Fall ends Scot’s Atlantic voyage after 100 miles

Niall Iain Macdonald  aboard his boat Alliance Trust. Picture: Contributed
Niall Iain Macdonald aboard his boat Alliance Trust. Picture: Contributed
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A SCOTTISH man attempting to row across the Atlantic from New York to Stornoway by himself has abandoned his journey after being badly injured.

Niall Iain Macdonald was attempting to row 3,400 miles across the ocean to raise money for a mental health charity when he alerted the US Coastguard on Friday night.

He suffered back injuries and a cut head after falling on his 24ft boat, the Alliance Trust, around 100 miles off the coast of Shinnecock, New York.

His website, NY2SY (New York to Stornoway), showed he attempted to head back to shore but, while just over 50 miles from land, the 39-year-old Gaelic radio presenter and producer contacted a control centre at Falmouth in Cornwall by satellite phone to say he had got into difficulties.

They relayed a call to the US Coastguard.

A statement read: “A Coastguard flight surgeon was consulted and recommended that the rower be medivaced due to his injuries.”

After the agency was contacted, a Boston-based Coastguard patrol vessel was sent to rescue Macdonald, who decided to raise funds for a mental health charity after suffering depression seven years ago.

He is now being treated at the Bayonne Medical Center in New Jersey.

A spokeswoman said: “Niall Iain is very stable. He is currently undergoing an X-ray. He has a small laceration on his head, and is experiencing back pain.”

Macdonald’s rowing boat was abandoned and is now drifting in the Atlantic.

His adventure, which was expected to take three months to complete, has been hit by a series of setbacks.

Macdonald was due to ship his boat out to New York at the end of April last year to begin the attempt the following month – but funding and other problems meant it was the second year in a row that the adventurer called off the bid.

The last entry on his online diary of the voyage – posted on Tuesday – said he was facing the most testing conditions he had been in so far, but that he felt safe.

It added: “I’ve been stuck on the sea anchor due to a strong wind from the south. The seas had been building steadily during yesterday evening and it eventually became pointless to keep rowing as my oars were spending more time in the air than in the water.

“I am taking some big waves on my starboard beam and this causes the boat to roll badly, even with all the ballast I have.

“These are easily the most testing conditions that I have been in so far and it’s good experience for me as I am sure they won’t be the worst. I feel safe here on Alliance Trust, she is solid and secure.”

As he rowed out of New York, he posted on his website: “To be honest, my departure wasn’t a particularly special moment as I was overcome with self-doubt and fear as I pulled away from the pontoon and made my way out into the Hudson River.

“The boat is constantly moving, and even standing still requires some effort. I am bruised all over from the various knocks I have taken and it will take a couple more days before I truly find my sea legs.”

And in a previous post from New York, he wrote: “It’s seven years to the day that I decided that my life wasn’t worth anything and that I was just a burden on those around me.

“Now, once again… seven years on, I stare into an unknown that scares me, but I have chosen to be here. It’s a different fear and I will not turn away from it.”