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Challenger 4 - Day 11 - 1st December 2011

Day 11 - 1st December 2011

As each day passes the real star of the show - the ship - shows her true colours.

With apologies to the Bard. "All this world is a ship and its crew are merely actors - each with their entrances and exits."

Never has such words had as much resonance as on this little ship. The director of our play is our enormously experienced skipper ably assisted by the mates who together choreograph the various scenes - each intertwining our individual parts into a coherent masterpiece!. As such sometimes our rehearsals are farcical, others tragic but the director assures us its all part of the learning process.

By day the routine of steering toward our goal is marked by the log slowly marking our miles passage. Little disturbs the mind as the scenery slowly changes marked by the very occasional but welcoming sight of life - a few solitary dolphins and misguided birds. A few flying fish remind us of the vastness of the surrounding sea with depths of thousands of metres rather than the tens of our quaint English coastline.

But it is at night that our ship really breathes its life as all other earthly distractions pass into the twilight. Steering our course through the waves, resplendent with the sounds of hissing foam, the whooshing of her hull as she caresses the tops of the waves with the occasional flutter of the headsails, we are all amazed and impressed by her incredible performance. Like a mythical whale she carves her way through all, demanding nothing more from her crew than a bit of TLC. The mates constantly check and recheck her lines, sails, rigging and fixtures for any sign of wear. Prevention is the key to success.

At night the watches marvel at the heavens - now friendly faces to all. Jupiter rises astern steadily rising over the mast setting west; Orion's familiar belt overhead; Cassiopeia and of course the Plough (albeit in an unusual inverted pose) point towards Polaris, around which the heavens all rotate. Its attitude reflects precisely our Latitude reminding us of ancient mariners who crossed vast oceans depending on it for their position - north and south. Occasionally a distant satellite flashes its path across reminding us of mans ingenuity. As the helmsman steers their Westerly course the flash of the LCD screens provide testimony to the ships raison d'ĂȘtre - speed and power. As the digits flicker up and down we privately note our best speed. For us cruisers such speeds are no longer a distant fantasy now achievable to us mere mortals. On and onwards she soars towards our distant shores, fearing nothing but inaction.

As is customary in home waters at this time of the year we nominate our sports personality of the year. I for one nominate Pam as without her logistical knowledge; her ability to rustle up a 3 course meal from nothing and her empathy to others would have made this passage a struggle rather than a pleasure. For the young Sports personality of the year our 18 year Daniel is the outstanding candidate. All ships should have a Daniel ; their youth remind us of our distant past and gives hope for the planets future - may others have the pleasure of spending so much time with him.

Last but by no means least, is the topic of Banana management. Whilst topics such as battery; water; electrical and man management dominate much of sailing lore I have never seen the definite guide to banana management. Unfortunate the delivery skipper departing from Southampton did not divert to Gibraltar to press gang one of their famous apes onboard for the passage. Whilst it seemed a great idea to fill the sail locker with a veritable harvest of green bananas slowly maturing by day, none anticipate the slippy mess and the fact that unless the crew were all Wimbledon tennis players who seem to have an indomitable appetite for such fruits there is only so much one can do with the stuff. Many have been sacrificed to the great God Neptune as a thankgiving for bringing a great bunch of individuals together on a great ship with the skipper slowly ganvishing them into a crew which only others can determine is motley or not.

With our best daily run of 221 miles made towards our goal, long may the Trade Winds flow. I (and I hope my wife, Christine) for one will be the sadder that this passage has to end as it has been an immense privilege to sail with all as together we make our own life's journey.

Peter B,.

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