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Challenger 1 – La Coruna and back

By Tall Ships - August 14th, 2018 | Posted in Voyager blogs No comments

Day One

We got introduced to our new crew and youth mentors. Then went to our ship, which we would use to cross the Bay of Biscay. We got settled into our accommodation and got shown different parts of the boat, as well as a briefing on safety. Then we got given free time where we could explore shore and meet lots of wonderful people. For tea the first night we prepared chicken fajitas, which were a hit with everyone. We then settled in for the night for a big day of sailing the next day or so we thought.

Day Two

We woke up to good weather in Portsmouth excited about hoisting the sails to head south to La Coruña. At about 8 AM we left Gunwharf Quays behind on motor headed to Cowes on the Isle of Wight. As we entered the harbour we saw a familiar boat with familiar faces on it. Challenger 1 greeted us friendly as we moored to get some oil for the journey. The staff then took a look at the engine which had made some strange noises before. Even the marine engineer could not figure out where the problem was Being on the safe side the office and Skipper Paul decided to swap boats which meant to leave the old boat behind but also taking all our things and food with us. After getting familiar with the new boat we went to get some diesel and water and with a delay of almost five hours Challenger 1 left the Isle of Wight behind to head south. We then hoisted the main sail and experienced the technique called sweating for the first time and then realised why the name fits quite well. But even with the main sail up there was no possibility to sail as the winds are light and we are headed southwest almost dead into the wind. So Challenger 1 is on its way to La Coruña fighting the tide and some ships that are not willing to give way.

By Gustav

Day Three

We started the day on watch, which started at 11pm and finished at 3am. When it was time we switched watch with starboard watch and got some kip, this lasted four hours before our six hour watch began. Before heading up on deck we had breakfast and got some warm gear on. During in the six hour watch we saw a dolphin which swam alongside the bow. From the previous watch’s we had done meant we had got a late watch that night. We had dinner around 6:30 just before heading out for watch again. During this watch we had to make a turn to avoid a cargo ship. Before we knew it, it was time again to get some sleep so we were able to get up for our 3am watch tomorrow.

By Luke

Day Four

All is well on the good ship Challenger 1 and the crew are now well and truly settled into life on board. Another day at sea, another day without wind. At least the weather today was good and we could enjoy the sun on deck in shorts. We saw a variety of animals today. Dolphins swam alongside our bow and we even saw a whale. Apart from all the animals that joined us today an airplane wanted to greet us and did a flyover at an altitude of about 100 meters right above the heads of the crew of Challenger 1. After all the excitement about things greeting us the Port watch had the first Manoeuvre of this voyage: We had to put a reef it the main sail to stop it from flapping around because the wind could not fill it anymore. When the sun set we witnessed once again what being the smaller boat on the ocean means as we once again had to call up a tanker which came from behind with double of our speed and a CPA of less than a nautical mile and ask it to move for us. Apart from that it was a calm and cloudless night with many shooting stars.

By Gustav

Day Five

After spending this morning motoring along as we had done for the previous 4 days, today the wind finally picked up enough across the bay to power down the engine, and let swing the mainsail. Whilst this flurry of activity proved exciting enough to bring most of the crew on deck, it did usher in a corresponding challenge in the form of pitching, rolling and yawing. Many soon discovered that the helm had took on a new mind of its own, and had renewed its assault upon our general quality of life. It was nevertheless thrilling to finally stretch the ship’s legs under sail. In keeping with Nelsonian tradition, the ship has, as ever, been astutely commanded from the stern by the After Guard. We do sail to Spain with a different purpose though, and hope to be exploring La Coruna within 24 hours in a more peaceful capacity. The proud majesty of the Challenger vessel does little to betray the relative carnage below deck under these conditions. A party composed of Kerr, Luke and myself braved the sliding plates and crashing pans to complete the washing up, although we saw our fair share of collision and mishap, involving myself flinging across the galley into Kerr and a pile of cookware, and giving myself an impromptu shower of blackcurrant squash. Upon further reflection, I do appear to be at fault for these calamities. More graceful encounters were witnessed out in the open air, with several further whale and dolphin sightings taking place. As the starboard watch drift happily to sleep enjoying the lack of the grating engine noise 10 centimetres from their heads, port watch has finished watching the sun set, and is settling in for 2 night watches, before the whole crew is roused early tomorrow morning to assist with our arrival in La Coruna.

