The President of Ireland's Office called on the Sat. phone. As per SOB I answered " South Atlantic Residents Association. How may I direct your call"
Confused, the man almost hung up until I got him back and clarified my mistake. I should, of course, have said the " North Atlantic Residents Association… " - since we have just crossed the Equator.
The crossing was a truly magical moment, early Friday 16th March after 48 days at sea. King Neptune and his Court who gave us a personal audience and a warm welcome, having remembered us from the outward journey.
Then President Higgins came on the line and congratulated us on the voyage. This was indeed a great honour - not just for your humble skipper but all our partners, friends and those who have supported the project.
We talked for 10 minutes on a range of subjects from the success of his recent visit to New Zealand to celebrating St Patricks Day - it also being the National Day in Monseratt in the Caribbean which I now leave to port. Bizarrely most of the sugar cane plantation managers for Irish and the slaves picked St Patricks Day as the perfect day to rise-up since their masters would be having a party,
For those who have followed our ship's log through our Journey thanks for your interest. The Sunday Independent will be publishing the next Log so rather than my regular ' guff ' for those following the adventure, I write about something special. Without shame ask to support. something incredible.
It can be small or large to help the Atlantic Youth Trust Charity We've had everything from €1 - €40,000 donated by individuals and companies so no amount is too small and it makes a difference.
To be clear, 100% of all funds will go to the Atlantic Youth Trust. And for the record the ATLANTIC Trust has not paid 1 cent towards the branding and promotion contributed through the Vendee. The Kilcullen Team Ireland Ocean project has in fact helped raise funds and profile both on the island of Ireland and internationally.
For me it is an honour to play a role in this initiative and thankfully, as business has gone well I have been able to support it financially myself. My late father, Lord rest him, always said " You should put something back in" here I have been honoured to promote this charity. Will you actually do something? Now?
Atlantic's mission is clear to connect young people with the ocean and adventure.
As a child I was always in trouble at school and ' difficult" . I was fortunate to be selected to go on Asgard 1, a sail training vessel and it changed my life. Mind you many might say I am still difficult and in trouble - perhaps - one of another kind but this in not for me to judge.
Anyway Asgard II was lost, as was NI's vessel and the island of Ireland at the same time found itself rudderless in a tough recession. There was no appetite to rebuild.
It has been a tragedy for maritime youth development. We had no certified vessel or professional structure integrated to the education system to take youth to sea, introduce them to careers in the maritime and personal development.
As is often is the case with tragedy comes opportunity. Here the Atlantic Youth Trust saw is a once in a lifetime to look around the world with a 'clean-sheet" to see who did it best. Generous seed-funders came in and ATLANTIC in an independent project surveyed 16 countries and held Town Hall style meetings around Ireland to harvest views and build consensus for the best solution and value in a 30 year plus project,
This is a World Class, Youth Development Tallship. It will be professionally run but supported by a large Irish and Global volunteer based structure. Essentially the Maritime dimension to the Irish diaspora story - appropriate to think of on this St Patricks Weekend,
No matter who a child is, from any part of Ireland, they would have the opportunity to taste the ocean and adventure on this ship.
In our global research the New Zealand model stood out. With climate similarities in the South Island and similar populations. ATLANTIC their template, they are incredibly helpful and we have had several exchanges.
The economic model shows a massive return on investment for youth at risk, those following careers at sea, marine industry development, even tourism promotion and much more,
Incredible progress has been made. Teams in NI and ROI are working on details to move forward but the project urgently needs smart seed funding and public support to keep going. See www.atlanticyouthtrust.org.
Also some great member trustees have got in behind the organization and mission. Thee are led by the Chairman Peter Cooke, David Beattie, Sean Lemass, John Killeen, John Coyle, Jerry Dowling and Gerard O'Hare to mention just a few It is a professionally run charity. Neil O'Hagan is the CEO and the offices are kindly sponsored by Irish Lights, the North-South navigation authority.
You'll find ways to donate online www.teamireland.ie/donate .
ATLANTIC have gifts small and large for all donations over €30 and I am happy to consider any corporate speaking type activities in return for a donation to the Trust.
Now, in theory the circumnavigation is complete. The Equator marks the beginning of the End in what has been an extraordinary adventure and very tough challenge. Also TEAM Ireland want to keep going and would like people to get in behind Gregor McGuckin's entry in the Golden Globe Around the World Challenge and Joan Mulloy in the FIGARO this year and Nin O'Leary's Vendee plans with IOR.
However its not over. Now its north through the Doldrums, the North Easterly Trade Winds past the Caribbean and up the North Atlantic leaving the Azores High to starboard to finish in early April. Now that's an excuse for a great party.
But please please make a contribution to the ATLANTIC Youth Trust. Every bit counts. www.teamireland.ie/donate