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Challenger 2 CC009 Antigua – Portsmouth, UK

Wednesday 4 January – Wednesday 8 February

Entry Twenty One

This will be our last North Atlantic blog. Our next instalment will be from the English Channel.  With only about 80 miles to go, Skipper reckons we should be in Falmouth, tied alongside and tidied up by last orders tonight.

Over the afternoon yesterday we went from having over 4000m of water under the boat to less than 200m. Could be our imagination, but we feel the waves are shorter and steeper now, rather than the long swell we have got used to. Last night was so dark even the red compass illumination light seemed bright and the one fishing boat we saw visually on our watch dazzled the helm with their deck lights.

We’re still working on two on deck and two keeping warm below. Even when not raining it’s still pretty damp. Probably be a lot of deck work later to flake and stow all the sails neatly below. At sea all the foresails we might need are stored in their bags on deck.

Last night saw some of the trickiest helming conditions of the whole voyage. We had short spaced steep waves coming from two directions, plus winds gusting every minute or so from 19 to 30 knots in a nanosecond. It was really tough on the helm but our boat speed was great, even if at times our track towards Falmouth looked more like a bee line.

This morning the wind has died right down so we’re now motoring and likely to do so all the way into port. The Western Approaches are as busy as ever. As we write this we have 9 ships around us on AIS, but the nearest is 10 miles away out of sight. Our only real problem is staving off helmsman boredom to stay on course which is our old friend 060. Both of us have at one stage or another found ourselves on 090. Is this really boredom though or a subliminal desire to sample French cuisine in Cherbourg?

We’re so used to the usual noises on the boat now that even the other watch reducing sail and turning on the engine barely disturbs our sleep. We have the prospect of a whole night undisturbed rest tonight, unless we get an attack of the 4 hour automatic wake up as the body clock is so adjusted to the watch system.

A visit to the Chain Locker tonight is in prospect but were pleased to announce nobody has incurred the crash gybe drink buying penalty.

It looks like we’ll probably be in Falmouth for a couple of days sitting out a gale but as ever this may change along with the vagaries of the forecast.

All the best to families and friends at home. Watch out for a flurry of phone calls, texts and emails when we hit Falmouth.

Nicky and Phil, Starboard Watch

Entry Twenty

Just over 250 miles to go to Falmouth and only 70 miles to the Continental Shelf!  Turns out, after looking at the chart it isn’t some flat packed furniture from Ikea.  We’ll have to wait and see if there is a change in the sea state as the depth decreases.  Currently we have some fun waves that generally break near our stern and give us a 1 knot shove in the right direction.  Occasionally, this doesn’t go to plan and the waves cause a corkscrew type spin 90 degrees in entirely the wrong direction.  Helming has now become an increasingly competitive and serious task as a new set of beer  fines are in place.  Previously, the deal was that if you were the first to spot a ship on the horizon I would buy my eagle eyed watch member a beer.  Since the frequency of seeing another vessel has gone from every few days to every few hours, something had to be done to save my measly student budget.

So with strong winds (20-25knots) coming from our stern the beer incentive is now in place not to crash gybe.  Personally I think the fear of destroying the rigging and taking someone out with the mainsheet is motivation enough to concentrate even through the dark and disorientating night.  However, the incentive worked as we had a fantastic nights sailing with only the occasional flap of the main or head-sails.  Ever savvy, the watch discovered that if they blamed any almost gybes on a big wave, I was more lenient about imposing the penalty.  So if they gybe they have to buy Paul a beer in Falmouth.  If Paul gybes he has to buy each of us a beer (4 in total) and it wasn’t quite decided as to what my penalty would be, since I seem to be too much of a miser to settle any of my beer related debts anyway.

It really is great to be sailing again, particularly since we are speeding along at 8-10.5 knots.  Hopefully if we can keep the speed up we will have the wind with us until we arrive into Falmouth at some point later tomorrow (Tuesday).  We’ve just finished off happy hour, which seemed to take considerably longer today.  This may be due to dedication to doing the cleaning thoroughly or due to the grey gloom and drizzle on deck. Just to make sure I’ve also had plenty of time in the dry, I have typed this entire blog with only my little finger on my left hand.  We’ll see how many people can be involved with the ‘complicated’ process of heating up soup for lunch.  I’m sure it could involve all 5 of us and will take at least an hour.  Had probably better get started then, so won’t bother going back into the rain for now!

