No this is not Martin Freeman writing this – yes that is a photograph of him as Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson’s adaption of Tolkien’s The Hobbit. This is the scene as Bilbo charges after the dwarves and a confused old Hobbit shouts “hey Mr Bilbo, where ye off to”? to which Bilbo replies “I’M GOING ON A ADVENTURE”. I think that entire scene as Howard Shores beautiful faster played version of The Shire theme plays in the background is my favorite part because its that mood of excitement and indeed adventure and also uncertainty – Bilbo may well be excited about what he is doing but he also does not know if he will come back to Bag End to tell the tale.
Now my own adventure certainly does not have that much severity in it! I know that I am coming home at the end of it – I suppose in some familiar form as the Hobbit and also The Lord of the Rings – the journey of Confidence from the East Coast to the West Coast is basically a adaption of The Fellowship of the Ring with The Two Towers and The Return of the King still to come.
Thankfully there are many elements in this story that are not true – for example we haven’t lost a warrior to three arrows in the chest shot by a Uruk Hai of Isenguard nor have two Hobbits been kidnapped mistaken for carrying some crocked old piece of jewelry that somehow controls the world nor have two of our company decided to walk into a dangerous country followed by a crawling bloke with a sore throat who is obsessed with gold! No – thankfully none of the above has happened to us, we all survived to tell the tale and we plan to go back and continue that tale as soon as we can. But why can’t we tell you the whole story now? Lets read on and find out.
As Autism on the Water (AOTW) started to really grow despite a global pandemic – my dream to provide autistic people with more sailing opportunities started to grow even larger. For a long time, I dreamed of my charity having another boat in addition to the Hunter 707 racing yacht we already had. I did not want another racer, I wanted a cruiser but a cruiser which was stable, had plenty sail area and options and also the addition of indoor as well as outdoor steering, this would enable those who did not feel comfortable or safe on deck to retreat below deck and still be able to drive the boat from inside. When asked by a friend if I thought I could swindle it into life – my response was “never”. Boats come with a big financial commitment and whilst AOTW was strong financially with increasing support, the thought of a second boat made me worry that I would let people down if we could not make it work. Until one cold and wet day in November in late 2020 at Port Edgar, I spotted a Colvic Victor 34 motorsailer sitting on the hard – she looked tired and had sat there for a while – but she was the boat that I knew ticked the boxes for what I wanted to do with my charity going forwards in the future. A random conversation with a friend named Stevie Bramall soon turned into perhaps the most frighting and nerve wracking email I have ever sent in my life to the family of as it was known at the time “Victoria M” and I explained what I did and how I wanted their boat. They accepted that I wanted it and were willing to hold onto it to see if I could raise the capital.
Cutting a story short (the prologue in the Fellowship of the Ring was longer!) a spectacular fundraising drive saw AOTW raise the funds to purchase Victoria M after a staggering 27 hours of fundraising and as of early December, AOTW became official owners of this boat. To say I was not shocked would be a lie. I was absolutely over the moon that we had managed to reach this moment and especially how we raised the money in such a short space of time. However I was also very nervous, this was a big buy, a massive investment to the charity and whilst it was a big asset, I worried at how big or little I could deliver with this boat – but we had it and so I had to at least try! I will not go into the depths of the full refit but the legendary Jock Blair along with my close friend Colin Robertson and Gerry Fitzgerald worked all hours to bring the boat back to a full seaworthy condition – many hours were spent varnishing, painting, sponging, refitting, re-wiring, hammering and nailing to bring this boat back to life. I owe so much to these three gentleman but especially Jock Blair who went beyond the call of duty to ensure that the work he did was to 100% satisfactory. AOTW will forever be in Jock’s debut for the contribution he has made to our charity.
