Day 17 (Saturday 16th Nov. ’13) – Final Blog Entry…
Today this Blogger has got the hump: Mate Gary this morning asked for volunteers to strip and service (oil and re-grease) Winches on deck. What I heard him say was ‘Wenches’, so my hand went up immediately. You can imagine my disappointment….
The boat’s Matrimonial undertones were reinforced tonight when Skipper Mike found himself an uninvited guest at a local wedding, once again sweeping the dance floor with those ‘Oh! so graceful’ moves which are his trademark. Not.
Watch Leader Les amused the masses into the early hours having imbibed copious amounts of ‘Essence de Molasses’, a nostalgic throwback to Splicing the Mainbrace during his Navy time-served.
Thankfully we were spared the ‘You’re my Best Friend EVER’ speech.
Tomorrow (Sunday) is departure day for those crew not staying on for the ARC.
So, on a totally serious note, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone on this trip for being part of so many fabulous memories:
Paul and Mike (Skippers)
Italian Henry and his socks
Rosie (the long-suffering) and her Mum
Good luck for the future, and H:-)ppy Sailing
Day 16 (Friday 15th Nov. ’13)
Newsflash: Challenger 3 Arrives safely in Gran Canaria – A special report by our Maritime Correspondent:
We are pleased to confirm the safe arrival in Puertos de Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, of yacht Challenger 3, following her epic 1,682 mile voyage from Portsmouth via Brixham, England, and Cascais in Portugal.
Hundreds of boat owners have travelled from across the globe to join locals in the welcome celebrations, and a party atmosphere is in full swing as the crew celebrate their achievement.
Challenger 3’s clearance into the port, however, was not without incident: The Port Authorities, acting on information received regarding Italian Henry’s footwear, demanded the boat fly Signal
Flag B (Bravo) ‘I am discharging or carrying dangerous cargo’, prior to allowing her to come alongside, or enable Henry to visit the laundry facilities.
The Crew’s Signal Flag knowledge was put to good use later in the evening, as they indulged in a run ashore: Attempting to ‘do their bit’ for Anglo-Spanish relations in the Marina bar, Flag Q (Quebec) ‘My vessel is healthy’, and Flag K (Kilo) ‘I wish to communicate with you’ were flown almost continuously.
Responses were mixed, with an occasional Flag C (Charlie) ‘Yes’, but a predominance of Flag N (November) ‘No’.
The Crew then adjourned to a South American Steak House, where this Blogger ordered the ‘Steer Steak’ and was promptly presented with a slab of meat that would keep even Desperate Dan content.
Returning to watch a band in the Marina Bar, the less common Flag YG ‘You appear to be contravening the rules of a Traffic Separation Scheme’ was flown for the Skipper and Mate as they claimed the dance floor during a live rendition of AC/DC’s ‘Highway to Hell’.
There are unconfirmed reports of a solitary sighting of Flag X (X-Ray) ‘Stop carrying out your intentions and watch for my signals’ whilst conversing with a crew member from ‘Girls for Sail’,
By the end of the evening, a number of the crew were seen to be flying Flag D (Delta) – Keep clear of me; I am manoeuvring with difficulty, and Flag V (Victor) – I require assistance.
So after being told by she-who-shall-not-be-named that I’m not as funny as Rich, here I am doing the blog anyway. Today was fairly uneventful, with the highlights being as follow-
To begin, a beautiful sunrise, that concluded with Rich and she-who-shall-not-be-named complaining about black spots on their eyes… then a bird hitching a ride for a while. I’ve been told that they occasionally get disorientated and tired so they hitch a ride for a while.
At the end of Starboard watch, Port awoke with promises of fish- and with optimistic voices in our ears, we fell asleep. However, when we woke, alas the fish bucket was still empty and in the words of Trevor, the one that got away was “This big”.
The afternoon’s pinnacle was a case of JAFD. This highly colloquial philosophy was first introduced to us by the much missed Skipper Paul- a beautiful summary of just how jaded a permanent crew member can become-
However, the crew still enjoyed the sight of the dolphins, regardless of any comments from the First Mate.
To conclude the day, we have the joys and delights of bangers and mash, prepared by Christina and Paul from Port watch. We’ve been told that we should be in Gran Canaria by breakfast tomorrow, where the locals are putting up welcoming banners- or barricades as they are known at home.
By English Henry
This is the Five o’ Clock News, brought to you from Challenger 3.
Good evening. In tonight’s headlines:
At Noon today, Challenger 3 gybed onto new course 190° to avoid hitting the island of Madeira. The vessel is now expected to arrive in Gran Canaria sometime in the early hours of Friday morning.
