Widgets “Mine is Smaller Than Yours”

“Mine is Smaller Than Yours”

Tom McNally and his 3' - 10" vessel, Big C 


Tom McNally and his 3ft.-10in. Vessel, "The Big C"


Until recently, I was oblivious to an ongoing competition of ocean crossings in small boats, very small.  Pictured above is Tom McNally (image from his myspace page) from Liverpool, England.  At age 65, aboard this 3’10″ vessel, The Big C, he is about to attempt a 10,000 miles double-crossing of the Atlantic over about a year and half.  As part of sail 4 cancer, McNally will be raising money to fight cancer while under way (you can donate via the s4c link).

McNally has held the record before.  In 1993 aboard the Vera Hugh (5′ 4-1/2″) he sailed for a harrowing 134 days from Portugal to Florida.  Read more about that trip and more here.  Shortly after he competed that trip, he was dethroned by  Hugo Vihlen of Florida. Vihlen originally held the record in 1968 aboard the April Fool (6′ 0″).  Then in 1993, he crossed the Atlantic again in Father’s Day  a mere half inch shorter than the McNally’s Vera Hugh.  He wrote a book about that trip as well.

Hugo Vihlen on the cover of his book recounting his 1993 voyage

Hugo Vihlen on the cover of his book recounting his 1993 voyage

Both these men and others have faced storms, whales, collisions, and personal demons to perform these unbelievable journeys in home-made crafts.  After digging up all the information I can find, I still feel I am missing the complete picture.  I sense something deeper than a desire for record-breaking or adventure must drive these guys to such lengths.  Perhaps not though.  They are not as unusual as one might expect.  There is a long history of small boat adventures well documented on the microcruising site.  Also, I read some excellent excepts of a book I plan to purchase, A Speck on the Sea.

Last year, Vihlen donated Father’s Day to England’s National Maritime Museum.  Also, I will be keeping tabs on McNally’s voyage and report and updates here.  A previous attempt aboard Vera Hugh II (3’11″) appears to have gone stale in 2002.  Good luck Tom in this fresh attempt!  Hopefully this latest will see fair winds and ample funding.


  1. tom Mc Nally Said,

    November 2, 2008 @ 6:00 am

    Hi Tom McNally here, just found your blog thing its very interesting site. To clarify a point, my last attempt in the Three foot 10 and a half inch VERA HUGH – CANCER RESEARCH didn’t go ‘stale’.
    After completing the first 800 mile leg from Gibraltar to Gran Canaria the boat and all my equipment was stolen from the harbour in Mogan. Without a financial sponsor it has taken years to build and equip a new boat for another attermpt.
    Well no one said these thing have to be easy,but thanks to the kind support of IMPAG UK -they donated the building materials – new boat is finally complete – it’s half an inch smaller than the stoled boat, I couldn’t resist it. I’ve relaced most of the stolen equipment but I still need a 500×500 deck hatch and a few other bits if anyone can help. I hope to set off from Cadiz next month for the two way crossing. I’m working with the SAIL4CANCER team and we hope to raise awarenes and funds to fight the insidious killer on our doorsteps. The boat is called ‘THE BIG C’ again an obvious metaphore for the disease and the sea.
    You are quite right – it isn’t just about mere records – they’re only made to be broken anyway. It about the ‘challenge’ seeing just what you are capable of.I’m just as scared of dying as anyone – I’m just more scared of not living. Best Wishes Tom.

  2. Robert Brown Said,

    May 13, 2009 @ 2:02 pm

    Can’t wait to get his book when it comes out. I can’t find it, so I assume it’s not complete yet. “What’s half an inch between friends”

    My book about my trip: Bermuda Suicide Challenge in a Flats Boat

    Hugo’s book is a must read.