With the boat fully launched by my dear grandmother on the 19th April – attention turned to preparing for the delivery trip from Port Edgar to the Crinan Canal and finally Rhu Marina where the boat will be eventually based. Timings of sea trials and engine trials were unfortunately delayed for various reasons but we managed to get out for a days sail out of Port Edgar with myself, Jock, Gerry, Colin, Graham Cannell and Graham’s friend Haken. It felt wonderful to finally after so long take Confidence out on the water and see how she sailed. For those who wonder where the name Confidence comes from – the name was suggested by a very very dear friend of mine who was heavily involved with the project, he is a friend who has stood by me thick and thin in the toughest and easiest times of life – he pointed out that one of the aims of AOTW was to enable Confidence into people with autism’s lives. He also pointed out how much confidence I had gained throughout both the running of my charity and also the whole project with this boat. I was touched by his remarks and his views and so the name Confidence was born and thus for AOTW a new era was born. The sea trial was now done, the boat handled beautifully (reaching 8kts on a reach), we even flew a spinnaker and also the engine ran well. I was very confident that Confidence would reach her new home on the west coast with no issues.
So Confidence was to undertake a journey practically from the east coast of Scotland to the west coast of Scotland. Why was she going west? Simple really – the west coast has more to offer, more facilities, more places to visit and also better relationships could be made on the west. Rhu Marina in Helensburgh as a premier marina on the Clyde offered shelter and also very easy access from both Glasgow and Edinburgh directly by train and bus. But to get to Rhu from Port Edgar is a challenge – the choices are limited, option 1 is to completely dismantle the boat and have her taken across by lorry which would be expensive and time consuming or prepare her enough for sea to sail her up the North Sea and through the Caledonian Canal via Oban, Crinan Canal and finally Rhu Marina. Now for those who have sailed the north sea, many will have a tale to tell – some are scary, some are pure gentle but many will turn round and say that they had a bit of everything on the North Sea. The east coast of Scotland whilst it is a adventure to explore has many drying out harbors, ferocious tides, big seas and many shipping obstacles. For this major trip, I recruited a team of experienced and close friends who were able, willing and fully aware of what was to come – but importantly for me, I wanted to share this experience with my friends and I will say now, I do not think I would have got this far without them.
Port Edgar to Anstruther
On the morning of the 5th of May at 6am – Confidence departed Port Edgar on a beautiful but cold sunny morning crewed by Murray, Darren, Graham and Colin. It was a very cold morning with northerly winds but despite this, the feeling of “we are on our way” really felt amazing – our first duty was to lay a bunch of roses down on the Firth of Forth in memory of Lynk Clark a beautiful young boy with autism who tragically died aged 11. Lynk’s family requested no flowers at his funeral but to send donations to AOTW. This generosity and thoughtfulness was felt by all within the charity and we are eternally grateful to Lynk’s parents Roisin and Chris for their beautiful generosity and we sincerely hope that our own tribute to Lynk by laying flowers on the sea brings them some comfort during such a difficult time.
We continued our journey to Anstruther which would be our first overnight stop with the crew taking turns at helming throughout the day. A worry however was the discovery of a leak in the forward cabin in the anchor locker. A substantial amount of water was pouring in from the bobstay fitting of the boat. Despite a large amount of pumping and bailing, the water was still slowly coming in – discussions were had about potentially turning back and sorting a repair which would mean cancelling the trip – I think personally we would have done that had we not taken my close friend Darren Taylor – a qualified boat builder with us. Darren is like a brother to me, a experienced sailor and fantastic boat technician, we have had many differences both good and bad but throughout the last few years, we have become very close and always been there for each other through the toughest of times. His experience and also his wisdom is skills that I will forever take forwards in my sailing career. The experience myself and all my crew learnt from Darren on this trip will forever be invaluable.
On arrival in Anstruther at 11am – the task was on to fix the leak! To do this required a large amount of silicon! Darren and I, along with Graham made a wander into this small seaside town where we found the local hardware shop. The proprietor was a kind local who ensured that we acquired the appropriate tools and equipment needed to do the repair. As the afternoon wore on, the tide slowly started to flow out of the harbour – so we moved all heavy equipment such as fuel tanks, anchors, ropes, chain, beer etc. to the stern of the boat, pumped the dinghy up and allowed Darren to do his magic. The bobstay fitting has two bolts attached to the bow of the hull – one of the bolts was pure knackered. Now because of where we were, finding new bolts was going to be a challenge – so Darren decided to construct a temporary repair to stop the leak until we reached the west coast – he took the two bolts out and swapped them – so the good bolt was now taking the pressure of water and he placed large amounts of silicon in place. Without plunging into further detail – his repair has been 100% effective, although there is still a small amount of water pouring in, Darren’s repair has stopped the leak and we are planning on a full substantial repair at the earliest opportunity.
