independent

Monday 16 September 2019

Tom docks in harbour after Atlantic odyssey

WELSHMAN CHOOSES WEXFORD FOR ITS HOSPITALITY

SAOIRSE MCGARRIGLE

THE WARMTH and hospitality of Wexford people was what made one sailor choose to dock at Wexford Harbour after a mammoth eight-month trip.

Thirty five year old Welshman, Tom Williams, chose to begin his trip from Wexford last October, simply because he ' thought it looked like a nice place from the travel guide'.

However, he was taken aback by the warm welcome which he received as he sailed into Wexford.

'On the day I arrived in Wexford, the R.N.L.I. were on a training exercise in the harbour and said had they known I was going to arrive they would have offered to escort me into the harbour', Tom explained.

A visibly shy and modest man, Tom appeared flattered by the gesture. So much so that he decided there was only one thing for it, he would have to return once again.

And so, following a bumper weekend of activity on the quays of Wexford for the inaugural John Barry Maritime Festival, there was one more maritime treat instore on Monday morning as Tom Williams reached land for the first time in weeks.

Tom, who is from Wrexham in North Wales, took on the challenge of sailing around the Bay of Biscay, across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and back to Wexford, in order to raise funds for his local hospice foundation, 'Nightingale House Hospice'.

Modest about his achievement he described his experience of sailing solo as 'something I had always wanted to do'.

His parents, Bryan and Anne, were standing on the quay waiting for him to arrive on Monday morning.

They beamed a mixture of pride and relief that their son had accomplished what he set out to achieve and had reached his destination, safe and sound.

Anne joked that Bryan 'was usually a very shy man' but on this occasion he was happy to talk to anyone who passed by about his son's achievement.

Tom's trip saw him dock at different ports along the way, Madeira, Cape Verde, The Azores and Bermuda to name but a few. However, he had on occasion sailed for up to 22 days without reaching land or making contact with anyone.

This is because his small vessel did not have the capacity to send out long range communications. Rather, his family and friends relied on a ' bleep' which is a signal sent out by a tracking device on board his yacht to indicate his position.

Of course, these signals were not always picked up and his family could go up to a week without any contact whatsoever from him.

On one occasion Tom made contact with a passing ship through his short range communication device and through them he was able to deliver a message to his parents to let everyone back home in Wrexham know that he was doing okay. But as one might expect it wasn't always plain sailing... In the early stages of his journey he encountered a force 9 gale, which in laymen terms is described as a 'severe gale'. As a result his boat required repairs while he was docked in Portugal.

On another occasion he was forced to dive over board to free his propeller which had become entangled in a rope. 'I had to just take a knife to the rope to free it', he said. Of course his family could take some comfort from his indepth knowledge of first aid, as Tom who is a former paramedic works as a teacher at a hospital in Wales.

Reflecting on the solitude and lonlieness of travelling alone, Tom said that he certainly wouldn't rule out making a trip like this again, however he would prefer to make the trip with another person.

'I saw so many beautiful places, it is something you should really share with another person', he said.

Throughout his trip, Tom posted details of his journey on his blogs; www.justgiving.com/tomwilliams7 and www.tripsailor.com/tomsbigadventure

Tom will stay in Wexford until Thursday before he will make his final trip from Wexford back home to Wales.

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