MY TALL SHIPS RACE JOURNAL DAY 6 – (09/07/2015) – St Kilda and the many faced Islands, panic about depth, mixed feelings, and more St Kilda!

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St Kilda at 9 pm on Wednesday 8th July

This was another entry recorded on my phone as I still cannot keep my body from feeling queasy when I write.  I have to laugh though as I certainly must have been losing my mind at this point of the voyage as this is what the recording for today starts with –

“I think it is day six.”

[Pause]

“I think it’s Thursday.”

[Pause]

“I don’t know what date it is”

[Even longer pause]

“I think it’s the 9th July.”

“Ha, it has only taken me 24 seconds to figure out what day we are on.  Being at sea does that to you!”

I forgot to say in yesterday’s journal that we were heading towards Iceland for a while before we turned back towards the Hebrides.  I never thought in my wildest dreams that we would be heading so far away from Scotland in a westerly direction.  Before the voyage I thought we would go through The Minches, I never thought we would be heading this far out into the North Atlantic.  The detour is due to the weather and wind forecast.  We would never make it up through the Minches with the weather that has been predicted so our best option was to head north on the outside of the outer Hebrides, the plan being to hopefully get onto a good track for when the wind changes.  A track that would shoot us across the top of Scotland.  Although other ships went up through the Minches, the winds would not have been right for Lord Nelson to head in the same direction, its just the way she sails.

Yesterday evening before we came down off watch we could see St Kilda in the distance and we were hoping to be past this island today. Unfortunately over night we have become a little becalmed.  Very light winds.  Moving very slowly at around 1 to 1.5 knots when we were on watch this morning between 4 am and 8 am.

It was light when we woke to go up on watch at 4 am.  It was a bit like Jurassic Park with St Kilda off in the distance.  With extremely light winds the sea state is calm.  Although it is frustrating that we are not making any headway, the low wind and flat calm sea is giving us all a bit of a break from the old sea sickness.  Being bitterly cold when we went out on watch, it certainly is a day for being layered up.

I stood (well sat in my wheelchair) on the port lookout for a while, then starboard lookout, then back to the port.  I then had a go at being on the helm.  I steered yesterday as well – not by course but by wind direction, which was a bit of a different experience, however today we are back steering by course.

I was left helming on my own for several minutes whilst the rest of the watch and the officer of the watch went to set some sails to see if we can get a bit more speed from Nellie.  They set the two royals, and also the forward course – to give us a bit more sail to catch the very light winds.  I stayed on the helm for quite some time whilst this was happening.

I freaked myself out whilst helming when the depth gauge was sitting at below one metre!  I was thinking oh my goodness everyone on the watch is down setting sails and we are going to crash into a rock or something else on the sea bed.  I didn’t realise that this depth guage does not work, I only found out when I voiced my concern to R (officer of the watch) on his return to the bridge and he told me to ignore that one.  Thank goodness I knew it wasn’t working when it dropped a bit further a few moments later – that would have completely sent me into a panic had I been on my own.

Even with the extra sails set we were still only doing about 0.01 to 0.02 of a knot, which isn’t very fast at all!

Speed

Current speed – not very fast, almost stopped!

We had a visitor this morning and that visitor was a whale of some description, it was definitely a lot larger than a dolphin.  He or she crossed our bow.  All we saw was the fin and a large section of its back, it didn’t jump out of the water, just glided gracefully by in front of our bow, then carried on their journey.

There are a lot of Gannets around.  I love our watch leader, B’s, description of them – they are birds that “look like they have squashed their head in an apricot”.  They fly in perfect formation reminding me of the Red Arrows and it is fantastic to see how they swoop down through the waves, sometimes looking like they will slam into the wall of water.

Photograph of Gannet from wild-scotland.org.uk

We managed to get three cups of tea on watch this morning.  Definitely needed three cups of tea, being as cold as it is.  We also had a bit of a sing song.  This time it was the “flapping sails” song to the tune of Bohemian Rhapsody.  Nothing like getting a laugh in the morning, especially when it is so early and cold. We handed over the watch at 8 am and came down below for a very well earned and warming breakfast. Both hubby and I were absolutely starving so it was porridge and then full breakfast!  I think we need the extra calories with it being so cold.

After breakfast we went to our berths to layer up ready for morning brief at our muster station up on deck at the forward port.  We met there with B and the rest of the watch, one of which was yet again late.  In our brief we were given the great news that today there would be a happy hour!  Time to clean the ship again.  This would be followed by an Evac Drill, then a meteorological talk in the lower mess (a talk on weather).

Off to the bar we all went for happy hour!  Not of the drinking kind unfortunately, this is the meeting point at the entrance to the laundry room where we would all be handed out cleaning tasks along with relevant equipment.  My task was to clean and polish the tables in the bar, which I did in super speedy time.  So I volunteered to shine the brass.  This was a little bit of a mistake because I started feeling a bit queasy with the smell of Brasso.  So my hubby took over and did this for me.

