The North Channel Crossing

Saturday, the 19th of September 2015, we crossed the North Channel from Portpatrick, Scotland, to Donaghadee, just outside Belfast, in a modified Land Rover Defender.

With the help of a highly skilled team carefully selected we completed this epic journey after months and months of planning. It began early this year when we got a prototype off a farmer and a pipe bender from England who had built this concept in the early 2000’s and parked it up ever since. From there we re-commissioned the Defender and got it road worthy again and eventually water worthy!

After several tests around the Donegal coastline we decided to test this amphibious machine just north of the Irish Sea crossing in to another country. On Friday we set off for Belfast where we took the ferry across to Scotland spending the night preparing and organizing any last minute details. In the small town of Portpatrick we met up with our support team who travelled by boat all the way from Rathmullan that day, the team is made up Derek Flanagan, Richard Kee, Donal Connolly, Noel Brennan and Sean Patten.

On Saturday morning we were up from 5am for a lovely breakfast prepared by Donal, who is a very talented chef, after that we got together for a very important safety briefing from Richard Kee’s and Derek Flanagan, where we covered every possible situation. With the assistance of Steve and Dan – the farmer and pipe bender from Yorkshire we got the Defender out on the water and afloat.

As the news spread through the small town the crowds started to gather and Paul was lost among all the cameras! As we left the harbor the real challenge began, tackling the open sea in none other than a jeep!

We set off at around 7.08am making a b-line for Donaghadee led by skipper Richard Kee’s of Donegal Charters and Derek Flanagan of the Irish Coast Guard and thankfully the weather and sea conditions were in our favour. An hour or so in to the journey we realized that all of our preparation and planning was working for us and we had little to no problems whatsoever and with Denis Ferry and Leslie O Donnell sharing the driving we were in safe hands. The support crew were busy spending their time monitoring the Land Rovers position in the water, managing the tidal pull, setting the route and having the craic with one another!

Derek radioed in to the Coastguard “Belfast Coastguard we are approaching in a Boat as we escort a Land Rover across the North Channel” and he replies “Say again?”. After a bit of explaining the Belfast Coastguard requested we check in once every hour with our progress and we did so without hesitation and we would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their cooperation.  As the day went on we had little to do as the Land Rover stood up to the challenge as you would expect taking it at ease and in the words of Richard Kee’s this is proving to be a terrific piece of engineering.

As the sun rose behind us we carried on at around 4 knots keeping a steady pace while meeting some huge freight carriers who were all very interested to see this Land Rover they had over heard on the radio.

Sean Patten, who worked tirelessly in the preparation and testing the Land Rover, was enjoying the trip along with Noel Brennan, of Sheephaven Sub Aqua Club, trying to keep an eye on the jeep making sure it was staying level and showed no signs of wear and tear while Donal prepared a fine lunch for everyone on board.

The only wildlife we spotted along the way were a family of Porpoises as they swam by up ahead of us probably just wondering what this strange looking boat was!

As we approached Donaghadee there was boats, jet skis and crowds gathering to see the final stage of this historic crossing and we were faced with the final challenge, getting on the narrow slipway without missing it and toppling over. Richard and Derek were checking the radar and had the route mapped and along with Paul’s drone flying overhead we directed Denis and Leslie on to the slipway. They changed the power of the engine back to the wheels, raised the floats and drove up to the pier with ease to a massive cheer from the onlookers.

We completed this epic adventure in just over 6 hours which has unofficially beat the world record of 7 hours, we are delighted to have made it in a “textbook fashion” as Derek explained.

Denis,les and Paul would like to take this opportunity to thank all who have helped us on this challenge, we do realize that there is and element of risk and danger associated with these challenges, we try our hardest to cover every possible problem that could arise while taking on these trips. On this occasion we had a lot of help from other people whom we need to show our appreciation to; We would like to thank Derek Flanagan from the Donegal coastguard & Richard Kee from Donegal charters for supplying the fabulous boat and for taking the time off to come with us and for all their help planning the route and contacting all the relevant authorities to make this attempt possible; their professionalism was second to none. We would like to thank the Northern Ireland coast guard for not standing in our way of attempting the challenge and their frequent check ins with us along the way and to the RNLI in Portpatirck and Donaghadee for being on standby for us and for their send off and arrival from the ports. We have to thank Noel Brennan From Sheephaven Sub Aqua club for coming along with his dive gear in case we needed to make any under water repairs to the propeller or drive train while at sea To Steve & Dan from performance & protection for travelling all the way up from Yorkshire to Portpatirck with there outstanding Paris Dakar service van to help us prepare the defender for the journey. To Sean Patten & Donal Connolly for all their help on the day & with all the test days we had. To all our family's and friends for putting up with us on these challenges & worrying about our safety. A lot of people have been asking us about the defender and how it works both on land & sea,so we have decided to have it on display in Rathmullan beach at 2pm this Sunday 27th for anyone who wants to come along to view and see how it operates. Once again thanks from Denis, Les & Paul


If you want to download any images they are all available here

To contact us:

Denis Ferry 086 8098818

Leslie O Donnell 0872536275

Paul Doherty 087 2499307 /