Exclusive newsflash, Dateline 20 October 2009, from our special correspondent aboard HMSTV Discoverer, somewhere in the Southern Ocean:
Following an exhaustive search over a prolonged period across the oceans of the globe, there was every reason to believe the tiny highly coloured fish known as Nemo had been found aboard HMSTV Discoverer during her epic voyage from Cape Town, South Africa, to Perth in Western Australia, it was revealed earlier today. Our special correspondent, who wishes to keep their identity under wraps for fear of retribution, sent an exclusive if somewhat garbled message indicating that a small fish, matching many of the unique features of the famous Nemo, had been spotted aboard Discoverer during a routine investigation into potential serious damage caused by Crevice, the bilge gremlin.
Armed Support Taking massive personal risk, the Skipper of Discoverer had been forced to prize open the bilge covers in the galley to examine the seawater inlet into the bowels of the magnificent vessel. Backed up by the burly First Mate wielding little more than a torch and an angry look, the Skipper peered into the inlet strainer and there glimpsed in the gloom of failing torchlight the briefest flash of coloured scales of a small fish writhing amid the maelstrom of seawater and plankton. But was this Nemo? The Cleethorpes Maritime Science Convention quickly assembled to consider the evidence and immediately issued a flash communiqué to Discoverer banning fish from the menu for an indefinite period. Their final opinion is expected at any moment and our marine correspondent is remaining in plaice for the time being.
Oestrogen-Fuelled Rage The drama aboard Discoverer started several days ago when it was discovered by the ever-vigilant crew, operating under the laser-like inquisitiveness of the Skipper, that strange occurrences were taking place during the hours of darkness. The presence of a bilge gremlin was confirmed when Al, doing his nightly rounds, identified the tell-tale signs in and around the engine compartment. Later, distressed items of clothing were found littered around the sleeping areas. It has subsequently been revealed that one of the female crewmembers had lost a packet of contraceptive pills which are now believed to have dissolved in the bilge water. It is almost certain that Crevice will have consumed some this highly addictive and toxic mixture and will by now be operating in the crimson haze of an oestrogen-fuelled rage. The First Mate is reportedly keeping a firm hold of his torch but has modified his angry look to one of passive submission in expectation of the confrontation ahead.
Frying Tonight In an extraordinary turn of events the Cleethorpes Maritime Science Convention has returned its verdict on the evidence so far and is convinced that the marine life identified in Discoverer’s seawater inlet is not Nemo. Sources close to the Prime Minister revealed that Nemo was found many months ago and fish had been on the menu at No 10 for many weeks following the earlier discovery. It can now be reported that a momentary outbreak of celebration aboard Discoverer caused the First Mate to relax his clenched teeth whereupon the little fish, whose identity will forever remain unknown, was swallowed down in a single gulp.
CHALLENGER BLOG Wed 21 Oct 2009
Day 13 on the good ship Challenger has been somewhat interesting and varied, the highlight was when Blue watch (Shaun & Colin) sighted two patches of seaweed on their 0400-0800 watch, leading to an uncontrollable outbreak of morale for the following couple of minutes until they remembered they could not feel their hands due to the cold.
White watch, consisting of Dave Mason, Davy Kelly, Hayley Kemp & Tony Finnigan (whilst providing a rather good mother watch) is somewhat concerned that there is a lack of food aboard the boat, the food that is on board consists of boiled sweets, plain biscuits, tinned tuna, spam and porridge, porridge, and more porridge. The crew is wondering if Dominos really does deliver to a grid ref within 30 minutes – if someone could call up for us it would be very much appreciated!
All members of the boat have now been victims of the skippers coffee pot… darn thing may be used for man overboard drills soon (preferably where the ocean is over 4000m deep).
Austin is now becoming addicted to the sextant and his jokes are getting worse and worse, quite soon he will be joining the skippers coffee pot.
Thu 22 Oct 09
Day 14 has seen a change in both the weather and sea conditions, the wind has died, the sun has come out and the sea is relatively calm. Lunch was sausages in fresh bread rolls followed by Austin the mate breaking out some morale in the form of some “Thorntons Mint Humbugs”.
Hayley has recovered from her trapeze act on the fore deck, Ski has got over his headache (lack of chocolate), Matts nether regions have had a rub after an argument with the Gimble and the Skipper is managing to control his emotions after throwing the last of his cigarettes away. Thank fully the Yachts Doctor (Austin) has not been let loose with his medical instruments yet.
We have had contact with the rest of the flotilla (Navy & RAF) who also seem to be in high spirits and some 120 nautical miles behind us, but it’s not a race honest!. Morale continues to be high, although wind and speed are foremost in our minds as we near the half way point and Australia beckons.
