Fri 23 February – Fri 30 March
The Atlantic Deep Sea Challenge – the Voyage begins.
Well actually the preparations begin! It’s Saturday 24 mid-afternoon and the day after we voyage crew joined the boat (most of us yesterday afternoon) with half of us who had experienced the Training Weekend in the Solent (was it really two weeks ago?) meeting our new fellow crew members – and, of course, our skipper Neil, mate Lindsey and two watch leaders, Georgie and Ash. We had a relaxed general get-together in the afternoon (with rum punch) all finding out a bit more about each other before a (very) social drink and some great food in the Marina centre in the evening and back to the boat and our bunks. In spite of a wind scoop in the fore hatch ducting air into the crew quarters, most found it pretty warm down below and there was some restless sleeping (and snoring – thanks for the reminder for good ear plugs!)
Several were up early this morning (some to get an early shower in the Marina before these got too busy) and a cereal and tea/coffee breakfast. Formal and extensive training started with Lindsey covering aspects of the deck and Georgie and Ash covering down below with the skipper briefing about the chart table/nav and comms systems. However training stopped as International Rugby drew many to a bar in the afternoon here (we are 4 hours behind you) to watch the England/Scotland game (latest was Scotland leading by a big margin – will that continue?) with the rest of us enjoying a roast chicken lunch (albeit cooked at the local supermarket) and salad with rolls. Sounds like it will be a relaxing rest of the day (some are now swimming) ad probably back to the bar and food there again tonight. We are currently taking on the water we’ll need for the crossing to the Azores (unless we also need to run the water maker if stocks drop too much) plus we still need to take on diesel similarly.
With that still to do plus some further pre-voyage training and the need to get very last-minute food stocks (freshest possible veg and fruit) it’s likely that we’ll not be departing Antigua ‘till Tuesday. Will be good to start out but that will also mean leaving this beautiful but relatively poor island nation. Am sure that most of you families and friends reading this will have been sent pictures of the island and of where we are and it’s certainly lovely, but some of us have seen real poverty and several very poor housing areas – but which doesn’t prevent the Antiguans being warm and friendly.
I expect that there are others who are, like me, in feeling some apprehension about this voyage – our experience levels range from minimal sailing to some who have done a trip like this before – but so far we have got on really well with lots of humour, we look like being a really good crew together and all are excited about our upcoming Deep Sea Challenge.
Wish us well, keep looking at the vessel tracking system to see when we go – and our thoughts are with you all back home too.
Latitude 19 degrees 53.05 North Longitude 61 degrees 52.92 West
The Crew are all starting to relax in to the watch system and the weather has been great with slight seas, not too much cloud and a moon lighting our way overnight.
We left Jolly Harbour yesterday, after a last coffee, with a dolphin in the Harbour to see us off. We have seen some interesting wildlife in Antigua including Pelicans’, Frigate Birds (big!) and Humming Birds.
We started sailing straight out of harbour with Reef 1 in the Mainsail and No 2 Yankee. This is a big boat and the sails and lines are pretty heavy, but fortunately there are plenty of crew around to help.
Heading North past Barbuda to the east, already the Ocean is looking pretty empty with not much shipping around.
The Crew are split in to 2 Watches which started at 19.00 yesterday, with 3 (4 hour) watches overnight and 2 (six hour) watches during the day. This alternates watch times so everyone gets to be up for a sunrise or sunset every 2 days, and gives plenty of time for sleep.
It’s really frowned up on to be late for watch, because you are keeping someone from bed and so far everyone has been on time!
Food on board has been great so far and we have enough on board to get us across the Atlantic a few times over. Nice Spag Boll last night and Bangers and Mash tonight.
The on-watch cooks for the new watch then washes up and this gets rotated round.
Only a few have felt slightly seasick, but nothing too bad and getting better as we get used to the boat.
It’s pretty hot on deck during the day below decks, with maybe an extra layer needed overnight. Sun cream and drinking water are really important.
Wind dropped a bit today so we have taken the staysail and Yankee on deck and are running 070 degrees on engine and Main (reef 1).
Thought we might have seen a small Whale this morning, but not sure. Loads of Flying fish.
Neil Lindsay Georgie and Ash from Tall ships have been great, and the Crew are starting work well together with a real mix of sailing experience. Having a Doctor, Vet , Nurse and Boat repairer on board could be useful?!
Personally, I’m loving the first 2 days and looking forward to the rest of the trip (whilst thinking about what my next sailing challenge might be).
Crew personal messages below:
Hedgie sends love.
Georgie says hello to everyone at home, hoping you’re all in good health and looking forward to Rob flying home at the weekend. Lots of love to Mum, Dad and Andy.
28th February 2018 @ 17:50 Ship’s Time (21:50 UT)
Position: 21 degrees 31.8 N, 58 degrees 57.6 W
Today could be described as uneventful yet life on board is hardly uneventful and perhaps the better way of describing it would be routine: We’ve been four days out of Antigua and the rhythm of life aboard is rapidly becoming our new ‘normal’ – which just goes to show how quickly our perception of normal can be changed when we fully immerse ourselves in experiencing the present moment! So what does our new normality look like?
For Port Watch we were called from or bunks this morning at 06:30 giving us 30 minutes to eat cereal and ‘eggy-bread’ prepared by the other watch before we needed to be on deck to relieve them. Next, it was our responsibility to clear away breakfast and wash up. We’ve been motor sailing for some while .. .. don’t ask me how long because all concept of time seems a little warped when you can get out of your bunk three times in any given twenty four hour period .. … but one of the benefits of the lull in the wind is the boat is upright and it makes the tasks around the boat very easy to complete.
On deck the sky all around us was dark and threatening but once the sun was up the cloud burned off and we had another morning of halcyon blue skies marred only by the noise of the engine
Below deck we had the joy of happy hour which involves a thorough clean of the galley, heads and other accommodation: Keeping everything ‘ship shape’ so that it remains hygienic is clearly a good thing J .. .. the consequences of not doing so don’t bear thinking about with sixteen of us living in such close proximity to one another!
Our noon position is marked on a chart on the wall in the saloon: The distance travelled thus far seems tiny compared with the distance to go – something that reinforces just how big the ocean is! Yesterday a number of us had a conversation about the paradox of how small and insignificant we are when compared with the vastness of the ocean and yet how significant we are to one another in the context of ensuring that everything that needs doing gets done etc. Thankfully we seem to be working well together despite being an incredibly disparate and diverse group.
Preparing lunch is always the responsibility of the ‘on watch’ as is clearing away .. .. it’s just that the responsibility is shared between both watches because we change over at 13:00. Today we filled our stomachs on tuna and mayo wraps and then, for most of Port Watch, it was back to their bunks. Some managed to squeeze in a micro-shower (is that the real purpose of the micro-pile towels that we’ve all brought with us?) before sleep and others chose to wait until they got up again .. .. hot water being another benefit of having the engine running J although water consumption needs to be moderated because we only have a finite supply.
Starboard Watch have prepared Thai Beef Curry for supper which will be served to Port Watch at 18:30 and then they will get to sample their own cooking and leave us to clear away once we’re on watch at 19:00. Tonight we will stand watch from 19:00 until 23:00 before sleeping from 23:00 until 03:00 .. .. and then we’ll be back on duty from 03:00 until 07:00 including making breakfast for Starboard watch .. .. and so the rhythm of the new normal continues
One of the challenges of this rhythm of life is how to greet people .. .. does one say ‘good morning’ each time one gets up or should one try to work out what time it is and use the appropriate greeting for the time? In many ways it simply doesn’t matter .. .. what matters most is that everyone is getting on with everyone else. People are looking more ‘chipper’ today having adjusted to the motion of the boat and we’re all enjoying getting to know one another and depending on each other to ensure a safe and pleasant passage.
In the time that I’ve been sat here typing a flying fish has jumped onto the deck – which is one more fish than the trailing line has caught 😉
All for now .. .. Thai Curry beckons J
The Thai Curry was excellent and there was enough left to have a second portion as I went on deck .. .. hastily consumed in order to help with taking down the Yankee sail: We’re now motor sailing on bearing 075 degrees with reefed main and staysail; our way is illuminated by the almost full moon, the light from which is dancing off the sea and making for what can only be described as a beautiful evening.
