Friday, 31 December 2010

Happy New Year

I know it’s been a little while since my last update and I am truly sorry about that. I will make it one of my main New Year's resolutions to update this a lot more frequently.

Merry Christmas to everyone! I hope you all had as lovely a Christmas as I did here at home with my family. Looking back it does always make me chuckle just how many Christmas’s I have missed in the past because I’ve been sailing or just abroad in another country.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get into the air since I did my first solo. The lesson that I had booked just a few days after that solo lesson turned out interesting… I dutifully turned up and within half an hour of arriving, there was a complete white out snow storm! As you can imagine, that airtime was swiftly canned until the snow cleared.

Didn’t the snow stay around though! For those of you who are reading this from abroad, we’ve had dumping after dumping of the white stuff, eventually leading up to a white Christmas which was very pretty. The runway was of course shut and so hence I haven’t flown since. I am hoping to get up in the air pretty soon after the New Year though.

Yesterday evening I saw a brilliantly performed 'Sleeping Beauty' pantomime at our local theatre with all my family (aunts, uncles, cousins etc) and it was lovely to be able to catch up with them all. I can’t remember the last time I went to a panto and with so many laughs in the script, I really did have a great time.

Wishing everyone a very happy New Year,


Monday, 13 December 2010

Flying solo - whoooope!

Today was probably one of the most important and memorable days in my attempt to become the youngest person to fly around the world and the first person to both sail and fly around the world. I flew my first Solo!

When I woke up this morning all raring to go, I opened my blinds, looked out the window and groaned in disappointment at the extremely low cloud base making look rather foggy. I could barely see even 100m down my road. I promptly phoned up Cabair (which has got to be the best flying school ever!), spoke to Liam and he certainly agreed that it wasn’t looking great for my lesson today. We agreed that I’d ring up again in a couple of hours to see if the situation had changed at all since then.

At 12.30 I phoned up, and once again the news wasn’t great. Heathrow airport, which is pretty darn close to Elstree aerodrome, was reporting a cloud base of only 500ft. Still not good enough for us, as the circuit height around Elstree is at 1000ft.

Whilst having lunch I was chatting to my mum and at around half one she suggested I ring Cabair once more on the off chance that there was a cancellation for Liam’s afternoon lesson with another student.

Incredibly, I think my mum has begun to mind read, as when I phoned up, Liam said that just minutes ago his student has cancelled his afternoon slot and so he was free to fly. I once again asked about the cloud base and Liam reported that it had improved sufficiently and was certainly flyable.

I immediately wolfed down the rest of my lunch, jumped in the car with my gear and headed over to Elstree full of anticipation and excitement.

When I arrived, Liam and I sat down for a short briefing on the weather conditions and we also did a quick recap of all the emergency procedures should I encounter any problems during my first solo flight. I was happy with everything, as was Liam and so I headed out to the aircraft to do a full A check of the plane. An A check is a complete check of the aircraft from top to bottom looking at everything from seeing that the flaps are in order to the right level of oil being in the engine. I was happy with everything, Liam did his own quick little check to make sure that I hadn’t missed anything, and with him being satisfied and in the co-pilot's seat, I started the plane up and we went through more checks and tests.

I radioed ahead for airfield information and taxi clearance. This was granted and once I had jotted down the relevant information, adjusted what I needed too, such as the altimeters pressure, I taxied out of Cabair and headed over to the runway. On the way there, we stopped, did our engine tests to check that it was in perfect order and then headed over to the holding line just before the runway. I radioed, saying that I was ready for departure. We were given the clearance and so we headed out to the threshold before stopping, holding the plane on the brakes, applying full power to achieve the best rate of acceleration and then as I released the braked we headed down the runway gaining airspeed until I reached 65knots at which point I lifted the aircraft off the ground and into the sky.

The circuit was a left hand one off runway 26 and so I proceeded to take us around the circuit smoothly at 1000ft before lining up for final at 600ft. At this point I had already completed all the pre-landing checks, I had two stages of flaps down. As we approached the runway even closer, I brought in another stage of flap, we passed over the school, which lies just before the aerodrome, and after I flew just over the threshold, I touched us down with a little bump. This was a go-around and so I didn’t apply any brakes this time. Instead, I dropped one stage of flap, increased the power back up to 100% and took off again. I repeated this circuit twice more before Liam and I agreed that the time had come for my first solo!

After landing on the third circuit I exited the runway and radioed ahead for a change of Captain. That was a good feeling! We taxied over to the same point that we did the engine testing before. Liam jumped out, wished me luck and I was on my own. What a cool feeling that was! I proceeded to do some more tests and checks then once again taxied down to the holding line, before requesting clearance for take off. This was immediately granted and with a little bit of nerves I taxied the plane out onto the runway and up to the threshold. I once again held the plane on the brakes, took a deep breath of air, increased the power to 100% and let the brakes go. I was soon gaining speed and it didn’t take long to achieve 65knots at which point I lifted the nose up into the air and the plane left the ground. After I reached around 300ft I proceeded to quickly do some more checks and as I could see we were nicely gaining height and our airspeed was fine, one by one I let off both stages of flaps.

At this point I was still gaining height and I couldn’t help but shout out loud ‘YES I’M SOLO!! WOOOOPEE!’ I certainly had a massive grin on my face right then. In fact, that grin never left my face for the whole flight.. Come to think of it, I believe I’m still wearing it now as I write this just a couple of hours after my flight.

I banked left onto the first short bit of the circuit after the climb and headed over to an area of fields keeping the houses on my left. The circuits are designed and laid out not just for the ease of the pilot but also to reduce noise for the houses below. At this point I was heading out in the direction of Wembley stadium which is one of the landmarks I use to remember the circuit and as I passed a couple of tall aerials on my left I once again banked over to my left. I was now on the downwind leg and so I radioed ahead letting the aerodrome know my position. Now that I was on the downwind leg I went ahead and did all my landing checks such as making sure that the brakes were ok and making sure that the landing light was on etc.

I turned on to base and started my decent down to 600ft for the final turning point. I introduced two stages of flaps on and slowed the aircraft down to fly at a perfect 70knots. I made my last turn onto final and I again radioed ahead letting them know that I was on final and that I intended to land. I introduced one more stage of flap whilst keeping the airspeed at 70knots, adjusted the engine power as necessary to keep our decent nice and level and as I flew just above the threshold I flared the aircraft and let her glide down the last few feet to the runway herself.

