Two solo sailors finish their round-Britain attempts on the same weekend

The youngest sailor ever to circumnavigate Great Britain single-handed and an octogenarian undertaking a similar feat in the opposite direction completed their journeys at the weekend at opposite ends of the country.

Fourteen-year-old Katie’s homecoming to the River Exe on Saturday, seven weeks after setting off on 30 June, marked the culmination of an anticlockwise voyage in her 26ft Morgan Giles, Falanda.

Youngest sailor to circumnavigate Britain

The ISCA academy pupil, who sailed her own boat but was required for insurance purposes to sail ahead of her dad, David, in his 33ft yawl, has taken the mantle of being the youngest person to sail solo around Britain from Timothy Long – who has been very supportive of the challenge.

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Katie McCabe is met by a flotilla of boats off Exmouth Beach

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Murdoch McGregor enjoys his first welcome at his home port Limekilns before completing his circumnavigation Alloa to Alloa – his birth place and hometown

Murdoch McGregor, aged 82, returned to his home port of Alloa on the upper river Forth, yesterday.

He had set sail on 5 June and travelled clockwise on his Hunter Horizon 232, Artemis.

His route included the north coast of Scotland although a back injury scuppered his plan to round the Orkneys too.

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Artemis returning to Alloa

A bagpiper, Liam Walker, serenaded Murdoch ashore twice as the 23ft Artemis returned to its home port of Limekilns on Saturday, and then again at Alloa, where Murdoch completed his navigation, after 11 weeks at sea.

He was met by a crowd of family, friends and Forth Cruising Club members.

Murdoch said: “Alloa is my birth place and home town, and journeys end.

“It completes my 1,800 miles circle of the UK that began on 5 June from the Alloa waterfront.

“It was there that my interest in boats was kindled and without which this voyage would not have happened.

“This circumnavigation has been the most rewarding journey I’ve ever done.”

He added: “I was met by a very nice crowd, all my family, school friends, old friends and new friends, all the supporters who didn’t know about me until the voyage started.

“It was absolutely lovely.

“Yesterday afternoon I fell asleep at 5pm which is unusual for me, and slept through until the next morning.

“Without the stimulation of a voyage that day, it was as though somebody had switched off my battery.

“I must have been feeding off wanting to sail.

“A thing I’ve learnt is if I had been out struggling against the wind, getting a bashing here and there, after a long day sailing you get into harbour, have a cup of tea, everything gets better and I found myself saying ‘You did well there.’

“That self-stimulation had me ready for the next day.”

Katie’s homecoming

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Katie McCabe aboard Falanda at her circumnavigation finale

 

Some 463 miles away, and a day earlier, Katie was met by a flotilla of boats including an RNLI lifeboat which escorted her into Topsham Quay.

She said: “Wow, what a return!

“Tonight I can officially say I have sailed singlehandedly around Britain, something I have been dreaming of doing, since forever.

“For the last seven and half weeks, I have quite literally been living the dream, just me, and Falanda – with dad a small spot in the distance behind.

“We have been through the Solent, across the Thames, across the Firth of Forth, through the Caledonian Canal, and back down through the Irish Sea to Wales.

“Then sailed through Ramsey Sound, to Milford Haven, across the Bristol Channel, around Land’s End, the Lizard, and back to Topsham.

Falanda has taken good care of me, and I hope I have shown as much appreciation towards her.

“She is a beautiful, seaworthy vessel, and the hardest part of this trip was walking away down the pontoon today.”

No chance of ‘sneaking in quietly’

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A lifeboat and flotilla of boats escorting Katie up the River Exe

Katie added: “A massive thank you to all the people who welcomed us in, forming a small fleet as we approached Exmouth Docks – 20 strong! – where a crowd was waving.

“Thank you to all the boaters and non-boaters who welcomed me home from Topsham Quay, and as I came in at W Trout & Son marina.

“I have never seen so many people on the quay before, and the whole ‘people’ experience was a bit overwhelming to say the least!

“I had been hoping to sneak into the Exe quietly, without anyone really noticing, so to have so many people out to see me, was amazing, but crazy!

“It was also great to have the lifeboat escorting me up the river, and they even waited patiently as Falanda drifted along slowly when the wind died.

“Last year, I got to meet Timothy Long, whilst he was on his way around Britain, to become the youngest person to go round solo.

“Almost a year later, he was at the boat yard waving me in, as I broke his record.

