Last leg

12th June 2008

Days 59 – 64
Faial to Sao Miguel

Our first full day in Horta was a very relaxed affair, we pottered about the town a little, looking at the shops, the most popular of which was “The Chinese Shop” it sold anything and everything, from ball dresses to toy catapults, with some very dodgy items in between! The weather wasn’t particularly kind that day, with occasional showers and general greyness, but a few people went for walks along the shore anyway and most of us ended up in Peters bar at some point. They do very good steaks there, which, of course, was the main attraction ;-). We didn’t stay out all that late that evening and I ended up sitting on deck with a small contingent, sharing a few songs before hitting my bunk.

The next day was much better, we had a large grey cloud sitting above us for the first part of the morning, but there was blue sky on either side of it and eventually it got the message and went elsewhere. There were two excursions organised for the day; Lesley, David and a few others had booked a taxi to take them up to the Caldeira and pick them up after a couple of hours, and Clover had signed six of us up for a jeep tour of the island. We met our guide at about half two and set off, going inland though immaculate little villages and lush green pasture land. Being a volcanic island, it goes up pretty fast as you move in and we soon started to Ooh and Ah over the view. We went past a couple of little baby volcano hills, there are many of these around the island, they’re called smoke pots locally, little offshoots from the main vent of the mountain, I just thought they were cute! Our guide was exceedingly friendly and chatty, telling us all about everything we saw and his life on the island too, he moved from Lisbon because he fell in love with a girl, and fell in love with the island, and I can quite see why! He took us off the main roads, down bumpy forest trails where exciting spicy woodland smells came in though the windows, I wish I could have bottled that smell, it was all mossy and peaty, dried pine needles and wet leaves… heavenly.

Our first stop was at a forest park, one of several places around the island where families gather at weekends. The trees are mainly laurel and a type of brazilian pine with towering tree ferns among them too. Cinder paths have been laid, rough stone or wooden tables with little matching seats or benches dotted between the trees and they’ve built a barbeque hut, beyond compare, out of the volcanic stone. It was five sided with a fire place on each face, free wood stacked underneath each, and a central flue up the middle. The whole place was beautifully clean, without a single piece of litter, even though the area is obviously well used by the islanders. I passed a long low building which was open on one side and divided into about six rooms, each with a long table down the middle, the one on the end was full of a large family party having a meal, they were having a grand old time and offered me drinks in return for taking their picture, I was greatly tempted, but I didn’t have long and had to pass.

We continued on to the furthest end from Horta, where the newest part of the land rears up in front of the lighthouse that used to mark the coast. The landscape here is in stark contrast to the lush greenness of the rest of the island, brown and grey and dusty, it is already eroding fast, leaving contour lines along the slopes and small canyons where the rain has washed the soft ground away. The volcano erupted in 1957, burying the few houses that were there and obliterating the harbour. The slipway is all that is left, the rocks around it make a sheltered pool of water where the islanders swim in summer, with the waves crashing ferociously on the other side. It wasn’t warm enough to swim there yet but there were a few people with fishing lines instead, I didn’t see many fish but in the rock pools there was a collection of Men o’ War that would have made me think twice about jumping in, no matter what the weather!

Our journey took us along the north coast for a while before we turned inland once more and headed for the main attraction, pausing briefly at Lovers Fount to taste the fresh spring water straight from the ground, and then taking the least foggy route to the top. The grey cloud that had been sitting above the peak all morning looked fairly set to stay but we decided it was worth a go anyway. When we got to the end of the road and got out it was low but still above us. The edge of the rim is quite sharp, wide enough for a path (which is the route the other party from the ship had chosen for their walk) but not wide enough for people to stand comfortably and enjoy the view. So they’ve put in a viewing platform just down from the top on the inside, connecting the outside world via a moss lined tunnel through the rock. Going through the tunnel and stepping out the other side feels like stepping into another world, the Caldeira drops away suddenly inside the rim, 400 meters down to the floor, where a miniature version of a volcano sits, covered in what looks like moss from so high up, but is in fact bushes and trees. Beside this hillock are two lakes, which come and go with the weather, they used to be a permanent lagoon but seismic movements have opened up cracks which drains the water into the rock below. The cloud was just above our heads, hiding the opposite rim from sight, but the wind was blowing into our faces, making the clouds fall and then drift up again so we caught glimpses of the other side from time to time. Outside the Caldeira the view was stunning, all the way down to the coast, which was bathed in glorious sunshine.

Our last stop was on a hill overlooking Horta and the harbour before we were dropped off at the quayside. Back on the boat we met the other group who’d been out, their day had not gone so well unfortunately, the clouds had been lower that morning and they had found themselves in thick fog as they walked the rim path. Even worse, Anthony slipped on some wet grass and sprained his ankle. The police were called and came out to find them, using the siren to draw the party to the car, and they were taken down to the town in style. At the police station they found the taxi driver who was supposed to pick them up had reported them for fare dodging when they hadn’t showed up to be taken home, all in all, not such a great day! It all got sorted out though, Anthony was X-rayed at the hospital and is now hobbling about with his ankle strapped up and taking it easy as much as possible, hopefully he’ll be recovered enough for the Tall Ships Race, which he’s set his heart on doing.

One of the things that makes Horta so special is the paintings, done by the crews that have passed through, on the harbour walls and quays. It’s a tradition that goes back a long way and is supposed to ensure safe passage home. Not wanting to risk anything, and also because it’s nice to leave your mark on a place, Polly and Jessie set to with the paints and produced a stunning design for us. Jules also did a painting, based on one of her beautiful photos of the ship at sunset, so theoretically, we should have a really great passage home!

We left Horta after lunch the next day and had a very pleasant afternoons sailing between the islands of Pico and Sao Jorge. I felt rather disorientated that night when I wandered out on deck, there were lights all around us and I’ve become so used to staring out at nothing in the dark now that it was a complete shock!