Rosie to the rescue: At lunchtime today, Rosie’s services were called upon by English Henry: Henry found himself in difficulty at the helm of a tuna and pasta based dish for the crew, and the gallant lass was on hand to offer advice to recover the situation and narrowly avoid a maritime gastronomic disaster. The coastguard has been informed.
In preparation for the 2013 ARC, Challenger 3’s on-board Water Maker was this afternoon re-commissioned by the Skipper Mike and Mate Gary. In declaring his approval of the purity of the output, Mike confirmed that all water on board had been passed by the Skipper.
Italian Henry’s socks continue to be a debating point for Port Watch. There are doubts that even the vessel’s new-found source of water production will be sufficient to supply the volumes required to return the garments to acceptable standards of cleanliness, and discussions are ongoing with Government Organisations and Greenpeace to declare a new Minimum 500-miles offshore disposal zone for burial at sea.
Rosie continues to play matchmaker, yet again expressing her consent were fellow crew-member Richard to become her stepfather. Richard, though, is not so forthcoming: In a statement released through his Press Agent, he said that, whilst not generally dismissive of matrimony, he had no current plans to meet anyone at the alter.
Friends of the would-be Groom also agree that the suggestion is somewhat fantastic, noting that he would have to change not only his shorts, but also his Schoolboy innuendo & warped sense of humour.
And now the weather:
Tomorrow will be warm and sunny, totally unlike that which you folks back in Blighty will enjoy. Wish you were here .
Day 13 – Change
The Challenger 3 is now officially in international waters, therefore the usual pleasure of throwing everything off board started quite well ( except from plastic of course). The second part of the journey with new skip Monkey has begun in the way most of the crew had imagined: sailing all day with a sunny sky and twinkling stars at night!
The sailing part is fantastic, we are making very good speed, an average speed of nine knots and that damn noise of the engine has shut up… However I think most of the crew would agree that it’s hard to get use to the new style of sleeping, rocking from one side of the bunk to another.
Those precious three and a half hours sleep are becoming one hour or so… but this little detail doesn’t stop our Spartan crew! Loads of fun and hard work. Today’s special treat is Paul’s (not skipper) birthday, if I remember correctly 21 years old!! I would personally define the Challenger 3 crew (including old skip Paul) as ACDC!
Henry English Edit: In other news, the watch leader Les finally fell in the battle of innuendo, completing the entire crew’s tasteless sense of humour.
By Henry ( Italian )
Day 12 – Departure
The day began with a French touch, by the way of croissant and polite conversation. The highlight of the day was the arrival of the new Skipper Mike, or as he is affectionately known ‘Monkey’. And in contrast, the lowest point was saying a fond farewell to the old Skipper Paul. We left him on a helicopter pad, for him to be picked up in style in a full stretch limo (taxi), and be carted off to the joys and delights of the best hotel in town (Holiday Inn).
As we prepared to set off on the epic voyage of 15 metres to the fuel pontoon, the engine made a funny noise then packed up. Perkins was on strike, having been used and abused for the previous 5 days. No amount of whispering words of encouragement would persuade him to play ball and complete the required task. Luckily, the First Mate, the new Skipper and a healthy amount of brute ignorance managed to coax him back to work, but not before the entire crew disappeared for free ice cream, under a clear blue Portuguese sky. Perkins required a new oil filter, some fresh oil and a quick diesel manicure.
The day concluded with Challenger 3 quietly slipping out of Cascais at approximately 1800hrs to the relief of the locals. It was a beautiful moonlit starry sky, with the sea and deck illuminated by that classic silver-grey hue so often depicted in paintings. Another epic voyage had begun.
By Richard and Henry (English)
Today was a mixture of both good and bad. The day started with much-needed black coffees, builder teas and several packets of Paracetamol after a revealing night (!!). Everything was thoroughly scrubbed and polished after Challenger 3’s abuse in Biscay.
We then parted ways into smaller groups, exploring Cascais in the daylight. The first mate utilised his skills and patched up the boat until even the toilet lights worked- but Rosie didn’t realise and continued to use the toilet in the dark Rosie Edit: (NO ONE TOLD ME!)
Sadly Paul the Skipper will now be leaving us due to an injury, he will be much missed by all the crew- after having got us through the difficult times, and it seems cruel that he should have to leave now. Another Tall Ships Skipper is arriving tomorrow to replace him (the new skippers nickname is Monkey, we look forward to discovering why!).
The crew is now leaving for a last supper style meal of the traditional Portuguese food: pizza! Let’s celebrate the week with an awesome skipper in style.