Fri 02 Mar 00:15 hrs
Being written just over one hour into our (Port) 2300 – 0300 watch. For me, this started at 22:30 with a none too gentle prod and shout with a torch flashed around. Priority is to be up and ready in full kit and on deck at the start of watch (being late is a flogging offence as it may prevent your opposite number in the other watch from being relieved) – so decisions need to be made. How warm/cold is it, is it raining, are we under power or sail (or both) etc. Well, the welcome news is that a) we’re still under sail, b) it’s still warm and c) it’s not raining. Lots of positives – but partly offset by the continual effort of being in/moving around/doing anything in a heaving and pitching vessel always at an angle of between 15 and 30 degrees. You do start to get accustomed to it but it does mean that making and taking to your fellow watch members a caddy of hot drinks is an exercise in planning, balance, anticipation, dexterity, strength even. So full plaudits to Anthony and Steve from our watch who last night produced a delicious and filling Jambayla which met everyone’s full approval – from a very hot and uncomfortable galley. Meals are becoming a big part of every day and everyone’s efforts in the galley are always fully appreciated
Until yesterday afternoon, the lack of wind meant we had to run under power though we have been keeping the part reefed main up to help keep Challenger 1 from rolling. Conditions have been warm and dry with watches enjoying some spectacular moon and sunrises and sunsets too. One night we had a large moon which had lit our passage finally set below the western horizon just minutes before the sun rose in all its majesty in the east. Just so spectacular. Finally wind conditions set in yesterday allowing some welcome and glorious sailing until just now when Watch Leader, Ash, comes down with the news that the wind has died and it’s engine back on. A real shame but we all enjoyed some really good sailing for a good while. Everyone is having 30 minute shifts at helming and this was particularly popular when under sail with the wind and sea conspiring against best efforts to maintain the steady headings that the skipper and mate require of us. Everyone is getting better at this though and we are also starting to get early experience of sail handling.
This Challenger 1 crew are working and socialising well together. Though from many different background and ages, all are united in our collective wishes for the voyage to be a success. Nearly 600nm so far, another 3400 nm to go.
Fri 02 Mar 04:45 hrs – Position 24°04.5 N 56°10.4 W
Personal family message : Hedgie is doing fine, has avoided sea-sickness, is loving the adventure and sends love to everyone he knows.
Personal message from Steve B – enjoying the trip pretty much as expected. 600 miles gone with 1800 more to the Azores. All onboard are getting along well. Luv to Doreena, Katy and Harry. Happy Birthday Sarah! Hope Mum had a great holiday. Looking forward to the next session with Mr T and Mr D at the BoB.
To my brother Nat – thank you for having the crazy idea to sail across the Atlantic! It’s turning out to be absolutely spectacular! Challenger 1, and its compliment of sixteen, is making steady progress and have currently logged 607 nautical miles – only another 1700 miles and we’ll arrive in the Azores! We are all very much in the expert hands of the Tall Ships crew. Skipper Neil and first mate Lindsey are charting our safe passage home, while watch leaders Ash and Georgie are providing excellent instruction in terms of crewing on board; raising sails, helming – we have also been shown how to clean the heads and other equally rewarding tasks!
On a personal note: love to all of you back home, Shelli, Lauren, Oscar, Maddy, and Jo – I miss you and will see you soon (Shelli- if you read this can you let Jo know about the blog) XXXX
Personal family message : To Jo and the buoys. Missing you all, having a great time and glad Matt is along for the laughs. In the last ten minutes a flying fish has literally flown over the side of the boat and landed in my lap which may mean my second change of pants on this trip is imminent!! Really enjoying the night sailing. Hope all is well back home and can’t wait to see you. Lots of love, Nat xx
Personal message from John to Caroline, boys and girls, no sea sickness so far! The adventure living up to all expectations. Love to all and keep an eye on that moon, it’s the same one. X
Fri 02 March – 1600 hours
Position: 24 degrees 53.37 North, 55 degrees 05.69 West
Now into day 4 and our watch has settled down into a coherent team. Those novice sailors amongst us have found our sea legs and I’m happy to say other than bit of nausea none of us has gone down with sea sickness yet; I do emphasise yet as skipper Neil tells us we have had it easy so far so sounds like we may have some interesting times ahead. However that’s why we came on this journey I think.
The vessel motion has taken some getting used to and in particular below deck in the galley area where you really need to have your wits about you and definitely work as a team to ensure each other’s safety is not compromised. Likewise going to the heads is something of an undertaking and requires full concentration!
Our Watch Leader Georgie has been great and is taking very good care of us. Out on deck she has shown considerable patience with those not used to helming (steering the vessel) and continues to coach us in an enthusiastic manner. She has directed the sail adjustments in a clear and easy to understand manner and brings the team together.
As I type this two of the crew are busy preparing dinner and it does smell very appetising; chilli con carne tonight. The food has been tremendous onboard and a very pleasant surprise. Fortunately for me we appear to have a couple of ‘closet’ chefs on the watch which is a great relief as my strengths in the kitchen are limited to chopping vegetables and washing up.
Almost seven hundred miles gone at time of writing with around 1600 miles and ten days to go to the Azores. Doesn’t sound like much if you say it quickly!
Update from Georgie 1730 hours:
Well what a wonderful time we’re all having. Starboard watch have enjoyed an afternoon of sun, sea and beam reach sailing – which is a pleasant surprise for me as I imagined around 2500 miles of beating upwind… let’s hope I’ve not spoken to soon.
Having recovered from a rather unpleasant spell of sea sickness (ironic as I’m meant to be the experience seafaring watch leader…) I’m loving offshore life away from emails, phone signal and the general business of life that can easily consume us all when back home.
It’s fair to say the crew are settling in and getting to know each other well – apparently it was quite clear that I was ill, as no one could hear me constantly chattering on… safe to say all has returned to normal now! Love to everyone back home and to Andy, take Robert out for a home coming Indian and a pint on me. Best wishes, G.
Personal crew Messages :
Allan : Have settled into the voyage pretty well, trying to avoid sunburn and focussing on getting sea legs back and enjoying the experience. Some aspects so far just awesome – particularly in recognising the immensity of the ocean and its varying facets. The recent sailing has been just lovely and useful experience before we encounter significantly more challenging conditions. Hedgie remains great company but found the motion of the boat under sail more difficult – so a minor accident into one of my sailing boots! He is recovering in our bunk! We both send love to all family and friends who are following our progress.
OF BISCUITS AND HOT CHOCOOLATE
Currently coming up to noon on Sat 3 March and reflecting on the night time watches. You will already understand that there are three each of four hours hence watch day one watch does the first and the last, the other watch the middle one. The next day we swap over.
We continue under steady sail with beam winds of 15 to 25 knots. Down to 2 reefs in the main and only the staysail up forrard. Our little world is on a permanent list to port of anything between 15 and 30 degrees – but it’s never constant with the boat rolling around these angles whilst also pitching. A visit to the heads for a body wash and change of clothes took about 20 minutes and mainly involved bouncing off the 4 walls (and the toilet pan!)
Getting back to night watches; there will be 8 of us either on deck or doing some chore below (dishes from the last meal, prepping breakfast, completing the ship’s log (on the hour every hour and needing the delightful sweet smelling bilges to be checked). On our (Port watch) both Lindsey and Ash will be tasking and watching over us – particularly when we are on the helm in our 30 minute stints with the wind coming on our quarter. Then it’s focussing on maintaining the desired compass course, watching the Windex indicator like a hawk (seagull?) to ensure it doesn’t get too far behind us and also watching/listening to the sails. 30 minute stints gives everyone a fair go but is probably about the most we can reasonably maintain our concentration. With wind direction now relatively steady though varying in speed, sail handling is limited to raising and lowering the foresails and reefing the main. Hence, there are long periods on watch with little to do apart from pleasant talk with our fellow crew and also watching the sea roll past under us under the light of a brilliant and benevolent moon.
So…..biscuits and chocolate. Now becoming a welcome feature of night watches (though some diehards stick to tea or coffee). Making it and getting it safely up to the watch in this ever-moving world remains an exercise in planning and logistical movement but is a welcome feature of the 4 hour stint and we are always grateful to the volunteer. Talking of moving around the boat it is so apparent how most are adapting and moving far more confidently. Strategic grab handles help some fluidity of movement and are reducing the number of curses and bruises.
Update from Georgie – Sat 03 March 2000 hours
… and it’s the first night watch for Starboard this evening, which consists of dinner around 1830 hours and up on deck ready for watch change on the hour. The voyage is passing very quickly, this Is our 6th evening offshore and everyone on the watch is now mastering the art of helming, be It night or day, 10 knots or gusting 30.
The principles of night watches are very simple at the moment:
1) Keep the wind at 120° (broad reach) 2) Make a good cup of tea 3) Wake everyone up on time 4) When off watch at night, sleep… and perhaps repeat depending on your watch for that day.
As I write the log has ticked over to 918 nm with a position 25°51.65 N 51°06.65 W travelling 9.1Kn over ground. My watch have started a new game of “A to Z” – topic “confectionary”…
OK – there may be typos but have you tried typing on a part lit chart table whilst the whole world is pitching, heaving and rolling ( I would say around you – but you are doing the same thing ! )
It’s just 2 hours into our 1900 – 2300 Port Watch and we owe a relatively pleasant sail to our fellow Starboard watch which took over from us at 1300. Then ship’s log shows it all : Heavy rain, thunder and lightning, sea state and wind speed rising (to gusts of 45 kts) causing the Skipper to task the watch to put in a further reef (no 3) in the main sail, to take the staysail down and to replace it with the storm sail. For those of us off watch and trying to sleep this involved lots of banging and shouting of the decks above plus the familiar sound of winch grinding – but that didn’t reveal the efforts and fortitude of the starboard watch in carrying out these tasks under very tough adverse conditions. We owe them a beer (at the Azores!)
The good news though is that the weather pattern looks to be giving us a fast passage (we are now regularly seeing averages of 9 and 10 nm per hour and we managed just over 200 nm in the last 24 hours – so should reach the Azores at the coming weekend (Saturday night a possible?)
