Skip links

Challenger 4 CC009 Antigua – Portsmouth, UK

Wednesday 4 January – Wednesday 8 February

Entry Twenty Three

The final day at sea.

Well after almost 30 days we are finally back in sight of the UK, wooop wooop! Spirits are high as we head towards Falmouth and the first mate even managed to arrange for some dolphins to come and meet us at first light. Although the British weather is yet to impress us we are all slightly glad to have an excuse to go and sit in a warm hostelry with an open fire when we arrive.

People crave different things when they are at sea for so long, for many a hot shower is needed, for some champagne (Chris) and for others a good pint (Steve). Food of course is a common want, fish and chips is a popular choice (bob and Ricky) but the younger amongst us desire KFC and McDonalds (Amelia, Sam and Andy). Whatever comes of Falmouth one thing is for sure we will be happy to be speaking English, spending sterling and wearing warm dry clothes.

So until we finally hit dry land and your loved ones can call you, I will leave you with this image. A grey day at sea with grey waves and a grey sky, but through the drizzle is a light, a smile, a warm glow protruding from the hearts of all the crew of Challenger 4 eager to see land once more.

Entry Twenty Two 

Well that’s a bit embarrassing….

Would you trust this man to navigate across an ocean ?

It appears I entered the Lat/Lon for Falmouth a bit incorrectly and we have been heading to the wrong place for a while now (well actually since Antigua).

No real harm, as it has just meant a small course adjustment which was being done anyway, but the good news is that we have about 100Nm less to do than I thought – 194Nm to go now, with an ETA of 11:00 tomorrow morning (this might change – we are going quite quickly at the moment and the wind is due to drop off this evening) instead of 04:00 Wednesday morning.

I suppose a good excuse would be that it has been cloudy the last few days so I was unable to get a good sextant fix on our position – but that would just be lying…

So looking on the bright side, we now know where we are going and we will get to where we should be going before we thought we would get to some other random place South of Portland Bill…

Ricky (Skipper and Navigator ?)

Entry Twenty One

Track Back to Land

Water falls like snow flurries from the mountains so tall, that stand shadowing the boat as it is plunged to the floor.

Spraying a mist so fine that it pierces your skin, soaks deep through your clothing and sends chills rushing in.

Hills grow and tumble as you sink in the valley, blinded by walls that don’t exist in reality.

Surf hits the beam as you slew down the face, bright foam surges to leeward the boom struggles to keep pace.

Black veils form ahead, filled with down pours and mist, we’ve angered the heavens and on us they spit.

The oily wash from the stern, quickly flattens the lee, the memory of passage, the slipstream of the sea.

In daylight that is so dark the colours still manage to resist and form an aqua so bright it shouldn’t exist.

Gravity is negligible, within the power of the deep, it will hoist you up and pitch you down without compassion for the weak.

The thunder of flogging, through the boat a hum rolls each hand holds on tight and prays the sail holds.

The majesty of the ocean, the power of the great, soon mountains will crumble, bringing down all of their weight.

So they hold on and brace hard, through the darkness of night until the dawn is a new and the world once more is bright.

They say remember to respect and be in awe of the way the sea will engulf you if you don’t have the strength to stay.

Be in touch with its motion and strive to understand, the state of the ocean and the track back to land.

By the First Mate

Entry Twenty

A Day in the life of a solo mother watch:

Today has been a leisurely Sunday pottering around on mother watch for me; Matt. The day starts with coming down from the graveyard (05:00 – 08:00) watch half an hour early to prep breakfast – Thanks Ricky for making the porridge. Then it’s time to move onto the daily housekeeping tasks like washing up breakfast, cleaning the heads, washing up again (why can’t they just use the same mug and stick to one type of hot drink!), polishing all the metalwork, cleaning the surfaces and pumping the grey tank and bilges with the ‘Noo-Noo’. Once all that’s done its time to prep lunch – today we have a real treat, bacon and brie sandwiches with a cranberry dressing, naturally served with the crusts removed. Once all cleared up and the washing’s done it’s time to kick back and relax in the hours between lunch at noon and dinner at 19:30.

Since we’ve been motoring this is a great time to have a good wash and start to feel human again after several days of being sleep deprived and feeling generally dirty for not washing for a couple of days; maybe even risk a shower since there is plenty of hot water with the engine running, if one can stand the motion up the front whist trying to hold the shower in one hand, shower gel in another and a grab handle to avoid falling over when that big wave comes or the helms person drifts off course all whilst trying not to soak the remaining toilet paper in the process.

Sadly I can’t get the game on TV out here in the middle of the Atlantic [not that we have a TV either] so had to make do with reading the kindle and keeping dry down below whilst the others sit out their respective watches in the grey drizzle that has set in whilst motoring ever closer to home.