In the morning we met the Tall Ships Youth Trust ship Stavros S. Niarchos off the south end of Sao Jorge and made a few evolutions with them. I got sent out in the RIB with my camera to record the occasion and got some lovely shots of the pair of us. We couldn’t hang about for long though as we still had over 100 miles to go to get to our destination, so we waved goodbye and carried on. The skies remained grey but we made good time and by breakfast the next day we were cruising along the coast of Sao Miguel.

We anchored off the town of Vila Franca do Campo, near to a tiny volcanic island called Baxia das Cracas. It didn’t look like much from the outside, but when we took the RIB in we were presented with the most beautiful lagoon, surrounded by rocks ranging from a few feet above the water to towering cliffs. I and some of the others spent the afternoon there, scrambling up the rocks to admire the view, paddling along the weird semi circular beach that had water on both sides and enjoying the sunshine. A few brave souls went swimming too, myself included, I borrowed a snorkel and mask and saw lots of beautifully coloured fish in the rocky parts where the water was washing through the cracks in the cliff from the other side. I went out to the deepest part too, swimming happily along until I saw a jelly fish, at which point I back-tracked at great speed! After my swim I climbed up another part of the cliffs and was rewarded by another fantastic view but I also enraged the nesting seagulls who dive-bombed me, screaming their displeasure, it was worth it though and I returned to the ship a happy girl.

We’d picked up some new people earlier in the afternoon; Nick, who left us in Antigua; Bob, who’s another old Astrid fan; Ben, Alison’s son, and Georgie, who’s an old school friend of Jessie’s. She’d kept it a secret that she was coming out and so the two greeted each other with much squealing and tears. The watches have been re-jigged and I am now Forward Port watch’s leader, with LJon, Ben, Georgie and Nick as my team. Polly’s now leader of After Starboard, and has Rachel, Mick, Ray and James with her, Rob is still Aft Port, but now has Eric, David, Lesley and Anthony on his team. Poor Ant has lost his watch to Alison as he can’t really do the job on a sprained ankle, so she is now in charge of Forward Starboard, with Jules, Jessie, Terry and Bob to keep her company. We have sadly lost a couple of crew, Becky has gone back to her other job and Oli is taking some leave. Lucinda is doing a fantastic job in the galley now, but we shall continue to miss both leavers greatly. Clover is still with us, but is not in the watch system any more, as the medic she needs to be available at all times and so she is now going to fill her days as a day worker, helping Bosun Keith with the battle against rust, which we are currently winning, I am pleased to say.

There was a festive air that evening on the ship, we ate a fine feast on deck to welcome the newcomers and celebrate our achievements so far, the weather helped matters by being gorgeous too. We were visited by a local fishing boat, who first tried to sell us fish and then rather cheekily asked for beer too. They went away but then returned a little later asking us for a battery, as we didn’t have such a thing there was little we could do and they started back to the shore, at which point their engine died so we ended up launching the RIB and giving them a tow back. Silly Portuguese people!

We motored to Porta Delgada the next morning, had a wander around the town in the afternoon and then whole crew had a meal in a mariners bar that Captain Mike knows of old. The owner put on a slap up meal for us and we stayed long into the night, wobbling home merrily in the small hours.

TA2 Days 65-68
Sao Miguel and Northwards

After watching the Stavros come into the harbour we moved off and set sail for Old Blighty. It was a beautiful day and we put all the square sails up hopefully, unfortunately there was very little wind, as we were sheltered by the high cliffs of the south coast, so we took them down again and motored until we got around the headland. Once round the corner we got into a big swell on our nose, and found some wind blowing from the north west, so up the sails went again and we started on the long passage north, accompanied for a while by some large grey dolphins who put on a lovely show for us!

Our first day back at sea was decreed mental health day due to tiredness and sea sickness, so no happy hour and no classes 🙂 We were sailing well first thing in the morning on my watch but by late afternoon the wind had moved around further to the north, forcing us to head toward the Spanish coast, which we don’t want to do, so at sunset all hands handed sail in record time and we put the motor on for the night, hoping to find some better wind in the morning.

The news was good at morning meeting, the wind had come back round to the west a bit and we could start sailing again. The sun was shinning and we were cracking on nicely, when disaster struck. The main fuel line for the engine and generators had fractured and diesel was leaking into the bilge. The ship went into total blackout, no running water, no heads, no air con, anything that wasn’t immediately vital was turned off to save the emergency power supplies. Clover quickly got a ‘chuck-a-bucket’ system organised for those needing to relieve themselves and the engineer and crew got on with trying to sort out a repair. We were still under sail, enjoying the peaceful sounds of nothing but water and rigging and when we spotted a cargo ship on the horizon heading our way. We hailed them and asked if they had any engineering supplies we could have. As luck would have it, they had a spare pipe and LJon and Bosun Keith were sent over in the RIB to collect it. We hove to and they were soon back with the precious pipe.

It wasn’t quite as simple as all that though, the pipe wasn’t an exact match and the fittings needed to be altered to connect it properly, to do this the engineers needed a welder, which we have, but we had no power….. Somehow, miraculously, Chiefy got one of the generators going, giving Mick, who’d volunteered his skills as a agricultural engineer, the power he needed to do the welding. Meanwhile, we tacked ship and started sailing back in the direction we had come from, the Azores were still less than 200 miles away, by far the closest land, and if the worst came to the worst and we couldn’t get it fixed, we’d only be looking at corned beef sandwiches for a couple of days. However, by the late afternoon I heard a familiar sound, the air con starting up again, and then the engine coming on! We tacked once more and set sail for home again, marvelling over such amenities as flushing heads and electric light!

After about an hour of sailing, it became apparent that the wind wasn’t going to play nicely, so we took in the squares, leaving the spanker and jib up, and motor sailed through the night.

Today the wind has continued to play it’s own little game, it’s far too northerly to sail in the direction we want to go in, so we are continuing to motor- sail, keeping as close to the wind as we can. Watch this morning wasn’t a particularly fun experience, cold and grey with intermittent drizzle, a lovely welcome back on deck for Ant, who’s been swapped into my watch with Nick and is now fit enough to stand (well, sit, really) lookout duty.

I can smell chocolate cake wafting out of the galley as I write, it’s Jessie’s birthday today so I expect there shall be some fun and games later.

