Eighteen months earlier Fleming had planned his trip to Iceland as part of an ambitious exploration of Western Europe. After a round-trip voyage from Southampton, England, to Düsseldorf, Germany, last winter, he set out to explore the Western Isles of Scotland before heading to Iceland. In April 2010, he and his captain, Chris Conklin, left Southampton for their 2,200-mile voyage to Reykjavik and beyond.
Adventurers give different reasons for their daring deeds, but those who voyage the open seas are usually drawn by the intense solitude of being hundreds of miles from land and the challenge that comes from absolute self-sufficiency. Tony Fleming, on the other hand, has other reasons for his cruising adventures.
At the age of 75, and retired from his everyday duties of boatbuilding, Fleming explains, “My reasons for cruising are primarily to visit people and places of interest, preferably those that are impossible or difficult to get to by conventional transport.” An avid filmmaker for most of his life, he documents each voyage by shooting and producing high-definition videos distributed on the company’s website (flemingyachts.com).
I joined Fleming in Stornoway, a small, friendly town on the beautiful Isle of Lewis, part of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. Venture II was tied to a floating dock used by a local cruise ship. A quick look around the harbor revealed mostly commercial fishing vessels and a few well-equipped sailboats hailing from European countries. The Fleming 65 was by far the largest pleasure powerboat in the harbor and too big to fit in the nearby marina.
In fact, Fleming saw few large powerboats while cruising throughout Western Europe. “It seems most extensive cruising continues to be done on sailboats, but many of these people are getting a bit old to handle these boats. I’m not sure if many Europeans are familiar with the capabilities of larger, longrange powerboats such as ours.”