Hope you all have a lovely Monday and a great start to the week.

Charlie and Port Watch

Entry Nineteen

Two days ago we reported we got wet. Yesterday was a repeat performance except this time the culprit was rain which fell continuously for about 8 hours. Everywhere you look on the boat you find foulies, gloves and clothes hung out to dry. The culprit was a slow moving front that gave progressively less wind and we’ve ended up motoring for many hours.

After three weeks of warm weather the northern chill is starting to catch us as we pass 45 degrees north. On quiet watches there are often only two people on deck with the others hanging around the saloon in various stages of deck readiness to keep warm.  Although a short trip compared to our first leg, with 450 miles left to run to the Lizard, I sense the crew are ready for a break and looking forward to the warmer delights of Falmouth. Certainly a trip to the Chain Locker looks on the cards.

Personally I can’t wait to get there as this long voyage has taken its toll on my ageing sailing kit, some of which has seen faithful service over a number of years. The rot started when my head torch died and had to be binned. Then yesterday the zip gave out on my aging foulie jacket, and when turning in after a watch my sleeping bag zip joined in the fun, so an urgent trip to the shops in Falmouth armed with a credit card beckons.

We’re still not seeing much in the way of wild life. Just the odd Dolphin, although we do see more Gull’s, though why they are out here is a mystery with the nearest land being the north of Spain over 300 miles away.

Our course along the Rhum line is still 065 degrees. This number is so ingrained in the mind you wake up dreaming about it. Our progress is slow but steady and we should be alongside on Tuesday morning.

On a personal note, love to all my family and friends, especially today to Bailey. I’ve concluded this boat needs a ship’s dog!

Phil and Starboard Watch

Entry Eighteen

Morning watch started this morning with many sail changes 3rd reef out Y2 up, staysail up hopefully set for the day and boy has it paid.

Even on a grey January morning life on the open waves is a beautiful place. Helming in 20 knots of breeze on the beam maintaining 10 knots of speed , heading 065 and now half way home on this leg. Black back gulls keeping us company swooping across the waves in the style of a Rhumba with the odd tango move thrown in as they guide themselves down each trough of the wave, wing tips skimming the rough water, sweeping upwards dynamically soaring off each wave. All this must be happening in daily life but with the madness and pace of modern life gets missed. Note to self, eyes open more for the beauty of nature on the return to Blighty.

I personally have finally recovered from the green gills. Three days down under trying most of the tricks I knew but the big waves and new motion just did it for me. Hey ho back at 100% now and can’t wait for the next big winds. I must say though it was very entertaining listening to the shenanigans on deck with the cockpit visibly full through our cabin small hatch windows, waves less sweeping across the deck and more breaking into it.

So what’s next, predicted winds to ease into the night so more motoring potentially followed by some bigger winds closer to Falmouth.

Not so many opportunities for pictures due to dampness of this leg, but like any good Edam wholes of opportunity will arise.

To everyone at home all my love is parcelled and sent via these stunning Guls (sorry Amy couldn’t find a Hedwig for you a gul will be quicker) .. not long till we touch in Falmouth current eta showing early Tuesday morning.

Rich and Port Watch.

Entry Seventeen

We got wet. That’s about the story of our day yesterday!

They did tell us that the second part of our voyage would be very different to the first, (and very different to doing the ARC Jim says) and our watches in the last 24 hrs certainly lived up to that. We took a couple of big waves over the deck in the night. Jim said at one point he thought he might have lost Alex and I – all he could see was the top of Alex’s head and I had completely disappeared under a wave over the quarter. But we were safe, hanging on (and tied on of course – for the readers at home!). Reminded me of my white water canoeing days.

Then in our afternoon watch, the winds picked right up, I definitely saw 43 knots on the windex at one point (apparently I don’t need to mention that because Steve already did in the last blog – but I thought I would anyway). It didn’t last long but it was a pretty big squall.  Phil had to come help me on the helm – I don’t mind admitting publicly it was a bit scary for a while.  After that Jim and Phil did a big helming shift for the watch keeping the boat sailing safely through some huge swells, Jim says at least 10 metres, they took another couple of big waves over the deck and Phil is glad that Charlie’s door is not yet attached as he considered setting it up as a diving board over the cockpit at one point.

