March 1st 2015
6 days in, and last night when the best of all watches were on their night watch (the night riders), an unusual thing happened. Let me set the scene… John was on the helm singing away, while Michael (Michelle) and I were in the cockpit trying to scare one another with the best ghost stories we had, which Michael was refusing to believe. This was shortly interrupted by the skipper in the gangway asking us if we could see some lights on the horizon. Sure enough we could, two faint lights at about 9 o’clock. As we looked closer, we could work out that the vessel was heading straight for us, so Paul rushed down to the Nav table to have a looked on AIS. Nothing. At this point everything went dark, the lights we sore on the horizon just disappeared, as if they weren’t there, or someone had just turned them out. Scanning the horizon with the binos, I managed to work out it wasn’t pirates but a Warship. Paul quickly called the warship up on the radio to ask what its intentions were and if there was a problem, which he received the reply of, “this is Warship 109, go ahead, over“. As this was going on, Michael spotted a red flashing light on the horizon, but too high to be another ship. A helicopter had been scrambled and had been watching us over the last 15mins or so, well that’s how long we thought it was up for. As Paul chatted on the radio to Warship 109, the helicopter flew right over the top of the boat and circled it, before flying back off into the distance, much to the delight of Michael, John and myself. Boiiiiiii. The warship then passed about 2 miles in front of our bow and the helicopter soon landed back on the warship. I don’t think we have anything we’re not supposed to..?
March 2nd 2015
Unfortunately the wind has totally dropped to less than 10 knots, so we have put the engine on and are motor sailing until we hope the earliest tomorrow morning. With just the main up and a pretty easy course of 060 to steer, moods on board are extremely chilled. Michael and I also had a jamming sesh earlier, which displayed a wonderful array of VERY different music… With the not so good watch on watch now (Kirstie’s watch), we are nearly at the half way point, with an estimated time of arrival of about the 10th or 11th of March. Hopefully the winds will pick up soon!! #IWMP #malmp mjmt j hpu uif fnbjm, uibol zpv tp nvdi, boe j mpwf zpv boe njtt zpv tp nvdi yy
See ya later
A Watch Leaders Perspective
…So Far…6 Days in
Prep…the hard bit of the voyage
We are currently 6 days in to the sailing part of the voyage. Previous to this we spent about 5 days cleaning, fixing, stocking, sorting and re-sorting the boat, as well as doing numerous safety checks. As usual there are always seemingly never ending jobs to do on a boat with limited time to do them!
We sweated our days away working hard with the ever increasing members or our crew each day, with Paul, our skipper, ensuring we were treated at the end of the day with a dip in the pool, some good food and time to relax and get to know each other.
A Vast Ocean, The Atlantic
Whilst flying from London a glimpse out of the window or a peek at the flight path revealed a vast, empty, deep blue eternity below…this is the Atlantic Ocean!
Quite suddenly the reality of our trip ahead truly sank in, mixed feelings of excitement and a bit of apprehension of the unknown challenge ahead.
“Slip the bow…Bow Clear” Casting Off
A rush of action as Paul and Lindsey (Mate) face difficult, fluky conditions leaving the marina, then its smiles all around as we practice Man Over Boards, tacking and a jibe. We begin our long voyage away from land under blue skies and fair winds.
A little Taste of a Caribbean Squall
After several watch changes (6 hours on, 6 off, 4 on, 4off, 4 on …that is 6am – midday, midday – 6pm, 6pm – 10pm, 10pm -2am, 2am – 6am) we get a taste of a Caribbean Squall. Flying Fish Watch (Lindsey and Kirstie + 2 rotating crew) take over the helm sometime during the night. We are tacking up a channel between two islands, avoiding a vessel on tow whilst a squall hits.
The moon disappears behind a huge mass of grey cloud and the world turns black. The temperature drops, rain lashes down and the wind speed accelerates, heeling the boat over and charging the boat at full speed…just as we are about to tack the boat. We ease the Main Sheet, de powering the sail and ride it out, throw in a quick tack between our 4 persons on our watch and continue onwards…there will be plenty more to come!
Out into the Big Blue
After clearing the Islands we set out on an North – Easterly tack beating into an Easterly wind, a few birds accompany us and there is a sarcastic discussion that they are “all just seagulls” when asked what they are – where’s my Dad when I need to win an argument!!!
