Tallships & Challenger yachts

Join me on a 72' Challenger and come out and menace the Channel Islands on the 9th to 13th Sept 2015. 

Voyage CF353 http://www.tallships.org  OOPS- you're too late. It was great fun! Here is a Blog of the trip by Keith:

CF353 – Channel Adventure

Day 1 – Monday 7th September

A varied group of adult Voyage Crew arrived at 13:00 – some with extensive sailing experience, while others had little or none. The common ground was that we were all novices as far as the Challenger experience was concerned.

After the mandatory safety briefing and issuing of lifejacket/harness, plus wet weather gear, we were given the really good news – the plan was to go to St Malo !  Even better, the weather forecast for the whole week was looking very promising.

But first there was a short trip to Cowes, using the motor, with some crew preparing the Thai Green Curry dinner. The remaining crew got on with learning about winching (grinding and releasing) and the “snake pit”, where lines and halyards meet in colourful orderly ranks, held in check by the rope clamps.

After dinner most crew went into town, getting to know each other and discussing the following day’s sail, which would go on into an overnight crossing, lasting till Wednesday morning.


Day 2 – Tuesday 8th September

A bright and sunny start saw us heading down West Solent towards the Needles in good spirits. Training continued, as did the attempts to remember ‘who was who’ and get the names right !

As we got out into the Channel, things started to get more lively in the wind and wave effects, making it very bouncy, till the inevitable ‘greeness’ overtook a few crew. Thankfully it didn’t turn into an epidemic – but there were one or two people abstaining when the Spaghetti Bolognaise evening meal was served.

In the evening, the two watch system started with Starboard doing 19:00 – 22:00 and 01:00 – 04:00.  This gave Port  the 22:00 till 01:00 and 04:00 – 07:00, which they judged the ‘top result’ – sometimes it is just how the cookie crumbles !


Day 3 – Wednesday 9th September

To start the day with a beautiful starry sky, with occasional shooting stars, is a true delight. The day got even better with a sunny dawn and increasing temperature.

We arrived in St Malo about 08:30 but had to wait for our berth to be vacated by passing boat that had fancied a rest !  The Harbour staff did a great job, so we were soon moored and off into town.

A 20 minute stroll took us to the walled citadel, where we spent the day taking the views from the ramparts, the replica tallship, shopping and sampling French pastries + ice creams, etc. A few crew took a quick nap back on-board to reset their bodyclocks !   An evening meal for the crew en-masse at a restaurant was followed by a few cheeky beers for those not yet ready for the day to end.


Day 4 – Thursday 10th September

We set off just before 09:00 heading northish to Guernsey, destination St Peter Port.  Another sunny, warm day with winds not too bad for our voyage. By now the crew are really getting into the swing of things, no shortage for volunteers whatever the next task might be.

After 60 nm we arrived at 17:00 and moored for the night. After the evening meal of Salmon steaks, potatoes and veg, people made use of the onshore facilities, which were excellent, before going off to explore.


Day 5 – Friday 11th September

More fine but slightly cooler weather saw us head out in the direction of Sark at 09:30. On the way we practiced tacking and gybing, operations which we hadn’t had call to use on earlier legs of the voyage.

When we got to Sark we anchored for lunch and four hearty souls went in for a swim. There was also the opportunity to be winched up the mast to the top – again some volunteers stepped up and their wish was granted !  Plenty of others preferred to take photos and applaud such adventurous efforts.

We then continued our journey to Alderney, passing through a narrow gap between tall cliffs. This was perfectly safe said the skipper (Paul) – shows how you have trust in the team !

Arriving at 18:30 we then had to play ‘hook a duck’ to get our mooring buoy. This was watched over by the tallship Lord Nelson, who were already moored and having a bar-b-que on their aft deck.

Once secured on our mooring lines, then suitably fed, we arranged for a water taxi (small rib boat) to transport us to land. Keen to explore, we had to prioritise as it was turning dark and we only had limited time before the water taxi was due to take us back. Can you guess what was priority one ?

Day 6 – Saturday 12th September

Today was a cloudy and much cooler start.  Also a good deal rougher sea state ! Lord Nelson had already departed and could just be seen on the horizon (about 3 nm).  At 09:30 we left Alderney into quite rough conditions on the long run back to Portsmouth. An area outside the harbour had conflicting tide conditions which made it a very  bouncy place to cross. So exciting a place that the skipper (Paul) wanted to go back and do it again !

All the way back we had changes of tide and wind which made for an exciting run, wrestling the helm to keep our course in the ‘average’ of where we should be heading. The weather got sunnier as we progressed. We caught up with Lord Nelson as we both approached the Isle of Wight.

Passing the Needles, we gybed on up towards Portsmouth, arriving at 20:00 (???).  A final night of laughter and fun in our close knit group, before a good clean-up tomorrow.

After week of fantastic weather, varying seas and exciting sailing, during a voyage of 330 nm, we now look forward to the next time.   A voyage crew who set out as Challenger novices have now been fully initiated.

Off Yarmouth. The crew are keeping a good watch for Lobster Pots while Watch Leader 'Little Pete' (yours truly)  takes a selfie with a Cornish Crabber in the background. Every time we saw a small boat he would go off on one about his beloved 17-foot 'Dora'. Put a sock in it Barnesy!

The 'Snake pit', with the Needles coming into view. The author Keith fills in the Log (is there no end to his talents?) closely watched by Skipper Paul.

Men's quarters. Roger, Paul and Big Pete on deck. 

Plenty on snakes, and a fair press of canvas. Lush. 

One moment you're down - and the next UP, UP!!! 

Thanks Keith for all the bumph on the left. 

Following this voyage I realised there was still room for improvement with my instructions to the crew, so 'better late than never', here is something.

 Hoisting the main sail:

Information from watch leader 'Little Pete'. 

The sail cover should be off, so prepare the main halyard by dropping the boom while pulling in the main sheet, detaching the main halyard from the tail of the boom (where it has worked as a topping lift) and bringing it forward to the mast. A willing crew member secures the pulley to the head of the sail and drops the lifting side of the halyard to the down-haul where it is fixed. The main halyard is tightened. Make sure the main halyard isn't twisted. If we are planning to sail down wind then now could be a good time to prepare the preventer.