The circle of life continues on Challenger 2, this morning we saw dawn rise over an atmospheric slate grey sea; much flatter, the motion much easier.  Breakfast, happy hour, bilge pumping and lunch have all resumed as normal. We’re all in good spirits, our waterproofs have more or less dried out, there are still spare dry thermals in our kit bags and the cabin is festooned with drying gloves.

With lots of love to all my family – a personal message, yes there was some type 2 fun in there for a while, but it’s still predominately type 1 J. You’ve been having a pretty busy week too, hope everything has gone ok and looking forward to seeing you all soon xxx

Nicky and Starboard Watch

Entry Sixteen 

The first 24hrs. of our trip to Falmouth saw us cover 238 nms. On mainly a beam reach, this is our best days mileage  to date.

Winds were 30-35 gusting 40mph. in 6-8m swells we set another record for this trip by touching 16.8nmph. Those on galley duty have performed incredibly with a very creditable chicken curry prepared in what Charlie describes as `extreme cooking `conditions.

We are returning to our watch patterns  after  the  Azores and learning how to live at 45 degrees again. `Happy hour` is suspended in these conditions, so every cloud has a silver lining.

The patterns of the waves  and  spume  in these winds is spectacular and most nights  we can gaze  at the amazing  stars without light pollution and (a first for me) steer by them.

I’m sending a personal message to Susan, Mam, Wanda, Ronnie, Greg and Carli-Missing you all, really enjoying the trip but can’t wait to be home and check on how the `Toon Army` have done without me. All my love Stephen.

The adventure continues and speeding to Falmouth.(May even catch the England-France six nations match.)

Entry Fifteen

This morning we hoisted our newly repaired main sail and bid farewell to the Azores. As I write we are beating up North West through the Islands with a good 25 knot breeze to speed us on our way. The seas are a little lumpy but were doing 9 knots and should be able to keep this up for a few days judging by the forecast.

This morning our artists put the finishing touches to our pavement picture on the quayside. Doubtless at some point we’ll be able to post a photograph of it but at this stage it suffices to say we’ve titled our voyage the Challenger 2 Trysail Transat Jan 17. The artists were Nicky and Richard.

Yesterday it was too windy to fix sails on the boat without risking going flying so some of us jumped in a cab to tour the Island. Unfortunately most of the ‘spectacular’ views were limited by low cloud, to say nothing of risking being blown off the hillsides by the winds. At the Western most point on the island we saw one of the youngest bits of land on earth, an area of a couple of square miles created when the volcano erupted in 1957. It was a grey, almost lunar style landscape – well worth visiting although it took a while to get all the black volcanic grit blown by the wind out of shoes, clothing, hair, and Richards specs got quite sand blasted.

So our next stop will be Falmouth in about a week. The crew are settling back into the hypnotic rhythm of watch keeping. Once again dates and time mean little to us. Not much else we can report but tune in tomorrow because as we found on our first leg a lot can change at sea in 24 hours.

Phil and Starboard Watch

Entry Fourteen

We have arrived in the Azores! We’ve all been in touch with our families – it was so good to hear your news too and be reassured that everything is OK at home.  Thank you for all your encouragement to us all on our great Atlantic adventure.

We didn’t realise how much you have all been following our blogs, so we thought we’d do a quick update on what we have been getting up to in harbour.

Priority 1 was to call home and in other news:

We’ve found the launderette and showers in the marina services.  A very welcome shower, and for me, a chance to wash my hair. The men’s showers don’t all have working lights so some showered in the dark, not too difficult. However the ladies showers don’t have warm water, a great disappointment, especially as we had paid 2 Euros for the privilege. I was not as resourceful as Charlie in resolving this – so looking forward to another attempt later in our stay.

We haven’t seen the blogs for Challenger 4 so it’s been good to meet up with them all again and hear their news of the journey.  (Nothing to add here, now that we know you’ve read all their blogs too.) Our thoughts are with those that have been feeling unwell on our sister ship and hope they can manage the next leg with some aplomb.

Last night we went for dinner in the famous Pete’s Café, really good steaks and beer, back to the board for tea and bed. We thought we would all be up every 4 hours thinking we should be on watch. I think Steve did have an attack of this at 2 pm, but generally we all slept really well – 10 ½ hours I managed, must have been tireder than I thought.

Charlie and Ray did a mega shop to refuel us for the next leg of the journey this morning, so a feast of fresh bread and salad for lunch today.  For the first time we’ve had music on below (we’re all awake at the same time!), there’s clearly a topic of great debate to be had here on music choices. We’re all enjoying exploring this island, and off this afternoon to plan a proper explore / adventure for tomorrow.

