Oamaru adventurer Ron Daw has finally set sail on his solo quest to sail around the world.
The 79-year-old is expected to be the oldest sailor to circumnavigate the world alone, reaching 80 when he returns in about 10 months.
After a gathering at Annie's Tearooms yesterday, well-wishers thronged Holmes Wharf as Mr Daw cast off about midday in his boat, Aparima.
Followed by a flotilla of craft including a pirate ship and serenaded by a bugle call to say farewell, the sailor headed through the Oamaru Harbour to begin his journey around the globe.
Mr Daw said his expected 10-month voyage was his final challenge, so he could retire gracefully from the pastime after many happy years of sailing.
The trip has taken five years of "serious" planning.
"I'm ready to go now. I'm getting on a wee bit now, they tell me," he said.
"We've been preparing for this for 15 solid months now after having bought the boat.
"It's the last challenge. Then I retire gracefully from sailing after many, many happy voyages."
Waitaki District Mayor Alex Familton and Mayoress Heather Familton were among the 60-strong crowd to bid Mr Daw farewell.
Mr Familton said Mr Daw was very courageous to be attempting such a trip.
His 28-foot vessel has proved itself in the Pacific with a previous owner.
Built in Picton, it is fully stocked with enough provisions to last for nine months.
Mr Daw said he had no real concerns for the trip, having a lifetime of experience and knowledge of sailing behind him.
He has no computer on board, but will be writing a log and keeping family and friends updated when he reaches the Falkland Islands.
A satellite phone will enable him to talk from anywhere in the world.
Mr Daw said it was difficult to describe his feelings about the journey, but it would be a great way to wrap up an interesting life at sea.
On his return, a friend plans to pull all of Mr Daw's old sailing logs together and write a story for his family.
- Oamaru Mail