In preparation we need:

Two/four crew members with spike at the mast ready to spike the main halyard and sweat up the main. This is done in pairs, so a reserve pair of crew members can be on standby to take over.

Two in the 'snakepit' to ease the main halyard. Get them to flake out the halyard and put two turns on the winch.

Prepare the reefing lines, either loose so they run through at the snake pit or tightened as required. Fix the second down-haul to a reefing point if required and make up.

Two crew ready to remove sail ties and head to the stern of the boat.

Two crew to control the main sheet. Get them to drop the elephant ears off the winch, but keep the safety turn on.

One crew plus skipper/ 1st mate at the helm.

All other crew members should be in front of the mast or behind the boom. 

The watch-leader/co-ordinator should be near the mast.

Ask all if 'Ready at the mast? Snake pit? Main sheet? Helm?

'Helm, Bring her up to wind.'

Wait until helm confirms we are into wind (and check with the windex).

'Take off sail ties and head back.'

'Spike the halyard and bring in the slack.'

'Ease the main sheet.' The main sheet team should be ready to ease as required so the sail can lift but without a lot of slack in the main sheet which can cause it to catch round winches, etc. and causes the boom to flail about.

'Haul up the main halyard.' At first this is done by hand with two turns on the winch, then with three turns on the winch pulling in the slack as the sweating team raises the main. The watch-leader calls 'Two, Six, Heave!' to keep this in time. When the main is as far up as possible, put four turns on the winch, put the sheet into the jaws and grind up the remaining main. Put the safety turn on.

Snakepit team to tighten the Cunningham/kicking strap.

'Bear away at the helm and ease the main sheet.'

Pull in any slack reefing lines at the snakepit.

Thank crew and find out from the skipper what I could have done better!

http://www.tallships.org is an organisation deserves to be better known for doing awesome adventure holidays for youth of all ages - 12-80yrs. Here is a log written Anthony Sargent, with additional material by Sid and P.B., about an 18-day passage in the Atlantic in November 2012:

Stavros S. Niarchos Voyage Diary SSN 565 Plymouth to Santa Cruze, Tenerife.

                Chief officer           Nicky harding

            Second officer          Fliss Green

                    Third Officer            Gemma  Royston

           Chief Engineer         Pete Currie

                Bosun                       Kim Williams

        Cook                         Bill Latta



               Assistant Engineer               Syd Trudgen

            Second Cook                       Karen Latta

   Assistant Cook                     Peter Barnes

                  First Aid+ Purser                Julia Robinson

                      Deckhand                            Stephen Millsom

                                                            Watchleaders                       As below

                                   RED                                        WHITE                           BLUE


      Scott Bruce                        Nigel Holl                     Claire Ashton  


Paul Griffin                             Chris Barker                  James Tickner

George Vlad Lucian                Anthony Sargent            Alan  Fogg

Ian Ford                                  Robert Nowatzki            Liz    Fogg

Andrew  Mew                          Veni  Schuur                  Nicholas Grant

Joseph  Vergani                                  Joseff  Fox                     Louise  Duncan

Tony Mann                              Stephen Crossley           Mel   Walker

Keith Gregory                         Simon   Pullen               Anthony Franklin

Robert  Sharples

Sunday 18th November – Syd Trudgen writes:

11.00 AM, Jan dropped me off at Penzance station, got the train to Plymouth and taxi to Millbay Docks, across the basin from where the cross channel ferry operates to Roscof and Santander.

Arrived on board SSN to find Captain Liam and Chief Engineer Pete working on faulty port side rib davit, donned overalls and gave them a hand, fitted new over-run brake shoes and tested, seems OK but time will tell. Liam and Peter not very optimistic.

Liam hints that Tuesday’s planned departure is likely to be delayed due to awful weather forecast.

Steak, egg and chips for tea and a few beers in the wardroom later.

Rest of the volunteer crew join; I am sharing a cabin with Assistant Cook Peter and Deckhand Steve.

I grab the best bunk known rather quaintly as the “Honeymoon Suite” as it has more room and its own porthole.


Introduction – Many of us who signed on as voyage crew (paying crew as opposed to the more permanent crew), were looking for an adventure voyage and this is certainly what we got! Whilst it may not quite compare to Scott’s diary in his expedition to the Antarctic, in which he wrote that the story would stir the heart of every Englishman, this trip certainly stirred a few ‘fixed’ objects and quite a few humans too: anything which was not thoroughly fixed down during the first week was hurled in an uncompromising fashion across the ship This included the captain, Liam Keating, on one occasion. This is a voyage none of us will forget, headed by a cool captain on a well designed ship. Stavros S N. is a steel-hulled ship originally meant to be a fishing vessel but the super-structure was never finished, and she was then completed as a purpose made sail -training vessel square rigged up above. She was rigorously tested on this voyage in many respects, as will be revealed.

DAY 1.  Monday November 19th 2012.

We found the ship easily on Plymouth Hoe, and at 1pm I was dropped off, & then greeted on the gangway by Steve, one of the deckhands. It was raining and the wind was already soughing in the rigging. Looking up at the ship the masts looked huge & rather awesome.

We were shown to our cabins, followed by assembly in the Mess, then had registration procedure, harness fitting and then back outside for safety training. Dinner was at six with excellent roast chicken. After supper it was back outside to the bridge for wheel (helm) instruction. The latter is hydraulically operated so is very easy to turn. As events turned out this was a great boon, since in olden times it might take two or three strong men to keep the ship on course in strong winds. Originally it was planned for us to go up aloft on day 1, but we ran out of daylight and had safety alarm training in the Mess instead. We were then dismissed. I sorted out my bunk and locker and then turned in for bed.

Monday 19th

AM, Voyage Crew joining the ship and issued with oil skins and safety harnesses and start their safety briefing, mast climbing and sail handling training. Not much progress with the mast climbing due to bad weather.

Pete and I wait all day for the fuel tanker to arrive; mid afternoon Pete rings the fuel company, which knows nothing about us as good old Head Office have not ordered any fuel. Delivery promised for tomorrow; good job that our departure is delayed until Wednesday !