TA2 Days 68 (Continued) and 69.
Still going North.

Well, Jessie is now a grand old lady of 19 years and we acknowledged her birthday in the traditional Pelican manner- as a special treat she didn’t have to scrub the heads yesterday, just change the bin bags and top up the bog rolls! We also had a little party in the evening for her, Jules organised some geography based fun and games to entertain us before the cake was finally brought out. The smells of which, wafting from the galley all afternoon as I got myself up to date on the blog, had me near drooling, and we were not disappointed by the final product!

The wind had died almost completely by this morning, which made our passage much smoother, we still had a swell coming over from the north west but were no longer crashing down into the troughs so much. There was hope on the horizon that a wind in the right direction was coming our way, but meanwhile we continued to motor. It has been a good day for whales though, which always brightens us up, I was on helm at about 1300 when two big Minki whales surfaced about 20 yards from us on the port beam. The previous watch had also had sightings and later in the afternoon we were visited by yet more, all fairly close to the boat, which surprised me a little as I would have thought the noise of the engine would have put them off.

Our hopes and prayers for a decent wind were finally answered this evening, just after first sitting for supper the watches on deck were called to put up the sails and the engine was turned off. After 2 days of motoring it was weirdly quiet; we still have the generators going, which previously we would have considered to be quite noisy, but we now appreciate them a whole lot more, given recent events! Right, off to bed for me, I’ve only got an hour and a half before watch!!

TA2 Days 70-72
Heading Northeast now….

The wind dropped off again to a rather pathetic force 3 on Sunday and we made slow progress as we waited for the weather to change. According to the forecast, there was wind blowing strongly and in the right direction just above us, so we plodded on. The weather has become noticeably colder as we come north, and all but a brave few are now in long trousers. Most of us are choosing to spend much less time on deck, opting more for the snug warmth of our pits or the elegance of the saloon. Polly was up on the Poop for much of the afternoon though, working on two massive Turks head knot mats around the spanker sheet blocks. We had been using a doormat up until now to protect the deck, but these look far better and stand no chance of being washed overboard either. I meant to get some rest that day but ended up doing homework and learning how to do a good whipping with Keith. (That’s rope work, not the other sort…. Oh I’m not making it sound any better am I?) Anyway…

We came up on deck for watch at 0400 yesterday morning and all was much the same, about 5 knots of wind were taking us no-where fast. The Mate decided to bring the furling jib in as it wasn’t doing much, and thank god he did. As we were up on the foredeck handing it in the wind suddenly picked up to 20 knots and whipped round to the other side of us, sending sails flogging all over the place and the watch into a frenzy of activity. We sheeted in the remaining jib, braced the yards and sheeted in the coarse, took in the royal, went aloft to stow it, then came down again to take in the t’gallant and then back up to stow that one. We were absolutely knackered after all that but still had to do a deck scrub before breakfast! The wind blew a hoolie all day, at one point we got up to 9 kt when I was on the helm in the evening, albeit only briefly, most of the time she was doing about 8.5 kt. We were in a huge swell, rollers 5 meters high came sweeping past, tipping the ship alarmingly at times, it looked as if we were in for a lumpy night.

This morning I awoke refreshed, having used my earplugs last night I missed the beeping that was coming through the tannoy and keeping everyone else awake most of the night. The wind had fallen off a fair bit by breakfast and we wore ship at about midday as the wind is slowly moving round again, the lumpiness has dropped off along with the wind, although we are still bobbing about a fair bit, I’m hoping it might become a little flatter by 4 (in about an hour) as we have ‘THE GREAT PELICAN EGG DROP’ then. Each watch has been given an egg (ours is named Derek) and the challenge is to construct something to prevent the egg from breaking when dropped from the main top platform, points are awarded for design, presentation, keeping it whole and highest drop achived. I have high hopes for our watch’s entry, the ‘Blue Beehive’ a multi layered cocoon, involving (in order from inside out) loo paper, an ear bud tub, cereal that no-one wants to eat, a plastic jar, my travel pillow and some fantastic knotwork ;-).


Well, our egg survived but we were pipped to the post by Aft Starboard’s Bumblebee which flew a little further than our behive, and their secondary entry deserves much accolade too, the prototype for next year’s competition which was Ray’s ingenious design, he’s come up with a mind power tube through which the egg will travel as it falls, slowing itself down with the power of it’s own thoughts. Going through three stages, it first enters the Bosun’s section, where it finds itself in ‘Happy Hour’ and relaxes, experiencing a sense of laise faire, thus slowing down. In the second section it enters the wheel house, a place of poor communication and misinformation, so confused it becomes by all this, that it stops in it’s descent completely. In the third section, if all else fails and it makes it that far, it enters the galley, where it will find itself in a poaching centrifuge, which will scare it so much that it goes shooting back up the tube!

Forward Starboard came third, their egg remaining whole in it’s rocket, which came with instructions for safe landing on the side, which must have made all the difference. In final place was Aft Port’s entry, a bag of jelly, which went splat, along with their egg.

We celebrated David’s birthday that evening, Lesley had made him a chocolate cake which we ate with gusto, washing it down with a glass or two of wine. I found myself annoyed that I’d had a drink later, as when we were changing watch at midnight we needed to hand the royal, I’ve not been up the mast in the dark and was looking forward to this new experience, but as I’d had a drink hours earlier, the captain wouldn’t allow me to go up.

TA2 Day 73
Getting there..

I was on mess duty that day and thanked my lucky stars for it as the weather was truly antisocial. We were battling through wind and rain in a big swell, which had gotten bigger since we’d gone up from the deep ocean to the comparative shallows of the continental ledge, waves were flying over the deck on a regular basis and everyone spent several minutes dripping in the doorway before coming in properly! It was interesting being in the galley, I had to stand guard over things many a time, in case they decided to hurl themselves across the room, as it was, only three plates died that day, and Lucinda produced two stunning meals for us all, that woman deserves a medal!

TA2 Days 74 – 77
The English Channel!!!