By Patrick

Day Six

At roughly 7 am after our first watch of the day we saw land for the first time in four days. We unduly awoke the other watch before we all gathered on deck to see the outline of Spain, even though the wind was a bit brisk. We took down the sails and started to make our way into port. We waited excitedly to explore Spain, because for many of us, it would be our first time setting foot in the country. When we were safely tied up in harbour and the boat stopped moving, we cleaned in from top to bottom and finally put all the sails in storage. After this there was a small riot for the showers, because as you can imagine, it was beginning to smell a bit peachy/ripe. Having the luxurious water falling from heaven was the most amazing experiences ever and luckily we get to experience it all over again next week. After this we set our attentions on the heavenly city that we were all now in. We explored the city and found a tapas place where we ate later on in the day. The tapas there was a delight and especially to the youths who had not experienced Spanish culture before. They tried all different types of food from normal chicken all the way through to octopus. After tea we went to see a Spanish musician preforming live in the square (Raphael Maravoilloso) we listened to a few of his song and then headed back to the ship for a good night sleep and getting ready for the next day.

By Kerr & Luke

Day Seven

5th august 2018. Today we got woken up at 9:00am, which was absolutely lovely, after motoring through four days and nights and having broken amounts of sleep. One of the boys in the group needed a new hat, so he bought a typical Spanish hat, which suited him. He then bought some pastries and walked along wearing his hat and holding his pastries, without a care in the world, but the other boys all thought he walked like an old man. We all explored the port, and found out about the parties that were going on in Spain, Spanish night life is unbelievable, as they are completely different to Great Britain.

Some of us walked up to Hercules Lighthouse and were greeted with spectacular views across the harbour. We also saw the stepping stones and all the other monuments. This was a lovely walk and enjoyed by those who took part. The Two girls from the 12 teenagers walked the path to the lighthouse and on the way we discovered a lido and a pretty beach. We were really tempted to go swimming, but there was one problem, our swimming things were on our boat. So, we decided to carry on walking and go swimming later on, which we did. The crew all came back on board for 5 o’clock, so that we could start getting the boat prepared for leaving tomorrow. We also started to prepare dinner, which was Pork chops, boiled new potatoes, carrots and peas. This was delicious and went down well with all the crew. After clearing up, we all had free time and this was when swimming took place.

The sea was fairly cold, but once we got in, it felt really warm, so it cooled us off nicely. After going out for free time, we came back to have showers, before getting ready for our final night of un interrupted sleep for another 3 days until we reach the Solent.

By Chelsea and Zara

Day Eight

We woke up and had the last showers before leaving for Portsmouth. After a breakfast off bacon and cereals, we prepared the boat for departure and sailing. After filling up the tanks with water and diesel, we finally left la Marina Coruña and headed out into the bay. We then put up the main sail and then started our homeward journey towards England. The weather was good, but there was no wind, so we once again needed help by the engine to take us forward. At 1 o’clock we started the watch system and Starboard watch was on watch until 7 o’clock. 20 minutes into the watch we saw a whale that came closer and then dove down, which showed his tail. He then repeated that three times. While the whale was still showing his tail, we saw dolphins jumping towards us and these decided to join us on our bow for about 25 minutes. After leaving, they came back and joined us again 10 minutes later. While some of us could enjoy this beautiful natural spectacle, others had to deal with a problem with the heads, which requires no further explanation.

