Record breaker Katie sails home to a hero's welcome
- Credit: Katie Mccabe
Katie Mccabe from Topsham has completed an epic solo voyage guiding a wooden boat around Great Britain.
And despite the enormous task being hampered by rough weather and challenging conditions at sea, the teenager on Saturday became the youngest person to single-handedly circumnavigate Britain.
She sailed into Exmouth with a small flotilla of craft to welcome her, beating the record set by 15-year-old Timothy Long in October 2020.
Posting on Facebook on Saturday afternoon, 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 a 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 Lands 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.
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"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."
As reported in the Journal in recent weeks, Katie had been hopping from port to port, sailing alone but with her father a watchful distance. Following close behind her on the 1,600 nautical mile anti-clockwise voyage was her boat builder father David who needed to be within a five-mile range of his daughter for insurance reasons.
Katie found one recent leg, off the Scottish coast, particularly tough to cope with.
Speaking to the Journal from her 26-foot vessel called Falanda a few days ago, she said: “When I left Port Ellen on August 1, there was absolutely no wind, so we had to motor for the first two hours, until the famous Mull of Kintyre, when it began to pick up.
“We had a great sail, dead down-wind, but then the wind picked up some more, and the tide turned against us. Wind against tide isn't ever a great mix, especially on one of the UK’s biggest headlands!
“To make matters worse, due to the conditions, I hadn't had a chance to change into my waterproofsI and ended up covering 172 miles in 32 and a half hours, before eventually landing in Conwy, soaking wet and absolutely exhausted through the physical effort and lack of sleep!”
Katie then had to spend a week in port as the wind was against her.
However, she made some new friends and was able to carry out some important maintenance.
Katie explained: “We met loads of people in Conwy and were, once again, blown away by the kindness of complete strangers.
“We were driven to a local Tesco on our first day there, and a couple were kind enough to come down with a bag of fresh food, including a freshly-baked cake!
“The rest of the week turned into a rainy, windy blurr, plus a small attempt at schoolwork, until we were invited round to the house of a local sailing instructor. It was so nice to have a home cooked meal for once.”
When the Journal caught up with Katie, she was about to leave Milford Haven in Wales for Mousehole in Cornwall. After that she would just have Fowey, Torquay and Plymouth to tick off before heading back to Topsham. And she completed that last, triumphant leg at the weekend.
Katie’s original goal was to sail across the Atlantic but her parents were against the idea.
Katie, who goes to Isca School in Exeter, is at the helm for between eight and 15 hours a day.
She is charting her progress on facebook and posting regular photographs. You can follow her by visiting https://www.facebook.com/falanda.sailing/.
Katie began her boating career before she was born.
Her parents flew back to Britain for her birth during a four-year honeymoon, returning to their boat in the Caribbean a fortnight later.
Katie is raising money for two ocean pollution charities during her voyage.
The first charity is Sea Shepherd UK, whose mission is to stop illegal fishing, and clear the ocean of ghost nets (commercial fishing nets that have been lost, abandoned, or discarded at sea).
Her second is Lonely Whale, an American-based charity, which is trying to eliminate ocean-bound plastics.
Katie has also set up a Just Giving page which can be found at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/falanda-roundbritain
Back at home with her parents is Katie’s brother Reuben, 11. We asked if he was impressed with her efforts?
“Not really,” said Katie. “He’s pretty underwhelmed by the whole thing,” she laughed.