The next day the weather had calmed itself and we had a good day’s sailing, we were getting into the bottom end of the English Channel by then and starting to see lots of ships, it made good revision for our RYA lights and shapes and rules of the road lessons, actually putting these things into practice hammers home how important they are. On dead watch (0000- 04000) that morning, amongst several other sets of lights around us, we spotted a single green light- a yacht, what we didn’t realise was how close it was until quite late, I was on helm at the time and suddenly found myself getting orders like “Port 20!, Starboard 10!” Once we had gone around it’s stern, it was easier to see how close it was, Ben radioed them and told them that they weren’t showing up on the radar, which came as a surprise to them I think, as they told us they had a radar reflector hoisted. Just goes to show the importance of keeping a good look out!

Later that day we gained a new member of crew, a racing pigeon, who stayed with us for about 24 hours, cadging a lift to France, he pottered around the deck, pecking at any brown shoes he saw in the hopes of food!

When I came up on deck for watch the next morning at 0400 we could see Alderny. The previous watch had been looking at it for some time too, the tide was against us at a rate of about 6kts so we weren’t actually making any progress. They said that at one point the ship had gone backwards! Luckily the tide turned soon after and we left the island behind as we headed for the French mainland. A good deck scrub got rid of the pigeon poo left by our feathered friend, (although he swiftly started undoing our good work!) and we finally got into Cherbourg just before midday.

Everyone was keen to get ashore and the ship was left eerily quiet, I decided to hang back and enjoy the calm before going ashore a little later. When I did head out, I expected to bump into people in the nearest bar, but they’d all managed to get a little further than the sea front, so I got myself an English newspaper and spent the afternoon sipping kir outside a little café bar and catching up on events back home, lovely and peaceful! Mick and Rachel found me there at about 6 and we went on together for a meal, indulging ourselves in a glut of seafood before meandering on to the Marina bar where we met up with Ben and Jules for one more drink. It was meant to be an early night for me as we had our RYA exam in the morning, but we ended up wandering home at nearly midnight!

We sat the exam after happy hour, generally it went well, though the French journalist who popped in near the end and started taking photos of us was a little off-putting! After that we were free to spend the afternoon as we wished before dinner. Lucinda did us an amazing ‘Last Supper’ of roast beef with all the trimmings and then, feeling rather full we headed out toward England. We were accompanied out of the harbour by a dolphin, who seemed to enjoy playing chicken with the RIB as it nudged the ship off the mooring. Sadly the wind was in exactly the wrong direction for us, so our last night at sea was done under motor. Forward Port stood our last watch of the voyage from 2000 to 0000, dodging ships in the busy traffic of the Channel made it a lot more exciting than usual too! It was a lovely night though and we were treated to one last stunning sunset before the stars came out to see us on our way.

TA2 Day 77

It was rather an odd sensation after all these months to come out on deck and see such a familiar coastline, there was Portland Bill, the chalk man and his horse, the cliffs of the Dorset coast, Portland Harbour, and nestling in the middle, Weymouth. We set sails one more time to do a little showing off out in the bay and then it was all hands aloft to stow for the last time. As we approached the harbour a small flotilla came out to greet us, friends and family shouting greetings across the water to the crew from yachts, dingys and small motor boats. We couldn’t stop and chat though as we had to man the yards as we came in, our PA system blasting out Monty Python and firecrackers exploding as a certain crewmember chucked them out from where they were standing on the topsail. I’d bagged myself a spot on the royal the night before so I had a fantastic view of everything. There was a band playing on the quay and a good crowd had turned out to see us come in. Something had to go wrong though, the wind was blowing us off the quay so it took us ages to get alongside, and we bumped the bow a bit, which was rather embarrassing! Still, it was only a little bump and nothing got broken, and all else was forgotten as the gangplank was put out and loved ones came aboard to welcome us home, drinks were laid on and the party started!

So that’s it, we’re home, my grand adventure is over…. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking over the last few days, working out what to do next and the conclusion I’ve come to is fairly obvious if you know me. This is in my blood, metaphorically speaking, there’s no way I’ll ever be happy working on land, so I’ll be off to sea again. I’m already looking into enrolling on a deck officer course which would qualify me as an Officer of the Watch. With that under my belt I’ll be able to make good money on the tankers and cargo ships for some of the time, and then be able to go and play on the sailing ships for the rest. Running away to sea isn’t nearly so romantic as it sounds, the next three years will probably be quite dull a lot of the time, but I’ve finally found what it is I’m going to be good at, and in 10 years time I’m aiming to be Chief Officer on the Pelican, so watch this space!!

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!!

Slutty nuns and melted ice-cream

11th April 2008

TA2 Days 14 – 17
Nevis to St Kitts

As it was Sunday morning we had a competition – Best Dressed for Breakfast, Ben and Jules turned up in each others clothes, quite how Ben fitted into Jules’ size 8 skirt I don’t know, Anthony came as Pip, in her bikini, which he filled quite nicely, we also had Princess Jasmine, a mummy and a slutty nun, as well as various miscellaneous entries. I’ll leave you to guess (or at least wait for the photos) to decide which one I was. We all had to do a catwalk for Graham and he picked Anthony as his winner and Jessie as his wife. After Captains rounds we were given shore leave, I went on a tour of the island with Polly, Doug and Graham with his camera. Our first stop was an old sugar mill; it was a photographers dream with old bits of machinery placed about amongst the ruins, rusting gently and all sorts of plants growing in crevices and cracks. Higher up the mountain another old sugar mill had been turned into holiday homes and a restaurant set in some stunning gardens. We found lots of seed pods and some coconuts which our guide opened for us with the aid of a massive rock, I have two hairy little coconuts now, called Herbert and Brian, which are going to get drilled open and filled with rum at some point. We went on around the island to Montpelier Inn, the site where Nelson married Fanny Nesbitt and where Princess Diana used to go with her sons, I’m determined to have my honeymoon there, it’s absolutely lovely!

