What’s the story?
There’s a gentle swell sweeping around Horn Head in Donegal. The sun beams down on to a sparkling sea, as the ex-MoD One Ten steadily ‘sails’ around Dunfanaghy Bay. It’s a bizarre feeling, sitting behind the wheel of a Land Rover that’s happily bobbing along.
The non-turbocharged ‘200di’ is busy rumbling away at about 1200rpm and a satisfying wake of white water snakes out behind us as I line up for my first beach landing, under the relaxed guidance of ‘skipper’ Denis Ferry (yes, really). Denis and his One Ten are no strangers to the Irish Sea, having sailed across it together in September 2015 – the second time that this amazing ‘craft’ has made such a crossing.
Overhead we’ve got a drone capturing our every move, so now isn’t the time for a botched approach. Fortunately, Killahoey beach is around three miles long and has the perfect, very gently shelving sandy surface. There’s plenty of room and the sea is calm.
Our Favourite Bit
Back to September 18, 2015… Says Denis: ‘We left Dunfanaghy and trailered the Land Rover to Belfast, then caught the ferry to Cairnryan in Scotland. We arrived at Portpatrick, our departure point, at 7.20pm. The support boat had left Rathmullen, the next pier up from Dunfanaghy, at 9.30am, with five other guys and motored across to Portpatrick, 120 nautical miles away to meet us. They got there before us and met up with Steve Burgess and Dan Evans, who’d come up to see us off. We wanted them to be involved because they’re a big part of the story.’
In the RIB support boat was Derek Flanagan, an off-duty coast guard on three days’ holiday; Richard Kee from Donegal Charters (it was his RIB); Donal Conolly, a friend who had been involved throughout the testing; Sean Pattern and Noel Brennan, a sub-aqua diver with air tanks. Noel was there in case the Land Rover broke a propeller or propshaft underneath – he’d dive in and fix the problem. As Denis explains: ‘We just didn’t want to stop. It was just me and Les in the Land Rover.
‘We got up at 6am on September 19 for a briefing from Richard, and set our radios together. While the others got the RIB ready, Les and I went on to the beach with Dan Evans; we were on the water by 7.10am and heading for Donaghadee in Northern Ireland. It took just under six hours.’
Apart from an uncomfortably close encounter with a Scandinavian oil tanker and then battling through the Ram Harry Races (a particularly fast-flowing current), the crossing was totally calm and straightforward.
And the verdict from Mark Saville?
Denis’s immediate ambition is to fit a front winch and drive to the top of Glass Mountain in Donegal. He’s already attempted it in a Discovery and feels the One Ten could make
it all the way.
In the long term, he has another very special sailing trip in mind. ‘I’d like to sail along the Thames from Vauxhall Bridge down to just after Tower Bridge. I was on the phone to the Thames Port Authority – and once I mentioned that we’d already sailed the Irish Sea, the chap was a lot more interested in my idea. I’d love to do it on New Year’s Eve, take the family and see the fireworks.’
Having seen how Denis, Les, Donal and their team work together so well to achieve their collective goals, I’ve every reason to believe if anyone can, then they can.
Model: One Ten pick-up, ex-MoD l Year: 1986
l Engine: Non-turbo 200Tdi l Gearbox: Five-speed manual, centre PTO l Tyres: Ovada Super Track remoulds l Propulsion: 15in propeller, ex-tractor PTO shaft from One Ten’s centre PTO l Speed: 4-5 knots
This feature appeared in the March 2016 issue of LRO. Current and Back issues are available to download on digital devices here. Please note, we only hold stocks of the the last three back issues.