Another thing you can’t get in the mid Atlantic is a decent Chinese takeaway… fortunately after reviewing the extensive menu on offer from the galley; the boat put in an order for 12 portions of the No. 67 Sweet and sour chicken with a side of No. 114 Sticky Coconut Rice. This was expertly prepared by mother watch bang on time ready for the off watch to enjoy a leisurely dinner prior to going on watch followed by a second sitting once the on watch were down. Feedback from the crew was so appreciative that many of them demanded seconds, so I must have been doing something right; that or they’re now so cold and damp that they’ll eat anything warm.

All that’s left to do now before I get the luxury of a full un-interrupted night’s sleep as reward for all the hard work I’ve put in to mother watch is to, yes you guessed it do the washing up… note to the people at home please don’t get the wrong impression here, everything on this boat is manual so don’t get any ideas about people on this trip coming back and doing the washing up at home… oh for the bliss of a dishwasher to take care of the washing up.

Tomorrow’s prognosis is for the wind to fill in overnight so, with any luck I shall be awoken to the blissful silence of a boat under sail and an enjoyable on watch charging along at 10 knots with the wind behind the beam and some good sailing again but for now I’ll leave you I’ll leave you with the thought of the ever present drone of a marine diesel engine as the boat gently makes its way back to blighty.

p.s. Hi to everyone following this blog at home, See you all when I get back home, not long to go now.

Matt

Entry Nineteen

Woke to another damp grey day but 3 dolphins cheered us up. Motoring again as no wind but over half way to Falmouth now so the weather is probably typical of the English coast in January. Yesterday we did some good sailing in 20 knots of wind despite the previous day motoring most of the day and night although a welcome break from the previous days very strong winds and rough seas with winds up to 38 / 40.

Highlight of the day was to see 2 seagulls (previous day was a record 9!) and a ship coming very close in the night. A Russian who said he “could not pass us” so we have to divert 10 degrees to starboard to miss him – traffic in the middle of the Atlantic, who would have guessed.

Boat is getting wetter with wet oilies and damp pillow and sleep deprivation more common amongst us all too. The food from Andy yesterday was amazing with full cooked breakfast, lemon cake, shepherd’s pie and even pineapple upside down cake with custard! Amazing.

Today is grey sky, grey sea and damp! Hopefully 2 days to land. I’m wearing lovely soft thermals from Christmas pressie from Gma and Gda, plus ski salopettes and oillies on top, with base layer and mid layer top with 2 thermals including a hoodie, with neck warmer, woolie hat and hood from the oillies and my sealskin gloves with hand warmers in them and it’s still chilly on deck and even colder at night!

Lots of love Hazel, Ben, Adam, Morgan, Adrienne and family.

Love to Mum and Dad, Gma and Gda, thinking of you lots xxx

Beverley

Entry Eighteen

Chris Here:

A Big thanks to Em and John for their news and encouragement.

Sea sickness did get me again after Horta but not nearly as badly.  With only a few days to go the call of home is feeling strong.  It’s a good feeling to have covered about 3,000nm and nice to know that Falmouth is only 3 or 4 days away, but as usual the sea is in control and we have to cross the continental divide and make our way up the channel to Falmouth first.

Lots of love to all those of you following and I hope your all having a good day out in Egerton.

All the best

Chris

PS.  Big hugs for Woody and Nina

 

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.”

My favourite poem – Ricky

Entry Seventeen

Friday night is Curry night! Cant go out and get one so as Mom today I will have to cook a Chicken Balti for the troops. No complaints but then everyone is getting a bit colder and wetter the further North we go, so if its hot that’s good.

Still going well, the wind has dropped for a bit but will be back very soon with more washing cycles.

Unless you put a bin liner over your hands your gloves will get soaked so lots of drying methods going on around as the heater is not very well. All the thermals coming out the boxes and the layers increasing.

The days are long, the nights longer and sleep is very short and precious but the team are battling through. We have been here a while now and have become a Band of Brothers & Sisters over the time. Not long now.

Love to all, Steve.  Quack Quack!

The strong North Westerly winds which sped us from Horta for the first two days have given way to lighter winds as we wait for the next depression to move through. This has flattened the sea and given those suffering from sea sickness the opportunity to recover a little. The forecast shows we may have sufficient winds to sail during the day today (Saturday), and then we again will have to motor through Sunday.

On Monday we are expecting a strong band of Southerly winds to move through quickly which will speed us to the Scilly Isles, and will hopefully improve our ETA to Falmouth, which currently sits as Wednesday morning, 1 February. The deep low pressure which we have been anxious to avoid and speed ahead of looks like it is forecast to hit the UK on Thursday, bringing very strong winds (60+ knots) to the South Cornish coast. Looks like a great day to visit the National Maritime Museum.

Crew morale is good, as we approach the halfway point of this shorter leg. After 3 days we have covered 580 Nautical Miles, and have 750 to go (at time of writing 04:00UT, Saturday 28 Jan). Another 90 miles (12 hours) and we will be halfway.

