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Challenger 1 – Deep Sea Challenge, Portsmouth to Gran Canaria

By Tall Ships - November 11th, 2019 | Posted in Voyager blogs No comments

Day One

Nine excited/terrified crew arrived at Gunwharf Quays at 1pm, ready to start their adventure on-board Challenger 1 from Portsmouth to Gran Canaria.  Initial introductions were made and to Watch Leaders Anna and Dave, mate Jim and Skipper Paul.  We were welcomed on-board with the offer of a cup of tea or coffee in the saloon, a good start to any sailing voyage!  The crew introduced themselves and their sailing background, followed by a below deck and above deck briefing from Dave and Anna on the key elements of the boat and safety points.  Of course the rain decided to absolutely pelt it down as we started the on deck brief and our casual clothes getting damp before we even started, not a wise move by any of us, resulting in a mid-brief hunt for wet weather gear.  As the wind and rain picked up, Paul made the decision not to push onto Cowes that afternoon and for the evening, but for us to depart early in the morning to refuel.  This was great news for the crew as it meant a fantastic fish and chip dinner in the saloon and a quick pint or two in the pub, providing a great opportunity for us to get to know each other and even the start of some banter.  We turned in early to get a good night’s sleep ready to sail to Cowes in the morning.

Day Two

Sunday morning started with slipping our lines at Gunwharf Quay at 8:30, to make our way to Cowes.  With light winds, we motored across and refuelled, a huge 2000 litres, rather different to anything many of us had sailed before!

After refuelling, we departed just before midday and hoisted sails for the first time.  It turned out to be an interesting challenge to climb the mast the first few metres to attach the main halyard (rope that pulls up the main sail) via a split pin (which requires two hands), whilst balancing and holding onto the mast.  After a bit of amusement of watching Sophie try to do it on her own and after taking a photo of her escapades, Si offered a much needed third hand to hold the shackle still and to complete the task.  It was becoming rapidly apparent that the size of everything on the boat, would mean that working together as a team is really needed.  Hoisting the main sail was also hard work with pairs of crew taking it in turn to sweat the main and then finally to winch the last bit.  Unfortunately the wind wasn’t going to play ball, ranging from 8-10 knots, so the crew started motor-sailing towards Plymouth.  Plymouth was the next stop to meet the riggers for final checks as Challenger 1 had just had a new standing rig (wires that hold the mast up) put in.  The light winds also gave the crew a chance to chat a bit more before splitting into watches and to take in the sights of The Needles and other sights along the South coast.

At 6pm we split up into our watches for the first time, as we would be motor-sailing through the night, to make Plymouth for Saturday morning.  The Port watch consisting of Mark, Karen, Tom, Sophie, Dave and Jim, began the first watch, with the Starboard watch consisting of Stefan, Sigrid, Alex, Nathan, Si, Anna and Paul, taking over at 10pm.  For the rest of the trip we’d be operating two day watches of 6 hours and three night watches of 4 hours, in order to roll the day and night patterns of the two watches.

Motoring into the dark, our eyes gradually adjusted to picking out other vessels, markers and starting to find our sea legs.  In the darkness and focussing on the compass on the helm, tiredness was already starting to kick-in as we weren’t yet into a routine.

For many of us, sleep was fairly elusive after our watch with a variety of unfamiliar sounds from engine noise, waves and a couple of prolific snorers!  Pillows over heads and ear plugs were no use, but we quickly realised that we’d soon be tired enough to sleep through anything.

Day Three

The wind was starting to drop but still blowing 25 knots at 7am, dropping to around 20 knots for the rest of the day.  The sea state remained moderate to rough and luckily by the start of the Port watch at 6am, Sophie and Mark were both ok for watch, with Karen and Tom still sick.  By then we were making good progress along the French coast and there were quite a few sightings of dolphins and birds to keep the crew entertained.  The Spaghetti Bolognese dinner that wasn’t eaten the previous evening, was reheated for lunch as there was still little enthusiasm from the majority of the crew to eat, although luckily a few were starting to bounce back.  As the conditions started to settle, some of the crew took the opportunity to freshen up a little (as much as possible on a boat whilst bouncing over waves) whilst off watch in an attempt to recover from the previous night’s adventures.