Helming one of these Challenger yachts under sail ad in any other than the lowest wind conditions is extraordinarily exciting – (possibly a bit too exciting this afternoon and early evening) and earlier today when the sun was shining on our progress and the sea was the deep blue colour of the Quink ink some of us older folk used to use at school it was sublime. Big swells rolling down on us from behind would lift us up and part turn us before the helm would correct our heading and we’d surge forward with spray breaking from the bows (and with a rogue wave occasionally catching the unwary and give a quick soaking.)
We are now over half way to the Azores in the first part of our voyage/venture and what continually amazes us is to experience the vastness and emptiness of the ocean. In our lives at home – everywhere around us there is visual change; when you walk or drive, shops, other people, buildings, hills, gardens, offices. Here it is sea – as far as the horizon, every direction every hour, every day it’s this vast seemingly totally empty ocean. It can be different as we are experiencing – but it’s still this awe-inspiringly vast ocean that surrounds us – and which has inspired all us to this venture.
Tomorrow ; more sea !
Personal Notes from Crew:
Eleanor : Hedgie is now fully recovered from his earlier upset and enjoying being part of the crew. He is missing you though but is looking forward to sending some more pictures of his adventures when we get to the Azores. Love to all who are part of Hedgie’s family.
Georgie – I took advantage of the heavy rain today and washed my hair out on the deck mid-atlantic. This proved more comical than useful though, as an hour later we were up on the foredeck in a washout. Sea water shower complete, 3rd reef in and storm stay hoisted. Difficult task, in tough conditions, big shout out to my watch who did such a cracking job on the deck and to port watch for taking over cooking dinner – equally as important.
Our first real Atlantic storm
It been an interesting 24 hours on Challenger 1, this morning was nice and sunny for the Port watch, however after lunch on Starboards watch it started to rain with thunder and lightning, strong winds good speed(13.9kts max) as the weather passed over us we had a short rest bite from the rain with a little interlude of light wind this was quickly followed by more rain, thunder and lightning after the centre had passed. By about 1600 it had all passed over us, the large seas it created subsided a little, the sun showed itself as the seas calmed, wind dropped off a bit, everyone relaxed a bit. Then out of seemingly nowhere a rather large wave decided to break over our starboard quarter John(the helmsman) was knocked to the floor only to emerge a short time later rather damp but still hanging on the helm valiantly trying to get the beast back under control, once this was achieved a quick look around found the cock pit to be full of water, lots of weed around the rear cockpit and a very damp crew. It was a short time after that when Ash(watch leader) emerged from his bunk to politely inform us that he was a little damp, further investigation revealed that many gallons of water had made its way through the aft hack to give him a nice cool sea water bath while he slept…. we hardly laughed at all, well may be a small chuckle or two and I’m quite sure that it will hardly ever get mentioned again, about then was when his life jacket was triggered and self inflated along with the asi beacon activation, Georgie (watch leader) promptly took the opportunity for some crew training put the inflated life jacket on to demonstrate the use of the spray hood, a rather unexpected consequence of this was that we couldn’t hear her talking J .
All then returned to normal until around 1700 when the wind began to pick up again with seas going from my conservative estimate of rough to very rough ++wind up to 45kt apparent over the starboard quarter, while this did increase our speed to around 12 – 13 kts it was to much for our sail plan of 2 reefs and staysail. 3rd reef and storm stay was needed, although Georgie had managed reefing very well over this voyage current conditions required some extra experience on deck so Lindsay(1st Mate ) was called from her bunk to oversee things. Reefing downwind in 45 kts app is not the most straight forward of operations but was carried out with speed and efficiency(great job all), it was now dark with one more job to do, drop and remove the staysail and replace with the stormstay, Our fantastic crew all clipped on and staying low battled their way up on to the fore deck while being tossed around and enduring constant horizontal sea washing across the deck surprisingly we were still making 10 kts under just a 3 reef main while all this was happening . Having dropped the staysail, tied it up, dragged it back to the cockpit it was passed down the companion way to the waiting port watch, (who had taken over dinner prep) they then dragged it through the boat to the sail locker, the storm stay was taken forward hanked on and hoisted, all crew returned safely to the cockpit damp and exhilarated. All in all a great bit of work from a really good crew, and what was I doing I hear you say ? I was just driving the boat
Mon 05 March
Position 28 degrees 54 north 44 degrees 00 west
Welcome to our World !!!!!
On reflection, of course it wasn’t a dream about being stuck in a giant washing machine – bit it’s a pretty good analogy!
Nice as your crew mates on the other watch are, you really don’t want them shaking you awake in the small hours of the night – because you know what that entails and it’s the parts that are not in the brochure. Red rather than white lights bathe everyone as in a scene from Hades. So you now have up to five of your crew mates all trying to get out of your bunks and get dressed in a space the size of a small toilet, Closeness is an understatement. What you wear depends on lots of factors like what’s available and to hand (like where on earth did my good sailing trousers go after the soaking we all had earlier?), Please do NOT think that we each have hanging spaces, lockers or anything civilised like that. Challenger 1 is a racing yacht and space is at a premium. So 1 large plastic box (possibly 1 plus, 2 for a lucky few) is it – for everything except your foulies (foul weather trousers and jacket) . Just lovely if you have dry clothes to put on – but most are putting on the same as worn when coming off the last watch – the last one was the heaviest, most intense rain any of us have experienced – coming down like rods was one very apt expression. So, for most, it’s cold damp clothes – and then the gymnastics exercise to get into foulies (yes, very wet too and damp on the inside because they don’t breathe as much as the makers claim! Managed that without flying across the cabin or forcing a violent embrace with another crew? Well done, you really are getting used to this life! Then it’s up the steps from the cabin onto the deck – where last night for example it was pitch black, pitching and rolling violently. Immediate priority (and the Skipper’s standing instructions) are that you get (your safety harness/tether) clipped on immediately. You then seek a space to sit and try to get to ther4s (usually with the help of the opposite watch who have far better night vision then you after several hours on watch in the dark and who are very keen to get you in place so that they can get below to warmth and bed!
Is it worth it? You bet! in the last few hours of the 1300 – 1900 watch some of us experienced the most exciting and demanding helming we are likely to encounter (perhaps until we cross the mouth of Biscay!). It is night, completely dark, rain clouds hide the moon, stars, any light at all. All you can see are the dials of the instruments and compass ahead of you and the rush of spray/surf as the boat thrusts forward whilst it pitches, rolls and corkscrews violently under the force of the elements. Bear in mind this is 72 foot and nearly 60 tons of yacht and you are at the wheel doing everything you can to maintain course whilst the waves and the violent gusts that come through conspire to prevent you from doing so. Thunder and close lightning that accompany the squalls light up the stygian blackness for an instant giving you a snapshot of the scene. These snapshots andn experiences will remain some of the most vid memories of this voyage!
Talking of which we have now travelled 1350 nm – well over halfway and thoughts and talk are turning to the Azores> Excitement and interest in visiting a new land – but also about showers with unlimited hot water, washing machines and driers, the opportunity to contact home(s) – and a fixed surface to live on for a few days!
What a fantastic day today, great sailing weather and Challenger 1 and crew are making great progress. We’re about four, maybe five days way from the Azores. Spirits are also high – we’re all a little dryer and a little warmer!
I have not showered since leaving Antigua, in favour of using baby wipes in my daily hygiene routine, a true martyr to the cause of water conservation. My feet have started to smell. I have told the other members of the crew that the smell seems to be coming from Steve. Hopefully the crew won’t find out it’s me, especially if I leave my deck shoes under Steve’s bed.
I am no cook but relish a challenge (nice use of the word relish). Anyhoo, dinner tonight is Jerk Pork with new potatoes and roasted vegetables – ooh. It’s time to celebrate. We are now more than half way across the Atlantic, time to put away the sweetcorn and dish out the fresh veg. I am on deck with the Starboard Watch, an excellent team led by Watch Leader Georgie. Ben and I are chatting. It’s more like banter than chatting, Ben loves a bit of banter, especially in his big orange wellies. He asks me if I am any good at Jerk pork. I feel he is questioning my cooking ability. I look at Janis. Janis is smiling a cheeky smile. Janis loves innuendo. Janis is trying not to laugh. John is just laughing. I really like John. I chastise Janis for being smutty and then continue the conversation with Ben and ask him if he is any good at Jerk pork (I know he is useless in the kitchen).
Nat has just brought me half an Almond and Apricot tracker bar. It tastes fantastic. Thanks Nat. It does make me wonder what other goodies he is hiding from me.
Although I don’t like writing the blog, I have managed to avoid cooking dinner by typing really slowly. Guess who’s writing the blog tomorrow when the others are cleaning the heads – J!
Love to everyone back home, I am missing you very much. XXXX.
Update from Georgie – 1635 hours 29°18.66 N 41°44.89 W (2 reefs, yankee 3, broad reach sailing)
Afternoon watches are my favourite – you sleep all morning, which is something I never do at home. You eat, then jump up on deck for a few hours, cook dinner and get to watch the sunset. Today has been particularly enjoyable as port watch cooked a cracking lunch of jacket potatoes, beans and chorizo.