By Henry the English one (Rich is still recovering from last night but will return to his many fans for tomorrow’s blog)
A Legend is reborn…
We awoke this morning to the sight of a strange and mystical phenomenon in the sky: A huge yellowish ball of fire apparently sent by the Gods to bring warmth and joy to the mortals on Earth.
The crew were initially in fear of this previously unseen object, but our Wise and all-knowing Skipper assured us that this was the ‘Sun’, thought the stuff of legends, but whose existence was now proven.
An awakening spread throughout the boat, with the crew singing & undertaking their chores with a renewed vigour.
The hibernation of the previous week was over, and members of both Port and Starboard watches frolicked together on deck for the first time in the voyage.
And Port Watch made fabulous bacon and egg baguettes for breakie this morning. Hats off to them!!
We moored in at Cascais at 17:00 Hrs and, after putting the boat to bed and enjoying a well deserved shower, ventured ashore for a couple of beverages.
Mike (Port Watch Leader) amazed us all in the restaurant with his dazzling attempt to walk through a glass partition.
Cascais is a pleasant and picturesque suburb of Lisbon and we all felt good to be able to stretch our legs with a run ashore.
Footnote to Rosie’s mum reading this blog: We’re looking after her well! despite the mickey taking….
In the early hours of this morning, we passed inside the Finisterre Traffic Separation System (TSS), and came out of ‘The Bay’. Looking at the lights on the shoreline around La Coruna, we reflected on how Biscay had swallowed us whole, chewed us around for three days, decided we were just a bit too tough, and spat us out again in disgust.
In the words of Capt. Jack Sparrow, “’Allo Beastie”.
Starboard Watch were awoken this morning to the tranquillity of sailing. Yes, the engine was off and, finally, with reefs 2 & 3 shaken out of the main, we were harnessing the power of nature.
This highlighted an interesting new ‘Acid Test’ for the manufacturers of ear plugs: For 7 days now, they have successfully blocked out the labours of ‘Perkins’, our faithful 130 Horsepower marine diesel engine located only the other side of a bulkhead. Yet they were not up to the job of filtering out the on-deck banter from Port Watch.
Yesterday was Skipper Paul’s 21st (yet again) birthday, so the crew (belatedly) acknowledged this in the traditional manner with a cake procured by Henry (Stbrd) and ably decorated in a F9 by Rosie.
Health & Safety on board prohibited us from lighting the appropriate number of candles (the Admiralty would’ve had to update all their charts with a new Lighthouse), but the spirit was there, and the cake was delish.
Today was a drying out day. Steady 18-20 knot winds from the northwest meant we could, at last, do what we came to do and really enjoy it. Unfortunately, by 16:00 Hrs, and despite shaking out the last reef in the main, we were unable to maintain enough boat speed to ensure arrival in Cascais by late Saturday, so the services of Perkins were, once more, called upon: This is an adult voyage, so let’s not beat about the bush – we would all like a beer or two.
To sign off today, we have to report a mutiny within Starboard Watch: During the Morning Watch, a slight rain shower blew through, and Rosie decided she would not take her turn on the helm, opting instead to shelter in the Companionway. She was promptly lashed to the gratings and subjected to 2 hours of merciless ridicule.
STILL in Biscay, but the end is in sight!
Happy Birthday to the Skipper who was 21 again today. To celebrate, we the crew of the good ship Challenger 3 have a surprise for him.
A rumour spread throughout the boat this morning that a shoal of herring had declared Squatter’s Rights in the wet locker. This was finally disproved, but, as a precautionary measure, the Skipper fired up the boat’s heating system.
For the first time in the trip, the crew enjoyed the simple pleasure of donning gear that, if not entirely dry, at least had a semblance of warmth.
Picking up with last night’s thread of cooking, tribute should be paid to certain members of the crew for their selfless efforts to keep our strength up:
Trevor, who this morning prepared scrambled egg in particularly difficult conditions.
Christina, who ensured the galley was spotless after this evening’s meal.
And Steve: Background – Steve has suffered from sea-sicknesses or nausea for most of the trip so far (though we’ve compassionately avoided the obvious nickname of the guy with a 3-string guitar and a stomp box):
On Tuesday, Steve forsake the popularist Stugeron and instead tried a Scopoderm patch. The result – he’s made a recovery which Lazarus would have been proud of. Having recovered so well, he peeled the spuds this morning in the cockpit. To top this, he even volunteered to staff the galley tonight to cook a splendid sausage, mash and onion gravy. Cheers, Steve.
