The Challenge

Sailing around Britain is a 'Big Ask'.

Circumnavigating Britain is by any definition a significant challenge, however big the boat, however capable the crew or however much time one might have to attempt such a circumnavigation. The coastline of the United Kingdom is around 1900 miles in distance, has some of the highest tidal ranges in the world and hence the fastest and most dangerous tidal races, and navigation is at times very complex indeed where rocks and headlands conspire with shallow sandbanks to catch out the unwary. The prevailing South West wind is variable, sometimes gale force, often strong, sometimes non-existent... and quite often cold. Fog is a problem in the summer months, the Atlantic swell is perpetual in the South West and Western coasts of Scotland and England, and the conditions are at best changeable. The coastline beyond the South is often hostile, rocky and with few places of refuge if caught out by high winds or large waves, or both. Retreating into a marina for shelter, or indeed anywhere else is sometimes just not an option. Add to that some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and one wonders why does anyone want to attempt it! Of course, not that many do.

The coastline of the British Isles is famous for its spectacular beauty and rugged nature, teaming with wildlife and where encounters with whales, porpoises, dolphins, and birds are common place. And yet, North of the South coast the coastline quickly becomes quieter and more remote,  and skippers report seeing few yachts at all. Surely, leaving the familiarity of the South Coast has to be a worthy goal in itself?

So, since I do not want to take too much time away from family, I decided to attempt a circumnavigation in two legs beginning in mid June. I shall be starting later than conventional wisdom would advise and will be spending more time sailing than relaxing in ports, it will be more challenge than cruise. We will be aiming to complete the first leg from Harwich to Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland in three weeks, then following a short break, another three weeks will take us on through the Western Isles of Scotland and 'over the top' past Cape Wrath to the Orkneys, Hebrides...or if bad weather has settled in we will use the Caledonian canal. I say 'we' because I shall not be doing this on my own. Although I am reconciled to sailing solo if necessary because of any circumstances beyond anyone's control, sailing on one's own is less safe, very tiring and absolutely no fun. Fortunately, there are 18 friends who will accompany me at different stages of our odyssey, so that we shall be mostly two or three on board, and occasionally four. Despite inevitable set backs, challenges, extreme logistics, sea sickness, tiredness and perhaps an occasional dose of fear, it should be mostly fun and I expect that we shall return knowing a little bit more about ourselves than when we first started.

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