Life on the ocean wave – Crossing the Atlantic

21st May 2008

TA 2 Days 44 – 46
Bermuda to the Really Big Blue Yonder

How lovely it is to be sailing again, after all the waiting and uncertainty our freezer part arrived on Monday afternoon and the engineers worked late into the night to get it fitted and working for us, those guys deserve a medal. We were up early on Tuesday to get the frozen stores back on board before heading over to the dockyard to bunker alongside, and then we were off out into the big blue yonder. Bermuda disappeared over the horizon pretty quickly as we made way and the new crew started to find their sea legs. Some fared better than others, Mick turned the same colour as his shirt (pale green) and Terry turned ashen, poor loves. I am pleased to say that they’ve now returned to their normal colours and are doing fine. The highlight of the day was when Jules was surprised up on the foredeck by an orca (killer whale) blowing almost next to her, two more gracefully surfaced on the starboard bow briefly, only about 10m from the ship, a fantastic sight on our first day out! We had set off in fine sunshine with a stiff breeze but by the time Aft Starboard came up on deck for the First Dog watch (1600 – 1800), the sky was grey and dull and as we reached the end of the watch the rain started.

It was a miserable night for all the watches by all accounts, the rain was horizontal at times and when we got up for Morning watch (0400 – 0800) it was still going, it eased off gradually though, and as the first fingers of dawn reached out there were slivers of sky to be seen. By mid-morning it had become a glorious day with not a cloud in sight and we were able to take our ease on deck. Those of us doing the Day Skipper theory had a lesson on fixes and tides in the afternoon, which made my brain go a bit fuzzy as I was tired, but I got my head around it all later when doing my homework, always remember: True Virgins Make Dull Company!!

After a good nights unbroken sleep (the joy of a four watch system!) I was full of beans this morning, Forenoon watch passed uneventfully enough, with a nice break in the middle when Keith the Mate gave us a talk on sail trimming, I know now that we are not pushed by our sails, we are sucked by them, (unless we are running before the wind, when we are pushed). Polly’s brand new fishing lure has sadly been lost, something seems to have bitten it off over night, so she and Jessie are now improvising with some old bits and pieces they found on board, I hope they manage to get us something during the voyage, fresh fish is always such a treat! Everyone is settling down into the ships routine nicely now, hopefully in a day or so we’ll start some fun and games to keep us entertained, meanwhile we have lessons to get to grips with, and some sunbathing to do!

TA 2 days 47 – 49

It has begun. There is murder afoot. Four people were killed off today, and I have my suspicions that the sweet and lovely Mrs Hinton is the perpetrator of more than one of these heinous crimes. Alright, so I may have killed someone myself, and have my sights on my next victim, but it’s now kill or be killed on the Pelican, and it’s all Becky’s fault anyway…

Since I last wrote, we’ve had two days of glorious sunshine and today, which has been much less glorious but a heck of a lot of fun. On Friday we played with the mizzen topsail, which is the one sail that isn’t attached to any rigging and has to be hoisted up from the deck in a sausage. To prevent it from unravelling and flogging all over the place while it’s going up it’s tied with bits of rotten cotton, or in our case red knitting wool. Once in position above the spanker it gets sheeted out, the wool breaks as we heave on the rope, allowing the sail to unfurl. It worked first time, which I think even the Mate was slightly surprised at, though unfortunately our speed went down after we’d put it up. We also still have bits of red wool hanging off the rigging, which I think looks rather pretty, so I’m up for putting it up again!

Yesterday the wind started picking up a bit more, getting up to about 20 knots at times, the sunshine continued and after a busy morning of happy hour and rope-work lessons I found a bit of time to lounge on the foredeck after lunch. No sooner had I laid myself down on the deck though, and Keith the Mate was there asking me to pull on ropes because he wanted to play with the foresail. A voyage crew’s work is never done! I did get to go up the mast a couple of times though, which I always enjoy, I think in the end I managed about 20 minutes of sitting in the sun, and then it was time for class in the mess. We’re now learning how to calculate the course to steer, taking into account the tide, variation (the difference between magnetic north and true north, which is slowly but constantly changing) and deviation (how much your compass is out due to all the metal and electronic things you have around). It’s a bit of a brain ache sometimes, but I actually find all my mistakes are due to moments of utter blondeness, like pointing the plotter the wrong way along a line, even though it has a big blue arrow on one end of it saying COURSE! In the evening, as it was Saturday night, we had a pub quiz, with each round of questions compiled by a different watch. We were even allowed drinks, only two each, but in the middle of the Atlantic, after 5 days at sea, a glass of wine was a massive treat!! When the scores were totted up, Aft Starboard watch came second only to the permanent crew team, so we’re feeling quite smug with ourselves.

