whilst being kicked about by the waves.

Position approaching 18:00
[Thanks to Bushman Trackers for this data]

Preparing for the Night: Pleased
with the transition into warmer clothes we continued into the darkness.
I configured the Tredalo for night ops which included raising the
telescopic light mast, sorting a few torches and attaching glow sticks to my
life vest. This was it…the dreaded long night. Due to the lack of a fixed visual reference, the
safety boat took pole position and eaked out a good distance ahead of me, such
that I could simply aim for the mid point of it’s zig-zags. This saved me the effort of monitoring my GPS
heading, which saved not only batteries but precious physical effort too.

Position at about 20:00 hrs.
[Thanks to Bushman Trackers for this data]

A quite routine: The
comms between myself and the safety boat crew had steadily diminished as time
went on into the night. I didn’t want to
make any calls as I suspected that the crew duty/rest/sleep pattern was now in
full effect. So I decided that it was
going rather well and that we were properly “game on” and settled down into a
brainless rhythm for the night, long since having lost sight of the land of
Wales and only now able to see the red anti-collision lights on some industrial
towers, if I made the effort to look back.
I was feeling great, I felt much stronger than I had expected to and
with the prospect of only 24 hrs at sea instead of the predicted 40 – 48 hours
I was feeling absolutely fabulous.

Position at about 21:00 hrs.
[Thanks to Bushman Trackers for this data]

The beginning of the end: My
recollection of time is not good.
Although I had a watch, I was not relying on it to mark any part of the
passage of the journey as I had thought I would. So, I say with some uncertainty that it was
about 21:00 when I felt the steering forces go light. The waves were giving me a rocky ride now, to
the point where my arms, shoulders, and back were starting to feel the strain
of constantly holding on. Without
constant directional correction each wave would veer the raft off course, so it
was immediately apparent that something was wrong when the force on the tiller
bar in one direction almost completely disappeared. With my head torch I was able to see that one
of the two rudders was missing. The
constant rolling of the raft over many hours, caused by waves coming in from the starboard side, had weakened the rudder attachment point to the point of
failure. Hoping that there was some
other explanation, other than the one that I had plainly seen for myself, I
called in the safety boat for a visual inspection.

Its true!: The
safety boat cruised slowly by and turned on a spot light turning night into day
and then came the radio transmission “confirm, missing one rudder”. It was real… This unplanned failure caused a
fair bit of rapid thinking. On my part,
I started walking again. I was kitted
out for hard physical work, and standing around being dripped on in the breeze wasn’t good for me. So I carried on
walking and steering with one rudder whilst, collectively, we drew up a plan.

What to do next: We
had three options. One: turn back. Two: alter course to run with the waves to
reduce bending on the remaining rudder or Three: maintain course and try to
somehow protect the remaining rudder.
Option one was quickly ruled out as the Tredalo still had a functioning rudder
and could theoretically make it to Ireland with a single rudder. Option two was considered for a time but due
to the wave direction there was a concern that this would effectively mean
heading southwest and would not enable the westward progress needed, so option
three was selected and all efforts on the Tredalo went into managing to steer
with the rudder lifted (as if preparing for beaching) rather than in the fully
down position as when deployed for steering.
By ensuring that the rudder was lifted as often and as much as possible,
the hope was that this would reduce the bending stresses on the rudder mounting

Lights over Ireland: It
was at this point that we all noticed that the way we wanted to head (i.e.
west) was lit for us by a beaming bright glow in the clouds above Ireland – a
wonderful sight. The visual cue reduced
my workload of keeping a heading but the constant fighting with the rudder
steering and rudder lift controls effectively doubled my physical
workload. The steering required 100%
concentration if I was to maximise the amount of time the rudder was lifted and
save any chance of making it to Ireland. If I diverted my attention, even just for 30
seconds to make a radio call, I would find myself 90 degrees off heading…so it
was hard going. I felt that at every
moment I was fighting for the success of the crossing and somehow the faith
that everyone had placed in me, and most importantly the success of the
endeavour for both charities.

