Nick Cole, an Anglo-Australian with strong
connections, is about to reach a key moment in fulfilling a dream that has been
brewing for six decades. Algarve
At an age when most professional men are looking forward to taking it easy, Nick has taken on a daunting physical and mental challenge. Having spent virtually every day for the past six months single-handedly refitting a sailing boat he built by himself in the 1980s, he is preparing to put her back in the water and set off alone from Portimão into the wide blue yonder.
His boat is called Dumpling. Nick delights in her simplicity. Most sailing boats nowadays are high-tech, luxury items, but Dumpling has no engine, square sails and is equipped only with basic necessities. She's "green".
Nick's latest adventure is fostered by a seemingly insatiable wanderlust. Born in
Melbourne, Australia, he went off with his parents to . A year later, they took
him to Singapore at the age of two England where his father
set up a dental practice in ’s
London Harley Street.
After graduating from Cardiff Dental School,
Nick started his first job - back in .
He was soon on his way again, to a string of far-flung locum appointments in Melbourne Somerset, London (where he
met his wife Sally), the far north of Queensland,
South Australia and . Victoria
He took a break from dentistry, bought a 45-foot trading boat in Java, sailed her to Bali for a refit and later “pranged” her on
After a short spell working in
, the intrepid
traveller followed in his father’s footsteps and bought a dental practice in Charing Cross
Hospital Harley Street. That
was in 1979. A busy decade followed. Sally gave birth to twin boys. Nick
created Dumpling from a design he had
found in a book in a
public library. He completed a master’s degree in advanced restorative dentistry
before sailing Dumpling to the south
where he opened a dental practice in Lagoa in 1990. Portugal
Six years on, the twins, David and James, completed their secondary education at the
The family returned to Porches International School
so that the boys could go to university. Since then, Nick has worked as a
dentist in various places, all close to the sea: in the port of Plymouth, on St
Helena island in the South Atlantic, Totnes in south Devon, the Isles of Scilly, the Shetland Islands,
North Wales, Scarborough in North Yorkshire, and the Hebrides off the west
coast of Scotland. England
His passion for sailing was aroused as a child by the stories of English author and journalist Arthur Ransome. His childhood hero was Joshua Slocum, the first person to sail around the world single-handed. Nick greatly admires Slocum’s qualities: “He was skilled, brave, enduring, modest, kind, funny.”
So is Nick.
Having sailed dinghies and small boats from his school days, the design that took his fancy in the Melbourne library was an 11.6 metre ketch, gaff rigged and with square sails on the main mast.
After four years in the building, the voyage on Dumpling from
in 1989 was most eventful. Portugal
Nick recalls with typical self-deprecation: “I got a bit beaten up in Biscay and felt like a hero when I dropped anchor just east of Sagres. But I felt like a berk shortly afterwards when I ran aground off Ferragudo.”
Worse was to come on a subsequent trip off
south coast. “I went out without checking
the weather forecast and got clobbered. Lost my mast and had to sail back under
jury rig. Tried to get into Portimão but missed. I anchored off Praia da Rocha
but had to be rescued by a Portuguese naval patrol boat.” Portugal
Dumpling has been standing propped up on a grassy patch in the Cole’s rural home near Silves ever since.
Over the past four years, Nick has periodically taken time off from private practise in the
her, always on a tight budget. Crucially,
he has enjoyed the unrelenting understanding and endorsement of his wife and
sons. Dumpling now has a fully repaired
hull, new masts, better accommodation, a proper galley and a ‘head’ that
works well. UK
It was on the remote
that he came up with the idea
of getting back to an old-fashioned unpowered sailing boat with a hold for transporting
traditional cargoes. All rather arcane and looked down upon by those who spend
most of their time anchored in expensive marinas, but Nick has incorporated
most of his fundamental ideas. Dumpling has no way of going anywhere
without wind in her sails. Her navigation lights will be powered by a solar
panel but all other lighting will come from paraffin lamps, candles or a head
torch. While a small GPS will be on hand for emergencies, he will navigate by
the sun and the stars - just like his hero Joshua Slocum. island of St Helena
Dumpling will be back in the water next week and departing - first stop
Madeira – a few days
later. Initially anyway, Nick does not plan to sail around the world like
Slocum. But who knows?
* We will report on the final preparations in our next blog and keep track of Dumpling’s progress thereafter.