British sailor completes 9000-mile Harbour Master Sailing Challenge, raising £25,000 for The Seafarers’ Charity

Supported by Inland and Coastal Marina Systems (ICMS), British sailor Mark Ashley-Miller has completed his epic 9000-mile Harbour Master Sailing Challenge, raising over £25,000 for The Seafarers’ Charity.

For the last five years, Mark has been sailing his 34ft Nauticat, Good Dog, around the UK and Ireland (including the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands) in a bid to meet every Harbour Master in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.

In the wake of Storm Agnes at the end of last month (28 September 2023), Mark sailed up the River Boyne into Drogheda, County Louth, on the east coast of Ireland where he was greeted by the port’s Harbour Master, Captain Laurence Kirwan, concluding his extraordinary five-year challenge.

On his ambitious expedition around the UK and Ireland, a challenge which was conceived from a deep-seated passion for sailing and a desire to support the seafaring community, Mark has visited 310 harbours and met 256 Harbour Masters, receiving a phenomenal welcome by so many.

“The thing that will stay with me now I’ve fulfilled this personal challenge, is just how incredibly welcoming and supportive of my mission the Harbour Masters I’ve met have been,” Mr Ashley-Miller said.  “In Newlyn, Capt. Rob Parsons texted me long before I arrived and told me I would be ‘his guest’, while in Ullapool, HM Kevin Peach, welcomed me with a bottle of malt whisky, and as a former marine scientist told me so many interesting facts about the reason behind changing fish stocks.”

Departing Dartmouth in 2019 and travelling around the coast season after season, Mark has gained valuable insights into the challenges Harbour Masters face on a day-to-day basis as they ensure the safety and prosperity of their individual ports.

“The shallow and potentially dangerous entrances of many harbours have to be clearly and correctly marked with buoys and lights, all of which is part of a Harbour Master’s duty,” Mr Ashley-Miller said. “Maintaining dredged channels and managing the cost of moving thousands of tons of silt every year, while taking into account the environmental considerations, is another vital task.

“Installing robust and well-designed pontoons makes the difference between a safe haven and a dangerous harbour. This is where ICMS plays its part.  As I circumnavigated Ireland from Belfast anticlockwise to Dublin, I found an increasing number of harbours had ICMS pontoons. For a yachtie, the difference in tying up to a rickety wooden pontoon with dodgy cleats and a strong well-built non-slip heavy duty pontoon is significant.” 

“I’m very sad my journey has come to an end. It has given me an enormous purpose in life. Working alongside The Seafarers’ Charity has been an enormous privilege, as has meeting some of the people whom the charity helps, be it fishing communities receiving mobile dentistry, or the staff of the various seafarers’ missions who do so much behind the scenes. I now have a much better understanding of the near invisible life of international mariners, and I’m delighted to have been able to raise money to support them.” 

“Mark’s extraordinary journey also recognised how important harbour masters are to seafarers and safety around our coastline; many more harbour masters know of our 106-year-old charity now too,” Deborah Layde, Chief Executive of The Seafarers’ Charity, commented. “Congratulations, Mark, on your extraordinary journey and achievement. Thank you so very much for choosing us as your Challenge Charity.”

Mark will be documenting his adventures in a new book, coming out next year.

Donations to the Harbour Master Sailing Challenge can still be made here.

To find out more about The Seafarers Charity click here.