An experienced member of the Killaloe Coast Guard Unit is poised to become the first person from the Irish Coast Guard service to row 5,000 kilometres across the Atlantic Ocean
Mike Jones, who also works as full-time operations manager with the University of Limerick Activity Centre (ULAC) at Ballycuggeran, Killaloe, was due to join five international crewmates to embark on a gruelling endurance test from the Port de Plaisance Marina in Agadir, Morocco, to Bridgetown in Barbados this Thursday morning.
The voyage will be the first to use Agadir as a start port for an ocean row and will only be the second ever ocean rowing voyage to start from a Moroccan port; a staggering 213 ocean rowing trips have left from the Canary Islands.
Two charities, Milford Care Centre, Limerick and Marymont Hospice, Cork, will also benefit from Mike’s adventure. Having set a target to raise €25,000, half of all the money raised will go to the charities and the remainder will go towards covering the cost of the trip, which is expected to be in the region of €15,000.
Speaking to The Clare Champion, Mike said he signed up for the row last September after receiving an email and subsequently meeting Peter Williams, second-in-command on the boat.
The Cobh native has spent the past three months training in the University of Limerick arena gym building his strength and rowing for a few hours a week on a rowing machine at home. He has also completed some essential core and flexibility work with Carmell Demello.
“I have received great support from all the members of the Killaloe Coast Guard Unit and should I be successful I will be the first member of the Irish Coast Guard to row across an ocean.
“The goal of the trip is to stay safe and get to the other side. Anything else will be a bonus. The other likely outcome is that I will make five lifelong friends and if the past few days of preparations are anything to go by we will have a lot of fun and laughs along the way,” he said.
As a self-confessed kayaking addict, Mike has built up all the necessary skills to cope with this demanding challenge.
With a bachelor of arts in outdoor education from GMIT Castlebar, he is also highly qualified in most of the adventure sports. He is currently working on becoming a national coaching and training centre tutor for the Irish Canoe Union.
Mike has a strong background in winter mountaineering, has sailed in Croatia and kayaked around Europe and Nepal. He enjoys kayaking on the Curraghgower wave or hurling himself down the infamous Clare Glens River.
Throughout his youth, he was a very active member of the Cobh Sea Scouts where he learned invaluable seamanship skills while at the same time developing a hunger for adventure.
Over the past 18 years he has been feeding that hunger with sailing, kayaking and mountaineering, triathlons and adventures races all over the world.
After joining ULAC in 2001, Mike has been full-time operations manager since February 2006. He has lived in Killaloe with his wife, Andree Walkin, since June 2003. Andree also works in ULAC as a marketing executive.
Mike joined the Killaloe Coast Guard three years ago. Trained in crew and driver operations on both the D Class and Rib, he is qualified to coxswain both craft. He took over as the unit training officer in November 2009 and is now responsible for organising the training programme for all members.
The joint Irish/British/Swedish/Canadian crew is skippered by Matt Craughwell, an Englishman of Irish descent with Peter Williams (Ireland), Mylène Paquette (Canada); Mike Jones (Ireland); Pedro Cunha (Sweden) and James Kenworthy (England) will depart from Agadir on a voyage estimated to take between 40 and 50 days.
The crew’s boat, Sara G, is a specially designed ocean rowing boat that has already been rowed from New Zealand to Australia in 2007. The boat has three rowing positions on the deck, thus catering for a crew of six with three rowing while three rest.
The shift pattern will be set at a gruelling two hours on/two hours off regime, meaning each crew member will row for 12 hours a day. The boat is provisioned to be fully self-contained and unsupported for a 50-day voyage and will utilise its own water desalination machine to produce drinking water for the crew.
It will also contain a complete inventory of modern safety, communications and navigation equipment. Matt Craughwell describes the boat as “a fast, slick ocean rowing boat with all the equipment of a modern yacht”.
“The only difference between our boat and a yacht is that we won’t have a sail or engine to help us along – just our strength and determination to reach Barbados,” he said.
To make a donation, log onto www.atlantic5000.com.