Two dolphins briefly join us off our leeward port side, jumping high out of the water I say a promised “hello” to them from my Mum before they dart away on their own journey.
We also see shoals of flying fish, they glisten blue and white in the sunshine as they fly above the waves, escaping the whale like mass of our hull, before disappearing with a splash back into the depths, I have never seen them before and was pretty fascinated watching them…and so they became the inspiration for our watch name.
Soon land is a distant memory and we get into our shared and personal daily routines….
Baby Wipe washes and Blocked Heads
Our water maker is capput, and so we had to stock up on extra drinking water in the form of bottles, minimise our water usage and do dishes in salt water with a quick fresh water dip…this also meant that showers were strictly off the cards! Once leaving land we are totally committed to what the weather throws at us and whatever we have on board is it – we will only be getting farther from land until half way when the Azores would begin to get closer with each mile, we are currently 859 nautical miles in…with about 2000 miles left to the Azores, and then for some of us another 1300nm on to Portsmouth.
So far we are all getting through quite a lot of baby wipes and are all looking forward to a shower in about 10 – 12 days’ time, a full night’s sleep on a bed that doesn’t try and throw you out of it, a beer and a whole list of fantasy foods!
If you’ve ever sailed before you will know that the heads (or toilet’s) are a horrible place to be on the boat, located in the bow they are a challenge to navigate at the best of times. With each wave you lurch from side to side, the seat drops from below you and shifts slightly, pulling your trousers up and washing your hands you have to be careful not to fly out of the door or head-butt a wall…and it gets worse with rough weather!
Not only this but they are temperamental at the best of times and a problematic and embarrassing blockage is on everybody’s mind each time it is used…Never having had this problem my fears came true (though thankfully it was a pile up of tissue from previous usage and not me – phew), however, the problem persisted, I helped Lindsey do the pretty gruesome task of unblocking and changing parts – a truly awful smell and job I hope I don’t have to repeat too many times!
An Atlantic Squall – Fearsome Martha
If we thought the Caribbean Squall was bad, its Atlantic counterpart was determined to take first place. Luckily all was captured on yet to be seen GoPro footage.
MARTHA, as she came to be known, was a feisty one! From gorgeous blue skies she thundered into us, hitting us hard with powerful winds. Just 30 minutes before we had raised the staysail to make the most of the light winds, as Martha approached, myself and Mike leapt onto the bow and with Leo in the snake pit we dropped the staysail and scurried back to the safety of the cockpit just as the world again turned black and our reefed main heeled us right over. Lindsey expertly helmed the boat and calmly directed the rest of us, easing the main sheet and, still over powered heading on a run to stabilise Challenger 4. Skipper Paul popped his head up, to check all was OK and to be back up. He later admitted that he wanted to enjoy the excitement along with us. The boom was far out and water was being blown horizontally across the rough sea surface. As Martha passed us by, the boat slowed, seas calmed, rain abated and we were left to cruise into more blue skies. With much laughing and excitement, we heard a mighty crash in the galley and remembered that poor Sally was cooking up our meal. What a legend for managing a great meal amidst a full on squall! We ate it on a calm, sunny deck, drying out on what 10 minutes earlier had felt like a battle field!
So as I finish this blog for now (after finishing a 6 hour watch of blue skies, with and amazing sausage and mash dinner (thanks Jess and Mike) I’d like to report that as myself and Sally sat chatting, I saw, in the distance a large black…thing fly out of the ocean and crash down with a huge double splash, “what was that??!!! I think it’s a WHALE!!!!” Lindsey looked over from the helm and saw the splash and again I saw what looked like a fin or a tail and then a large pointy wedge shape rise up, bob and disappear for ever (its head?).
I ran below decks like a 4 year old waking the rest of the crew shouting whale, but unfortunately it was too late. An amazing encounter though (even if it did look like a giant slug!) hopefully it won’t be the last!
On that note I have 4 hours before the next watch, so it’s off to get a mint tea and catch some bouncy sleep!
Over and Out,
Kirstie – Watch Leader
Somewhere in the Atlantic?
This is Atlantic Sally, Atlantic Sally Atlantic Sally, calling all blog receivers on Channel 16. All bloggers go to Channel 63.
