Gavin Millar completes 1000 nautical miles of his sailing canoe circumnavigation – but runs out of time

Gavin Millar leaves the Isle of May

‘Canoesailor’ Gavin Millar called a temporary halt to his sailing canoe circumnavigation of Great Britain last week.

After two and a half months of sailing his sabbatical was coming to an end, but he still reached Oban (he started from the Solent) and managed to clock up 1000 nautical miles in his Solway Dory sailing canoe. This seems to me to be a great achievement especially during this summer. He plans to return to the job next year, so let’s hope the weather is kinder next summer than it has been this year.

In his weblog Gavin reports that he would have liked to have sailed and paddled further, but given the conditions this summer he was happy to have made it to the West Coast of Scotland.

These two paragraphs seem to me to be particularly telling:

‘The physical and mental strains of sailing a very small boat alone on the North Sea in strong winds and large waves meant that there were times when I was close to giving up, and I confess there were times when I was very scared, but I’m glad I persisted with the voyage. I would not like to have missed many of the experiences of the last two and a half months.

‘I’ve seen much of Britain’s amazing coastline from a special “upclose” perspective usually only experienced by sea kayakers and a few intrepid dinghy sailors. I have many great memories, not the least of which are of the people I’ve met along the way and of the huge amount of support and generosity I’ve benefited from. So, huge thanks to all those who’ve been so kind and helpful.’

Characteristically modest, Gavin also says he hopes he will inspire someone with more time and courage to sail all the way round, adding that he feels he has made a passable attempt at following in the tradition of the Canoe Boys and John McGregor.

Well yes – of course he has!

I gather Gavin’s site will have more photos and more weblog entries from his voyage over time, and don’t forget that one of his aims in making the voyage is to raise funds for the hospitality industry benevolent organisation Hospitality Action. The Canoesailor website includes a link for making donations, and Gavin’s employers have kindly pledged to match every pound donated with a pound of their own to a maximum of £10,000.

Great Britain circumnavigating sailing canoeist Gavin Millar pauses for thought

Gavin and Stacey at the Tees and Hartlepool Yacht Club

Round Britain sailing canoeist Gavin Millar has reached Amble in Northumberland – progress that amounts to something like a third of the distance he hoped to cover in about half the time the time he has available.

In the worst summer weather I can recall, his progress seems to me to be nothing short of wonderful, and I’m quite sure that he’s succeeding in one of his key aims, to demonstrate the abilities of the sailing canoe.

For one thing, I know he’ll be giving quite a few dinghy and small yacht sailors cause to stop and think about whether their boating approach is the right one for the location, available time and budget.

Readers who would like to know a little more about the fascinating 150-year history of cruising by sailing canoe in the UK, a good place to start is Gavin’s website, which includes a page on just this topic.

But the weather conditions must be wildly frustrating for the man himself. He must so wish he’d done it last year or next.

But talking with him, you quickly get an impression of a man with a very considered  approach to life. I imagine his daily routine must involved a certain amount of something close to meditation, and his weblog post of yesterday has exactly that quality as he considers his options as the time available to complete his voyage runs a little short:

‘I’ve decided to press on and to get as far as I can. And if I don’t complete the entire route then I’ll return to finish it at a later date. I’ve also been reminding myself of some of the reasons why I have chosen to make this voyage in a sailing canoe. These include not only the challenge itself but also the opportunity to explore the very varied and often stunningly beautiful British coastline in a way that’s often not possible in a yacht and sometimes not possible by sailing dinghy. The closeness to the physical experience, the ability to land on a wide variety of beaches and to get up close to headlands, cliffs and to some isolated and little visited parts of our coast are some of the attractions.

‘So, next I head on past the delights of the Northumbrian Coast before reaching a Scotland. And I’ll continue to try to communicate the excitement and enjoyment of travelling by sailing canoe as best I can.’

Go Gavin! For me, you can stuff most of the Olympics. Gavin and Stacey’s circumnavigation of Great Britain is the best sporting reason to pray for better weather.

PS Gavin has a Facebook page featuring brief details of his progress – if Fb’s your thing, I’m sure he’d appreciate as many ‘likes’ as he can get.

Gavin and Stacey

I’m very impressed by ‘Canoesailor’ Gavin Millar’s positively Victorian project of circumnavigating most of Great Britain in a sailing canoe made for him by Solway Dory.

It’s bonkers of course and I don’t advise trying it at home, but it is well worked out and it’s classic slow sailing – and it’s for charity.

He’s got a website that includes a weblog and a  SPOT technology feature that allows web surfers to follow his position online.

Last night he was in Rye Harbour, and I think he’ll likely be stuck there for a day or two… But why not check his position on Sunday?