The work was soon all done and all was ship shape so up we went for smoko on deck  – cup of tea and a biscuit.  It was turning into a beautiful day.  The sun was out and it was warm enough for me to go out without a coat on.  It was nice to be able to sit and relax in the sunshine for a short while.  We decided to explore the ship a bit more and took a dander to the aft deck where it was very quiet, even eerily quiet with only the sound of water lapping at the stern.

The silence was broken by the loud speaker coming on requesting everyone return to the lower mess, the next thing all bells and lights were going for the evacuation drill.  So up the stairs I went in the wheelchair, helped up by the crew that was in charge of evacuating wheelchairs from the lower deck.  This was a laugh in itself especially as the chair just kept wanting to tip sideways.  I felt sorry for the guys and girls on the ropes, it’s hard work.  All was well though, we got to the top of the stairs from where I made my own way to the front of the ship and donned my life jacket.  Shortly after this we were stood down and advised that the talk would be starting in the lower mess by L.

We have just had a meteorological talk on weather systems and what actually happened to cause us to have to go to bracing stations urgently during tea the other night.  It was really interesting to find out what happened and why, it was due to us hitting a low pressure quite suddenly.

I have just had my first shower for three days, having depended on quick washes in the bathroom, and wet wipes when the sea has been too rough, to keep as clean as possible.  It has been too rough for me to take a shower safely, in fact I have been mainly in the same set of clothes for the same reason.  Being quite extremely riffy, it’s so nice to get into nice clean clothes and feel clean again.  I feel a bit warmer as well.  Even G has not had showers every day, plus he slept in his clothes last night – that is really not like G at all, usually very OCD!

At the moment I am lying in my bunk, swaying gently on the water, getting some rest before our watch at 4pm.  Poor G is on mess duty, so that will be interesting for him, and even more interesting for me with getting myself organised and sorted without G’s help.  I am determined though to give it a go.

Feelings today – yes it has been a horrid trip so far!  However I think that it is around this time of a voyage that these feelings turn and you really start to enjoy a voyage and start to gel properly as a team – knowing people and their characters better, and by starting to get into ship life more.  It does take a few days to get used to the regime.  It is also helping that today has been quite a still day, which I think has been needed by the crew – and even if they haven’t needed it, I know that I have.  I will say one thing, I have not been focused on the pain, which is a bonus.  My foot has had the severe freezing cold pain on occasions but it doesn’t seem to have been so harsh as usual.  Whether that’s because I am in an environment where I don’t have time to think about the pain, or whether its because my sailing boots are right for me, or maybe its because I am managing it better, or a bit of all three – I don’t know.  Pain wise its been pretty good going.  As for sleeping I have been telling everyone, because everyone has been complaining about how little sleep they have had, that my sleep on board has been the best sleep I have had in 7 years.  I am just going around, shouting from the roof tops, or from the top of the rigging I should say, just how fantastic my sleep has been.  In a nutshell I am getting plenty of rest.  I thought I would be absolutely exhausted by this point and wouldn’t be able to move because of the pain, and here I am pleasantly surprised.  I think yesterday with the wheelchair falling backwards and me having to stop and rest – that extra bit of rest has actually helped pull me through today.  No doubt I will get tired again, however at the moment I am just resting when I can, and having a sleep when I can.  I am not embarrassed to be in bed at 7 pm, I am not embarrassed to be lay on my bed at 1.30 in the afternoon just chilling in my own company, I am quite happy.  I think the watch are all gelling well as a team and we are certainly looking after each other more.  Our little watch leader is just such a superstar, she is absolutely fantastic and her parents should be really proud of her.

Tonight I have watch at 6 pm.  G is not doing watch duty as he is going to be on mess duty.  It has worked out quite well as I will be getting my dinner in the upper mess, so I will still get to have dinner with G.  After dinner I will go on watch with the help from my watch to get me up to the bridge, and they will help bring me back down, unless Gary comes up after mess duty.  The same will happen tomorrow morning.  So we shall just see how that goes, I am apprehensive of how I will manage without G, however you know me always up for a challenge and where there’s a will there’s a way!  One thing I will say is that I am certainly not going over the lumpy bumpy bits of the doors without any help in the future.  I definitely don’t want to go flying back on my head, and without a doubt don’t want to have a similar accident near the stairs risking a fall down the flight.  This has been about the only part of the voyage I am not able to manage on my own, otherwise I am doing really well in getting around – I can get to the loo with no bother especially as it is dead opposite our cabin and very handy.  I am able to do this in calm and rough whether.  I never thought I would be able to manage getting about in rough weather, I have it down to a fine art now knowing when to apply and release the brakes on the wheelchair to my advantage.  I smugly sit here smiling to myself that I can do this.

