Suffolk pensioner begins 2,000-mile voyage for Ukraine in open fishing boat

Mick Hart, 73, will sail 2,000 miles in Stella Maris to raise money for a Ukrainian support fund

Mick Hart, 73, has painted his fishing boat in the colours of the Ukrainian flag - Credit: Rose Hart

A Suffolk pensioner has embarked on a 2,000-mile voyage in a fishing boat sporting the colours of the Ukrainian flag in support of people impacted by the war. 

Lifelong sailor Mick Hart has already begun his journey in Stella Maris, a 32ft Northumbrian Coble, to raise money for the DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.

Mr Hart, from Bramfield, bought the traditional open fishing boat, which was originally used for salmon and mixed fishing, in 2019 for the vessel's ability to access both coastal and inland highways. 

The 73-year-old said he revamped the boat before decking it out in the colours of Ukraine to draw attention to the plight of refugees. 

He said: "I wanted to take Stella Maris from Suffolk to Ireland and after an extensive refit, which kept me occupied in these strange times, something other than sheer hedonism seemed a good idea.

"So, by painting the boat in the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag to maximise visibility along the route, we plan to raise funds for the DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal and draw attention to the plight of refugees everywhere.

"Open boat voyaging doesn’t have to be a matter of life and death – it can be a positive way of getting close to it all.”

Mr Hart's journey will take place in four stages, and has begun with his departure from Suffolk via the Thames Estuary to London, and through the Kennet and Avon canal towards Bristol.

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In late June, he will sail from Bristol along the Welsh coast to Pembrokeshire, then across to West Cork in Ireland.

In July, he’ll head north to the Shannon River and, via the Grand Canal, to Dublin before crossing to North Wales.

The return trip to Suffolk will conclude in September via the Leeds-Liverpool canal and inland waterways to Lincoln and the Wash.

A crew of Mick’s friends and relations will take part in various legs of the journey.

Mr Hart is no stranger to the water, and his extensive maritime experience began as a boy sailing on the Suffolk coast.

At 18, he took off across oceans in small boats, sailed his own engineless Folkboat to the Lofoten Islands of north Norway, skippered the Lowestoft sail-training ‘smack’ Excelsior including on numerous Tall Ship’s events, and has worked in the maritime industry from Greenland to the Antarctic.