Ray’s the latest to take on the bread making challenge – it’s just finished as I’m writing this, looks like  he’s the first one to make the bread mix work!!

Rich has been showing us some of the photos he’s taken so far, he’s the photographer amongst us, and has composed some great shots.

Sadly, Chris has decided to not to continue with us. We’ll miss you Chris, and the stories of Alaska you’ve shared with us.

The mainsail was packed up promptly and went off to the sail-maker yesterday morning, so we’re eagerly awaiting news on its repair.  And we’ve cleaned the boat inside and out, so she’s gleaming clean ready for the next part. We’ve all been reviewing and repacking our kit ready for the next section.  And Phil has been repairing the missing cabin door.

Now as this log was prepared in bits and pieces throughout the day we can confirm we now have a mainsail back, beautifully repaired so this will go back on the boom tomorrow. Looks like we’ll be departing on Wednesday, weather permitting.

Now the Azores are a major stop off point for Atlantic sailors and each visiting boat paints a picture of signature on the quayside. There are hundreds of these pictures all over the quayside, jetties and walls. Tomorrow we hope to leave our own signed signature, probably an outline of a Challenger with its Trysail; hoisted and a natty caption – something like Challenger 2 Trysail Transat 2017. More on this to follow.

More to follow tomorrow folks.

Nicky, Phil and All on Challenger 2

Entry Thirteen

Well that’s flown by.  We’re almost at the Azores!  Only 137 miles to go and the boat and the islands now fit on the same page of the electronic chart (well they always did but now with a sensible zoom level). If we continue at an average of 6 knots we hope to be in around Sunday morning.  The last 24 hours has involved a mixtures of motoring and sailing to maintain our speed and as ever an array of culinary delights.  We did a tin-ventory and have written a shopping list for the next leg.  We’re just about out of fresh stuff now but since we’ve only got 24hrs left I think we’ll survive the scurvy.  Still plenty of nutritious food available though as we have 47 cans of tomatoes and 29 of kidney beans tucked under the seats.  Paul made successful bread rolls.  I was hoping for failure so that we could have the cricket balls to go with my bat.

We thought we’d round off the final blog for this leg with the top 5 things we’ve learnt on the trip so far:

1)      Helming at night is hard and particularly disorientating if there isn’t’ even a single star in the sky.  We’ve had the occasional episode of accidental heave to’s and needed to gybe out of it.  The penalty is that if anyone does this 3 times before they get to the Azores they have to get a tattoo (or a tshirt).  Our very own boat Billy Elliot (Steve) has now had to pirouette twice and there is still time for him to hit a 3rd heave to.  I’m planning to save my 3 contributions to the Atlantic pirouette club for somewhere closer to the Azores and will try and make a pretty pattern on the ships track.

2)      Using the heads (toilet) in the dark is more fun, although there is a risk of creating a mess.  As Richard discovered, the sea water inlet to flush the bowl makes the toilet glow due to the phosphorescent algae.

3)      Fishing requires perseverance and potentially better gear than a glittery fish and socket as a weight.  We haven’t caught any fish but continue to hope.

4)      Paul is not just a skipper, he is also a Time Lord.  We’re now on Azorian time with a sensible 2 hours forward of the clock yesterday.  I suggested we did 15 minutes every 3 hours, just because we could.  As ever my ‘helpful’ suggestions were met with a wearisome groan.  He also swears he has an allergy to whales and every time he sneezes he says there is a whale nearby.  Despite the apparent close proximity, we’ve never actually seen a whale.

5)      There are more stars in the sky than I ever imagined possible.  Not to get all Brian Cox on you, but really until you’ve seen it you wouldn’t believe it.  There were stars between stars and more stars between them.  Beats my city kid view of occasionally having seen a saucepan and some dude with a belt in the past.  What with some incredible sunrises too, we’ve really been honoured to see some beautiful sights.

Looking forward to catching up with my family and friends if there is some reliable Wi-Fi.  We’ll keep you updated of our adventure once we set off from the Azores in a few days.

Charlie and Port Watch

Great summary Charlie^^^

I’d like to add a real sense of nerves and excitement at hearing loved ones voices again, what has been happening back home for the last 2 weeks? I’m sure you all be bored of hearing the stories we have to bring back with us soon but that’s why we are all here the experience of a lifetime, an adventure, self-discovery and escape all in different measures for different people.  On that note a new family of dolphins visited us this morning as the sun rose, magical moments stood on the bow with them dancing and playing in the foam off our bow wave.