It looks like we will be crossing the continental shelf where the depth will change from 4000m to 100m sometime on Monday. This could come with a large sea state and impressive waves, especially as this is also when we are forecast to have the stronger winds (35 knots). Thankfully the fetch won’t be too far, and the stronger winds will only be 6 hours old, so shouldn’t build the waves too high.

It is getting much colder as we approach the UK, the shorts and T-Shirts of Antigua are definitely at the bottom of the kit bag now, and the thermals, gloves and woolly hats are all in fashion at the moment.

Ricky (Skipper)

Entry Sixteen

We’re now above the azores and in rough seas with a lot of water on deck. The cockpit filled with a wave and Andy and I went in with the wave to hear the gurgling like a Jacuzzi! Views of sea and waves nothing else and a lot of wet crew though managing to smile through it all with each other. Only 1 bird today no other wild life or boats about, a single plane and just us on Challenger 4

Love to my family Langley, Pugh and Prest

Beverley

Entry Fifteen

Day 13 at sea. The men and women on board Challenger 4 are all weary and tired and looking forward to stepping foot on dry land some time over the next 24 hours. Our food supplies are limited and we are down to our last portions of Penguin meat and packet of Jaffa cakes.

Travelling across the Atlantic has taken its toll on the men and women on board. They have had to cope with only a shower every 3 days, non-quilted toilet paper, no alcohol and only 3 square meals a day. Did I mention no alcohol? Overall they have coped well with the particularly challenging and hazardous situations they faced at sea. For example, imagine trying to go to the toilet in a boat that is constantly oscillating at a 45 degree angle. What should be one of life’s simple pleasures turns into a fight for survival to maintain one’s dignity.

We await the splendorous sight of land and a hot bath. Most of all we are all excited about the opportunity to speak to loved one’s on Whatsapp etc who we have all sorely missed on this great endeavour and adventure.

John ‘Shackleton’ Gillan, Jan 2017 sometime.

Sunday 22nd January – Horta Marina

We’ve taken time to explore the island this morning as half the crew worked on taking the main sail down and effecting repairs to the baton pockets. 2 new crew arrived today with spares from the Uk, so this afternoon the rest of the crew took over to help put the main sail back on and tidy some little electrical problems – its good having a sparky on board!

The island is in good repair, tidy and clean with clear evidence of hard working islanders with healthy looking beasts on the farms, the grass here is lush. Apparently they never get a frost! The coast is mainly rocky with just a couple of little sandy beaches and views are superb. We went up to the volcano and out to the lava flow from 1957 which still has not had vegetation growing on it. The lava is like a fine sand in places and constantly moving. There was a whaling look-out who was the first to notice the volcanic activity in 57 with no other means of a warning of seismic actions. Today we rely so much on technology. I asked the taxi driver if he was afraid or worried about the volcano and he said “No, it sleeps, we sleep!”

There is a lot of bamboo hedging over the whole island used as wind breaks on the terraced pastures and cows climb the steep hill sides like our sheep do at home. The gardens often display beautiful bird of paradise and some arum lilies with a few palm trees and all looks beautifully green after the miles of ocean we have experienced.

It makes me think of my next summer holiday, garden visiting with my big sister on our 3rd Mini adventure. Perhaps to Lincolnshire or Cornwall to see the RHS gardens and beauty of England? It’s one of the things I’ve missed is to see the green vegetation we take so much for granted at home and contact with our families.

Tonight we have a crew dinner at a local restaurant where one cooks your own DIY style food on hot lava rocks! The crew continue to work well and socialise together and visiting the local sights has been fun. Even visiting the sights on the land has been an adventure we had not expected.

Anonymous

Entry Fourteen

THE NEWS AT NINE

Hello and welcome to the news at nine. It’s Thursday the 19th of January and today we are broadcasting to you live from Challenger 4. Let’s start off by talking to the crew, I’m here with Amelia, the first mate on board this magnificent vessel, talking to her as she reflects upon the first part of this adventure.

So Amelia tell me what exactly is you are doing here in the middle of the Atlantic …

“Well fictional news reporter of my imagination, we are here sailing from Antigua to the Azores, in an epic journey to fulfil a number of aims, our primary goal of course is to transport this 72 foot round the world sailing yacht back across the gruelling north Atlantic safely to the UK, whilst also combating individual mile stones amongst the crew. These can vary dramatically from accomplishing a once in a life time achievement of crossing an ocean, learning how to handle a boat surfing downwind at 16 knots on the helm, building a knowledge of sails, changes and trim or even managing domestic duties within this small close fit environment.”

Wow Amelia that sounds like you have been having an incredible time! What have the conditions been like so far?

“Yes well so far we have seen a great mixture, long rolling waves, to short chop on the bow soaking the deck with every crash. The winds have been mainly with us, allowing us to sail quickly in the right direction but at times we have found ourselves without wind and having to motor. A challenging and dynamic mixture.”

