Atlantic adventurer admits he is glad to be alive

Niall Iain with the Alba before he set off from  Cobb's Marina on Little Creek, Norfolk for his epic 3,400mile row to Lewis.
Niall Iain with the Alba before he set off from Cobb's Marina on Little Creek, Norfolk for his epic 3,400mile row to Lewis.

Atlantic adventurer Niall Iain Macdonald has admitted he is glad to be alive, but desperately disappointed after being forced to abandon his attempt to row solo across the Atlantic.

The 44-year-old was more than a quarter of the way across the ocean when heavy seas battered his boat, swamping his cabin and forced him to make a Mayday call.

It was the popular Gaelic broadcaster’s third attempt to complete the solo row after his first attempt in 2014 ended nine days into the original NY2SY row following an accident.

A second attempt last year saw Niall Iain spend six weeks in New York waiting for a weather window which ultimately never materialised.

CALLING TIME ON THE CHALLENGE

Now after his third effort to make the ambitious solo row across the Atlantic he says he feels it is time to call time on his efforts after giving it his best shot.

“I’ve done this for eight years and I really don’t want to be associated with failure all the time,” said Niall Iain as he called the Stornoway Gazette from the Dutch cargo ship which came to his aid.

“This is my third attempt, and second real attempt after not setting off last year, at this but I think I’ve tried all I can. And financially I can’t do any more. I think that’s probably it.”

Although bad weather was predicted it was worse than anticipated when his boat ALBA took the full force of the Atlantic in the early hours of Friday morning.

“It really blew up,” recalled Niall Iain. “You need a lot luck and when I was knocked over the first time it shook me up and the boat was on it’s side. The second hit was so hard and so violent and when I saw the wind generator stand had been buckled over I knew it was serious.

“I was then nailed by another wave and from there things started to deteriorate quite quickly.”

The cabin on his boat was swamped and Niall Iain also took a heavy blow to the head after being knocked onto the control panel.

As conditions deteriorated he noticed his VHF aerial had also been snapped and he made a Mayday call on his satphone.

“I’m not too bad, I’m ok considering,” said Niall Iain.

ALBA IS LOST

“I’m still on the cargo ship at the moment. I’m OK, my head and emotions are all mixed up. Just trying to get my head round all that happened and it’s all over. I’m a bit shaken and bruised but I’m not injured or anything.

“Just a bit emotional and disappointed it turned out this way but happy to be alive.”

He continued: “My head is a bit hazy with all the times but I think it all happened around midnight and I wasn’t picked up until 4am when a ship managed to come along and get on scene.

“I was quite fortunate considering how far out in the ocean I was that she was close enough to come help me.

“I was trying to get a handle on the situation and not to panic and work through in my mind what I would have to do if it came to the point I had to abandon the boat. Time dragged on and it was very lonely.”

He added: “I’ve lost my boat. I don’t know where she will end up and she was swamped anyway.

“All I really want to do now is get ashore and I’m currently making my way to a port in Canada and from there hopefully can fly back home in a weeks time or so.”

The rescue came just two days after an NY2SY update, celebrating the fact that the adventurer had crossed the quarter mark having rowed a mammoth 871 miles or more than 1,400 kilometres and had been making excellent mileage of more than 40 miles a day.

Niall Iain undertook NY2SY to raise awareness of mental health issues and to raise at least £100,000 for Scottish mental health charity SAMH having admitted his own struggles in the past.