I gently slowed the plane down to a stop and was instructed over the radio to turn back around and exit the runway at the Alpha point once again. I did this, stopped after the Alpha point, did my after landing checks and then after requesting taxi back to Cabair I headed back over to them and parked the plane up. I really was dead chuffed.

I’ve got to say a huge thank you to the guys at Cabair flight school for making this happen as if it wasn’t for you guys I wouldn’t be where I am today. A special thanks must also go out to Liam my instructor for being the most helpful, patient and fun instructor any student pilot could wish for.


One very happy Mikeeee

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Short take offs and landings

Hi all

Today was one of those days where everything just seems to go right. I woke up bright and early to the sound of my phone going off. In that half asleep trance I grabbed it and just missed it typically. I saw that it was Cabair flight school and so I promptly phoned them back. They had bad news. Liam had phoned in ill and so he wasn’t going to be able to take my lesson, however another instructor Alfonso was available and so I jumped at the opportunity to fly with him.

I drove over to Elstree aerodrome and after meeting up with Alfonso we had a little briefing on what we were to be covering today and we then pretty promptly headed out to the aircraft, proceeded to do the pre-flight checks, jumped in, started her up, radioed ahead for information and taxi clearance, got it and then taxied over to the runway to to do our final pre flight and engine tests.

Today I was learning about performance take offs and short landings. These are effectively take offs in the shortest distance with the best rate of climb and landings in the shortest distance.

Alfonso gave me a demonstration of both of these and then it was my turn. In a performance take off, you have to apply full power before releasing the brakes as then the plane has the best rate of acceleration. Two stages of flaps are down and so rotation speed is at only 55knots. Not very fast at all! Once the plane is in the air the airspeed will begin to increase and so after the plane is climbing nicely and the airspeed has increased up to around 70kts, I’ll ease off the flaps one by one gradually.

We were on a different circuit to the one that I’m used too and so Alfonso pointed out the landmarks that we use for the circuit as turning points. As I was on base leg I started to set up for finals by descending to 600ft, slowing down and bringing in two stages of flaps. Usually I would approach the runway on finals at 70kts but now I was to do it at 65kts and so the plane loses some of the control you have when you are flying a little faster. As I approached even closer I would aim the plane just before the runway threshold and I would level off earlier than usual with the aim to touch down actually on the threshold.

Once the plane was on the ground I’d apply the brakes fairly aggressively on and off like a manual abs system so that they wouldn’t lock up on me. The challenge was for me to land and stop before the alpha exit on the runway which really isn’t that far along and I’m very pleased to say that I managed that 3 out of 4 times.

Also, during this lesson Alfonso demonstrated to me a bad weather circuit which was interesting to see. Unfortunately we were only allowed to do one per session but it was still great to learn about something totally new.

I’m now at home for Christmas as my university has broken up and I’m very happy about the next three weeks at home with lots more flying!


Friday, 26 November 2010

Lost in Paris

Hi all,

I’m currently writing this from Dijon as excitingly I’m at the Dijon International Adventure Film Festival where my film has been entered. It was screened yesterday afternoon and wow was it amazing to see the film blown up on a huge cinema screen. I’m talking IMAX size! The film is the French version which has been slightly shortened and dubbed. I didn’t know I spoke such good French!

I took an early flight out of Southampton on Wednesday morning as this was the only one available and so I had all day to spend in Paris exploring before I caught my train to Dijon later in the evening. I took a train into the city from the airport and I changed onto another line to try and work my way to the river. However, typical me, I boarded the completely wrong train and it took me in a completely different direction on a different line to the one I thought I was boarding. I promptly jumped off at the next station, sneakily worked my way back to the other side of the station and headed back to the previous station and tried to figure out once again how on earth to get to where I wanted to go.

I eventually ended up at Gare du Lyon (one of the major station's in France) and boarded another train to head off to the Louvre as I really wanted to visit the place. The last few times I’ve been in Paris I haven’t been able to due to lack of time, so this time I made sure I’d get to see what’s inside.

I was amazed, firstly by the architecture of the whole place. Truly astounding! The artwork was pretty amazing too. I just wish I knew what half of it was or what it represented. I also spent a good chunk of time sitting on a seriously comfortable sofa reading another adventure novel (a little addiction I have) looking over this grand room that was being refurbished by the look of it.

I later jumped on the train to Dijon, fell promptly asleep and woke up, firstly thanks to the ticket inspector and secondly thanks to the train slowing down for the station. That was handy!

I’m really enjoying myself here, and I’m also remembering a lot of the French language that I had forgotten since I was last here. Thank you to all the guys at the festival for looking after me during my stay here!


Tuesday, 16 November 2010

A little bumpy

Hi all,

I had a couple of flying lessons booked for Thursday and Friday, and well, seeing as Thursday brought gales across the UK that lesson was somewhat written off. Friday brought a little bit of sunshine and that was good enough for me. I drove down to Elstree Friday morning and Liam and I ummed and ahhed over the weather. It was safe to fly in, it would just be a little interesting..

We jumped into the plane, glanced over at the windsock a few more times and concluded that it would be fine to fly, and it would be a whole new experience for me flying in such bumpy condition.

Taking off was no problem but I was pretty surprised with just how bumpy it actually was flying over the trees just after the runway. We were up to do a local flight and practice some more manoeuvres and emergency procedures which went fine, albeit a little bumpy!

Lining up for final, I was expecting it to certainly be a not so smooth landing, but surprisingly it wasn’t too hard and we touched down with barely a bump which I was dead chuffed about. Flying in such ‘interesting’ conditions is certainly more wearing on the body and mind and I was surprised how tired I felt after just an hour in the air.


Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Live and Deadly

Hi all,

Sorry it’s been a little quiet on this radar recently, but I can assure you, it’s not as if nothing is going on. My life is one continuous washing machine, I sometimes think!

Excitingly, my book won an award. That’s right, an award! I was invited to the Maritime Media Awards a little over a week ago and I was really chuffed to be presented by Countess Mountbatten with ‘The Mountbatten Maritime Award for best literary contribution Certificate of Merit for the most inspirational book’. It was a really fun evening and it was great to chat with loads of other authors and other sea faring chaps. I even had a good chat with the First Sea Lord!

