Other PicoMicroYacht

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

A PicoMicroAdventure

The writer Alastair Humphreys has recently coined the term microadventure to label a new philosophy about having an adventure.
'... you do not need to fly to the other side of the planet to undertake an expedition. You do not need to be an elite athlete, expertly trained or rich to have an adventure.
I believe that adventure is about stretching yourself: mentally, physically or culturally. It is about doing what you do not normally do, pushing yourself hard and doing it to the best of your ability.
If that is true then adventure is all around us, at all times. Adventure is accessible to normal people, in normal places, in short segments of time and without having to spend much money.'
So he advocates simple expeditions and challenges that are close to home. Examples are driving to a nearby hill, finding an wood away from housing and sleeping the night in a bivvy bag. He even decided as a challenge to walk round the M25 London radial road system with a friend, staying the night out in the open each night.

Some would say this is eccentric, even mad. But I have been pondering the nature of eccentricity. Take commuting to work, for example; I have travelled on the same train route in London about 10,000 times in the last 28 years, including there and back. Nothing much happened. It is true once I nearly got mugged and evaded my mugging mainly due to the stupidity of the muggers. But nothing much else happened for 10,000 times and this was my most exciting experience. So does it strike people as odd that I should do such a repetitive and uninteresting activity so frequently and for so many years? not really... perhaps it should... and also in comparison, why is it so strange to create a sense of adventure by sleeping under the stars and trees in a wood for a night in  the South of England?
Of course, there are answers to this question, but I think Alastair has some good things to say as he articulated the reasons to do microadventuring and for me to be rowing round the south coast of England, or even across Ireland in a 11.5 foot sailing dinghy. 
Armed with these thoughts on a cold December day with the light was fading I set off from Queenborough in the Medway Estuary in search of Deadman's Island.

PicoMicroYacht was laden up with two dry bags, with a tent and a cooker, and my laptop for writing. The plan was to stay the night on Deadman's Island and blog from there.

The Queenborough pontoons with the cranes on the Isle of Grain behind
As I set off, a local man commented  roughly but kindly 'you will ..... freeze to death out there.'

The leaden water began to ruffle as I looked out towards the Medway entrance
The name Deadman's island sounds as if it is from a film about pirates, but it came about because an outbreak of plaque in the Baltic Sea ports led to a designated quarantine site for cargo ships that were sailing to London in 1712. 
Those quarantined stayed on ships in the proximal Shepherds Creek and many who died were buried on the island. 
Also, in the 19th Century, prison ships were moored there and dead prisoners were buried.

I tried to photograph the creeks and the posts that lined it, previously used to help moor ships. However, my hand was not steady enough.

Reaching the centre of Shepherd's creek, I rowed around for a while trying to find a landing area, but getting lost in the small subsidiary creeks. The tide was beginning to recede and it had got dark - it felt like pitch black in the creek.

As I looked back I saw a freighter gliding along down the West Swale, onward into the Thames Estuary, camouflaged by the shore lights.

 I had to admit defeat and return back to Queenborough, but already I had experienced a PicoMicroAdventure even without staying the night on the island.

The Old House at Home pub just by the slipway at Queenborough was a welcome sight

As an update - Alistair Humphreys has emailed 'All I have done is invent a name for the cool stuff that people have been doing for years.' A bit modest in my view.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

PicoMicroYacht all shook up because Elvis is alive in Dublin

I am all shook up because last week I saw Elvis perform alive in Dublin.  Honestly, I can explain ... it's tricky, but stay with me....

The first step in planning the PicoMicroYacht voyage from Dublin to Limerick for next year (see previous post) is to get hold of the particular type of lock key used on Irish canals.

Irish canals have lock key systems that prevent people vandalising locks by using ordinary spanners to open the sluice gates at the wrong moment. Specially fitted cowling stops them, but this means the key has to have a longer end, as above.

So what is this to do with Elvis, I hear you say? 

Well ... I needed to get one of these keys and it was fortunate to be in Dublin attending a meeting to celebrate the career of a distinguished brain scientist, Professor Ian Robertson.

It was a wonderful meeting -  I have to admit that we all got a little carried away at the end.  To the delight of his audience, Ian became Elvis for a magical instance and we were treated to a masterful rendition of  'I can't help falling in love with you.'

Or maybe it really was Elvis.....

but what is this to do with lock keys I hear you ask?

Well, I was allowed time off from the meeting to purchase the lock key, a heavy lump of metal, which I had to conceal in my bag and cart back to the UK. I now have it in readiness for the PicoMicroYacht Ireland adventure.

But the way, Ian has just written a book on stress which promises to be a real classic.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

A Irish Adventure in the offiing

The winter months may curtail PicoMicroYacht somewhat, but not the planning of future voyaging, a sailor's winter entertainment.

My CASPA running friends have decided to do their next 100 K charity run along the Wild Atlantic Way on the west of Ireland.

This coast is not for the faint hearted. The wild Atlantic rolling waves, building up over thousands of miles, crash against the coast, where on a lee shore there may be no safe port for miles. Best voyaged in a well founded and seaworthy yacht.

Being cautious, instead of following them along the coast, PicoMicroyacht will be crossing Ireland east to west from Dublin to Limerick along canals and rivers and meeting up with the runners on the coast.

 If the weather is settled and calm, there could be a few voyages out into the Atlantic Ocean.

It may be possible to visit the Aran Islands, just off the Bay of Galway. These Islands can be reached by PicoMicroYacht in less than two hours.

But, as the the Irish playright, John Millingon Synge, wrote in 1898 when recuperating on the Aran islands:

'A man who is not afraid of the sea will soon be drownded, for he will be going on a day he shouldn't. But we do be afraid of the sea and do only be drownded now and again.'

 So only now and then, but even so one cannot be too careful.

J M Synge

Footnote: The quote from John Synge is actually the words of an old man trying to persuade him not to go to sea off Inishmore Island in an open rowing boat, a curagh. Synge ignored the advice and nonchalantly set off,  the boat hitting an angry cross sea, nearly drowning the crew.

His book, 'The Aran Islands' is now free on the Web: