A daredevil engineer is hoping his adventurous plan to become the first person to sail a bouncy castle across the English Channel isn’t blown out of the water before it begins.
James Dooley (32) came up with the idea for the wacky stunt in order to raise at least £50,000 for the Jerry Green Dog Rescue Centre at Algarkirk which wants to renovate its kennel block.
He describes his attempt planned for this summer as ‘the most daring British nautical endeavour since Trafalgar’ but fears he won’t be able to give it his best shot unless he can attract some corporate sponsors to help cover the cost of public liability insurance.
James, of Quadring, has already shelled out more than £3,000 of his own money buying a 4m x 5m giraffe shaped castle – which he’s nicknamed Jerry the Gi-raft – adapting it and building a 7m trailer/ launch trolley and a keel (base), to which the engine will be attached.
“I’m at the stage now where I need to do some tests on the water to see how it floats, as only then can I work out how fast it will go and how long I anticipate the crossing will take,” says James, who manages the maintenance facility at Fenland Airfield, Holbeach St Johns.
“The Channel is the busiest shipping lane in the world and I need all of that information to take to the coastguard.
“Tallington Lakes is really excited about what I’ve planned and is doing everything it can to help, but it can’t allow me onto the water for tests without any insurance.
“This wasn’t something I’d factored in and I still don’t know exactly how much it’s going to cost although I’ve got a few people looking into it for me.
“I’d love to get some corporate sponsors involved and I’d be more than happy to have their logos and details displayed on the castle.”
James who re-homed his dog Rambo, an eight-year-old Welsh Collie, from Jerry Green decided to raise money for the charity after receiving an email update which said it was fundraising to renovate its kennels.
“I was Rambo’s fourth owner, the people before just couldn’t handle him – but he’s a lovely, loyal dog,” says James.
“All the work Jerry Green does is excellent.
“The bouncy castle idea came up in the pub a while back when I was chatting with friends about whether it would actually be possible to sail one across The Channel.
“I forgot all about it until I received an email newsletter from the rescue centre, and I just I thought it would be pretty cool to give something back to them,” he adds.
James has sought advice from several experts about the crossing, which will be supported by an official support vessel and his friend Robbie Cato who’s agreed to be his first mate.
“Most people are amused when they hear what I’m planning to do. Those that know me know I’m quite adventurous and are quite supportive; others laugh and say they think I’m going to die if I attempt this; it certainly gets a reaction,” smiles the dad of one.
Jo Hickson, who manages the south Lincolnshire Jerry Green Rescue Centre, says any donations make a massive difference to the centre, which last year re-homed 189 dogs.
“When James came to me and said he wanted to raise some funds for us I was delighted – when he told me what he wanted to do I was little taken aback to say the least.
“It’s certainly unusual – but it’s also fantastic. So I said thank you James – let’s hope he can pull it off.”
James, an engineer since he was 16, is no stranger to building his own machines, in the past he’s competed in a bath race in a cast iron tub which he modified with concrete floatation, made a giant three-wheeled bicycle and another bike capable of carrying a dog on board.
• If you can help James or would like to support his Channel crossing call him on 07939232663 or follow his progress at www.facebook.com/crosschannelbouncycastle/