Missing everyone at home like mad now and with mixed feelings of wanting to get back yet not wanting the adventure to end. Never fear we all will soon back in Portsmouth. Sending all my love to all especially my wonderful Iman, Amy and Dad n Jo Rxx

Entry Twelve

The weather is definitely getting colder. We’ve all been digging into our kit bags for more layers, hats and gloves. Getting kitted up for the night watches is taking longer.

A couple of days ago we had a ‘best run’ on our afternoon watch, keeping up around  8 knots in good winds. But progress has slowed as the winds died, alternating between engine and sails. And, it was back to helming school for us voyage crew on starboard watch yesterday afternoon as we learnt how to deal with light wind dead behind, poled out yankee and the swell coming over the port quarter.  Keeping on course, avoiding gybing and minimising the rolling of the boat was not easy.

Routine on board is continuing smoothly, but it is noticeable that we are starting to ask during each watch –‘how many miles left?’ to our staging post in the Azores. The Portuguese courtesy flag has been located and the pilot book has been browsed.  What are we looking forward to most? Possibly: contact with our families, a sailmaker, a shower where the floor doesn’t bounce around, a cold beer is high on the list for most, and also a launderette.

Baking experiments have continued, with mixed success on my part. And there might be a spate of virtual murders over the next couple of days as the game is due to finish in the Azores and victims are still there to be claimed.

Lots of love to all my family back home, hope you are all ok, can’t wait to talk to you soon.

Nicky (H) and Starboard Watch

Entry Eleven

We ended up with just over 600m from the Azores with contrary feelings, wanting to get  there but  also looking forward to  stage to the UK.

Top soup made by Phil yesterday, also clearly winning the best loaf of bread competition.

However, the highlight of the day, was the lemon drizzle cake made by Richard after chicken curry attempt by Steve  & myself .

On a personal note I’d like to let  all my family now, I am fine ,survived 4 days of seasickness & have now found my sea legs  & looking forward  to going for  a run in the Azores if I  haven’t lost my  land legs . See you all soon .  (Ray)

Today we are back sailing  and expect to arrive in Horto on Sunday if the weather is kind – the adventure continues.

Port watch- Ray, Charlie, Richard, Paul and Steve

(Charlie here- just to follow on from a ‘slanderous’ comment made by Starboard watch about us secretly baking and eating cookies behind there back, whilst it is true we ate the cookies they failed to mention that we offered to make them a fresh batch during their watch, because everyone knows gooey warm cookies are the best.  We thought about retaliating with a comment about how many jelly babies and bourbons Starboard Watch get through during their night watches, but have decided we are better than that and will rise above it)

Entry Ten

Our progress has been steady though yesterday was very good because Mother nature provided some good breezes and in the afternoon watch we ran 45 miles. As I write we’ve 1724 miles behind us with 607 left to the Azores. Today the clocks go forward as we cross another time zone to Portuguese time.

The whole crew are doing well in a world where life is driven by the routine of running the boat and where days become meaningless. Part of us all is enjoying it so much that we don’t want it to end, but another part says a rest in Faial will be welcome. We certainly miss our mainsail and are told a man called Ralf can fix it for us when we get there.

More bizarre happenings. The first is a footnote to our report of the Artic Skua attacking our Windex. He was back the next day and brought a few of his mates. They circled for half an hour before attacking in a Vee formation. The leader went for the mast but unsuccessful flew off to re-join the others for a good squawk. They tried again twice, once coming in a classic WW2 Echelon formation and once line astern. I think they only gave up when they saw a ship on the horizon and left us for richer pickings.

The second was despite a flat sea Alex lost his balance and managed to fall straight through the door of the Mate’s cabin. I was pumping the grey tank at the time and turned round to see him holding a door saying ‘Phil, we have a problem’.  Rehanging a door on a yacht in the Atlantic counts as one of the most surreal things I’ve done in my years in the construction industry.

The third thing was that 24 hours after Alex attacked the Mate’s door, I was called below to find the Skipper with the other cabin door in his hands after Charlie managed to knock it off its hinges. Now here a debate begins because Charlie wants the door rehung whilst Paul the skipper rather fancies converting it into a cockpit table. They have till the Azores to reach a decision as this door will need repairing in Port and so was unceremoniously dumped in the forepeak.

