A group of individuals are joining us onboard Challenger 3 for an 11-night voyage to A Coruña and back!
Read their blog to see what they’ve been getting up to on their sunny Spanish adventure.
We boarded at 13:00 on Sunday 17 July. We set the rigging then had the chance to meet our fellow crew and get to know each other, as we were going to spend the next two weeks on a confined boat.
At 17:00, we set sail out of Portsmouth towards A Corúna. We managed to hoist the Main up to the last flake by hand before using the winch for the rest. We are already working well as a team. As we entered the English Channel, we were assigned into three watches: red, green and white. starting at 21:00.
For our watches, we were assigned to three hours on and six hours off, with white starting first, followed by green from 00:00 – 03:00, then red from 03:00 – 06:00. The first night of watches was fun as we got to talk to our crew and played a few games during our watch.
Thank God it wasn’t too cold! On Monday 18 July between 06:00 and 09:00, white watch saw a pod of dolphins and a possible sight of a whale, just off the coast of Guernsey.
By Ciaran and Gruff.
Throughout the day, we continued to spot pods of dolphins in the distance as well as them coming up and swimming in our bow wave. At 09:00, we had a watch change over breakfast. In the morning, we saw many large boats mainly big container ships as we avoided the TSS channel.
For lunch, one of the watches made Cornish pasties and baked beans. Some of us are feeling slightly sick while we get our sea legs, but we are starting to get used to the feeling of the boat and it’s reactions to the weather.
The weather is mainly very calm at the moment, there are a few swells coming in from the Atlantic as we get closer to the French coast. We are currently on course to hit the coast Ushant at 19:00, at which point, we’ll start our crossing of the Bay of Biscay.
The day turned out to be a real test of our endurance and perseverance. From when the midnight watch took over, we saw a large build in wind speed and with it, much larger waves.
The Mainsail was reefed, and then the 03:00 watch saw squalls of up to 35 knots and a mesmerising electric storm. The rest of the day followed with Challenger 3 becoming somewhat of a ‘vomit comet’, with many of the crew experiencing seasickness.
Those of us who managed to eat had filled pasta and then later sausages and mash, although doing so was difficult on the rough Biscay seas! However, we did have a beautiful sunset to make up for all the uncomfortable conditions!
After a rough night, we were treated with calmer waters as we approached A Coruña and with the first sightings of land since entering the Bay of Biscay, spirits were high.
With all members back on deck, we enjoyed a hearty lunch of jacket potatoes before enjoying the sunshine and dolphin visits for the remainder of the passage.
A strong team effort prepared the boat for port and we finally arrived in A Coruña!! Showered and fed, the crew enjoyed some rounds of cards before heading to bed.
Today was our first day in A Coruña, which we started off by walking to the police station to declare ourselves in the country. Aside from getting lost in the Spanish streets, and going to the wrong police station at first, the walk was a fairly pleasant experience and we got to see a lot more of the city than the tourist spots.
We queued in a line at the immigration office (ahh so British) and finally got our passports stamped and were accepted into the country. We were then allowed to explore the city at our own leisure, so we split off into two groups and started to roam. My group had loads of fun! We decided to try and find a café first, as after all that walking we were craving an ice cold drink (plus the sun had finally decided to say hi from behind a blanket of English-esque clouds). We found a quaint little café down a side street, and sat down to have a cuppa. We were also given a really nice Spanish omelette (or so we thought)…
Having struggled through paying the bill in Spanish, we then started to meander the streets again, stopping only to attach the clothes peg onto Paul, the Mate as we passed the crew sitting and having coffee in the next café over. Now in need of flip-flops, we followed google maps (which is totally better then apple maps) to a clothes shop. A minor confusion followed as the flip-flops were not in European sizing, but instead numbered either 2,3 or 4 , but this was quickly resolved by someone smartly pointing out that the European sizings were on the bottom of the shoes.
Hungered by our intense search (and the fact we had to use our brains), we decided to trawl “El TripAdvisor” for a nice tapas place, and we found a lovely little restaurant to lunch in. The meal was lovely, we all got to try something new, and we felt really welcomed by the waiters, despite them not understanding much English, and us not understanding much Spanish. We also had another piece of Spanish omelette, which was even better than the first piece we were given! Genuinely, you think supermarket Spanish omelette is good until you have a piece of warm, slightly creamy home cooked omelette.