The rest of the day was spent enjoying the relaxed amsophere of Anstruther and of course its famous Fish and Chips! The low tide which allowed Confidence to sit dry in her berth allowed plenty of humor both in person and on social media as our thoughts turned to a early night in preparation for a long passage the next day.
Anstruther to Peterhead
A 8:30am departure following a top up of water and a full safety briefing on board before the long passage ahead. We left Anstruther to a lumpy sea and gusty winds, the direction of wind at first saw us rolling out the Genoa for a swift run towards the North Carr buoy. Because of the wind strength, we were that quick that we had to start furling away the genoa. Crew differences were tested during this period which saw various opinions raised and concerns pointed out – however in my first role as skipper of a big passage, I gathered my crew on deck to discuss and sort everything out to ensure that we were all safe and happy to continue our passage north.
As the day wore on, we made our way north with each of the crew taking turns to be on the helm – hour on, hour off system which worked really well between the four of us. The engine at this point was holding up very well and all sails were kept stowed away with the need to make passage up the North Sea to Inverness as quickly as possible and also with the constant headwinds which made any point of sail difficult on the course we were steering too. As we worked our way up the east coast, the wind remained light and shifty but the sun shone and it was wonderful to catch a glimpse of the Bell Rock Lighthouse many miles away in the distance. In a long passage, energy is always required so cuppa soups, pot noodles and many teas and coffees were always on hand throughout the day to keep spirits up and everyone hydrated.
As time wore on, we continued to work our way up the coast, encountering various rain squalls and numerous spells of sunshine – clever tidal calculations had us hitting 6-7kts most of the way and so we were making good time on our passage to Peterhead. Off Stonehaven and completely out of the blue we saw the Coastguard helicopter. Now when we usually see a helicopter, we usually give it a wave or point out in awe! However we could not help noticing that this aircraft was hovering rather low and very close to us! What was going on? Literally 20 minutes beforehand, I had received a email informing me that I had been chosen to receive the “Point of Light” award from the Prime Minister in reflection to all my community service and for AOTW – this was huge stuff and one that was making me swell up! However at this point the helicopter had arrived – was someone going to come and surprise me with a announcement? Had some petty person dobbed us in to the Covid police? Why would anyone do that? We weren’t doing anything wrong – we were a bubble of close friends! We’d all taken tests and came back negative – what was going on?!
Quite simple really! Graham – bless him – was in the habit as his role of navigator by reporting to the coastguard on the VHF radio on our movements – I personally did not see the point but each to their own! The Coastguard were out on exercise and upon earlier hearing that we were making passage, they decided to do a exercise on us! To say that I was not totally SHITTING MYSELF would be a major lie because this experience was like reliving either a maritime movie or a documentary. The crew however were all extremely excited at this experience and iPhones and cameras were deployed to capture the moment at every opportunity! The coastguard hovered over us for at least 15-20 minutes before eventually flying away not before giving a big wave of thanks for our co-operation with them during their exercise – it was not the Balin’s Tomb in the Mines of Moria but it was still the most exciting part of the North Sea!
After we had recovered from the excitement of the Coastguard dropping by for Tea and biscuits, we pushed on up the coast as the early evening came down upon us. We were still making good time with a good tide – however the challenge of the whole trip was constantly keeping a weather eye out for notorious seafood creels that fishermen laid across the stretch of coast with Scotland being a major seafood export, its no surprise that we were used to seeing their produce across the various stretches of water we are so used to sailing in.