As the Port watch commenced the 6pm watch, they were met by the enthusiasm of Dave, to have a vaguely functioning watch again.  We also learnt that Dave has a bit of a reputation as “Disco Dave” from his Tall Ships adventures in the Caribbean.  This would be the start of disco night watches for us, with music on deck on a small speaker to get us through the night alongside the unfailing banter and chatter of the crew, plus our ability to hoover down biscuits and chocolate, given the opportunity.  Another sign that a few of us were bouncing back from the dreaded seasickness!  The weather was gradually improving and it felt warmer.  It was a rather uneventful night watch, seeing very few boats, but it was good for star gazing and a chance to relax from the snake pit (a pit behind the mast, where the ropes are coiled and used to hoist the sails and control them).

Day Four

With the wind on our bow (front of the boat), we had to motor sail with the main sail up, in order to make a steady 6 knot progress. A few other crew members were also starting to feel a bit better, which was great as the boat had previously been a little dysfunctional in terms of cooking, cleaning and general entertainment.

Morning wake-ups for watch were variable depending on who got the task.  Usually they were fairly gentle, but others were enough to induce confusion, hitting your head on the ceiling and an exclamation of surprise in some verbal form.

The boat was progressing across the Bay of Biscay and luckily the weather was going to be significantly kinder than the English Channel.  Many of the crew had feared the bay, but luckily we had already experienced the worst.  A few days in and we were celebrating a ‘proper’ wash and a change of base layers and socks.  The boy’s side of the hull was starting to smell a little ripe!

The night watch were ready again for Disco Dave, boogying and singing on the helm.  In the dark you often couldn’t see anything other than hi-vis hoods on wet weather gear.  The Port watch also had the important job of cooking the sausages and mash feast, with high expectations set by Paul, as it’s one of his favourite meals…and we all know that we should never upset the Skipper!

The Starboard watch had a bit of entertainment with “the bird attack”.  A seagull hit the mainsail, rather stunned it slid down the main, bouncing off the end of the boom, followed by hitting Paul in the face, much to his surprise.  It dropped down in front of the wheel and Alex scooped it up and helped it to fly off from the stern (back) of the boat, without causing more havoc.

Swapping back onto night watch was always interesting, particularly after climbing out of your bunk minutes before, slightly sleep deprived and having only slept for about 2-3 hours at a time.  The new helmsman took over, with key information communicated, and about 5 minutes later Jim popped up to the deck, to query what course was being sailed.  The helm responded confidently 210°, rather proudly without further thought.  At this point there was the dawning realisation that the heading communicated at watch handover was actually 220°, as Jim yelled back “well, it’s meant to be 220°”.  This was one of many lack of concentration and befuddled moments!

Day Five

The early hours of the morning also continued with being “black, just black”, with the only entertainment being Disco Dave and his music on deck.  Sometimes delirium sneaking in through sleep deprivation resulting in some amusing dancing on deck.  One crew member doing the twist was unfortunately described as looking like a dancing bear, thanks to the wet weather kit and poor visibility!  We certainly weren’t going to be winning Strictly Come Dancing with those kind of moves…

The boat continued to motor sail with the wind still on the bow, unfortunately the wind hadn’t swung as forecast as hoped, for us to sail close-hauled down to Cascais. The weather had also improved with sun and blue skies, with the watches taking the opportunity to drop down to less layers and to get their sunnies on, bliss.  Anna also took the chance, when off watch in the sun, for some “me time in the snake pit” and a rare opportunity to add to her diary.  She was later heard to comment “I could do with an extra inch”…I think this may have been a lost in translation moment!

With the boat heading having been 185° for about 24 hours, the crew were excited to be approaching the way point, for changing course, alongside with seeing land and more boats, we were returning to civilisation.  Dinner was a wonderful chilli con carne, which would set us up for an arrival into Cascais in the early hours of the morning.