Pressing on with one rudder: The
next hour or so was spent with huge exertion wrestling with the controls hoping
that this would save the remaining rudder.
Perhaps because of the extra effort, I had stopped eating. Perhaps it was because of the constant
looking down at the controls instead of at the horizon (the beckoning clouds,
that were still there), I don’t know, but I had become aware of an uneasy
feeling. I stopped drinking carb drink
and switched entirely to water. Pure
fresh cold crisp refreshing water. And
through all the mayhem there were occasional glimpses of a stability that would
get me through the night to the hours of dawn.

This can’t be happening: This
feeling was shattered by a lack of response to a steering command, as the craft
yawed off towards the south, and when the craft remained unresponsive even with
the rudder controls set to the full “down” position. I stopped, inspected the craft using the light of my head
torch and now saw the familiar sight of the rudder steering mechanism being washed
by the waves, but completely lacking in the company of a rudder. To continue would have been impossible. As soon as I stopped to carry out a visual
inspection I started to feel like a pinball in a pinball machine, jostled by
the waves, seemingly from every direction.
I called in the second rudder failure to the safety boat and set about
releasing the pre-attached tow-rope from it’s stowed position on the
Tredalo. I don’t know if it was the sudden
halt to the crossing attempt and all that it meant to me, or if it was the head
down activity in a wobbly sea, perhaps combined with some physical exhaustion,
but within a minute of the second rudder failure I was overcome by sea sickness
and generously donated my last hours worth of water intake to the Irish Sea. It was now some time around 22:00.

About 22:00 hrs. Point of most westerly progress. Second rudder failure.
23 miles of distance covered, measured in a straight line.

[Thanks to Bushman Trackers for this data]

Boarding RIB Energy: In
the few moments that it took the safety crew to configure for towing I couldn’t see the point of fighting my wobbly legs, so I took an unexpectedly
comfortable lie-down in the wheel. The
relief from the feeling of a spinning head was only brief, as in no time at all
I drew to my feet as I watched the safety boat approaching alongside. Dale, who I would affectionately describe as
a “gentle giant” plucked me bodily from the Tredalo and I was on board. The crossing attempt was over. Neil and Dave rapidly secured the Tredalo for
towing with some skillful rope work, whilst I sat there, on the floor of the
safety boat cabin – like a sack of potatoes. I can remember feeling void of
emotion. Not cold, not hungry, not
thirsty, just tired, exhausted and feeling ill with my head spinning.

Tredalo on tow: I
have since learnt from the crew that the normal procedure for towing on a long
rope was highly unsuccessful, with the Tredalo often yawing off heading and
generally misbehaving. It’s hulls are
not well suited to turning and the raft is greatly affected by the waves –
this seems to have made it very difficult to tow. Subsequently, a more stable towing position
was found, with the Tredalo hauled close to the safety boat. This was much better, but the Tredalo was no
more happy about being towed than I was about being on board the towing vessel!

Blessed with a good crew: Now
looking back on these events, the last hours of the fight to save the second
rudder had not only brought on sea sickness that I had been fighting through, without realising it, but also physically drained me more than I realised. The two together meant that I was a complete
washout on the boat. After being sick
again on the boat, narrowly avoiding the skippers spag-bol in the crew’s
cooking pot, and instead targeting a nearby bucket, I recovered enough to walk
around a bit. This was just enough to
realise that I was getting in the way and would be better off making myself
scarce. I got out my quarantined
emergency bag with my sleeping bag and warm clothes, had something hot to drink,
some chocolate and drifted off to sleep as we all made back towards Wales. I can recall how lucky I felt at the time to
have such a good crew. It was so nice to
know that I didn’t have to lift a finger…and that all necessary actions would
just “be taken care of”. So a massive, huge,
thanks to Dave, Neil and Dale who took over and just sorted things, and took
good care of me, whilst I was awash with a mixture of sea sickness (which initially
only got worse on the safety boat) and the exhaustion of fighting to save the
crossing attempt for the last hour or so.