On Friday I was due to be getting my first flying solo in, but the weather was…. let’s just say, a little naff. I turned up to my lesson anyway in hope of the fog clearing but as we couldn’t even see the tops of the electrical pylons, we deemed it unsafe to fly. It was still good to rock up to the lesson though as I was able to sit down with Liam and go over the plan for the next couple of weeks and also start on revision for my meteorology exam. I have an advantage in that my weather knowledge is already pretty vast, but still it’s a lot different up at 10,000ft rather than at sea level that’s for sure.

I drove back down to Southampton on Friday night as I had an extremely early start on Saturday… 4am, ouch! This was because I was the guest on BBC2’s wildlife children’s show ‘Live and Deadly’ I had to arrive so early as we had two complete rehearsals to do before the actual live show. It was so much fun filming the show and the presenters were a great laugh to be with. Thank you to the whole crew for making me feel so welcome! ‘Live and Deadly’ is a roadshow and they have toured around the whole country doing wacky and crazy stuff.

Sunday brought a day out on the water which I was really chuffed about. I was out sailing with a writer who is looking to write a book about solitude so wanted to know about my experiences of sailing around the world and particularly focus on the mental side and so to give him a good insight into what it really is like on the water.  I took him out for a day which was great fun. My dad came along to help with the sailing side and it was great to sail with him also. Despite us both doing loads of stuff on the water, we haven’t actually sailed together for almost a year now. How crazy is that.

It’s back into the fun of university now for the time being, but I’ve got flying lessons booked for Thursday and Friday so hopefully I can get up solo then….fingers crossed!


Monday, 18 October 2010

Air Law

Hi all,

Exciting news! I took my Air Law exam yesterday, and today I got the call form Liam that I had passed quite comfortably which I was really chuffed and excited to hear.

Last weekend I spent a couple of days at home revising hard, and I was due to take the exam then but I just wasn’t feeling too confident about it and so I delayed taking it until yesterday after another long weekend of solid revision and I’m dead chuffed I did.

What I’m looking forward to most now is going solo which I should be doing pretty soon excitingly!

I shall let you know how it goes!


Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Fun Fun Fun

Hi all,

Apologies about the radio silence over the last week or so, just I have been extremely busy with the start of university and wow has it been more fun than I could have ever imagined.

I’ve started at Southampton Solent University and am currently living in Halls which is a whole lot of fun. I will be able to fit this around my adventuring so I will be able to both study and lead a hugely adventurous life which is right up my street! The sailing team here is the best in the country which is another reason I’m here!

The last two weeks of getting to know each other have been a cocktail of fun, fun and more fun and I’m really chuffed to have some great flat mates who are also really fun people and pretty adventurous themselves.

This week I’ve been knuckling down and learning my aviation law which I can tell you is no small subject! I was hoping to take the exam this weekend just gone but as I don’t want to do it until I’m fully confident that I’ll pass I’ve decided to wait until this coming weekend to take the exam as that gives me some more time to learn the subject properly which isn’t so bad.

I’m really looking forward to getting this exam passed as then I can fly solo! So exciting!


Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Flight to the coast

Hi all,

On Friday, I really did come back from my lesson with Cabair grinning from ear to ear. In my lesson I’d taken a little trip to the coast and back all within an hour. Flying is most definitely the way to go! I came back home after and asked my Dad, ‘and where do you think I’ve been’? He had no idea of course and so I told him that we’d flown to Southend and back.

As I arrived at Elstree, Liam and I sat down and worked out all the calculations we’d need to do to fly first to Potters Bar and then fly in a triangle pattern via two other airfields. There certainly was a lot to take in and it will definitely take a little while to know it like the back of my hand. I did really like working it all out though, and wow does doing all the calculations make the flight easier.

Once we were up in the air, we first flew alongside the M25 until we came to Potters Bar which is where I live and I pointed out my house to Liam too which was good fun. It’s pretty easy to find from the air thanks to our old and little above ground swimming pool in the garden.

I took note of the time and we then proceeded to fly the route I’d laid out on the map.  I continually estimated the ETA at each point and also the ATA when we got there. It was really nice to see how accurate my predictions were.

Flying over Southend was pretty cool too, as it just opened my eyes up to how easy it is to travel by plane. No traffic jams to worry about that’s for sure!

After flying back and landing at Elstree, we debriefed and looked at things that I could improve on and also how to or how not to do some things differently perhaps.


Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Flying again

Hi all,

Since I got back from Aus, it really has just been non stop. I thought I would have a busy time ahead of me but often it seems like I don’t have a spare hour in the day!

At the weekend, seeing as my whole family was actually in the same place for a change, we decided to take off to the Gower in Wales for a couple of nights as a family. We were due to camp for the two nights but typical dad, he packed the wrong tent so we ended up grabbing a cheap hotel for the first night and buying another small tent the day after. I love it down at the Gower as it is just so pretty and on the last day of our short but sweet stay we walked up over Rhossili Downs overlooking the beach, to Rhossili village which took an hour or so and then walked back along the beach which was lovely. We used to go there every year but as we’ve all been so busy over the last few we haven’t been there for 3 years. It was so good to go back.

I’ve also been getting back into my flying lessons with Cabair since returning which has been just superb. I was a little rusty at first as I hadn’t flown for 6weeks but I got right back into it no problem. My last lesson with Liam was really great fun as we were practicing forced landings. Obviously not doing them for real I should add! We would fly up to 3000ft and then put the engine into idle so it’s just ticking over. I would then bring the aircraft onto it’s optimum glide angle and speed which is 75knots and then turn the nose into the wind to give us a little more time.

Looking around I would pick a suitable field, then do a little lap around it keeping the field just at the edge of my wing and then line up to glide in on final. We wouldn’t drop too low in altitude as we were just training but I wonder if any farmers questioned if we were genuinely going to land in their fields! I’d apply full power and climb away trimming the aircraft at the same time to make it easier on the controls.