While we were sitting on the dock enjoying the early evening light and waiting for the RIB to take us back to the ship, a local chap, who was in his 60’s at least, came and sat beside me, within 5 minutes he’d told me we were getting married, he would make me a very happy lady and he had a lovely house for us, but I was going to have to buy it. He also insisted on sticking plasters on my scraped knee, which wouldn’t have been so bad had he not put the adhesive bit right across the middle of the scab. I was very relieved to see the RIB coming in! After supper a few of the crew decided to go over to Pinney’s Beach for a beer, we could hear booming music and see bonfires on the beach, unfortunately when we got there the swell was too big to be able to anchor the RIB so we had to change plans and go back to town, we ended up getting a drink in the local equivalent of a chippy, not quite the evening we’d had in mind, but we did see a very sweet kitten which Jules was all for bringing back as ships cat.

The next morning brought us perfect weather for filming sailing evolutions between Nevis and St Kitts, Graham was out in the RIB with Pip driving. We tacked and wore several times for the camera, which was fantastic practise for us and by the end of the day we had it really neat and sharp. Polly and I got the chance to go out in the RIB with about 7 or 8 cameras and take photos of the last tack and wear for everyone, Pelican really is an impressive sight when she’s going. By then everyone was flagging a bit and we headed in to Port Zante. Berthing on the cruise liner jetty was a bit of a nightmare, the wind that had been our friend all day was blowing straight across the jetty, we got blown off of the lee side twice before we made it eventually on the windward side. When all had been sorted and we’d calmed down there was time to go ashore and explore before supper. Before you find the town you have to go through the nasty tourist trap they have around the actual port, it’s very Americanized, with huge quantities of tat shops, diamond and jewellery shops and duty free outlets. The actual town however is much more Caribbean thankfully, Polly, Jess and I had a wander, found a cool little bar for a rum punch, then headed home for supper. A gang of us went out later, the bar we’d found before was closed and we ended up getting directed to the local casino, who, we were told, had a bar with pool tables upstairs. The bar was closed when we arrived, but because there were so many of us they opened it up especially and we had a great time, the joys of going out in a big group!

Yesterday I had a lazy day; caught up on some sleep and had a lesson on driving Virginia, our dive boat, which was fun. I had a chance to drive the RIB back on Montserrat, the two are very different in their handling, the RIB is rather like a car on ice and Virginia’s a bit like a tea tray with a tiller! I hope to get a lot more practice in and take my power boat exams when we get back to Weymouth. Most of the other voyage crew went ashore again that afternoon, exploring the black sand beach and the town some more and meeting some friendly locals.

Today was our last day on St Kitts, we had an early happy hour and then several of the crew went ashore, some went for some chill time and some of us went on a tour of the island. We visited Romany Manor where we explored some beautiful gardens and were tempted by the batik paintings on sale in their craft shop. Brimstone Hill Fort was our next stop, what a view! They had some scarily life-like figures in one of their display rooms, showing what it would have been like when the fort was occupied, I was tempted to chuck some money on the floor to see if they’d move. Further round the island we paused at the Black rocks where Jessie went for a scramble, giving the rest of us kittens as she disappeared down and then popped up onto a huge volcanic spike above the crashing waves, she returned safely and we spent several minutes cooing over a baby donkey that tried to eat the flowers on my flip-flops. When we got back to the point where we had started (Jessie- “Wow, How did we get here? I thought we’d gone left?” “Er, It’s an island, Jess”) we had time for a beer and a wander, the girls and I had lunch in the bar we’d found before, a proper Caribbean meal of fried chicken, rice and peas and coleslaw, delicious! Waiting for the boat to take us back to the ship we saw some very cool fish in the marina, they appeared to be swimming side up to the water’s surface, which made it easy to get a couple of great shots of them. Back on the ship we scrubbed the decks and got ready to sail, weighing anchor at 5. I helmed her out and along the coast, watching the evening light catching on the hills and troughs of the volcanic landscape. We are currently running before the wind with a very easy motion, I can hardly feel it, should sleep well tonight!

Day 18 – 19
Sint Maartin

I’m in hell. Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration; I’m in a Disneyesque Cruise Liner port. The sea is a stunning azure blue, the beach is white and sandy, the sun is shinning, and everywhere I look there are thousands of tourists and hundreds of tat vendors. The beach is entirely overrun with deckchairs which you can hire for an exorbitant price, behind the beach there are a variety of bars, all slap bang next to each other and pumping out various offensive levels of noise. Behind the seafront there are streets full of more tat and bars….. If you hadn’t guessed by now, I’m none too keen on this stop! We’re only here to get stores for the long leg to Bermuda and make a few repairs and will be leaving this evening for Anguilla. St Maartin looked quite pretty from a distance, but as we anchored yesterday morning in the bay, there were two massive cruise liners on the jetty, we could see the closest one’s huge TV screen as it pumped out MTV on the top deck, way above our masts. Those of us who went ashore in the afternoon soon found ourselves longing to get back onto the ship and escape the garish nightmare that they have turned this beautiful bay into. We came alongside the jetty after the cruise ships left yesterday evening, our little ship takes up only a fraction of the space they did, a point made exceedingly well this morning as we discovered a new one had arrived in the night. We’ve been quite an attraction today, though I’ve seen several of the inhabitants of the cruise liner looking back to take pictures of their ship and ignoring us… Ah well, I suppose everyone has different tastes!

We are losing Pip today sadly, she’s off to Antigua for Classics Week and then home for a bit, no doubt she’ll be back before long though. We took her out to Simpson Bay last night, as the cruise ships were gone the town had pretty much closed up, Simpson Bay some gorgeous specimens along the jetty behind the bar we went to, they can literally walk off the boat and into the bar in two paces. We had a good night there, meeting old friends and new, Ben’s extremely gregarious and Polly’s dredlocks give her rasta status, plus she’s such a genuine loving person, so we always get chatting with the local crowd within minutes.

