Oct 21st – this one didn’t make it on to my Twitter feed yesterday, so am re-posting today.
RAF Blog from on board HMSTV Discoverer (‘Disco’ for short) written by an apparently ancient (that’s what he seems to think) ex-white bearded, moustachiod but very proficient wordsmith, retired Air Marshal Sir Graham Anthony ‘Dusty’ Miller KBE.
Thursday (15th Oct) night and most of Friday can only be described as bloody horrible. The motion of the boat, while not uncomfortable, made everything hard work as it seemed to be uphill to go everywhere, and the water washing across the deck found its way into every minor opening as well as the occasional hatchway. Water running down the mast found its way into the girls bunk room and drenched Gemma’s sleeping bag as well as her university notes, both of which were hard losses. The slick flooring and Disco’s movement led to a few tumbles and quite a few bruises, and after one such event Gemma’s toothbrush found itself sticking out of the loo. Needless to say, it is now owned by Davy Jones!
First light on Friday brought with it a universally grey world, devoid of any redeeming features. The sky was a solid overcast at around 300 feet and the sea an unrelenting iron-grey mass consisting of deep rollers topped with saw-toothed choppy waves. And it was raining, the sort of fine persistent wet rain that finds its way through even the most waterproof material. Wetter than a wet thing? Yep, you got it, and it was bloody miserable, but our adventurous training had extended from mere ocean sailing to include the marine equivalent of mountaineering and ice skating.
Meanwhile, life in Disco’s community continued apace. Mother treated us to more culinary delights including a morale-boosting jam sponge pudding at dinner on Friday. Adam’s exceptionally dry sense of humour managed to absorb much of the excessive moisture and Paddy’s ‘dangerous man’ stare kept the bilge gremlin, Crevice, at bay.
The small colony of sea birds in our wake included a very large wandering albatross that Owen identified as a pterodactyl – so convinced was he that that beast was eyeing him up as a tasty morsel that he took the precaution to double-clip himself onto the deck until it went away. Talking of Owen, I should have mentioned earlier that in his determination to make a good start in the beard growing competition he took to his bunk for the first 2 days of the trip so that he could concentrate single-mindedly on the task in hand.
Shortly before sundown on Friday the sky cleared, the rain eased and then stopped, and the wind shifted round to the north-west. It was a while before the sea settled to a more gentle rolling motion but it did so eventually and we enjoyed a much quieter evening. We eased the mainsail out and held it there with a preventer and at long last started to enjoy some gentle downwind sailing. The sunset was spectacular and I will carry an abiding memory of peering through the hatch to see the last shafts of sunlight apparently emanating from the leg of the Skippers shorts.
Saturday (17th Oct) arrived to deliver the promise of late-Friday and we arose to a magnificent dawn followed by a terrific day for make & mend and personal admin. Red Watch – Buzz, Sally and Mike – treated us to a much appreciated full English breakfast which set us up in the right frame of mind for the day ahead. We all showered and undertook copious dhobi and managed to get much of it dry by hanging it on the rail in the sunshine. Disco, most hatches at least partially open, dried herself, and the Skipper spent much of the day repacking and rearming the life jackets that had self-inflated in the wet over the past couple of days. Disco had been gull-winged with a full mainsail and poled-out No 2 Yankee since first light in order to catch the 18 knots of wind blowing in over the stern port quarter. We are making about 9 knots over the ground although only an element of that speed is taking us in the right direction as we are holding a ground track of due east.
Amongst the crew we have started to discuss the items of normal life we are beginning to miss and are looking forward to enjoying again once we arrive in Perth. The most common feature, and I apologise to those of a sensitive disposition who may find this indelicate, is the missing ‘soft, strong and absorbent’ moment depicted in those adverts with the small Labrador puppy. The paper in the heads is about one micron thick (that is, nearly invisible) and has the strength and resilience of a will-o-the-wisp in the presence of minute amounts of moisture. I just thought you might like to know that.
That pretty much covers Friday and Saturday but I will come back with an update of the rest of today and Sunday before I send this to Gosport on Monday.
Hi, its me again in one of those late night wakeful moments on watch with little or nothing to watch over apart from a heaven full of stars. We had a terrific day on Saturday but regretfully did not get very much closer to our destination because the wind simply refused to follow the brief and back to a westerly direction. Soon after dark we dispensed with the pole holding out the headsail and have taken to an easterly broad reach with the wind coming over our stern port quarter in the hope that it will back during the night allowing us to gybe onto a more southerly course. But, jobs done, we are a lot drier and more relaxed than was previously the case and, not unusually, have fed pretty well yet again.
I caught sight of myself in the heads mirror (shiny tin really so as to remove any temptation with sharp glass) this morning and took the decision to surrender my ambition towards a career selling fish fingers and have dispensed with my very white beard. My family will be pleased, although I suspect the stair-lift folks were looking forward to fitting one in Disco and will now be disappointed (in any case, my zimmer frame was becoming a trip hazard for the rest of the crew in the cockpit).
Sunday opened with a gloriously peaceful sunrise followed by several hours of pleasant weather and more jobs around Disco. The wind settled to a north westerly but still refused to swing all the way round, until shortly into the afternoon that is. An angry-looking squall stole up to Disco, showered her crew with a brief but very wet rainstorm, and at long last the wind backed all the way round to south westerly. Rigged to run very nearly close hauled under one reef in the main and the No 2 Yankee, Disco set off in pursuit of Australia with an enthusiasm we had all been looking forward to. However, with the transition to a southerly wind also came a plunge in temperature as the air is now being drawn almost directly from the polar icecap, an advantage being a significant increase in seabirds most especially huge wandering albatross who swoop very close to Disco to catch and ride the wave she creates in the air.
It is now Monday morning (19th Oct), it is bitterly cold on deck but only cold in the saloon, the sun is shining, and a host of seabirds continue to swoop and swirl in our wake, perhaps more out of curiosity than expectation that we will leave them anything to eat other than assorted dhobi that failed to adhere to the guard rail. The Skipper is busily addressing his morning routine of trying to coax the watermaker into making some water, today with mixed fortunes. I now need to get this to Gosport so will wish you all well – Australia is getting closer by the minute and the breakfast porridge is smelling good.
Crew – Christine, hope you are enjoying a few weeks without Andy’s Jokes.
Andrew – Happy Birthday to Mum & Dad on the 18th and 25th.
Hayley – Hello to Mum, Dad, Kieran, Lindsey and the rest of the family. Mum I hope your arm Op has been sorted and you are on the mend. Happy Birthday to Grandad on the 22nd x
Dusty – Having enormous fun but missing you loads, love and e-hugs to Lesley, Katie (Orion is inverted), Andrew, Ali & Danny.
Neil – Hi to all at home and the entire Cottrell/May clan. Hope Matty is enjoying his basic training.
Buzz – Mal, we’ll be berthing at the Royal Freemantle YC. Nige, we’ll be expecting a fly past from the RAAF on our arrival mate! Hope to have a few beers with you both soon. Mum and Dad, have a happy anniversary.