Thursday, 24 September 2009

The final Blog

How can I sum up the last six months.... probably the best would be to do the same as we have done on each of the legs with the crew - best bits, worst bits and funniest bits.
Let's get the worst bits over with first - seasick crew! There is nothing quite like being seasick and having been there myself I could fully empathise with the crew. I always felt really bad for crew, knowing that they had already been through more than I could ever imagine in the fight against cancer, to come away on a trip that is supposed to be fun and then end up seasick is horrible... the worst places being rather long passages out of the River Humber (wind against tide) and I must say especially coming out of the Bristol Channel. We had a small window where the winds were going NW, and we had to take it. Unfortunately it was still pretty rough after a few days of big storms and a couple of the crew ended up being seasick for about 24hrs - this was also one of our longest passages with nowhere to stop, but, Land's End appeared, the wind died down and the next day Frank cooked the best breakfast ever which hopefully made it all worth while to our birthday boy.
My personal worst moment was the morning we went through Tower Bridge- after minimal sleep from sailing from Dover overnight and up the Thames, we ended up with water in the fuel, resulting in Tracey the legend engineer helping us out. However, I had to do a simple filter change in the morning, and through my own fault (lack of engineering experience) I couldn't get the engine to start again... not a good position to be in when we where about to stop the city so we could pass through Tower Bridge! But, after stressing about it for a bit, I called my friend Haig who talked me through the procedure to find where my problem was (taking in air somewhere). I finally got it sorted and the engine started only minutes before Ellen and Emily arrived.... that was probably one of my happiest moments too! Also a great sense of achievement and confidence boost to have sorted the problem.

The funniest would be the general craic - as my Irish friends would say. We had so many giggles on board it's hard to distinguish. Competitive Irish snap and UNO, some of the descriptions that came up in Articulate (Ben Murphy's Bangkok comes to mind), and the creation of poems and raps. We had a hilarious team debrief in my 'Captain's Cabin' - and anyone who has been on Scarlet knows that this consisted of a shoebox twin cabin that Karen and I shared, but somehow we managed to fit both Jo and Simon in after an overnight sail to Abersoch from Holyhead....
Some of the comedians spring to mind - Paul Gavin and Vicky Stokes where hilarious all week- Paul was Vicky's 'slave', the same as the Jake Jones - Olly Rofix duo- always up to mischief! Gerrard MacAuley was also brilliant at keeping us giggling. Generally, just people being themselves and having a good time.

The best bits - without a doubt meeting and making friends with some of the most amazing people I have ever had the privilege of sailing with! We would become like a family on board, everyone would settle in within a day or so and by the end of the week it was banter all round. It still amazes me that we had 17 fantastic legs with no serious issues and big bonding as a group of friends. There were many great moments, a walk along the sea shore that became an adventure in long grass, seeing our young crew stand up and give their presentations to hospitals with huge smiles, confidence and giggles, coming up on deck and seeing the boys dancing on the back of the boat, I could go on for days remembering all the fantastic times we've had.
Exploring the British coastline with all her wonders - beautiful cliff faces, huge mountains up in Scotland, some of the most spectacular scenery I have every sailed in. We were also incredibly lucky that we could spend a night on anchor off the Farne Islands amongst thousands of breeding birds and seals. The ocean wildlife was just incredible, we managed to see everything I was hoping to - dolphins, porpoises, whales, seals and basking sharks (incredible!). The bird life was spectacular, especially seeing all the puffins on the Farne Islands and sailing past Bass Rock, which from a distance looks like it's covered in snow, then when you get close you see that it's all birds - thousands of gannets nesting on the rock.
The sailing - fantastic sailing. We had great days in perfect sailing conditions and Scarlet just loved it. There is nothing better than the moment you switch off the engines and the boat takes off as her sails power up, and to be able to share that moment with so many people this year and for them to all enjoy it so much was incredible. Scarlet is a fantastic boat and an absolute pleasure to sail. We couldn't have had a better boat for the voyage, so again, a huge thanks goes to the Applebey family for letting us use her.
Ellen's talks were incredible - she has such an amazing life and is so inspirational. My best moments where when we could get our crew to the talks, they would all come back so inspired and amazed by what an incredible person Ellen really is, yet so down to earth when it comes to spending time with young people.
Our team - to Frank, Jo S, Tracy, Joey B and Emma - it has been the most incredible year and fantastic working with you all. To Simon - you where there for us the whole way round, even in the early hours of the morning always with a big smile. Karen, my first mate who became an incredible friend. We spent a lot of time together, lived in a very small space and never a single argument - you absolute legend!
Our homecoming was just incredible - many of our crew came down to the Solent for the weekend to welcome us home and got on board red jet 4 to escort us from the boat show over to Cowes. Solent Rib Charters had 9 boats out carrying friends and family and the weather was just perfect. Having Ellen, Ross and Jason join us on board for the final sail to Cowes was really special, then getting to UKSA and catching up with so many people was brilliant. They all played a part in completing the voyage so successfully, and of course big celebrations where in order. However, it was also just a little bit sad, as it was......... the end.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Foggy but great sailing on the South Coast!