Mmmm sure, sure, sounds it. And tell me what has been the best bit for you so far.

“That’s a challenging question fictional news reporter, but I think I will have to have two.”

Ok we will allow it, just this once, hahaha.

“Great, firstly then seeing the crew form together. From a group of individuals to a fully functioning family; supportive, compassionate, humorous and talented. This ability to develop friendship in the most pressurised conditions always astonishes me. And my other one, as I am a sailor after all, has to be a few days ago when the wind filled in behind us, we were surfing down waves, with 2 reefs in and the wind on the beam, the sun was out, the wash from the boat was bright aqua blue and the speeds were constantly in excess of 10 knots. Powered up, screaming along there is no better feeling in the world than crashing through an ocean like that, knowing that only the most committed and adventurous people, will ever be able to experience that feeling.”

Cricks Sheila (seems I’ve turned into an Australian fictional reporter) I mean Amelia, that sounds superb, I can’t imagine feeling that close to the elements that are the driving force of our globe. Now I haven’t got long so I’ll ask you my final question. If you think you are ready?

“I was born ready!”

Ok, if you could give one piece of advice to someone considering doing what you are doing here, what would it be, and I can only accept one answer this time?

“Wow that is a big one. I think I would have to urge them to just focus in and go for it. Opportunities like this don’t present themselves every day, what an amazing achievement to say you have sailed across The Atlantic Ocean. The ore and beauty of nature will over whelm you. The power of the boat will make your adrenalin rush like it has never before. And at the end the sense of achievement and friendships will never leave you. Don’t make excuses, life is full of should haves and could haves. Be that person that has the courage to just do it.”

Well an inspirational message there from Amelia, if that doesn’t get you thinking then I don’t know what will.

Thank you very much for your time today Amelia, unfortunately my private helicopter is waiting and I’ve got to scoot back to the studio before all of the good donuts are eaten in the break room. Thank you very much to the crew of Challenger 4 for making my brief fictional stay so comfortable.

And of course this was the news at nine live from somewhere in the Atlantic. And for now back to you in the studio, for the news where you are… Bruce

BY AMELIA RALPHS

Entry Thirteen

Hoorah, sun’s out and dolphins! We had a sole dolphin on the bow this morning and then this afternoon it brought its mate back to see Challenger 4. They both leapt out of the water in full view with grey tummies and black backs and skipped along with us for a few minutes. They easily beat the boat’s 8 knots. Unfortunately the wind has dropped so engine on and the sun is shining over our wake as great rollers bob under us and the boat ploughs on.

Most people take to reading or listening to music or even listening to a book too. We’ve taken advantage of the flat and calm to brush up with several crew having hot showers, luxury!

Beverley

Chris here,

Sea sickness now a thing of the past and managed to fulfil all my responsibilities as Mother today.  My first attempt was a complete washout, last attempt an improvement, but feel today I’m there.  Sour dough bread was a bit disappointing, will try a cake next time.

Very much looking forward to our arrival in Horta and seeing the island.  Will also take the opportunity for a bit of personal admin in preparation for the final leg which is likely to test us all.

Thinking of you all Family and Friends.  All seems so much more important when civilisation is 10 days sailing away in every direction.

Ed, thanks for your newsy note.  Always watching the skies for passing planes.  Will try and imagine you up there watching a movie.

All my love

Chris

We have broken through the 2000Nm done milestone, with only 315Nm until we reach the port of Horta on the Azores. Then we will be at the two thirds done mark for the whole voyage, with one third remaining, perhaps the most difficult part of the passage, the last 1200Nm across the North Atlantic and Saint Georges Channel at the end of January.

Already the heat of the Caribbean has given way to the cold of the North in Winter, with woolly hats in evidence on deck. Next will come the icy conditions of the English Channel in mid winter and the scarves, gloves and thermal underwear will have to be extricated from the crew’s “cuboards”, their yellow curver boxes. The Sea State is expected to build significantly as the deep Atlantic waters of 5000 meters, meet the continental shelf, only 60 meters deep. All the power of the Atlantic rolling waves, which have seemed so placid up to now will build into shorter, sharper waves.

First though we will have a well-earned rest, have a chance to repair and prepare the boat, reconnect with loved ones at home, and crucially track the weather so that we can leave at just the right time to have a fast and safe passage to Falmouth.

Ricky (Skipper)

Entry Twelve

Today has been a bit grey with drizzle rain for much of the morning. The wind has gone behind and picked up so we are poled out and running doing a good 7 knots. The swell is coming from the quarter so the boat is rolling quite a lot though the food continues to be good. There was sponge with apple and custard at lunch and a full cooked roast chicken with smashing crispy roast potatoes and cauliflower cheese.

Beverley – love to you all!

