PBO columnist Dave Selby is gearing up for a 300-mile voyage in his 18ft Sailfish, from the East Coast of England to the Southampton Boat Show.

I’m so daunted by the enormity of Marlin’s Mission I’ve fled to Sardinia to spend a week with friends on a boat before I really get stuck into all the preparations.

I’m at the Marina del Sole in the capital Cagliari where friends Anne and Jen are preparing for the next stage of their long-term cruise, and while I’m here I’ve been pounding the pontoons searching out the kind of small boats that typify Marlin’s Mission.

The whole thrust of it is that for a fraction of the price of one family holiday you can get afloat in a small boat that will open up a life time of adventure and provide holidays of a life time for a life time. Of course, you won’t enjoy them, but they will be cheap!!! Only kidding.

Of all my mates I know few who get more out of their boat than Anne and Jen. They spend winter in the UK topping up funds, then head off to where they last left the boat and carry on with their wonderful odyssey. They’ve done Britain, the Baltic, the coast of western Europe. Last year I visited them in Lisbon, and now Sardinia. I take particular interest in their progress cos I want to know where I’m going on holiday next April.

Dave Selby_Bart

Dave Selby and his dog Bart with their Sailfish 18 Marlin

While they’ve been preparing their 42ft Jenneau and installing a water maker to give them more independence from marinas, some of which now charge for water, I’ve been idling, slacking and loafing around pontoons.

By co-incidence I’ve been reading a great biography of Maurice Griffiths, The Magician of the Swatchways, by Dick Durham and came across one of his designs in the marina here. I know Maurice Griffiths boats quite well, as this long-time editor of Yachting Monthly specialised in shoal draft and bilge-keel cruisers suited to the muddy shallows of the east coast where I live.

Just as I was reading about a particularly unruly tender, which Griffiths named Wild Oat, I came across a Golden Hind bilge-keeler named Wild Oats. I imagined she’d arrived in Sardinia via the in-land waterways of France, but the owner had actually sailed here single-handed round the outside. In fact dozens of Golden Hinds have crossed the Atlantic and several have made circumnavigations.

On my pontoon promenades I found some great little boats that I filmed for you. What struck me was how many had needlessly large outboards – Italians love engines! There was a Leisure 17 that must have a great story to tell. Even trailering it to Sardinia would have been an epic undertaking. There’s also footage of one of the oddest small boats I’ve seen, a mini blue-water cruiser built in steel with a loft extension.

Now that I’m thoroughly exhausted after a great holiday I’d better get cracking with Marlin. She’s going in the boat shed any day now.

Meanwhile I’ve started raising money for the charity for my bizarre illness (www.gaincharity.org.uk) and I’ve been overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of folk who’ve contributed so far to fund research into the causes of Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a rare viral condition that affects the peripheral nervous system. I’ve got a rarer variant called CIDP, which means the messages stop getting through to my legs about every four and a half weeks. Then I go into hospital for three days and antibodies from the blood of 800 donors literally give me legs for another month. Humbling.

In just one week the Maldon Little Ship Club raised £435. That’s pretty humbling too. In fact, the charity side of Marlin’s Mission has given the whole project huge extra impetus. Huge thanks to all those who’ve contributed and if you want to get on-board click on http://www.justgiving.com/Dave-Selby-Marlins-Mission.

Fair Winds