I do a lot of trips round the south coast with Tall Ships, but I’m learning a different set of skills as a watch leader on an offshore voyage. Especially the art of reefing, which is the process of reducing the size of our main sail to cope with higher winds. When I first sailed, reefing was a mystery to me… shaking out, kickers, topping lifts… but safe to say the watch and I are slowly becoming seasoned experts and I’m really proud of their efforts and progress.
Having a fab time, missing everyone at home and to those following from the office – hope pod working is as much fun as watch life!
Cooking at 45 degrees:
I live in a 3 bedroomed terraced house with and average sized kitchen. I will cook for my beautiful, kind and very understanding wife, two boys and myself maybe once a week. If someone had said we are going to reduce the size of your kitchen down to one eighth and increase the number of people you are cooking for by 400% I would have said that it would be impossible, oh and everything will be moving between 45 degrees one way to about -10 degrees the other!!
When cooking on board inanimate objects take on a life of their own, plates will jump out of cupboards at you, boiling water will lurch towards you threatening to scald and knives will slide along surfaces or threaten self-mutilation when you hold them as Challenger 1 corkscrews through the Atlantic swell.
Meal times are really important on board and can become the focal point of a watch, it’s a time when both watches get together very briefly to discuss the different point of views of the voyage. This can increase the pressure to create something nice to eat, to get around the dangers of cooking so you can focus on the task in hand you have to look at it not as a pastime as you would at home but as a military operation. Clearing all hazards, removing any threats and then getting down to business. So far I have produced 5 ‘edible’ meals with only one minor burn to a finger, which, given the conditions, is not that bad. The first meal produced was Spag Bol which made me feel terrible working down below in the tropical heat but I had to force it down as you need your energy, now, with my sealegs firmly attached and the right approach I have started to really enjoy the challenges of boat cookery! That said, I still much prefer cooking at home!! Love to every one back in Blighty, Lots of love to Jo, Tommy and Albert, I miss you all very much. Nat xxx
Wed 07 March 0930 hours
Update from Georgie – Position: 30°09.22 N 39°37.91 W – 3rd reef in main & yankee 3, speed over ground 8.5 knots
Life on board Challenger 1 is routine now – alternate morning and afternoon watches, conversations up on deck often revolving around lunch or dinner prep, rotating the cleaning duties, so on and so forth… but this morning life offshore reached a new level of excitement… we gybed!
For those of you who may sail this might sound rather monotonous, as a race round the cans will see you tacking and gybing multiple times each hour perhaps. Offshore things are a little different… we may gybe tomorrow, or the day after.
This morning, starboard watch were happily tucked up in bunks, tied in with lee cloths when around 0530 hours we were thrown from one side to the other. The low side became the high side, which is far more challenging for the first few hours than you may realise, after all we have been on the same tack for over a week now.
Port watch took the brunt of the wind, weather and spray this morning – handing over clear skies to starboard watch this morning. Between 0300 and 0700, port watch had put a 3rd reef in the main, prepared the stay sail on the foredeck ready to hoist if desired and put in a gybe. They’ll probably add an account of it all to this blog later this afternoon.
Starboard watch are now up on deck enjoying the sunshine and getting their head round helming on the different tack (me included!) The sextant has been dug out from the cupboard to take some sights for those of us working towards tickets and soon it’ll be time to prepare lunch – toasted cheese and ham wraps with potato salad!
Best wishes to all those back at home, be assured that everyone is safe and well and we still have 2 lettuces left… no scurvy here!
Update from Midships Matt – Cabin 11, First class upper deck, Port side
Well, well, well – day 11 and we have put in a gybe this morning! When I say ‘we’ I mean the other watch. I was fast asleep at the time. Very cosy. Temperature is just right. Allen wakes me at 6.30am. Allen is on the other Watch. I have asked him repeatedly not to knock too loudly on my door in favour of him coming in to my cabin and coo-cooing gently in my ear. I have spent a lot of time with Allen practicing the bird call of the North American Pigeon. It’s a distinctive and beautiful sound, and the surely the best way to start the day. From time to time I hear Allen practicing the bird call. He practices by videoing himself cooing and will then play it back to see if he has mastered the call! He is a true perfectionist!
So, a new day, a new tack, time for a fresh rash vest! My other one expired in the night, along with Steve’s shoes ;). I arrived with all new kit for this trip. Many thanks to my sponsors Gill, Helly Hansen, Henry Lloyd and Ralph Lauren. Note to self – don’t turn up on a trip like this with a Baseball Cap that has Volvo Ocean Racing written on it unless you have done it. Neil the skipper looks at me and just shakes his head with disappointment. I have a long way to go to earn his respect.
Challenger 1 and crew continue to make steady progress. We are hurtling towards the Azores with roughly 700 nautical miles to go. When I say hurtling, it’s not exactly hurtling. The speed at which we are travelling can be likened to getting into a car in London and driving to Scotland at approximately 7mph. Chris jokes that that is 2mph faster than the M25. I laughed. I wish I thought of that!
Nat regularly checks in on me. He asks if I am drinking enough water and whether I slept OK. I am glad he is here. He and I are both in our element.
Antony has baked a cake. The cake, like most things, has a 20° angle on it. It looks really funny. I like Antony. We share cheeky banter between watches. I like to wind Antony up from time to time. Just the other day I mentioned to him how well the Watch system works. Two teams that alternate watches over a 48 hour period. We are about four days in when I casually drop into the conversation that our Watch have not yet been asked to clean the heads and therefore the heads must only be cleaned every 48 hours. Antony’s face is a picture as he realises that his Watch will only ever clean the heads. I smile. I lean toward him and nudge him with my elbow. I tell him I am kidding. Antony calls me a bugger and laughs!
Anyway, I must go now, it’s time for dinner. Allen has prepared steak and chips. My favourite! Let’s hope he has read the comments I posted in the suggestion box and has used skinny fries.
Lots of love to those back home. I miss you.
Midships Matt signing off!
The rocket ship that is Challenger 1 is still bowling along in the North Atlantic, destination Horta, 200 mile days are common place but our record of 226 still stands with little chance of being broken on this leg as the wind has moderated and is now only 20kts, we are close haled still making 7 – 9 kts, Still sunny by day starry by night (most of the time) with rain and squalls thrown in now and then.
We are now entering our last 24 hours of this leg of our Atlantic crossing, we have motored a total of 336 miles and sailed 1678, mostly downwind in large seas, we have been on the boat for 11 days with no cross words, lots of banter, good food cooked in some interesting ways, cakes, bread and biscuits have been baked, all a bit slopey but allowing for different tastes i.e. crispy thin- spongy thick Georgie is still talking (this has become the norm) J
Crew are all looking forward to landfall, showers, ground that doesn’t move, a posh poo and may be a celebratory half in Peters Bar. Talk has even turned to our next leg from the Azores to Portsmouth via ?? Lots of suggestions have been made, some very possible some in the realms of complete fantasy, time and wind will dictate the final course.
My second attempt at a blog since leaving Antigua and the Port watch are really settling in to a routine. As a watch we have eaten far too many biscuits and hot chocolate! Mocha is now my favourite on board drink – who knew (hate it on land!).
Just come off a 4 hour watch ending 7.00 a.m. ships time, so saw the sun come up, had a nice relaxing helm with wind and sea state reducing, then our watch did its first reef out (done reef in previously). I was in the snake pit and grinding the winches in is a real team effort. Mate Lindsey and Watch leader Ash are great at making the process go fairly smoothly and not at all shouty when it doesn’t. Came off watch v sweaty and still buzzing with adrenaline, so writing this instead of going to bed.
At the start a few of us were looking nervously at the sea state as it got up, but you get used to it and now just go on watch and accept to will have a big swell rolling by. It will be interesting to see how the weather goes after the Azores? Apparently I’m the only one that wants to keep on going past the Azores, but fresh food is running out, and we probably all need a long shower desperately! I think my entry in the ‘guess the arrival time in Horta’ might be a bit early at Sat 10th March, 23.00 ships time (Sunday 2.00 a.m. local?).
My personal challenge has been to get below decks without getting seasick, but you quickly get used to the ships motion, so the heat of cooking or the smell of swabbing the bilges with smelly diesel water are the 2 to be careful with, but so far so good.
I’m not a cook, but have tried to do my share in the galley making drinks, bread, and helping out with main meals as ‘sous chef’. Catering for 16 is on an industrial scale to what I’m used to. The food is fantastic, but washing up is sometimes a marathon on a rocky boat where just getting around can be a fantastic effort.
Part of the reason for coming on the voyage (apart from the challenge) was to get some headspace and in between the busy times, there is plenty of time to think, or chat with your watch, who all have fascinating experience, so the time on deck is my favourite, even when getting soaked!
Love to all family and friends who may be reading this. Looking forward to seeing you all when back.