Aberdeen came into our sights around 7-8pm. This area of water was were navigation skills were tested especially as a vicious rain sqaull came in bringing 30kts of wind, dark clouds and heavy hailstones which made sight for driving the boat extremely difficult – not a good place to be when trying to cross what is effectively the on water version of the M9 from Glasgow to Edinburgh but instead trying to avoid the hundreds of ships going to and from Aberdeen. We managed to pick our way away from the main shipping lane but this resulted in a 12 mile detour offshore to avoid the one ship that was near us to which I still do not understand to this day why we went so far away. But every day is a school day and we eventually passed away from Aberdeen for our destination of Peterhead which we anticipated to be only a few hours from now.
Darkness came upon us as the tide turned and the speed dropped. We very soon had wind and tide against us so our speed went from 6-7kts down to 3-4kts. Peterhead was in sight but that last stretch to there felt like a eternity – almost like how Aragon, Legolas and Gimli must have felt running across the Plains of Rohan. My strict rule for this trip was for no overnight or in the dark passages but for long day trips as in 12 hour passages with the intention of tying up before dark each day – some hope! The navigation lights were switched on for the first time ever and they worked! However the wind picked up and was reaching 30-35kts with a large sea. Peterhead is a sheltered but also exposed marina where most North Sea crossers or passagers run to hide when it gets rough. Darren took the helm with Graham navigating as Colin and I took watch for the large amount of creels that littered the area around Peterhead. The rain came with a vengeance as did the wind as we battled our way into port – having been at sea for so long, we just desperately wanted to get in! At 00:00hrs on the dot – Confidence docked into Peterhead having logged 85 nautical miles from Anstruther – the feeling on board with the majority being tired was of sincere achievement that this boat had handled perhaps the most difficult part of the trip and the fact we had done such a long passage on a new boat to all of us showed that the boat was capable. The cans of Tennents and Magners were very much deserved and despite the long day, it was nearly 4am when some of us crawled into our bunks!
Peterhead to Lossiemouth
Following the long previous day, we treated ourselves to a long lie the next day. Peterhead Marina were incredibly generous to us by kindly giving our berth and gas bottle for free in support of the charity. Darren and me took the chance to have a short walk to stock up on supplies at Lidal’s whilst Colin and Graham refulled and refilled with water. The diesel was holding up well as was the engine and we had every confidence going forwards as we got closer to Inverness. We now had to face the notorious Rattery Head which for the east coasters is known as the “Cape Horn of Scotland”. We departed from Peterhead at 11am in gusty conditions and lumpy seas as we returned back out to sea with 60 nautical miles to go until we reached Lossiemouth.
By lunchtime, with tide a little against us, we were rounding Rattery Head but from offshore. My lack of offshore passages came back to haunt me as for the first time proper in my 20+ years of sailing, I felt seasick! The seas were large and the winds were gusty but we pushed on – After drinking 4 bottles of water, taking a seasick pill and a stint on the helm, I started to feel myself again. As we cleared Rattery Head and made our way down the coast passing Whitehills and MacDuff, the wind reduced but left a rather uncomfortable sea which was nowhere near as bad as earlier but still uncomfortable nonetheless but the sun shone and even the temperatures warmed up a little – we took time to reflect on a fantastic journey as we started to approach back in land a bit more and finally leaving the North Sea behind us.
The day wore on with us once again taking turns on the helm. We managed to even eat some decent food as Darren put our brand new gas oven to the test and produced some nicely heated scotch pies and scotch eggs – delicious! The sun shone as we made our way towards Lossiemouth and started to go down and we were treated to a gorgeous sunset.
As we approached Lossiemouth, I decided as skipper to take the boat into the harbour and berth her in the dark. I knew that I needed to start parking the boat more and so parking in the dark would be a great opportunity. With calm guidance from Darren, we made our way slowly into Lossiemouth marina where we successfully berthed at 10pm – 11hrs after leaving Peterhead. The day had been shorter then the previous day but still tiring and we made no hesitation in grabbing our wash bags and towels and making our way to the marina showers for a glorious hot shower after 2 very long days before settling down for the usual sun downer dram!