The end of the end: It
was after several hours, the tracker trace shows, we were almost halfway back to Trearddur Bay when I heard the command “stop the boat, stop the
boat”. The Tredalo had broken up whilst
under tow. By the time I made it to the
aft deck the Tredalo was just being cut away and was sadly lost at sea. It is evident that the craft was not up to
the extended period of towing against such rough seas. That moment cemented the final closure of
this Irish Sea Crossing attempt.

The tracker beacon was secured to the Tredalo. Last reported position!
[Thanks to Bushman Trackers for this data]

Feelings on reflection: I
am prone to looking back with “what ifs” and “if only”s and I have had a few
nights of disturbed sleep whilst my brain sorts and files all the experiences,
but overall I can’t think of any decision made that I would not want made the
same way given the same circumstances and I am content that I gave the
challenge my all. I gave it every
possibility of success within the constraints I had – I had reached the point where the only way to know if the Tredalo and I were ready, was to give it a go. So I don’t count this as a
failure, I count this as a success, in more ways than one. My biggest upset, though, is that having received so much effort from so many people, and so much media interest, I am saddened to have been so far away from my charity targets, only achieving 14% or the target. Perhaps one day I will try again and earn my
Guinness and perhaps reach the original £20k charity target.

Finally, don’t believe everything you read in the papers: There has been much press coverage – not all of it very accurate. Some papers reporting that I only got 9 miles, some even reporting that I was “lucky”
to be picked up by “a passing vessel” – which, is clearly ludicrous…. So, just for the record…the authorities were
aware of the planned crossing, we were in regular contact and kept the Coast
Guard fully informed with locations and status updates and at no time did we
ask for, need, or receive any external help during the crossing attempt.

to all
that have contributed, supported, helped, and donated to help the Wiltshire Blind Association and the RNLI charities that this event was designed to support. Please also take the time to read my previous “thanks” post….


THANKS….thank you for your support..

Updates Posted on 21 Oct, 2012 19:29:56

first of the aforementioned 4 posts that I anticipate writing over the next few
days….this is to express my thanks, for just reading this you are showing your continued support to the idea of the Irish Sea Crossing. I make no apologies for the length of this post…


I wanted to recognise the overwhelming support that I have had for what would
at first appearance seem to be a completely ludicrous idea. I have to echo Neil’s sentiments (see Neil’s previous
post – Being Inspired) in that I have found so many people willing to give
generously of their time and support.
Without all of this support the crossing attempt would not have happened…

Thanks – I have an idea…what do you think?

had no idea what I was about to ask him.
A year previous to this meeting, Neil had sent me a photo of his 5m sea
going Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) that he uses for diving trips. This looked like a fine specimen of a boat,
just the job to act as a safety boat for the Irish Sea Crossing attempt. Neil didn’t say No, which was a good
start…but he did ask for a few days to consider the proposal. It wasn’t but a day that had passed before Neil
was making lists of things we would need to consider and bringing to bear his sea-going experience.
Neil has been fully committed to this idea since (I’m going to say…) the
day after we first discussed it. He
invested much time, effort, and money in upgrading his RIB to make it a fine
option for the crossing attempt, should we have been unable to secure an
alternative. Neil has been there,
helping with the navigational planning and working out some of the “if”, “but”s and
“maybes” along the whole course of the evolution of this endeavour. I remember one session talking through all
the safety risks; what happens if…fog / radio failure / change of weather /
ship on collision course / rough seas over the sand banks / loss of contact
between me and the safety boat / etc…etc…etc, it was a long session and we both
ended up very tired after that one! So,
for being with the idea from the start, for providing continuous effort and
attention to detail, for being my “moderator” when I was overly optimistic
about weather forecasts, for unwavering commitment and constant state of
readiness for this crossing attempt (not easy when the weather opportunities
were so few and far between). …thank you
Neil, the perfect partner for this endeavour.

