The Royal Navy bids a fond farewell to New Zealand
Saturday 7th February – Departure day
Even before we had cleared customs, in Auckland 2 crew members (Simon & John) had dressed each other with vegetables to demonstrate their “cabbage head” identity to the Army yacht – something to do with colour of berets apparently!
Following Disco (RAF), with Challenger (ARMY) behind, all three Challenge boats motored through the Motiuhe Channel into the Hauriki Gulf. By mid afternoon, a high pressure gave rise to 14 knots apparent wind from the East and the race began under full main Yankee 1, and Stay Sail.
Challenger and Disco decided to free off as we stuck inshore BTW, with a 30 degree lift on the Port tack we managed to take the lead. With this and the rising current going in our favour around the Headland of Cape Colville, those on board Adventure were well and truly happy sailors.
After a momentary dropping of the stay sail through the tack to reconnect a hank around the top of the Headland White Watch were well and truly in the Groove whilst the rest of the crew enjoyed a comfortable first night in their bunks in the relatively lights airs. Before the night was out the breeze disappeared, and the engine had started. The wind dropped right off the engine had to remain on to maintain an average speed.
It’s Monday now and as I am typing, Andy Burgess is excelling himself yet again. We have Sushi rolls in front of us on the Galley Table, comprising of Dolphin fish caught off the back rail, served with rice, ginger, wasabi. This is the second Dolphin fish we have caught. Yesterday, Sunday, we were definitely in touch with nature, Flying Fish, a Dolphin, our first Albatross and the events of Disco catching a “shark” only 200 yards from us made entertainment while the wind was deciding when to kick in. The evening finished with some nice sun downers. We fixed the main sail as one batten popped out and a slider came free from the sail and the electronic barometer was re calibrated.
After fighting a 2 knot current around the East Cape the breeze filled in and yet again it was White Wwatch who was on the controls, now known as the lucky watch. At 0200hrs the Yankee, stay sail were up and we were keen to catch Disco who managed to sneak ahead under motor on the inshore track before the wind filled in. 0230 reef 1 was in and by 0300hrs Disco were on the beam and we were looking strong to overtake them whilst they took a more southerly track, we took the speedy SE cutting the mileage. At 1030hrs ADV are 5 miles ahead of Disco, 10 miles ahead of Challenger and a second plate of Sushi is being served. Adventure Out.
The Royal Air Force are gelling well aboard Discoverer with 6000 miles to go
Disco Blog First Few Days
So, with all the prep done, it was time for the off. We were finally given the all clear to sail so the 3 yachts cleared customs on Saturday lunchtime and motor-sailed out of Auckland through the outlying islands and were ready for the Southern Ocean and our epic adventure! We had a reasonable sailing start but were soon all becalmed. The Royal Navy yacht Adventure immediately started their engine and motored upwind, leaving Disco and Challenger furiously working on sail trimming! As night came the winds died, the engine was on and we gradually left the islands behind and headed into the deep blue!
The first day was a lovely calm sunny day where everyone had a chance to get their sea-legs, and the biggest danger was sunburn and an excess of morale as with the tunes blasting, shirts off, we all decided this would be an ace trip! Mother Watch (Blue) made this all the better as we dined like Lords of the Ocean on Fajitas!
In true RAF fashion Disco is well victualled and we’re considering leaving a floating food bundle tied to a fender for the Army, Yes, the Army and Navy are behind us, hurrah! The Army initially took a northern track whereas the Navy bolted south hoping for stronger winds, but were becalmed so lost their lead. With lots of VHF contact the banter is rife, with so many ‘frequent fliers’ on Disco the forecasting is going well and we’re finding the winds and heading southeast on the Rhumb line.
So here we are, just into the Roaring Forties, dolphins on the bow and an albatross on the stern! We’re waiting with anticipation for the first depression; we have crossed the Date Line and weren’t really sure what to do, so we’ve just done 2 Sundays, any ideas please let us know! Morale is high, the wind is good and the swell is building, all is well on the good ship Disco!!
Army are back to full strength and head out into the Southern Ocean
Day 2. Our position is 37º23’644S 177º54’056E and we are making 8 knots over the ground, heading 095Mag. Unfortunately, there is almost no wind whatsoever, so we are having a gentle, if sometimes frustrating, welcome to our leg. The past few days have been quite frantic at times, so perhaps this calm sea and mild weather will give us all a chance to get our breath back as we ease into the watch system and set the rhythm for the next five weeks.
As part of the maintenance on the boats, it had to be established that there would be sufficient freeboard to allow an adequate safety margin, for where we are going. To do this we had to measure the boat in various load states, and send the figures back to the UK for the powers that be to do lots of complicated calculations.
To ‘measure the boat in various load states’ involved taking every single bit of kit off and then measuring how high corners (the freeboard) were above the water. Then, kit was reloaded in order of priority (obliged to have, need to have, nice to have), with each bit being meticulously weighed and listed, and the freeboard measured at intervals. Of course, no matter how sensibly and logically we went about unloading and loading, the outboard motor needed moving in and out of the forepeak an inordinate number of times.