Day Six

As we hit 0001, there was excitement that we should be in Cascais around 2am, although perhaps less from Starboard watch who were going to be woken up again after about an hour in their bunks.  As we got to just outside the Cascais marina, we dropped our main sail at 0200 and were safely alongside by 0250.  The crew climbed into their bunks, ready for two days on land and for the highly exciting shower, particularly the ladies who were more than ready to remove their French plaits from their hair and to wash it.  Finally terra firma!

Day Seven

As we hit 0001, there was excitement that we should be in Cascais around 2am, although perhaps less from Starboard watch who were going to be woken up again after about an hour in their bunks.  As we got to just outside the Cascais marina, we dropped our main sail at 0200 and were safely alongside by 0250.  The crew climbed into their bunks, ready for two days on land and for the highly exciting shower, particularly the ladies who were more than ready to remove the French plaits from their hair and to wash it.  Finally terra firma!

Some of the crew were eager to watch the rugby in the morning, an important game apparently and the Skipper agreed to that before commencing with the boat clean.  Alex and Sophie also needed to go on a sailing welly hunt, after their pairs expired earlier in the trip – “that storm” did more damage than we thought!  The rest of the crew, after a hearty breakfast, started the boat clean, as the sooner we finished, the sooner we would be free to explore.  A disinfectant of the heads (toilets), anti-bacterial wash down of the interior of the boat, deck tidying and a wash of our slightly damp smelling wet weather gear, amongst other tidying, would put us in good stead for our departure on Monday.  A few gloves and socks were also ready to walk off on their own, so had a good wash too and Challenger 1 rapidly became a washing line.

After the boat clean, a few of the crew shot off to have showers, some into town for lunch and others to cook some food on the boat.  Most of the crew had a chilled out afternoon exploring Cascais and enjoying being on land again.  Much to Jim’s amusement, Anna and Sophie removed the French plaits from their hair to wash it, to which he was busy falling about laughing as he decided that they looked rather like a pair of Spaniels!  As others returned to the boat, there was surprise at what clean clothed and washed crew could actually look like…quite different from a week at sea, where let’s just say, standards have to slip. Jim was rather disappointed that he didn’t have boat Spaniels anymore and had forgotten to take a photo of them!

In the evening, the crew all met up in Skippers bar for a drink or two, before going out for dinner.  We had a lovely meal and it was good to be on land, albeit that it felt like it was moving up and down, just like the boat.  A few of the crew took the opportunity to get a full night’s sleep and called it a night after dinner, whilst the hardcore went onto the Irish bar to sample the local Port until the early hours of the morning. It sounded like a good day and evening was had by all.

Day Eight

Day 2 of being in Cascais was a free day for the crew, although there were a number of tasks for Paul, Jim, Dave and Anna to undertake including a supermarket shop, to restock the boat.  Nathan did a run to the bakery to pick up croissants and pain au chocolat for breakfast, which were accompanied by eggs and bacon thanks to Si and Anna.  It was quite a leisurely feast for breakfast.  The crew then peeled off in different directions with Stefan and Sigrid heading to Lisbon and later in the day Nathan too, whilst others explored the local delights of Cascais.

Sophie, Si and Karen started the day exploring to the West of the marina including the Santa Marta lighthouse, the fortress, House of Santa Maria (later renamed Anna’s palace) and the rocky headland, albeit in the drizzle.  There was also a pretty cove in front of the House of Santa Maria looking onto the lighthouse, which we decided was great for contemplation and plenty of other tourists appeared to be doing just that.  After getting rained on, the sun started to appear so they continued back towards the town, with Sophie and Si heading on to look at the beaches as the weather improved and Karen into the town.  On the Saturday, Karen had found the most amazing bakery offering little banoffee pie and lemon meringue pie tartlets and good coffee, so quite a few of the crew went there for an afternoon snack instead of lunch.  Very tasty indeed!  Whilst they sat outside, Dave and Mark also passed by, having had lunch and of course their trademark bottle of wine and a few beers!