Thanks – Pontoons and Paddles

have to stem right back to the early days of the idea where I had much help for
the construction and testing of the first attempts at making the Tredalo. Particularly, I would like to thank James
Steele and his Dad, Chris Steele, for generous help with the pontoon and paddle
construction. James also helped with
initial lake trials and provided a safety boat for the initial sea trials (Poole Harbour
was great). Thanks to Richard Bamboat for staying up to 3am in true adventurer
fashion to get the paddles attached prior to the first ever lake test, and for
subsequent assistance with “final preparations of kit” for the crossing attempt.

Thanks – I don’t suppose you might have one of these I could borrow?

too, to the Spriggs. I will never forget
the “wire” I got from Graham Sprigg whilst I was in the Arctic on a previous
challenge, regarding reasons to stop when trying to achieve something, it read
“food is ok, but sleep is for wimps”, and this philosophy was certainly pushed
to the limits very often for this challenge in preparing for various test runs
and on the actual day of the crossing itself!
Graham has been a constant source of support and of generously loaned
equipment….including a “floating” GPS….hmm!? (Sorry about that Graham)!

Thanks – “I can’t get this kayak to go straight”

Houghton helped out on a number of test runs, generated the concept of the stabilising
hand rail (al’a treadmill running machine) and provided some last minute website
user testing to find out if the tracking beacon was working as it should (it
was). So, thanks to Neil for all help.

Thanks – Can I borrow your lake?

it seems like a long time ago…thanks to Jim Butler for loan of his farm lake
for initial training sessions. I have
never seen cows so confused as when we towed the Tredalo through their field to
get to the lake!

Thanks – I need a website

Steve Fenemore. Thanks to Steve for
sorting out the foundations on which the website was built which is worth more
than can be described here. Can you
imagine trying to describe in words what I was attempting and making it sound
possible? Much easier to say “take a
look at”.

Thanks – Are you free?…I just need to move 200kg of metal (again!)

the endless and untiring support from “the main mover” Rob Buckland, testing
and development progress would not have been possible. Despite me pouncing as
soon as Rob arrived home after a 12 hr day, Rob was always willing to heave
bits of the Tredalo around the garden in what seemed like an endless cycle of
disassemble, move, assemble, test, disassemble, move, assemble, train,
disassemble, move, assemble, test, …etc.
So thanks to Rob for his most sterling support!

Thanks – Those that know…or know someone that does

is amazing how a brief conversation can change the course of events. Such a conversation occurred when I spoke
with Sam Healy, who put me in touch with Mark Clark and Patrick Carnie. Mark helped with advice on press matters and
offered many contacts of his own…including one for tracking beacons! Patrick
was very keen to help…and as a result Patrick unlocked the start of the flood
of help that I received. This started
with Pains Wessex sponsoring the flares, and subsequently issuing a press
release. Which lead to the story being
picked up by a media agency, Barcroft Media, who helped to raise the profile of
the event up to the point of being front page news in Ireland and in the media on every
continent in the world. So, thanks to
Sam, Mark, Patrick and to Barcroft Media.

Thanks – Lights, Camera, Action!

At this point I should also thank James and Thomas Mahoney for helping me build the Tredalo (and again, and again, and again) for its photo shoot….’can you just do that again please’?

Thanks – The pea-green boat

have to go to Bill Peters for provision of the best safety boat that could have
accompanied the crossing. Imagine a 45ft
search and rescue vessel, fully stacked with all the safety gear,…considering
the charities, very pertinent to the WBA, a key bit of kit was the RADAR which
gave us sight at night – a worry was not being seen by other ships at night,
but the RADAR meant we could look after ourselves! Food for thought? Thank you Bill, and thanks to RIB ENERGY.