Entry Eleven

Hi Anne. Mark, Chris & Erica

Last night on the first night watch (6.00pm to 10.00pm (local) we were sailing under a star lit sky, to see all the stars was amazing, unfortunately by the second watch (2.00am to 6.00am (local) the sky was virtually covered in clouds.

We expect to get to Horta (Azores) this weekend so will be in touch then.

Missing you all and lots of love Bob/Dad

Dear All

Another glorious day in the middle of the ocean, with a long rolling swell and flat horizon to look to. We have spent much of the day fishing with varying (no) success, but it was all about catching things, it would be called catching wouldn’t it!

The crew are merry and still embracing ocean life, Matt the DJ continues to dream of ‘sailing’ music, which turns out is a little less Rod Stewart and more ACDC, who would have known.

Little John (the youngest crew member) has used a sextant for the first time, recreating the actions of Ernest Shakelton and following the book he is currently reading. Though we do have to watch him on the helm because he is desperate to head south. Luckily for the astro nav the sunshine god has shined upon us for 3 days straight, now.

Alas though the winds have not been in our favour today. As we transit carefully along the edge of a vicious weather system, we find ourselves motoring though calm conditions

Neither us nor the boat though would like to be much further to the north, where a very rough to high sea state is forecast and winds are set to reach 45 knots. What we are doing sounds much more civilised.

Tomorrow we will be sailing, the wind have already shown promise of filling in behind us and we wait in anticipation of then morning light when all crew will have their first experience of downwind helming.

It has even been rumoured that Amelia may do some cooking tomorrow, which would be great because after tempting us with her skills in Antigua she has not been seen to stray into the galley again. Apart from for lots of sweets and chocolate of course.

Cit kat’s (I know it’s spelt with a ‘k’ but that’s not the point). Tonight we shall mainly be consuming cit kat’s. The moon will be up soon, so as the first night watch settles into the evening I shall leave you with this, Challenger 4 is safe in the Atlantic.

Love from a vaguely poetic first mate xxx

I am very aware that my family and friends back in the UK may be following our progress and are probably a little anxious about our wellbeing, so at 57 years of age I have finally succumbed to writing a blog in order to put your minds at rest! As you may have gathered from other posts, we are having a wonderful time. The camaraderie on the boat is amazing and we swap round at each watch so we all get to spend time together – apart from Bev and I that is, as we are on opposite watches. Having said that we are never that far apart so it’s not as bad as it sounds.

Living at sea took a little adjustment but after a couple of days we had overcome minor queasiness and settled to the routine of the watches and the ongoing task of keeping the boat going. We have experienced the most amazing sunrises, sunsets and clear star-filled nights with nothing around us but the ocean. Sometimes it can be pitch black but mostly we have beautiful moonlit nights with the boat just powering on through the waves. It is both exciting and magical! We have also experienced some torrential rainfall through the odd squall, but these are short-lived and on the whole the weather has been kind to us; we spent all yesterday in shorts and T-shirts under blue skies and glorious sunshine. Warm clothing hasn’t been unpacked yet. We have seen flying fish, dolphins and even a small whale. From time to time we are visited by seabirds who fly around the mast as if checking us out before resuming their journey.

We have a system where every day members of the crew drop out from their watch to do a mother watch, which means spending the day cleaning and cooking for the rest of the crew. The result is that we are all eating well with some excellent meals being produced. Today I was on mother watch and achieved another ‘First’ – I baked some bread (you simply can’t pop out to Tesco out here!) which seemed to go down well with the rest of the crew.

On my last mother watch I baked a chocolate cake – it’s amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it. We will call you when we get to Horta in a few days’ time but in the meantime you can be assured that we are just loving it! Our love to Hazel and Adam – let Grandma & Grandad and Nan & Poppa know we are ok and thinking about them, send them our love and tell Grandma I am looking forward to seeing her walking without the crutch by the time we get home. Love you all, Melvin & Beverley xxx

Did you know that Venus leaves a light trail in the sea from the horizon on a starlit night.

And listening to Michael Jackson Greatest hits looking up at the stars is quite cool. Will try some Dire Straits next.

Steve……..

Entry Ten

Dear Anette, Jack, Archie, Else and Barnie

Missing you all lots and looking forward to chatting in person when we get to the Azores. All going well so far. I had a great birthday yesterday in the middle of the Atlantic with birthday cake, pass the parcel and the whole crew singing happy birthday at 6am in the morning. Today I was on Mother watch with Andrew where we cook and clean all day ! We made bacon sandwiches, spaghetti carbonara and then fajitas for dinner. Learning a lot of new life skills!!! Love to you all and missing you lots, John

Dear Woody and Nina

Baba still having fun out here in the Atlantic.  After supper this evening I was introduced to a wonderful substance.  Very unhealthy but wickedly satisfying, you must ask Mummy for some, it’s called Nutella.  It goes well with anything.

