Natascha McElhone: Facing the Atlantic is a last wave from Bertie Portal to my late husband

Natascha McElhone wrote a wonderful and touching article that was published today in the Telegraph. The Californication actress talks about the crazy and courageous endeavor of Bertie and James to row the Atlantic to raise funds for Facing the World. Natascha’s late husband, surgeon Martin Kelly was a co-founder of this British organization that provides free surgery for children with severe facial disfigurements.

Natascha, Bertie and Stephen Moyer all became friends in acting school and that’s where the basis was laid for the fundraising we are doing today for Facing the World.

Natascha McElhone

From Natascha’s article:

I have just spoken to my great friend Bertie Portal while he was on a satellite phone, weathering a storm in the middle of the Atlantic. He came off the oars to talk while his friend and rowing partner James Cash took over. The two of them are battling against enormous waves in a tiny rowing boat in order to raise money for my late husband’s [the plastic surgeon Martin Kelly] charity, Facing the World.

I met Bertie at drama school: he’s a successful actor now, with both The King’s Speech and The Iron Lady recently completed. When I had started going out with my husband, I introduced the two of them. They clicked instantly and soon took off on their own mad adventures, leaving me behind.

When Martin died in May 2008, aged just 43, Bertie stood at his graveside and said in his tribute that he wanted to “strive to do more”, to make a difference in the same way that Martin had done.

By that, he meant Martin’s charitable work. In 2001, Martin and another eminent surgeon, Norman Waterhouse, set up Facing The World to help children from the world’s poorest countries who had severe facial deformities and no way of obtaining surgery.

Bertie and James have already raised more than £350,000 for their endeavour, which dramatically changes the possibilities of what the charity can achieve and how many lives can be improved.

All of us gave Bertie small tokens before he set out. He has a beaded bracelet of Martin’s to wear as a sort of talisman. His mother had asked all her friends to write him a message so that he could read a new one each day that he was at sea.

His girlfriend, Sam Scott Thomas, supports him from afar, every stroke of the way. A friend’s son has a chart next to his bed following the course of their journey and ticks off each day they are at sea. Another friend sends him a riddle a day to figure out.

Martin is dead and cannot witness any of this, but this adventure feels like an amazing tribute to their friendship, the last wave from Bertie to him. Martin used to say: “It is said that as we get older, we get the face we deserve… let’s not make [the children] wait that long.”

Read the complete article on the Telegraph.


You can make a direct donation to Facing The Atlantic here :

Please note: add the code TB4FTA (True Blood for Facing The Atlantic) to the note of your donation so we can keep track of how much was donated by True Blood / Stephen Moyer fans.



  1. A beautiful and heart-warming article … a tribute to her husband and the dedication to Facing the World that he has inspired in Bertie, James and others. I appreciate having some background on the relationships between Bertie, Martin Kelly and Ms. McElhone. Lovely to learn how it all came about.

    Thanks, Shad, for providing.

  2. “It is said that as we get older, we get the face we deserve… let’s not make [the children] wait that long.”
    Simply wonderful human being.
    It’s easy to see why Bertie and James are so inspired.

  3. Natascha’s article is beautiful. I’ve now started my day with a good cry! Her husband must have been a wonderful human being.

    James and Bertie are in my thoughts each day. i’m usually wondering about the number of miles elapsed, the condition of Patience and the weather. But 47 days at sea is also an opportunity for an quite an inward journey. i can’t wait until they finally reach Barbados.

  4. Reading this article reminded me of a quote by Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” Bert and James are changing the world.

    Great article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Send this to a friend