Update from Midships Matt – Cabin 11, First class upper deck, Port side
So much for the suggestion box. Sadly, I have had to let Allan go. I have interviewed the other candidates onboard to fill the role as Personal Valet. Antony fits the bill. I knew he would. I have set him to task already, he is making me porridge. My favourite – yum. It better be just right. I told Antony ‘it better be just right’ and pointed to the picture of Employee of the Month on my wall, and made it very clear that Allan has some pretty big Musto wellies to fill.
Friday, is a good day. It seems my relationship with Neil is heading is blossoming. He has spoken to me today for the very first time. Whilst on the helm earlier he shouted to me ‘BEAR AWAY’ – twice I might add. I think that is nautical speak for ‘excellent helming good sir’. And, although I am really proud of myself, I have chaffed my hands somewhat.
I think of my loved ones every day: Shelli, Laruen, Oscar, Maddy, Joe and Stanley. Big kisses back home. XXXXX.
Anyway, I must sign off now. I must get ready for the fancy dress party which is being held in the Saloon at 7.30 boat time. I must try on my pirate outfit. I think Neil will love it. It comes complete with a fake parrot on the shoulder. The parrot droops to the side a little. It bothers me. I will get Antony to insert a small piece of wood into the parrot to provide more support. He’s very clever like that. I will practice my pirate impression as well. Garrr.
Position 37 degrees 42 North 30 degrees 07 West
Update from Midships Matt – Cabin 11, First class upper deck, Port side
I am looking forward to the Azores. We are now only 24 hours away from being moored up in the marina in Horta. Such relief. Life at sea has been a relentless struggle at 20°. The crew are starting to become rather tedious and the smell from their living quarters has become truly unbearable. Why they are not on a lower deck I will never know. One for the suggestion box I think. I smile and sigh a contented sigh.
I am refusing to go on deck today, I am not best pleased that I came third in the Fancy Dress competition last night. Neil, the skipper, claimed first place with his, apparently, ‘crowd pleasing’ Hippo onesie, Antony (my personal valet) came second place dressed as himself!!! Antony clapped with joy on hearing the news. I reminded Antony that his probation period wasn’t over.
Janis kept making eye contact with me during dinner. I think she likes me. Or maybe she just likes pirates…..Garrr! She was dressed in a very fetching common wench outfit, a real feast for the eyes I can assure you. I did try and wink at her last night. Some gentle flirting I thought. Sadly this had no effect as I forgot I had a patch over my right eye at the time.
Antony has just entered my cabin without knocking again. He shouts to me ‘Dolphins, dolphins…Matt come look at the Dolphins. Apparently Steven from the other watch has spotted Dolphins. I notice Antony’s unsullied appearance and gesture to his face. He remains unshaven. He tells me he had to forgo a shave this morning because the heads were being cleaned. Allan was always clean shaven. I miss Allan. Antony catches me glancing at the photograph of Allan on the wall. He breaks the awkward silence. ‘Would sir like to see the Dolphins?’ I remind him I do not want to go on deck. I look out of my porthole to see if I can see the dolphins. No dolphins. I ask Antony to immediately go on deck, draw a sketch the dolphins and then bring the sketch back to me. On his return he must bring the sketch to life using mime and song. He tells me he can’t draw. I can no longer hide my disappointment. I tell Antony that he is walking on thin ice. Very thin ice. I wave him out of my cabin and close the door. Antony is failing me on so many levels. He is too tall and talks about animals all the time. Allan, on the other hand, was a constant source of companionship and pleased me in many many ways.
Today is not turning out to be a good day. I have just found out that my brother Nat’s cabin (Cabin 9, First class upper deck, Port side) is a Gimble Cabin. What in God’s name is a Gimble Cabin? Antony tells me it’s a modern cabin here onboard Challenger 1. It works similarly to the galley cooker, in that it tilts to ensure a level surface at all times. No wonder Nat has been walking around with that smug look on his face. A Gimble Cabin indeed, which by the way, comes with a Gimberleigh™. I have no idea what this is and am therefore forced to ask Nat. Apparently a Gimberleigh™ provides night time relief for gentlemen on long journeys. I ask Antony to check straight away with reception to see if there are any other Gimble Cabins available. ‘Toute suite Antony, toute suite!’ Alas no, Nat has the last Gimble Cabin. He can be so infuriating at times. To top it all off he even had the cheek to hand out boiled sweets whilst we watched a film in the onboard cinema. Boiled sweets indeed. Janis was sitting next to Nat and seemed to enjoy his boiled sweets.
My good friend Neil, the skipper, has a special drinking cup. It is green, has a big handle and has ‘Skipper’ written in big white letters on the side. I like Neil’s cup. Once in Horta and to brighten up my day, I have asked Antony to make it his first priority to buy me a special drinking cup. I have explicitly told him to make sure it’s the same as Neil’s except it needs to be bigger, in blue and with ‘Midships Matt’ written on the side. Oh, and while he is out he is to buy some boiled sweets.
That’s all for now. Love to all at Whitlingham Hall.
Midships Matt signing off!
(Dedicated to my father, William Fredrick Horseman 06.12.29 – 09.03.18)
Personal Family Messages
Wishes and thoughts to everyone – you will see that we are closing Horta after a fast transit across the Atlantic mostly under sail but with the engine on this last bit as the wind dropped. We are all looking forward to a) hot showers with unlimited hot water, b) the ability to wash and dry a load of damp and smelly clothes, c)beer and d) to be able to stand/exist on a surface that isn’t continually rolling, pitching and heaving (difficult to know which is the priority! 12 days of sailing is a bit of a blur right now – but with some really memorable periods (helming in storm squalls, settting/taking down sails and reefing/unreefing, fabulous sunrises and sunsets – and moonrises and moonsets starry skies, dolphins playing around the bow this morning, long chats during night watches and much more. All really well and good and looking forward to text/email/facetime shortly. Love you all, Allan.
Eleanor : Am looking forward to dry land as I am getting a bit tired of life on this boat – it’s not really the place for hedgehogs and I have to do some crew duties too – (the Skipper said to me that there are no slackers on this boat) – and winching is really hard ! But have seen some wonderful sights – and Matt in particular has taken me under his wing. He is usually kind and gentle but can be cruel to poor Anthony who he works too hard. Lots of love to you and Andy and all I know ; Hedgie xxxxxx
Position 38 degrees 31 North 28 degrees 37 West
Update from Midships Matt – Cabin 11, First class upper deck, Port side
Neil and I talk more and more each day. Especially when I frequent the ‘upper deck’ as they call it. Neil talks quite loudly. Only yesterday as we came into Horta Marina I asked Neil if I could help him with anything. He said ‘YES… SIT DOWN AND DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING’. I nod. Challenge accepted I thought. I sit next to Neil and look on as the crew busy themselves flaking in the main sail and prepping the deck ready for our arrival at Horta. I smile. I check my fingernails. I take in the fresh sea air. Life is good.
Antony knocks at my cabin door. I open the door in excitement. He has returned from the shops in Horta. He is holding a blue mug with a white whale on it. The mug reads ‘Peter’s Bar’. I am both bemused and disappointed. I like whales. I place the mug on my dressing table. I turn it counter clockwise slightly, so that the whale faces me. I make a quiet whale noise. Allan could do fantastic whale noises.
I need to find a replacement for Antony. I look at the photograph of Allan on the wall. I think of Allan and I playing hide and seek in my cabin. He was dreadful at hiding, always opting to hide in my large suitcase. One time the poor chap was in there all night when I got bored and then went to bed. We both laughed in the morning. Good times. I smile. Anyway, back to the task in hand. A replacement valet. There’s a Swedish doctor on board. He calls himself ‘Ingo’. Ingo indeed, what a strange name. He has an extensive wardrobe with him. I am slightly envious of his ‘casual’ deck wear. I exchange brief pleasantries with him from time to time only to get a closer look at his attire. Ingo has also brought his valet on board. His name is Stefan. A quiet man but very attentive to all of Ingo’s needs. He seems like a perfect fit. If only I spoke Swedish. I will ask Antony if he can speak Swedish.
Antony does not speak Swedish. Well there’s a surprise. I stare at him and shake my head for a long time. I close the cabin door.
We went to Peters bar this evening. A popular little haunt, serving food and beverages. I sat with all the crew and drank pints of lager and made them laugh. I have many amusing stories. Nat showed everyone his pint balancing trick. The crew all cheered in amazement. I will try to impress everyone with my ‘man in the spoon’ trick.
Midships Matt signing off!
Thursday 15th March 2018 – 16:30hrs
Position: 38 degrees 31.8 minutes North; 28 degrees 37.5 minutes West – Horta Marina
The plan today was to get up and set the deck ready to sail, then to have a good clean of the galley, heads and saloon before having a final shower, topping up the fuel and water tanks and heading off to the East with our next stop planned to be ‘somewhere else’: But .. .. ‘the best laid plans of men and mice and all of that …….’ Despite everyone having an early night last night (Skipper was in bed before 22:00 and he wasn’t the first one) we were probably later getting up this morning than on any other morning since we’ve been here!
Finally the bananas that were procured in The Caribbean to sustain us on the first leg of our journey have ripened .. .. just as we bought more bananas yesterday to sustain us on the next leg J This wouldn’t be worth a mention except that it meant most of the apples were eaten earlier in the journey and I didn’t like bananas. Notice the past participle there .. .. in the absence of apples I suddenly found myself eating bananas and found that I like them: who would have seen that as an outcome of my first Atlantic sailing trip?
