British ocean rower today launched a solo bid to cross the Atlantic in
a 40-year-old boat which belonged to two other adventurers who died on
a similar challenge.
Graham Walters, 60, from Thurmaston, Leicester, embarked from
Spain this morning in the Puffin on his 3,000-mile mission to reach
Forty years ago, the 15ft wooden-hulled boat was at the centre of an
ill-fated record attempt by two other ocean rowers that ended in
David Johnstone and John Hoare were engulfed by hurricane-tossed seas
in September 1966 as they attempted to become the first to row the
Atlantic in the 20th century. Puffin was discovered mid-Atlantic with
Johnstone and Hoare's logbook intact on the upturned hull.
The last entry in the log was dated
September 3rd 1966.
By an amazing coincidence,
on the same day
of British rowers
arrived in Ireland.
John Ridgway, from Ardmore, in the Highlands, and Chay Blyth, from
Hawick in the Scottish Borders, succeeded in crossing the same
ocean in 90 days, to worldwide acclaim.
Following its recovery, the Puffin gathered dust in Exeter Maritime
Museum and then a Dorset boathouse, before being taken out of
retirement to complete the Atlantic crossing by Mr Walters.
The carpenter, who hopes to make the voyage in 100 days, has brought
the logbook of the vessel's tragic previous owners to compare notes
with his own progress.
The veteran rower, who is on his fourth trip - the second solo -
across the ocean, said it was his toughest challenge yet.
"The Puffin is an old boat, it weighs 2.5 tonnes, so it's a bit like
trying to row a skip filled with concrete," he said by mobile phone,
shortly after setting out.
"It's much less slippery than modern boats and has a much bigger
footprint in the water. It's very hard to row. My biggest worry is the
"Obviously, I'm ever mindful that David Johnstone and John Hoare were
lost in a hurricane. I've just got to try and stay strong and focused,
and do it for them."
He has 300 ration packs for his 14-week journey and hopes to snatch up
to six hours of sleep a night.
Mr Walters set out at 9.55am from San Sebastian de La Gomera, Spain -
the exact same spot from where explorer Christopher Columbus embarked
when he became the first to sail the Atlantic.
Kenneth F Crutchlow, executive director of the Ocean Rowing Society
International, which helped co-ordinate the trip, said: "Three
thousand climbers have reached the summit of Mount Everest but only
179 rowers have succeeded in crossing the Atlantic.
"It's one of the toughest challenges around, even in a modern boat,
but if anyone can do - it's Graham who can."