We then made our way to A Coruña’s famous 4km of beach, something we were slightly disappointed by as it wasn’t sandy, but instead composed of tiny stones. However, this made it easier to down as the rocks were easy to brush off. Those of us who were brave enough, ventured into the sea to go paddling, while the others waited with the bags. We also hunted for sea glass amongst the tiny pebbles and found loads of different sizes and colours! Despite turning up to the beach to find the other group, we couldn’t find them and so left to saunter back to the boat. We stopped by Spanish Tesco’s to grab a drink (hydration is very important), and then chilled under some trees in the park.
We got back to the boat, rinsed the salt off our sea glass, and were treated to a lovely meal of Chilli con Carne, cooked for us by Port watch. We then headed back out into the city to explore the night market and to see A Coruña in the dark, which was a stunning sight. We can’t wait to finish exploring the city tomorrow!!
Written by Charlotte (aka Rachel), Ben (aka Mario), George (aka Luigi), Tom (aka Nick) and James (aka Simon).
Today was our second full day in A Coruñ, which we started off by being woken up by the sound of Queen on the loudspeaker and were then treated to Terry’s first class pancakes, which were delicious. After breakfast we cleaned the boat through and were then called back to the customs office to have our passports stamped.
Afterwards, we were allowed free reign to explore A Coruña for a second time, enjoying more excellent food and not as much heat as the day before. One of the two groups spent the day shopping and swimming in the harbour, while the other group wandered the city centre enjoying the remnants of the night market. In turn, they discovered an extensive colony of mole-people living under the city. Once again both groups enjoyed tapas of varying prices.
After lunch, we all met up in the city square and went to a nearby supermarket, which George and Rachel (Charlotte) had been lost not ten metres from about an hour earlier and restocked for the journey back to Portsmouth. We may or may not have lost Hayley in the supermarket. She returned a while later, having eaten the entire Galician strategic supply of vegetables.
Together, we walked back to the boat and began to prepare dinner, which was pork chops with peas, mash, gravy, and carrots cut into the shapes of letters (alphabetti-spaghetti carrots) and a fish. We are now looking forward to delightful showers ashore and a good night’s sleep before the long trip back home tomorrow.
Written by White watch (Tom, Charlotte and Hayley).
This morning, we were given a wake up call of 06:30 local time for a 07:00 departure from A Coruña and none of us were really that enthusiastic!!! However, we left on time without much difficulty and soon hoisted our Mainsail as we left the harbour, followed by a much-needed breakfast of pastries.
We then enjoyed several hours of sailing with both Headsails, which allowed us to not only cruise at a good pace, but also meant that the boat heeled over by over 20 degrees (which meant that walking around both on deck and below deck was a challenge in and of itself)!!
We enjoyed a wonderful lunch of ham and cheese toasties, adjusting back into our regular watch pattern. Unfortunately we did have to take the Headsails down and turn the engine on as our route involved lighter winds so we couldn’t keep our close reach from earlier for as long as we wanted.
The rest of the day has been fairly quiet, with most relaxing on deck, keeping a lookout or preparing for their next watch. However, we also had a low-flying aircraft do an unexpected fly past and more excitingly, we had several sightings of Pilot Whales throughout the afternoon!!
Green watch made a brilliant turkey curry for us to eat this evening as well. We are now continuing to head north-east through Biscay for the next day or so, but unfortunately with relatively light winds expected for several more hours. Despite this, we are grateful for hopefully a less eventful crossing of Biscay, this time and are looking forward to reaching the English Channel by Monday.
Yesterday was our second day at sea following our departure from A Coruña. The sea has been much kinder to us, and no one has yet been seasick, probably thanks to the downwind sailing. Touch wood.
Weather has been kind enough to allow us to pole out a head sail for much of the day. And much to our delight, the sun shone high in the sky, minimal cloud coverage. However due to this, we have gone through approximately 674820354 bottles of suncream.James has been lost under the many layers of factor 50 and we have yet to see him at this point.
On another note, we were visited by many animals, including fin whales, dolphins and a fair few mysteriously appearing gulls early in the morning. George, Tom and Gruff saw a pair of angel fish, which rumour has it, look very odd. It has yet to be confirmed.