If the calculations came out our way, we would get the go-ahead for the trip as planned. If they didn’t, there were a few alternatives, but none of them quite what any of us had wanted, so there was much tension as we waited for information to come in. On Thursday, we received a request for one final measurement, and horrible recollections of the outboard motor settled in our minds. But this one was a bit different: in order to simulate the weight of the provisions necessary (bearing in mind that on average 15 people weigh about a ton), both the Army and the Navy had to pile onto the RAF boat, with their weights being added up, and the corners of that boat then measured.
It was then announced that the measurements were satisfactory, everybody could feel a wave of relief moving through our group of 41. We were cleared to go around the Horn.
The total number for all three boats was 41 because unfortunately we lost one member of our crew to personal circumstances at home: we would all like to wish him and his family well.
Friday was spent provisioning the boat. This is not as straightforward an operation as one might naively expect. First, a meal plan has to be worked out, which will allow for 14 people to receive adequate (and preferably varied) nutrition for the duration of the trip. In designing said meal plan, Pete (the skipper’s mate and purser) had also to factor in the amount of freezer space, fridge space, and storage space in general. And this would be no easy task, considering that 14 people eating 3 meals a day will take in 42 meals a day in total. This multiplied by 35 days gives 1470 meals altogether another way of looking at it would be to imagine shopping for yourself (a single person) for 14 months, all at once.
So we split down into two groups, a shopping party and a loading party. The shopping party was faced with the logistical difficulty of buying and moving several tons of groceries, while the loading party prepared the goods buy removing extraneous packaging (as all garbage other than totally biodegradable waste like vegetable peelings will be coming to Uruguay with us) and then finding places to fit it all into. It was a tough end to a tough week, but morale improved somewhat when taken to Hell to get pizzas for supper (having worked long past the closing time of the cookhouse at the naval base…and never fear, Hell is the name of the delightfully branded pizzeria).
At 1000 hours we received our last crew man fresh from the Airport and then it time to slip for the last time from Orams Marine Village and make our way to the Customs pontoon to get final clearance to leave New Zealand.
And then we were off.
We motor-sailed out for a while, before hoisting our No. 1 Yankee and staysail and switching the engine off. Sadly, the wind later died off, and we have had the engine back on, and the sails down, ever since (but see below)
I have just been interrupted in my writing of this by a very enthusiastic Julian coming bounding down the stairs into the saloon, to herald the arrival of a pod of dolphins along our bow. Though never one to get worked up about dolphins, I must admit that the experience of sitting up in the pullpit watching these creatures skitter about the boat was quite moving; and it was not just me…Julian kept saying it was the best thing he had ever seen, and Poe was happy to be able to cross one entry off his list of things to see on this trip. Even Ollie was interested enough to postpone for a few minutes his beloved sleep, sticking his head out of the forepeak hatch to see if they were still there. And they were: they followed us for hours.
The next few paragraphs should hopefully show what the pattern of life if like on this boat. First, I was cut off mid-sentence during the above paragraph, because the generator was switched off and the laptop battery died. So, being on mother watch, I went to bed.
But then, we were awoken at 0218 (Day 3) to be told we were needed to assist Red watch with a sail change. Now, being disoriented on waking at the best of times, and 0218 is most certainly not the best of times to be woken up, and hearing the engine still running, and knowing that there was no wind when going to sleep, I was confused, as I think were the rest of the watch. It turned out that the wind had picked up considerably, and the No.1 Yankee had been raised but was a little too much canvas to show to that particular wind, so it had to come down and the No. 2 go up.
It was not an easy sail change, but Red watch stoutly spent an hour up front sorting it out, and reefing the main. Once all of this action was over, it was time for Blue watch to get up top to take over. Now, Riki (watch leader for Blue) took much relish in pointing out over breakfast (when I have resumed writing this, as the generator is back on) that his watch had overseen the longest distance covered by sail alone so far, at 36NM (an average of 9 knots).
So, this blog entry was started on Sunday night, with no wind, and a motor crawl away from New Zealand. It finishes with sails hoisted, a reef in, and the New Zealand courtesy flag stowed down below. Things can change quickly, and it is with eagerness we wait to see what the next change will be.
From the Skipper.
A long but very worthwhile week was had at Orams, preparing the fleet for the longest Leg of this Exercise. The support provided by IPT has been fantastic and the boats are in great shape for the rigours of this leg. Thank you. All the teams worked so hard moving about 4.5 tonnes of kit off and back on the boats again. I would like to thank Roger Saynor of the Royal New Zealand Navy for arranging all the accommodation and meals at the Devonport Naval Base, making some of the simple things in life even more worthwhile! The welcome that we have had in Auckland has been fantastic and think that we were all sorry to leave. However all the boats has a splendid sail through the Haraki Gulf and past Great Barrier Island before having to motor and hence settle into this mammoth leg.