PERHAPS it is something in the Dorset air, but the county seems to boast more than its fair share of ex-servicemen who specialise in dreaming up daredevil Boys' Own adventures.

Take John Blashford-Snell of North Dorset, the ex-soldier who has led more than 70 expeditions to remote corners of the world, and whose exploits include leading the first descent of the Blue Nile; transporting a grand piano on the Amazon; and discovering a breed of two-nosed dogs in Bolivia.

Or Bear Grylls, the former SAS man whose family home is in Winterborne Zelston. Last seen on TV on Monday trying to ascend to the height of Everest with parachute and an engine strapped to his back, he was the youngest man to climb the mountain at the age of 23. His other expeditions include crossing the North Atlantic in a small, open rigid inflatable boat.

Now it's the turn of Philip Beale, currently plotting his own headline-grabbing challenge from his base in Chaldon Herring, hear Lulworth. This summer, he plans to set off with 20 crew to sail right around Africa in a replica of a 2,500-year-old Phoenician wooden boat.

"I think it's dangerous," he admitted. "I think there's a genuine chance we might not make it, because we don't have an engine we can switch on and get us out of trouble. I wouldn't underestimate the challenge."

Apart from the vagaries of weather and sea currents, the expedition faces the threat of modern-day pirates, who are active around parts of the African coast.

Two and a half years ago, a cruise ship was attacked with rockets and rifles, and only last month, a British captain and Russian crew were held to ransom off Somalia.

"We're going round the Horn of Africa, and that's a worry for sure," said Mr Beale. "We're not going to take firearms, but we are thinking of a high pressure water hose and a sonic gun, which will stun them if they try to come on board. It knocks them over and gives them a headache."

Mr Beale grew up in Devon - his father still lives in Axminster - and joined the Royal Navy after graduating in politics from Hull University. He had a successful 15-year career in the City, holding directorships in investment management companies.

But he gave it up to pursue his ambition of building an 8th century BC Indonesian ship and sailing it to West Africa. The success of the Borobudur Ship expedition of 2003-4 led to him being awarded Indonesia's highest honour for services to the country's culture.

"I've always wanted to do these things since I was a student, but I worked out that I needed a bit of a track record, and it would help people take me seriously if I had fair financial experience. It's been a long road to get where I want to get, but I have confidence I can organise this kind of thing," he said.

This time, his inspiration has been the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, who wrote of Egyptian King Necho II commissioning the Phoenicians to sail around Africa in 600 BC.

The Phoenicians, who occupied what is now Lebanon and coastal areas of Syria and Palestine, were regarded as the rulers of the sea. They are also said to have invented the alphabet and insurance, and to have discovered the pole star. Their vessels were built in Egypt and the voyage took nearly three years.

"I've always been interest in cultural influences on Africa. This is probably the earliest and most significant," said Mr Beale. "It puts European seafaring on context. The Phoenicians were at this 2,000 years before the first Europeans."

His replica ship, Phoenicia, is based on wrecks found in the Mediterranean and is being built by renowned wooden ship specialist Khalid Hammoud in the ancient Phoenician city state of Arwad in Syria.

The small team is using traditional Aleppo pine with handmade olive wood tenons and iron nails. The ropes will be made of hemp and the sail of linen. The finished ship will be 21.5 metres long, with 20 rowing positions and two steering oars, at the bow and stern.

The ship is due to embark on its 10-month voyage in August, funded by a combination of private donations, sponsorship and crew contributions. Discussions are also taking place with a number of film companies.

Mr Beale is also recruiting crew members for each of the 12 legs of the trip. Anyone interested should see the website