I’m unsure why but this has always, in my head, been ‘my first Atlantic sailing trip’ rather than it being a once in a lifetime event. I’m still unclear how the next one will happen but I’m putting it out there as a positive intention and anticipate another opportunity will present itself in the future – which, based on the experience so far, I shall leap at and grab hold of with both hands – something like we’ve had to lunge at and hold on to the grab rails at times while we’ve been sailing .. .. which gives a whole different perspective to the term HODL!
Going back to bananas for another paragraph Stephan was presented with a ripe banana today .. .. Whoop, whoop!!! J It was clear that this was his prize because the paper bag which contained it was clearly labelled ‘The Prize’. Normally those bags contain used toilet tissue which must not, in any circumstances, go down the toilet .. .. so, understandably Stephan opened his prize with some trepidation – evident by his facial expression J. Just what had Stephan done to deserve such a lavish prize? Well, his guess of what time we would arrive in Horta was the one closest to the time we actually arrived. (Twelve days and fifteen hours after leaving Jolly Harbour if memory serves me correctly)
There have been a couple of changes on Port Watch prior to our departure: Ingo, a lovely older Swedish gent in his 70s who is still a practicing cardiologist in the US left after sustaining a head injury when we were about 500nM out from The Azores. Ingo, if you’re reading this, we’ve missed your conversation and the way you have shared your knowledge about such an eclectic range of subjects .. .. you certainly kept us on our toes (and we’ve noticed that the boat’s hot chocolate consumption has reduced significantly since your departure 😉 Are the two things connected perchance?? ). One of the fascinating conversations I had with Ingo was about pacemakers and, particularly, my own pacemaker .. .. Yes, you can experience this Atlantic Challenge even if you do have a pacemaker!
The other change is that Ash, our Watch Leader, has had to return to the UK unexpectedly for personal reasons. Again, Ash, if you’re reading this you are being missed already .. .. Peter noticed the reduction in his till takings immediately!! (you may also be interested to know that Christian Radich sailed for La Caruna this morning .. .. but you may already know that anyway!!). Here’s hoping that the problems back home can be resolved quickly and you will be able to get back to the seafaring way of life again 😉
Anyway, back to our departure: All was going well and we slipped our lines to go around to the fuel berth .. .. and then nothing! Officially the marina services were available from 14:00 but at 14:30 ‘The Man’ hadn’t turned up to serve us – despite Neil having arranged for him to be there at 14:00 – Hey, Ho, this is The Azores and time seems to have more of a British Rail than a Swiss Watchmakers sense of meaning! (it’s not Caribbean but it’s certainly not Tag Heuer either!!) Eventually we took on around 800 litres of fuel oil and we seemed set to go J Unfortunately, just as we were casting off the boat surged against its lines and one of our number sustained a finger injury. The only reasonable and practical thing to do was to get it checked out at the hospital so those that remained on board moved the boat back to the mooring where we’ve been since Sunday. And then the only sensible thing to do was to make a cup of tea .. .. after all we are (predominantly) English! If you’re a loved one of somebody on board then fret not .. .. if you haven’t already heard from your nearest and dearest then it wasn’t them who was involved J (I’m questioning the grammar of that statement but even if it’s grammatically incorrect I think the meaning is clear). Said casualty has now returned from hospital and Skipper has made the very pragmatic decision of delaying our departure until tomorrow morning just to give time for everything to settle down a little.
The plan now is that Mid-Ships Matt, who dreams of having his own personal valet, and who has formed a most improbable friendship with Anthony, is going to make us the Spaghetti Bolognese that we had planned to eat at sea .. .. as it is the gimbal on the cooker won’t be too challenged and Matt will be able to stand up in the galley while he prepares the meal in a way similar to how he might in any of the kitchens in our respective homes. While at sea, preparing meals is more akin to cooking food while on a bouncy castle mounted on the back of a trailer that is being towed at speed across a ploughed field (perhaps there’s a business opportunity there for some entrepreneurial soul!!!). Shelley, I think you’re reading this blog on a regular basis: Matt really is an exceptional cook and is looking forward to being more involved in the kitchen duties when he gets home .. .. he’s coming home ‘a changed man’ J Ditto Nat (Jo) and Anthony (Christina)
With our estimated time of departure now revised to 10:00hrs tomorrow, what else can I tell you about our trip so far?
Inevitably, when you squeeze sixteen people into as small a space as a 72ft sailing boat (that’s less than 5ft each and it doesn’t work out quite like that because there’s the sail locker and the heads (toilets), there’s the engine and the nav station, there’s the galley and saloon not to mention the wet locker and lazerette – which means fourteen of us have been sleeping in about 12ft of the boat or less that 1ft of boat length each!!) you get to know one another in a way you might not otherwise.
I shall avoid naming names but some readers may recognise either themselves or their loved ones. I am the only one from Port Watch sleeping in the port accommodation – the other four people who I share with are from the Starboard Watch (the Watches are named according to which side of the boat the respective Watch Leader sleeps so there is some logic to the system). In practical terms this means that I sleep in the cabin on my own because when I’m sleeping, the other Watch are on duty and we only see one another momentarily at the change of Watches. I’d heard rumours of swearing and all sorts of carrying on in the accommodation during my on-watch time (so I knew it wasn’t me .. .. because I wasn’t there!) but I hadn’t had any personal experience or witnessed any manifestation of this phenomenon myself. This was to change while we’ve been in Horta 😉
A couple of nights ago, after we had been out for a few drinks (Shock, horror!) one of the members of Starboard Watch started talking in his sleep. Mid-Ships Matt found himself embarrassed by the crudeness and vulgarity of what was being said .. .. it all started with mild obscenities but soon the standards dropped and words that caused some embarrassment for Matt (at his tender age!!!!) were pouring forth .. .. who would have thought that Matt could be embarrassed??? And who would have thought that ‘Sleeping Tourettes’ could be such a cleansing of the soul and release of all that had been ‘bottled up’ during the preceding day??? Could it possibly be Starboard Steve – he seems such a gentle soul during the day???
I’m going to leave the other ‘revelations’ for another time because I’ve been typing for long enough and wine is being served on poop deck (rather than the normal poop being served up on the whining deck???) .. .. and because, having whetted your appetite a little, I’m hoping you will come back and read more of this blog in the coming days 😉
Take care out there
18 March 2018
41 deg 46.3 N 23 deg 50.9 W
Fickle Winds – and Night Watches!
Yes, well done to those of you tracking Challenger 1 and spotting that we are heading due East. This is because the wind fairies decided that we had enjoyed too much of their favour and took away the modest amount of wind that we were benefiting from – so a change of plan was needed and it’s farewell Falmouth, viva Espana (Baiona) mainly under power. OK, atlases out and you’ll see that it’s between the border with Portugal and Cape Finisterre. And I had judged spending my Euro budget in Horta to a nicety too so ATM here I come (if not least to buy some ‘watch treats’ (chocolate, sweets etc.) – Steve on our Port watch has set the tone on our Port watch for this act of generosity so far and much appreciated it has been.
So it’s now 03;30 on the morning of the 18th and am sat at the chart table typing this just having started our second 4 hour night watch (remember ; the first is from 1900 to 2300, the second from 2300 to 0300 and this final one from 0300 to 0700). Depending on the watch schedule, your watch either does the first and third one, or the middle one. Now we all have our preferences : some enjoy the evening light and sundown and watching the stars come out (spectacularly last night) – and then you’d be doing the 0300 – 0700 watch too so it’s a rude awakening at 0240 to get up and get ready – but with a possible nice sunset to anticipate. The middle watch? Enjoyable because it’s only one to experience so you have two opportunities for sleep overnight in the two other watch periods! You’ll appreciate the comment above about enjoying any treat during these night watches – anything to alleviate the monotony. That said there have been some long and very enjoyable philosophical discussions and, of course, helming for 30 minute spells really does take some focus. Lindsey (Mate) on our watch still provides encouragement and guidance to us during our stints on the wheel (well, to those that need it) but apart from her initial direction, her ‘guidance comments’ are fewer and fewer. It’s also worth remembering that Challenger 1 has no autopilot and autohelm, every one of the nearly 3000 nm sailed so far has required a helmsman 24 hours a day (and night) – and a duty watch too!
And now it’s 11:45 on the morning of Sunday 18 ( 41 deg 44.2 N 22 deg 23.5 W) and from the sounds above, more sail is being raised so might we again enjoy sailing with the engine off for a while? Would be good. Lunch is also being prepared by Midshipman Matt and Jolly John from the Starboard watch. It’s sausages and beans – lunches are usually fairly straightforward with more effort going into the evening meals – all of which have been really good and always something to look forward to in the day.
There’s a real feeling of getting home fairly soon – I wonder if my fellow voyage crew are wondering like me if and how this voyage and experience will shape our future lives. For now I am looking forward to our break in Spain and then our crossing of the mouth of Biscay and home.