Today we had Morning watch (0400 – 0800) with a climb at the end of it to gasket the royal up; a sheet (that’s a rope to most of you) broke just as I was making tea to keep us going for the last hour, leaving one side of the sail flogging. The wind had increased steadily overnight and has stayed pretty consistent all day, it’s gone up to about 30 knots, which means we are now hooning along at an average of about 9.5 knots!! The sky has been grey all day and the sea has started throwing itself at us over the side occasionally, this is what I imagined it would be like! I’ve decided I like Sundays on board, we don’t have to do happy hour, (though the heads always get done) we don’t have lessons, and the captain invited the watch leaders to join the permanent crew for Sunday Service. This has me confused when I was told about it, apparently it’s a tradition, so I figured I’d just go along with it… What it turned out to be in fact was drinks (one each) and nibbles in the saloon, huzzah!! (Sshh though! It’s a bit naughty!!) After lunch the fun started, Becky has organised a game of Murder for us; each member of the crew has been given a contract on someone else, specifying a location and a weapon. To kill your victim you have to be in the right place and touch them with the object, you then take on their contract and pursue whoever they were supposed to kill. This should keep us entertained for days, as we are all now becoming increasingly paranoid and on the watch for people approaching us with random objects. Some of the locations are going to be very difficult to get the victim to as well, I thought James was looking at me funny this evening as we made ready to go up and stow the t’gallant, I was sure he was going to try and job me on the yardarm!

TA2 Days 50 – 58

Blimey! It’s been over a week since I wrote anything, and as we’ll be arriving in Horta tomorrow I need to get everything down so I can send the news home as soon as we get there, well, maybe after a visit to the much talked about Pete’s bar…

So, I last wrote on Sunday, when we were going great guns in winds up to force 7 and getting rather damp from the spray and waves coming over the side. My watch fared pretty well that day as we got a full nights sleep, but the other watches got the brunt of it in the small hours when the wind rose up a bit more and the rain started, apparently there was a waterfall coming off the spanker at one point! It calmed down as the daylight came in and by the time we came out on deck it was just another averagely grey day in a big old swell. We had good news at the morning meeting though, we’d done 200 miles in a 24 hour period!!(That was 3am-3am which I suppose is cheating a little, in the 0000-0000 period we only did 198 miles, but that still beats Pelican’s previous record!)

The day passed uneventfully until the evening when we were joined by a large pod of dolphins who played in the bow wake for quite a while, much to the delight of all on board as we’d not seen any up until that point. Since then we’ve seen quite a variety of dolphins and they’ve become a less of a novelty. We had a pod join us a few days ago which Ben announced to the ship over the tannoy in the most bored tone of voice possible, as if he was back at Kings Cross Station telling us the train was delayed.

Tuesday started off equally grey and wobbly, with a fair old mist around us too which made the world look smaller than usual. Just after lunch we spotted a mast on the horizon, a cause for some excitement as the closest we’ve been to another ship has been several miles. This one was a small yacht, looking very small against the swell which hadn’t abated since the stormy weather of the previous days. The bridge hailed it on the radio several times, but received no response, so the decision was quickly made to hand the sails and go and see if they were alright. The crew responded magnificently and we had the sails in in a trice. We motored back toward it, noticing as we got closer that it was looking distinctly haggard. The jibs, though stowed, were hanging over the side of the bowsprit, and the mizzen mast was down across the stern, lines were hanging in the water all over the place and there was a life ring over the side too. We launched the RIB as per the drill we’d practiced in Hamilton for emergencies and sent Keith, Keith and Little Jon over to investigate. We watched anxiously as they drove over the huge swells and Keith the Mate boarded the vessel, he checked it thoroughly and they then returned with a bag containing the ships documents, there had been no-one on board, but there were bags packed and ready to go on the bunks. The captain put a call out to the coastguard and they were able to shed a little light on the situation, the two person crew had been rescued by another boat a few days previously, leaving the boat to drift after she broke her tow. The documents that were retrieved told us some more about how they’d come to grief, Keith the Mate read us excepts from the log the next day as a lesson on how little problems can so easily mount up into disasters, and a reminder that tiredness is just as dangerous as a gale.