Lossiemouth to Inverness
A 5am alarm call saw us up sharp to prepare for the final ocean leg to Inverness and the Caledonian Canal where we would have plenty shelter. Big breeze was forecast and we wanted to get to Inverness before that hit us. Lossiemouth Marina very generously similar to Peterhead allowed us to berth there for free and use their facilities to which we were very grateful. We also sadly said goodbye to Darren who had to return to work at Craobh Haven. I want to personally say a massive thank you to my Teddy Bear (Darren!) who made such a massive contribution to this important leg of the trip with his experience and knowledge having grown up in this stretch of water sailing with his dad Jeff. Darren’s experience that I personally took away from this trip is something that I will never ever forget and although we have had differences in the past with opinions in both sailing and also other areas, his friendship means more to me then anything and I feel so blessed to have such a kind hearted, gifted and beautiful individual in my life who cares about the interests of what I do.
Leaving Lossiemouth, we were treated to beautiful downwind conditions that actually saw us deploy both the genoa and mizzen sail. Our sails were made by Owen Sails and discounted specially for the charity – it is great to have this company involved with AOTW as I have personally been involved with Owen Sails all my life so it is great to have them part of my project to provide more sailing activity for autistic people.
The sun shone and the breeze freshened as we made our way towards Inverness sailing at a steady 8kts with sails and engine on. As we approached the stretch of water that leads to Inverness, we doused sails and I took on the role of navigator to pilot into the Caledonian Canal. The approach to Inverness is a beautiful moment especially when the infamous dolphins come alongside you and swim with you as you motor along. Graham especially has a deep love for these creatures and I am sure he had a full Daily Mirror’s coverage of photographs of Dolphins to share for life!
With such a good tide and following breeze – we made passage under the Kessock Bridge just outside of Inverness and arrived into Clachnaharry Sea lock at the entrance of the Caledonian Canal at 12:30pm.
40 nautical miles since leaving Lossiemouth and over 200 nautical miles since leaving Port Edgar – this moment marked a major achievement not just for AOTW but for everyone on board. We had encountered a big passage with a variety of wind conditions and weather conditions. It personally for me was a massive achievement getting my charity’s yacht so far in its first voyage and now it was plain sailing for the remainder of the journey as we entered more familiar waters – at least that is what we thought at the time!!
Inverness to Fort Augustus
Now safely in the Caledonian Canal and thankfully missing out the storms – we could finally relax and enjoy the remainder of the trips and not put too much pressure on ourselves. To help us through the canal, my beautiful and dear friend Katie very kindly came up from Dundee to assist us through the canal. Katie and I met just before Christmas, she is now a major part of the AOTW team and also a very close friend of mine, I really do not think I would have sanely got through this second lockdown without her friendship – she has always been there for me since we met and always been the first to wish me a “Good Morning” every day. For her to accept a invitation to come and join us for this trip was considered by me as a real honour.
The sun shone brightly and with no wind, maneuvering in the locks was much easier compared to the day before when it was blowing over 25kts! The Caledonian Canal is a beautiful stretch of water and it is where you are guaranteed everything from city life to absolute country life! Our passage from Inverness through the locks and eventually entering Loch Ness was most enjoyable with many people giving us a wave and even some sending me emails after seeing us from afar and wanting to know more about the charity.
We entered Loch Ness and settled down to a nice quiet motor down the loch towards Fort Augustus which was just over 20 nautical miles away. There was a little rain in the loch and also some wind however despite setting some sail – it was deemed too fickle and light to make any progress so it was furled away and attention was brought back to the engine! We all sat in the comfort of the wheelhouse enjoying the beautiful surroundings with a dram of Talisker whisky which we did a mandatory job of throwing one over the side to the Loch Ness Monster! No she never appeared – she must have been sleeping!
