TRANSGLOBE: Injuries reported as DISCO picks up her skirts in 40 knots

It seems that Challenger (Army) is in the lead by some 200 miles or thereabouts and she is bearing the brunt of the bad weather when it does hit. The three yachts are now less than 2,500 miles from Australia. We have heard from Discoverer (three blogs below) but I am given to understand that there are internet problems on board Adventure (RN) and I guess that Challenger is busy dealing with weather and staying in the lead.

A surprising weather front attacks the RAF on Discoverer

Monday 26 October 2009

It is pre-dawn, dark and a little chilly aboard Disco but spirits are high and we are reeling in Australia with great satisfaction.  It is also the 1st Mate’s Birthday so cause for celebration later no doubt.

Happy Birthday for yesterday Neil, 1st Mate!

Sunday was a simply terrific day.  Dawn was spectacular and heralded in a day of flat seas, helpful winds and substantial achievement.  Sally, a little miffed that she was deprived of a full fry-up on Saturday, took events into her own hands and initiated a splendid cooked breakfast even though she was not on Mother Watch and earned herself massive appreciation from the crew.  Neil took his surgical embroidery skills to a new level and repaired the torn cringle on the mainsail and later went on to replace the tack shackle on the main which had developed the unpleasant habit of coming undone even when it had been moused with a tie-wrap.

On emerging from his restorative slumber – Skippers never actually sleep – the Skipper decided the conditions were right to fly the genoa, a sail of truly massive proportions that enabled Disco to pick up her skirts and really scoot along even in relatively light airs.  He managed to persuade the water maker to provide a reliable flow of fresh water, quite possibly as a result of being in marginally warmer water than a few days previously.  A recalcitrant generator also submitted eventually to the Skipper’s more tender persuasive attention.  The stage was thus set for a day of dhobi, showers and general all-round morale boosting activity.

In the late-afternoon the wind began to show signs of exceeding the frugal limits of the genoa and it was decided to change down to the No 2 Yankee, an undertaking I imagined would take more than a little while.  Nevertheless, co-opting hands from the others Watches, Blue were able to douse and bag the monster canvas in 20 minutes without needing Disco to break her magnificent stride.  With the Yankee 2 flying we discovered that one of the mainsail sliders had come away from the mast so the Skipper went aloft and repaired it while we tramped along at nearly 10 knots.  Teamwork at it finest – impressive to observe and greatly uplifting to take part in.  Oh yes, we did let the Skipper down later.

Dinner was another triumph (you might be expecting your loved ones to emerge from this as a bunch of fatties but believe me we are all burning off the calories as fast as we consume them) and we settled to an evening of smooth and rapid eastward progress.  The wind picked up a little in the night causing Neil to ask for the mainsail to be shortened, but Disco continued to surge towards our destination at over 8 knots.  We passed the nadir of the great circle route to Australia in the night and will pass the mid-point of the great adventure in just under one hour from now.  Thereafter, it will be uphill through steadily warming waters to our destination.

I just spent a fun 20 minutes on deck helping White Watch reduce the main to 2 reefs and helmswoman Gemma (the Southern Ocean welcomes careful drivers!) managed to organise a very large, wet and salty wave to land on my head, and me still in my Sunday best trousers.  I should have known that reefing with White would be a full-oily experience!

Till next time, stay safe, love and best wishes from all aboard Disco.

Saturday 24 October 2009

A middling sort of day where we were able to relax, enjoy a little sunshine and attend to a few domestics.  Paddy and Adam are on the mend and I suspect Paddy will be back in full fighting fettle within the next couple of days.  Adam may take a little longer but the 1st Mate (aka Hawkeye) is dressing his finger and inspecting his embroidery regularly.

Dawn was a most spectacular affair this morning with bright well-washed colours in the sea and sky.  We were immediately followed by a whole squadron of seabirds diving and wheeling in the wake we were leaving in the air.  Boy, I wish I could fly like that.  Paul and the remaining able members of Blue Watch took the opportunity to take hosts of photographs with which they will bore the pants off friends and family when they get home (sorry, I could not stop them).

We spent much of the day under the storm rig of the previous 24 hours primarily because the still moderate wind was pushing us along at a respectable 8-9 knots and there was no mood for pushing things.  The downloaded weather forecast predicted a day of gradually slacking wind, much the same on Sunday, and then another big blow on Monday.  The sea continued to moderate throughout the day and is now relatively smooth with occasional medium-sized rollers.

By mid-afternoon the wind and sea had eased enough for the Skipper to decide to change up to the No 2 Yankee headsail and get the main flying with 2 reefs.  Later in the evening we gybed round onto a north easterly track in an effort to put some distance between Disco and the next weather nasty that is forming to the south west.  An attempt to shake out the 2nd reef was short lived when the cringle came away in Owen’s hand (beware Lossiemouth, we seem to have unleashed something of a monster in Owen).