I fit the new hot water drinks boiler in messroom, not very substantial. I think I might have to beef up the brackets to prevent it coming adrift and showering some poor sod in boiling water during heavy weather.

Stayed on board during the evening as I have the 10.00 to 12.00 chart room security watch and have to let libertymen in  through locked gate.

DAY 2. Tuesday 20th November.

Up at 7 am as no watches set yet. Wind blowing hard still. Had a hearty breakfast in the Mess and everyone still in good spirits despite the Captain’s decision to stay in Plymouth for another day, on account of the inclement weather. At the morning briefing he told us it was Force 8 wind, and that you deal with a storm when you are in it, but you do not go out and actively seek one!

Training re-commenced on deck with bracing the yards. Our team were on the main course (the lowest yard on the main mast), and I was at the head of the rope belaying to the pin. Separate teams all braced simultaneously from hard port to hard starboard – i.e. all 5 yards per mast trying to keep in synchrony. This reduced windage as the yards were now aligned with the wind. New terms for me were “2/6” when heaving, and “come up” for all to drop the rope, except for the man belaying. In order to belay with tension on the rope, a stopper is used. This is a narrow rope wrapped around the three large lines coming from the pulley block. Once done, the main rope is “eased to the stopper” by the team and can then easily be belayed without slippage or loss of fingers. This was followed by rope-coiling demos  -- right-handed ropes are coiled clockwise on the deck, and secured on the pin by means of a reverse turn pulled through the main coil, and hooked over.

After a coffee break we had emergency drills on fire, man overboard and general emergency. We then assembled in the waist (middle of the ship in front of the bridge) for principles of going aloft re H & S, plus the sailing practicalities of square–riggers. Furling and unfurling of sails was then discussed with lots of new sailing terms being introduced – e.g. jackstays, gaskets, cranelines, ratlines and a Flemish Horse to name but a few! After a session on knots it was time to go aloft!

Onto the side of the ship we went, then up the ratlines (ladder ‘twixt the shrouds), onto the Jacob’s ladder onto the lower platform. Clipping on with our harnesses was mandatory.

Once back down safely we had Captain’s briefing : the main plan was to leave Wed morning, and motor 400-500 miles west once clear of the English Channel. This was to get beyond the series of lows building up, and then hopefully pick up the NW Trade Winds.

Tuesday 20th

Voyage crew not making much progress with mast climbing and training because of the awful weather, thank God we are not sailing today. Late morning the fuel tanker arrives from Cardiff and we take on 20 cubic metres of red diesel. Stayed on board again during evening as I have the 4.00 to 6.00 watch and it is tipping down. The ship is rolling around while tied to the jetty; not a good sign.

DAY 3   Wednesday  21st November.

Cast off warps & left quay at 10.47am. Captain manoeuvred across the harbour verbally with a member of the voyage crew helming. We tied up to the other side to pick up fresh water.

At 12.23 pm we cast off finally and together with our Harbour Pilot set off past Drake’s Island to starboard and then Plymouth Breakwater to port. Soon after, the pilot departed and we headed SSW along the Cornish coast. I soon recognised Dodman point, and later on Falmouth and St Mawes could just be seen. We motored on into an increasing swell and wind at Force 5. By the evening, sea-sickness struck with a vengeance. I was slightly ill, but some crew were in misery for 3 days.

Wednesday 21st, Day 1 at Sea

Busy getting the ship ready for sea, 10.00 Pete starts the main engines and I close the three hydraulic watertight doors. 10.30 the pilot arrives on board and we move over to the ferry jetty to take on water which is one of my jobs, I take on 30 cubic metres. I get soaked due to the high water pressure ashore. Liam is in a big hurry to get this finished, as the pilot is still on board and we are being charged for his time. On completion of watering ship, we cast off and head out past Drake’s Island, through Plymouth Sound and out through the breakwater where the Pilot disembarks.

The ship is bouncing around all over the place and Liam decides to put up the two small jib sails to try and steady the ship’s motion. This avoids the voyage crew having to climb the masts considering their lack of training. I am reliably informed that we are in a Force 9 gale and it will last for some time.

We have the evening meal which I bring up about an hour later. Here is me telling everyone that I shan’t be seasick after 25 years in the RN ! It is noticeable that there are very few at the meal. The motion of the ship is terrible and it is rolling 30 degrees either side.

I go to bed early and am thankful that I have not got a watch on the open bridge.  It is going to be a long, long night. We motor through the night with both main engines.

DAY 4   Thursday 22nd November.

A big day for all of us, not least the captain. I was up at 3.30 am for the Morning Watch. During the night the wind had become gale Force 7 and by the end of our Watch it was gale Force 8,with gusts of 40 knots and occasionally 45 knots. The wind was howling in the rigging, yards were all braced parallel to the wind, and in addition to the motor we had two sails up – the fore topmast staysail and the main topmast staysail. These stabilised the ship and gave us some forward drive too.

At home my secret ambition was to be at the helm of a ship in Gale Force 8 plus. Well my ambition was soon fulfilled, since the Chief Officer informed me that the wind was up to Force 9 with gusts up to 50 knots by the time my helming was over. The Captain told us that the two low pressures had combined. Whoops  - sounds like a well known film to me. Most of the excitement involved seeing how the ship dealt with the increasing waves and turbulent seas. Well is the answer. Waves were 20 foot minimum but likely to be underestimated from above. During this watch my confidence in the Captain and the ship was consolidated. She rode the seas well, took some water over the lee side and was occasionally awash at the waist. I also spotted some Storm Petrels as the dawn came in, expertly tailing us using the drag.

After the Watch it was breakfast, but this did not agree so I left off food for 2 days. I turned in for a daytime sleep. During this time the ship was hit by a line squall 30 miles long & 2 miles deep. In anticipation the watertight doors were closed down below. During the squall wind speeds reached 67 knots (75mph), which is Force 12.

