On Monday, at Geoff Holt's launch, I got to meet one of my personal heroes - Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who in 1969 completed the first non-stop circumnavigation of the globe.
Just a week ago, at the age of 68, he finished another circumnavigation, as a competitor in the Velux 5 Oceans race.
Sir Robin reacted the way that most sailors do when they hear what I've done, and am planning to do. "You're mad", he declared. I, on the other hand, cannot see why anybody would want to face 50 knot winds and freezing temperatures in the Southern Ocean, on the kind of boat that seems utterly vulnerable to dismasting or ripping a mainsail.
Evidently sanity is a relative concept....
Yesterday I watched the launch of one of the bravest adventurers I have met - Geoff Holt, a quadraplegic, is bidding to sail solo around the coast of Great Britain. The unique danger that he faces in this, , as a man paralysed from the chest down, was highlighted at his launch when things didn't go quite according to plan.
Geoff had successfully launched his tiny, frail-looking trimaran from the Royal Southern Yacht Club, and set out across the Solent surrounded by a phalanx of media in a fleet of RIB's. The wind was blowing briskly - abougt 20 knots - and he was flying along. One of the RIB's, carrying a camera crew from Meridian TV (and me) moved across to get a better camera angle, and disaster struck.
Geoff's trimaran hit the wake of the RIB, one of the side hulls lifted up off the water, and Geoff tipped out into the waves.
"He's face down!" gasped the TV reporter. For what seemed like a very long time (probably about 30 seconds) to us, and must have seemed like an eternity to Geoff, he lay helpless face down in the water, before his support crew were alongside and plucked him to safety.
He seemed unfazed by the experience, smiling and giving a cheery thumbs-up to the onlookers. He and his boat returned to the Yacht Club so he could dry out and warm up after his dunking.
I suspect it will take a lot more than this to deter Geoff from his goal. Good luck to Geoff, and to Ian Clover, Sarah Outen, and the rest of the support crew as you set out on your big adventure, your own Personal Everest.
Probably the most horrifying report on marine plastic debris that I have ever read.... making it clear that it is not an issue "over there" in the oceans - it is an issue that is affecting our metabolism, our reproductive capability, our future as a species.
I am not seeking out this information on the internet - it is coming at me from correspondents and the news headlines. Be aware, be VERY aware....
I have just finished reading a friend's copy of Alone, Gerard d'Aboville's book about his solo row across the North Pacific.
Here is what he had to say about ocean debris....
"On this ocean, where I encountered so few signs of life, the traces of my fellow man were nonetheless very much in evidence. Pollution was visible everywhere. I am not referring to those signs of terrible and perhaps irremediable pollution, such as the oil spills from the gigantic tankers, but of a rampant ordinary pollution that revealed itself in countless little ways: plastic bags, Styrofoam packing, et cetera.
Every twenty minutes or so I would come upon some sort or another of debris, which, considering my limited horizon, suggests the magnitude of the problem: I could only imagine the mountain it would all make were it gathered together and piled up. Worse, I knew that most of this detritus was indestructible, and that each year a new batch was added to that of the previous year. What irony, when you think that these were not even the waste products of human consumption but merely the packing material in which they had come!"