After several hours of sun exposure, Hayley decided to widen the brim of her hat. Hmmm, how could we do that? Pegs. Pegs was the most efficient way to ensure that Hayley did not turn an even deeper shade of tomato than she already appears. Did this work? Yes. Was it an incredible fashion choice? Most certainly, yes.
After a changeable night of trimming head sails, we awoke to a slightly stronger sea state with large swell and lots of wind. Everything was going well until 10:00, when the preventer fuse snapped. This was something that needed urgent attention. The wind continued to strengthen and we reefed the main sail shortly after, and lowered the spinnaker pole. During this, George and Gruff experienced indoor rain and had fruit flung towards them in every which way. Also, Paul got soaked while working on the side deck. Jonathan may be sleeping in several millimetres of water tonight. We are now sailing at broad reach all the way to Alderney, which will be our final stop over before heading home to Portsmouth.
Written by Hayley, George, and James (comedic effects by George).
Our arrival in Alderney last night brought a flurry of emotions: achievement, at conquering so many miles; sadness, at the thought of our voyage concluding soon; relief, at not having to rig mooring lines; and excitement at the prospect of a good night’s sleep, uninterrupted by watch changes. The fact that we were now (technically) in British waters also spurred on many, well, that and the fact that we now finally have phone signal! Despite this, a certain few cellular phone networks still believe that we are in France!
Having had a relatively quiet night with the silence only interrupted by the cacophony of previously unheard snores, and the shivers of Ben as he realised his sleeping bag was stuck open. We awoke to the yells of the Skipper as he lovingly made us pancakes for the second(!!) time on the voyage. This cemented our irrefutable argument that Terry is indeed the best Skipper. So good were the pancakes, that this opinion did not waver in the slightest when he made us clean the boat from top to bottom. Because cleaning is boring, we won’t talk about that bit, and skip straight onto where we hailed a water taxi to take us from our mooring buoy to dry, unmoving land. With 12 of us crammed into the rib, plus three stinky (but relatively well-travelled) bags of rubbish, it was quite a crowded boat, and some of us might have got a bit splashed as we raced through the waves.
We arrived ashore relatively unharmed, and made our way across a really dodgy pontoon, which definitely put a few grey hairs on our heads, especially when George decided to try to take an impromptu swim (thankfully he didn’t succeed). We then went running up that hill (pretty much the hugest hill in existence) to the bike shop, where seven of our number rented bikes and Famous Five’d across the island, albeit without the lashings of ginger beer. Because some of us have some degree of self-preservation, the remaining four declined to cycle, and instead decided to explore the town of St Anne. The girls decided to go shopping, but we had a thirst for knowledge, and instead explored the local museum. The museum was “incredibly interesting” (Ben, 2022), and had many pieces of pottery, a broken Elizabethan boat, and tonnes of WW2 artefacts. All in all, it was well worth the three quid they charged us. Plus we got to see the Wombles.
Our thirst for knowledge then turned into normal thirst, as the classic British cloud cover decided to part, making way for a really hot sun. We found a locally owned café on the high street, which made delicious sandwiches and cake, along with chilled drinks. Despite initial confusion about cutlery, we were also reassured that the Channel Islands do in fact have spoons, along with forks and knives. Having pondered this all the way across Biscay, we were very pleased as it meant that we could now sleep at night. We then stopped for ice-cream (and mango sorbet), and wandered back down to Braye harbour where we sunbathed while waiting for the others to finish their meal. We met the others, and proceeded to the shower block for some long-awaited showers. These turned out to be quite an adventure for the girls as they had at least two inches of standing water, though it felt like more, in the cubicles. The water pressure however, made up for this, as it felt like we were being pressure washed (probably for the best as we had three days of dirt caked onto us). We rate them about 7/10.
We then queued up back on the dodgy pontoon for what felt like 36 years as we waited for the water taxi to return us to our vessel. We took the scenic route of the harbour, visiting not one, but two other boats, before finally being deposited on CH3. We were then treated to Skip’s chips, an impromptu chip shop run by Terry, once again reinforcing the indisputable truth that he is indeed the best Skipper. Bex, having an urge to check the windex, climbed the mast, and then we settled down to bed, but only after charging our phones with the generator.
Shout out to our relatives who are still diligently following our adventures- we can’t wait to cross the channel tomorrow!
Lovingly written (and rewritten) by Charlotte (still aka Rachel) and Ben (now known as Ben).