Nostalgic Moments


On night watches I am often asked questions about ‘What I did before’ and ‘What kind of weather I have been out in’

Inevitably I end up talking about my time with the Challenge Business and especially when I raced around the world in 2000/01 in the BT Global Challenge aboard Isle of Man, above.  During our watches last week as we sailed from Madeira to the Azores we were again talking about my history, so imagine my surprise when we tied up in Ponta Delgada to find my old boat there as well.  She is now logoed up as Tall Ships Challenger 1, but she is still very much the same and it brought tears to my eyes!

Just looking at her brings back a lot of memories, and also reminds me now how much easier we have it on Velvet Lady with roller reefing and no hank on sails.  We used to have 8 people on watch, ready and waiting just in case we needed a sail change.  Now we only need 2 or 3 people on watch for the same jobs.  Otherwise,  our watchkeeping routine is the same on long passages.  There is lots of time just spent looking around – and most of the rest of the time is spent cooking, cleaning, navigating and helming.  It really is very seldom that we do sail changes, but when one is needed everything seems to happen at once.  Last week after 2 days of sailing with the same canvas we had to reef the main, yankee, and staysail in a rain squall and avoid a ship at the same time. After an hour of this frantic activity, we sailed with the reefed sails for another 24 hours without needing any more adjustment.  It reminds you that Watchkeeping is just that, keeping watch and being ready all the time!

We are now getting ready for our longest passage of the circuit, 1200nm from Azores to UK, we expect to take about 10 days in a mix of weather, but hopefully with plenty of westerly winds and down wind sailing.  After 4 days, you tend to settle in to life and the routine on board the boat, and after that it is just ‘plain sailing!’ 

There will be many great moments along the way, and the Landfall and first cry of ‘Land Ahoy’ are much looked forward to.  Never more so than when you have crossed an ocean back to your ‘home country’.  Richard and I always enjoy our UK landfalls and our short time there before setting off abroad again.

The Selvagem Islands


‘I want an adventure’ said Graham in a telephone call to me 3 weeks before the trip.  ‘Which trip shall I come on?’
‘I’ll be disappointed if it’s all too easy’ said Caspar at the start of the trip.

Well we weren’t disappointed and we had a great adventure on our sail last week  from Tenerife to Madeira.  The weather was mixed and varied from flat calm to Force 7, with sunshine and showers on the way.  After a tiresome beat at the beginning the wind freed us for the second half of the trip, and Madeira was visible at night from 50 miles away.  First the glow of the lights and then more definition at about 30 miles.

Amongst the highlights of the trip that Caspar and Graham talked about were

The dolphins leaping out of the sea on our first day
The blow of two whales off the starboard bow
The big seas and strong wind – more than they had been in before
Helming whilst sailing at over 9 knots
Learning how to use a staysail
Experiencing life down below – like in a tumble dryer
The food
Making landfall and arriving in Madeira

For me the highlight of the trip were the Selvagem Islands.  Where are they you might ask?  The Selvagem Islands are a nature reserve belonging to Madeira that are situated just east of the straight line course from Tenerife to Madeira.  A permit is necessary to visit them and on a calm day there is reported to be a beautiful anchorage.  We did not have flat calm, or permission, but we managed to get a great view of these jaggy rocks in the middle of the Atlantic.  With the wind direction we had, the dilemma was do we go west of them, do we go east of them, or do we simply go straight through the middle of the gap which is deep enough!

We ended up sailing to the east of the islands, waiting for the new wind, which came at just the right time for us to tack and see the north of the islands too.  Maybe next year it will be flat enough to get closer!

All ready now in Madeira to start the next leg of our passage north to the Azores. We will be coming south again next year and the Autumn and Winter programmes are now loaded on our Schedule, so do take a look.