Leg 16- can’t quite believe it. On board this week we have Abigail, Rhiannon, Claire, Barnaby and Thomas, with Kerry Williams as our volunteer from Skandia and Tracy Curtis – our legend, joining us as well. On Sunday we had Mel and Natalie from Skandia come down and help us get the boat ready for the arrival of our new crew. It was such a great help, and at least we have managed to get a bit more polishing done ahead of the boat show this week. Thank you so much for your help ladies- very much appreciated!
By Sunday afternoon all our crew had arrived and were settled in. While Karen and I tackled the bilges again on Monday morning, the crew went off to the Living Coast to view penguins, seals and other wild (in captivity) life. It is a great display, bringing the coast to the general public. Bill Butcher also managed to get them in FOC again, thanks again to Bill for all his help during our stay in Torquay.
We had a great sail over to Portland on Monday afternoon, into the evening. Unfortunately it was quite foggy though, so we didn’t have much of a view of anything, not even Portland Bill. I had to convince the crew that actually the bill is quite spectacular to see. We crept into Portland Marina by 22:30 that night, out of the fog and drizzle.
We didn’t hang around Portland too long, as all the favourable tide was in the morning, so we set sail for Poole, with a relatively short passage taking a lot longer due to the tides against us. At least the fog lifted for a while, and although we couldn’t see the Isle of Wight, at least we had a great afternoon sailing past Swanage cliffs and Old Harry – the other side of the Needles (Chalk cliff stacks extending out to sea).
Emily and her parents came down to see us in Poole. It was great to see her again, she joined us on Scarlet as we went through Tower Bridge. It’s a little surreal seeing old faces again in familiar territory… Carolyn brought us a couple of cakes down which were fantastic and greatly appreciated by all the crew – thank you Carolyn!
With a bit more breeze from the NE, but at least good visibility, we sailed across Poole Bay and back into the Solent, past the Needles. What a great sight, but very strange to see. We’re now in Yarmouth again and enjoyed a good walk up the River Yar to Freshwater and back. Frank brought his family down to the boat to say hello, it was great to see them again!
Barnaby has been fantastic on board. We had a little a small electrical fault with our sink drain switch, and while I had my head under the sink he was very helpful, and eventually took over replacing the switch for me. Being inquisitive about the way things work, he soon had the old switch opened up and fixed, and has just put it back in it’s place – great work, thank you Barnaby!
So – here we are, with a busy couple days ahead of us. We’re off to Southampton tomorrow to prepare for the Boat Show, which we will be in on Friday, then back home to Cowes on Saturday.
Cheers, Cath