Personal family messages :
Allan : Am thinking of all (very) loved ones in Reigate, Welling and Edinburgh and all others who have been tracking our progress and follow these blogs. I am really looking forward to seeing you soon and hearing your news too!
Eleanor : Hedgie has decided that whilst the trip has been a great experience, he’s not a creature of the sea, that his roving days are over at the end of this voyage and looks forward to being back home and tucked up with his family. Says that he can’t wait to see you!
Update from Midships Matt – Cabin 11, First class upper deck, Port side
We have left Horta – hooray! Neil, Lindsey, Georgie and the rest of the crew are now steering a course towards Baiona (or Bayonne), Northern Spain. Ola mes amigos. Which is Spanish for ‘Hello my friends’.
Georgie is suffering from a bad case of Fender Finger. Get well soon Georgie. And we have said a fond farewell to Ingo and Ash. We hope Ingo is getting some well-earned rest and that Ash has had a safe return to the UK!
It’s gone 10.00am. Antony wakes me from a very deep slumber. I am lying face down which is not a good sign. It’s time for breakfast. I ask Antony to coo. He can’t coo. I tut. Time for Plan A. I ask Antony to go find Stefan and say to him to say in Swedish ‘Vill du jobba åt Midships Matt?’ He is to return post haste with the response.
I go to my bathroom. I look at my reflection in the mirror to check I am still there. I am. However, I am startled to see that someone has drawn a pencil moustache on my face. I am about to wash it off when I stop. I give myself a little wink. I nod and smile. Sadly the moustache does not wash off.
Antony returns from his chat with Stefan. He catches me practicing with my Nun chucks in my dressing gown. Does this man ever knock I wonder. I ask him where he has been. He says he went to speak to Stefan. OK. The response, apparently, was ‘Absolut inte.’ ‘Absolut inte’ indeed. Time for plan B.
Midships Matt signing off L
Update from Georgie 1800 h Position 41°48.81 21°18.47 Sailing with 2 reefs & stay sail. SOG 7.2 Kn
Heads up to Chris & Claire – Falmouth is no longer a destination, so I’m afraid our rendezvous will have to be postponed! L I am working in Plymouth mid-April so we’ll hopefully catch up then.
All is well on Challenger 1, dinner tonight smells good and we are making way under sail again, which is kind of the aim of the game! The finger fender has been removed and my somewhat ugly digit 9s being carefully seen to by Janice each day – always handy to have a retired nurse on board! Thank god it’s not my engagement finger… hint number 208 Andrew Rowbottom!!
Hope everyone at home is safe and well. Remember it is Mum’s birthday on 21st! My love to all, know that I’m thinking of you all and I already have a long “to-do” list for April! Missing you Andy, speak soon when we arrive in Spain.
Blog 20 March 2018
41 deg 52.73 N 14 deg 14.80 W
Update from Midships Matt – Cabin 11, First class upper deck, Port side.
A very busy day today. Lots to do. I must count my Doubloons – Doubloons are like Bitcoin for pirates….Garrr. I then need to sign up for the Archery class that Nat mentioned. And finally, interview Chris to see if he is a suitable replacement for Antony.
I have 14 Doubloons J.
There’s no Archery classes onboard Challenger 1 L.
I interview Chris. Chris is not as tall as me and has incredibly poor dress sense. He is, however, ex SAS, an accomplished mountaineer and a good friend of Bear Grylls. Whoever he is. Chris plays the Mandolin, can sketch incredibly quickly and can, when required, do the ‘moonwalk’ – apparently. His favourite film is ‘Love Actually’ and, guess what, he has met the Queen. Surely a perfect fit! I will tell him the good news after I have let Antony go. Antony’s last duty is update the ‘Employee of the Month’ poster. He needs to swap the photo of Allen for one of himself, and replace the word ‘Month’ at the bottom of the poster, with the word ’Week’.
We are about 36 hours from Baiona, España! I am very excited. I take a walk on the upper deck. I feel the wind on my face. The wind gusts from a force one to a force two and ‘crash gybes’ my comb over. I have returned to my cabin.
I look out of my porthole. I think of Shelli. All my love. XXXXX.
Midships Matt signing off!
22 March 2018
42 deg 01.03 N 09 deg 00.02 W
Update from Midships Matt – Cabin 11, First class upper deck, Port side.
After arriving in Baiona the crew busied themselves cleaning the boat. Excellent work everyone. Challenger 1 now looks ship shape and Bristol fashion!
Once the boat was in good order we had Art Class on the upper deck. I love art. Our art teacher, Georgie, asked us to draw something that we could see from the upper deck. Some passengers used pencil to sketch the sea. Boring. Some used acrylics to paint a scene of a boat on the scene. Double boring. I did not want to draw a seascape. Instead I drew a picture of me winking. I hope you like it.
Midships Matt signing off!
23 March 2018
42 deg 01.03 N 09 deg 00.02 W
Update from Midships Matt – Cabin 11, First class upper deck, Port side.
Carstairs has taken the day off today. So I have written some poetry. I hope Janis likes it. She has never been on the upper deck so I have agreed to meet her tomorrow morning to take her up the companion way.
Ode to Sweetcorn
Oh you abundant yellow food stuff you,
So small and versatile, feeding hungry crews,
Adding colour to cereal, curries and stews,
You go in my mouth and re-appear in my poo.
I am not that good at helming,
I find it overwhelming.
Love to all my lovely ones. XXXXXX
Midships Matt signing off!
23 March 2018
43 deg 44.86 N 08 deg 52.14 W
The Bay of Biscay
After the gale that swept through Spain on Saturday we set sail from Baiona on Sunday morning bound for Gunwarf Quays in Portsmouth there by ending our Atlantic adventure. The sea state was a bit confused after the storm, as it settled down we managed to sail some 90nm (in the wrong direction) before seas flattened, the wind dropped and we have been motor sailing since 2200 last night, wind is expected to fill in from the west by 1200 ish allowing us a fast sail all the way home.
Having been up since 0630 for bacon rolls before on watch at 0700 I am now awake enough at 0800 to think about sending an update, trouble is that on these longer voyages the first 24 hours are difficult due to every one being out of sink and unsure if they should be asleep, awake, on watch or in some cases all three at once!.
We are now entering Biscay proper, the sea is developing its characteristic long slow swell, fishing boats are becoming less of a hazard, the other watch are asleep, the sun has just risen promising to bring a bright but chilly day. It is at this time in the voyage with about 540nm to go on our last leg, after having travelled 3543nm over 5 weeks from Antigua when we now have just 3 days left to sail, that I, as well as the crew all start thinking, firstly of home, secondly about all the things we should have done in the last 5 weeks that will still be waiting on our return, but mainly about what a fantastic experience we have all shared, 16 people all living in a small space constantly being upset and uprooted from our chosen perch or bunk by rough seas, wake up calls every 4 or 6 hours, the smell of fresh bread being baked, all manner of food being prepared, severed, eaten and cleared up, boat cleaning (happy hour as we like to call it ) or just the need to find somewhere a bit more comfy.
We have enjoyed and endured, warm sunny days, starry nights, nights with a moon so bright that is difficult to know if its day or night, we have sailed in flat seas, through real Atlantic storms featuring 47 kts of wind with very high/ phenomenal sea states, rain that comes horizontal and hurts, seen sunrises / sunsets the like of which can only be seen 1000 miles from land and also motor sailed (not far stats to come in last blog). It has been, as always a roller coaster of emotions that never fails to bring a smile to the face and, on occasions a tear to the eye. I will endeavour to get as many of the crew as possible to sum up our voyage over the next few days.. trouble is they are all a bit shy J
43 deg 44.86 N 08 deg 52.14 W
Update from Midships Matt – Cabin 11, First class upper deck, Port side.
Dinner at the captain’s table last evening was superb. Whoever cooked the Spaghetti Bolognese is both an excellent cook and a living legend. I must get the recipe. We are all sitting chatting around the table. Nat interrupts the friendly free-flow of banter by announcing that the world is actually round. I tell him that that is preposterous. He replies, ‘No, it’s round – very much like your face’. I am vexed. Out of nowhere I produce a large black bag. My bag of swag. Everyone has them. They contain cakes, biscuits and confectionary. Swag bags improve self-esteem. I have the biggest bag. There’s an audible gasp as I place my bag of swag on the captain’s table. Nat looks on in envy. I smile a smug smile. Janis moves closer to me and starts coo-ing in my ear…
I am awoken by Chris coo-ing in my ear. I leap out of bed. Open my cabin door. Go through it and close it. Knock on my cabin door. Chris opens the door. I enter. I ask him if that is too difficult. I say to him, ‘Is that too difficult?’ He begins to speak. I place my index finger on his lips. I ask him to prepare me Spaghetti Bolognese. Exactly like the one in my dream.
The cruise of a lifetime continues. I gaze out of my porthole. I wonder if there is a ‘starboardhole’. We are on the final leg. I am looking forward to home now and to seeing Shelli, Lauren, Oscar, Jo and Maddy!
All my love.
Midships Matt signing off.
