Thursday, 27 December 2007

Captain Heather and her Dad.

I have been following the preparations for a solo circumnavigation that is due to set off from Florida on 1st January. The woman , Captain Heather, at 43, started to learn to sail in January this year, bought a boat in April 2007, and with a massive PR campaign from her dad is shortly due to leave for her great life adventure...

There is nothing particularly remarkable about such enterprise these days but this particular story has a grizzly fascination for me and perhaps for the other media that are covering it. This seems to come from an intoxicating cocktail of unmerited self-importance, arrogance and ignorance. Is this an accident waiting to happen? Will Captain Heather discover humility in the treacherous oceans? Or will she luck out and return blithely oblivious to the dangers she has just evaded like the toys in Toy Story 2 when they cross the road!

I discovered the project whilst surfing the cruising world website forums. 'Dad' had posted a thread inviting fellow sailors to join in the send off. Fascinating, I thought. I love to hear of great adventures and especially ones that combine romantic idealism with practical knowledge and I wrote back to him with some information that I thought might be useful.

Oh Boy! Got that one wrong didn't I! Far from posting on forums to, maybe, gather more info for his daughters great adventure you can see from the string of responses that I have certainly twisted this guys tail!

But he seems to have missed my point, that far from denouncing adventures of this nature my concern is that the realities of such undertakings should not be coloured with the misty rose tinted spectacles of unreal assertion. Especially when voiced on public forums... ooh he didn't like that.

I don't know about you but the more I am out here doing the sailing thing the more I know that I don't know much at all! Well not this guy. He has pointed out that he has 50 years sailing experience, 10 years in University and 2 doctorates (quite what relevance that has I cannot fathom) and nobody is going to tell him what to do...

He seems to have lost sight of the fact that it's his daughter, Captain Heather, who will be out there doing it in a twenty four foot boat with limited experience and preparation. Oh and by the way, 'Heather is definitely not a "yachtie" type, as you mentioned, and not at all interested in their thoughts nor customs.' Nor has he any knowledge of the current single handers. But she will be seen off by the Joshua Slocum Society. So that's okay then.

I despair! And it makes me wonder what they are doing seeking all this PR coverage and financial support when they have no desire to have contact with other sailors? Why are the sailing comics covering this project, are they adding any cautionary editorial to their articles? Probably not.

Now I do not advocate 'nannying' and certainly would not question safety, experience or any other qualifications, although I am intrigued that it is possible to become a Captain in the USA with less than one years sailing experience! What does concern me greatly is more of this romantic , anyone can just do this, you don't need money or skill, just soul. Hogwash! You need practical skills, strength and a BIG dose of realism to safely navigate the treacherous oceans of the world.

I somehow think that Captain Heather is in for a rude awakening. She doesn't want to anchor in the 'filthy, deep mud bottom' of The Flats or stay in the' dirty, poorly run, right in a high crime area' Panama Canal Yacht Club but has plumped for the expensive, isolated, fantasy world of Shelter Bay Marina prior to her canal transit.

She doesn't need money (ha!) but asks for donations of a dollar a day to fund`her diet of rice and beans.

I wish her well but I have a bad feeling about this expedition.

So if you come across a tiny, twenty foot at waterline by eight foot beam pocket yacht remember that Captain Heather's Dad says she's not interested in other yachties , you have been warned!

You too can follow this story on her website, see you there!

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