Friday, 4 September 2009

Rough Ride round Land's End

Our crew of Leg 15 arrived on Friday afternoon. This week we’ve got Daisy, Chelsea, Adam, Ben and Josh on board. We were also joined by Anya Parkhouse-Turner, and were very pleased to have Frank Fletcher on board for a few days, although he did manage to choose the worst part of the leg to join us on!
The weather has not been so kind to us these last couple of weeks, and yet again we had to find the window and make a dash round Land’s End. Unfortunately this window was after it had been blowing for a couple days, so when we got out the sea state was quite horrible, with lumpy seas coming from every direction. Our window was on Friday night into Saturday, where the wind was going to the NW for a while, giving us the chance to get out the channel, so pretty much as soon as Josh arrived we slipped our lines and headed for the Cardiff Lock at 11pm. We all stayed up till midnight to wish Adam a happy 18th birthday, then slowly each of the crew disappeared into their bunks for the night, while Frank, Anya, Karen and I settled into a watch system. Sadly the seas didn’t calm down, and most of our crew ended up seasick for the entire passage. Daisy made it up on deck and within 5mins of her being there the dolphins arrived, so she is now dolphin girl! At some points both Ben and Josh also make it up, with all three joining us on Saturday night up on deck as we rounded Land’s End. Thankfully the sea had calmed down a bit by this point and we actually had a very pleasant sail over to the Lizzard, and then on into Falmouth in the early hours of the morning. Joey Bootle, her parents and Simon were all on the dock at 4am to welcome us in, it was fantastic to see them all at such an early hour!
After rearranging ourselves back into our normal cabins it wasn’t long before we were all fast asleep again. One of the best quotes from Chelsea: next time I want to go from Cardiff to Falmouth I’m going to take the train!
Frank was a legend and the next morning he treated us all and cooked a massive breakfast. The stormy weather that we were running away from came in, so it was a stormy day tucked up on Scarlet, with everyone slowly recovering from our 29hr sail. Simon Rowell also came down to visit us with his dogs, great to catch up with him, then in the afternoon we were invited to tea at the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club. They put on a fantastic spread with good old scones and clotted cream. It was a really pleasant afternoon and thank you to all at RCYC for welcoming us.
Monday was a day of shoreside adventure, with the morning spent in the National Maritime Museum and then off to Pendennis Castle in the afternoon. We happened to be there over a little festival, where they had put on a jousting display – we got to see the knights and horses being armoured up, then a full display of historical sporting. The joust was fantastic, with us all cheering our knight on, but sadly after 5 matches he was just beaten at the end.
We went down to the Maritime Museum in the evening to watch one of Ellen’s talks, which as always was very inspirational and I think our crew really appreciated seeing her. She came and joined us for fish and chips on board afterwards, giving her the chance to catch up with the crew.
We slipped out of Falmouth early Tuesday morning to try get ahead of the next weather system. Within a couple hours the wind was up again, but thankfully from behind this time and with intermittent sunshine, good breeze and a following sea we had a brilliant sail along the south coast to Dartmouth. I was incredibly impressed by our crew, as even though they had had a pretty miserable 29hr sail out of the Bristol Channel, they were all keen to get out and sail again for another 10 hr passage – so brave. Their crew work was also incredible as we did have to reef in and out quite a bit – well done team!
After another short hop round the corner to Torquay we were welcomed in by Bill Butcher from the Royal Torbay Yacht Club. He also managed to organize a trip to Brixham Coast Guard and RNLI. Thank you Bill for all your help, we really do appreciate it.
After another amazing week, sadly it’s time to say goodbye yet again to another incredible crew. Week after week we seem to be blessed with great crew… and here we are on the South Coast, only one leg away from home.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

A long sail to Cardiff

Our wet, windy day ended up being spent doing some boat work. We managed to detect the leak in the water system (a pipe had come off it’s connection) and fixed the bilge pump. While Rob, Paul, Jo and I where in and out of Scarlet’s bilges, the rest of the crew were off to the shops to provision for a couple days at sea. Unfortunately we weren’t done in time for the lifeboat visit, so ended up going ten pin bowling instead. The boys were on much better form than the girls, with Ben cleaning up in the first round, and Paul taking the lead on the second with an impressive double strike.
With a break in the weather we departed Pwllhele just before high tide on Monday morning. We set sail past Abersoch, were there was a bit of keel boat racing going on. Unfortunately for us, the wind was coming from exactly where we wanted to go, so it was a rather horrible decision to put the motor on and motor sail down to St David’s Head. We didn’t quite get as much tide with us as I thought we might, so ended up punching the tide to the corner. It was hilarious, we ended up doing no more than about 2.5kts past Strumble Head Light House (our boat speed was more than double that), but at least it was a good evening with a pretty sunset and great views of the coastline.
Finally, in the early hours of the morning, the tide turned in our favour and we started screaming down the Bristol Channel. It was fantastic when the engine finally got turned off, and we were sailing at about 8kts, with speeds of 10kts over the ground. We had all settled into our watch system by then, and my early morning watch was particularly beautiful. With good wind, favourable tide and clear skies, it was pretty much perfect sailing (with the odd passing squall). Sadly, as it always will, the tide turned again later in the day bringing our great progress to a halt (thankfully I was catching up on some sleep at this time), but we finally made our way up the muddy Bristol Channel and into Cardiff bay by 6pm. The locks are really impressive, even more so as we arrived shortly after low tide, so the water was really low – about a 10m rise in the locks. Certainly the largest locks I have ever been through. We did have to make our way quite carefully up the channel as although theoretically we had water, as we discovered in Liverpool, things do have a tendency to silt up with shifting mud. But, on a rising tide and slowly creeping in, we had loads of room.
Paul and Vicky did a great job of creating a poem, which is brilliant. Ben was also the sleeping champion of the leg.
Once we were in, everyone got stuck into cleaning Scarlet up and getting her sorted after 33hrs at sea.
We’re now in Penarth Marina and are due into Cardiff Bay Yacht Club this afternoon, where Skandia will be waiting to welcome us in again. Looking forward to a great afternoon, and hopefully this ominous looking cloud gives us a little break.
Off to have some breakfast now, cheerio. Cath

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Abersoch here we come!