After a bit of exploring Sophie and Si went back to the boat to drag Anna out after her morning of food shopping.  They thought that she would appreciate the “bay of contemplation” and they also discovered that they could go up inside the lighthouse tower to the viewing platform with magnificent views.  Afterwards a walk along the rocky headland and of course a bit of jumping and rock scrambling in flip-flops, the perfect all terrain footwear, they were treated to a beautiful sunset.  A lovely way to end the day on land.

Once again most of the crew went out for dinner in town and enjoyed a relaxing evening knowing that they would be back on the water in the morning.

Day Nine

Monday morning started with all of the crew heading to the showers again to make the most of them, before another 4 to 5 days at sea.  A few crew even managed to sneak off to the bakery for a final cappuccino and lemon meringue pie tartlet before being ready for an 8am preparation for departure.  As well as boat preparation, this also meant Sigrid doing more French plaits again in the ladies hair, in a vague attempt to keep it under control whilst sailing!  A quick trip to refuel and we were off again.  This time the weather was looking promising for the sail towards Lanzarote.

With a steady 20 knot South-Westerly breeze, the crew hoisted the main sail with Reef 2 in, the Yankee 2 and the Stay sail, making great progress, doing between 8 to 10 knots on average.  With a bit of a swell, blue skies and sun, the majority of the crew were on deck chatting, before the watches resumed at 6pm, making the most of the fantastic conditions.  It was a joint effort between the watches to cook lunch and dinner and an opportunity to relax a little more and have a snooze for those going on to the night watches.  Throughout the late afternoon, the wind picked up and so did the swell, with the wind swinging a bit more Westerly, allowing for a nice reach (sailing across the wind) down the coast line.

Into the evening the swell built, with quite a bit more rolling around and with a good steady breeze enabling us to make good progress.  The weather was also generally improving, getting warmer by the day and the decision on what layers to wear on deck becoming more of a thought process.  With port watch going back on to the double night watch, it’s safe to say that it was a challenge to go back to watch timings after a few days on land and a sense of normality.

The moon, stars and warmer weather into the night was helping and a few other vessels to watch too, but there was nothing of great significance to report.  By the final hour of night watch, the crew were checking watches every 5 minutes, disappointed to realise that it still wasn’t time to wake up the starboard watch for them to take over, but finally the time came!

Day Ten

In the early hours of the morning lightning was spotted on the horizon and it was decided to drop the Stay sail.  The wind was also shifting making our course to steer even further downwind and the risk of an inadvertent gybe (turning the back of the boat through the wind) higher.  The preventer was then rigged in order to slow down the boom and restrict movement if a gybe was accidently induced, which is higher risk with the waves we were experiencing.

The day brought lovely weather again with sun, blue skies and warmer weather, whilst passing along the Moroccan coastline.  Music on the deck was once again keeping the crew in high spirits with a bit of singing and dancing along the way.  We also witnessed drink spillage No. 1 in the saloon with Tom emptying the contents of his coffee into his lap, somewhat to the amusement of the rest of the crew, who thought by now that we had all worked out that the boat moves in all directions constantly and that nothing can be left unattended…There were also many other amusements for the day, with Si taking Alex under his watchful eye in the galley for lunch, preparing the jacket potato feast.  Much to our amusement this was going to be the first time Alex had ever used a tin opener, despite being 28 years old and he received a full lesson on how to drain tuna and make tuna mayonnaise. It looks like full cooking lessons have now been instigated before he becomes a watch leader shortly on other voyages!  This feast also resulted in the handle of the oven door partially falling off, which was the start of a bigger problem.

Jim and Paul had also swapped over watches since our departure from Cascais.  Port watch were pretty convinced that Jim was missing them really as he was regularly on deck joining them despite no longer being on watch with them.  It was also the start of “Skipper’s stories” with Paul, which we’d heard so much about from the other watch.  The tales did not disappoint…

Tom and Mark were tasked with cooking dinner, a beef curry.  All appeared to be going well with Mark taking the lead and the smell wafted up to the deck enticing the crew.  The naan bread cooking however led to disaster, when the earlier broken oven door handle went through the door glass, shattering it and rendering the oven unusable.  Cue many thoughts from Anna on menu alterations to feed the crew without the use of an oven going forwards, until a replacement or a repair could be sought.

