A life on the ocean wave was always the dream for Rod Shiers – with a sailing trip around the coast of Great Britain at the top of his wish list.
So when he retired from his job as a solicitor, Rod was given the opportunity to set off on his longed-for journey, which he has now chronicled in a book all about his adventures.
Rod completed the voyage in a 32ft, twin-keeled sailing yacht, and made it around the 2,400-mile coastline in 80 days.
Joining Rod at various stages on his journey were a group of 20 people ranging in age from 14 to 74 – including a retired engine driver, a surveyor, a former police officer, a builder, a metallurgist and an electronics research engineer and all occupations in between.
Some were old sailing pals, but others had little or no sailing experience.
“Apart from sailing around Britain, the other thing I have always wanted to do is write a book and now both those ambitions have been achieved,” said Rod, aged 62, who lives with wife Jan near Bakewell.
Originally from Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, Rod started sailing at the age of four, when his father taught him to row in a dinghy towed behind the family sailing boat.
Rod learned seamanship with the sea scouts, and in his late teens served as a member of the local lifeboat crew.
He moved to Derbyshire 40 years ago, and later took up dinghy racing – but the call of the sea was ‘always strong’, Rod said, and in 1984 he and a group of friends bought an off-shore boat which they used to sail around British waters and to the Mediterranean, eventually mooring it in Croatia.
However, a new boat was needed for the trip around the UK coast – so Rod purchased the 32ft Westerly Fulmar yacht, setting off from Portishead on the Severn Estuary in May 2013.
“I thought rather than doing it myself it would be good fun to invite old acquaintances to join me,” said Rod, who has three grown-up children, Fraser, Lloyd and Angelina.
“There was a little bit of landlubbery. One chap brought along a hairdryer and a few people were a bit queasy.”
The route was followed ‘properly’ by sailing up to the Outer Hebrides and returning via Orkney, rather than using the Caledonian Canal, Rod said.
Bad weather and storms in the Bristol Channel caused delays at first, which he attempted to put right by sailing from Milford Haven to Holyhead straight through.
“This was a 30-hour trip in one go. From then onwards we pretty much managed to stay on track all the way round. We actually arrived back in Portishead on the very day I’d planned to.”
Rod said anybody taking on such a journey ‘needs to have confidence’ in their boat.
“I enjoyed very much the challenge of actually navigating around the coast. Most sailors will say the coast of Great Britain is the most challenging in the world. Every day you have to cheat the weather.”
Now the book’s publication has arrived, similar sailing exploits could be on the cards.
“It would be quite enjoyable to sail around Ireland, but there are various trips I’d like to do, and I’d like to write another book. Actually getting a publishing deal is something most people dream of.”
n Rod’s Book – called All Aboard – is available now, published by Lodestar Books, priced £12. Visit lodestarbooks.com or call 07990 573160 to buy a copy.