Just after this the captain (Mr Glue Feet), decided to have a cup of tea but was hurled the full length of the canteen scalding himself and Nicky, who responded in a dour Scots accent “I would have preferred coffee.” The fridge went over, the microwave went the full length of the galley and the cutlery tray was smashed. Peter, the assistant cook, went flying and landed in a pool of eggs! (Not quite true - I had to clean up the pool of eggs! Peter)

Back on watch from 4 till 6am: what a wet, cold and windy watch this was, with driving rain and huge waves.

Thursday 22nd  Day 2

Bad night, thrown around bunk, hardly slept, sick before breakfast and immediately afterwards. Whose idea was it to do a deep sea voyage at this time of year,- I must be mad. I did my rounds of the machinery spaces, filled the log in the chartroom and went back to bed. Skipped lunch, 1400 called to bridge to close watertight doors in anticipation of heavy weather which is expected with big line squall that is showing on the radar. All weather deck doors and hatches are closed; I sit in chartroom while squall passes through, pretty lumpy. I ask Fliss who is Officer of the Watch about the weather conditions and she admits that it is about as rough as she has ever seen it!  After the squall passes through I open the  watertight doors and go back to bed. Skipped tea, cabin mate Peter decamps to spare voyage crew pipe cot ( a bit like a hammock but with tubular sides) which stops you rolling around. I could do the same but elect to stay put.  Decide to jam my case in at the side of my bunk which restricts the amount that I am thrown around. Early to bed.

DAY 5 Friday 23rd November

Another rough day. This is now becoming part of our daily lives. Wind force is gale 7 to 8 and we are still motoring roughly west to try to get clear of the foul weather. A lot of people are still suffering from the effects of seasickness. At the morning’s briefing the Captain explained that we were going to head west all day, but the good news was that we were likely to pick up the NW trade winds by night fall. He was right.

I later devoured my supper, which was a lovely beef stew.

During the evening Watch the wind was in the north west, so at last we had the favourable winds required by a square–rigger.

We were now coming off the Continental Shelf, since at the beginning of the watch the sea depth was 700m and 4 hours later it was 5,000m  (3miles). We were also in the shipping lanes with lots of other vessels about. A big tanker was planning to come very close and Gemma (3rd Officer) spoke to them on the radio to persuade them to back off a bit, since there was no need to pass within half a mile of us.

Friday 23rd Day 3

Bad night again, but the case did help. Had a small helping of porridge for breakfast and managed to keep it down. After rounds had to pump out flooded foc’stle locker, felt very unwell afterwards with nasty action of ship at the bows and the smell of all the paint etc. Tidied up the emergency generator space and workshop from all the loose gear being thrown around by the action of the ship. Managed a bit of soup at lunchtime. Spent the afternoon making substantial brackets to re-fix the galley worktop fridge which came away from its mountings and nearly killed somebody. Also re-fixed the microwave . Very pleased with my efforts, and Bill the cook and his wife Karen appreciated what I did. Stew and then ice cream for tea; must be feeling better.

DAY 6 Saturday 24th November

At the morning briefing the Captain announced that the engines would be shut down and the sails were to go up. Still a big wind and big sea but really getting used to it now, steady force 8 gusting 9 (45 knots/52mph).

My job during the next Watch was to take the helm. This was a great responsibility as I had the Captain next to me barking orders, and in addition a lot of crew aloft on the yardarms preparing the sails. Most of those people had only practiced this when the ship was tied up in Plymouth! Once done the engines were finally shut down & the ship spanked along at 8.5 knots under just two sails.

After I was released, but still on the bridge I noticed an assortment of wildlife that was tracking alongside. This included storm petrels, a gannet and a large pod of dolphins on a mission.

During the afternoon I fell dead asleep and when I awoke I found that a further sail had been put up, and the wind had eased slightly.

However on the night watch the wind force had dramatically increased yet again to a gale, and the ship’s movements were quite erratic.

I was given some time off during the small hours to write this diary. Imagine sitting in a cramped office with nowhere to put one’s feet, the office chair on which one is sitting is liable to tip right over and the keyboard is sliding around. It is 3.30am & one is seriously sleep-deprived! This might explain some poor spelling and English which has just been corrected!

Saturday 24th Day 4

Disturbed night but did get some kip, getting quite attached to the case, a bit like having Jan in bed with me, except that the case does not snore. Had first full breakfast for three days. Found that Port main engine was shut down during the night and the ship handling quite well with two  sails and one engine.

 At some stage Ian from red watch is thrown across the messroom and suffers serious bruising and possible internal damage, broken ribs ? Not serious enough to land him but he is very immobile and put on very strong painkillers.

09.30 starboard main engine shut down, one square sail set on the fore mast and the ship is doing a comfortable 8 knots. More storm damage in the galley with cupboard doors adrift, put it right.

After lunch carried out oil and filter change on port generator. Roast pork, roast potatoes and veg, followed by Angel Delight for tea; very nice. Bill and Karen are doing a fantastic job keeping us all fed in this awful weather. Karen has a few bruises to show for it.

Trying to eat in this weather is very difficult, having soup at lunch time, you have to tip the bowl in the opposite direction to which the ship is rolling otherwise you or your opposite number end up wearing it.

Poor Liz from blue watch has had her head permanently in a bucket since sailing and is actually looking a bit better today. It might be something to do with the threat from Liam that if she did not get some liquids inside her and keep them down,  Liam would have to give her an enema !

DAY 7  Sunday 25th November.

Some direct notes from my log – on Morning Watch 4am till 8am.Not too cold, no rain,3/8 cloud,13C. Wind up to Force 7 gusting Force 8 (nearly 50mph).Only one ship crossed our bow from port to starboard. Great moon; waxing still. Checked North Star – got bearing of 358 degrees first go --- quite happy with that ! Had long discussions with other members of the watch. No small talk. Sea raging, the ship rolling & dipping her gunnels under quite regularly; wind howling in the rigging. Still the earnest talking: what a mixed bunch of talented people I have been thrown in with.

Later – the wind was up even more now with spray and foam whipping off the wave tops. After supper the Captain came to us to ask for volunteers to hand (furl) the sails, since we were in danger of losing them. Bearing in mind it was dark, with a raging storm outside and the crew had only been aloft once, this was a major task. However a queue rapidly formed. I was not picked, so was forced to watch with trepidation from the bridge. The sails had been partially furled by pulling on a series of ropes, but the hanging remainder was now being thrashed by the wind. Up went the volunteers illuminated by the mast lights, and such a dramatic sight I have never witnessed in my life. The higher the men went the greater the fury of the storm. After half an hour of nail-biting drama the men were safely down and the sails stowed.

