Twenty French children sit by Challenger 2 as she sits at her berth in La Havre just before they have their sailing lesson. Maybe one day this 72 foot ship will inspire them to do their own longer voyages in the future. As if she hasn’t come far enough already over the past eight days as she makes her way from Tuborg Havn, a port just to the North of Copenhagen Airport, to Portsmouth. This is a distance of around eight hundred nautical miles that has seen the crew stop off in Germany, Holland and France on its return leg.
The return run started off in the picturesque and comparatively new up market harbour of Tuborg Havn. This was a concrete and glass area that reflected that reflected the newness of the voyage but also reminded us of the breath taking exchange rate, something we were glad to leave behind as we left port on Thursday morning.
From there it was the first of three passages, the first of which intended to be to Nakskov a small Danish island in the Baltic. The weather was fine, clear sky with a hot sun and a high spirit amongst the crew. The boat was performing well to boot, too well as we made such good time we arrived early and anchored for the night.
The following day was a wet stretch across the rest of the Baltic to Holtenau and the entrance to the Kiel Canal. If there were to be any notes on Holtenau it would be that it is minuscule with a remarkable church opened by Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1895.
Still the Kiel Canal and the halfway town of Rendsburg followed the next day where, quite by chance, we found ourselves watching a round of a German Hydroplane Championship that provided much entertainment for those interested in such motorsport, that and the evening’s Snitzel and Strudel.
With the hydroplanes behind us the Canal flowed away from us as we exited into the Elba, the fearsome North Sea and a 170 mile passage to Den Helder in Holland. Upon arriving at 11pm significant joy was found in the washrooms and cafes of Den Helder after the thirty six hour passage.
Appropriate then that our day of departure be another cause for pastry based enjoyment with a crew member’s birthday marked by a chilli con carne that was both metaphorically and literally a rip roaring success and an apple tart that soothed any rough edges.
Propelled as we were by this combination and, at times, a fair wind the forty-eight hour, three hundred and fifty mile passage to La Havre was completed. Though this was done mainly under motor with an idyllic sea underneath La Havre has, at the time of writing, provided another useful washing and refuelling point for crew of Challenger 2.
Tomorrow we head northwards to Portsmouth and home. Some have been on this boat for nearly a month, others for just ten days, nonetheless it has been a journey to remember and one we hope will be taken again in the future.