No more murders to report but there is rumour that Charlie’s Port Watch made cookies behind our back and scoffed the lot having made a collective decision not to tell us.

On a personal note to my family and friends, life is good but love and miss you all. Looking forward to our final arrival at Gunwharf. I’m moving home today in my little corner of the boat. Upper bunk 16 which kept me cool in the Caribbean is now like a fridge at night so a move downstairs will occupy me off watch rearranging all my kit. Anything to keep busy!

We’ve been given the challenge of baking bread today to go with our soup for lunch so off to give Mary Berry a run for her money.

Phil and Starboard Watch

Entry Nine

Yesterday ((Monday) was another good day, we started off under engine but finished off with an exilerating  downwind  sail on a poled out No.1 Yankee. The  weather was fine and we were in shorts and tee`s, and the off watch reading in the sun-idyllic.

In the interim we were treated to the company of a pod of about a dozen dolphins that stayed  with us for approx . 10 minutes, dolphins always seem to raise everyone’s spirits. I got some great shots of bits of Atlantic where Dolphins had been just a moment before.

Mayhem continues with Richard meeting his end in the cockpit with a fork , an easy mark for the assassin who continues to operate behind the scenes.(murder game).

We ended up with just over 800nm from the Azores with contrary feelings, wanting to get  there but not wanting this stage of the trip to be over.

However, the highlight of the day, came later and had to be pork loin steaks followed by Paul’s chocolate  cake and custard.

On a personal note I’d like to tell Susan and all the family, I’m fine, love and miss you all, looking forward to Windy Cott.  (Steve C.)

Today is a total contrast but our speed is better and continue with a down wind sail, anyway that’s it for now- the adventure continues.

Port watch- Paul, Charlie,Richard, Ray and Steve

Entry Eight

Beset by low winds and even having had up the largest yankee, we are now having to motor to make progress. We’re all happily in routine and finding small things to keep us entertained on our journey.

Not many new wildlife sightings to report, but we were visited by, we think, an arctic skua, yesterday. He came low, had a good look at the boat, and circled us three times getting closer and closer to the top of the mast. Then he tried landing on the top of the mast, just as his feet stretched out, they were batted by the swinging wind vane. With a loud cry of protest he flew off at speed never to be seen again.

My contribution to the mid-Atlantic, calm weather baking experiments was to make packet mix dumplings for the chicken stew last night. Not too bad, they were pretty stodgy – but then again I think dumplings are supposed to be stodgy.

The water maker is fixed so showers are continuing, every other day.  And in the ongoing murder mystery game, I’ve claimed my first victim; but I think number two is going to be a bit trickier to arrange.  Must keep on guard – it might be me next instead.

With lots of love to all the family back home, thinking of you all the time, and hope you are all ok.  I can’t wait to tell you about all the magical moments so far on this trip.

Nicky (H) and Starboard Watch

Entry Seven

This is our ninth day of sailing.  NINE DAYS…  Time really does fly when you’re sailing a 72ft yacht across the Atlantic, even if it does only have a small orange handkerchief for a mainsail.  Now the sea has flattened slightly we’ve been making a steady 7 knots in the direction of the Azores.  Although a slight wind shift during the night made the Canary Islands more favourable.  I suggested a change of destination, but as ever my ‘helpful’ navigation suggestion was met with a resounding NO.

Nothing particularly dramatic to report, life continues to happily bob along.  I am learning the differences between sailing on Youth Voyages vs Adult Voyages.  Whilst I love the challenge and fun of sailing with young people, there really are many advantages of having it this way.  For example adults voluntarily make cups of tea, understand how to light a kettle and the concept that making tea in the sink involves putting the mugs in the sink and not a brown sink load of brew.  They are also perfectly able to entertain themselves during the many long and occasionally boring night watches.  It would seem perhaps that I’m yet to develop this skill.  I couldn’t have asked for a more tolerant and interesting watch who by now have patiently sat through round after round of ‘I Spy’, riddles, capital cities and the alphabet game. (Anyone who can think of an animal beginning with the letter U, let us know.  Our best efforts are urban fox and umbrella bird- life without Google is tricky).