We were now back under motor again, heading SSW into the Atlantic in Storm Force 10.

Bed for all, except Veni who was one of the chosen few who had been aloft: he sat up all night on an adrenalin high!

Sunday 25th Day 5

We went to three sails overnight. It was a rough old night, thank god for my bed mate. Worked on the sewage system after breakfast and then after lunch ,it being a Sunday, Pete gave me the afternoon off.

Early evening and the wind changed direction, the sails came down, I did not envy my cabin mate Steve and others having to go up the mast in the dark to stow the sails away, with the ship rolling 40 degrees either side! My diary reads VERY BRAVE !

 We motored through the night on both main engines. It will be a rough night.

DAY 8  Monday 26th November.

On Middle Watch, 12-4am. Took the helm for a good session: course 200 – 205 deg.(SW) I tried 203 deg all the time to try and keep her steady. Wind strength --- can you believe this?  In books the storms seem to last only one or two days, but not this one --- still severe gale 9!  Ship rocking and rolling. I am getting quite ace at making a cup of tea under these conditions --- ship rolls to left cup twisted to right, ship back to right cup to left, & up to 45 degrees on frequent occasions! Sugar is added half way between rolls!

Great night for moon and stars: moon nearly full and Jupiter very bright too.

Breakfast, then Captain’s briefing: the high pressure over the Azores was sending predictable NW winds down south and in addition we had the Portuguese Current going south at about ½ a knot. This was all good news as in addition the wind had dropped to a mere 28 knots. It was sails up time again! By the mid morning, and after a great deal of sweating on ropes, we had four sails up and were whizzing south at 8 knots.

Steak for supper, then back on Watch till midnight. Beautiful evening, not cold (12.5c), wind NW 20-25 knots with odd squalls. Came down after the Watch for tea & ginger biscuits. Fell into bed – bunk so comfortable now, a snug cocoon of bliss!

Monday 26th day 6

Dreadful night, no sleep at all. spent the whole night being thrown between the lee board and my bed mate. Perhaps Peter has got the right idea about moving to a pipe cot. After breakfast the sails are hoisted and the main engines go off;  good for me as it is impossible to get a reading on the oil level dipstick when they are running. We have spent the last three days on the edge of the Bay of Biscay on an erratic course because as a square rigger we need to keep the wind behind us in heavy seas.  In the afternoon we picked up a steady North Easterly wind that should take us towards Tenerife. The motion of the ship is much easier. While in the chartroom this morning I had my usual look at the chart and saw that we were off Cape Finistere at midnight.

Slight panic this evening when the port sewage tank overflowed and set off the high bilge alarm in the pump room, work to be done on it tomorrow. Steak for tea. Hope to get a a bit of decent kip tonight.

At this mornings regular brief which Liam gives for the permanent and volunteer crew, he stated that we had covered 700 miles, which is nearly half way.

DAY 9  Tuesday 27th November.

Sunshine and now 13.5c so getting warmer. Wind moderate at Force 5-6. Ship’s speed 6-7 knots with 4 sails up.

Lecture from the Chief Officer on navigation lights during the morning, followed by an excellent lunch of mushroom soup followed by pizza. In the afternoon we had another lecture on Rules of the Road for seafarers.

On 2nd dogwatch (6-8pm) --- beautiful evening, slightly warmer again as now 14c; making good speed SSW at 8-11 knots. We are about halfway down the Iberian Peninsula now. Huge rolling swell now, which the ship is surfing down. We are at 40 deg latitude & 12 deg longitude. Ever heard of the ‘roaring forties’? This has nothing to do with men having midlife crises, it is the great winds in the latitude 40!  Sea depth is an amazing 5300 metres. The moon is full now.

Everyone is getting into the rhythm of Watches and lack of sleep, but there is always the assurance of having good tucker served up, regardless of the ship’s violent motion!

Tuesday 27th day 7

After morning rounds, helped Pete change the sewage tank control float system, tested, working OK. After lunch, Oil and filter change on starboard aft generator. All of the voyage crew are required in messroom for the first of many talks and briefings, so the volunteer crew are required to man the bridge. I get my oilskins and harness on and welcome the chance to get some fresh air. I have a go at steering, very difficult with  the wind on the sails pushing the ship one way and then the heavy seas pushing the stern the other way. Nicky who is Officer of the Watch has to remind me that the course is 190 degrees ! The ship’s heading is anywhere between 180 and 200. We are currently about 220 miles off Portugal.  Cottage pie for tea; very nice too.

DAY 10 Wednesday 28th November.

The ship made very good progress in the night recording a top speed of 12 knots with Tony on the helm. He has now been given the name of Twelve Knots Tony! Wind still 27 knots (Force 6). We have finally left the ‘roaring forties’ and are now in lat 39deg. Hmm, the wind & sea seem to be blissfully unaware of this fact!

I was on Mess duties all day, and in fact did not go up on deck for 24 hours. Wrote up my diary for the log blog!

Bed, then lie-in until 12.30 am – Hmm! That’s the middle of the night folks – wake up! A life on the ocean waves.

Wednesday 28th day 8

Bad night, ship rolling quite badly. We are now off Lisbon. After morning rounds, more work on sewage system to keep it operational. Another spell on the bridge, steering much easier. Lamb and mint sauce for tea, lovely.

DAY 11  Thursday 29th November.

On Watch duty as above till 4 am. Wind NW, about 20 knots (Force 5), ship on 38deg latitude now so we are not far from Gibraltar (the bottom of Spain). Distance to Santa Cruz, Tenerife now 454 miles (always Nautical Miles note = 1852 metres,so a long mile)  In the last 24 hrs the ship has travelled an impressive 173 miles. Weather is getting warmer on the bridge at night.

Excellent breakfast of porridge, scrambled egg, tomato, and sausage, followed by loads of toast.

Morning lecture from Chief Officer about marker buoys in channels.