Sleeping on board is just great.  The rocking motion of the boat, although quite violent at times, has helped, along with the noise of the water against the hull.  It’s soothing to hear the water sloshing by the hull, then occasionally I can hear a massive slap like someone has jumped down on the deck really hard.  It takes a moment to realise it is not a person but waves hitting against the side of the ship.  In a way I am glad I have not got G’s porthole, every time I look out of it I start feeling really sick!  All I can see are the waves rolling by.

All in all I think we are enjoying it, yes there have been parts I have hated, yes there have been parts that could have been better.  G has not got on with some of the food, there’s been some food that I have not been able to get on with due to all my stomach issues but so far it has been a good voyage.  Race wise we are sitting 14th, disappointingly we are at the back of the fleet.  There are still two ships stuck in the Minches, which still gives us a fighting chance of coming somewhere apart from last.

At 1:30 pm we still have St Kilda in our sights although slightly behind us now.  At least we have moved on a bit, not by much!  We have seen the Isle of Lewis, and another set of islands right out towards our starboard side.  This morning on watch we saw the Wild Swan, a two masted schooner cross our stern heading for St Kilda.  So we have had a little bit of something to look at today, which we did not have yesterday.  G has gone on an engine room tour, he is on that now.  Hopefully when he has finished with that we will get a little bit of time for a kip before he goes to the galley for mess duty.

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St Kilda at 4:30 pm on Thursday 9th July

G went into the galley at 4.30 pm to do his mess duty.  It is such a nice evening so I sat outside and relaxed on deck before dinner which was at 5.20 pm.  We are still bobbing around in front of St Kilda.  Do you know they actually have a rush hour!  Well it seems like they do because around 5 pm there were four boats that went from the island across to the Isle of Lewis.

St-Kilda-Rush-Hour

St Kilda rush hour

Had curry tonight for dinner which was very nice then sat outside waiting for the rest of the watch to go up on the bridge at 6 pm.

I will be glad to see the back of these Islands.  St Kilda is still alongside us nearly 10 hours after finishing watch at 8 am this morning!  Apparently we went backwards for a couple of hours which is never any good especially when racing!  Winds are still very gentle, feels like there is barely a breath to kiss the sails.  Every time I look at St Kilda I see another face or figure, so I rename the islands The Islands of Many Faces!  Also there is the mysterious case of the disappearing and reappearing islands.  The perspective changes as we move past them so we see a different combination of islands from different angles.

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Wrapped up warm for the evening watch of St Kilda!

We have had a bit of an interesting watch this evening as young H was doing watch leader as part of the Leadership at Sea course.  He was a bit disappointed that people were late arriving to the main mast and he had to go and chase people. He came loaded with a bag containing apples and oranges, along with sick bags and wipes in case people were sick, not that we were going to be sick because it is pretty calm out there tonight but the thought counts.  He may be very young however tonight he has shown his thoughtful side, along with his planning and preparation skills.

On watch we were devising a song to the tune of Twelve Days of Christmas except ours is called The Twelve Days of Sailing – starting with the line “On the first day of sailing Lord Nelson sent to me” and it continued from there.  We have come up with some interesting lines like “10 mackerals dying or frying!”

A Minke whale popped by for a visit – just the snout we saw sticking out the water.  This was confirmed by Captain Darren, apparently if the wind is blowing in the right direction you can smell them and they smell like rotten cabbage!  Lucky for us the wind was blowing the other way, or in our case not at all!  We bobbed around by St Kilda for another little while before the wind started to pick up.  We managed to get up to 2.5 knots – hurray, and at long last started to leave St Kilda behind – double hurray!  We were heading towards Whale Rock which has a cardinal marker on the top of it.  We needed to head to the windward side of Whale Rock so we could pass by it safely.  We can see land out to our starboard side which is the Isle of Lewis and some other islands.  Hopefully overnight we will start picking up speed as the wind increases, so we might see a bit more seaway made tomorrow.  At least we will be finally going forwards rather than stationary and backwards!

After watch we all went into the bar where I had my first half a Guinness aboard Lord Nelson.

All in all another interesting day at sea as I climbed into my bunk exhausted and happy, hoping that we do not wake up in the morning to find St Kilda staring back at us.  I don’t think we will, the wind has picked up, bye bye St Kilda!

From Lord Nelson’s blog, here’s what the Aft Port watch have to say about the last 24 hours on board

July 9, 2015

09/07/15 LN872

We are becalmed off St Kilda but we had a good nights sleep after our film night (Shelock Holmes). Lots of gannets, fulmars, great skuas, a few puffins and even a minke whale (alledgedly) have been sighted.

Voyage crew took advantage of the calm sea to have a good happy hour and lifejacket training.

But exciting times are happening onboard, currently there is a mass murder underway on the stern platform! Even Nathan the engineer is getting his hands dirty (but not messing up his hair); mackeral for everyone for dinner tonight! or maybe even breakfast depending on what Cookie Dave has in mind..

Our race may feel like it’s over for the moment whilst we drift along here but we’ll be coming back with a vengeance when the wind picks up from the South-East tonight!

Aft Port; B, G, M, R, J, J, N and R.

 

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