We arrived into the Fort Augustus pontoons at 6pm after a truly great day. Our only issues was we were all suffering from lack of heating on the boat! The North Sea had been very cold and we were waking up to freezing conditions every morning! We now had thankfully bought electric heaters to plug into shore power however where we were had water but no shore power! Sod’s luck! Nevertheless we could not complain about being where we were with the company of lots of ducks and a beautiful rainbow and also being one of two boats in the traditionally busiest spot of the canal.
Fort Augustus and the Breaking of the Fellowship!
Next morning, we awoke to sunshine and a real vibe on board the boat to continue our journey – our plan was to make for the Neptune’s staircase at Fort William which would take us out to sea and into Oban before heading south. The engine was turned on and whilst it went on with no issues, the oil alarm was ringing which indicated low oil. Engine shut down straight away and Colin discovered that there was no oil in the engine – a trip to the petrol station to purchase more oil and upon return to the boat, Graham expressed concern that there was a leak and that the engine needed to be disconnected and lifted out the boat. Sheer disbelief entered me at the absolute thought of this – we made it this far, we had battled the north sea and here we were in the Caledonian Canal with this problem. However we were not going to give in easily and after a couple of phone calls, Robert from the West End garage generously came down with a couple of bottles of fresh oil and got the engine started – with this done, we decided to make to the top of the locks and checking all systems before moving on. Upon tying up at the pontoons, we fitted in a new shore power system and discussed our next movements – Colin checked underneath the floorboards and discovered that there was nothing but pure oil. Indicating a severe oil leak in the engine. Colin and Graham are close friends and always have my absolute best interests at heart and this part of the story is very hard for me to write about, but they took a walk to discuss their concerns and opinions and returned back to me to inform me that the boat was not safe to continue the journey with the leak.
This moment was extremely hard for me to comprehend – for weeks I had pictured and planned this journey with each time and date of each moment – sudden change for a autistic person and indeed any person is extremely hard and this situation was no different. So what did I do? Did I just sit there and nod my head at their views? No I did not, I felt insulted and ganged up upon by the situation especially with me as the skipper of the boat and technically the man in charge. Now I am not one to get angry and have melt downs in front of my friends and a serious meltdown was coming fast – so I ran and I ran! I walked fiercely down the set of locks that we had navigated through just hours previously, I did not look, see, feel or smell anything, I just walked with no idea or thought of what I was going to feel or do, my body was numb and my heart was breaking around me. Colin chased after me and I totally blanked him – this was very very wrong of me, Colin is not just my friend, he is my brother and the way I treated him was totally unacceptable – I knew that from the moment I told him to leave me alone, but I also did not care at the time – it felt like the scene in Amon Hen where Aragon allows Frodo to journey alone but their parting was with love and respect and yet I treated Colin like he was nothing – all I wanted was to just sit on the edge of the loch and eventually fall into it. This whole project felt like it was falling down around me and it was tearing me apart.
What seemed like hours l suspect it was – I eventually found myself to lift myself up from the edge of Loch Ness and return to the boat – the guys were away to the pub, should I join them? I did not know – I felt the damage had been done. I started the procedure of telephoning many marine mechanics to see who could come and help us – no one was free, with Covid restrictions easing, the boating world is becoming busy again and many are catching up on backlogged work from many months back.
Eventually, I made my way to the pub – I sat down with my crew who all stared at me, was it anger? was it disappointment? was it fear? I did not know. I told them my views and what the various people had explained to me in messages about what to do with the engine and whilst Graham and Katie sat and listened, Colin vented out his frustrations very clearly which cued for Graham and Katie to make a hasty departure from the table and leave me and Colin to it. Colin expressed how upset he was at the way I had been with him and what the situation was and how I had to learn to be a man. This conversation with such a close friend reminded me of Frodo trying to leave the Fellowship and Sam tries to follow him into the water knowing he cannot swim. The earlier scenes of Colin following me as I ran towards the loch reminded me of that moment in the film and me pushing Colin away was like allowing Sam to drown.
