A.W.O.L.17/08/2011 04:14 GMT
It's been a few weeks since I last wrote anything on this page but please don't think that things have gone quiet with NY2SY...quite the opposite! There is lots to tell and I apologise for not sticking to my original promise of keeping you updated regularly....I hope that the next few paragraphs will explain my absence!
It's always been tough to get the balance right between working at the "day job" and finding the time to devote to the various different aspects that make up the entire NY2SY project. I have to consider myself fortunate that I work freelance so I can pick and choose my jobs as the come along, though I never enjoy saying "no" to offers of work as you never know when the next one will appear. But such is the nature of my life at the moment, and for the forseeable future, and the past month has flown buy in mad mix of work, NY2SY and a bit of play (we all need to let off steam!).
As I try and spread the word about NY2SY, and get as much exposure as possible, I find the boat spends as much time out of the water as she does in it! I have been a regular visitor to the slipway at Cuddy Point, here in Stornoway as the boat get taken out and put back into the water....accompanied by various people that I have managed to press-gang into helping me (thanks to you all and your tow bars!). It was great then, to finally get the chance to take the boat out into the Minch for my first serious training row. My intention was to row to Ullapool and get myself noticed by the many tourists who visit that great, wee village. The day I left was the usual flurry of last-minute (I do last-minute very well!) preparations and it was a relief to finally start pulling on the oars at just after 3pm, making the most of the ebb tide to help me on my way out of Stornoway harbour. I had a few visitors to the boat just before I left and I was very grateful for their best wishes and a couple of gifts too.....some Kendal Mint Cake from the local hack and some amazing chocolate from a couple I had met the previous evening and who were part of the crew of a Norwegian sailing boat that was berthed in the harbour.
I checked in with Stornoway Coastguard, who have been a great source of information and advice, and slowly edged out past the lighthouse and into the Minch. I made good progress initially, mainly due to my bad habit of rowing like a mad man at the start due to the adrenaline and excitement.....but eventually I settled down into a more sustainable rhythm and enjoyed the stunning sunset that was lighting up my wake.
The CalMac ferry MV Isle of Lewis sailed past, with a few curious passengers lined up by the lounge windows and along the railings, and I gave them a wave and a 'toot' on my wonderfully unreliable airhorn......it's a bit like Gonzo's trumpet in The Muppet Show! It was shortly after this that I became aware of my slow pace and that the wind from the NE was a bit stronger than I expected. Ocean rowing boats are not big fans of any sort of headwind, due to the large bulkhead at the aft of the boat, and it was quite frustrating to be putting in so much effort for so little return, sometimes barely 1 knot. When faced with a strong headwind in the North Atlantic, I would have the option of deploying a sea anchor (this is like a small parachute that you stream out in the sea from the bow of the boat and it helps stop you drifting back) but I have yet to master the finer points of this equipment, and also needed to arrive in Ullapool by a certain time due to work committments back in Stornoway. I perservered and struggled against the wind, mutttering a few words of jealousy as the ferry passed by again on it's return journey and then the freight ferry Muirneag also overtook me. In the middle of all this frustration there was the most beautiful distraction as the moon rose to the north, a stunning sight to see and it took my mind off my situation for a few moments.
I had made 12 nm in 12 hours and was going nowhere, and not very fast, so I made the decision at around 4am to call up the Coastguard and tell them that I was now going to divert my course and head south, going with the wind and the waves, and head for Tarbert, Harris. It was a bit of a disappoinment at first but then it didn't matter where I was going as long as I was getting time in the boat and getting used to her. I made good progress through the early hours and slowly the Shiant Islands came closer and closer and I could see across to the Torridon hills, over to the Trotternish ridge on Skye and right down to what I think must have been Canna? It was quite hard work keeping the boat trim in the channel between the Shiants and Harris but it was a great when I caught a wave and the boat surfed along. It was late in the evening by the time I finally passed under the Scalpay Bridge and finally saw Tarbert come into view, a great sight. Although had been rowing on and off for 30 hrs, I still had some energy left to try and race the CalMac ferry MV Hebrides as she sailed towards the pier......but not quite enough energy to beat her! All in all, great training excercise and I learnt a lot about the boat and made some notes of a couple of things In would like to change when it comes to refitting her.