Over the last few lessons, I’ve also been doing more and more circuits to seriously ingrain them into my mind. I’ve learnt how to do a glide approach and also how to do a flapless approach. They’re all pretty different! Gliding onto the runway is very interesting as it helps me learn really how to reduce speed and height effectively to come down onto the runway. At around 600ft of altitude whilst still on base leg I’d cut the engine and then begin a steady turn towards the runway trimming the aircraft to glide down at 75knots. If I feel like we’re too high, I‘ll slow the plane down to help lose some height but still maintain a good 70knots minimum. I’ll bring the flaps in as necessary pointing the nose at the numbers on the runway. And just as the nose comes over them I’ll level out the aircraft, and then let the plane find the runway herself whilst just gliding over it.

A flapless approach is pretty different, as instead of flying down at quite an angle toward the runway, one has to approach the runway much more level as the speed of the plane has to be at around 80knots or so. Surprisingly I’ve found these landings very smooth and they have been some of my best.

I can’t wait until my next lesson when we’ll be trying a few new things.


Monday, 6 September 2010

Bye to Australia

Hi all,

To be honest, I can barely describe just how much fun the last few weeks have been! Sailing at Hamilton Island race week and then sailing at Airlie’s multihull regatta. Two fantastic weeks of really competitive on the water fun.

On the last day of racing at Airlie after the sailing and once we’d berthed, this guy came over in his dinghy and was like “ah guys that was so impressive when you were flying a hull under kite earlier”. We all responded with a “did we seriously?!” Looking back I do remember it being quite smooth on the helm at that moment!

I’m typing this whilst on the plane flying back from Dubai to London. I’m certainly in a real need of some sleep but it’s only 4 in the afternoon London time. I’m going to hold out as long as possible to help readjust to the time zone! It’s still nowhere near as bad as flying to Sydney though because at least this way I gain 9 hours or so.

I’m really looking forward to cracking on more with my flying nice and soon. I’m very excited as I’ve got quite a lot of lessons booked for the next few weeks which should be really awesome! I can’t wait to go solo!

Lastly I can’t say bye to Australia without saying thanks to everyone who has helped me out during my stay, from Dom at the Sydney Boat show to the girls from Hachette, to the great people who helped with our accommodation at Hamilton Island, to Frase and also to Bruce, Suzanne and Steve for some great multihull racing!


Monday, 30 August 2010

17 knots in 10 knots of breeze

Hi all,

We’ve now all finished up on Hamilton Island and we ended on a really high note; coming third and fourth on our last day of racing which we were all really chuffed about. It was really excellent to be able to race an SB3 against some other highly competitive teams who had been doing it a lot longer than the rest of us.

On Saturday, as there was no racing for the SB3’s the team had a day off. Sean, Jess and I were lucky enough to go out racing on Wild Oats XI which was such an amazing experience. She is such an advanced boat that it’s sometimes a little hard to comprehend how it all comes together. The loads are just huge!

We were sailing through the islands at up to 17knots under kite in only 10knots or so of breeze. An amazing experience. The crew were a really great bunch and they got us involved with a lot of the boat work which was super.

I’m now over at Airlie Beach to race in a multihull regatta over here with Bruce on Big Wave Rider. We’ve had some superb conditions gusting up to 30knots and we’ve still had the kite up! Top speed so far has been 19.5knots which was pretty good fun!

This is my last week here in Australia and I’m going to ensure that’s it a good one. I’m looking forward to returning to England and cracking on with some more flying and also getting stuck into Uni which should be a whole new adventure in itself.


Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Hamilton Island Race Week

Hi all,

I’m now up at Hamilton Island race week and wow what a crazily fun week this is turning into! I’m up here racing with the Panasonic Lumix team on an SB3. The crew is Jess, Matt and Sean and we’re all really enjoying being out on the water.

I’ve never raced an SB3 before but I have sailed very similar boats so it is a small learning curve figuring out the little things on the boat which will improve our performance with the trim but I’m quite happy with the way it’s coming together.

Yesterday seeing as there was very little wind, Bruce took us all over to Whitehaven beach which is recognized as one of the nicest beaches in Australia! It was pretty amazing that’s for sure.

Today was our first days racing and it was really great fun to get out on the water and compare ourselves to the other teams. We aren’t too happy with our results and a couple of starts were messed up badly but the main thing is that we had a lot of fun, so I’m going to leave it at that!

I’ll keep you guys updated on the racing ahead.


Thursday, 19 August 2010

17.9 Knots

Hi all,

This last week has been so much fun, I’ve been grinning continually that’s for sure! We’ve continued sailing up the coast doing on average around 50 miles a day which is quite a happy distance for the boats that we’re sailing on as they’re fairly quick! Usually we set off mid morning around 10ish and are usually in by sunset.

It’s got a lot hotter now and I’m so pleased to be back up in the tropics. True shorts and t-shirt sailing conditions! Today’s sail was such an awesome one too. We set off this morning, and as we headed out of the bay I was a little uncertain of what the conditions would be, but as we found the offshore breeze it was just perfect! 15 knots on the quarter. The spinnaker was already up and we took off averaging 12 knots or so.

After putting in a few gybes to dodge a few little islands and navigate around some rocks in the area, the wind picked up a few more knots to 18 or so and wow were we rocketing along then. One hull skimming along the surface and the guy on the helm just playing with all the troughs to find the best boat speed. We hit a top speed of 16 knots but to Steve and I that just wasn’t enough. So we tried and tried for 17 knots which we got after a further hour of playing the waves.  We hit 17.1 which awesome as it was just this little barrier which of course meant nothing to anyone else but meant a lot to us!

But that wasn’t enough of course, I wanted to go faster! I later set the top speed of 17.9 knots under spinnaker which I was pretty chuffed with. In fact, its probably the fasted I’ve ever been under spinnaker! Sure I’ve been faster in a lot more wind but I’ve never sailed that fast in only 17 or so knots of wind on a flat sea!

We arrived into our anchorage early this afternoon (unsurprisingly) on Middle Percy Island and went ashore to put a sign up in the shack on the beach. The bay is called West Bay and there’s some history behind it. People have put mementos of theirs up in this shack for over 50years so it’s a pretty famous cruising place to visit in Aus which is pretty cool.

Currently sitting down to a well deserved rum and coke with Bruce, Steve and Suzanne after a great days sail up the Aussie coast.


Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Spray flying everywhere

Hi all,

Wow yesterday I had some fun!

