Interviews

Published on August 9th, 2018 | by Yusuf Ali

Sailing solo from the Isle of Wight to Norfolk

Abdullah Thompson has been sailing since the age of 16 and recently undertook his longest solo voyage, from the Isle of Wight to Norfolk, where he lives.

The 42-year-old chiropodist spent three days at sea, sailing along the English Channel, across the Thames Estuary and up the coast of East Anglia to his final destination.

He first began sailing in Zeeland, Holland, and now spends most of his free time passing on his skills to his two children, aged 15 and 13.

Here, he tells Elephant Sport about the challenges he faced during his 300-mile trip.

What boat was used for this trip?

 The boat is called a Newbridge Virgo Navigator; it’s 23ft long, one metre deep and weighs two tonnes.

What technology did you have on board?

A GPS chart plotter, which ran out by the time I got to Brighton, then I began using paper charts. I also had an automatic pilot which steered the boat whilst I was doing other things as I was alone.

What other equipment did you have on board?

 A VHS radio which meant I could speak to the Coastguard and other boats, and and other equipment such as a water depth sensor.

What was the weather like?

Windy at times which was good for sailing, but overall it was nice. Some moments were a bit rough, but it was enjoyable.

Where did you stay overnight?

I did it two stages, I went to Ramsgate first. You move with the tide, so when it changes you stand still. Then I would drop an anchor and fall asleep.

Then I decided to continue sailing at night as its becomes light quickly, and the visibility was very good as there are many wind farms now, and they are always lit which helps with navigating.

As the tide was against me I was not going that far, so I decided to sleep whilst sailing. I had an alarm set for 30-minute intervals, when I would check that I was on course then continue my nap.

It was a bright, clear day with no other shipping around.

 Did you choose a specific time of year for the trip?

I left on July 13th;, the weather in the UK was hot and it was great timing from when I purchased the boat. This usually is the time most people decide to sail, as the wind is steady, and the weather is often good during daylight hours.

 Talk to us about your route?

I got very far the first day, 80 miles to Dungeness power stations then sheltered from the wind to wait for the tide in the morning in order to continue and ended up in Ramsgate by 2pm the next day.

As I was coming to Dover, I got a radio call saying that there were swimmers in the Channel, therefore, I had to keep a look out. I was standing whilst steering which was hard work as the sea became rough and this was tiring.

What other ‘traffic’ rules exist?

You got to have specific lighting on the boat so that during the hours of darkness you can see other boats, see the pattern of the lights and understand what it means.

I had a lot of problems with the boat in the beginning, electrical problems with the lights and I was re-wiring them as I was sailing, which was part of the adventure.

Was this the longest trip you have done solo?

Yes, this was the longest trip I completed alone. I usually have another sailor friend who I have done trips with in the past. Usually it’s day trips, however, so this was the longest and one of my favourite journeys so far.

What are your plans for future trips?

The main thing now is to teach my two kids seamanship, which is a great skill. You put yourself in a survival situation when you’re at sea, relying on your knowledge and skill. Safely going out on a boat and know what you’re doing is an adventure in itself.

I have spent so much time on boats and the main and reason I do it is to escape from daily life. In the future, I would love to fly to Holland, and sail a boat back from there.

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