After the sobering events of the day we had a complete switch of mood for the evening, it was Alison’s wedding anniversary so we had a party to celebrate. Everyone got dressed up in their finest togs and we had cake and toasted the happy couple. As Alison’s husband isn’t on board, James kindly stood in for him as he and Alison share the same surname!

Wednesday passed peacefully enough, the weather had improved somewhat, but not enough to get everyone out sunbathing yet. The highlight of the afternoon was a pod of whales passing us, not particularly close, but still closer than most of the ones we’ve seen, they were being followed by dolphins too, leaping clear out of the water as they dashed along, presumably after the fish the whales were hunting.

By Thursday lunchtime the weather had improved beyond all measure, the sky was blue, the sun was shinning, but, unfortunately, this also meant that the wind had died! Captain Mike decided it was a good opportunity for a photo run in the RIB for those of us who wanted to get some pics of Peli in full sail. We had nearly everything up, including the Mizzen Topsail and she looked glorious against the blue sky, bearing down on the little RIB as we crossed in front of her to get the best aspects. Sadly the wind didn’t pick up at all and by late evening we were only doing abut 2.5 kt, it was only then that Mike finally admitted defeat and we stuck the engine on at about 10.

When I awoke in the morning things were peaceful again, which had to be a good sign. Sure enough the wind had picked up a bit so the donkey had been put to bed and the squares had been re-set. We had a lovely day sailing on smooth seas and the sun stayed with us all day which got everyone out on deck trying to boost our fading Caribbean tans.

Written on Wednesday, Horta.

The fair weather stayed with us for Saturday, it wasn’t quite as warm as the day before though so the tanning saloon didn’t open. Most of the day was spent creating our costumes for the evening’s party, it was open fancy dress and everyone rallied to the call magnificently (mainly because the rule was no costume, no beer!) We were an eclectic bunch that night, the party was made up of a priest (our esteemed Captain), a nun (Polly), a fireman (Oli), Colonel Gadafi (Rob), Bob the Builder (Engineer Mike), Somerset Maughan (Ray), Crocodile Dundee (Mick), an Admiral (Ben finding any excuse to put leggings on!), a greek goddess (Rachel), a diver (Lucinda), a mermaid (Becky), a gypsy (Jules), an engineer in a very tight boiler suit (Anthony in James’ suit), two jellyfish (David and Alison), a fender (Jessie), a south Cardinal buoy (Lesley), LJon came as Jessie (just an excuse to wear her bra and dress again!), James came as Francis, complete with the hairstyle and speech mannerisms, and I went as a carrot. As to why I decided on a carrot I am still at a loss, it seemed like a good idea at the time I suppose… We had a good laugh that night, our nun got groped quite a lot by the priest and the Admiral, (she didn’t seem to complain), and it seemed to me that there was a beautiful love affair starting between the fireman and our pseudo Jessie!

Sunday is a day of rest, so there was no happy hour and no lessons, we’ve been kept busy all through the week with our day skipper course and the subsequent homework, so it was nice to have a day off. The permanent crew and watchleaders held a Sunday service once again, purifying our souls with holy water (the fizzy kind, with a bit of gin to give it some flavour…) I do like Sundays!

On Monday it was back to the grindstone, the day skipper lessons aren’t getting any easier, we’re now working on calculating the tide fall to figure out if there’ll be enough water underneath the boat at low water, it involves tables and graphs and maths, which I’ve not had to deal with since school, which feels like a long time ago now! We were only about 90 miles from Horta in the evening, when Chiefy came up from the food store with some bad news, the freezer had died again, a cracked pipe this time. The freezer stays cold for quite a long time, especially if the door stays closed, but even so, we had to stick the motor on to get us to Horta as soon as we could. We took in the squares and while my watch and the watch due on after us ate supper, the other two watches went aloft to do a good harbour stow on them; finally I had my chance… I’d been waiting for Anthony to go aloft for the whole week, carrying my vicious weapon (dental floss) in my pocket. I eschewed pudding and timed my arrival on the main top to meet him as he came down and got him as he set foot on the platform, a most satisfying kill! That day was particularly bloody in fact, 3 or 4 people died, there’s only 7 of us left now, since Chiefy killed the black widow this morning (in the dive locker with a piece of toast!) I’ll give a full run down of the murders when the game is over, we who are left are busy puzzling over how to get our next victim, while trying to keep an eye on who’s still alive and how to avoid them!

