A FORMER firefighter from Barry is aiming to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a rowing boat for charity.

John Haskell joined the fire service at 20 years old, serving for 29 years before he left suffering PTSD.

The father-of-two was seriously affected by incidents throughout his time as a firefighter - including helping seach for five-year-old April Jones in 2012, whose body was never found - and cradling a five-year-old boy who had died in a crash.

He now raises awareness of PTSD which he says is “just a glitch, it’s not who you are”.

On Saturday, March 12 he joined ex-firefighter Billy Taylor and serving paramedic Rachel Hearn on setting out, in a rowboat, from Lanzarote in the Canary Islands - with the trio attempting to row more than 3,000 miles to Antigua.

They will row 24 hours a day in two-hour shifts, living on rations, and hope to arrive in Antiqua within at least 60 days.

“I’m nervous as we’re heading straight into bad weather, but hopefully this will improve,” said Mr Haskell.

“It’s a massive challenge. If we’re lucky it will take 50 days, but it has been known to take 100.

“We worked out that when we’re in middle of the ocean and the space station passes overhead it will be the closest human contact we have.

"Parts of the ocean we will sail through will be more than five kilometres deep.

“I will miss my children – Morgan who is currently doing his GCSES and Megan who will be meeting me at the end [of the sail].”

Safety measures are in place for the small crew including:

  • A self righting boat, which they will be tethered to;
  • Life rafts available and rations onboard;
  • Tracking through GPS.

A satellite company is sponsoring the challenge – which means there will be live videos shared of the crew on social media, with plans in place for them to do live interviews with schools from the middle of the ocean.

This ambitious challenge will raise funds for Rock2Recovery – a group which offers support to 999 communities and serving or former members of the armed forces who face PTSD.

It will also raise money for European Parkinson’s Disease Association, as a crew member recently lost a friend to early onset Parkinson’s.

Follow the crew on their ocean adventure, and donate, via www.facebook.com/monkeyfistadventuresltd

Mr Haskell is planning to sail across the Indian Ocean in 2023.