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.
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.