Hi Sereana – I hope you had a great time in NZ, looking forward to catching up in a few weeks 😉
Davy Kelly: Hi Simone, Hope You and Ollie are good nearly half way to Oz miss you xxxx
Tess: I hope you are not having too much fun without me. I miss you and love you lotsxxx
Gayle: The seaweed was amazing, you would of loved it. Looking forward to a visit to the Viking. Xox
Steve Parsons: hi Mac hope you and everyone else are well. Sat waiting for the winds to appear again then we should be well on way to oz. Love and cuddles XXX.
Steve Galvin: Hi Amy, Chloe & Sophie hope your all well, I’m bouncing around at latitude 43 degrees waiting for some wind which apparently kicks off as I go on watch at 2000 hours tonight. I’m now going for a cold shower (first in 3 days!), still living the dream though, it’s good to be alive!. To Roger & Mary you may be well correct in your overall assumption of this adventure. To all “Live Slow & Sail Fast”.
Antoni Gabanski: Hay mum and whoever else is reading this, things are going well, we are reaching the half way point very soon. Can’t wait to hit Perth Australia, get into a hotel, get a beer, a proper meal, and an ace time there before we head back to U.K.
Hayley “Flying Artist” Kemp ( No relation to Ross): Well I have had fun past few days!!! NOT. I Need to join the RAF to work on my landings. Really looking forward to OZ now, can’t believe I have actually done this, proud of myself and all the lads. Hope everyone at home and 17 Regt are keeping safe as I certainly am not. Bambi is well and truely back with a vengeance. Speak soon xxxxxxxx
Matthew Arnold: I’m good can’t wait to get my teeth in to a big fat steak or a double cheeseburger sack it I’ll have them both. i’m going to get so fat when I get to OZ.
Colin Harrower: I’m really looking forward to OZ now, I really fancy a pint of Fosters, Hope all is well at home and that your not missing me too much….lol. Having an amazing experience still can’t quite believe were heading to OZ. xox
Tony Finnigan: Hi Shelle, Millie, Daisy and everyone else, Having a whale of a time. Weather has been cold, wet and miserable. So close to the half way point, so looking forward to seeing land and so that I can call you. Love you and miss you lots, Ant xxx Shout out to everyone at 234.
Shaun Broom: Hi ya babe, hope you are well, I think the southern ocean is showing us who is daddy, been reliving my child hood with colin on the helm at 0300 in the morning, Poddington peas, button moon etc etc. On mother watch again lamb curry tonight by Allah chef broom. Can’t wait for oz still 2500 miles away, looking forward to a beer and speaking to ya babe love ya loads and miss ya xxx
Matthew Wright: Hey baby hope everybody at home is doing well and you’re ok missing you loads, really looking forward to having a full size bed to stretch out in. Love you loads and can’t wait to hear your voice once at oz big kisses XXX
DISCO REPORTS IN Wednesday 21 October 2009
Hi Folks, its the beardless one again,
I left you early-Monday looking forward to porridge for breakfast and with Australia growing ever closer, albeit at a speed similar to the movement of tectonic plates. The porridge lived up to its promising smell but regrettably the wind carrying us towards our goal died away leaving us little choice but to turn due south and motor sail for much of the day towards an area where we knew there to be a stronger breeze in a more favourable direction. I will explain later how we knew there was more wind elsewhere.
One could reasonably assume that motor sailing for upwards of 10 hours not in the direction of one’s destination would be noisy, tedious and wearing in the extreme, and one would be perfectly correct in such an assumption. However, and it is a big however, Red Watch were Mother for the day and laid on feast after feast of such variety and flavour that we clean overlooked the noise and lack of genuine progress. Well, that and the sight of Paddy washing his underwear in a net bag dangling from Disco’s stern adding to the distraction.
Shortly after nightfall the wind steadily rose and we were able to bear away onto a south easterly heading and again started to make an impression of the still-large number of miles between Disco and Australia. By this time we had lost touch (but not lost radio contact) with both sister vessels, Adventure and Challenger, who were respectively 95 and 250 miles ahead of us. They had stayed further to the south throughout and so had benefitted from the belt of stronger winds which we had spent all day getting to, such are the results of weather decisions; it could so easily have been the other way round.
During the day the Skipper continued his running confrontation with the water maker which defied his best efforts to make it work and produced nothing more than slightly salty water. Unhappily, by Tuesday morning and having tried every official and unofficial fix known, all to no avail, the Skipper assembled the crew and instructed us to minimise the use of fresh water. We had a lot of fresh water in the tanks plus an emergency bottled supply, and we would still be able to supplement our stocks with the slightly salty water coming from the water maker. Henceforth, everything that could reasonably be done with either seawater or slightly salty water would be, leaving fresh water for drinking only. Both Adventure and Challenger independently volunteered to rendezvous with us, sacrificing their lead in the run to Perth, to supply us with fresh water should the need arise, such is the overriding spirit of tri-Service teamwork in this endeavour. Be assured, your loved ones will be delivered well hydrated albeit we may be a little smelly on arrival!
