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The Telegraph ‘Expat life’ interviews Dave.
19.04.2011 Uncategorized 5 Comments

The Telegraph ‘Expat life’ interviews Dave.

Read Dave’s interview in The telegraph’s ‘Expat Life’ HERE.

Read the text here……….

By Leah Hyslop 12:21PM BST 19 Apr 2011


David Hildred, 57, is a consultant civil engineer. He lives in the British Virgin Islands and has just returned from a 3,000-mile trip across the Atlantic on a raft made of water and gas pipes, organised by former “Tommorow’s World” presenter Anthony Smith.

David, how did you become involved in the An-Tiki expedition? Did you see the advertisement that Smith placed in The Daily Telegraph – “Fancy rafting across the Atlantic? Famous traveller requires 3 crew. Must be OAP. Serious adventurers only”?

No, I didn’t. Funnily enough, my involvement with Anthony started when I was 13. We had a book fair at school, where we were encouraged to go in and choose a book to buy. I saw a book with a picture of a gas balloon over the game herds of Africa on the front, and for some reason it appealed to me. It was written by Anthony Smith.

Over the years, I read many more of Anthony’s books, and, inspired by him, ended up spending time in various parts of the world, working as an engineer but also travelling and adventuring. I sailed down the Amazon in a dug-out canoe and have taken part in many hot air balloon trips.

One day, I decided to write to him, just to say thank you for all he’d done. He invited me round for coffee and I ended up spending two days there. It was then he asked me if I wanted to be involved in the project.

The expedition website claims that the trip was partially organised “to show that older people are capable of undertaking… adventurous projects”. Was this important to you?

“Older” is the wrong word. We did use it on the website, but if we had our time again, I think we’d say “maturer”. Old is such a negative term these days. People shouldn’t have to do or not do certain things because society says. Anthony is 85 now, and he doesn’t want to go to Tesco’s, he wants to sail across the Atlantic on a raft. I think we were all quite like-minded in that respect.

Are there advantages of having an adventure like this at an older, or “maturer” age?

If I look back at the many hairy things I’ve done in my life, I think the benefit is that age gives you a better assessement of risk. When I sailed down the Amazon, the only safety measure I took was to have an inner tube from a car tyre with me. It was something to sit on, but I also tied it to my foot with a piece of string so I’d have something that floated to hold onto if the canoe capsized. I don’t think I’d do that now – I’d have a proper life-jacket!

Tell us a little about the expedition. Was the raft hard to sail?

No, it was probably easier to steer than a conventional yacht. We wanted to use guaras, centreboards which let you change the angle of a boat by raising and lowering them, and which were used on the Kon-Tiki expedition. People said to us “You need rudders” in case we got into trouble; I said no. Eventually we ended up taking rudders, guaras and a steering oar with us – but the rudders broke after three days. So we steered the raft with the guaras, then used the steering oar for finer control when we were close to land. We didn’t steer at all really. The raft steered itself.

It sounds very relaxing…

It was. We read books, talked, baked bread, looked at the stars. It was a slow walk across the Atlantic. Though when the wind was right, we could get four to five knots out of it, and on the best day do about 80 nautical miles.

You arrived on the Dutch Caribbean island of St Maarten 66 days after you’d set off – though you’d intended to end up in the Bahamas. What happened?

We were delayed at the start due to problems with the raft’s construction, but the main problem was the wind. For several weeks, we were either stopped or going backwards. It was a bit frustrating.

Some of us had time contraints like needing to be back at work, so instead of the Bahamas, our original destination, we stopped at St Maarten. The plan is to leave the raft there for a year, then the same crew or a different crew will take it onto the Bahamas. I think we’d all like to go on.

The trip aimed to raise money for the charity WaterAid – something reflected in your choice of material for the raft, which was mainly made of the pipes used to carry water in the UK. Why did you pick this charity?

Water is becoming a critical issue in the world, which people just don’t appreciate as they stand in the shower or flush the toilet with fresh water. How silly is that? People in Africa are gobsmacked when they hear we flush our toilets with something they spend hours walking to collect.

Did the crew get on well during the voyage? Smith has joked that “the word mutiny was only spoken about two or three times a day…”

We all got along very well. As you get older you get more tolerant of people’s foibles, as you’re more aware of your own. There was no “I wish he was off this boat” – at least, not from me!

Smith celebrated his 85th birthday on board, I believe?

He did, and we celebrated in grand style. We baked a cake, and we all sang happy birthday. I’d even brought along some chocolate for just such an eventuality. How many people do you know who celebrated their 85th birthday on a raft in the Atlantic?

Were you glad to set foot back on dry land?

I wasn’t looking forward to going back to work! But I was very pleased to see Trish [David’s wife] because she came to greet us, and gosh, I’d missed her. We received such a welcome too. Hundreds of people gathered to cheer us and all the ships blew their horns.

So now it’s back to the British Virgin Islands, where you and your wife live. Is it true you live on a boat there?

Yes, I’ve been living on boats since about 1983. I called my yacht home for 25 years, but that’s been sold, and now we live in a trawler.

It’s a very nice way to live: you’ve got the sea breeze, you can easily jump over for a swim, and if you don’t like the neighbours, you can go somewhere else. We use the British Virgin Islands as a base for exploring, but it’s a bit of houseboat at the moment because my work is here. Still, the other day, Trish turned to me and said: “Let’s sail to Australia”. It could happen. She’s very adventurous. And I’ve got a few years left in me yet.

To donate money to WaterAid, click HERE. Thanks!

5 Responses to “The Telegraph ‘Expat life’ interviews Dave.”

  1. David Hildred says:

    Actually Andy baked the cake, I claim no credit for that…..and my singing left much to be desired compared to our two musicians! Dave

  2. Beryl says:

    Great to hear even more about the voyage….thanks!
    Also tributes to Trish and Dave for their part in making such an exceptional contribution of $2,000 possible through the generosity of the folk at the Red Rock Restaurant and the Tamarind Yacht Club, Tortola. Wonderful!
    Sailing to Australia?—–Wow! Beryl, with love.

  3. Bruce says:

    It’s a great story and David’s re-telling is even better — even if he did leave out the part about the April Fool’s Day Orca. And you might like to know that Captain Trish Baily is one of the Eastern Caribbean’s best “eco-sailing” charter captains, and a founder of the Association of Reef Keepers of the BVI.

  4. Mollie says:

    well done david…and trish and all the crew..so glad you made it safely.
    Thinking of you
    God bless
    Love Mollie

  5. "Sir" Phil says:

    Congrats to you all Dave! Excellent idea, well planned and thought out and hope the donations are flowing in as a result. I followed it on the website, & I’m sure that An-Tiki’s arriving in St Maarten had nothing to do with it being nearer to “back home ” in Tortola for you– Haa Haa !! Am glad to read about the “Older” re-definition too- gives me a chance for a Pacific crossing with my 70th birthday at sea! You’ll have to tell Trish to make you get a move on to catch me up though – if I know her she wont need much prompting ! Love to Trish and will e-mail you both with news- am all summer in Antigua so maybe see you again soon. “Sir” Phil

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