“I think it was great of him to even be able to look at at me and Falanda, never mind be actually friendly.

“I’d like to think I’d be that nice if someone younger went round next year!

“I had wanted to sail around Britain, but to become the youngest person to ever do so is a fantastic extra.

“Thank you so much to everyone who has supported me, to all of the marinas who have given me free berthing, to all the Sea Shepherd UK volunteers, and most of all, to my dad, who literally followed me around Britain, to satisfy the insurance company.

Thank to everyone who has donated to Sea Shepherd, we have so nearly reached £11,000.”

Timothy Long was among those celebrating Katie’s return

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Timothy Long with Katie McCabe

He wrote on his Timothy Long Sailing Facebook page:

“SHE’S DONE IT!!!

“A huge congratulations to Katie McCabe who has just sailed around Britain, solo, at 14 YEARS OLD!

“You’ve smashed it Katie, and so much more.

“Following your journey has been inspirational to say the least.

“Your pure and upbeat social media posts have captured the spirits of adventure, discovery and freedom that we love about our sport.

“I hope that this inspiration will be carried throughout the sailing community and beyond.

“Particularly to the younger generation.

“After 18 months locked away, Katie’s trip shows that there is still one hell of a big world out there to explore, and if you give it you’re all you can achieve your dreams.

“Katie, as I did on my round Britain, is fundraising for charity, and she has already raised a whopping £10,000!”

Continues below…

When Katie met Murdoch

The inspirational pair, Katie and Murdoch, met  in Scotland a month ago on 30 July, which Murdoch described as a “totally special day.”

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Katie McCabe and Murdoch McGregor

He said: “As I was making my way around the UK in a clockwise direction I was aware that doing exactly the same thing but in the opposite direction was a 14-year-old girl from Devon.”

When Murdoch’s wife spotted that Katie’s mum Hazel had made a donation on his JustGiving page, telling him to keep an eye open for Katie, he did just that and they arranged to meet in Oban.

Murdoch said: “We had food and chatted and found that our love of the sea and of long-distance voyaging was exactly the same.”

He added: “Katie McCabe is a very special young sailor… watch this space, I certainly will! Privileged to know her.”

Forth Cruising Club member Murdoch, who was 72 when he bought his first yacht, undertook the challenge for a “truly amazing sailing adventure” and to raise funds and awareness for the charity Mental Health UK in memory of his late brother, Jim.

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Katie’s homecoming crowd

Katie grew up on boats, then found her project boat, Falanda, in 2019 and restored her with the help of David, who is a wooden-boat builder (PBO October, 2020).

Last summer, Katie sailed Falanda from the River Exe to the Isles of Scilly and back, around 400 miles, with her family sailing nearby in the yawl Amaryllis.

Katie has “loved every minute” of her round-Britain adventure, which saw her sail up the east coast into Scotland, through the Caledonian Canal, down the west coast, past the Isle of Man, Wales, around Land’s End, and back to the Exe, and ‘didn’t want to stop”.

Sharing her adventures on the Falanda Sailing Facebook page, Katie was impressed by Murdoch’s endeavours.

She said: “Solo sailing is a challenge in itself, but to sail around at 82, and on a tiny 23 foot boat – wow!”

Dad David’s easy beans method

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Katie’s popular posts have included a discussion on food:

“We basically live off baked beans!

“Tins are good, because they live forever, and are really easy to heat.

“In fact, they are so easy that we are left with practically no dishes – except maybe a spoon if you want to be fancy.

“Dad has his special method of lighting the hob, and whacking the entire tin on the heat.

“After 20 seconds or so, you give it a good shake, and then put the other end of the tin on the heat for another 20 seconds, and so on, for another two minutes-ish.

“Then, after opening the tin, you are ready to eat!

“If, by the time I return to school, I really haven’t learnt anything new, I can at least tell my teachers, my dad has taught me how to cook beans!”

A great achievement

Facebook follower Gary Mackley-Smith responded:

“You can tell the school that you have learnt resilience, survival, how to handle stress, how to sail through rough conditions, how to tie knots, how to chart a journey, how to fix things when they break, and how to cook beans.”

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Katie has smashed her £6,000 target by raising almost £11,000 so far for marine wildlife conservation charity Sea Shepherd UK.

She is also raising the profile of Lonely Whale, a charity that encourages big businesses to use recycled plastic in their products.