The evening also proved to be beautiful with the moon and stars out and the boat still making good progress at around 7-8 knots.  The wind was starting to swing even further, making it hard to hold the course downwind, being very close to the point of gybing throughout the night watch and requiring significant concentration from the helm.  The rolling waves did little to help with sail fill with wind and there were occasional accusations of near crash gybes as the sail briefly backed whilst the boat rolled.  Luckily Paul and Jim, saw this for themselves later on and realised that it wasn’t just some dodgy helming.  Dave also took the opportunity in the early evening to try his hand at a spot of fishing off the stern (back of the boat), but with no success.  At watch handover there was also a bit of a joke about “see you at Madeira” as the course we were currently sailing was rather on the wrong heading despite best attempts to sail as far down wind as possible on that tack.  A decision would be made in the morning as to what action to take as we were slowing down and also struggling to hold the required course.

Day Eleven

With the wind direction not having improved through the early hours of the morning, the Yankee 2 was dropped just after the 6am watch change, in order to sail as far downwind as possible, without the sail flapping constantly.  The wind was also rather fickle, dropping off suddenly and picking up again, making it yet harder to hold a course.  We appeared to still be heading towards Madeira, albeit that Lanzarote was where we were aiming for.  As the morning progressed, it was clear that we wouldn’t be able to hold the required course, nor would gybing onto the other tack really help us, particularly with the wind dropping to around 10 knots.  With little other choice, in order to enable us to arrive in Lanzarote by a sensible time, the engine went on at 9am, to make a bit more progress motor-sailing.

Skipper Paul returned to the deck to throw some scrap paper overboard and with much amusement to the crew succeeded in throwing it to windward (into the wind), so that it blew back at him and scattered all over the deck like confetti.  A sailing 101 fail, or perhaps a beer fine on some boats!  The next few minutes were then spent scampering around the deck picking up pieces of paper.  We do at least have to be grateful that it was just paper he threw and not vegetable peelings or anything worse!

An hour or so later, Jim bounced up on deck, despite being off watch, announcing his presence fully in a lairy pair of boardshorts, much to the amusement of the crew.  Sadly he was just missed on video in a short bit of footage being taken.  Admittedly it was getting warmer, but most of us felt it wasn’t quite warm enough for shorts yet!

The afternoon was spent in the sun, with variable wind once again and rolling waves on a downwind heading.  Crew spirits were high and some tunes were sung and danced to on deck thanks to Disco Dave.  The usual banter also resumed and the time passed by quickly.

During the evening, drink spillage No. 2 occurred, with Tom throwing orange squash over his lap this time in the saloon, quite clearly not having learnt from his coffee incident the previous day.  The crew by then were in hysterics and unable to offer assistance to clear up the mess.

The night watch started with a beautiful sunset, followed by a clear sky, with our way being lit by the moon and stars.  For the port watch this would be their last double night watch of the voyage and there was some celebration at this, although they knew they were in for a long night, with a few of them already struggling for sleep.  With the conditions, steering the course and not crash gybing became more and more challenging.  One crew member in the early hours of the morning even went as far to say that she nearly fell asleep in the heads and it actually seemed remarkably comfortable!  After returning to deck, she was put on the helm, despite admitting this and within a minute, pulled out the first accidental crash gybe…whoops!  It turns out that tiredness and downwind sailing don’t go hand in hand together.

The crew were then starting to gear up for the next big day ahead, Skipper Paul’s birthday.

Day Twelve

It’s the big day – Skipper Paul’s birthday and the lucky chap was rewarded with a double night watch.  This meant the port watch singing Happy Birthday to him for the first time on deck at 2am, perhaps a little unenthusiastically after less than 3 hours in their bunks and clandestine card signing during the night watches to give it to him in the morning.  Balloons were also inflated and taped up around the saloon, although a few didn’t make it with crew bouncing into them on their way around the boat.