Thanks – The folk in the pea-green boat

to Dave Rogers of Ambient Marine,
who captained the safety boat during the crossing attempt. What a star.
Thanks to Dave for amazing support in the preparations and for the
unbeatable short notice response to the “go go go” decision. Dave’s flexibility and willingness to help in
this endeavour “made” the crossing attempt possible. Dave’s professionalism and ease with the
conditions and situations made everybody involved feel safe throughout the
crossing attempt, day and night. Outstanding
job. Thank you.

to Neil Radcliffe for planning
support as mentioned above…and also for seeing the planning through to the day
itself – it was great to watch the navigation unfold exactly as Neil had
predicted. It was heartening to see Neil
enjoying the trip as much as I did, having earned it in more ways than one with
hard effort and perseverance. I don’t
think I’ll ever forget Neil’s hand waving signals, indicating that he could see
the mountains of Ireland
ahead, just before the sun went down.
Thanks for your help Neil.

Thanks to Dale Humphries who willingly dropped
everything to help on the final day of prep and so ably assisted with the setup
on the beach before boarding the safety boat, I’m not sure I can picture a more
contented sight than Dale fishing off the back of the safety boat, whilst I
walked into the sunset.

to the whole crew – I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to have the same crew
again – should that ever come to pass!
Thanks to the crew of the pea-green boat (RIB ENERGY).

Thanks – My darling wife

think it is fair to say that this event has consumed me. It took much more effort than I ever
realised, so many small things (administration things mainly) sometimes felt
like I was being nibbled to death by ducks and it was as if the event would never
get to the point of “launch”. Thanks to
Joy for being there to support me through the peaks and troughs of the wavy
path to the start and then the wavier than forecast path to the finish.

Thanks – My family

During the planning and preparation family members have helped in
various ways. Whether it be support on the phone, spreading the word for the charities, taking a ‘holiday’ with us to test the Tredalo in Trearddur Bay and being on stand by to collect me from Ireland – it was all vital help and support.
So to my family, I say thank you all very much. Thanks!

Thanks – The sponsors

key importance to the attempt were the efforts and support from many
individuals and companies to help with equipment and logistics without which
this event would not have happened in the slick and efficient way in which it
did… HUGH thanks to those that sponsored me (for more details see the Sponsorship thread on this blog – see menu selections on the right hand side).

Family Adventure Store – Sailing rope for
rudder steering…and for being my first sponsor.

Drew Marine – For flare packs, vital
safety gear for collision avoidance, location and rescue.

Likeys – For drinking pipes and dry bags
that made life on the ocean a bit easier.

QinetiQ Bushman Trackers – For Tracking device,
and superb support.

QinetiQ – For sponsoring the safety boat
fuel. A very major part of the jigsaw

Jewson – For provision of insulation foam
for buoyancy.

Southern Tank Services – For superb fuel pumping
service, provision of containers and filter.

Hacklings – For provision of amazing
short notice transportation of the safety boat fuel.

Thanks – Those waiting in the wings

can be seen, many people have helped to make the crossing attempt happen, many
of whom I have mentioned. But, there
were many others who helped. Many
friends and family members who offered support and who were waiting to be
called into action, should the need arise. So to those waiting in the wings,
prepared to help, but for one reason or another not called on…thank you for
being there – ready to spring into action, should the need have arisen.

Thanks – Those watching and supporting

seems that this challenge created a lot of interest and many, many people have
sent through great messages of support and encouragement. I am sorry that the outcome was not as
fitting as it might have been, to respond to all of these good wishes – but it
was an adventure, with many unknowns. So
thanks to all those that recognised the spirit of the endeavour and who got
involved and wished me well for the crossing and for the fund raising for the
charities – thanks to you ALL.

Final Thanks – The donations

to all those that have generously donated funds to the charities in recognition
of the enormous effort that has been applied to the crossing attempt, even
before the launch on the day, and for recognising the spirit of the
attempt. These charities provide great
services and these services are expensive to upkeep so your donations are
important and very welcome. Thank you. Last
plug….you can still donate via my JustGiving site.

from me, my overwhelming feeling is that of gratitude for all that have helped
this event on behalf of me and the charities (the Wiltshire Blind Association
and the RNLI).