During the afternoon Watch I was on the helm, and asked Gemma ( Officer of the Watch) if we could put up more sails to get a bit more speed on :she replied rather guardedly that they were waiting on a decision. All was soon revealed and the ship’s crew, particularly the permanent crew were about to be rigorously tested. It transpired that Griff in Red Watch had been taken seriously ill and a new drama was about to unfold. Based on medical opinion on board ship the Captain had spoken to a doctor in Falmouth via the Coastguard Station and he had advised to get Griff off ASAP. Falmouth contacted Lisbon Coastguard (Portugal) & they phoned the hospital in Madeira island! Next thing was the Portuguese navy sent a helicopter out! Suddenly there was frantic activity, and certainly excitement too on board. “All hands to brace the yards”, then all sails were rapidly furled and suddenly we all spotted the helicopter! What was the pla ? None of the Voluntary Crew knew so we just watched and took photos. It transpired that there was no way this helicopter could get a man down to the aft (backend) of the ship because of all the rigging in the way. Suddenly Kim and Fliss (bosun & 2nd Officer) were whizzing about preparing a RIB (one of those inflatable boats); down into the sea it went, the girls dressed up like spacemen, then poor Griff down over the side too. The RIB raced off towards the helicopter a few hundred metres away. Imagine the wind strength underneath it! Double it and add a bit more on!  We all thought the RIB might flip over hurling two girls and Griff into the maelstrom. However due to their extreme skill and bravery, the man lowered on the wire from above successfully boarded, hooked up Griff and away they went into the sky. All was well and Kim roared back on full throttle. The helicopter flew once around the ship and then zoomed off to Madeira hospital. I said at the beginning, that this voyage was full of drama: that was some rescue mission we witnessed.

A few notes on the rest of the day --- sails back up, plus one extra, temperature warmer now @ 17c, wind NW Force 4, and on Lat 35 deg now. Evening Watch was beautiful with warm breeze and moonlight.

Bed. Some day!

Thursday 29th Day 9

Not a bad night but sleep disturbed by faulty alarm clock in my case going off, took batteries out it won’t do that again. We are now about 400 miles west of the Straits of Gibraltar.  First Aider Julia tells me that she was called out in the night to voyage crew Griff who had very severe abdominal pains which she thinks could be kidney stones ? During Liam’s morning briefing he explains that he has liaised with Falmouth Coastguard  and that we have changed our heading to the east slightly to take us towards Madeira with a view to landing Griff  for hospital checks, but that hopefully he will be helicoptered off before then. After lunch a Portuguese Navy Puma helicopter turns up to take Griff off. He is loaded into the port rib to do a rib/helicopter transfer. The port davit does not want to play ball so he is taken off in the starboard rib to about 300 yards astern of us where the  “ Dope on a Rope” (old RN expression) whips him into the helicopter, and he is off to Madeira.

We revert to our original heading to Tenerife.

After the helicopter transfer, we are in the messroom having a cup of coffee. Julia comes in and takes off her harness and oilskins. She forgets that when she dressed in a hurry during the night, she did not put her bra on and when she pulls her jumper off , her top rides up and both breasts fall out! What a lovely sight.

Now that the motion of the ship is easier, non essential jobs can be done. I help Pete change the faulty forward heads fan.

Ian who was injured on Saturday is feeling better and is up to rejoining his watch for the first time and does a lookout watch on the bridge.

We now have five sails up and the ships motion is much kinder, thank God.

DAY 12  Friday 30th November.

Warmer again @ 18C, wind reduced to Force 4 with a moderate sea swell. We took the water temp today amongst other Met Obs and it was 19C. Wow. Still virtually nil wildlife. We have depleted the oceans.

At Captain’s briefing he told us that we had hoped to sail via Madeira and pick up Griff. However he had had surgery for appendicitis so he would be in hospital for a few days. Another good decision made by the permanent crew (to send Griff off). Well done.

Later the Captain also said in his lovely Irish accent “the big swell should reduce today from every two waves to every couple or so”!!

More lectures on sailing techniques in square-riggers during the morning.

Rest of the day was uneventful. We were sailing along in the direction we wanted to go (about SSW) at 5-6 knots.

Friday 30th day 10

We are about 100 miles north east of Madeira. At Liam’s morning brief  he tells us that Griff was operated on in  Madeira and his appendix  was removed and he is OK. He will recover in hospital for a few days before flying home to the UK. Our first port of call will be Fuertaventura on Monday.

At lunch I ask Pete if anything is planned for the afternoon and he replies it is Poets day ( piss off early tomorrow is Saturday) so I take the afternoon off. Steak and veg pie followed by rhubarb and custard for tea; very tasty. Do another spell on bridge, difficult steering again.

DAY 13  Saturday 1st December.

On Morning Watch 4-8 am: much warmer now and have shed a few layers. Note a few as it’s much colder at sea! Air temp was 19C and sea temp 21.5C. Took helm – large swell now about 2.5- 3 metres. We took a lot more Met observations, fed them into a computer in the chartroom, and these were sent to the main Met Centre in Bracknell! How cool is that.

Happy hour, that is to say cleaning, followed after breakfast. At his stage I must point out that chief cook Bill, his wife Karen, and Peter never failed to produce a meal during our adventure voyage even under the most dire conditions. A big “thank you” to all of them.

Another mid-morning lecture was given as part of our Competent Crew Certificate (Royal Yachting Association.).

On Watch again at 4 pm: lovely sailing as a warm wind & Force 3. People turning up in shorts and tea shirts on the bridge. However a rain squall came and put paid to that! Still huge swell on the sea of about 3 metres. We still have six sails up in total. This may not sound a lot, out of a total of 18 but the trouble is, if the wind gets up someone has to go up aloft to stow them.

Early to bed as on again at midnight. This is not for the faint–hearted this sort of voyage!

Saturday November 1st  Day 11

Not a bad night’s sleep. About 160 miles north of Tenerife. Spent most of the day sorting out toilet problems and repairing toilet doors that were damaged in the storm.