There have been many proposed solutions to overly chatty Charlie, including duck tape and winching me up the mast to look out for whales and leaving me there (quite keen on this idea, going to keep babbling away), but the most practical was that I make some bread.  All I had to do was add some water to a premade packet mix, what could possibly go wrong… Not saving any spare flour meant that the overly sticky dough coated my hands just at the moment that the water maker successfully completed filling a tank and started spurting water out of the overflow.  Unable to change over the tanks myself I bounced my way to shout up on deck that the tank was full, smearing dough along the rails and walls along the way.  That crisis now averted I just had to leave the bread to prove in a warm place.  What better a location than the freshly switched off generator compartment.  I popped the loaf in there and went up to do a spot of helming.  A passing comment about the waves and stability of the loaf made me realise that by now we could have exploded dough coating the components pf the generator.  I went to look and discovered that although not coating the machinery, the compartment had been too warm and rather than rising the bread had began to brown at the edges.  I ploughed on and flung the bread in the oven.  The final result came out not dissimilar to a cricket bat.  There were suggestions of a round of mouldy tomato baseball on deck, but instead we decided to eat it.  If stodgy, dense, cheesy carbs are your thing then this would have been PERFECT!  Going to save my application for the Great British Bake Off until I’ve had more success.

Tragically, as I was writing this I was brutally murdered with some sunblock at the chart table.  I imagine my watch are hoping that my fictional death will bring some peace and quite, but little do they know that today’s game idea involves playing chubby bunnies- where you try and squeeze as many marshmallows in your mouth at once whilst still counting.

Charlie and Port Watch

Entry Six

 

Life on board has settled into a kind of automatic routine. Watches come and go as before but now people wake up automatically as the crew’s internal alarm clocks adjust.

Life mid Atlantic at 27 degrees is pleasant if not always dry. I write this after a soggy 30 minutes on the foredeck changing sails. What struck me as the first wave came over the bow was just how warm the water was. With constant East or South Easterly winds against us, the wind is also warm. The result is that after sea or sky dowse us at least we dry out quite quickly.

Another  feature of watch based life is that days become meaningless. Last night there was a debate on deck as to what day of the week it was. The popular conclusion was Thursday. It was actually Friday, so today marks one week at sea and 1102 nautical miles sailed. We should make the Azores in just over a week all being well.

No major dramas on board except that we’re trying to fix a problem with the water maker. We have plenty of stored water for drinking and cooking but unless the problem can be fixed no showers making for a potentially smelly crew reaching the Azores and headlines in local Portuguese papers protesting about the invasion of the great unwashed.

My own solution to the problem currently consists of stinking the cabin out with Right Guard, but this doesn’t solve the problem of hair so encrusted with salt and stinking of last night’s bacon. Next time we have a rain shower I’ll be out on deck with a bowl to catch water and some shampoo. If that doesn’t work it’ll be Febreez  on my hair; It certainly worked on the dog at home.

On a personal note, love to all the folks at home – I miss you all. Despite enjoying the trip I’m probably the most homesick I’ve ever been in my life so can’t wait to get back to Barnet and see you. O, and best buy a job lot of washing powder and order a new washing machine cos the old one will probably die when it errs the laundry mountain.

Phil B and Starboard Watch

Entry Five

Another night of further squalls trying to out run them but had to give in as we ended up being pushed  NW to Nova Scotia! This followed by a sail change down to a Y3 which gave us more flexibility in direction. Ray managed to soak us all through so the beers are on him when we get to the Azores!

Earlier in the day Charlie bumped into a large turtle to be seen dazed, behind flippers in the air swimming away.

The boys then started fishing after an hour of untangling lines. Sadly no fish caught but further attempts will ensue.

Skipper made a chocolate cake at 2am (like you do at 30 degrees mid Atlantic)  for the on coming watch and we had a lovely Chilli for dinner.

The most significant event is that we have now tacked for a more easterly path to the Azores

I personally am missing everyone at home hugely and would like to send my love to all you are all in my thoughts constantly and your support (you know who you are are) has been astonishing. A special squeezy cuddle for Amy and all my love and kisses to my wonderful Iman I love you all Richxx

Entry Four

Our passage to the Azores had been relatively uneventful as we started our daily routines yesterday morning. Our progress was slow but steady as we motor sailed across a low pressure area with frustratingly light winds, but at sea all that can change very fast!

Late afternoon we were hit by a big squall which turned the sky black, took the wind in seconds from 10 to 30 knots and gave rain that would put a power shower to shame. The volume of water pouring down our mainsail and collecting in reservoirs in the folds of the reef was all too much for our mainsail which ripped about a meter below the head. The sail came down in a hurry. On the plus side nothing stops dinner so a very soggy crew consoled themselves with sausage, mash before climbing back on deck half an hour later in a now flat calm sea to lash the sail.

