Join PBO columnist Dave Selby at the Southampton Boat Show to find out more the joys of small boat ownership, and his 338-mile voyage in a Sailfish 18 for charity.

When three small boats arrived at Town Quay Marina in Southampton it marked the end of a 338-mile voyage for Dave Selby’s 18ft Sailfish – a challenge that has raised £3,650 and counting for charity.

Yet PBO columnist Dave has vowed: ‘This is just the beginning.’

Not only is the 57-year-old hoping to raise ‘a shed load more money’ for the Guillain-Barré charity ( while exhibiting at the Southampton Boat Show from Friday, September 16 to Sunday 25 September – but he is also hinting at another ‘bigger’ challenge.

Dave, who set sail from Maldon, Essex in mid July on Marlin’s Mission has a rare viral condition and completed the mission in stages as weather, time and health allowed.

Dave and his Sailfish 18 Marlin arrived at Southampton’s Town Quay in flat, calm, windless conditions, accompanied by Ciao Bello, a Hurley 20 owned by Phil Brown, which was bought for £500, and Womble, a Hurley 18 owned by David Edwards, which was bought for £63.

Dave Selby said: ‘After a great night at Warsash Sailing Club I’ve got to Southampton, I thought that would be the end of my journey but now I’m calling it the end of the beginning.

‘I’ve enjoyed it so much that now I’m considering some plans for next year, which I’ll be revealing soon.

Ciao Bella, Womble and Marlin at Town Quay Marina Southampton

Ciao Bella, Womble and Marlin at Town Quay Marina Southampton

‘The best bit has been all the friends I’ve met along the way.

‘I had expected to sail solo along the south coast as I didn’t know when I was going, I was waiting for the weather, yet people just got in touch and I’ve had company all the way. It’s been brilliant.’

Dave, whose ‘real job’ is as a classic car analyst, added: ‘I’ve covered more than 338 miles in two months which must be some kind of record, I’m sure nobody’s covered so little distance in so much time.

Marlin does sail very well, it’s a good boat. I’ve had Marlin since 2004, it cost me £2,000 and I’ve spent very little on it since.

‘It’s as a result of buying this boat that I moved to live by the sea.

‘I’d previously lived in London and kept Marlin on the River Blackwater and every Sunday I’d drive back to London with a heavy heart.

‘One day I sailed into Maldon, Essex and it was absolutely beautiful. I’d lived all my life in London and didn’t know a single person in Maldon but moving there has been the best thing I’ve ever done.’

Dave’s friends and challenge supporters Mark Berry and David Longfield transported a SBS trailer from Wolverhampton via Oxford to the Southampton marina, ready to greet Marlin and take her to the show.

Dave said: ‘Mark and David have been an outstanding project management team.

‘They both work in engineering, David owns a Sailfish, and when they heard what I was doing they got in touch and offered to help me. They’ve been brilliant. I’ve been on the phone to them nearly every day.’

Mark added: ‘Where he was met with sarcasm and ridicule.’

Dave agreed: ‘But eventually they would tell me what to do.’

David added: ‘It’s been fun all the way.’

Womble’s owner, electrician David Edwards, who is a former Yachtmaster Instructor, said his boat was so called because he had ‘wombled’ all the parts. He bought her in April 2014 and spent 14 months working to get her back in the water.

So far the restoration has cost him ‘about £4,000’ including more than £280 on sandpaper. David said he was inspired to contact Dave Selby as he had completed a similar challenge of his own, sailing Womble from Hamble River in Hampshire to Plymouth, Devon and back with his wife.

Ciao Bella will be exhibited alongside Marlin at the show.

David Longfield, Dave Selby and Mark Berry aboard Marlin

David Longfield, Dave Selby and Mark Berry aboard Marlin

Marlin’s Mission aims to inspire others to get afloat cheaply and raise money for charity, and throughout the Southampton Boat Show, Dave and his team of experts can be found in the Arena area by the main gate (stand A134), giving daily demonstrations at 10.30am to show how to buy a budget boat and get afloat cheaply.

PBO editor David Pugh and deputy editor Ben Meakins, along with Seaglaze, will be helping Dave to replace Marlin’s window and chatting to show visitors about their new project – building a Secret 20 from a kit.

Fellow PBO columnist Sam Llewellyn will be attending the show on Saturday 17 September, to give a talk on Dave’s stand about ‘the minimum boat’ and signing copies of his nautical novels and books.

Seasafe, who provided Dave with two bespoke lifejackets for the challenge, will be holding daily life-jacket clinics at 12 noon, while practical demonstrations will take place from 2pm. In addition to the boat window replacement, Dave and Silky Marine will be sprucing up the tired, faded hull and rust-stained deck of Dave’s Sailfish using Silky Marine’s boat cleaning products; Seajet will be on hand to give expert tips and guidance on anti-fouling; SBS Trailers will demonstrate how you can transform a tired old boat trailer into a versatile go-anywhere trailer that makes launch and recovery easier; and Oceansteer: The emergency rudder company will demonstrate their latest system for small boats.

During the show, Dave will be staying on the Tall Ship Artemis. He said: ‘The show organisers put me in touch with the skipper and he’s kindly welcomed me aboard.’

Marlin’s Mission also aims to raise awareness about Guillain-Barré syndrome, which is a rare and serious condition of the peripheral nervous system. It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks part of the nervous system.

Dave said: ‘I suddenly got it in 2012. I don’t really know the cause, there’s no genetic predisposition. I’ve got a 3% chance of remission.

‘I used to play a lot of tennis and I realise now that it had been hovering in the background for quite a few years. I thought it was because I had a bad back, but I had a lot of tests done and it wasn’t my back, then it went “bang” and just hit me. I thought I was getting a bad cold or flu and got up one morning and couldn’t walk.

‘It wasn’t scary, you just kind of deal with it. I look back now and think “wow, that was dicey”. I was in hospital in the high dependency unit.

‘Again, it wasn’t scary, it was only afterwards I thought “that was close”. Some people die when they get that.

‘Now I need antibodies from the blood of 800 donors every time I go in. My antibodies attack me, they think I’m a germ.

‘Through doing Marlin’s Mission I’ve met people with similar illnesses, they’ve got in touch and it’s been lovely.

‘One guy in Scotland with a similar condition said I’d inspired him to go sailing for the first time in years.’

You can follow Dave’s story at, on twitter @ImpracticalBoat and facebook ( and support his charity drive at

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