Anyway, yesterday mornings wake up call was “We’ve arrived!” Peering out of the porthole we could see green stuff, with white and red bits on it too… Land! Houses! Uncensored amounts of BEER!! We moored up on a commercial berth while we waited for a big djinn place to shove off and then came across to the marina side of the harbour a few hours later. Then, finally, we were allowed ashore, by mid afternoon most of the crew was in Peters Bar, which we’ve heard so much about. It’s a proper mariners bar, the walls and ceilings covered in burgees and flags from boats that have passed through over the years, there are notes pinned to the wood above the bar for other boat crews to pick up and they also have a scrimshaw museum in the back which I’m hoping to have a nose round later. My watch pulled the short straw for night duty so I didn’t get wrecked, instead I got a good laugh at the drunkards as they wobbled back in the wee small hours. Still, now we’ve done our night we are free to go out for the next three nights, look out Horta, here I come!!!


Bored in Bermuda

5th May 2008

We’ve been sitting here for over a week now, and quite frankly, we’re bored!! Bermuda is lovely but very expensive and we came here to sail, not spend! So, the latest on the grapevine is that our long awaited freezer compressor is on its way, even as I write, it may have arrived, but even if it doesn’t materialise, we’re going tomorrow, if we have no freezer we shall make do on tinned and dry stores, which will be interesting.

Most of the week has followed a similar pattern, mornings have been taken up with happy hour and then training, afternoons have been free, mostly we’ve wandered around Hamilton, shopping or drinking in one of the bars on Front Street. I did get out on one of the ships bikes one afternoon, I went up to the north shore to sit on some rocks and cleanse my brain. It didn’t quite work out quite like that though, as I met some locals up there who were keen to chat to me, they were very nice and told me quite a lot about the history and geography of the island. The locals are all very proud of their colonial heritage and are very aware of the land they live on and how it got here, probably because they have to little of it.

Yesterday, Sunday, we got the whole day off, so after breakfast Polly and I got the ferry to Nelsons Dockyard, where we wandered about looking for a wooden boat that’s being built, climbed a tree and made a nest, did a little shopping and had a very nice lunch. After that we got the bus down the island to Horseshoe bay, where we did a little sunbathing and general lazing, we stuck a toe in the water and decided that it was far too cold for a swim, but a bit later I decided I smelt too bad and steeled myself for a dip. It was cold, compared to the Caribbean, but once in and swimming vigorously, I felt much warmer. I swam out to some rocks where there were some crazy prehistoric looking suckers stuck on, I later found out they’re locally known as Suck Rocks! When it was time to go and find a bus we wandered on down the beach, clambering over rocks to get on to the next beach along, where we found several more of the crew, they’d sensibly found themselves a much more secluded spot, away from the crowds on Horseshoe.

Today we started on our day skipper lessons, lots of chart work and learning of symbols, and I have homework!! (I can’t believe how excited I am to have homework, I used to hate it!)

Changes and a problem

1st May 2008

TA2 Day 36 – 38

We were joined by the rest of the new crew on Monday, and we lost Francis, Tom and Dave on Tuesday, which brings us now to a total of 25. Just in case you’ve not kept up with all the changes, including the ones I may have failed to mention at the time, the cast of characters now stands as this:

Mike Lovegrove – Captain, who I actually sailed with on Astrid on the Tall Ships Race 10 years ago, he’d joined as voyage crew for the heck of it.
Keith H- First Mate
Ben – Second Mate
Mike – Chief Engineer
Keith G – Bosun
Becky – Cook
Oli – Assistant Engineer
LJon – Bosun’s Mate
Jules – Science Officer

We have 4 watches now, which is a great relief to those of us who’ve been on the three watch system up until now;

Forward Starboard – Anthony, Jessie, Lucinda and Terry.
Aft Starboard – Myself, Lesley, Mick and Clover.
Forward Port – Polly, Ray, Rachel and David.
Aft Port – Rob, James, Eric and Alison.