Update from Georgie – 1900h 26/03/2018 Position: 45°10.76 N 07°52.93 W Sailing with 1 reef in the main, Y2 & Stay Sail – SOG 9.5 Kn
As I write, we’ve just clocked 250nm on our last leg back home to the UK – 3637nm in total to date, so hopefully we can tick over the 4000nm mark before tying up alongside in Gunwharf Quays, even if I have to convince Neil to go round the back of the island or do a few laps of Haslar marina!
We’ve come on watch this evening after a wonderful dinner – thanks port watch! But I am missing the fresh seafood of the Spanish coast already…
Life onboard Challenger 1 continues much like our previous legs, but with a few more layers of clothing and an extra round of hot drinks to keep everyone warm as we head north back to the tropics of the south coast! Let’s hope the weather is kind to us – snow would not be welcome for those of us travelling home over the Easter weekend!
Sending my thoughts back home to all my family and friends, I’m looking forward to seeing you all again. Love, Georgie. X
The Sailor’s Consolation
by Charles Dibdin
One night came on a hurricane,
The sea was mountains rolling,
When Barney Buntline turned his quid,
And said to Billy Bowling:
“A strong nor-wester’s blowing, Bill;
Hark! don’t ye hear it roar, now?
Lord help ’em, how I pities them
Unhappy folks on shore now!
“Foolhardy chaps who live in towns,
What danger they are all in,
And now lie quaking in their beds,
For fear the roof should fall in;
Poor creatures! how they envies us,
And wishes, I’ve a notion,
For our good luck, in such a storm,
To be upon the ocean!
“And as for them who’re out all day
On business from their houses,
And late at night are coming home,
To cheer their babes and spouses,–
While you and I, Bill, on the deck
Are comfortably lying,
My eyes! what tiles and chimney-pots
About their heads are flying!
“And very often have we heard
How men are killed and undone
By overturns of carriages,
By thieves, and fires in London;
We know what risks all landsmen run,
From noblemen to tailors;
Then, Bill, let us thank Providence
That you and I are sailors.”
Now look what’s happened ive gone all poetic, Must be cabin fever
Crew’s Closing Thoughts
I remember being sat in the sail locker, tied up alongside in Weymouth, refreshing the Tall Ships website, waiting for the Caribbean trip dates. But unlike many a sailor, it wasn’t the cruising I was after – I wanted to cross the Atlantic. After a flick through the diary and a quick call to the boyfriend to get the thumbs up, I found myself accepting one of the WL places on the February trip back (I thought it would be warmer than January!)
It started with a 6 month countdown, but it ever so quickly caught up on me. I spent the last couple of weeks explaining to friends, family and work colleagues that I’d be “off-grid” for a while, due to my crossing of the Atlantic Ocean… one or two would say “I had Wi-Fi on my cruise out there”… If only they knew what they’ve missed out on.
I can’t say it’s been without its challenges, but in my short 21 years I’ve figured out that you have to work towards the most rewarding things in life.
I’ve been a watch leader since February 2017 and I’ve learnt a lot sailing with young people round the south coast, but an Atlantic crossing has pushed me that bit further… changing headsails in Atlantic Storms at night, scavenging for dry socks and trying to cook at 45 degrees.
4000nm at sea is not easy, especially West to East across the North Atlantic. As someone once told me, it’s more emotionally challenging than you will realise, but it is breathtakingly beautiful out there. It puts life in perspective and it is so worth it. If it’s ever crossed your mind, do it.
It’s worth it just to see the dolphins, the sunsets and if you’re as lucky as us, a whale!
Approaching home is bitter sweet for me. I have loved my time on board, despite a brief case of “Fender Finger”, more bruises than I can count and the 4-6 hour wake up calls. With 2 sides of my Transatlantic Triangle complete & 7000nm in the log book, there’s only one thing for it… the Canaries to the Caribbean next!
A big thank you must go to those who made this possible. To Andy, for caring for my family and keeping the local takeaway in business. To Mum & Dad, for my sense of adventure and pancake flipping skills (they went down really well!) and to the in-laws, my brother & all my friends for your support.
Finally, and I promised I wouldn’t go all deep and meaningful; fill your life with amazing memories, beautiful places and exhilarating, if not sometimes slightly terrifying, experiences. A Transatlantic is a good place to start. – Georgie Morris
Allan : I thought it best to come up with some highlights (good and bad) of the trip/experience – as follows :
- Enjoying some stunning sunrises and sunsets (and the moon too)
- Hearing the musical whirring of the propeller windmilling (watermilling) in my bunk as the boat surfs down a wave under sail
- Being part of a great Watch team – all supportive and keen
- Doing a foresail change at night in lively conditions – exciting and tiring, Yes !
- The contortions required to get in and out of my bunk!
- How days blend seamlessly one into another – so easy to lose track
- How ideal the Challenger yacht is suited to this sort of voyage – just so reassuring
- Coping with days at a 15 degree list – plus pitching and yawing (and crashing) – aching limbs and bruises to evidence. Just so tiring
- Needing 15 minutes to complete having a pee (start to finish with full foulies on) – others might be quicker ?
- Lindsey and Ash patiently correcting my early attempts at helming
- Wet/damp clothes – having to put them on – BAD !
- The stops in Horta and Baiona. Both welcome, Baiona particulalrly because of its association with discovery of the New World
- Cooking dinners for 16 – a new challenge and experience (and everyone enjoyed too !)
- Helming at night in strong gusts with thunder and lightning around – and seemingly hurtling through the water
- Dreaming the siren call of the bilges : ‘Mop me out, clean me!’
- Seemingly never ending night watches
- …but still enjoying and appreciating the company of my watch members during the long watches
- A wonderful mix of sailing conditions and weather – hard to be bettered
People often ask me “What is it like to sail across an Ocean”
It is everything that you expected.. and more
It is everything that you feared.. and more
It is warmer and colder than you expected
It is wetter and drier than you expected
It is full of amazing highs and sometimes lows
There are times when you wouldn’t sell your place for anything that anyone could give you
There are times when you would pay all you have to go home
You will meet amazing people, as well as some not so amazing ones
You will share every material thing on the boat, and jealously guard some special things
You will talk on any and all subjects
You may share you deepest thoughts, hopes, dreams
You may open your heart to someone, who just a few days ago was a complete stranger
You may find the self that you always knew existed but have never known
You may look for that self and be left wanting
You may make new lifelong friends, or you may not
You may be transported to places in your mind that you never knew existed, but be prepared you may not like those places.
You will end up with a better knowledge of yourself
You may experience some of, or all of the above, you may love it or you may hate it
You may, in the beginning look upon it as “your Atlantic crossing”, but beware that thought may change to it being “your first Atlantic crossing”
As you come to the end of my very short list, I hear you say “ but that’s not an answer at all” well no it isn’t, it’s a list, a list of things that you may or may not experience on your “first Atlantic crossing”, it is by no means complete.
The truth is crossing is different, as different as the people that choose to undertake this mad adventure, as different as our very personal hope, fears, aspirations and goals are.
The only undeniable fact is that you will never forget it, none of your friends will understand the experience that you have had… but you will, and that experience will last a lifetime.
Skipper Challenger 1
Update from Midships Matt – Cabin 11, First class upper deck, Port side.
I awake rather excited. Today feels like Christmas. I love Christmas. At Christmas time its icy cold and there’s a strange bearded man in your room with lots of presents. Except this morning there are no presents. Chris tells me it’s not Christmas. Humph. Apparently, the cold I am feeling is our return to England. Brrrr and double humph.
I have been told that there are only another 90Nm to go and we will be back on dry land! In two days I will be back at Whitlingham Hall. Please have Christmas prepared for my return! 🙂
[Carstairs has told me to be serious. Sorry Carstairs]
Seriously though, the Tall Ships transatlantic voyage has been fantastic. It’s both a mental and physical test, a real challenge for the soul and one I would highly recommend. Take 16 strangers and place together on a boat. Add in sailing skills and daily chores, a dash of bumps and bruises. Add sweetcorn if you have any to hand. Slowly reduce the sleep and personal hygiene. Then put everything into a large body of water and simmer gently for five weeks. Check for mutiny and scurvy every 24 hours. The final outcome is a fantastic team of people who have all pulled together to keep everything ship shape and on course. For myself, a great sense of personal achievement.
A huge thanks to the Challenger 1 Crew: Neil (Skipper), Lindsey (First Mate), not forgetting Georgie and Ash (Watch Leaders). Thanks for showing me the ropes, the sheets and the sails.
And also a huge thanks to the passengers. Antony, Steve T, Chris, Ingo, Stefan and Allan. To Starboard Steve, Ben, Janis and John. Thanks for putting up with me and thanks for some great memories!
(Sorry, this seems to be going on a bit). To my brother Nat, thanks for booking the trip, for the good times and for being there.
Land and loved ones ahoy!
Midships Matt signing off!
Well .. .. lots has been said by others .. .. and all of it true!! This is going to be short .. .. I want to go to my bunk J In summary this trip has been:
- Exhilarating and
all in equal measure!
What an awesome way to spend five weeks with an equally awesome bunch of people J Thanks everyone for everything!!
Goodnight everyone (even though it’s only a little after 19.30hrs – there’s another watch to stand at 23.00 so I will be called from my slumber at 22.30++)