Pip leaving also meant my watch lost it’s watch leader, taking us down to a party if three (myself, Anthony and Rob). While I was doing the washing up this morning, Doug popped his head round the door and asked me to come see him… I was sure I hadn’t done anything wrong so wasn’t too worried about this, and when he asked me to take over from Pip I was very pleasantly surprised. It’s not a very taxing role, just sorting out watch bills etc really, but it’s nice they think so well of me 🙂

It’s now late afternoon, stores have been mostly taken in and we’re just waiting for the frozen stuff now, it’s gotten a bit too able to be able to clear out through customs tonight so we’ll slip berth and anchor in the bay again before heading off to Anguilla tomorrow.

A short while later… Frozen stuff is now in, sadly the ice-cream didn’t quite make it so we have just been stuffing ourselves on it- no point in letting it all go to waste! We gave a tub to the linesmen on the jetty, who’d been doing the ropes for the cruise ship opposite us when she left, which bought us permission to stay alongside tonight!

Sunsets, sailing and sheer loveliness.

4th April 2008

Sorry folks, this is a long one, not been able to get online much lately, all the sailing and drinking and seeing beautiful things kinda gets in the way…. Hehehehe!!

Day 7/ TA2 Day 2
St Lucia to the sea

This morning was mostly taken up by bunkering- a re-fuelling barge came alongside, nearly taking out a bit of the foc’sle with it’s anchor, and getting a bit of a dent on its starboard poop rail on our brace jib, but otherwise quite safely, well, until Keith fell off the foredeck onto Jon, who cushioned his fall, but wasn’t too impressed. It took longer than expected because they managed to break some bit of their equipment, so we had to wait for a while they sorted it. Meanwhile, LJohn and James got sent ashore for some sand (in case of diesel spillage), they found a lovely little beach but were chased off buy a cow (ravenous cow according to LJohn) and a pack of dogs. They weren’t deterred though and returned with sacks of sand for Mike, such brave boys! My heat rash saga continues but has been greatly improved today, probably a combination of the Fullers Earth and lashings of factor 30 sun cream!

After happy hour and the bunkering Francis took us over the ropes we had learnt yesterday and then after lunch Keith took us through putting up the foresail, outer jib and staysail. Then it was time to make sure everything was tidied away and clean down the deck before getting underway. We weighed anchor at 16.30, Anthony and I went aloft and loosed the topsail, stayed up there to overhaul it, and then moved down to the coarse to loose the gaskets off and overhaul when it was sheeted out. While we were climbing and loosing gaskets the rest of the voyage crew got the outer jib and staysail up, and then sheeted out the square sails. The spanker was the last sail to put up, with plenty of the old “2, 6, HEAVE!” as we hauled in the clewline. By then St Lucia was becoming a distant shape on the horizon, and as the sun set Martinique’s lights drew closer. We’ve been at sea for a few hours now, supper was interesting as we’re heeling to port a fair bit. I learned a useful trick from Pip- putting a spoon under your plate puts it back on a level plane, a very useful trick when eating stew! We’re sailing overnight to Dominica, expecting to arrive early morning. I’m on dead watch (00:00 – 04:00) so am off for an early night.

TA2 Days 3-7
Dominica to Les Saintes

Dead watch on our first night at sea was fun, when we came up it was beautifully clear, the stars were shinning and the moon was out, there were a few clouds about but generally they were of the light and fluffy variety, all was calm. Then blob on the radar started showing where no land was, looking at the horizon we could see a dark miasma of grey, a squall was approaching. Ben wanted to use the wind it was producing to power us along as we were sitting behind the high point of Martinique at that point, and going nowhere fast. As it hit, the wind picked up and we started heeling to port once more, the rain lashed down, big fat drops that came from the side rather than above, soaking me to the skin as I helmed, trying to keep a straightish course. As we moved thought the main part of the storm the rain died away but the wind continued and we needed to get the outer jib down. Ben sent Pip, Anthony and me up to the foredeck to try and haul it down but all three of us on the rope had no effect so we woke Keith, LJohn and Oli to give us a hand. The downhaul was jammed so LJohn had to go scrambling up the bowsprit to get it unstuck before we could get it away. The morning watch had an even more exhausting time of it as Francis was frigging with the rigging (his favourite pastime) for the whole 4 hours trying to get the most power out of the sails.

Arriving in Dominica in the afternoon felt little bit hairy as there was a strong wind blowing us over onto the jetty, but we made it safely thanks to the skill of our captain and some judicious placing of fenders. The fenders on the pontoon were huge tyres which we rubbed up against the whole time we were there, making some horrible squeaking noises, not fun when you’re trying to sleep. We made sure the ship looked immaculate and then chilled out for a while, watching Oli and LJohn out on the dinghys and taking bets on how far they’d get and whether we’d have to get the RIB out to rescue them. In the evening we wandered over to the local bar, and then further into town for more. Dave, Tom, Jesse and James went on to Big Pappas to dance the night away, while the rest of us wandered back home for watches and sleep.

The next morning a few of us went on a tour of the north end of the island, a mini bus took us up steep winding roads through lush rainforest. We saw lemongrass growing wild, coca pods and nutmeg trees, huge tree ferns and mango trees and the odd coconut too. Just above us were the tops of the really high mountains wreathed in cloud and far down below the coast and the sea stretched away. Our first stop off was in the middle of an old volcano, down a small footpath to a sulphur spring, it was absolutely beautiful, with verdant green grass growing to one side and little calderas of bubbling water surrounded by yellow stones dotted about, but the fragrance left something to be desired so we didn’t hang about too long. We continued on in our little bus, rising to heights that gave us amazing panoramic views and then right back down to the coastline where the waves pounded the shore. The final highlight of the trip was a waterfall, we parked at the top of a hill where a sign pointed along a path saying ’Chaudiere Falls – 2634 ft’, what it failed to note was that that was straight down! We scrambled and slid our way down an incredibly steep path to the river below. Polly and I were wearing flip-flops which weren’t the most practical choice of footwear so we ended up going barefoot and getting squidgy tropical mud between our toes. The climb was worth it, we found at the bottom a picture perfect scene, the plunge pool beneath the falls was deep and round with little fish swimming in it, rocks were perfectly placed, and the lush green canopy leaned over it all. Anthony braved the jump from the top and used the falls as a waterslide, he felt the full power of the water as he got pushed right down to the bottom by the current, and punched the air in triumph as he surfaced. Polly and I went for the easy option, playing in the rapids, which was lovely, until we discovered the only way to get out was to go down them, an option that involved getting several bruises! We clambered back up the hill to get back to the ship in time for the afternoon river trip along Indian River. 13 of the crew crammed into a row boat, with our oarsman, Macaroni at the back. It was a slow meandering ride up-river, along the bank there were huge sprawling tree roots, creeper vines and wild hibiscus. Macaroni showed us were they filmed the swamp scene in Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and then we made our way up, spotting iguanas as we went, to a beautiful garden and bar where we stopped for a barbeque feast, complete with large quantities garlic dressing and volumes of beer. When it was dark I and a few others went and sat away from the light, listening to the forest, insects and goodness knows what else all singing their individual parts, making a full orchestra of chirruping and croaks. The ride back down river in the dark was magical, the trees above silhouetted against a bright starry sky. Back on the ship I fell asleep as soon as I hit the bunk.