The wind picked up in the early evening, which allowed us to hoist the headsails for the first time. During the night we experienced an apparent wind speed of 23 knots, which then died in the early morning hours. Never the less, the good ship Challenger 1 is heading towards the TSS of Ouessant.

By Gustav

Part Two

Adios España!

Today was a day of mixed emotion. One of excitement to get back onto the open seas and one of reluctance to be leaving the beautiful sandy beaches, woeful magicians and splendid heat of A Coruna.

Before we could head off, some final preparations were called for, one of which included filling the water tanks, which 5 of us happily volunteered for (partly as it involved lying down and soaking up the last of the sun in Spain). After painstakingly filling the tanks, all that was left was to fill up with diesel, so just after a short trip over to the petrol station and dissuading the smoker on board from smoking at such a place, we finally set off leaving the wonder of the Spanish coast in the distance.

The wind is gradually picking up and some great, proper sailing is well-underway.

Day Nine

Today was a good day at sea, although we had tough and rainy weather. During the night watches, the wind picked up and we had an apparent wind speed of 22 knots and a boat speed up to 10 knots, which made us forget about the motoring we have had to do and focus on the beauty of sailing. During our 6 hour watch, we took out the reef as the wind dropped, but a short while afterwards, we had to put it back in, as the wind picked up again. It seemed as if the wind was playing games with us. The same thing happened with the other watch, they took the reef out, but then had to put it back in again, because the boat was tilting too much. With the boat tilting, everything is harder to do and takes more time to complete. There has not been too much wildlife today, which has been disappointing, just the odd bird and dolphin. Dinner tonight was scrumptious, it was a Spanish pork stew, cooked expertly by Louise. I think the watch system is taking its toll on the crew, as the lack/interruption of sleep is making people grumpy, but that is part and parcel of sailing and we just have to get on with it. Today we have had a lot of fun, even with a reef in the mainsail.

By Gustav

Day Ten

Day 10 and we saw land for the first time since La Coruña as we entered the traffic separation system off of Ushant. Apart from having phone service there was not much going on aboard Challenger 1, as we desperately waited for winds to fill our sails. The most exciting thing we saw until that point were fishing pots and some dolphins, or as Skipper Paul calls them nicely ‘rats of the sea’. But then at 1530 we spotted and recovered a lifebuoy from the water and luckily with nobody in it. After contacting the French Coast Guard and reporting it, we found out that it was from a big cargo ship headed to America and they had not given up any MOB, or distress call. So with thanks from the French Coast Guard and without any concerns and just a light breeze around the nose, the crew of Challenger 1 makes it to the English Channel, with the lovely sound of a diesel motor in our ears. As we proceed through the night, the number of ships and fishing vessels we see increases quite dramatically. The plan is to head to the Isle of Wight and spend the night in Yarmouth, before continuing on Friday, to our final destination of Portsmouth. We wait with baited breaths, to see if this cunning plan materialises, or if we go to plan B, whatever that might be.

By Gustav

Day Eleven

When we woke up for our night watches, we were in the middle of the English Channel and surrounded by big ships, which meant that we had to look out for the ships the whole time. When we then woke up to our morning watch at 0700 we could already feel how close we were to land and in all that excitement about seeing the English coast again the wind started to pick up and we could hoist some sails. In wind speeds around 20 knots we hoisted the headsails and turned off the engine. We cracked the 10 knots mark until the rope to the clew of the Yankee ripped and we had to take the sails back down. After this short moment of panic we managed the situation and hoisted the sails back up. Sadly the wind left us shortly after all that excitement and we had to turn the diesel back on. After motoring the last bit we finally arrived in Weymouth, were we had some very pleasant showers. In Weymouth I, the German on board, had my first experience with fish and chips and I would call it an experience worth reliving, although I could not understand how one could use so much grease, vinegar and salt on a meal. With our stomachs filled and our bodies clean we went to bed early to have a full night of sleep at last and to wake up early the next morning.

von Gustav

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