What a week already! On Friday night we went off to the Sailing Club for dinner and the auction. Vicky and I stood up to say a few words about the Trust. I was very impressed at how Vicky spoke, she did a brilliant job and really got the message across at how much the trust helps people in recovery from cancer. Craig did a great job as the auctioneer, and last we heard they managed to raise over £2700 for us – fantastic! The weather being the weather, and the tides being as they are, we set off from Holyhead at midnight on Friday, to catch a good tide down to Abersoch before the next low came in. Geoff and Susan from Holyhead Marina came down to give us a hand getting Scarlet out of our berth, which was a little tricky with a fair amount of wind still blowing. Thanks again to everyone from Holyhead for such an incredible time!
With a bit of local advice from Geoff, we managed to get out to the South Stack lighthouse in time to catch a fair tide down the coast. It was a bit of a bumpy start, with winds of up to 24kts on the nose and some rather large overfalls at the corner, so we managed to get everyone completely soaked. But, after an hour and a little more offshore, the seas settled down and we ended up on a beautiful close reach down the coast with clear starlit skies and easing winds. Simon Townsend came sailing with us, which was just such a great treat. Even though he had been driving all day since 4am collecting crew etc, he was back at the wheel in the early hours of the morning, but happy to do so as at least he was sailing again! We settled into watches, but with such a great tide underneath us and good winds, we were down near Bardsey Sound in no time. Scarlet being Scarlet, and things always happen at sea, I came down to check on a few things to find her bilges full of water…. Always a little concerning when out at sea, but thankfully after a quick test, it was a relief to find that at least it was fresh water. With no water coming out of the taps I think we have a leaky tank! Thankfully we keep drinking water in bottles, so nothing to worry about, and it have Robert, Ross and Paul something to do while on watch (manually pumping the bilge pump), and a good excuse to keep warm doing so. Slowly the wind died down more and more, until eventually we had to give in on sailing and motor the rest of the way to Abersoch.
Catherine and Martin from SCYC in Abersoch have been incredible. They were out to welcome us, along with quite a few boats from the Yacht Club. Bear Grylls was out in his RIB and came over to say hello to our crew. Ben is a great fan, so it was great for him to get a chance to meet Bear later on.
We headed over to Pwllheli Marina late morning, then after sorting Scarlet out we went back to Abersoch and spent the afternoon playing on the water in kayaks, dart and fun boats. Simon, Jo, Karen and I all went out on the little funboats, and the guys from the sailing school kindly set up a little coarse for us. What a great giggle!
We were invited to the SCYC dinner and fundraising event in the evening which was just such an incredible evening. The food was fantastic, the fundraising was brilliant, and then we topped it off with everyone on the dance floor with a great band playing some classics. Thank you very much to Catherine, Martin and all at SCYC for such a great welcome and evening out.
We were back on board Scarlet by midnight, and having not had much sleep in the last 24hrs, it was probably record timing for everyone to get to bed and sleep…. What a great sleep that was!
It’s now a windy, wet Sunday morning, and a very lazy one. We’re hiding from the weather on board Scarlet, with Ross and Vicky in the galley cooking up a feast for brunch. It’s hopefully off to the Lifeboat for a tour this afternoon (Karen and I will probably be able to give the tour ourselves by the end of RB) and hopefully find some other fun and exciting things to do on a wet Sunday afternoon. Cheers, Cath

Friday, 21 August 2009

Shorebased and happy ending to Leg !