So there you have it folks. We’ve hoisted our storm Trysail as a substitute and continue to progress on to the Azores where we hope to find a sail maker to carry out repairs, unless someone knows a very talented tailor.

In the circumstances everyone’s in good spirits – these things happen at sea and life goes on. Still only yours truly has been murdered although an attempted murder attempt on our Mate, Jim, was foiled.  I think that’s all the news fit to print so look out for our next exciting instalment.

Phil and Starboard Watch

Entry Three

The green gilled monster absorbed more than expected however, as previously mentioned we are firmly on our way seeing the right side of 1500 miles to go to the Azores by the end of today.

Some magical moments through the green gills, like the aforementioned iridescent blue flying fish skittering across the surface (reminding me of magical creatures like unicorns Ax) escaping our predatory huge bass (Dx) steel drum form. Some a little less intelligent one even landing on deck making the normally very calm confident Charlie squeal when she tried to pick up what she thought was rubbish. Whilst leaving Antigua in the brilliant sunshine every wave creating a rainbow reminding me of something very special indeed (Ixx) and then in the evening we saw a moonbow … I never knew such a thing existed.

Yesterdays watch was quite eventful with our first ship sighting, a blow from a whale (sadly never seen again) a lot of motor sailing to try and make miles in the right direction whilst instigating a GAME of murder. After an eventful night with squalls and waves including a lifejacket going off, poor Phil when at the end of his shift was the first victim of our game being bludgeoned by a cereal bowl at the helm.

Routines are getting stronger teams are building well with sail changes / trim changes the norm. The weather has caught us a little today so full foulies over shorts and porridge on deck.

Till next time au revior

Paul, Rich, Charlie Steve & Ray

Entry Two

What a beautiful morning, pink sunrise over a relatively calm sea.   All reefs shaken out and the instructions to the helm haven’t changed since we left, ‘best course you can to windward’. Yesterday afternoon we were visited by a seabird, he circled round us to take a look and then flew off.  We’re regularly seeing flying fish, and we think it was one that we heard flying into the sail with a thud and an ‘eek’, before falling back into the sea. The other night watch saw the moon set right down to water level and then you can really see the stars.  We could see Challenger 4’s nav lights through the night, and just one other ship passed by far away on the horizon.

We’re gradually settling into the routine of life on board. And it’s just starting to get a little cooler down below which is making sleeping a bit easier. Phil cooked a mean Thai green curry for dinner, enjoyed by all. And it’s eat as many bananas as you can, they’re small and very sweet, but rather brown on the outside.

Jim, Phil, Alex, Steve, Nicky

Entry One 

We’re off across the Atlantic!  Well really we’ve been going for just over 2 days now, but choppy seas and queasiness have stopped all previous blog attempts.

We had a few days of preparation in sunny Antigua, quite a weather shock comparted to the British January that we left behind.  Activities included stocking the boat with enough food, which involved a 6am trip to the St Johns fruit market.  I was convinced this was a joke as nothing seemed to happen that early in the Caribbean, but even at that time fruit was beginning to sell out.   We had a couple of hours on a beautiful beach.  The next day we had a day sail to remind the crew of what they learnt during the training weekend in December.  This time we went for a refreshing lunchtime dip in the sea.

I’m pleased to say we’re all finding our sea legs and settling into the watch routine.  Phil and Nicky made a heroic attempt to make dinner in the galley and it was so nice that only several of the crew saw it twice. (Phil would like me to emphasise that it was conditions and not the cooking that caused the dinner repeat)  Our night watches have been lit by a brilliant moon and spotting flying fish and star gazing are popular activities.  This morning we have seen some variable winds with patches of very little at all.  The relative calm made completing this morning’s happy hour more manageable.  Tragically we had to clear some squishy fruit from the ceiling netting and yesterday a stray watermelon exploded across the saloon and galley.  This afternoon will involve the other watch preparing a Thai green curry whilst we continue to sail in our best attempt at the direction of the Azores.

It’s amazing to have this opportunity.  This trip means different things for different people.  For example Jim wants to get back to the UK so he can have a Dominoes.  Whereas I want to experience the challenge and adventure of sailing several thousand miles home.

Charlotte (Port watch leader)