I slept on Bruce’s boat overnight but bright and early (around 6ish!) jumped out of the bunk and headed over to Steve’s catamaran. Steve’s is kind of an extreme 40, just with two hulls and designed to go offshore! He raced it across the Tasman earlier this year. Bruce, Suzanne, Steve and I are taking the two catamarans up the coast to Hamilton Island so we’re hopping up there in little stages.

Steve and I were the first to get out of the marina and so headed off with the aim to get to Fraser Island first. It’s not a race but when you pit two cousins against each other in similar fast boats, it kind of just turns into one anyway!

We headed off into a very horrible lumpy sea which slammed the girl all over the place as we had the wind behind us but as we rounded a headland after a few hours we sailed into a very squally area. As we did so, the wind swung around to being right on the nose and increased a fair bit which was very very welcome as it meant that all the slamming was over! We tacked off shore for around two miles and then tacked over to head north.

It was great fun sailing now pretty powered up and we were making a happy 8knots which I was very happy to see! After a couple more hours of this we rounded another headland and we were able to bear away and head for the bar off Fraser Island around 15miles away but that wasn’t going to take long as we were now totally trucking along at 13-14knots steadily! I haven’t been that fast sailing a big boat since I had my open 50!

Spray was flying everywhere and it was fantastic to constantly have water everywhere! I was glad that it was warm water! Very very exciting sailing that’s for sure and to top it off we saw some whales!

We passed over the bar with a nice smooth crossing and then ghosted into the straits waiting for Bruce to catch up, as we had no idea where we were going to anchor.

A great dinner and then a great night's sleep followed!

Today it looks as if we’re going to head north just a little more to find a better anchorage.


Sunday, 8 August 2010

Laughter and Laughing

Hi all,

It been a fun week since the Sydney Boat Show. I spent the first couple of days in Sydney. Initially, I was due to move Jess’s boat around to another marina but as it was blowing pretty seriously, I decided to do it on Wednesday instead. As my day was freed up, I was able to spend a good chunk of time with Chris Wilde from the Talisker Bounty Boat crew.  It was awesome to get to know him quite a bit better and hear lots more about the trip in detail from his point of view, which was really interesting.

On Wednesday morning as the wind was quite a bit lighter, Don and I moved Jess’s boat around to a marina in the harbour as it can’t stay at the boat show permanently! It was good fun having just me and Don onboard and brought back funny memories of when Jess, Don and I went for a sail off Mooloolaba in the boat before any of Jess's preparations really kicked off.

I hopped on a plane later in the evening and flew to Melbourne where I am now. I’m here joining Jess on just a small part of her book tour. Jess’s sister is here too and we’re all continuously having a great laugh. In fact on some of the long car journeys, we talk such ridiculous stuff, I think the driver just wants to build a wall between us three and him!

Yesterday evening we caught up with Jesse Martin and his family which was really great and we all couldn’t stop laughing at some points. They’re a really great and friendly bunch! Later on, some of his mates came round and then we had even more fun!

Today I’m flying up to Brisbane via a quick stop in Sydney. Then tomorrow morning, I’m jumping on Bruce’s catamaran and then sailing up the coast for 10 days!  We are going to take part in Hamilton Island race week.

I’ll send some pictures and updates whilst at sea.


Sunday, 1 August 2010

Having a good laugh!!

Having a good laugh with James Castrission, Justin Jones ( and Jess Watson at the Sydney Boat Show! 

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Sydney Boat Show

Hi all,

Well I¹m here in Sydney and loving it! I¹ve now fully adjusted to the Jet lag and am really enjoying not being in a daze all day!

The talks at the boat show have been going very well and I¹m really enjoying talking to the guys in the audience and telling them all about my experiences that I¹ve had. In these presentations I¹ve also included quite a few humorous video clips and everyone seems to find them pretty hilarious which is good to know.

After every talk I¹m also doing signings at the “ boat books stand” which is right next to the main stage. It¹s really touching to hear people come up and talk about my trip. If anyone is around pop by and I¹d be happy to have a chat.

Today I had a great time and even had some fun with Justin and James

After the boat show I¹m nice and busy and I¹ll be soon heading north into warmer waters, helping sail a catamaran up the coast to the Whitsunday¹s, but I¹ll talk about that more later.


Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Off to Sydney

Hi all,

Believe it or not, I’m currently writing this whilst sitting in Dubai airport waiting to board my flight down to Sydney! I’m flying out there for a few weeks and it’s shaping up to be a really busy visit with lots organized.

The main reason I’m flying out is because I’ve been asked to speak at the Sydney International Boat Show, which sounds like it’s going to be a really good fun event with loads happening! The show is from the 28th July to the 2nd August and I’m speaking twice a day up on the main stage, which I’m really looking forward too. Last week I spent an evening putting together a great presentation with a few short video clips added in and it looks really professional which I’m chuffed about. After the show, I’m going to be doing a fair bit of sailing, but I’ll tell you about that later.

As you will be able to see, my blogs from my flying lessons have all gone up in a short amount of time. I started my flying lessons before the official launch and so below are the diary entries I wrote after each flight. Hope you enjoy all the reading!

I’m sure not looking forward to the jetlag that will no doubt hit me tomorrow, but ah well, it’s so worth it!


Flying Lesson 8-9 Getting Dizzy!

Well today was a new one! We were practicing circuits and we did quite a few of them! Seven touch and goes during the first lesson and the same during the lesson after.

A circuit around an aerodrome is exactly what it says on the tin. The pilot has to abide by the rules of the circuit and the direction that the circuit is travelling in. There is a route that the aeroplane has to take if they are doing circuits. Some aerodromes have a large circuit but luckily Denham has a small one, which was really great as it gave me the opportunity to practice taking off and landing a lot!

The first take off was nice and smooth, and as we flew low over the trees just after the runway a real sense of exhilaration went though me! Once over the M25, which is right after the runway, I banked right to run at 90degrees to the runway, my instructor pointed out a landmark which was a huge warehouse on the ground and once again I banked right around it to then run parallel with the runway. At this stage I was maintaining an altitude of 750ft.

I passed over the start of an area of lakes and as my instructor directed put in another turn to the right. I then put the engine to idle and we started to descend. After this I added two stages of flaps. I maintained the attitude of the nose of the aircraft to reduce our speed and put in a final turn to line us up with the runway. I called the tower to say we were on final and then adjusted the trims of the aircraft as necessary.

