Hi, I’ve been sailing small boats for a long time. Setting out to sea in a small boat around the UK coastline isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time. Invariably it is freezing, can be a bit scary and is often simply boring. But on the rare occasions when the wind is behind you, the sun shines and you are joined by a inquisitive dolphin it more than makes up for the bad times.

I’ve just retired, May 2017, and for the first time have several weeks to sail the boat. In these pages I hope to share some thoughts, images and videos as I sail around the UK.

The Passage Plan

Before setting off from Whitby, 30th May 2017, the plan is to sail via the following ports, Sunderland. Amble, Eyemouth, Arbroath, Stonehaven, Peterhead, Lossiemouth, Inverness, Caledonian Canal, Fort William, Tobermory, Oban, Islay, Glenarm, Bangor, Kircudbright, Maryport.

Watch this space to see if the journey is anything like this.


My first sail was with my Dad in a secondhand Mirror Dinghy on Leigh Flash back in 1970. The sailing bug has stuck with me ever since which suggests a streak of masochism must run deep. They say that if something can go wrong it probably will and over the years this famous adage has been all too true on many sailing trips. Engine failure always at the worst possible moment, ropes securing themselves to the propellor shaft, nearly always sailing directly into the wind the list is endless.

For several years I had a Newbridge Navigator based at Liverpool Marina which I trailed to various places including memorably to Brittany. Having just launched the boat using a hoist I motored round to a pontoon berth in the setting sun to rapturous applause from a 40 footer who were enjoying cocktails in the cockpit. Seeing the ensign they mistakenly assumed I sailed all the way from the UK. I hadn’t the heart to enlighten them.

Kids came along and the boat was sold to pay for a new driveway. Many years elapsed during which I continued to mess about on the water. Usually sailing a Laser dinghy very badly. In 2001 I bought a Freedom 21 and berthed it on Windermere for a couple of years. Before selling it to buy my current boat, a Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 24.2 in Milford Haven.

At just 7.3m it is about as small as a ‘proper’ boat gets. By proper I mean an inboard engine, heads (toilet) and a fridge. I even have hot water if I’m hooked up to shore power having installed a tiny immersion heater. Papillon II has so far travelled from Milford Haven to Holyhead for a few years and then to Maryport for several more. Usually doing no more than 300 miles a year. Modest but considerable more than many boats that lie in the marina from one month to the next.

Having retired in 2017 the plan is to put more miles behind me and hopefully lots of these will be with the tide. Papillon does about 5kts so with 1kt of tide it can do 6kts but if that tide is against then this drops to 4kts. Tides are so important to small boat owners, I prefer to be in port overnight doing relatively short daytime hops that are ideally in a 6 hour window of favourable tide.



Nik Lever