Ant, Polly, Rob and I are watch leaders at the moment, but as the voyage progresses and everyone gets up to speed it will get swapped around so everyone gets a turn. The new faces are quite a mixed bunch, we have a couple of couples, David and Lesley, who’ve been married for 26 years, and Rachel and Mick, who are boyfriend and girlfriend. We have a 74 year old, Eric, who started sailing on Tall Ships in his 50’s, and we now have a medic, Clover, who’s been sailing forever, (ish). Lucinda is due to take over from Becky in the Azores, she used to work on the Soren Larsen where she was permanent crew. Alison is a country lass, who’s more used to heaving hay bales and is a qualifed tanner. She did a trip on the Malcom Miller 28 years ago, but hasn’t sailed since. Terry’s from Salford, retired now and up for adventures, this is the first time he’s actually seen a Tall Ship in the flesh, last year he learnt to fly a plane in Florida and next year he plans to learn to ride horses in Spain.

It was so sad to see the people we’ve become so close to go, but we know we’ll see them back in Weymouth when we come in. The change I failed to mention at the time was the loss of Nick, who left us in the Caribbean as he had to get home for some work stuff, we will be joined by him again in the Azores though, and we’ll have a beer waiting for him!

On Monday I was set the task of checking all the harnesses we have on board, a very important bit of maintenance as we put our lives in their straps when climbing the rigging. It took me most of the day to get them oiled and checked thoroughly but it’s good to know they’re in good working order!

Tuesday dawned with some bad news, the freezer compressor had died overnight, putting our plans for leaving on hold until further notice. We’ve been helped out by a local wholesalers who’ve kindly lent us some freezer space for the interim as the part we need is being flown out from the UK. It should arrive on Thursday, so we may be able to get off on Friday, time will tell…

What all this does mean though, is that we get to enjoy the island a bit more, we’ve been over the basic training with the new crew now, we did a bit more sail handling today and got a lovely harbour stow on the topsail and course in the morning. This afternoon we were free to do as we wished, Ant and I did some shopping and mooched about, nothing particularly interesting, but we’re going to have a full day out tomorrow, venturing further afield hopefully!

Blue yonder and a bird

28th April 2008

Theres not much internet to be found in the middle of the Atlantic!!

TA 2 Days 20-23
Anguilla to the blue yonder

We ended up staying most of the day in St Martin, when we got back to the ship the night before we were informed by Mike that there was a freezer issue that needed to be sorted before we could go anywhere. But thanks to the help and vital piece of kit from the engineer on the Ocean Village liner that was parked behind us in the morning, we were able to solve the problem and finally got off at about 4.30. As it was only about 15 miles we motored over to Anguilla, arriving at 7 in the evening. We anchored just outside the bay and made our way further in in the morning. We were thankful that we did so when we saw the amount of yachts that were anchored there, not all of which had had anchor lights on the night before!

The first part of the day was dedicated to the ship, rust busting is a constant feature of living on an iron hulled ship and we spent the morning chipping and sanding while looking wistfully at the white sandy shore and swatting the flies that had infested the ship suddenly. After lunch though, it was tools down and we hit the beach. There were three, maybe four, bars along it, and we pretty much had it to ourselves. We picked a bar almost hidden by palms, dumped our stuff and headed for the sea. A short swim later and we were ready for the first round of drinks, and the second….. the day passed in a pleasant mix of swimming, lazing, laughing and a few more drinks. Polly, Jessie and I went for a walk to the end of the beach and back, Anthony ended up getting buried in sand, and a few chairs were fallen off, or missed entirely.

Feeling surprisingly chipper in the morning, we had a good old cleaning session to try to remove some of the beach that we had brought back with us the previous night, and kill a few more flies (it’s a seasonal thing apparently), before pulling up the anchor and motoring over to Prickly Pear Cays. If Sint Maartin was my idea of hell, the Cays are my idea of heaven; a gorgeous white sandy beach entirely to ourselves, reefs for snorkelling, a barbeque going all afternoon, shells and corals for beachcombers to pick through and a supply of beer, or in my case, wine. We even found an in-shore lake that looked stunning but on closer inspection was surrounded by gunge because it was so low. The only dampener on the day was that the weather wasn’t playing the game, most of the afternoon was cloudy, with brief interludes of sunshine as it poked through at opportune moments. Oli sailed one of the dinghies over from the ship which looked great fun, I need a bit more instruction before I try that though! He and Jessie sailed it back when it was time to go at sundown, she’s a qualifed instructor in fact, so I’m going to try and get her to teach me a bit when we get to Bermuda (She doesn’t know this yet!) Back on the ship we motored back over to Anguilla, Prickly Pear is a marine park and overnight anchoring isn’t allowed, mainly I think because the anchorage point is very small and it can be tricky to get out of. We had a quiet evening, each of us contemplating the long voyage ahead.

