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.