Antigua To Portsmouth Day 17 & 18: Sights, Sounds and Storms

646 views  |   January 29th, 2019 


Antigua To Portsmouth Day 17 & 18: Sights, Sounds and Storms



In today’s blog, the crew take us through the sights and sounds of Challenger 4, and the first real test of heavy weather arrives.


Blog 27th Jan






Despite the heading of this section, at 0100, on deck, we could see nothing at all except the orange glow of the compass and various instruments.  The sea and sky had merged into one uniform blackness, with no stars or moon to pierce the gloom.  Following a conversation earlier that night, I wondered what would happen if the instrument lights should fail. Could I steer by feel or the wind on my face?  Close my eyes, one, two, three, no that’s enough, I’m 20 degrees off course, let’s just hope the lights don’t fail.


Nick pops up on deck. There is a ship about 10 miles ahead showing up on AIS. We can’t see it now, but sure enough two masthead lights eventually appear very faintly and intermittently on the horizon and then gradually move across the blackness, slowing drawing aft and then off the beam and then, gone.


Milk and 2 Sugars

Gary offers the on-watch a cup of tea and then pops down below to make it.  Five minutes later he’s back at the hatch and Chris moves slowly forward to collect the steaming brews and pass them back,  Everything in slow motion;  unclip the lifeline, shuffle forwards more by touch than sight, always holding on to something as the yacht surges and bounces, then clip on again. Tea safely downed, as always accompanied by biscuits, we rotate the helm.  For a while, our course swings this way and that as the new helm gets the feel of it, but then settles down.


It’s cold now

Gone are the days of T-shirts and shorts.  Thermals are appearing on most; even Tom has succumbed. Woolly hats and gloves are the order of the day. Still, the cold saps concentration making rotating the helm every 30 minutes a must.  Everyone takes their turn, competent or incompetent! When Gary takes the helm everyone stops talking and is riveted to the nav. instruments watching for the inevitable incident, or at least a bellow from Mike with the required course correction.


As dawn approaches, we find ourselves in John Masefield’s famous poem:


“…..And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sails shaking,


And a grey mist on the sea’s face and a grey dawn breaking,….”




Modern Yachts

You might think that life on-board a sailing boat would be a quiet, reflective experience, but modern yachts have machines and devices that make a hellish din.  Remember the noise of Concord?  First is the water pump which sounds like a machine gun going off every time someone opens a tap.  So much so its use is banned at night and the foot pump only is allowed.

The Toys

The cooler boxes add a gentle hum in the sleeping quarters. Then there is the water maker which grinds on for hours at a time. The diesel generator, which charges the batteries used for all electrical equipment, sounds like an old tractor under the floor boards of the bunks. Next to the old tractor sits…


The Engine

This thunderous beast is run whenever the speed drops below 4 or 5 knots.  It shakes the whole boat.  Its only saving grace is that it partially drowns out the farting and snoring. As if the boat machine noises are not enough, whenever any sail adjustments are made such as tacking, reefing or winching (which are a constant affair) they produce the most alarming noises, not dissimilar to someone hitting the yacht with a wrecking ball.  The fibreglass decking, like the skin of a drum, amplifies the thudding of footsteps, the screeching of winches, the flapping of sails and halyards against the mast.  Then we have nature’s noises; wind whistling through the halyards, waves crashing against the side of the boat and the most unnatural of them all, is the howling of the prop shaft as the propeller is dragged spinning through the sea under the boat.


The Rude Awakening

And if you do manage to get to sleep, there is a watch change to wake you up.  The red night lights come on, muffled whispers and swearing (for stubbed toes), the crashing of kit boxes and bashing as colleagues fall against your pipe cot.

But somehow, bizarrely, we still enjoy our lives on the ocean wave!




We are now on the second half of the second leg from Horta to Falmouth, having completed 612 miles at 5pm.  This is clearly the business end of the trip.  Nights are black and it’s bloody cold.  A gale is predicted for Tuesday. Hold on to your hats! We expect to dock in Falmouth on Wednesday evening, but that could change.

Despite the circumstances, mother watch again produced a five star menu for the crew and scrubbed through the yacht!

All our love to all those at home. See you soon.  Not long now.









Skipper’s Logs


Date : 27/01/19

Time : 12:00 UT

Position: 43  48.4N 18  45.7W

Destination : Falmouth

ETA 31st Jan 2019

DTF : 679NM

Fuel : 3 full, 1 in use

Water : 2 full, 1 in use, 1 empty

Gas : 3 empty, 1 full, 1 in use

Sail plan: Full Main Y2, Stay Sail

Wind:  mostly northerly, anywhere between 4kts and 2kts


Dear All


After a night of beating into a variety of wind strengths from gusts of 30kts to lows of 7kts we have shaken all the reefs out and are trying to make the best of the easing wind strength. We currently have between 10 to 15kts of wind but the grib suggests it will become lighter during the day. The weather has become increasingly cold and grey as we work our way north and watches are very much quieter as the crew attempt to keep warm rather than discuss the meaning of life, the universe and everything. The only discussion during the last watch involved vivid descriptions of Falmouth, cooked breakfasts, log fires, real beer and steak and ale pie. My watch also appears to be turning into the crew of Shackleton’s Endurance. Time for bed I think.



Date : 28/01/19

Time : 12:00 UT

Position: 45  36.6N 14  43.4W

Destination : Falmouth

ETA 31st Jan 2019

DTF :477 NM

Fuel : 3 full, 1 in use

Water : 1 Empty, 2 full, 1 in use.

Gas : 3 empty, 1 full, 1 in use

Sail plan: Full Main, Y2, Stay Sail

Wind:  13kts 357 degrees


Good afternoon all


The last 24hrs on Challenger 4 have seen some pretty lively beam reach sailing with an increasing sea state to keep things interesting. This morning the breeze has dropped to a miserable 13kts and we have a full main, Y2 and staysail up. We are anticipating a quietish day before a bit of a blow tomorrow. It has taken a little while to adjust to the realities of this 2nd leg for many of the crew – the idyllic conditions of the passage from Antigua having, perhaps, lulled them into a false sense of security but life is resuming it’s steady, relentless rhythm of sleep, eat, work, repeat.


We still have not had any significant rain and the wind, at various speeds, has enabled us to sail a pretty much straight course. Watch leader Ben now bears a striking resemblance to Jesus in his wilderness years and we have come to believe that he is putting in a good word upstairs. Time will tell tomorrow afternoon when we see if he is able to turn the forecast 40kts NNW into 30 kts from the west.




Mate’s Log


Date : 29/01/19

Time : 12:00 UT

Position: 46 59.52N 11 03.72W

Destination : Falmouth

ETA 31st Jan 2019

DTF : 303NM

Fuel : 3 full, 1 in use

Water : 3 full, 1 in use.

Gas : 2 empty, 2 full, 1 in use

Sail plan: 3 reef, Storm Stay

Wind: Highest Gust 56 True, Consistent 40 plus


Dear All


Today’s report will be short. We have had Force 11 conditions on occasions (highest gust 56kts) with general wind speeds throughout the night and this morning at 40 plus kts, highest SOG 19.5kts. The sea state is Very Rough to High with a swell/wave height of 7 to 10 metres. We are currently running down wind with 3 reefs and the storm sail. Sue and I are alternating on watches and helming the more challenging periods. The crew are well and in good spirits although Tom W/L took a tumble down below. He is bruised but otherwise well. The latest GRIB shows easing slightly this afternoon and a change of direction which will allow us to make a better course towards Falmouth, where the beer and stake pie are reaching mythical status in everyone’s imaginations.



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