This week onboard Challenger 4 for the sixth leg of our Round Britain Adventure, we have a group of 16-25-year-olds joining us from Aberdeen Foyer.
The crew set off from Peterhead on Sunday and met their first challenge sailing the North Sea. Read young Troy’s blog to find more. 👇
One portion of the team arrived at the bus station at Peterhead, a bit delayed due to their coach having a malfunction with the exhaust. But despite this minor hiccup they arrived with only 15 minutes wasted. Two other members of our 10-strong crew were already waiting with Rob, a staff member working with Foyer, who has a very nice beard. They soon set off a few feet before the seventh member joined the group.
They moved to the harbour, where the final members of the team had already arrived or were soon to. After bags were pulled onboard by a sort of pulley system they set off to a nearby cafe to grab some food. It was a cosy little building nestled in roughly the right corner of the harbour.
With a bit more time to burn they all broke off to do their own things and in about an hour or so they climbed onboard the Challenger 4. Decorated with a towering mast, various winches flanking the sides of the boat with ropes to match it really emphasised the beauty of the vessel.
Each member of the team flocked to bunks of their choosing after grabbing their bags from the cockpit of the Challenger and soon started to pack away the items from within their bags. After a while the team was given an important safety briefing and afterwards dinner was prepped.
As of writing this I can still feel the potent punch the onion I was cutting had. It was like a thousand needles were being rubbed against my eyes. It got so bad I couldn’t keep my eyes open, I just had to remember I had a person on my right and a sharp knife close to them. Accidentally cutting someone while I was blinded by onion gas wouldn’t be ideal, so, I carried on and continued to get instructed on how to cut up a bell pepper for the fajitas we were soon going to be eating.
Sunday 4 - sailing day
After everyone ate breakfast and chatted, sharing jokes and overall having a good time the majority of the team and the staff piled into a minivan and headed off for a shower. I stayed behind however, I felt incredibly clean but little did I know that would change within four or more hours.
I climbed back onboard the Challenger and was tasked with tugging off these metal clips called hanks, if I remember correctly, with a member of staff. It was a hard task, they seemed to get tougher and tougher the more we moved down the bag. After jobs were done and dusted, we all went back down the stairs and waited for the team who had gone off to shower to get back.
It was time. Time to set sail. I was nervous, really nervous but I didn’t want to show it. We were taught how to use our life jackets and how to fasten them and wear them comfortably. Soon it became time to set sail and I was really nervous but I doubled down and helped ease the sail and get the ship ready for departure.
We soon headed off into the North Sea and it wasn’t too happy that we, a team of inexperienced sailors, were daring to sail on its gnashing waves.
And the sea made it clear. It did not give us an easy start.
The waves were raising the boat up and down and thrashing us as best as it could and it didn’t take long for someone to succumb to the North Sea’s wrath and dive over the edge of the cockpit and scramble underneath the small wire fence snaking the edge of the boat and throw up. 🤮
I soon followed. I had my head in my arms, I was trying my best to soldier through it but the sea soon claimed me. I leaned over the edge of the cockpit and threw up.
The sea made its move and it cursed us for the rest of the day and the next morning.
After a few minutes of being ravaged by the North Sea I hurried downstairs, took off my life jacket, threw myself in my bunk and then frantically asked a fellow member of the team in the bunk below me for a bucket. He passed it to me and well we know what happened next. I flopped into my bunk and passed out and for the rest of the night.
I would wake up randomly, dry retch a good ten or more times into that bucket until early morning. Now that was half the battle. I staggered out of my bunk, crashed into every object and corner until I got into the galley and then straight into one of the two heads (toilets).
Now I thought the bathroom was going to be an easy battle to win. I had fought the curse of the North Sea and came out battered like a fish in a chipper but victorious nonetheless.
Nope. I was horribly ignorant. I was being tossed from side to side like some sort of pendulum and I spent a good 20 or more minutes in that bathroom feeling absolutely horrid.
The North Sea laughed at me and slapped me harder for believing I had bested it. Everyone, not just me, had suffered the brutal fist of the North Sea and the various buckets and groaning proved it.
Monday 5 - the aftermath
We did it!
We had got a right good slap from the raging North Sea and came out the other end groggy and beaten but nonetheless alright.
I, however, was still suffering. I felt like someone had thrown me into a tumble dryer, spun me around for a good five minutes and then tossed me down a hill.
I sat in the saloon, dazed and barely able to stand with a cup of orange juice beside me and a cereal bar in front of me. Slowly, I drank the juice. Then the North Sea came rushing back to finish off its curse. I raced up on deck and hung over the cockpit yet again and yeah. Threw up. 🤮
Unbeknown to me Rob had followed me and sat nearby as I hung there groaning. I told him I wanted to go home and then he did something only a wise ‘old-ish’ man with a flowing beard and glowing lack of hair could do.
He gave me a good motivational talk and I sat up full of life again. I can’t really remember what happened that day, everyone was just sort of recovering and cleaning up the aftermath of the first night. We were anchored somewhere between Edinburgh and its neighbouring areas a couple miles off the coast.
The day went on and we set sail and continued our voyage. And just like we did the previous day, we eased the sail, got the ship ready to go and I helped heave the sail up. That’s when a brilliant joke was created by a fellow member of the team who that morning had his neck injured while he sat up in the bunk. I woke up to his groaning.
He was all smiles with his neck encased in a brace but nonetheless happy. He, in a high pitched voice, yelled out heave and we all cracked up. It was seriously the boost we needed to sweat that sail up. ‘Heeeaaave’. Brilliant. We were all squeaking that out that day and the following days.
The sea was easier on us then, I guess dragging us through the muck of hell was just its initiation process. We all sat in the cockpit and laughed, sang to music a fellow member blasted through his speaker and were certainly a thousand notches happier than the previous day.
We ate chicken korma up on deck seasoned with occasional spits of salt water from the North Sea who was most likely very unhappy that it hadn’t ravaged us as hard as the previous day.
God. Staring out into the open expanse with rolling hills of water as far as the eye could see really opened up something inside me. It filled me with a pungent nostalgia that really had no reason to be there. The atmosphere was electric and everyone was bantering and getting along like a house on fire and then some. It was seriously the getaway I needed and I definitely am not alone in that regard.
It was a needed escape.
Soon, we and the rest of the team I was in (there are two teams made between the 10 of us with two valiant leaders guiding us. Sharon and Sharon, our Watch Leaders) went down into our bunks for some shuteye for the watch we were scheduled to be on in a few hours.
The rest of the team had stayed up on deck to do the first watch between 18:00 and 21:00. So, we fell asleep and I woke up for my watch and was once again struck with this horrific spinning sensation that can only be described as if I’d just been launched down a hill in a barrel. I really wanted to do that watch, the sun was going to be setting and the stars were going to be out but I couldn’t fight on and retreated to my bunk.