AC Peter rejoins us from his self- imposed exile in pipe cot land. He is a cheerful chappie and, as Assistant Cook he is, amongst other things, in charge of the messmen. They are  nominated from the watches to lay the tables, serve the food and wash up, etc. Peter has done his bit for morale on the ship with his announcements on the tannoy at the start of every meal with “First sitting at the Deep Sea Café or Bill and Karen’s Curry House is now open ,” etc.

Can’t wait to get ashore in Fuertaventura and have a beer, and the ship will not be rolling around, HOORAY.

 Spent a couple of hours on the bridge, not steering but as lookout. Julia shows me her mobile phone app that tells you which stars and constellations  you are looking at; very clever.

Filled in Liam’s form for flight details home from Tenerife. I will be sharing a taxi to the airport with         AC Peter and voyage crew Anthony as we are all on the Bristol flight.

DAY 14  Sunday 2nd December.

Canary islands only about 70 miles away now, so land will probably be sighted at dawn. This will be just into Blue Watch blast it. White Watch want to be the ones to shout ‘land ahoy’! The Watch notes show light winds of just Force 3, but still the huge swell, so if anyone had been parachuted onto the ship they would have been thrown around like a top. We are now heading for Fuerteventura island. More ships around now and one liner had to change course for us. Temp now 21C at nights. When the Watch finished we had only 30 miles to sail until land.

Off to bed. Whilst I was asleep Amelia sighted land. Humph!

During breakfast we sailed round the south side of the island. Immediately after this it was up on deck for bracing the yards, then it was my turn to go aloft to stow the fore upper topsail (3rd yard up), and then the one below as well. Once the sails were stowed we motored towards the harbour but were not allowed in owing to ferries arriving. We then simply anchored offshore and once everything was shipshape we were free to climb the rigging for photos etc. After this it was swimming time.Yeah !  Some of us dived off the side, and later a couple of people pirated back via ropes chucked over the gunnels.

About 7 pm the captain skilfully took us into the harbour where we moored up.

Later we had our first experience on land for many days: it rocks when one has been at sea for a while. We walked up to the village and sat outside with a drink. Later we ate some freshly cooked fish.

Sunday 2nd Day 12

Breakfast time and we see land on the port bow, first for 11days. Ian from red watch has his first breakfast since his injury. He hopes to go ashore in Fuertaventura and have an x-ray. 11.00 sails down and stowed and both main engines on for entering harbour. We approach the harbour entrance at Moro Jable and are told that we cannot tie up until the evening ferry has left at about 1900. What a bitter blow. We anchor near the harbour entrance and shut down the engines.

After lunch I change the oil and filters on the port generator.

To prevent the voyage crew getting restless so close to land Liam arranges for them to have an optional mast climb. I am invited to join in, no thanks.

There is then a “Hands to Bathe” session with the rib in the water acting as safety boat in case anyone gets into difficulty. I am again invited, no thanks. While all these activities are going on ,the first ferry, a Fred Olsen catamaran which carries nearly 300 cars and 900 passengers comes out of the harbour and goes hurtling past winding up to its operational speed of almost 40 knots; very impressive.

We have tea and it was heaven not to have to struggle to keep the food and cutlery on the plate.

1900 the second ferry leaves and we go in and take her place on the jetty.

I go ashore to stretch my legs with Julia and DH Steve. We only go as far as the first café, as I have the 3-5 watch in the chart room and need a bit of sleep before my watch.

Julia, who has the 1-3, wakes me to say that there are fun and games with the voyage crew, who, as we are in a non-secure harbour nearly all have a one hour watch on the gangway. They are either turning up drunk for their watch or not at all ! I manage to get some semblance of order and am quite relieved when my watch is over.

DAY 15  Monday 3rd December.

On Watch in port from midnight for just an hour to stop unwanted guests. 

After breakfast and briefing, it was all hands on deck to get ready for leaving port. We now planned to head for Gran Canaria island. I went up aloft to get the main-mast lower sail ready, but no sooner down got picked to helm the ship out of port. We struggled to maintain our course once engines were shut down, so the yards had to be braced hard to port side.  This done we tidied up all the ropes on deck into neat coils in order to get rid of ‘spaghetti mile.’

We were now free for a while, so I immediately asked an officer if I could go up onto the huge bowsprit. This was allowed provided we wore harnesses and clipped on. Three of us worked our way out to the very end and stood up. This is THE ultimate cool and was such fun. Flying fish added to the excitement.

Supper was excellent Cajun chicken. We sailed on through the night.

Monday 3rd  Day 13

At the morning briefing Liam is not impressed to hear about the shenanigans during the night with the voyage crew, but I suspect that he has heard it all before, and as they are paying passengers you can hardly put them on a charge. I discuss it with Pete and I comment that a couple of them appear to like their pop, which is going to manifest itself after a long sea voyage. I should know after my time in RN that first morning in harbour there are plenty of hangovers.

We have to be gone by 1100 as the ferry is due back, so 1030 main engines on and we depart.

I am on the bridge which is my place of duty for all evolutions. Before we have slipped jetty,  Liam’s first order to Anthony on the helm was Port 30 Anthony immediately swings the wheel to starboard,

“THE OTHER F***ING PORT”  shouts Liam: very amusing. Nigel ( Anthony’s watch leader) and I smile at each other before Liam instructs Nigel to stand behind Anthony in anticipation of further cockups. We are now on our way to  Gran Canaria. We get the sails up but there isn’t much wind so it will be a slow passage.

The intention is to arrive off Port Mogan during the night and anchor.

DAY 16 Tuesday 4th December.

Woke up at 7 am. Panic! What happened to our Morning Watch from 4-8 am? Well it transpired that we reached our anchorage at Puerto Mogan, Gran Canaria at about 2 am, and then the Permanent and Volunteer crews did the lot. This meant dropping anchor, bunching up all the sails from below, and then properly stowing up aloft. White Watch never heard a thing! Thanks guys for giving us a lie in.

After breakfast it was more fun, as we were to have rowing tests in the line boats. We did several laps around the ship and on the last lap I suggested we pull a bit harder to give a spurt. I gave a couple of hard pulls and whoops the oar broke in half with a great crack.

After stowing the boats on the main ship, we were taken ashore in the RIB and given three hours free. I listened to live jazz and then had a swim in the harbour.

