The Sea Chart


It is a great pity that the economics of publishing price this book at £30 because the price will make it difficult for many young people to read it other than through the dwindling band of under-funded public libraries. In his foreword, HRH The Duke of York makes the point that the excellent charts we take for granted today are the result of centuries of effort, at no small cost, by generations of cartographers and navigators. Today, we can purchase at remarkably little cost high quality charts and maps, together with pilots and guides to navigation. Once we have those charts, we can update them using Notices to Mariners. Increasingly, sailors use computer-based charts and pilots that include high quality colour photographs of coastlines. Once we have the information on CD, or DVD, we can take update services to ensure that all information is as accurate as the latest surveys and notices can make them. With all of these technologies to hand at reasonable prices, it is easy to forget that most of this knowledge has been acquired painfully over the last six hundred years. Sea charts have been in existence much longer than that, but the flowering of navigational skills began with the Italian merchant-venturers of the Thirteenth Century, the great Portuguese navigators of the Fifteenth Century, followed by Spanish, English, French and Dutch sailors, with the English introducing most of the critical instruments of navigation and stamping their authority by taking the measurements from Point Zero at Greenwich. Navigators had to be shrewd observers, artists and mathematicians. Early ‘pilots’ were closely guarded secrets and were detailed diaries observing conditions and important features during each voyage. The navigator, or sailing master, would note the colour of the water, draw sketches of coastlines, adding charts of harbours and sea charts. John Blake tells this enthralling story very well, using a chronological and geographic framework

Editor’s Note

computer & table

Just before Christmas 2006 essential engineering work was carried out on the FIRE Project system on which this weblog runs. During this work some data was lost at portal level.

This was a combination of an attempted cracking attack which activated a defense system, requiring manual actions by our admin team, and human error during the restart process.

Only data residing in the portals was affected and no data was lost at the mneumatron which provides the main data archives and databases. The FIRE Project team was able to repost data to all CMS and weblog portals using other backup sources.

It was decided that all weblog postings would be reposted but this has meant that the postings are no longer in strict date order. During reposting the editors have included the original reposting date stamp.


Fun with Bill Heine

Originally posted November 27th, 2006


Bill Heine

This evening for 3 hours Adrian and I became radio presenters when we co-hosted the Bill Heine Show on BBC Radio Oxford between 4 and 7pm. Bill is a fabulous character – he’s the guy who has a shark sticking out of the roof of his house in Headington (see link below). We discussed everything from the Alpha Global Expedition to God to sushi to divorce. A great experience.

We visit the Oxford Sailing Club

Originally posted December 3rd, 2006


Pictured left to right – John Barker (OSC), Louise, Adrian (with Benji and Gabriel), Bill Proctor (ex Commodore of OSC), Pam Gee (Oxford Sailability) and Geoff Worrall (OSC)

During our broadcast on Radio Oxford’s Bill Heine Show on Monday, we received an invitation to visit the Oxford Sailing Club in Farmoor.

We were treated to a delicious lunch and learnt about their ambitious project to raise £200,000 to build a special pontoon which will enable disabled sailors and their helpers to access their boats easily and safely. This wheelchair friendly pontoon once finished will be the only one in Oxfordshire and Farmoor Reservoir is where Oxford Sailability, the local disabled sailing group is based. So far ‘The Farmoor Reservoir Pontoon Project’ has raised an impressive £65,000. Many fund raising initiatives are underway at the moment including the sale of personalised pontoon planks for £200 each. Adrian hopes to help this incredibly worthy effort next year by giving a talk to the Club (approximately 1,000 members) about The Alpha Global Expedition.

Oxford Sailing Club, Farmoor Reservoir, Oxford, OX2 9NS

Adrian delivers Cape Horn talk at Gallery Hadley

Originally posted December 1st, 2006



Last night Adrian spoke about his Cape Horn experience to an enthusiastic audience at The Gallery Hadley. He discussed the history, geography and climate of the Horn and showed film footage of his own journey around it. Our thanks to Bob and Tina Hadley for providing the perfect venue and for hosting the evening so well. Gallery Hadley is housed inside a beautiful converted church in the picturesque market town of Thame in Oxfordshire, and is well worth a visit.


Gallery Hadley

Fun with Bill Heine

Originally posted November 27th, 2006

This evening for 3 hours Adrian and I became radio presenters when we co-hosted the Bill Heine Show on BBC Radio Oxford between 4 and 7pm. Bill is a fabulous character – he’s the guy who has a shark sticking out of the roof of his house in Headington (see link below). We discussed everything from the Alpha Global Expedition to God to sushi to divorce. A great experience.

Southern Ocean Rescue


Originally posted November 26th, 2006

Mike Golding had to turn back to rescue fellow competitor, Alex Thomson after his keel failed in the Velux 5 Oceans race and then sustained a dismasting himself. Golding’s boat, Ecover is now making for Cape Town. The Southern Ocean is an unforgiving environment and particularly dangerous for yachtsmen because the route takes them out of air sea rescue range and there is little or no shipping in the area. During my rounding of Cape Horn, I was driven south by a storm and out of range of rescue services – it is a daunting feeling to know you are at the mercy of the elements.

Route Du Rhum Race


Originally posted November 8th, 2006

Within the last twenty-four hours two boats competing in the Route Du Rhum race have capsized in horrendous conditions in the North Atlantic. Steve Ravussin on Orange or rather under it had the good fortune to be rescued by the Okhta Bridge, a Russian flagged vessel of the Sovcomflot fleet.

Sovcomflot and its Chief Executive, Sergei Frank were extremely helpful to me in negotiating with the Russian authorities to secure permissions for the Alpha Global Expedition to transit the Northern Sea Route as part of the first single-handed vertical circumnavigation.

Shortly after Ravussin’s experience, Ross Hobson on Ideal Stelrad was bettered by 50 knot headwinds and 20 foot seas. He managed to activate his emergency beacon and the signal was picked up by Falmouth coastguard.

Autumnal weather in the North Atlantic can be unpredictable and ferocious as I learnt last year when I set off on the Alpha Global Expedition. Depressions can deepen quickly and hit sailors with little or no warning. Caught carrying too much sail, as happened to me on a number of occasions, can immediately put a boat in peril. Several times during my voyage across the northern Atlantic, we alerted Falmouth coastguard to potential situations when I found myself in heavy weather. Their response was always entirely calm and professional. Just knowing they were aware was a great comfort.

Both Steve and Ross are now safe, which must be the principal concern. Their respective experiences will give them an edge in future races knowing, as they will, the calamities which can unfold in the blink of an eye.