Ahoy there from the good ship Challenger 4 – After taking my turn at being mother for the day (Mother Watch), I have been transferred to the other watch called Flying Fish. The Watch Leader is Kirstie and with here Stetson hat, she looks like a sailing Cowgirl and is great fun. The other members of this crew are Leo, Michael, John and Lindsey the Mate. Leo is like an Italian Ferrari, 5 cylinders under his bonnet and he just doesn’t stop. Michael is the baby of the watch and he is bound to be successful in whatever he ends up doing in the future. E is full of information and knowledge and I am sure he is a straight A student. John is the silent type who just gets on with things. Lindsey the mate, is a woman with an air of mystery about her. My best friend Lyn is just like Lyndsey and she has been my strongest supporter in my times of need and even only knowing Lindsey for a few days, she has the same qualities. She will always be there to back you up if things go wrong. A great asset to have on the boat.
Everyone on board is pleased with the progress Challenger 4 is making, as she cuts through the Atlantic. We are all keeping her going, by trimming sails and adjusting her position to the wind to get the optimum speed and direction out of her. To help with this, we also adjust the sheets and do this by grinding on winches. Challenger 4 is under full sail now, as we have taken out the reef in the main and have both the Staysail and Yankee up. Challenger 4 is a real treat to steer, as she is light on the helm. We are alert to squalls, ready to ease the main sheet down its track and if that’s not enough, we are ready to ease the main sheet. Failing all this we will drop the Staysail, or put the reef back in the main. Challenger 4 goes on, dipping her bows into the Atlantic rollers and sending flumes of spray into the air, as she goes on with the same determination as her crew to reach the Azores. The sun is setting after a glorious day, a change of watch, one to bed and the other to continue to drive Challenger 4 onto her destination. Laughter can be heard on deck and everyone is on fine form and I am feeling good. If you look at the moon tonight, I will be doing the same and thinking of you, all my friends new and old.
Over and out
It’s all about Martha.
As much as I’d love to say that since our night of tacking it’s been the same but unfortunately I can’t. The nature of ocean sailing is that you can spend days or weeks on the same tack and that is what we have been doing so far for last few nights. The one difference is that now we are in the Atlantic Ocean with only flying fish for company, is that we are now on squall watch and dodge. So far both watches are doing fairly well at this. Night raiders found themselves with a large squall last Wednesday night which resulted in a wakeup call for the off watch mate and Watch leader to help get the Stay sail down as the boat was slightly over powered by the increased winds and driving rain. Once down, the wind abated and the thought of rehoisting the stay was talked about but with more squalls on the horizon, this idea was swiftly dropped. On Flying fish watch after that squall the game of eye spy kept the crew entertained for 3 hours. Quite amusing for the on watch to stay awake and try figure out if potentially that our game was the longest in history. If not Tall ships maybe??? However I am sure that given the passing days we will try and beat this current record. Guinness book entry maybe at the end???
As watches changed more squalls came and went, luckily avoiding us, just giving us a little more wind to sail by. Then came Thursday afternoon. That’s when the flying fish luck ran out!!! It started so well with clear skies and then we saw what can only be described as the evil twin sisters. With fingers crossed we noticed that our luck was in and that they would just cross ahead of us but just behind was the cousin. Again a rather evil looking squall but she too may just pass ahead and then there was the distant relative trying to keep up. Luckily for us she was on a slightly different course to her relatives and so went behind. With skies looking clear and the wind having dropped causing the boat speed to drop, we decided to hoist the stay sail once more in full knowledge that on our watch that was near the end, the possibility that we might still have to drop it didn’t matter too much. Speed was the goal. With that Kirstie led her team and quickly hoisted the sail and all looked good. After about 30 mins you could see the sky start to turn grey. Not a small patch but the whole of our starboard side was quickly being taken over. With that the decision to drop the stay was quite easy. The crew went forward after a quick brief and began to drop as Martha was gaining on us. Just as the stay was dropped, secured and everyone back, sat ready by winches we felt the distant drop in temperature you get with squalls and then Martha got angry. With winds up by 10 knots and driving rain trying to pull us up into her clutches, the never ending release of the main sheet to try combat this we altered course so that the wind was no longer on our bow but just behind the beam. With that the boat quickly accelerated and took off with Martha. Excitement all round. A glimpse of Atlantic squall for those never experience one before and the knowledge that the camera at the back of the boat was still recording the excitement. Within 30 minutes it was all over. Martha had left us to a distant memory, the sky was back to being blue, Sails pulled back into position and dinner was being served on deck to a slightly soaked but happy crew now trying to dry out their t-shirt and shorts before watch change and bed. The joys of Caribbean weather. The sea is still warm and the sun dries your clothes fairly quickly.