Top tip for readers of this blog who are contemplating a voyage, but have reservations about ‘mal de mer’: Scopoderm patches are only available on prescription, so talk to your GP, but they seem to work wonders without causing drowsiness.
There’s a suspicion the weather is getting better! There actually felt to be warmth in the breeze today. To be sure, it still lashed it down this evening, but the sun did briefly put his hat on this afternoon, even if he didn’t come out to play for long.
Tune in at the same time tomorrow evening, listeners, for the next thrilling instalment in the life and times of Challenger 3.
…and the Lord said unto Noah ‘It’s gonna rain today…’ and he wasn’t kidding either: I know ‘Challenger 3’ is entered into the ARC, but this is ridiculous.
There’s not a crew member aboard who isn’t fed up with the foul weather. We come off watch cold and wet, grab a couple of hours kip, then haul ourselves out of the bunk to don our still-wet gear and go back topside to get drenched again. I think we’re all actually saturated, but being positive, at least our skin is waterproof. Oh the joys of crossing Biscay in November.
‘Starboard Henry’ and myself found ourselves on the foredeck this afternoon reattaching sail ties to the Yankee and the Storm Sail to stop them flogging. Naturally the boat pitched, buried her nose in a wave and as sure as eggs are eggs, we got soaked. It was great fun.
One crew member (I confess, t’was myself) made a complete donkey of himself today: Sitting ‘inappropriately’ in the cockpit, I got caught on the back as the boat rolled and found myself lying on my back on the cockpit floor, vainly holding my (now empty) mug, having redistributed the tomato soup contents around various parts of the boat.
Let’s be optimistic: At least we’re heading for the sunshine and Cascais (near Lisbon), where hopefully the ‘refreshment’ will be chilled and the showers hot.
I have a vision of the locals rowing out to meet us with fresh fruit and trinkets to barter, but perhaps I’ve been too long at sea now.
On a more realistic note: It’s quite strange how, with 12 people confined to a relatively small environment, how little time you actually spend with the guys on the ‘other Watch’ – they’re getting some sleep whilst you’re ‘On Watch’ and vice versa. Excuse the obvious metaphor, but we’re almost ships passing in the night.
To finish this Blog: An acknowledgement to the guys who have the unenviable task of preparing meals on board whilst we’re bouncing around as we are: Always hot, always delicious and always appreciated. Cheers, guys.
Remember, Remember the 5th of November…
Well, for this crew at least, there’s not much chance of forgetting it: The day started on a jovial note, with Mate Gary requiring from each of the Duty (Starboard) Watch an ’01:00 Hours Joke’ – most of which cannot be repeated here in this Blog
At 03:00 Hrs, the wind strength was a steady 28 knots and building, so the Main was fully reefed down, and we awaited Biscay to do it’s thing.
Having motor-sailed through the rest of the night, No. 3 Yankee was set during the Forenoon watch, and we were able to enjoy the sailing we’d been hoping for – even the Skipper had a ‘play’ latterly in the afternoon.
Alas, the tranquillity of sailing had to be shattered by the requirement to motor sail once again: The wind direction had too much southerly in it and we were unable to make our course without tacking out to the North West.
And then the wind blew. Hard. Very hard. 35 knots steady, with two members of Starboard Watch noting gusts in excess of 52 knots.
Spew was blowing off the crests of the waves, and helming was not for the faint-hearted. Someone once told me that a decent Helmsman should be able to hold a course within 10 degrees. I confess struggling to achieve a window ten times that last night.
It was a white-knuckle ride never to be forgotten, and as we slipped out of saturated wet-weather gear at the end of the watch, the prospect of a sleeping bag & cosy bunk never before had so much appeal.
So we’ve finally left the sanctuary and hospitality of Brixham behind us. All Hands were called at 02:00 Hrs to prep the boat for departure (Sail Cover off, shore lines rigged to slip etc), so the beauty sleep required by this particular blogger was sadly cut short. Time and tide etc…
With Brixham behind us, the crew dropped into the Two-Watch routine, with Starboard Watch taking the first shift from 04:00 ‘til 08:00 Hrs (the Morning Watch), and enjoying a sunrise at sea.
Much of the day has been motor sailing, partly due to insufficient wind & the need to get some sea miles logged, and partly because, as so often happens, when the wind did pick up, it was right ‘on the nose’.
Thankfully, the number of crew affected by sea-sickness has diminished significantly as we all become accustomed to the movement of the boat.
So the day was spent making passage towards Ushant, on the North Western peninsular of France, keeping lookout for other shipping, both big (Container vessels etc) and small (fishing vessels).