We began to descend nicely and I lined up an area on the windscreen with the numbers at the start of the runway. As we got closer, the ground sure started to whizz by faster! As soon as the numbers disappeared I levelled out and let the aircraft descend herself to the ground to ensure a smooth landing. We touched down with a bigger jolt than I’d have liked and I was quick to criticise myself but as we lifted off and I spoke to my instructor about it he said to stop criticising myself, as it was only our first circuit!

I repeated this exercise 6 more times and certainly improved a lot which pleased me tremendously. I was really chuffed to hear that I’m apparently ‘a very quick learner’.

My next lesson with Liam was almost identical to this one, however we also covered landing without any flaps and also talked through what would happen if the aircraft stalled during final approach. Not a good thing to happen!

Even after flying today I’m still itching to get up there again!


Sunday, 25 July 2010

Flying Lesson 6-7

Hi all,

In these lessons I was due to be covering stalling and I was seriously excited as I turned up at Denham airfield to go flying once again. This lesson was going to really show how the aircraft handles in a clean (and unclean) stall.

I headed out and was soon up in the air once again after doing a full check up of the aircraft. We headed out past the Heathrow zone so we could then ascend up to 2500ft, which is a safe height to practice stalling with two persons on board.

First of all I was shown a clean stall and it was interesting to see how the plane handles during a stall and then it was my turn. I brought the power back to idle and held the nose attitude high to maintain our height rather than sinking. The airspeed dropped back all the way to 60knots and at this point the aircraft started buffeting. The airspeed then dropped down to 55knots, the stall warning came on telling me that we were about to stall and soon after that I felt the plane just about to drop away and so I dipped the nose forward, applied full power and after quickly gaining more airspeed I leveled off.

That was my first time at the controls of a clean stall and I sure learnt a lot! A stall can quite easily happen during the stages of approach so it is very important to drum in all the techniques of getting out of a stall. I practiced this numerous times and we headed back down to the airfield.

After a bite of lunch we were up and away again and I had an even bigger grin on my face than before. This time I was going to practice stalling whilst in a turn and then just gliding out of it.

Once out of the controlled airspace and after finding a quiet stretch of airspace I was led through the effects of stalling whilst turning. What happens is that, as the plane loses air over the wings, the plane loses lift and the lower wing drops away. If I wasn’t expecting it, it would probably have been quite a surprise! I also ran through stalls whilst climbing. I also did stalls and then just glided out of them.

One of the last stalls we did was really just an exercise to show me how the plane will effectively fix it’self if balanced. We let the plane stall, and as the nose dropped away, we let it go into a partial dive to increase the airspeed over the wings and once this happened the airplane started to level herself out impressively without any help from us. What a feeling as we lost a thousand feet in seconds!


Flying Lesson 5

Hi all,

Today I flew out of Denham aerodrome as the runway at Cabair was having some repairs done to it which has ceased all flying operations from there for a few days.

I hopped into the car in the morning and after banging on the radio there was an immediate traffic report saying that the M25 motorway was totally jam packed! Bummer, I thought to myself and so off I went on the nice and windy long route through all the back roads.

I arrived at the aerodrome, drove up to what I thought was where Cabair was based and no, this is where all the Helicopters were. I got out, looked around and at the other side of the field, there they were! I drove back round and met up with Liam once again.

We soon were out in the plane and taking off and I was as thrilled as ever to once again be up in the air. Today the sky was blue as far as the eye could see. This lesson we were covering banking whilst maintaining a steady height and balance of the aircraft. It was fantastic to continually put the aircraft into 30degree banks and look out below and see everything we were passing over! I learnt a huge amount in this lesson and I’m really enjoying it!


Friday, 23 July 2010

Mike Perham announces plans to fly solo around the world

Dateline: 23rd July 2010 Farnborough International Air Show

Today 18-year old Mike Perham has announced plans to become the youngest person to fly solo around the world. The press conference, hosted aptly in the Futures Pavilion at the Farnborough International Air Show, comes just 11 months after Perham returned to a hero's welcome in Portsmouth last August to become the youngest person to sail around the world single handed.

If successful in this latest challenge, Mike Perham will also become the first person to both sail and fly solo around the world. Doors are now starting to open to make this adventure possible and if everything comes together in time, he hopes to be off next summer.

Circumnavigating the globe in a small plane is the ultimate flying adventure. The planning and logistics required for such a trip is hugely challenging. Studying the weather systems en-route and dealing with worldwide bureaucracies and regulations are quite daunting. No other single aviation event is this rich in content and equally multi-faceted. The flight will prove to be mentally and physically gruelling, in climatic extremes, placing high demands on Mike and his aircraft.

Mike, who only passed his driving test a few months ago, has begun an intensive training programme for this next challenge with Cabair Flying School at Elstree Aerodrome. Mike said, 'It is  truly amazing to experience the freedom that flying gives. There is a lot to learn, but I'm loving it'.

Steve Hinton-Lever, director of Cabair says, 'When Mike first came to see us with his plans, we were immediately impressed by his mature approach and outlook on life. Mike will make an excellent ambassador for the industry and we can expect him to inspire many into taking up flying.'

Liam Dunleavy, Mike's flying instructor, said, 'It is great to be able to work with someone who shows such determination to succeed. Mike has a natural aptitude and I am sure his experience of sailing around the world will be a great asset to his flying goals'

Mike, who was listed by both Time Magazine and The China Daily in their top 10 heroes of 2009, will challenge the current record holder, Barrington Irving from the USA, who flew solo around the world at the age of 23.

The record route, which is adjudicated by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, will take Perham, who already holds 2 Guinness World Endurance Records, across 18 Countries during the 3-month long record attempt. The flight must start and finish at the same aerodrome, crossing all meridians and be not be less that 19,864nm (equal in length to the Tropic of Cancer).

Mike, who is an Ambassador for the Prince’s Trust, certainly has a good track record. His solo round the world sailing voyage undertaken in 2008/9, generated a wave of media coverage that made him a household name right around the world, delivering more than £60 million in air time and column inches for his sponsors. Mike’s exploits were also the subject of a 90-minute Channel 4 TV documentary, which has since been aired by other TV networks in France and USA.

