INVICTUS1,966 views | February 3rd, 2020
The final blog from Challenger 2 finds the crew in a reflective and poetic mood. Carey and James G describe the trials and tribulations of such a sea-going voyage, and why it was all worth it
Today we wanted to write about those aspects of ocean sailing that are perhaps not as readily evident in flashy videos or smiling photographs. As much as we’ve been inspired, excited, and rewarded by what we’ve seen and done, it’s not all plain sailing (if you’ll forgive the adage).
The voyage that we have undertaken has exposed us to environmental elements that sometimes go unseen on land. Our vulnerability becomes apparent very quickly, and our fears become all too real. Sitting at this chart table typing, we can both say we’ve honestly experienced some of the lowest moments of our adult lives. Whether it be mental demons, physical ailments, or the utterly demoralising and debilitating effects of severe seasickness, there is a commonality – you will hit a wall. And you will hit it hard.
The important nuance here is that there is no escape. Three hours on, six hours off. Twenty-Four hours a day. It is relentless. Your world is the length and breadth of a Challenger yacht. Even if you wanted to give up, where would you go? At one time there was around a thousand miles of ocean between us and…everywhere.
The Ocean has the capability to strip us back to the core of our being, making us question what we thought we knew about ourselves. How do I comfort a terrified man in the strongest winds I’ve ever experienced, in the dead of night? How do they comfort me as I slump unable to stand? There is nowhere to hide. You have to face these moments, and that is where your personal truth is found.
On a lighter note, there are a range of other discomforts. Have you tried washing your hands as the ground bounces several feet in a random direction at any given time? Have you ever had to hand pump a toilet? Or throw toilet roll not into ceramic, but a paper bag, prior to parading through the length of the ship to dispense into the sea? Privacy does not exist. Your bunk is the size of a coffin, and if unstrapped will not prevent a fall. Everything – whether that be putting on socks or eating your breakfast – takes effort.
There is – of course – rebuff to these hardships. James has just spent the last hour stargazing a pristine and utterly uncorrupted night sky with us, bringing to life Cassopeia, the Andromeda galaxy, and the Crab nebula. Interspersing the harshness of this environment and the myriad discomforts we are contending is the sheer joy of a single piece of gifted chocolate, powerful friendships that ignore generations, and natural phenomenon of uncontested beauty. The dancing lights of bioluminescence that fleetingly denote our passing are diminished in writing – they must be seen.
As our journey comes to an end, we feel we have both changed as a consequence of this experience. It is hard to define the nature of this change, but our best description would be a greater appreciation for the simplicity of living, the small acts of kindness that so often go unnoticed, and the sheer magnitude of the world in which we live.
Would we do another? Probably not. It’s the hardest thing we’ve ever done. But has it been worth it? “Yes” feels understated, so forgive our poetic expansion:
“Out of the night that covers me, black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be, for my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance, I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeoning’s of chance, my head is bloody but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears looms but the horror of the shade.
It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll. I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”
Written by Carey and James G.
P.S. Don’t tell Anna that we have more substance than rude jokes and cracking banter – we’d hate to ruin our image!
Saturday 1st February
As we career into the pitch black of the night on the graveyard shift (1am – 4am) the apt words of the great Willy Wonka spring to mind.
There’s no knowing where we’re going,
Or which way the rivers flowing,
For the rowers keep on rowing,
And they’re certainly not showing,
Any sign that they are slowing!
And like determined oompah lumpahs we surge forward into the darkness on our graveyard watch.
Regular readers of this blog may have read descriptions of extreme privations and challenges associated with this Atlantic adventure. Our far hardier ancestors, exploring the world in a woolly overcoat in a boat made of matchsticks with the only means of capturing the moment being to carve away at a whale bone with a penknife, might have said, ‘Grow a pair, you big girl’s blouses – wet undies and a bit of chucking up was what built the empire.’
Nonetheless our intrepid crew now faces its sternest challenge – our supply of premium biscuits and chocolate is nearing its end and we face the prospect of two days without these essential foodstuffs. Soon we may have to eat the cabin boy as was the traditional custom of the sea.
This morning the B Team sat down to eat the last Mars Bar on our good vessel, Challenger 2. Having endured endless incommunicable hardships together our bond now strong we are happy to share our most priceless goodies with our fellow watch members. Alexei the ships surgeon coolly walks over to the galley table where in pride of place sits the last Mars Bar. With a flourish he produces a small metal ruler, measures it and uses a knife to score our prize into perfect fifths before making the necessary cuts. We distribute the precious pieces between our watch members and collectively savour the last pieces of Mars Bar for miles around. Our situation is becoming perilous as we only have Mini Twix and Peanut M&M’s left to sustain us over the remaining few days of our intrepid adventure.
Hurrah – salvation is at hand – we have just found a packet of jammy dodgers!
Skipper Sue’s Log
Sunday 2nd Feb, 2020
Time : 1220 GMT
Position : 49 30N 7 28 W
Destination : Falmouth
ETA : 3rd Feb
Sailplan 1 reef, Y2
Apparent wind: 21kts
Fuel : 2 full, 1 in use 1 empty
Water : 2 full, 1 in use, 1 empty
Gas : 1 full, 1 in use, 3 empty
Dolphins to welcome us back to UK waters. Looking forward to a pint of Proper Job in the Chain Locker tomorrow!
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More blogs about this Atlantic Adventure can be read here: Antigua to Portsmouth
Posted by: First Class Sailing