The starboard watch had a very important job though, baking the birthday cake.  At this point we didn’t even have a functioning oven, but the Skipper couldn’t be let down by no cake.  Si set to work, to create a makeshift door for the oven, having had the glass broken the previous day.  With a new wire handle, a baking tray taped over the top and all of the shattered glass cleared away, Frankenstein’s monster was ready for operation as “Frankenoven”.  Anna did a fantastic job of cooking a wonderful chocolate cake with icing and blackcurrant jam sandwiching the layers together under less than ideal circumstances and the all-important topping of jelly babies, one of Skip’s favourites.

The morning brought yet again lovely weather and the crew were keen to remove a few more layers, although some caution was exercised with tales of rogue waves and water trickling down necks, enough to even make our tough Scot on board, Karen, put her waterproofs on!  The boat was also making good progress towards Lanzarote, with an expected arrival in the early hours of Friday morning.

With lovely weather the crew all ate lunch together on deck, pasta pesto followed by singing happy birthday to Paul and a slice of the chocolate cake.  Even the hourly boat log was late, due to the engrossment of the crew in the cake and giving the Skipper his present.

Once again Paul, Jim, Sophie and Karen spent most of the afternoon on deck chatting away and surfing the rolling waves, with a few jokes at perhaps the Skippers expense on a few inadvertent gybes, it was the waves and lack of wind honestly….I’ll let you decide which…  Meanwhile Dave ran through the RYA Competent Crew syllabus theory with Tom and Mark below deck.

By late afternoon, thought turned back to cooking, with Mark and Sophie hoping that “Frankenoven” would hold up to cook the sausages for dinner, as they really didn’t fancy trying to fry 40 odd sausages in the galley, whilst also cooking mashed potato and vegetables to accompany it.  Luckily the oven held up and the sausages and mash were well received by the crew.  We were then offered the second birthday cake of the day, a rum soaked fruit pirate cake which Paul had been sent away with.  Once again, the crew enjoyed tucking into that, but for those going off watch and to their bunks, the sugar somewhat hindered their ability to sleep.  At this point though, most of the crew showed little concern knowing that they would soon be reaching Lanzarote.

The night watch commenced with clear skies and stars, plus the first sightings of land, other vessels and lights on land.  After quite some time on the same heading, we made our turn to approach Lanzarote.  We would be arriving into Rubicon on Lanzarote in the early hours of Friday morning.

Day Thirteen

Land ahoy, Rubicon, Lanzarote ahead!  We had Tom up on the bow (front of boat) on approach to the marina as a precautionary measure with a flash light to look for lobster pots, but we were lucky not to see any compared to coming into Cascais.  At 0330 we arrived and true to form for this trip.  We seem to only like dropping sails in the dark and arriving in marinas in the early hours of the morning, none of us are quite sure how that happens, but the Skipper does always seem to manage it.  After tying up alongside in Rubicon Marina, it was time for a few hours of sleep, as it had been a long night watch.

Once the crew were up after a few hours in their bunks, it was time for a bit more cleaning and tidying of the boat, something that is a never-ending task, but rather satisfying when everything starts to smell a bit better!  It was then shower time, Jim’s opportunity to laugh at the ladies hair again, followed by free time on land.

As the crew split up to enjoy time on land, some headed for a relaxing lunch and a couple of local beverages, whilst others finished off leftovers on the boat and the rather amazing chilli halloumi.  Nathan, as a geologist, went to explore near the castle and went for a little walk to go and study a few rocks (every geologist does this…so it wasn’t unexpected).  He came back like an excited puppy with a few basalt samples, now named Roddy and Ricky!  An attempt at a geology lesson with the crew was rather lost on them, particularly with Dave and Mark who were well into their Ron Mie drinking session by the poolside.  Tom had also joined the group at the swimming pool for a swim and later Sophie, Anna, Alex and Si.  Much to their horror, the swimming pool water was remarkably cold!  This could only be rectified afterwards by sitting on the sun loungers in the sun with a cold drink in hand, what a hardship.  A few hours later and it was nearly 6pm, nearly time to go out for dinner.  One crew member (not to be named), needed a bit of guidance from Anna back to the boat, as they managed to walk past it – it would appear that it is possible to lose a 72ft yacht.