I have used every available opportunity to tell people about NY2SY and so when I heard that I would be co-presenting BBC Alba's live coverage of this year's Belladrum Festival, I made sure that I had plenty of NY2SY business cards in my bag! It was good to get away from the project for a few days and enjoy the great music at one of my favourite festivals, though there was the stress of doing live TV for the first time. I prowled the backstage area looking for people to present with an NY2SY business card and amongst my top hits were Roddy Woomble, Rachel Sermanni and Sharleen Spiteri! A few people came and spoke to me about the challenge as well and it's amazing to know that there are so many of you out there supporting NY2SY and also trying to think of ways to raise funds. THANK YOU!
I also got the chance to give away more business cards at the recent Western Isles Transport Preservation Group Motor Show on Lewis. It's an annual exhibition of various classic cars, lorries and other vehicles. My boat did look slightly out of place, but that only encouraged people to come over and have a look and ask about NY2SY in general. As well as making some very interesting contacts and getting some more pennies in my bucket towards the fundraising, I also came away with the prize for "Most Unusual Item on Display" ...and I am assuming it was the boat they were referring too?! A nice wee bonus to a very enjoyable day and I wish the WITPG all the best for their future plans.
Now it's back to training and in a few hours I will once again be setting off in my boat and heading for Ullapool on a training row. I'll be leaving Stornoway today (Wed 17th) at 10am and hope to arrive in Ullapool around 12 noon tomorrow (Thurs 18th). The forecast is good for the crossing with winds from the WSW and so I should end up where I intended this time!! I'll be trying to keep updates via my Facebook and Twitter accounts (you can link to them through this website) and it will also be possible to follow my progress via AIS. I will be displaying the boat's original name, NYAMEZELA.
OK, time to get a bit of sleep as I still have some things to sort before I leave. Thanks, as ever, for all your messages of support and keep up your good work in spreading the word about NY2SY.
I'd like to dedicate this diary entry to a someone in a far away place.
Here, there and everywhere!22/07/2011 02:10 GMT
It's a bizarre situation to find yourself in, standing on an ocean rowing boat....filled with pink balloons....in the middle of Glasgow....as you shout words of encouragement to a well known Scottish radio presenter whilst the local paparazzi snap away feverishly!
Another day in the life of NY2SY!
There is never a dull moment in this adventure and this week was no different. I made my way to Glasgow with the boat to attend the official opening of SAMH's new Resource Centre in Glasgow's Merchant CIty. It was the ideal opportunity to reach out to more people and also get some more press coverage for NY2SY. On the way down, I stopped off in Inverness to meet my sister and my niece and nephew and they had plenty questions for me about the boat and NY2SY in general....you know, the sort of questions that only kids can think of! I wasn't able to stay long as I wanted to reach Glasgow before rush hour as I didn't fancy trying to negotiate the heavy traffic towing a 23 foot boat, it's challenging enough in a normal car. I did end up testing my driving skills though as I managed to get lost and ended up driving round George Square as curious pedestrians stared, pointed and dived for cover. Eventually, I reached the SAMH HQ and was able to park the boat trailer safely and feel relieved that I hadn't caused too much havoc on the streets of the city. It was great to meet the staff of the charity I have chosen to support and they were all delighted that I had managed to make the trip down to take part in the proceedings. A reporter from ITV's morning show 'Daybreak' made an appearance to film a feature about the Centre's opening and she also filmed some shots of the boat and I did a short interview too.
The boat on display in the Merchant City, Glasgow
Cat Harvey and Ewen Cameron from Real Radio cut the ribbon.
The next morning was spent getting the boat ready to put on display and manouvering her out onto the street so that passersby could stop and have a look and also sign up for FACEBOAT. The charity had arranged an afternoon of music and entertainment and invited Real Radio's Breakfast Show presenters, Cat Harvey and Ewen Cameron, to open the Resource Centre officially. There were also quite a number of corporate representatives present and this was going to be an opportunity to "sell" NY2SY to them. The traditional ribbon was duly cut and it was then a whirlwind of photo opportunities that saw myself, Cat and Ewen being made to perform for the cameras.
Cat Harvey from Real Radio gives NY2SY the thumbs up!