Now the dust has settled……

Updates Posted on 20 Oct, 2012 19:08:55

wanted to offer my own thoughts and reflections on the events which naturally
fell into the following areas…


2. Tale of the crossing attempt…

What I have learnt…

What next?

over the next few days I will be writing posts to cover those subjects… …ISC
has occupied so much of my time and emotion for so long (and the time, effort
and emotions of many others)…I feel this is appropriate and I hope you will
enjoy reading them.



Being Inspired!

Support Crew Posted on 09 Oct, 2012 12:49:10

Now this challenge is over, as a general supporter and crew member on the safety boat, I thought I’d add some of my own personal thoughts.

A couple of things I sort of expected:

The first was the inspirational factor that comes from supporting an individual like Chris. The effort that went into making this attempt happen was enormous, and I mostly just watched with awe as he solved problem after problem, and removed barrier after barrier. And doing all of that whilst still maintaining his physical training quietly in the background. Having known Chris for some while, and having followed some of his previous adventures, I expected to be inspired, and once again I was.

The second was the fully professional seamanship of Dave Rogers (Ambient Marine), who skippered the safety boat. And he duly and consistently delivered in spades, especially in terms of making correct and timely decisions. Put simply, the Irish Sea felt like a safe place to be with Dave around.

What I wasn’t quite expecting to see was the efforts that complete strangers (and/or their companies) were prepared to go to in terms of supporting such an undertaking. Top of my own list here was Dave Rogers himself. Up until the point where we finally agreed a start time, I’m slightly embarrassed to say that I wasn’t certain that the use of the RIB Energy as the support boat would actually happen. I guess these days we’re all programmed to believe that if it sounds too good to be true, then indeed it can’t be true. And yet Dave plus RIB Energy did indeed drop all other plans, at horrendously short notice, and provided the absolutely perfect and yet ultimately so essential support. I hope I’m right in saying that I think that Dave, and indeed all other supporters, simply ‘got it’, in terms of understanding both the obvious sense of adventure and the desire to do something positive for deserving causes.

To all those who supported Chris, I salute you! There has been much going on in GB this year to give us all that feel-good factor, but witnessing such generosity has been the icing on my personal cake.

My final thought is squarely aimed at pulling a few heart-strings. My own biggest fears in preparing to support this challenge were focussed on coping with the hours of darkness. Given the nature of one of the two charities Chris is supporting, that obviously made me pause for thought, and I hope it does for you too.

So it’s ‘Over and Out’ from me – and the time has come where I need to make my own visit to the ‘Just Giving’ page.

Thanks to Hacklings Storage and Distribution

Sponsorship Posted on 04 Oct, 2012 16:21:19

A massive thanks
to Hacklings Storage and Distribution for transportation of the fuel for the
safety boat.

The fuel for the
safety boat has to be one of the most important parts of the jig-saw puzzle and
moving it around the country to get it to the Safety Boat, Rib Energy, Liverpool docks, has been one of my biggest headaches!

Rapid and
efficient movement of hazardous substances, I have discovered, is not what I am
good at. Too many complications / regulations / considerations and
qualifications involved! But, luckily for me, shipping of hazardous goods is
just one of the things that Hacklings Storage and Distribution are good

The introduction
on the Hacklings website,, states “Not
all Haulage companies are the same” and I have to
say, that I agree. I have contacted quite a number of transport agencies to
investigate shipping this rather important load. As soon as I started talking
to Hacklings, I was amazed by their helpfulness and efficiency.

It seems to me
to be an effective organisation which great flexibility and rapid decision
making…which is a perfect combination, for changing situations, such as shipping
fuel for a safety boat, under the imminent threat of good weather and a launch
for the Irish Sea Crossing attempt.

So, thanks to
Hacklings for their quick and eager support for the WBA and the RNLI, two great charities, and also
for taking away the worry of transporting the large quantities of fuel needed
for the Safety Boat.