Enough dietary advice.  This yacht weighs 57 tons but leaps about on the waves like a little gazelle.  This can make helming quite exciting.

Sea sickness would appear to be a thing of the past so it’s all a hoot now.

Masses of love to everyone. Chris

Entry Nine

Spent the morning cleaning the bilge as not much wind this morning and down to 3knts. Got the bucket out and gave the bilge a scrub too, now the wind is up and we are creaming along at 8 knots in blue sunshine and all is well with the world! Celebrated with bacon sandwiches, Beverley

On watch twice last night in gentle rolling swell.  Fabulous starlight sky with the occasional shooting star, a plane and a distant satellite on its lonely journey through space.  3 on deck for 4 hours we shared the helm 40 minutes at a time.  With between 16 and 20 knots on the 1800 to 2200hrs watch we were having such fun as the boat surged forward healing over on a pert tack switching from side to side from one roller to the next keeping the helm on constant guard.  For the most part keeping a good course between 060 and 070 towards our destination Horta

The night watches are without doubt the most rewarding. ( when the weather is kind).

Much love to all my friends and family who are constantly on my mind.

Chris

Hi all.

Not sure what to add that the others have already done so eloquently.

I will say spirits are strong as we strive forward to Horta wrapping up the experience and fascination all around us. A cracking team moral is developing which makes the journey that much easier.

Kevin the Duck and his philosophy has kicked a couple of times.

Quack, Quack!

Miss and love you all so much. Steve (Aldo).

Still alive-Victor.

Entry Eight

After a week of sailing marked by squally activity and very variable winds dictated by the clouds, impressive lightning displays and the torrential rain, we have had a few days now of consistent wind in a favourable direction and with moderate seas. This has allowed us to sail straight for our waypoint (Horta in the Azores), and reduce the “DTF” (Distance to Finish) more rapidly than before.

When this is sent later today we will have dipped under the 1000Nm to go, having passed the halfway mark yesterday. This is a significant milestone in any ocean passage and our ETA can now be measured in days and no longer in weeks. Currently our GPS predicts an arrival in Horta on Friday 20 January, five days to go. Given our excellent progress over the last two days and some more variable winds predicted this coming week, a more realistic estimate may be Saturday the 21st, six days to go.

For most of the crew this has been something well out of their comfort zone and they have learnt a lot and have progressed a long way since arriving in sunny Antigua on the 4th of January some eleven days ago. They have sailed thirteen hundred miles, weathered squally showers with vicious gusts of winds and battled with a ripped headsail, the Yankee 2. They have endured hours of motoring in lighter conditions and throughout, have maintained an excellent “mother watch”, cooking and cleaning and maintaining their home, a 72 foot steel vessel called Challenger 4.

We have the prospect of a few days rest in the lovely town of Horta on the Portuguese Azores islands. It is steeped in history, linked to the whaling industry of past with plenty to keep the crew entertained culturally. For lighter R&R, Pete’s Sports Bar is just up the hill from the Marina and offers a great selection of refreshments, great food and excellent WiFi – a favourite location from which the crew can catch up with friends and family and tell their exciting stories to proud children and loved ones. Above the bar is Pete’s scrimshaw museum, and next door he sells a range of branded clothing and souvenir items for loved ones at home.

The stop over will also give us a chance to do some repairs on the boat and sails. The Yankee 2 will require a sail maker to re-sew it, but there are various other repairs and servicing which the crew will get involved in. Then there will be another serious of safety and rig checks before we depart for the next leg of our journey, perhaps the toughest – from Horta to Falmouth in Cornwall. I am sure the now seasoned crew will rise to the new challenge which will be a much shorter trip, some six or seven days.

After that we will have to come to terms with the cold English winter and February storms as we make our way along the English Channel as countless ships have done over centuries past to our home port, Portsmouth by the 8th of February.

What a great way to start 2017 !

Ricky (Skipper, Challenger 4)

Entry Seven

Dear Woddy and Nina

This is big baba calling from the middle of the Atlantic. My goodness me there’s a lot of it. We cracking, tilting over on our side and hope to get to the Azores where we will resume the upright position. Thinking of you lots Baba xxxx

Dear Anna

Thank you for your thoughts they count for a great deal, my seasickness is improving by leaps and bounds, with much help from the rest of the crew. I only really have trouble when I poke my head down below. Big hug xx

A Mates Report

Today the winds filled in, woop woop. We are hooning along at 9 knots with the wind on the starboard bow and the sun out. Every wave washes over the foredeck, creating a white foam that covers the foot of the sails and sprays back to the helm. We have now had more flying fish washed on deck than we have actually caught anything. But we remain ready in anticipation of catching the largest fish ever landed in the North Atlantic. Unfortunately we ripped our Yankee 2 yesterday, but the crack team sprung into action, getting it down and changing it for the Yankee 3. They were fearless of the torrential rain and 4 meter waves and even when Steve broke his sunglasses they persevered, all be it in a slightly more parity eye patch manor. Argh! We are now on mother watch round two, which is turning out some great food. Tonight we are looking forward to a proper British beef casserole, from chefs Bob and Chris. As the night draws in the winds are holding and all is good on Challenger 2. We have even fixed the starboard heads hatch so now people can use the toilet without the sea water shower feature. So sleep well friends and family, safe in the knowledge that all of your loved ones are well and having an awesome time, we are defiantly all sleeping well here as we are rocked to sleep by the gentle swell.