We left Dominica in the morning and sailed the 20 miles to Les Saintes, which are just below Guadeloupe. We attempted tacking several times but Tall Ships don’t like going through the wind, and as we weren’t getting blown onto the island as much as had been initially thought we were eventually able to wear instead. We anchored in the middle of this tiny archipelago. There’s one main island, and a few smaller ones around it. The main town is called Terre-de-Haut, it’s so picturesque – very French colonial in style but all in bright Caribbean colours. A few people popped ashore for drinks that evening, the local cocktails are huge and extremely potent, but we generally had a fairly quiet evening, the highlight of which was the inauguration of the Grumpy Old Men Corner in the mess, Keith takes pride of place there of course!

Before we could go ashore the next day we had some cleaning to do, the bottom of the ship has accumulated a fair amount of weed and barnacles, and the fenders on the jetty in Dominica had left some nasty big black marks on the port side. Trying to get rid of the barnacles and weed proved to be a fairly fruitless task, we tried scraping them off with a sharp ended plank and brushing too, but had little effect. I went over the side with a snorkel to have a look at it properly, we have some interesting little things growing on us at the moment! Getting the side of the ship clean was a slightly easier job, some bods leaned over the side, scrubbing with Cif and we had Virginia, our dive boat, rigged on a sliding rope along the ship so as to get all the way along. Ray went hard at it, along with Jess, and I relieved Ray after a while. It was a little choppy and hard work but it was satisfying to see our ship looking all spick and span again.

After lunch we were given leave to go ashore to explore the town and island, the older lads had a wander round the town and found some good drinking spots and did a spot of shopping. Jess, Polly and I decided to walk across the island to find the north beach, it’s a lovely spot, a big wide palm fringed beach looking out across the bay which is sheltered from the brunt of the sea by rocky islands with gaps on each side that let the tide in. I went for a snorkel but was sadly disappointed, it obviously used to have a beautiful reef, but all that is left is broken coral and a few weeds. There were a few pretty fish, but it was mainly just a sad reminder of the damage we are causing this planet. We got back to the main town in time for a cocktail before getting the RIB back to the ship, they were huge, and tasted stronger than the ones we had the night before, I think we broke Jesse a bit! Back on board it was party time, the barbeque was brought out and Pip made Pelican punch (made of pretty much anything she could lay her hands on I think!). Everyone had a great time eating, drinking and dancing, Dave dragged me out onto the dance floor for a boogie, he may look skinny but he threw me about like a ballroom pro!

We’re now heading up to Montseratt, expecting to arrive in the wee small hours. We’ll anchor for a day there before heading on to Antigua, a leg that promises to be interesting as we’ll be beating into the wind.

TA2 Days 8-11
Montserat to Antigua

We were sailing through the sulphurous stench of the volcano as we changed watch, after taking in some sail the previous watch were allowed to go below and Mizzen watch were left to watch the dawn over Montserat. Towering clouds mixed with smoke from the mountain and we got snap happy as the sun sent rays under the clouds and around the hills of the island. We arrived into Little Bay on the north end at about breakfast time. Jules popped ashore and found a couple of taxi drivers offering to take us on a day’s tour of the island, which almost all of the crew decided to go on. We had to leave a few souls behind to look after the ship but the rest of us piled into two mini-vans (a tight fit with some of the larger chaps) and set off for the Montserat Volcano Observatory where we had a stunning view of the still smoking beast. Half the island is now a restricted zone as pyroclastic flows have swept down to the sea, obliterating the main town of Plymouth and extending the shore line. After watching a short video about the phases of eruptions that have occurred over the last 10 years we drove down to a valley where one of the flows has left a boulder strewn lunar landscape, with a couple of top storeys and roofs poking out of the grey sand. Up the other side we went through what had been the richest area of the island, known as Beverly Hills, the houses have been mostly abandoned now, though some people still go back occasionally to maintain the beautiful homes they had to leave in the hopes that they will be able to return. We got to a point where even 4 wheel drives couldn’t go any further and we climbed up the rest of the impossibly steep road to the top where we had another fantastic view of the land, including what was once Plymouth, now a modern Pompei. After all that, beers were needed to refresh the troops so we found a bar before returning to the shore to meet the RIB. Keith and Mike were in a shack bar there having their end of the day refreshment. The bar was owned by a fellow by the name of Moose and instead of serving us he told me I could just go behind the bar and serve the gang myself, Ben came with me and he ended up living his dream of running a Caribbean bar for an hour or so! Moose was a wonderful host and provided us with bar snacks of freshly fried jerk chicken and gar fish. The only annoyance was the midges which ate my legs with as much gusto as I ate the fish!

Next morning we set off on the slog to get to Antigua, the wind was against us and as soon as we got away from the shelter of the island we found ourselves in some very lumpy seas. We tried a tack after lunch but were too soon in doing so and ended up going back along the line we had come along, so we made a quick about face again and sailed on. In the end it took us 3 more tacks to get there, we sailed 98 miles to get across a 20 mile gap and arrived in Falmouth Harbour at about 4 in the morning. I was on mess duty that day which is always made much more interesting when you’re heeling at what feels like 35 degrees (but is probably only really 10 to 15). The freezer had packed up because the water intake was above the water line when we were on a starboard tack and when Tom went below to get ice cream for pudding after dinner he found something more like soup. Poor boy wasn’t very happy at that point and went up to the foredeck to vent his frustration by shouting abuse at Neptune!

