Next Generation

Modern media is all about the snapshot, the video, the gif, the meme. If you can sum it up in 10 seconds on TikTok the riches of the world are yours. Millions will follow and advertisers will fall over themselves to appear on your timeline. Writing is dead. Who has time to read anything these days when scrolling is so much more diverse and appealing, covering a wide waterfront of one’s interests?

©Kate McCabe

With respect, I disagree. The written word matters more than ever – well I would say that wouldn’t I? But occasionally something comes along that just resonates and it truly does matter. And for the last few weeks, I’ve been following the most magical blog, written by 14 year old Katie McCabe who is out there right now attempting to sail around Britain and claim the record for the youngest to ever do so. I urge you to carve out some time in your busy day, put down the social media scrolling, sit down quietly and read slowly through this:

It’s a journey into youth and a step into the unknown. Every day is a new adventure. It’s wide-eyed, fearful, happy, insightful, respectful and you can’t help but will on Katie as she takes on the most mighty of challenges. In short, it’s the best blog you will read this year.

Brought up living on a 50ft fishing trawler on the River Exe with a boat builder father, the story is straight out of the greatest works of the literary world. Having found a discarded Morgan Giles 26 footer sitting full of freshwater, rotting away in a yard, she raised money selling knick-knacks to do her up, spent the winter varnishing and getting the boat seaworthy and, due to insurance reasons, has her father Dave following a few miles behind in his wooden yawl on this historic record attempt.

©Kate McCabe

I don’t know what you were doing at 14 but I was barely capable of controlling an 11 foot Topper dinghy and the furthest I could make was the start-box at the mouth of the Lymington River. The very thought of even sailing around the Isle of Wight was, at that time a distant endeavour, achievable yes, but for another day. Even now, the thought of sailing around Britain feels like the adventure of a lifetime – a bucket-list challenge. But for Katie, it’s real and it’s happening and the sheer enthusiasm and determination that she’s displaying is something of serious note.

©Kate McCabe

And the way Katie has captured the voyage in such a refreshing, honest, beautiful manner is something akin to the writings of Arthur Ransome, Clare Francis, Chay Blyth, even Ernest Hemingway or Herman Melville. It’s that good. It’s that honest. Even the minor spelling mistakes add class and charm to Katie’s writing and I’ve been so impressed that I have nominated her for the Yachting Journalist Association’s Stoneways Young Marine Journalist of the Year Award for 2021.

Have a read of this below and go with the flow:

By the time we were approaching the Mull of Gallaway, waves of around 3m tall (10ish feet) were pushing us onwards. At this point we had been sailing at about 8-9kts for a while, and I knew were overpowered. This meant that I had to turn the boat into the wind (and sea) to reef the main. I had been putting off doing this for a while, hoping it would just calm down, but after an unexpected gybe, the descision was made. Sailing downwind like this was nervewracking, but fun, however turning to head into the sea, things can become dangerous really quickly. 

Having handsteered for about 8hrs due to the conditions, I hadn’t had a chance to change into my waterproofs, or put in the last washboard, so within the first minute of turning Falanda, everything was almost underwayer with the spray.

To make things more difficult, the reefing system on Falanda only allows you to put one reef in safely, from the cockpit, and I hadn’t had a chance to connect the rest up yet. Therefore I had to spend 20 minutes trying to just get the cringle onto the ramshorn, and then strap the remaining flapping mainsail to the reefed bit with ties. It did the job, and soon we were moving again, with fully reefed mainsail and jib.

It was quite strange because the wind couldn’t have been blowing more than a force 5-6, yet just the power of the tide against it caused the sea to chop up. Soon after I reefed the tide turned, and the sea began to calm down, just in time for sunset. It seems the weather always slackens off for sunset, so we were left with a pink sky and chilly breeze. I also got to take some photos, although I’m pretty annoyed I didn’t manage to get any before, when the sea looked really impressive. 

As it got dark I passed a chest of draws floating just underneath the surface, so that really got the nerves up as shipping increased and it got freezing. At some point in the night, the wind died, so I shook out the reefs, and we continued surfing forrwards.

Breathtaking stuff. I very rarely read something that captures sailing so beautifully and it’s a lifetime’s work to try and write so succinctly and so utterly brilliantly. Katie McCabe is a sailor of rare talent – one with the ability to do the sport at the extreme end but also able to capture her travails in sentences. It’s just so refreshing to hear of the sport at a simpler, more innocent level but with such enthusiasm.

©Kate McCabe

And yes, Katie is also doing the trip for two charities close to her heart involving the Ocean – Sea Shepherd UK and Lonely Whale and to date she’s raised just under £8,000. Incredible effort. Let’s see if we can push her over £10,000:

A remarkable story by a remarkable young girl. I have a funny feeling that we’re going to be hearing an awful lot more of Katie McCabe in the future. Go girl…And if you feel, like me, that Katie deserves to be nominated in the YJA awards here’s the link:

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