Up bright and early today, we tidied all loose gear away and were off by 9, we’ve been making good way so far, with most of the squares up straight away. The royal went up a little later, and then Francis threw me in at the deep end just before lunch, making me give the orders for putting up the gaff foresail, then the outer jib and spanker after lunch! It was a bit of a slow process, but we got there in the end, and I learnt a lot in a short space of time, not least that people wander off if you don’t give them something to do immediately! Polly and I had our much promised date on the bowsprit after that, we’ve been meaning to get out there for ages but never quite got round to it until now, it’s my favourite place on the entire ship to hang out, if they’d let me I’d probably sleep up there! On dog watch this afternoon we saw some whales in the distance, blowing and then breaching, and even a couple of tail smacks, a fantastic sight on our first day out here. We have now crossed the Sombrero Passage (a major shipping route that we needed to cross at 90 degrees) and have set course for Bermuda, only 800 odd miles to go.

The boys have just been taking the temperature of their nuts with the laser thermometer, Ben is well behind at 24 degrees, LJohn is in the lead at 38, with Oli, Tom and James in the middle at 32.4, 32.6 and 34 respectively. My forehead is currently 27 degrees, I am told, and Pollys right breast is 28.2, while her left breast is 27.2. If this is the effect that less than one day at sea has had on the crew, I fear for our sanity in the following days.

TA 2 Days 24-25
Blue Yonder

Mizzen watch had a hard day of it yesterday, three 4 hour watches left us pretty knackered, and we had the pleasure of cleaning the heads! We passed over the Puerto Rico Trench early in the morning, sailing over 7383 meters of water, that’s not the deepest part of the trench though, that’s further west and 8240 meters down. The ship is now sailing over Nares Abyssal Plain, and will be until we reach Bermuda. We saw a tanker on the horizon on our 8-12 watch, a cause for some excitement as none of the other watches have seen anything since we left Anguilla!

Polly and Jess borrowed my epilator in the afternoon and had a ripping time on the deck removing leg hair… There’s really nothing much else to report, everyone is settling down into the daily routine, daily lectures stave off some of the boredom and are increasing our seamanship knowledge in preparation for doing the watch leader/ day skipper ticket exams on the long stretch across the Atlantic.

Today has been a rather grey day, the wind has slowly moved round from the east to the south and we have two opposing swells, one from the south east Atlantic, and one coming in from the north west, caused by some stormy weather. I was having a lovely kip this afternoon until they braced squares and the motion of the ship changed from a fairly stable heel to port, to a rocking roll from port to starboard. It’s not a very comfortable motion, especially in a thwart bunk, I’m considering going into Pippa’s old cabin to get some kip tonight.

TA2 Days 26 – 28
More Blue Yonder

The swell caused by the opposing weather systems has continued, making life a little lumpy still, but it’s become less uncomfortable daily, or we’ve just become used to it. The wind however, has not played the game and seems to have gone on holiday, Doug admitted defeat on Friday morning and we stuck the motor on, it’s a shame, but we would have sat in the water doing nothing otherwise.

On dead watch yesterday morning we dodged a series of squalls, we could see them approaching in lines on the radar but our course took us neatly between them every time but the last, when we caught the end of one. We got a little damp and then, as the moonlight shone from behind us, a rainbow arched across the sky, pale and silvery against the dark rain clouds, a full arc with the faintest hint of colours at the ends. If you get gold at the end of a normal rainbow, what do you find at the end of a moonbow?

The wind yesterday was minimal, and what there was of it had backed up to coming at us right on the nose, so no chance of sailing still. We passed a plastic deck chair in the water, a bit too far off to be able to pull it on board, and we’ve been seeing quite a bit of an orangey sea-weed floating past in clumps. The excitement of the day was another whale sighting in the afternoon, I missed it by seconds I think, I had been having a kip when Francis put the tannoy announcement out and though I pegged it up the companionway, it had gone 😦

Today the wind has come a little further round to the west, there’s not much of it but just enough to fill the sails. As we were on watch during happy hour I got sent up the mizzen mast to take the gaskets off the spanker, then they decided they wanted the fisherman up, so I was sent up the foremast, it was the first time I’ve been up there, in fact, and Oh Blimey do those shrouds get narrow! James came up and helped me, climbing up and down in about a quarter of the time I took! I thought I’d get a rest after that but it was decided that we wanted the t’gallant and royal up as well, so, as the only person on deck wearing a harness, I got sent aloft once more, Anthony joined me and once we’d taken the gaskets off, we enjoyed the view as we waited for them to set the sails so we could overhaul.