Thank you


Support Boat Crewing

Support Crew Posted on 26 Sep, 2012 12:47:52

One of the many issues facing Chris was finding enough suitably experienced crew to man the support boat. We were looking at a minimum crew of three: two to be on duty at any given time, with any others sleeping / resting.

A key issue for this challenge is that Chris obviously needs quite a precise set of weather conditions, which may of course mean that we’re all in for a long wait! But when those perfect conditions do finally arrive, both Chris and the support crew need to be ready to drop everything else and ‘go’ And given the relative unreliability of advance weather forecasts, we might only get 2 to 3 days advance warning. It’s also pretty much inevitable that the sort of people who tend to make competent crew also tend to be the types of people who lead busy lives anyhow.

So the strategy adopted by Chris was to build and maintain a list of contacts for potential crew, including their available dates. This list has grown throughout his months of preparation and training, at the last count there were about 20 names, including several with extensive skippering experience.

Clearly the fact that we now have a fully professional support boat skipper in the form of Dave Rogers (see the recent post in the Support Boat section) has resolved at least one key crew decision. And as the owner of the original support boat, I’m sort of hoping that Dave will be happy to have me along too!

So, if the plan above all works out, we have 2 guaranteed crew (Dave Rogers and myself), and a suitable list of candidates from which to draw the full complement. Communications will continue with all potential crew, although things may go slightly quiet when the weather is as dreadful as it is right now!

Hopefully yet another hurdle overcome …

New More Capable Support Boat!

Support Boat Planning Posted on 25 Sep, 2012 14:21:53

The original support boat plan involved my single ‘open’ RIB, Katy Blue, which briefly appears in the video on the main website’s homepage.

However, we recognised from the outset that use of such a vessel was far from ideal, especially outside the main summer months, and the hope was always that we could get a more capable vessel or vessels involved.

The amazing news is that we may now have found such a vessel. Shortly after his website and blog went live, Chris was contacted by Bill Peters from Liverpool, offering the use of his purpose designed search and rescue RIB, all 14m (!) of it.

Bill’s RIB, called “Energy”, is a closed-cabin Hurricane 1400, which was previously in service with the Canadian Coast Guard. It has two inboard Caterpillar diesel engines, driving two Hamilton water-jet propulsion units. The RIB is normally skippered by Dave Rogers, a professional mariner who runs Ambient Marine from Albert Dock in Liverpool.

I visited Dave onboard “Energy” a short while ago, and it’s hard to imagine a more ideal solution!

Our sincere thanks go to both Bill and Dave for their incredible offer.

We are continuing to talk to Bill and Dave about dates and crewing, but as you may have read in previous posts, the biggest potential hurdle of finding a sponsor for the necessary marine diesel seems to be resolving itself.

For more information on Ambient Marine please visit their website at:

Thanks to Southern Tank Services

Sponsorship Posted on 17 Sep, 2012 20:14:51

Thanks very much to Chris Ford at Southern Tank
for provision of
transportation tanks and a pumping service; part of the logistics of moving the
fuel for the safety boat.

Southern Tank Services was
amazingly helpful and has provided two IBC tanks for transportation of the diesel
needed for the safety boat. Despite
being super busy, Chris made the time to come and deliver the donated
transportation tanks and provide a pumping service to get this very vital part
of the Irish Sea Crossing jig saw puzzle under way.

I could tell from just
the short time that Chris spent sorting out the fuel transfer that he likes to get things done just
right and is willing to go the extra mile to make sure that they are. For
example, not content with providing the transportation tanks and the
pump service, Chris kindly donated a combined fuel filter / water-absorber, just to
ensure that when the fuel gets pumped into the boat that it is in absolutely perfect condition!

A big thanks to Southern Tank Services for
being so supportive for my effort to support two great charities. I would even go so far as to say….“Tanks” for

find out more about Southern Tank Services visit their website at


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