Marlin's Mission is underway as Dave Selby heads off from Maldon on his Sailfish 18

We’re off! Departure is scheduled for 4pm, Saturday 9 July from Maldon Town Quay, Essex, so by the time you read this I should be somewhere else.

I’m now on twitter (@impracticalboat) but haven’t got to grips with it so I hope you’ll tweet me and I’ll try to figure out how to tell you where I am and how it’s going. It would be great to meet up in person.

Right now, the weather’s looking mucky, so I may hole up in Bradwell at the end of the Blackwater. Arthur, the manager of Bradwell Marina, has very kindly given me a free berth for a few days, so I may spend some time walking in the wild and beautiful Essex marshes.

I’ve had huge support from friends, strangers who’ve become friends, and the marine industry, all of whom have helped with expertise, guidance, equipment and hard labour, and supported the charity for my bizarre viral condition (

In between the frenzy of preparation, I’ve taken time out to prospect parts of the route, and I had a wonderful and informative day with yachting journo mate Dick Durham, who lives in Leigh on Sea on the Thames.

I’ve decided to get into the Thames via the Crouch, Roach and the Havengore Bridge, which provides a short-cut into the London River. The bridge, which joins the mainland with the Army firing range on Foulness, opens in daylight hours on the weekends and occasionally in the week, if firing has finished for the day.

A month ago I sailed through with my mate Tommy Mills in his Beneteau First Class 8 and later, with Dick, I walked to the bridge at low water to get a feel for the lie of the land over the shallow Maplin flats. The mud in-shore is strewn with twisted metal fragments of ordnance.

From there Dick showed me the coast up to Leigh on Sea Sailing Club where I’m hoping to stop. I met the members and a character called Brum, who said I could use his mooring; trouble is I lost his phone number.

Dick’s guidance will prove invaluable, and in the accompanying video you’ll see first how me and Tommy got on, followed by Dick’s tour of this stretch of the Thames, in which he shares local knowledge that you just don’t find in pilot guides. For example, the submarine barrier is charted as an obstacle but there are actually three gaps in it that you can sail through, one of them close in-shore.

As it’s only possible to transit the Havengore Route a couple of hours before high-water I need to make quick progress to get up to Leigh before the ebb sets in. I’m also hoping that mate Tony Smith will join me through the Havengore. He’s taken on the mantle of local hero Charlie Stock and is writing new chapters in the story of Shoal Waters, the tiny engine-less gaffer that Charlie cruised over 20,000 miles.

Charlie’s book, Sailing Just for Fun – High Adventure on a Small Budget – is a classic, and so are Tony’s Ready About on the Blackwater, Sea-Country and Winkler’s Tales. Tony knows the creeks and swatch ways of Essex like no one else and you can marvel at his adventures at

Fair Winds