Apart from the news about the water maker, Tuesday was a thoroughly excellent day. Much of the day was spent running ahead of a north westerly wind under a full mainsail and with the headsail poled out to the port side. Wildlife spotters will be pleased to know that we (that is to say, Sally) saw a solitary penguin during the afternoon followed a little later by a school of what we identified as Hourglass Dolphins which stayed with us for 15 minutes before losing interest and heading off elsewhere. Shortly before nightfall the pole was lowered and the staysail flown just as the wind came around to the south west. The speed and precision of these changes earned Blue Watch (Paul, Hayley, Adam & Tim) the coveted title of Foredeck Ninjas, an honour bestowed by the Skipper in typical Southern Ocean fashion with a snarl out of the corner of his mouth. Disco picked up her skirts and really started to sail and we covered in the region of 200 miles in the 24 hour period. Below decks Mother treated us to home-made pizza and pancakes for supper and as night fell the temperature plummeted once again. The bunk rooms with doors open remained cold and damp, but those where the occupants decided to close the doors to retain some warmth were cold and very damp from the lack of ventilation. In the cockpit most watches limited the helmsman to 20 minutes at the wheel before changing over to re-warm fingers, toes and noses.
Dawn was extremely grey and cold when it arrived on Wednesday and the strong south westerly wind ripped through any inadequate clothing as though it were not there. Uncovered fingers chilled to the point of being useless within minutes and most covered their heads and faces to the point that only a narrow slit remained for looking through. Which brings me back to breakfast porridge, and I cannot tell you how welcome it was this morning – many of the crew were cold inside their sleeping bags and only got colder moving to the galley for grub, but the grub itself soon re-established the glow.
The weather? Well, we seem to have plenty of it but we do not have an attractive TV weather girl to point to the map and tell us what will or will not happen in the next few days. Instead we take it in turns (between the yachts) to take a daily download from a marine weather website covering the next 3 days, translate it into sailor-weather-speak, then transmit it to the other yachts. Constant updates would be nice, but are not essential and, as you know, we need to limit the time we are hooked up to the Iridium sat-phone in order to keep costs under control. Additionally, because the 3 yachts are now sailing in slightly different waters, we are able to compare forecasts with what is actually happening and where, which is a tremendously useful way of validating our interpretation. Last point on weather, we presently expect something of a hammering at the end of the week. The wind strength is likely to be similar to that experienced during the first week out of Cape Town but the direction is expected to be from the west thus blowing us straight towards Perth. Hope springs eternal!
Ciao. (for now)
Hi, I’m back as promised.
The gastronomic delight of porridge is yet to grace the galley as it is not yet daylight but I thought I would take the opportunity to type a few closing lines before getting this away to Gosport and onto the web.
Disco has been tramping along the 43rd parallel at around 9 knots in an easterly direction since I last tapped dementedly on the keyboard. The wind has been flicking between south-south-east and south-south-west at a fairly steady 15 to 20 knots and we have made considerable progress, passing the 3000 miles to go point shortly before midnight. The sea has become a little more ‘edgy’ over the past hour or so giving rise to rather more water crossing the decks than was the case yesterday evening. I turned on the cabin heater just over an hour ago enabling the 0400 watch change to take place in marginally less frigid conditions.
The day ahead, I suspect, holds more of the same and after I have enjoyed a little shut-eye I need to turn my mind and hand to fettling a repair to our radar reflector which became the victim of a vortex of super-gravity (unique to these parts I understand) and fell from its lofty perch on the mast yesterday. I guess it will test my Halton training of some 42 years ago and I will see positive proof of how perishable those skills really are. If it cannot be fixed with a hammer and screwdriver, it cannot be fixed!
Leaden dawn beckons, as does the porridge. From all of us to all of you, you are in our thoughts and we send our love.
Dusty – Lesley, have a great holiday and enjoy the warmth – I can almost remember what warmth is like. GXXX. Love & e-hugs to Mouse, AJ, Ali & Danny.
Neil – For our patron Babs Powell, we’re trimming all the way! Great advice. For all at home, missing you all, lots of love.
Gemma- Mum, Dad missing you lots and lots – love to Claire, Ross, Ralph and Casper. HAPPPPPPPPPPY BIRRRRTHDAAAAAYY FRANLON!!!!!!! Looking forward to seeing you all. xxxxxxx