We made a speed of about 1.5 kt all morning, not exciting sailing but she did look fantastic, I never realised how big the fisherman is until now, it’s huge! As we were going so slow and the water was so calm, Doug decided we could launch the RIB to go out on a photo taking trip, unfortunately the steering on the RIB suddenly died while we were out there, thankfully LJohn was able to steer us back to the ship manually though, and we launched Virginia instead, using it as an opportunity to see how quickly we could do it as a man over board drill too.

The fun didn’t stop with the photo trips though, the next part of the plan was the bit we’d all been hoping for all day. We braced the main so that the sails were backed with wind – with the fore and afters pushing forward and the mains pushing back we stop in the water… swimming time! Not that many people can say they’ve swum in 5000 meters of water, it’s quite scary, knowing that there could be all sorts of things underneath you, but also really exhilarating. The water is an incredible clear blue, a bit cooler than the Caribbean waters, (we’ve noted a 2 degree drop in the water temperature since we left the tropics) and very refreshing. It was great to be able to let loose a little and have some fun, the watch routine gets a little gruelling when there’s so few on a ship like this. After our swim we got Virginia back on board and then all sat down to a fantastic roast, followed by a coffee and walnut cake created from scratch by Jessie and Polly (aka. Peaches and Pork Sword). We’re back to the normal routine now, the sails have been taken in and we’re motoring once more, the wind has dropped completely now and it’s set to remain like this until we get to Bermuda. The moonrise this evening was lovely, a golden globe rising out of the clouds majestically, it’s light reflecting in the glassy surface of the sea, it’s a full moon tonight, I may have to go and howl at it.

TA 2 Days 29 – 35
Blue yonder to Bermuda

Monday dawned peacefully, no wind, the water around us glassy. One of the duties of the dawn watch is to scrub the decks at 6.30, as the RIB appeared to be dribbling a bit of sand we decided to stick the fire hose into the bow holes and see what came out. Sand and water poured out of the stern hole for ages, creating our own little beach on the poop deck and filling the scuppers. We’d got rid of it by breakfast though, leaving the decks clean and lovely.

It was a surreal experience seeing the ocean so flat all day, there was still a swell gently undulating the body of the sea but with no wind the water looked like mercury. I could see exactly why sailors thought they would fall of the edge of the world. Polly and I climbed the mast to see if there was anything more to seen from up high, but there was nothing but reflections of clouds in the smooth water for miles in any direction. We had tea up there to celebrate her birthday, a thermos of earl grey and a couple of mugs are easy to sling on a bit of string and take up the rigging, and it’s exactly what you need after a good climb!

There had been a swallow flitting around the boat for a day or so, he’d landed on bits of rigging and the deck a few times but when anyone had gone close he’d flown off. We’d put out some water and crumbs but so far he’d shown no interest, as the day drew on he became less nervy of us, probably through sheer fatigue, the poor little thing must have been blown off course on his migration. He looked shattered as he clung on to the back edge of the poop deck, Polly put the crumbs and water right next to him and even proffered some on a spoon, he had a little nibble and a drink, but really swallows eat insects, which, luckily for him, we still had quite a few of from our time in Anguilla! Polly turned into a fly killing ninja, swatting them down below and bringing them up to our little friend on the poop, he ate them from her hand and as she brought more up we could see him start to re-energise a little. He became friendlier and friendlier, first landing on Jules’ leg as she lay on the deck looking at him, then he sat on Jessie’s chest, then my shoulder and LJohn’s head! We spent most of the afternoon cooing over the tiny bird, he was very fair in his affections, sitting on everyone around at some point or other, but as soon as Polly came back up on deck he’d be right over to get his flies! She named him Raphael, after one of the ninjas. He roosted for the night in the focs’le and was gone in the morning, as we were in sight of land by then we hope he made it to a garden full of insects.

