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The C Beetle Project

29 August 2016 Phil Smidmore

The C Beetle project

"The C Beetle project"

Although I have never done it, when you spend 70 days laying on your back, staring at a white ceiling, drifting in and out of a comatose state, I am sure many thoughts pass through your mind. Such was the case for Mick Miller several years ago while undergoing treatment for throat and neck cancer.

Over 30 years ago, Mick became my first employee at Smidmore Yachting. He had recently finished his shipwright apprenticeship and sought a new employer. At the time, the fitting out of Etchells built by Pamcraft was a big part of my business. Mick became well known and liked by my Etchells customers of the time.

After several years with me, he developed an interest in strength and conditioning, training and rehabilitation, and left me to undertake studies in that area. He went on to be a strength and conditioning coordinator for many successful teams, including the Australian Olympic Rowing Team, the Manly Sea Eagles NRL team and the 2007 winning Australian Admiral’s Cup team. He assisted Iain Murray during his Olympic Star years, and also ran the gym at the RPAYC, where one of his early clients was a kid named James Spithill.

In 2013 he noticed a lump on his neck and was diagnosed with cancer. He was told that the cancer was very curable, but the treatment would go close to killing him. Having his body pumped full of chemicals was not on Mick’s short list, and true to doctors’ predictions, he suffered badly during the treatment. Even his usually bubbly personality and laughter almost deserted him, but thankfully he has survived to laugh another day.

Once the main treatment was over, although still suffering from some side effects, he decided to raise money for others facing cancer challenges. Not so much the challenges of the actual treatment, but what happens to you during treatment and when the main treatment is over. It is at this time, many people feel lost and the treatment, along with long times off work or being unemployable, puts a lot of financial stress on them and their family.

Mick owned an old light blue 1968 VW Beetle, which was initially owned by Iain Murray’s mother, and set off on a trek around Australia to raise awareness and money for this cause. The Beetle became the star attraction in many towns and on his return to Sydney in 2015, he approached me with a pretty mad idea to raise more money. He wanted to circumnavigate Australia in the smallest vessel ever to do so. He had an old Savage Dolphin hull - LOA 15ft. Now I know Mick can be delusional at times, but his enthusiasm and great humour always win. So late last year we set about turning this tired old dolphin into, well, we were not sure at the start just what, but the end result is great - a small but incredibly well equipped vessel now called “C Beetle”.

A couple of Etchells parts form part of her - the tiller is an Etchells tiller cut short and turned upside down and the mast is an Etchells boom.

With a new Volvo 20hp sail drive motor and a pocket size main and jib, Mick hopes to have a travelling range of around 600 miles, although this is not a non-stop attempt. The idea is lots of stops to help spread his message.

One of the still ongoing side effects from Mick’s cancer treatment is an indigestion disorder, resulting in incredible hunger, and an ability to eat huge meals, but an inability to put on weight. Yes. Many of us would love that problem! So I’m not sure where all the food will fit, but I’m sure well wishers in ports of call will keep him fed. Apart from this, Mick still has some challenging issues with his energy levels, but he is slowly addressing this .

His travels in the VW have been written up in a book full of great pictures with Link Healthcare underwriting the publication costs. Its called Travelling Australia Mick's Way and you can grab a copy by going to

Please note that a portion from the sale of each book goes to a charity called The Tomorrow Trust, which supports people coming out of hospital after cancer treatment.

Many individuals and companies are already ‘on board’. The list includes Volvo, who donated the motor, Raymarine with many of the electrics, North Sails for the sails (indeed a couple of the guys at North’s were so inspired my Mick’s story they donated their time to make the sails), Marc Hayes with the dodger and covers, Polymer Engineering with the windows and hatches, Innovation Composites with the rudder and box, Terry Moran (All Waterfront Constructions) with a considerable cash donation, Australian Wool Network with considerable cash and airfares, Chris Cowper, the senior skipper at the Manly Ferries with navigation assistance, and former Etchells owner Paddy Broughton (himself something of an accomplished adventurer) with logistics planning, just to name a few.

Much work on the boat has been donated or done at a very low cost by Douglas Marine (mechanics), Andersen Marine (electrics) and (without wanting to boast) Smidmore Yachting with the shipwright work.

Mick was hoping to leave this past April but the window slid past and he now aims to commence the voyage in April 2017. He is continuing to trial the boat in all conditions and only a few weeks ago Mick was off the coast doing trials when the East Coast Low was blowing all of Sydney off the world map.

You can follow his travels at or by contacting Mick.

As mentioned, the limited edition book ‘Travelling Australia Mick's Way’ is a great bedtime story, with lots of pictures and can be purchased by going to You can also make a (tax deductable) donation to The Tomorrow Trust by going to:

The main aim of the trust is to make money available immediately to those undergoing or recovering from cancer treatment, bringing some normality back into the lives of cancer patients and their families.

Good Sailing,

Phil Smidmore.


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