PBO columnist Dave Selby and his Sailfish 18 Marlin will be leading a flotilla of small, affordable boats to Southampton's Town Quay at 8.30am tomorrow, Tuesday 13 September, ahead of the Southampton Boat Show.

An “evangelist” amateur sailor battling a rare nerve illness has taken more than two months to sail a small boat 331 miles to exhibit at the Southampton Boat Show.

PBO columnist Dave Selby is on a mission to reveal how to get afloat cheaply and raise money for charity.

Early tomorrow morning, Tuesday 13 September, Dave and his 18ft Sailfish Marlin will be leading a flotilla of small, affordable boats to Southampton’s Town Quay at 8.30am.

Boats in flotilla will include Ciao Bello, a Hurley 20 owned by Phil Brown, which was bought for £500; Womble, a Hurley 18 owned by Dave Edwards, which was bought for £63; and Kukri a Westerly 21, owned by Chris Bracey that was bought for £2,000 in 2014.

Dave Selby and his dog Bart

Dave Selby and his dog Bart

Dave, 57, who set sail from Maldon, Essex in mid July on Marlin’s Mission has a rare viral condition called Guillain-Barré Syndrome and has completed the mission in small hops as weather, time and health allowed.

He said: ‘It’s an illness that affects the peripheral nervous system, and I’ve got an even 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.’

Dave has a wall planner that says `legs,’ `no legs’, during the mission he had to go into hospital twice. He said: ‘It was tense at times as I was running low on legs, but what kept me going was the support and friendship I found along the way, and the message I want to share.’

The two main driving forces of Marlin’s Mission is to raise money for the Guillain-Barré charity (www.gaincharity.org.uk) and to encourage people to consider small boat ownership.

At the Southampton Boat Show, which runs from 16 to 25 September, Dave and his team of experts will give daily demonstrations at 10.30am (stand A134) to show how to buy a budget boat and get afloat cheaply.

He said: “I simply want to share all that sailing has given me. It’s transformed my life and opened up a world of adventure.”

Dave believes that small boats are ‘the untold secret of sailing’: ‘In today’s market you can buy great boats that will give you holidays for a lifetime for way less than the cost of a single family holiday, in fact even for less than the cost of a night out. That’s Marlin’s Mission.

‘Along the way I met chap who bought a tired but sound 18ft sailing cruiser for £63 on e-bay. He calls her Womble because he did the boat up with salvaged and scavenged parts that others were discarding, then sailed it from the River Hamble in Southampton to Plymouth and back with his wife.’

One of the highlights of Dave’s odyssey was sailing to Limehouse Marina in the heart of London, where an overnight berth costs £21.72 for an 18-footer, a fraction of the cost of a cheap hotel. Dave’s 1978 Sailfish cost him £2,000 in 2004, but he says you’d now pay less for one in the same condition.

Dave added: ‘It’s a kind of `perfect storm’ brought about by the combination of austerity and an aging population, which means many older people are giving up the water, and the fact that fibre-glass doesn’t rust like metal or rot like wood.

‘They’ve been building fibre-glass boats since the 1960s and they rarely die, so there’s an ever-growing stock and they’re getting cheaper all the time. Many early fibre-glass were over engineered and really built to last.’

Dave Selby on Marlin's Mission
All are welcome to attend Marlin’s arrival, 8.30am tomorrow, Tuesday 13 September, at Town Quay, Southampton.

Or to visit Dave Selby’s stand at the Southampton Boat Show’s Arena area by the main gate, stand A134 from Friday 16 September to Sunday 25 September, where visitors can check out Marlin and a Hurley 20 on his stand and chat to the PBO editor David Pugh and deputy editor Ben Meakins about their new project – building a Secret 20 from a kit.

To find the best PBO subscription deals visit the Time Inc marine media stand E1, where the latest PBO offer of a six-monthly direct debit subscription for £18 with a free gift of either a Aqua Pac Dry bag or Gill Marine Dry towel, will be available.

Dave Selby Southampton Boat Show itinerary (stand A134)

Friday 16 September, 10.45am: Marlin’s Mission press conference on stand.

Friday 16 to Sunday 18 September: Marine artist Claudia Myatt, who illustrates Dave’s columns in PBO, will be painting live at the show and hosting a selling exhibition of her wide-ranging work, from cartoons to paintings, PBO mugs and books.

Saturday 17 September, special guest, Sam Llewellyn. The maritime author and PBO columnist will be giving a talk about ‘the minimum boat’ and signing copies of his nautical novels and books.

Daily from Saturday 17-Sunday 18 September

10.30am talk – Get Afloat, Get A Boat: Sailing has never been more affordable. Dave Selby and his team will tell you everything you need to know to buy a budget boat and enjoy holidays of a lifetime for a fraction of the cost of a single family holiday.

12pm noon life-jacket clinic: Seasafe, who’ve supplied Dave’s custom life-jackets and safety equipment, are holding daily life-jacket clinics, offering life jacket checks, advice and a collection point for servicing, and a special discount show offer.

Afternoons from 2pm: Practical talks and demonstrations.

Dave, the PBO team and Seaglaze will be replacing the boat windows on Dave’s Sailfish live at the show.

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.

Oceansteer: The emergency rudder company will demonstrate their latest system for small boats.

You can follow Dave’s story at pbo.co.uk/dave-selby, on twitter @ImpracticalBoat and facebook (www.facebook.com/dave.selby.75) and support his charity drive at www.justgiving.com/Dave-Selby-Marlins-Mission.

PBO cartoon mugs

PBO cartoon mugs – gallery

Check out PBO's new cartoon sailing mug designs! Celebrating eight years of Claudia Myatt's cartoons in PBO...