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.