With the wind still too strong to let us out sailing on Thursday, we spent the day going to some of the local attractions. First was a trip to the RNLI, where we had a tour of both the inshore and offshore lifeboats. After that, it was off to the Maritime Museum, where we started a new fact finding game. The idea was that everyone found an interesting fact from the displays in the museum, then later all read out to the crew, and the prize went to the most interesting fact, which Victoria won.
We spent the afternoon at Ellen’s Tower at South Stack, which is also an RSPB reserve. Unfortunately all the puffins and guillemots had left only a few weeks earlier, but the views out onto the South Stack lighthouse were fantastic. Some of the crew went walking down to the lighthouse (some 400 steps up and down), and quite impressively, Tylor managed to walk up to the coffee shop on his crutches – well done!
Back at the boat, we spent the evening making the video for the leg. I’ve been so impressed with this crew. Even with the bad weather, they just got stuck into everything we did, and just had such a great time. Will and James were hilarious, and having only just met, they were best mates by the end of the week. It just brings to light how the Trust really does go beyond just sailing. Even though on Round Britain, there is a large focus on sailing and completing our leg, it’s also a great opportunity for our young crew to make new friends and have a great time. I have also made some incredible new friends on this adventure, both as part of our crew and people we’ve met along the way.
Talking of people we’ve met, the team at Hollyhead Marina and at Hollyhead Sailing Club have been incredibly welcoming. Craig from Holyhead Sailing Club organised a fundraising auction for our Trust, and also invited us to have dinner at the club before we set off on the next leg.
Friday was our change over day, sadly saying goodbye (or see you later) to one crew, and hello to the next. This week we have Paul, Robert, Ross (HAPPY BIRTHDAY), Ben back again and it’s great to have Vicky on board, who I know from last summer as she worked with the Trust for the summer. Our volunteer for the week is Jo Summers (our operations manager), so it’s really good to have some old friends on board, as well as making new ones!
It looks to be a great leg, with quite a bit of sailing to do, and lots of fun along the way.
Cheers, Cath

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

A long day out to Holyhead

After a well deserve rest in Liverpool, we are now on Leg 13, with Will, Tyler, James, Beth and Victoria, as well as Mike Stoner from Skandia Southampton. Our crew arrived on Monday afternoon and with an early start planned for the next day, we got through all our briefings in the evening. The evening was pretty quiet, with a board game or two keeping us entertained. Will also did a great job making dinner.
With very limited time to get out of the Mersey, we left Liverpool Marina at 8:30am. It was quiet tricky getting out though, as the entrance to the lock had silted up quite a bit, and where we were expecting to have 2m of water beneath us, we ended up with none, so had to back out again and creep around the side wall to get into the lock, clearing the silted area with only about 10cm of water underneath us, but at least we managed to get into the lock and then out into the Mersey River. It’s always impressive taking a boat through a city, and seeing the Liver Birds on top of the Liver Building from the water was quite impressive. Liverpool definitely was a pleasant surprise and yet again the people were fantastic and really friendly.
Our day out sailing was not the best day out I must admit. With tidal restrictions into Conwy, the only option for us was to sail straight to Holyhead. The plan in the morning was to try get to the Skerries (a group of rocks off the NW corner of Anglesley) by 3pm, at the slack tide. With a forecast of moderate westerlies it was looking good for a beautiful reach on a lee shore. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite like that once we were out, so we ended up with 40degree wind shifts, and speeds ranging from 6kts to 20kts, making for a rather frustrating morning out on the water – reef in, reef out, engine on, engine off…. All a little tiring. By the afternoon the wind finally filled in, but quite strong, so we ended up beating into 20 to 25kts. Unfortunately due to our slow progress in the middle of the day, we ended up missing the tide and had to punch wind and tide around the corner, extending our passage time by about 4hrs! Our crew were all quite enjoying themselves for most of the day, but slowly we started loosing one after the other to the dreaded illness of the seas… Victoria was definitely the star of the sailing day though. Even with waves braking over the bow and soaking her time after time (which admittedly everyone enjoyed in the beginning, but after a few hours of it got a bit cold and tired) Victoria was still up and involved with all the sailing going on, all with a big smile on her face! It was quite amusing, the guys disappeared into their various bunks not looking too pleased with life, but after a good sleep at sea (the best kind of sleep) all reappeared as new people, full of fun and laughter, possibly also relief at getting over seasickness. After a rather long, cold and wet day out, we finally got into Holyhead Marina at about 10pm, where we were met by Geoff of Holyhead Marina. He was incredibly helpful, catching our lines with strong winds blowing us off the dock and then helping us sort out some much needed food – Pizza! After showers and food everyone was feeling much better, but it didn’t take long at all for us all to fall into bed.
Today was a rather windy day, and I must admit that yet again, although we’ve arrived in Holyhead a couple days early, I’m really glad we took the window we had yesterday. It’s been blowing gales all day and is very wet, so after a well deserved lie in, we’ve managed to entertain ourselves with board games (Articulate being the favourite again) and Holyhead Sailing Club welcomed us in their Club house, where we spent the afternoon playing pool. Another quiet (ish… laughter and shouting over Articulate on the go again) evening on Scarlet, but the giggles coming from the saloon is very comforting. I might just have to join in on the fun.
Cheerio, Cath