Our New Year’s voyage began with a scintillating safety briefing which left us mesmerised, followed by an acquaint session with the boat and getting to know each other as brethren of the ocean waves. We were briefed by our stalwart Skipper on the itinerary for our journey before setting sail for Cowes on the Isle of Wight. During the crossing, we were shown the varying duties required on deck and started practising essential skills like tying knots, using ropes, winching and hoisting sails. Once docked, we worked as a team to get scran (eat) on the go with plentiful gallons of tea flowing. Following a quick recap of our day and what we’d learnt, we were left to enjoy some leisure time…and nothing works like Cards Against Humanity which was naturally only PG and nothing naughty was uttered.
Our second day put us to the test as a team, as we set sail for Southampton from Cowes. Following a breakfast rivalling the velocity and efficiency of the Germans, we departed the harbour. The aim of the day was to assess our abilities to handle inclement weather with the aim of sailing to Poole the day after. Sea shanties abound, ranging from Wellerman to Kylie Minogue. We sailed into Southampton harbour with every member of the team getting a chance to helm the boat, burdened with glorious responsibility. A lunch of Cornish pasties and beans erupted into a full on debate on what constitutes said Cornish pasty. Duelling pistols and swords were drawn. Our return to Cowes then gave us the opportunity to further hone our skills – handling the ‘snake pit’, sweating, raising and lowering sails, helming and tacking. Once in Cowes, dinner was followed by a lesson on navigation, reading charts and using a compass. We then swiftly stowed ourselves in bed, ready for another challenging day ahead.
Having demonstrated our abilities on Day 2, our Skipper confidently charted a course for Poole. Our journey took us past the Needles on the South West corner of the Isle of Wight, after which we started to encounter a bit of chop on the waves. However they were no match for our nautical skills as we navigated a headwind by beating upwind. This involved much tacking, which we perfected to a fine art, working like a well-oiled machine – unfortunately unlike our engine. Around two miles South of Poole our engine alarm began to sound and upon investigation an airlock was discovered which had caused the impeller to burn out. However, this (minor) crisis gave members of the crew a chance to flex their problem solving skills – honourable mention to Luke for venturing below deck in choppy weather to assist the Skipper in fixing the engine. Topside, we did our best to keep Challenger 3 on course, with Abigail acting as a figurehead, glued to the foredeck, relishing getting soaked by the waves…like a madman. Unfortunately, this was not an issue that could be fixed at sea, so Challenger 2 – captained by Sue the Hero – swooped to the rescue with much skill and brilliance, towing us to safety in Poole Harbour. Despite our trials and tribulations we managed to sort our dinner and admin for the night, stayed up well past our bedtime and celebrated the New Year ondeck, ushered in by fireworks and the foghorns of surrounding tankers and ferries.
Our final day of sailing began with a relaxing start and an extra (!) one hour of sleep and we were all treated to a pleasant surprise when Abi, Emma and Jack cooked up some excellent pancakes for breakfast. Will presided over the cooking like Gordon Ramsay personified as we brought Shrove Tuesday forward a few months. Once thoroughly stuffed, we then witnessed the spectacle of Poole’s New Year boat race (read: bathtub/raft race). While the brave racers weathered eggs and flour bombs chucked at them, we watched from relative comfort surrounded by a horde of dogs who all got pet…naturally. After a few of us got the chance to climb the mast, we slipped our moorings and set off back to Pompey. Our journey back was a recap of everywhere we’d been, passing Southampton, the Needles and Cowes on relatively calm seas, before docking in Portsmouth for our final night.
Our final day began at 07:00 as usual and we started our last checks before disembarking at 12:00. Following breakfast, we packed and stowed our bags and got to work cleaning the boat from top to bottom – cleaning heads, sweeping, spraying surfaces, organising kit and cleaning out the bilge and engine block, removing any water. Our efforts were swift and we got the job done, leaving us a few hours to send some more crew members up the mast and to chill on deck before saying our tearful goodbyes.
Overall, everyone has had a fantastic experience, grown as individuals, learned new (or practised existing) skills and have made great new friends who we will no doubt keep in touch with. This week was a thoroughly enjoyable experience made possible by our Skipper Jim, Mate Amy and Watch Leader Martin.