Rockall ticked off Charles Veley's list

MANY people who have taken a year out, or heading off for an epic year long adventure, can say that they've travelled the world.

But serial traveller, American Charles A Veley, is a man who can say he's travelled the world and actually mean the entire world – having visited 630 of the worlds 673 countries, territories, autonomous regions, enclaves, geographically separated island groups and major states and provinces.

And number 630 was most recently achieved when Charles travelled to, and landed on, the isolated Atlantic outcrop Rockall.

Along with a number of islanders, Chicago Radio Ham Michael Mcgivr, and 'island-bagger' Yorkshire man Andy Strangeway, this was the second adventure out to Rockall undertaken by Veley – and this time proved successful as he set foot on the island itself.

"It is very satisfying to have landed on Rockall," he told the Gazette.

"Having travelled a long way to make two separate attempts on Rockall, I'm acutely aware of the difficulties in simply approaching Rockall, let along landing on it!

"Conditions on the sail over could not have been better," Veley continued.

"This was in direct contrast to our attempt in April 2005, when Ben Fogle (of Castaway fame] and I sailed into a gale.

"This time, we had blue skies and very little wind. Not great for actual sailing, but great for passengering."

He went on: "Travelling to Rockall this time offered a chance to visit the Outer Hebrides and St Kilda in spring – a wonderful experience that too few foreigners get to experience.

"It also offered a real expedition-quality experience, where preparation and gear (kit) makes a difference, but the end result is down to luck, determination, and other factors.

"Even if things seem to be going well, the end result is in doubt until the end, which makes for an exciting and satisfying trip."

Indeed, it was unknown by any of the adventurers if landing upon Rockall would be feasible, and it was down to the pluck and determination (and wetsuit) of island man Mark Lumsden that the landings were made possible.

"Mark Lumsden was the real hero," complimented Veley.

"If he had not happened to bring a wetsuit, and had the curiosity to attempt to land directly, none of us would likely have landed.

"We all had to change into his wetsuit sequentially, which was not easy in and of itself! And the swells were 15ft and above, which made for a treacherous situation adjacent to the rock."

He continued: "Rockall is spectacularly stumpy and undignified – covered with birds and guano, and rising gloomily from the water like a frightful spotted dick with vanilla sauce.

"And I doubt there are few people alive who landed on Rockall as we did, directly from the sea.

"It took commitment, hope, foolhardiness and extraordinary good luck with the weather, and I'm very satisfied that we succeeded."

For more about the Rockall adventures, see this week's Stornoway Gazette, out today.

And to find out more about the amazing travels of Charles Veley, click here.