My chat with Colin in the pub was deep and insightful and he expressed his love and respect for me which again reminded me of Sam saying “I made a promise Mr Frodo, a promise – don’t you leave him Samwise Gamgee and I don’t mean too, I don’t mean too”. Colin expressed to me how much he cared for me and how proud he was of me which broke me down into tears as I took into reflection on the behavior I had caused that day to those closest to me. I apologized to Colin whilst tears flooded down my face and my hands shook – he stood up walked round my side of the table and put my arms around me and assured me that I would fight this situation and get through it. We made up as brothers, brothers who love each other dearly and we started to plan for what we could do to resolve the situation whilst enjoying many pints of beer and a large Chinese takeaway on board the boat!
The next day dawned a fresh start as we successfully managed to find a mechanic to come and look at the leak in the engine. Tristen who is from Findhorn traveled all the way from his home to Fort Augustus to the boat where he discovered the source of the leak – a loose hose! He had that repaired within minutes and fresh oil in. Whilst there he discovered that one of the fuel pipes was leaking and he asked if he could return that night to fix it – I was so touched as he traveled back at 9pm that night and had our pipes and leaks all sorted and despite having to isolate one of the fuel tanks, everything was good to go for the next day – we will forever be grateful to Tristen for the help and support he has given AOTW.
The next day dawned and we were full of energy – desperate to get back underway again. Colin and Katie departed for home and the return to commitments and work leaving me and Graham to carry on alone. I turned the key for the engine only to be greeted with a “clunk”. Having heard this clunk before, I took it as a indication that the batteries were flat so we promptly put them on charge and went for breakfast. Upon returning to the boat with the batteries now significantly charged – we attempted to start the engine again and the “clunk” happened again. A visit to the West End Garage to borrow a set of jump leads led to nothing but the same “Clunk”. What was going on? A FaceTime call to my amazing Stepdad Pete had us trying everything in the engineers book to getting started but still nothing happened and we were left with no choice but to call Caley Marine in Inverness and request a mechanic to come and have a look – their man would travel out at 8am the following day which meant yet another night in Fort Augustus – the wildlife must be getting so pissed off with us now!
8am the following day and Gerry the mechanic arrived – surely he will get us going?! He made a throughout inspection of the engine and discovered a major problem – the engine exhaust was knackered and was allowing water to ingest into the engine – the system that it was built on was not suitable for the boat and so a new anti syphon is needed. The good news is he managed to get the engine started but has insisted that it must not be started until the repair is done – but the bad news is it cannot be done until the 1st June.
The heartbreak and substantial amount of tears that went down my face upon hearing the 1st of June absolutely broke me – this means that Confidence will now miss the Crinan Canal event and also the Scottish Series – both events that we had worked so so so hard to prepare the boat for to attend and now it cannot happen. I am totally destroyed at this especially given the dreams I had for this boat. I never lost my temper, I never cried on the phone, I just said thank you very much and put the phone down – I then went onto Facebook live to inform the followers of the charity with what was going on. The love and support I received from so many was just out of this world, no one got angry, no one got upset, all I got was love and best wishes on a successful repair. And Confidence WILL get a successful repair, she is in the right hands to operate that repair and she will continue her journey south at the earliest opportunity possible. One thing I learnt from this whole experience is to take everything like this with a pinch of salt and always prepare myself.
The consolation is we can still proceed with our Crinan Canal event with the one boat taking part. We can still provide that experience for the 17 autistic people taking part in this event – as sad as it is that Confidence will not make it, I am just delighted we can still provide that experience.
I am now back in Edinburgh and working hard to prepare for the day that Confidence will be ready to continue her journey to her new home at Rhu Marina – whilst I do not wish to go through these problems again, I cannot deny that the experiences I gained from the entire trip will take me forwards to greater things in life. It is now 3:30am here at home and I must go to bed but before signing off i must extend my thanks to Colin, Graham and Katie and most of all to my dear Darren for without him I would not have gained these skills that I needed to go forwards with Confidence and it is that that I dedicate this piece of writing to him.
For now – as we enter the misty hills of Emyn Muil in our own version we prepare for our post production which will be our return to Confidence! So for now goodnight and thank you for reading!
The Journey Continues!