After supper we lightened up further by playing silly games. Quite right too. This has been one hell of a trip.

Tuesday 4th  Day 14

I awake about 0300 to the sound of the anchor chain rattling through the hawse pipe. Pete very kindly allowed me to stay in bed for the anchoring as I was not required to close the watertight doors.

Morning briefing-Liam states intention to give leave to all hands after lunch. During the morning all the voyage crew have to display their rowing skills in the two ship’s boats as part of the Competent Crew syllabus for which they will get a certificate at the end of the trip.

After lunch we all pile into the rib in stages and have about four hours ashore. I have a look around Port Mogan, nice little place, known as “ Little Venice” but lots of Germans as well. Have a few beers in a café over-looking the beach, nice to see the Stavros at anchor just outside the harbour entrance.

Liam wants everyone back on board before dark as he obviously does not want drunken voyage crew misbehaving and having trouble getting back on board via the rib.

In the evening Pete and I get some beers up from the store for the voyage crew to enjoy as they will have no night watches or mast climbing to do. We have our own bar in the wardroom.

DAY 17 Wednesday 5th December.

Up at 6.15am for Mess duties. We had weighed anchor whilst I was asleep and were already under way bound for Tenerife. This was under motor alone. After breakfast we assembled amidships in the ‘waist’ to gather teams for going aloft. This was to effect a neat “harbour stow” on all of the sails that had been used. I went out to the end of the yard, called the yardarm to do the outer clew of the sail. As this is the most difficult part there is always competition to do this bit!  See what a team we are! Not only do you walk along the foot rope under the yard, but at the end transfer onto another line called the Flemish horse. To find out why it is called this you will just have to sign up and give it a try! Whilst we were up on the yards we saw flying fish from above! How cool is that. Once all down safely, Chris from our Watch was given the helm all the way to Santa Cruz where our berth lay. Quite a tough berthing manoeuvre was accomplished, turning the ship round in a tight harbour and then moving sideways into a tiny “parking space”. Scary stuff. There was a lot of full rudder, and engines ahead and astern on opposite sides etc.

Once moored safely up, the most exciting adventure voyage of my life was effectively over.

There was a BBQ in the waist in the early evening, and then we all went ashore for deep intellectual discussions over beer or wine. Or something like that!

Wednesday 5th   Day 15

0600 up anchor and motor (no wind) to Tenerife, ETA 1500. At 1400 as we prepare to enter Santa Cruz ( the main harbour at the top of the island) we pass the Costa Fortuna, the sister ship to the Costa Concordia which sank off Italy. There are two more Costas in harbour. We go alongside in the middle of the harbour, a tricky berth to get into but Liam does it very well. The harbour services people turn up with hydrant and meter for me to water ship. I tell them I will do it tomorrow. Liam gives orders for the BBQ to be brought up from the steering gear compartment for BBQ style tea. Pete and I organise more beer for the troops. Very nice BBQ, after which the troops are given leave. I have the 3-5 watch in the chartroom so have some beers in the wardroom and early to bed. The night gangway watches done by the voyage crew pass without any major problems.

DAY 18 Thursday 6th December.

Deep clean of the inside of the boat after breakfast. Some departure briefing by the Captain, and then a day off. Plans for a final night out are in progress.

Signing off now. See you on another voyage maybe. Put down those digital Tablets & I-pads and enter the REAL world of adventure.

Thursday 6th

I water ship in the morning and take on 20 cubic metres. In the afternoon I go for a wander around the city with Julia and we return to the ship for the final de-brief . Everybody signs off the crew list and get their passports back, etc in preparation for leaving the ship tomorrow. Liam gives his de-brief and thanks everybody for their hard work over the last 18 days, and hopes that they have enjoyed it. I have the 2-5 watch in the chartroom and go ashore with Pete, Bill and Karen for a Chinese. The voyage crew behave themselves for their final gangway watches.

Friday 7th

After a continental breakfast we say our goodbyes and get the taxi to the airport. AC Peter, Claire and I are  amazed when Anthony joins us airside, very red in the face and giving off because his sailing knife was confiscated from his cabin baggage ! What did he expect: that they would let him keep it just because he has had it 30 years! I make matters worse when I say that it proves that they are doing their job contentiously.

Uneventful flight to Bristol, bus to Temple Meads station and just caught next train. Jan meets me at Penzance at 2200. A very interesting and worthwhile 19 days.


This trip at this time of year is not called a “Deep Sea Challenge” for nothing.

We covered 1800 nautical miles

I lost five pounds in weight.

Ian Ford had four broken ribs and the start of a lung infection.

Would I do that trip again? I’m not sure.

PS by PB: So, we didn't sink - in fact stuff calmed down after day 6 and we had  a JOLLY GOOD SAIL in the trade winds on to Fortaventura, Grand Canaria and finally Tenerife, where we partied like the Irish. A welcome break from clearing up the mess left by microwaves flying across the galley, fridges tipping sideways (quite funny watching a raw egg sidle out of the fridge door and make it's was across the worktops) and the random effects of serving food when the ship rolled 30 degrees in either direction every 14 seconds!


Here are some photos taken on a previous trip, in the Canaries in Jan 2012: 

Dear Mother,

What am I doing this for? 

It's such fun!. I've climbed the top yard arm and untied sails in a force 5 wind while we rolled from side to side making 7 knots. This was with my team leader Ed - a great guy with a 35 year-old beard!

I've helmed all 170 feet of tallship under sail, as close to wind as possible, in the dark for well over an hour. I've washed up, scrubbed 'the heads' with Marigolds on, sung sea shanties, swam off the side of the ship, tied knots and had a laugh with lots of folks. I'm enjoying myself. 

What am I doing this for?

It's hard not to feel superior to all the people holidaying on shore. We sail up and sample the bier, coffee and ices and then move on to another island.... what a life!

I want to come back soon!

Love from your devoted son, 

Peter xxx

Check  out Tallships on http://www.tallships.org and book yourself an adventure! You may even meet me there doing the washing up for you! More photos on http://www.flickr.com/photos/dave_thompson_123/sets/72157629026151267

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