Since completing that solo voyage, Mike has encouraged thousands of young people to make more of their lives, delivering his ‘Live the Dream’ talks to schools, youth groups and business motivational conferences in the UK, Hong Kong and Australia.

Mike has seen first hand the enormous difference adventures like this can have on other people. He has a stack of emails saying how inspired they have become after following his voyage around the world. Mike frequently visits schools and says, "It is hugely satisfying to see so many young people engaging with what I have to say. I love taking questions and to see a sea of hands in the air is just amazing. If only more people of my age realised they too could live their dreams. Nothing is impossible if you want it enough. I come from land locked Potters Bar, yet I managed to sail around the world."

To follow Mike's activities, visit his website or to find out more about Mike and his character, read his book, Sailing the Dream.

Barry Pickthall
PPL Ltd - The Specialist Media Source
Business of the Year Award Winners - 2007/8
+44 (0)1243 555561
+44 (0)7768 395719

Flying Lessons Two and Three

Today was a double lesson and this time I was learning with Liam who will be taking me on most of my lessons from now on. I woke up around about 10minutes before I had to leave and so immediately dashed out of bed, jumped into the shower at break neck speed, shaved in record time as I knew we were going to take some press shots later, literally jumped into my clothes and drove at of course a ‘very’ responsible speed to the aerodrome.
Turned up not too late (almost on time actually!) and met up with Liam. I hadn’t met Liam before now and we hit it off immediately. He’s one of the younger instructors and so that definitely helped.

We went through into one of the briefing rooms that they have at Cabair and we sat down to go into detail about climbing and descending. Now that may not sound all too difficult to you guys but trust me there’s a lot more to it than the meets the eye. Being ‘landlubbers’ and not ‘air lubbers’ I imagine not many of us ever really think about it.

There are of course different rates of climb, the different angles one can climb, some are quicker, some are slower. One example would be, if you climb steeply then you don’t actually make as much distance over the ground to where you want to get to as you would if you climbed at a very gentle rate. At a max climb I was to find that around 65knots was the best we could make. At a cruising angle of climb, we would be making around 80knots so a lot better!

After the briefing, I went out to do a pre flight inspection of the aircraft. I’ve only done this a few times but and I’m happy to say it’s really starting to ingrain itself on my memory! After this I hopped in, did a systems check and Liam hopped in shortly after.

I started up the engines after running through the pre-start checklist and we taxied over to the runway. Final checks were made, final clearance was requested, then given, and we taxied out into position, applied full power, released the brakes and we were off!

At 65knots of airspeed, we lifted off and were soon up, up, and away! That initial feeling of losing the friction of the ground and getting up into the air never ceases the thrill me! We gained altitude up to 2000ft, and after getting ourselves a little bit of distance between the circuit, and us we began the fun!

Liam was excellent in showing me through the different rates of climb and how it is all affected and what it affects too. I practiced climbing and descending and was really intrigued how the aircraft handles when you push her into a really steep climb. I was surprised at just how much she wanted to yaw. After a while we turned around, headed back to base and touched down with a surprising amount of grace. Liam was seriously impressing me!
It was time for a quick break, a bite to eat, a drink to down and I was once again raring to get out there and go again! We had another little short briefing, this time about using flaps and the effects it has, but of course there’s only so much one can learn in a classroom and so we headed outside again, into the plane and after all the checks were once again completed we were soon airborne once again.

I found this lesson really interesting as I had never before really thought through or understood the effect that using flaps has to the way the plane behaves in the air. There are many things I can and have carried over from sailing to flying but this was certainly new ground for me. Liam also showed me other techniques to slow the aircraft down in the air such as using full rudder one way and the aileron the other. Before long we were down on the ground again after yet another smooth landing by Liam (credit to him!) and the lesson was over. I wanted another one right then!

I have to say, I’m really loving the freedom and excitement that flying brings. It’s also darn sexy too! I told one of my mates just casually yesterday that I was flying today and he didn’t believe me! I can’t wait until I can take him up on my own.


Flying Lesson One

In the first lesson, I met up with Chris who would be teaching me for the first week. Liam was on holiday. I was due to start lessons the next week but suddenly I had some free time and we decided to start them this week. We first spent around 15minutes in the classroom going over basic theory. Having sailing as a background really helped, as all the principles of lift are exactly the same.


We then went out to the aircraft to go through a complete check of the aircraft. We used the checklist in the booklet and went through from start to finish. Chris was excellent as he explained totally everything and got me to do everything which I really liked. After the full check we went inside, signed out, phoned up the tower to radio out and then headed out to the plane.


Got in the plane and then started the engine, taxied out down to the runway. Was learning all the braking and the steering via the rudders. Arrived at the runway, radioed for final clearance and then got into position. Put the power up to 100% with feet on the brakes. Released the brakes and off we went! Once the airspeed was up to around 65knots Chris lifted the nose and we were airborne! Wow what a feeling! During all the take off I had my hands on the controls and was just getting a feel for what Chris was doing.


We headed up to 2000 feet. The maximum allowed in the area is 2500 due to all the commercial traffic just above us. Chris handed over the controls to me and he let me get the feel for it myself. Good habits learned early will stick with me so it was important for me to learn them right at first. Before I knew it we were flying over my home town and I was looking down searching for my house. I realised that we had passed it and so we did a circle and found it! It sticks out a lot as we are one of the very few houses in our town to have a pool in our garden. Potters Bar certainly looks pretty small from up there. I was grinning from ear to ear and was wondering if my parents were looking up at us at that exact moment.


We flew out to Lee Valley Park and Chris was letting me really get the hang of all the controls which was really great. I was having a ball and felt right at home in the air. Sure I was a bit nervous. But who wouldn’t be during their first flying lesson! Chris showed me all the principles of how the aircraft balances in the air. He showed and explained all the differences the flaps make. He explained the trim tab fully. He certainly explained a lot during that first lesson but I just soaked it all in and I loved it.


We headed back to Elstree airfield, effectively following the M25. A brilliant reference for where you are. We were back in what felt like no time and as we came into land Chris once again took the controls but I followed through and felt every little move he was making. He was excellent as he explained every little bit of what he was doing and the effect if was having on the plane, the speed and the altitude. Called up the tower too.