It was all good fun and nobody managed to fall off the boat...though I was more concerned about the cameramen who were perched precariously on top of a very dodgy looking step-ladder. Once we had exhausted our smiles, it was time for various different artistes to perform on a street-stage, as I answered the many questions about NY2SY that were thrown my way. I made some good contacts and was delighted to meet some friends and family too. My cousin Mairi popped down during her lunch hour to say hello, and was closely followed by my old school friend Mike. Later in the afternoon it was a nice surprise to see the radiant smile of Kate E. Deeming coming my way. Those of you who live in Glasgow may well know Kate E. as she has spent the last few years dancing on the streets of Glasgow and has become a bit of a celebrity (she will hate me saying that!) locally. I had been in contact with her before, but we had never actually met so it was great to finally speak to her face-to-face. A lovely person with a great outlook on life and I wish her well on her own adventure as she moves to pasthures new.
The lovely Kate E.Deeming and the lovely me ;)
Another person who I hadn't actually met, but had been in touch with regularly, was Angus Macleod. Orginally from Lewis, he is a partner in St James' Place Wealth Management http://www.sjp.co.uk who have already given generously to NY2SY. He has been almost as passionate about the project as myself, and he still has plenty of ideas about how it can be promoted and how more funds can be secured too. As we talked, his eyes darted around as his brain went into overdrive with various ideas. He is a good man to know, not just for his connections, but also for his personality. He himself is preparing for a couple of charity mountain walks and if he walks as good as he talks, then they will be a doddle!!
There was a great atmosphere in the street and that was mainly due to the acts that performed throughout the afternoon. We went from the heavier sounds of The Blinding, to the quirky elegance of City Duo, to the earthy songwriting of Gary Johnstone.....and the day was rounded off with a variety of recognisable songs from a charity choir. The Resource Centre on Wilson Street will provide a valuable service to both those who suffer from mental health issues and also those who want to find out more. It's a fantastic asset to the charity and has made me even more determined to reach my fundraising goal of £100,000 for SAMH.
But to do that, I need to pay for the boat and the project itself and I really hope that some of the many business cards that I have collected can be turned into solid sponsorship deals for NY2SY. Actually having the boat has made a huge difference to the project, it attracts attention wherever it goes...on land or sea...and I made some interesting contacts on the way back up the road to Ullapool. While I was waiting for the ferry, I chatted to Donnie Taggart from CalMac and he told me about an idea he had to send a 30 year old CalMac house flag around the entire fleet where donations would be made and the flag would be signed. I thought it was a great idea......I just didn't expect him to have got the ball rolling before I had even reached the other side of the Minch!!! It's a wonderful gesture and I look foward to taking the flag across the North Atlantic Ocean with me....I may take some "CalMac and cheese" as well :)
NY2SY supporter Donnie Taggart sends the CalMac flag on it way!
I may well be seeing Donnie sooner than we both thought as I have decided to do a training row to Ullapool, and back, this weekend.The forecast is pretty good so it's time to do some serious mileage (nautical!) in the boat. I intend to set off at 3pm today (22nd) from Stornoway and should arrive in Ullapool around 1pm on Saturday (23rd). I'll probably stay the night in Ullapool, try and tell more people about NY2SY and then leave early on Sunday morning so that I arrive in Stornoway on Monday morning. It's a bit last minute but the boat is good to go....and I will be too. Really looking forward to the trip and retracing my oar strokes of 2008 when I first rowed across the Minch for charity, If you are travelling on the 'MV Isle of Lewis' between Stornoway and Ullapool, then keep an eye out for me or feel free to come and have a look at the boat when I reach Ullapool!
I'd like to dedicate this diary entry to Sandy MacPhee who recently completed a very challenging 183 mile charity walk, accompanied by her boyfriend Hector. She is a true inspiration and I hope that she can now look to the future having overcome so much. 'S math a rinn thu!
NY2SY in Glasgow!19/07/2011 20:24 GMT
On Wednesday 20th July I will be taking part in the official opening of SAMH's new Resource Centre in Glasgow.
It will be opened by Real Radio's Breakfast Show presenters Cat Harvey and Ewen Cameron and I will be there displaying my boat and spreading the news about NY2SY!
It all kicks off at 12,30pm and runs right through the afternoon until 6.00pm, with lots of music and entertainment. Please come along and say hello, have a look at the boat and find out more about my chosen charity, SAMH.