As it was Polly’s birthday and our last night at sea with all the current crew, the permanent crew got plotting and organised a crossing the tropic line ceremony. We’d crossed the line days before, but that’s a minor detail that wasn’t going to stop anyone! Crossing the line is usually done on the equator, sailors who haven’t crossed it before traditionally ask permission from Neptune to enter his realm, and make a penance, which generally involves being covered in gunk of some kind. On this occasion Keith played the role of Neptune, with LJohn in one of Jessie’s dresses as his wife Persephone, Ben was master of ceremonies and Tom and James and Francis were policemen, keen and ready to drag us before King Neptune and cover us in the foul mix of custard, tomatoes, beans and god knows what else! Polly was first, cowering before Neptune while the charges against her were read out before getting a good dousing with goo. She was followed by David, Anthony, Jules and Tom, they made a sufficient sacrifice and Neptune allowed us to continue our journey. I was relived to have escaped, though no doubt I shall be gunged some other time, Ben had actually written the charges for everyone, but the sun had gone down and it was getting dark and cold so it got cut short. I didn’t escape entirely though, Polly came and gave me a big slimy hug! After a good sluice with a hose for both the deck and the participants, and then a quick shower for the latter, we had a birthday cake in the shape of a canon created by James and presents for Polly, which ranged from an ashtray hand-made from a coconut shell, to a pair of used socks! We stood on the poop deck later, watching the phosphorescence sparkling in the wake, occasionally something large and glowing bright blue, deeper than the rest, would shoot out from under our feet, magical and weird.

The next morning we could see land, a most welcome sight by then! The passages into Bermuda’s harbours are narrow and surrounded by reefs so we had to pick up a pilot to guide us through. The gap in the rocks we went through to get into St Georges was pretty tight, amazingly there was a cruise liner in the harbour too, getting that thing through the gap must be a very exact science! Once we had anchored we spent some time cleaning the ship and then relaxed, after 7 days at sea on a three watch rota we were all pretty knackered and keen to get some rest. A party of us went ashore in the evening to celebrate Polly’s birthday with beer, the prices here are high compared to the Caribbean, but they have cider! (I’m not a beer drinker, so I’ve been dreaming of a cold pint of fizzy appley goodness for the whole trip.)

We spent the next three days in St Georges, doing bits of maintenance and pottering about. Francis got me to help him with some bits and pieces on the rig that he wanted to tweak; moving a rope, adding a shackle or a block to make things run better, it did involve getting to some of the less accessible bits of the ship though, such as the end of the spanker boom, which was fun until Francis started leaning on the sheets as he chatted to Mike and got distracted! While I was up there we were visited by the crew of Spirit of Bermuda, a training sloop which was anchored close to us, about 40 girls invaded the ship, all about 13 or 14 and hungering for our Oreos and sugar! They were shown around the decks and rig and were really interested by it all, I think we’ll see some of them back in a few years. After they’d gone we made a trip over to another ship, the Atlantic Explorer, which is an oceanography ship who we’d started talking to on the radio a couple of nights before as we drew close to the island. They have some serious bits of kit on that boat, Anthony was nearly drooling over the computer systems, not surprising as he’s off to do cybernetics at Reading Uni. He told me he now wants to work on unmanned submersibles – combining the sea and his degree nicely! As there wasn’t much going on in St Georges the cabin 10 girls decided to go on a little shopping trip to Hamilton on Friday, we took the ferry around the island and spent a few hours wandering about the town, buying some much needed new clothes and trying on the rest of the shop for the fun of it.

On Saturday we had a nice little day sail planned, taking Pelican from St Georges to Hamilton. The weather forecast had said about 15 knots of wind, which would have been great, however, when we got out there the wind was blowing a hoolie, gusting to 48! We quickly decided not to put up any sail as just with the wind blowing across the rigging she was heeling 10-15 degrees to port! It was fun anyway, the sun was shinning and the well deck got a good soaking from the waves, we even got spray on the poop deck which we’ve not seen before. Once in Hamilton’s harbour we were protected from the wind and were able to moor up on the quay without any trouble. During the afternoon we opened the upper decks to the public, we’re known locally as ‘The Pirate Ship’ and have had a steady stream of people wanting to take a look around. After supper we went out, the nearest bar is directly across the road from us so we didn’t have far to go, and there was no chance of getting lost on the way home!

Sunday has been a day of rest, not much is open in town, and some of us aren’t up to going to the bar quite yet anyway. We’ve been showing people around the ship again and will be going out for dinner tonight to wish farewell to Tom and Doug who leave us tomorrow. We’ve had a few new joiners; Rachel and Mick have joined the ranks of the voyage crew, we have another Keith who’s taking over from Francis as the First Mate and Becky who’s relieving Tom, more will be arriving over the next couple of days.

Day 36
Been oiling harnesses all day, people arrived, three mins left on this internet session!!