We touched down with just a little bump and then taxied off to the end of the runway and headed over to our parking space. I was definitely really thrilled after that lesson and left with a very large smile on my face. Thanks Cabair flight school.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010


Hi all,

Busy few days since I wrote last, and an exciting few days too!

Last Tuesday I sat my Yachtmaster practical down on the south coast and I’m very pleased to say I passed no problem. It was a great day spent going over all different sorts of different technical things and also a load of navigation. We weren’t able to post off the application that day though as I had forgotten to bring a passport photo with me. I popped one in the post on Thursday so that was all in hand.

One other thing I had to do for me to get my Yachtmaster was to show a first aid certificate which meant going on a one day course once again down on the south coast as there were no local places which did the course. I got up super bright and early and drove down there for 9am. Once down there, I found the course really interesting and was surprised just how much the protocol for cpr has changed... yet again.

On Thursday I did a talk at Chalfont St Peters Primary School in Rickmansworth. I visited this school almost two years ago and talked about my trip across the Atlantic ocean when I was 14 years old. It was fantastic to go back and meet all the kids again. They’re such a good bunch and were all really interactive which was fantastic.

Things are hotting up here and I’m really looking forward to the launch of my project this Friday which is very exciting! Still can’t say what it is yet but it’s something very new and very very exciting! I’ll be updating this nice and soon with the announcement!


Thursday, 15 July 2010

Isle of Man

Hi all,

It’s been a fun last couple of weeks doing a couple more school visits, and also putting in some training for my next big challenge (can’t tell you that quite yet!). I also spent a couple of nights up over on the Isle of Man courtesy of Canada Life International.

I flew up on Thursday and much to my disappointment it was raining when I got there! It’s been so hot where I live that I didn’t even bother taking a jumper! I only took a thin jacket which wasn’t exactly warm in the slightest, but oh well, worse things have happened!

It was great to meet up with the team at Canada Life and I also did a short interview for the local radio station. That night we had a lovely dinner (thanks Sean!) consisting of steak and lobster and it was back over to the hotel room for a good sleep as I had a big day the day after.

The morning began with a visit to Ballacottier Primary School. I was really impressed with just how behaved the kids were. I did a short 20 minute talk and then it was question time and wow the kids were really responsive. This went down a treat but I had to leave to head over to the High School for another talk so I wasn't able to answer everyone's questions…there were still maybe 30 hands in the air when the head master had to call time!

I arrived at Ballakermeen High School and after being shown around, the sixth form were assembled in the lecture room and I went and delivered a talk to them. This also went down a treat and I was really chuffed. The guys at the high school were all a really good laugh!


After this I had the afternoon off and spent it wandering around and having a look at a bit of the Island. It’s certainly a very pretty place. The evening arrived and I headed over to the Hilton for the evening charity dinner. They were raising money for Project 21 and I was the keynote speaker.

The food was once again delicious and after this I was up. I had a really enjoyed talking to the 150 executives in the room and got quite a good few laughs so I was chuffed with the way it went down. It’s great being only 18 and delivering a talk to an audience with an average age of 45! There was a charity auction and they raised £11,000 which was really great news!

This evening I was honoured to be invited to present some awards at the Hendon RAF Museum, for The Alan Senitt Memorial Trust. These were for a few groups of secondary school students who have been following a course to develop leadership skills and have had a really positive effect on their community. One example being, a group of students who totally renovated a sports hut for kids to use.

This week I’m doing some more training (big announcement soon!) for my next project so keep following!


Monday, 12 July 2010

Round the Island Race

Hi all,

Sorry about the silence recently, I’ve been meaning to do this blog for a while now.

The Round the Island race was brilliant fun. I was racing on the Prostate UK cancer boat representing one of the four charity boats. It was brilliant because it was just like a race within a race. I wasn’t too concerned about our overall result. I just wanted to get a result within the charity boats. It was a very exciting race, there is simply none other like it in the world. To head out to the start line soon after 5am and see literally hundreds of yachts filling the Solent is quite a sight I have to admit.

It was a downwind first leg and we got a cracking start accelerating across the line with the spinnaker up. I was happy to see we had an early lead on the other charity boats which we held nicely up until the needles. At this point we had a bit trouble dropping the spinnaker and unfortunately lost around 300m (a lot in racing terms!). Another charity boat caught us up and they then went off inshore to take that tactical route. We stayed offshore as did the other two charity boats.

At the south of the island where all the boats rounded the point (St Catherine's light house - a great reference point for positions) we saw that our offshore route wasn’t as favourable as the inshore one and the Macmillan cancer support boat took the lead.

We were still in second place maintaining a healthy distance over the other two boats and I was happy with our tactics as we came up to the Bembridge Ledge on the east of the island. The Ellen Macarthur Trust boat at this point had made up a good bit of ground and were trailing us by around 150m.

They were able to point higher (brand new sails I’ll add!) and so I was a little worried tactically as they would no doubt try to come up over us and nick our wind and take the lead. The whole team onboard our boat worked really hard with the trimming and we were able to defend our position very nicely all the way to the finish line. I was really chuffed how well everyone worked together onboard and it definitely paid off as we came back in a well earned second place.

The racing was great fun with just the right blend of competitiveness. We didn’t ding anyone and had very few mishaps so I was a very happy Mike at the end of the day. Great racing from all the charity challenge boats too!

Since the race I have been doing a few talks to some schools as part of our VocaLink Live the Dream school programme and I have also been working a bit towards my next adventure.. (can’t tell you what that is yet, but hope to be able to announce something in a couple of weeks!).

Excitingly I’m heading out to Australia at the end of the month to speak at the Sydney Boat Show which I’m really excited about. It’s going to be a fantastic show with lots of exciting attractions!

This next coming week I’m doing a couple more school visits and excitingly I’m also flying out to the Isle of Man courtesy of Canada Life International to speak at a charity event where we are raising money for Project 21. See for more info on who they are.

Don McIntyre is flying into the UK soon and it will be fantastic to catch up with him and hear all about the Talisker Bounty Boat Expedition. One of the most important aims of the expedition was to raise money for the Sheffield Institute Foundation and the guys on the trip certainly worked seriously hard doing so! Please keep donating! See for more info.