Felpham grandfather rows 309km from heart of London to Sussex coast, raising funds for children’s hospice

At 75, Ross Fisher has earned the right to put his feet up. Instead, he’s looking forward to putting his lifelong passion for boats to good use this June, as he prepares to row 309km in his 60-year-old fishing boat from Big Ben to his hometown of Felpham, raising funds for children’s hospice Chestnut Tree House.

“My grandfather was a fisherman who lived on the Isle of Wight. I’ve always loved the water too, and I was a commercial fisherman at Littlehampton for 15 years,” says Ross.

“Given the family history, I decided to do some fundraising for a local charity in 2021 by rowing from Chichester Harbour to Felpham Sailing Club. When I got back, some of my friends said, ‘Well, that wasn’t much of a challenge – you were back by the afternoon!’ So, I thought I’d try something more ambitious.

“Last year I rowed from Felpham around the Isle of Wight and back, which was a journey of approximately 150km. This year’s challenge will be the longest and most adventurous.

“I expect the journey to take around seven days, although that does depend slightly on the weather. And because I’ll be sleeping on the beach, I don’t want it to be too cold! You can’t really book into a bed and breakfast because you might need to leave at three in the morning because of the tide windows. I don’t carry a tent with me – just a sleeping bag – so if it rains, I’ll sleep under the boat.”

Ross, who most recently worked in construction, says he is fairly fit with good stamina – which he will need for seven days of rowing. He is an experienced sailor and yachtmaster, was in the Coast Guard for 20 years and has sailed three times across the Atlantic skippering a boat. Nevertheless, there will be challenges along the way: “The Thames is a very busy river, and the transport boats travel at some speed. There is also still quite a bit of commercial traffic that comes up to Tilbury.

“Beachy Head, Dungeness and Dover will be interesting too. For most of the trip I will be quite close to the shore but when you’re rounding headlands like Beachy Head, with cliffs, you have to stay a little bit further off.”

The sense of achievement keeps Ross motivated, coupled with the knowledge that he is raising much-needed funds for a local charity. He’ll be alone for the whole trip but will have his radio for company and his family will be able to track his progress. He’s looking forward to seeing the iconic sights of London from the river. “I’ll be going under Tower Bridge through the barrier, past the Millennium Dome, the former Battersea Power Station and of course the Houses of Parliament. And then there’s the SS Montgomery, a ship that sunk in the Thames Estuary while transporting munitions. It’s still there – still with the explosives on board, although they think it’s unlikely to explode.

“The proximity to nature is amazing. When I was rowing around the Isle of Wight I saw bass, seals and all sorts of sea birds.”

Ross counts himself lucky to have a loving family, who back his challenges with enthusiasm. “My wife is very supportive. She does an awful lot in the background and doesn’t get the credit she deserves. She has suggested to me that this will be my last rowing challenge!

“My family and grandchildren give me lots of support too. When I did my last rowing challenge, one of the nicest moments was when I got back to the sailing club about nine o’clock at night and the whole promenade was packed. The cheering started at the other end of Bognor!”

Support Ross

To support Ross and keep up to date with his challenge, visit his JustGiving page.

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