Amelia Ralphs (Mate)

Entry Six

Lunch today had a Spanish theme and the sombreros were ready to wear too but the rising wind and rain put a stop to that! Menu consisted baked vegetarian tortilla with potatoes brava in a piquant sauce with black pepper crusted salami, followed by a choice of chocolate cake! The Devil’s chocolate had sprinkles in the shape of a 7 to celebrate Jon’s daughter’s 7th birthday and the chocolate fudge cake was coated in Nutella as requested by Amelia – all very sticky and yummy.

For dinner we are having lamb casserole with Yorkshire puddings a la Beverley and followed by lemon sponge cake with custard.

Lots of love to Hazel, Ben, Adam and Morgan xx from Beverley and Melvin.

We are currently 1300 Nm from our first port of call, Horta in the Azores. We have done some 950 Nm in the 6 days that we have been sailing.

At the moment we are sailing in a nice gradient Easterly wind of 17 knots which is giving us a course just East of due North, although the wind is forecast to back to the North East and eventually to the East later on Saturday, so we will be tacking and heading East again at some point. Up until now we have been dealing with squally conditions with most of the wind coming from the squally clouds rather than gradient wind coming from larger meteorological high and low pressure systems and weather fronts. So most of the weather in the last few days has been unforecast (very local conditions depending on thunder cloud positions), and we are now moving into more stable conditions which should tie more closely with the forecasts and give us a better opportunity to plan our passage to make best use of the wind,

The crew are having to rapidly learn to helm in a variety of wind conditions and are coming to grips with how to steer the Challenger in the narrow band required when sailing best course to windward – and in a fairly large sea state.

We did some jury repairs to the luff boxes of our mainsail yesterday which took us most of the day, this was done in a period of lighter winds under motor with the sail mostly down, although there was a lot of hoisting and dropping as we struggled to get each luff box reattached to the mast sliders.

General day to day life on board an ocean sailing vessel is going well, and the cooking in particular is superb with some great dishes being served up and some cake baking as well. Living at 30 degrees as we sail up wind is challenging (mountaineering as described by one crew member is perhaps a little over dramatic) as the floor is never flat and things you put down tend to take on a life of their own and bounce and fall their way to the low side of the boat.

It is looking like we will be making landfall in Horta sometime next weekend or perhaps early in the week after, so in ten days or so (worst case). The ETA on the GPS currently predicts Sat 21 Jan.

Happy Friday the Thirteenth everyone – Stay safe !

Ricky (Skipper)

Entry Five

Hi Anne, Mark, Chris and Erica Family and friends

Weathers completely different to yesterday, its lovely warm sunshine as opposed to the drenching we got yesterday.

We have a two watch system working 6hrs on then 6 hours during the day and 4hrs on then 4 hrs off at night then back on for the last 4hrs at night, It gets a bit tiring but it’s what works with the size of crew we have, we also have a mother watch which the crew and the watch leaders do on a rota basis.

Crew, skipper, mate and watch leaders are all great and as previously stated look after each other and we get on remarkably well.

Love to you all

Bob

Entry Four

Been sat in light winds watching the waves over the indigo sea rolling and marching over the ocean. I like to see the azure turquoise bubbles swirling from the bow wave bursting up to the surface and you can hear them fizz.

Love to Hazel, Ben and Adam at home xx Beverley

Completely different day, grey damp and no wind after a stormy noisy night. Tried to sail but wind died and despite changing sails and getting waves down the neck gave up this morning and now motor sailing. Biscuits and tea in the grey morning light and happy companionship and support from the super team on deck and all good.

Beverley

Hi, Sarah Harry & Kirsty.

It has been another eventful day on board. What with having to contend with Dolphins Yesterday and catching a Tuna on a makeshift rig. We had the pleasure of a small Whale coming along side this afternoon. The weather is changeable from long deep rollers which we disappear in, to then surfing on top. To quick rain swells and amazing lightning storms in the distance tonight.

The crew are really gelling well and everyone is working hard for each other, as I think we all realise how much effort you have to put in to make this work.

I am behaving most of the time but you know how I love the banter. H the mug you and Laura bought me is brill. Have just come off watch and back on at 2am, so a couple of hours Zzz.

Love to all. Steve.

