To start the day we had quite a few briefings about the safety and running of the ship. It was a decent amount of information to take on board and so it took a while to get that all through. We then sailed to the Southern end of the Isle of Wight.
My first impressions of the Tall Ship that we were staying on was certainly that it was a lot more civilised than I had imagined! After an ice-breaking exercise, brief tour and safety brief, we set off from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight. The crew is clearly experienced and excited to be there, and Gary in particular has been an excellent skipper, always enthusiastic and uplifting while at the same time being firm and authoritative (a remarkable combination!) in directing us in the operation and preparation of the ship. I was also very excited to be behind the helm for a considerable duration of the journey, which gave me a real sense of ownership and involvement of the expedition and made feel valued as a member of crew of the ship – something that I would never have considered possible since I had never had any prior sailing experience! It has been an excellent experience thus far and I am both excited and nervous towards the much more extensive journey towards the Channel Islands tomorrow.
After our first night together, we all had a taste of what the day would bring. An early start complimented with cereal and tea we made our way up to the cockpit awaiting the skipper’s instructions. Panic spread around the boat at the word of sweat. This was new to us, no one knew what to expect. The first batch of sweaters had it easy, but as you progressed it became significantly harder. This was our first main sail hoist and definitely a contender for the slowest hoist to grace Challenger 1. After we hoisted the main sail, with considerable amounts of help, we split into groups Port and Starboard. As a collective we all witnessed a short but thorough winch brief. The Port group was tasked with learning how to operate the snake pit whilst starboard learnt how to use the runners then vice versa. By the time it reached lunch time we all had a rough idea on how to man the ship. Which meant only one thing, racing. We split into our groups and raced each other to see who could move the runners forwards/backwards the quickest. Unfortunately Port side won that race. After the race and we all settled down, some of us had the chance to learn how to log. The log consisted of using the MX 400 GPS NAVIGATOR, B&G HYDRA 2000, PERKINS SABRE, BAROMETER and the day tank. After a long day we eventually docked at Alderney went ashore for a quick shower then made our way back to the ship to sleep. Yours truly Herbert zumbika
The day started with a little trip to Alderney to explore the town and get off the ship for a while. Unfortunately, one of our members had an avoidable allergic reaction after eating Crunchy Nuts when they are allergic to nuts. We then returned to the boat ready to set off to Sark for a short mostly motorised journey due to the low wind speeds. During the journey we explored different ways to tie boats to mooring and repair broken ropes. The day was made by some excellent chicken wraps. We then arrived in a small secluded bay in Sark. After cleaning up the boats we went ashore for a succulent beach barbeque while having fun skipping stones, playing football and exploring the mainland. After this we quickly packed and returned to the boat for a well-deserved rest after a long day. The group also indulged in some dolphin-spotting, which had arrived in force around Sark.
On this day we travelled from Sark to Guernsey. In the morning we returned briefly to Sark and explored the Small village which the group was amazed to find horse carriages. We then walked back down the steep hills and returned safely back to our tall Ship. Much to the dismay of some of our crew, some of us decided that, due to the previous unreliability of the dinghy’s engines, it would be prudent to ‘swim for it’, during which many, particularly the members of Challenger 3, learnt that the tide was not to be underestimated (the hard way). We had a four hour journey from Sark to Guernsey where most of the crew were sleeping as there was no jobs assigned to us. We then arrived at Guernsey and had to tie our ship to challenger threes ship so that they can get over onto shore through our boat (which was closest to shore). We took off onto Guernsey into small groups and had showers. In Guernsey there was a lovely looking gentleman’s pool which was freezing when we got in there. Other crew members went into the large town of Guernsey and explored the shops within the town and had fun especially when we tried out the brilliant ice cream shop. We all then returned back to the boat and one of our crew members were feeling seasick and was sick on challenger threes boat luckily. We heard the special news that we were having pizza delivered to the boat ordered by two excellent staff members. Afterwards we all played a game of Uno and everyone had nice chats and a catch up.
Day 5 brought the time when we were to put the skills we have acquired over the last few days to the test. We were to sail from Guernsey to Studland Bay – a journey that would cover some 90 nautical miles. Gary convened a meeting in the ‘war room’ (i.e. saloon) when we discussed our route on a series of nautical charts, during which we were very excited to find out that, due to favourable weather conditions, we would be able to return to England entirely under the power of our own sails – a certainly welcome respite from the motoring that was becoming the monotonous norm. After consulting the nautical almanac (which Gary was rather eager to present), we concluded that we were to, counterintuitively, not set sail until 1300 hrs in order to wait for the tide to turn in our favour such that we may catch the ‘race of Alderney’ when its flow is the stronger. As a result, the long day started slowly, with many of us going ashore for long showers and meeting some of Guernsey’s finest.
At 1300 hrs, as promised, we finally made our way out of St Peter’s Port and began the long expedition back to home. As promised, the tides did turn in our favour, allowing us to reach speeds over ground of up to 12 knots (much to the excitement of everyone) as we sped between the Channel Islands. Meanwhile, the culinary team did not falter in the face of a rolling galley (sometimes threatening to slide cutlery right off the deck), managing to prepare an excellent supper comprising of freshly-baked bread to accompany a delicious potato and chickpea curry. The atmosphere got increasingly tense as night fell and the swell increased, prompting many to taste Ed’s favourite cranberry juice (Ocean Spray), but we reached Studland bay without any further incident (in contrast with Challenger 3, which somehow managed to anchor directly above a lobster pot).
Reinvigorated by a lie-in, the team woke up to scrambled eggs and excellent weather. After a lecture by Gary on the theory of sail, we tried our hand at tacking and trimming sails as we took advantage of the wide bay before rejoining the Needles Channel towards Portsmouth. Tacking was a technique used to sail upwind, in which the ship would ‘zig-zag’ upwind at right angles in order to prevent being blown back. The Solent, unlike the Channel, also had much denser traffic and lobster pots, prompting a constant watch for potential hazards.
Seeing the Spinnaker Tower on the horizon struck an overwhelming sense of relief in the hearts of all the crew members. Despite the various challenges on board, we have successfully made the journey, during which we undoubtedly have grown to known one another much better and have developed our skill-sets to hopefully achieve the Certificate of Competent Crew. I in particular had developed my insatiable love for nautical charts, and this journey really helped translate seemingly-arbitrary lines on paper to exciting places in the world.