The crew all went out for dinner to a Mexican restaurant on the marina and to support the local economy.  The steaks were quite something and even Paul, Jim and Mark were defeated by their size.  The live singer in the restaurant even managed to get a few other customers up for a dance and finally it got too much for Disco Dave to resist as he quite literally dragged Karen across the floor on her chair and up for a little dance.  It was now time to end the evening, as tiredness was kicking in.  As the crew walked back to the boat, another live singer was in one of the other restaurants, singing a rather appalling rendition of Robbie Williams Angels.  The crew decided that even their on boat renditions and spot of boataoke on night watch, would have been better and trust me, that standard is not particularly high!  Another great evening was had, but also sad to think that our adventure was drawing towards a close.

Day Fourteen

It’s the final leg of our voyage, from Lanzarote to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria.  The crew had broken out of watch formation to sail all together for the final 97 nautical miles of the voyage.  Lines were slipped at 0800 and to the excitement of the crew a lovely 20 knot northerly breeze, which would allow a broad reach (sailing across the wind), a fast point of sail, down to Gran Canaria.  We were off to a flying start sailing at 8.5 to 11 knots, with the main sail up with reef 1 in and the Yankee 2 up.  The breeze increased throughout the morning, with reef 2 being needed in the main sail.  It’s quite hard work putting in another reef from the snake pit whilst rolling around in sizeable waves.  Nathan did a great job of winching and ever enthusiastically, whilst on the leeward side of the hull, trying not to fall overboard (he was clipped on though) as we bounced over waves.  He was also celebrating getting signed off for his RYA Competent Crew, go Nathan! J  Once again it was really great for all of the crew to be back together rather than being on separate watches and a chance to chat a bit more.  With lunch-time looming, Anna, Si and Sophie set about the usual marathon of sorting lunch.  Despite it being just rolls with cooked meats and cheeses, it’s a bit of a military operation for a crew of 13, being angled at 45 degrees, rolling and pitching with the waves, in about 30 knots of wind, being thrown around the galley.

With the sun out too and warmer weather, it made for perfect and exciting sailing, plus the ability to complete the passage within 12 hours marina to marina.  After lunch a few of the crew were feeling like a little snooze, as we were used to only doing 6 hours on watch in the daytime, followed by a sleep, so a few took the opportunity for a little shut eye.  Much to our horror, Dave was asleep in the saloon and we all had a little fear of what he may unleash on land in Disco Dave style once his batteries were recharged.  Luckily for us, it wasn’t meant to be as by the time we reached Las Palmas, there would be no time for partying, just a quiet drink and bit of cheese on the boat before bed.

The afternoon galley crew kicked in, preparing for dinner, a beef stir fry.  As Anna commanded Nathan and Mark, that she wanted julienned carrots, she was met with a look of confusion.  Once the technique had been explained, the concept of chopping 2 millimetre wide pieces of carrot with a sharp knife on a boat bouncing around in 3 metre waves, was something we never thought we’d hear!

By 7pm, we were approaching Las Palmas and it was time to take down the sails and to get the main sail flaked.  A new challenge presented for Anna as she took the lead of flaking the main and directing the crew for the first time, which is a challenge in itself with a sail weighing around half a tonne, under the watchful eye of Jim and a job well done.  The first time the crew also didn’t get the usual bark from Jim of “batten on top, heave”… (albeit very effective in commanding a crew).  Much to his horror, we have determined he’s actually a big softie (sorry Jim, he may throw me overboard for revealing this publicly)!

Safely moored alongside by 8:20pm, the boat was tidied and the crew retreated for a little drink and cheese, to complete the voyage in style.  We had sailed 1700 nautical from Portsmouth to Gran Canaria, with many wonderful moments enroute, what a fantastic feeling.

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