For those unused to a Watch system, it’s very easy to lose all track of time and day, with (excepting the split ‘Dog Watch’) a 4 hours ‘on Watch’ and 4 hours ‘off’ routine. Sleep is limited to 3 hours max at a time, and should be taken whenever the opportunity arises ‘off watch’.
But life has enormous compensations, with a hearty, warming stew prepared for supper by Rosie, who seemed pleased that her Dumplings were to everyone’s liking.
With supper squared away, the crew settled for the night, adjusting their eyes to the blackness of the night, and keeping lookout for the tell-tale dots of light in the vast expanse of ocean that indicate another vessel’s position.
Captain’s Log, StarDate 13-11-03: The Waiting Game.
The crew were generously treated to a lie-in today (Thanks’ Skipper!), breakie being called for 09:00Hrs.
With continual forecasts of Severe Gale F10 in Portland thro’ to Biscay, we were going no further than the end of the Pontoon, so there was no hurry for anything, other than wait for an appropriate weather window.
Water was taken on board, and the Bilges pumped dry using ‘Noo-Noo’ our on-board drain cleaning hose.
Lunchtime saw the full Crew form a Posse a head off to enjoy the hospitality of a Sunday Roast at Brixham Yacht Club, complimented by pate, mushrooms in garlic, Sticky Toffee Pud and Bread & Butter Pud
On return to the boat, a raiding party was dispatched to the local Tesco Metro (other High Street Retail Outlets are available), to replete stocks of fruit, bread, pasta, chicken, milk etc… this being our last opportunity to do so before departing for the passage across Biscay.
Having reviewed the weather forecast intently, Skipper Paul & Mate Gary have made the decision that the best chance we have of a reasonable Biscay crossing is to depart in the early hours of tomorrow (Monday 4th). Thus the rest of the afternoon and evening was spent prepping the yacht as much as possible (e.g. hanking-on the No. 3 Yankee and Storm headsails), and generally chilling out before indulging in showers and Sea-sickness pills, and retiring early to our bunks, in advance of Reveille at 02:00 Hrs on Monday.
Woke up at four to the wonderful news that we had safely arrived in Brixham, meaning a decent sleep until eight! Day began with a slightly queasy bowl of cereal and a few brave souls eating bacon sandwiches. Due to being storm bound, we were able to explore the delightful port of Brixham, wash in actual hot water, and for some reason pants had appeared on every rail of the boat- and whilst the female crew members deny them being theirs, a few lacy numbers too! With a pharmacy every five metres, it was easy for the more seasick crew to stock up on knock out pills.
Evening brought a split in the crew, with some having the joys and delights of turkey curry, and the rest finding scram ashore. The day was concluded with, in those immortal words let’s support the local economy.
By Henry & Rosie
Set off from Portsmouth Harbour, gentle drizzle meant we all put on our fresh out the box ‘oilies’ – we looked a very smart crew as we passed under the spinnaker tower. Even had to take the labels off they were that new!
We stopped in Cowes first of all, to top up our fuel tanks. Then it was off out into the Solent, we put up the sails and began to practise tacking, reefing and finally a MOB drill. Whilst all this was going on, breakfast was served, which was some scrummy bacon sarnies. As we made our way past the Isle of Wight and the famous Needles, the swell started to get bigger and we had the first casualties of seasickness. With 25 – 30 knots of wind, occasionally sailing against tide, it was quite choppy. With the Yankee (big outside sail by the front), the Staysail (inside sail by the front) and the main sail out, we powered along for a bit, but then the wind picked up and we only had a reefed main sail up.
The plan was to sail through the night to Plymouth/ Falmouth – however we had a storm warning of Gale Force 9 so had to nip into Brixham for shelter. We arrived safely at 0205 tied the boat up and went to bed for a well earned rest.
By Henry & Rosie
We all arrived at Challenger 3 at 1300, for the start of our epic adventure to the Canaries. We met our fellow crew members and the Tall Ships crew and settled in. We had safety briefs above and below deck and our minds were spinning from all the information thrown at us. Henry and Rosie cooked a DELICIOUS dinner of fajitas, which went down rather well, lots of clean plates, and a happy crew all round. We decided to do some team bonding, break the ice and support the local economy at the same time, so all 10 guys and 2 ladies trekked through the rain to a place known affectingly as the office, a very cosy place. We settled in our bunks, got acquainted with the heads (terrible jokes aside from the first mate) and plied our skipper with jelly babies to keep him happy.
Bedtime was about 11 so wasn’t too bad.
By Henry & Rosie