Hello to the banter gang

I have just read yesterdays blog and thought I should reassure you that all is well and my trip up the mast was necessary and completely successful. Up and down safely if not for a few minor bruises. All is great on the good ship challenger 4, conditions are subdued and the sea has a long roll to it that lulls you to sleep. Now I must get on sending daily communications and eating some sort of breakfast as I have just come on watch. I will be in touch again soon. Lots of love Mim xxx

Entry Three

Day something at sea as they all seem to roll into one another. A great day had by all at sea today which was also quite eventful. The sky is still blue, the sun is out, the air is hot and the seas have kindly flattened out so that all on board are not all walking around like drunken sailors. The crew have all definitely got their sea legs and are eating more and enjoying life at sea. So in summary no signs as of yet of scurvy or a mutiny. Happy days !

Re the sailing stuff then we sailed in the morning but then had to turn the motor on in the afternoon due to light winds and in order to head further east to avoid a bad weather front further north. All on track still to get to the Azores on the 21st January weather permitting and hopefully ahead of Challenger 2 who are now behind us.

Re our skipper / mate then Ricky is still battling to shake off his flu, he battles on. Amelia continues to show that she can do anything on this boat. When asked to climb up the mast to reattach the halliard she quick as a flash took off her sombrero, put on a harness and ran up the mast like a monkey up a tree. Her descent was equally dramatic and impressive bouncing off the sails and mast to get safely back down on deck.

Re the rest of the crew then everyone else on board is well and in good spirits. The crew made up a make shift fishing line out of some masking tape, some fishing tackle, a chopping board and a bungee to tie it to the boat. Very inventive although when they did get a bite the bungee knots were not done tight enough to catch such an enormous fish and so he broke free and took the line with him. Another prototype has been worked up with hopefully more success.

We all saw Dolphins today swimming playfully alongside the boat which was a sight to see. What was equally an impressive sight to see was Chris going top less on deck, Andrew baking a cake, Bob and Matt helming like pro’s and Steve just being Aldo and raising spirits. For those at home then our Watch leaders, Bev and Mel, are both brilliant ensuring we are all safe and well and having fun. No mention of the young lad on board, John, (age 44 but still considered the youngster of the aging crew) as he is writing this whilst trying to also perform his mother duties today of cooking and cleaning for the crew. Hopefully everyone will still be alive tomorrow.

Challenger 4 cruises on wards leaving behind another beautiful sunset and into another vast moonlit sky.

A few specific comments below:

Still alive – Victor. (Andrew)

Everyone on board Challenger 4 wishes Else Gillan a very happy 7th Birthday. (The Crew)

Have a great 7th birthday Else. I am thinking about you a lot and hope you have a great day and enjoy your present. Big hugs and kisses. (Daddy)

John

Entry Two

Flying fish off the port bow after spotting 14 shooting stars overnight. Also saw our first ever Moon Bow a full one too – splendid! Had a few squalls causing us to tack in the night and lose some ground but sailing well today in blue skies and blue sea with sun most of the time. It’s warm on deck and stuffy below but most people are managing to get some rest. The flying fish don’t jump out of the water and plop back in but glide like little silver fish up and down the waves, into the troughs and choose their spot to re-enter the sea. Magic!

Had snacks on watch with Beverley, Matt and Andy chasing 9 knots of speed and heading up to creep to wind. All looking good for spaghetti bolognaise tonight.

Beverley

We have two stowaways on board, Kevin and Wabbit, Kevin is duck and Wabbit is of course a rabbit. The annoying thing is neither are affected by sea sickness and the oppressive heat.

Bob & Steve

We are out into open Atlantic Ocean now, and the oppressive heat through the night of the Caribbean has given way to nice more moderate conditions. The sailing conditions have moderated a bit as well and we are now sailing with full main on flatter seas. Our course is still West of where we would ideally want it, but we are not doing badly, and the wind is due to change by Tuesday afternoon and made a better Easterly progress possible.

All is good on board, Chis is up and about after being laid low with Seasickness and the rest of the crew are sort of getting the hang of things…

Ricky (Skipper, flu recovery 6/10)

Entry One

A lovely sail from Antigua under a conservative sail plan of Yankee 3, Staysail and two reefs in the main. With 22 knots of wind, we made 9 to 10 knots over the ground and the course made was only about 30 degrees off our desired great circle course. As night fell the tropical squalls kicked off and we got a drenching at 02:00 local time, the wind died away and then spun about in a variety of directions. After a couple of tacks to try and chase it, it settled back to its original direction after an hour or so and we were once again heading North East on a compass course of 045 (COG about 030).

Last night we were treated to Pork Chops and Mash with Vegetables and some lovingly hand opened apple sauce from chef Amelia. Much appreciated by all and made in difficult upwind conditions. Only one minor fire and pork fat spillage on the floor…

All is good aboard Challenger 4. One is not feeling well with seasickness and may spend the day in his bunk.

Ricky (skipper, flu recovery 2/10)