Dinner was yet another feast – another Blue Watch triumph – and we are now sailing under a heaven brim full with stars.  I have at long last identified the Southern Cross.  The moon is leaving a brilliant silver sheen across our wake and the only sounds are the gurgle of the Southern Ocean under Disco’s stern, the occasional creak of the sheets, and the muted exchange of banter between the Watch in the cockpit.  It is almost enough to make me turn to poetry……but I realise you are not ready for that yet!

Right, enough, next stop Sunday.  I realise that you will turn your clocks back tonight at about the same time that we turn ours forward another hour.  When you read this we will be a full 5 hours ahead of you and hopefully 100 miles ahead of the nasty weather.  Australia is just 2500 miles away.

Friday 23 October 2009 and the Forties are well and truly roaring

Hi Folks, its the wet, bedraggled and slightly bruised old guy,

Well, they are not called the Roaring Forties because they purr like a pussy cat, and they are living up to their exceedingly apt name.  Since I left you early yesterday morning we made good headway with a pleasantly vigorous quartering tailwind.  Then, in the late afternoon, because Disco was proving to be quite a handful in her present sail configuration we decided to shorten sail in preparation for nightfall.  And not a moment too soon either!  We tacked and hove to in order to change down both the No 2 Yankee and the Staysail – simultaneously we received a message from Adventure saying that they had run smack into what proved to be the edge of an un-forecast weather ‘bomb’.  The wind rose rapidly to 40 knots and it took a full 2 hours to change down to the storm staysail alone with the mainsail fully down and lashed to the boom, and the boom secured down with the handy billy.  We rode out the night in that configuration and saw winds up to Storm Force 10 (50 knots +) with literally huge seas breaking across the deck.  It is what we came here for, and it was awesome.

In the effort to re-configure Disco, Paddy and Adam took a violent tumble amid the carnage of the foredeck and Paddy had to be helped below for treatment to a seriously over-flexed arm.  He is now hors de combat with his arm in a sling – no permanent damage but very painful for him and the injury is making life very difficult for him below decks, but his spirit is undiminished.  White watch are now short of their powerhouse.

The night was truly ugly but Disco carried us safely to the grey light of dawn whereupon we could appreciate the size of the seas we were bobbing around in.  The first word that came to my mind was, understandably, ‘Bugger’!  An overnight message from Challenger telling us of the sail damage she had sustained was confirmed in a first-light assessment from her.

Being 200 or so miles ahead she had taken the brunt of the weather bomb leaving Adventure and Disco to get off lightly with a darned good hammering.  Being un-forecast it came as a complete surprise and they did well to come through it still smiling.

We managed to get through 7 life jackets yesterday and overnight – they self-inflated having been subjected to repeated immersion either on the foredeck or in the cockpit.  Happily, we are carrying very many spares and the Skipper is a qualified life jacket technician; once we have a calmer day he will strip and refit the gas bottles and automatic inflation devices reinstating the jackets to their former glory in the spares cupboard under the 1st Mate’s bunk.

Today has been a roller-coaster ride in 40 knots of wind and massive seas under the brightly coloured storm staysail and storm trysail.  Having spent most of Monday clawing our way south to find the wind, we have spent today clawing our way north in order to avoid the centre of the next blow which is just 24 hours or so away – if we can find the northern rim of the blow it might even provide something of a slingshot towards Australia, who knows.  What was I saying about weather decisions?  The ride has been predictably horrible, again with slick decks, everything uphill and anything not firmly secured flying sideways at huge speeds.  In one notable monster lurch Adam trapped his finger in the sea door separating the Skipper’s stateroom from the galley and ended up having the 1st Mate stitch up the ugly gash that resulted.  Blue watch are now short of one of their Ninjas.

As for Crevice, nothing has been seen of the bilge gremlin apart from the litter of clothing covering every surface and moving rapidly whenever the boat lurches.  The bilge water has returned to its more normal composition so the risk of an outbreak of crimson rage has, for the time being, diminished.  The 1st Mate is however still very wary that he might be surprised in the middle of the night, although for a man of his age that would not necessarily be a bad thing.  Oh yes, I nearly failed to tell you, it is the 1st Mate’s Birthday on Monday 26th (the day this will get posted on the web) – he tells me (secretly and in a hushed voice) he will be forty-thirteen.

That will do for now.  Mother are preparing beef stew with fresh vegetables and potato wedges, followed by chocolate rice crispies with melted mars bar topping, for dinner and we are all looking forward to it immensely.  Spirits remain high and the banter is without mercy.

Shout-Outs:

Sally – Hello and love to everyone who knows me – its a bit wind swept and interesting but the wind tan is building nicely – oh to be dry again – and to have a shower!!! Luv me xxxxx

Gemma – Mummy – I know you’ll be reading this, love and miss you xxxxx

Crew (& Peta!) – Happy Birthday Neil, very many happy returns but in drier and more stable surroundings next time.

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