So after an uneventful night comes a new day. More squalls and even as I type the main is constantly being altered as we dodge more passing squalls but happy in the knowledge none look like Martha or the evil twin sisters.
Somewhere in the Atlantic or the Caribbean is the question of the day?
It is lunchtime whilst writing this and despite feeling somewhat queasy and eating my sandwich, my Watch Leader announced that his watch is going to be called Nightriders – his team being myself and Jessica. Let me describe them to you. Archie is my team leader and I am sure he will feature on page 3 of a monthly sailing magazine, due to his smouldering good looks. Jessica is a the English Rose, stunning both inside and out and last but by no means least is myself Atlantic Sally – a mature Cornish lady. I was shocked when Archie said we were Nightriders – the only night riding I do is down to the local supermarket on my bike. My thoughts turned to home, but I was interrupted by Jessica talking about seaweed – where does it come from and where is it going. This reminded me of my local beach back in Cornwall. Back to sailing, the sun is shining and I am sitting on my favourite deck cushion, the No 3 Yankee sail bag and I am feeling pretty good. I love sailing and especially on the best yachts ever, the Challengers – I pat the side of Challenger 4 every morning and say thank you for keeping me safe and well. I have every faith in her and I know she will get me safely back to England – yes I am doing the next leg back to the UK from the Azores. Anyway, tonight when I look at the moon I will think of all my new and old friends and I send them all my love.
By Atlantic Sally
The story so far….
Welcome to the world of Challenger 4 and her motley crew sailing from Grenada to the Azores. The story began when a group of individuals decided to sign up to do the Atlantic crossing. We have one woman who has been out in the Caribbean sailing on Challenger 4 for the last two voyages and is doing the whole trip back to Portsmouth (some are already saying that if we aren’t careful she may become part of the furniture), we also have a few who have already sailed on the Challengers or on our other vessel Stavros and want to try something new and those who are first timers on the boats. Well that’s the crew.
It all started when slowly one by one they joined and after getting to know each other over safety briefs, safety checks on the boat and helping to sort out ALL the food storage for the voyage, it was time to think about the crew meal to welcome the start of voyage officially.
The day to leave finally arrived and after finishing getting the final shopping, prepping the boat to go to sea with sails attached, everything below stowed away for whatever the wind gods throw at us, it was time to slip lines, fill up our fuel tanks and head out to start our journey with the sun coming down. With planning just perfect, we hoisted our main with 1 reef in (in case wind picks up as forecast outside the lee of the land) and our first head sail the Yankee 2. Once hoisted it was time to practice Tacks, gybes and man over board (MOB) so the crew are ready for any eventuality.
Once everyone was happy we set off into the sunset. As the sun went down and the sky was lit up by the stars, clouds started to roll in and bring with them gusts of wind and rain. Lots of rain!!! While this was well received by the staff as it cooled us down, the now sea sick crew were not quite so enthusiastic by it all. As night turned to day and mother watch began for one, it was the start of more bonding in watches. On flying fish watch led by Kirstie, conversations soon turned to food and more specifically steaks. How would you have yours, what type and what sauce? Possibly not the best conversation as our ability to eat steak is bordering on slim to none. Still with knowledge that you can get them in the Azores was a bonus. Talk did come to would you eat a dolphin when 2 came to say hello, but the unanimous verdict was no. No one could eat flipper!!!
The second night brought more drama on the boat. With the wind being in a more easterly direction. It meant that for 4 hours it was all about tacking. Unfortunately half the time the tacking had to wait for each passing squall. Nevertheless the crew did an amazing job and with smiles on their faces at the fact no one has been sick for 12 hours and they were bonding as a crew as well as becoming sailors. It was time to grab some sleep as the night riders (AKA Archie’s watch) began their watch of squall ducking and diving.
As dusk turned to day it was time to say goodbye to land and the local fishing men trying to sell us fish whilst sailing at 9 kts and head out in a North easterly direction towards our destination.