BY: ROB HOFFMAN
Beached somewhere in the Scottish Highlands along a sea’s loch, 73-year-old Tom McClean stands ankle-deep aside his 20-metre steel whale, feeling out the water’s swell and waiting for the perfect moment to take her seaborne once more. Moby, the obvious name choice for a gargantuan motor-boat in the shape of a sperm whale, was built by McClean 20 years ago, who has funnelled about £100,000 into the project, which will soon carry him across the Atlantic.
McClean, a former British SAS trooper, is no stranger to the open sea, nor has he ever been a man of modest or conventional tastes. In fact, McClean was the first person to solo-row the Atlantic from Newfoundland to Ireland, according to CBC. His nautical achievements include the world record for maneuvering the smallest boat across the Atlantic, which he once lost, then reclaimed after hacking his boat nearly in half and making the trip again. His voyage with Moby will be his sixth official time crossing this leg of the pond.
Moby and McClean plan to make the crossing from Scotland to St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. He’s already toured the U.K. with Moby, making stops at 56 different harbours and spurring countless coast guard reports from catatonic beach dwellers, their brains all but fried from the sight of big ol’ Moby pulling into the harbour with her big steel grin and stiff alien pose. For his big journey across the Atlantic, though, McClean is looking for a sponsor to switch out his diesel engines for sustainable electric or solar-powered rigs. As a man of the ocean, environmentalism is a natural arm of his mandate. So, apparently, is accuracy.
McClean rigged Moby’s engine with a compressor so water spurts from the boat’s “blow hole.” For what purpose? Well, I suppose if you’re going to build a 20-metre steel whale and sail it across the Atlantic ocean, rigging up a somewhat anatomically accurate whale is important. The last thing you want on the open sea is to be exposed a fraud by a truculent orca pod—who knows what deleterious shenanigans and nautical-nonsense they’ll launch on your vessel.
For now, McClean plays the waiting game with his sights for departure set on 2017, plenty of time to finish any last minute repairs or modifications to Moby. Also plenty of time to savour his last days on land before he sets out on the open ocean. For McClean, 2017 can’t come soon enough—he’s excited to revisit some old pals out in Newfoundland. And perhaps set a new world record that, this time, nobody in their right minds are likely to top.