We got a lie in that morning thank heavens, in the afternoon some of the crew went ashore and had a look at English Harbour which is not very far away from here, I decided to go back to bed instead as I’d got no sleep the night before until we’d anchored. The ship had been going up and down a lot and my bunk is thwart ship (lying across it rather than along the length) so when the ship heels I slide down the bunk and my feet hit the end, I have to change ends when we tack so I’m not lying upside-down! After some kip and shower I felt like a much nicer person. Graham, who’s the creator of the ship, joined us that afternoon and we had a lovely steak dinner to welcome him on board before heading off into town to celebrate our arrival in Antigua properly. Many rum punches and tequilas later we staggered home. I fell over and scraped my knee on the way, and in the middle of the night found myself shut in a small dark room that I was convinced was the sail locker of a pirate ship. After banging on walls and what I thought was the hatch above me for a while in anger and frustration, I ripped the shower curtain down and realised I was in my bathroom!

I didn’t feel very well yesterday, but was dragged out for a marginally more sedate night out anyway. A couple of rum punches acted as hair of the dog and I was soon dancing like a loon once more. We were a little late back, (OK, about three hours) but as we had Ben, who was Officer On Watch, with us, we pretty much got away with it. We had a lesson on knots this morning, with Graham filming us for his promotional video, and have had the rest of the day free. Most of the crew have gone ashore so I’ve taken advantage of the peace and quiet to catch up on emails etc. Now I’m off to Shirley Heights to watch the sunset.

Later, back on the ship feeling pleasantly full after another deck barbeque. The sunset was stunning, we had an awesome view of both Falmouh Harbour and English Harbour. God I love this life!

Pink bits and pizza

25th March 2008

Day 5

Been on mess duty all day, which mainly involves a heck of a lot of washing up after each meal, so no wheel oiling today; there wouldn’t have been any wheel oiling anyway in fact, as they’ve now decided to cover the wheel with a tarp or something until we can get the special varnish they want. (Rolls eyes)

I actually really enjoy being on mess duty, the downside is you have to be up a little earlier than normal, but you get the night off before, and with the music cranked up high while you’re chopping and slicing or washing pots you can have a good old warble and a boogie. Tom’s a wicked guy too so it’s just like hanging out with a mate for the day. We were going to make pizza for lunch but that got scuppered as we hadn’t the time to make the dough from scratch and we couldn’t find the dough mix in the stores, so it was salad buffet instead.

After lunch was washed up the voyage crew were granted some shore leave, I’d already peeled the spuds for later so the was nothing to do in the galley thankfully, so we pootled across to Pigeon Island, it’s not actually separate from the mainland but is St Lucia National Trust land, so we got stung for a few dollars, just for going to the beach, pah! It was a lovely beach though, small and perfectly formed, with a bar 500 yards away, we lazed under a palm tree, swam and had a few drinks. There was an old lime kiln, right by the beach and the toilet block had been converted from the old stores house, I wanted to climb the hill behind the beach and explore more but we didn’t have the time sadly.

Back on the ship we found that the last few crew members had joined us, Jessica, who’s on her gap year, and Rob and Jon, two old mates, Jon’s got the dirtiest laugh I ever heard, I reckon those two will liven things up no end! After a lovely roast for dinner the washing up got ploughed through as I had so many helpers drying up, which left plenty of time for a run ashore, Mike the engineer, Anthony, Polly and I went over to the bar I was at with the crew on the first night, the owner has got the idea that we’re a cruise ship and so gives us 10% off on drinks, we’re not complaining! I felt fine when we came back, but waking up for watch at 3 was horrible, rum punch is tasty, but vicious!

Day 6/TA2 day 1

Today was mostly spent doing introductions, briefings and talks. We signed on with the captain (even though some of us have already been on for a week!) and were told all about the ships routine- watch rotas, mess duties, happy hour (cleaning after breakfast- a perfect time to put some tunes on!) Then it was time for some basics of seamanship- helming, climbing the rigging, and sail setting. As I’ve been up the rigging many a time I wanted to do a little more than the basic up and over to the first platform that trainees generally do on their first time up, and as I’ve not been up yet this week I wanted to check out the view. So with the captain’s permission, I went right up to the top crosstrees and sat on the royal yard. Nick and Anthony came up as well and enjoyed the scenery with me for a bit. After the much promised pizza for lunch we had a talk about sails and the ropes that work them from Francis and the rest of the afternoon was spent getting to grips with and practicing setting and stowing sails.

It was around this point that I realised that I’d gone a bit pink so I ducked out of the sail stowing and went below to stand under a cold shower and then slather myself in various creams. The heat rash has gotten worse too, it seems to be slowly spreading across my body, my feet are feeling better, but my hands look like bright pink toad skin. Jon has some Fullers Earth cream which I’ve heard of before now and is supposed to be really good for skin complaints, so I’m trying that tonight, hopefully something will have an effect soon! I borrowed a shirt from Pip for the rest of the afternoon while we set the spanker and practiced bracing the yards over and over again, I’ve landed myself with the port mainbrace as my station. Rob, who’s a big fella, offered to swap it for the t’gallant and royal, but I’m quite happy with it really, all part of the fitness regime!

I just had time for a quick dip before supper and have just been watching Hercules in New York on deck; LJohn has a projector so we just have to hang up a white board and we have an in house cinema! It rained on us briefly a couple of times – nearly, but not quite enough, to send us running inside. The lads are all back from shore leave now and it’s time for me to hit my bunk as I’ve got anchor watch at 5 in the morning.

On watch. Typical, I pop down to my cabin to grab my torch and memory stick and a bloomin’ alarm goes off! Bizarrely enough, it was a distress alarm, apparently coming from us, but was in fact an emergency weather warning for the North Atlantic. Useful.