Freedom - Blog 17 Freedom Tuesday 5th December 2023
Gday Team Freedom from the Aussie Freedom Fighter
Tuesday finds us literally rolling along the 14th parallel (the same latitude as StL) goosewinged in 20 knots of breeze with a following sea. 170 nm sailed in 24h to 1300 today.
As we are into the 3rd week I thought I would take a step back and give my overall perspective of the passage to date. I have used the SWOT framework, that many of you will be familiar with, to structure my thoughts.
1 the Crew - The Freedom Fighters are the bedrock, or should I say the keel post, of the passage.
Though I had no doubt that we would get on fine; before the trip I was interested to see how 5 blokes would combine within a 42ft space for 3 weeks. My reference point was a 5 week trip of 5 crew between Adelaide-Melbourne-Hobart (this leg was a race) back to Adelaide 40 years ago in a 30 footer. It’s fair to say things were a little tense by the end though perhaps this was due to the need to stop off at King Island in Bass St for repairs after 3 days of 50 knots plus on the nose had shaken the boat up a bit.
I had met Chris on a number of occasions including Ian & Gills wedding and the weddings of Sam and Harry a generation later. Perhaps not ideal preparation for an ocean crossing. However I was fortunate enough to sail from Plymouth to Porto with CJ and Stu so knew what I was letting myself in for. I had not met Nigel prior to Gran Canaria but such is the reputation of the Haworth boys I thought I knew what to expect.
As you will have gathered from the blog we have worked together and bonded well. Initial crew work was rusty but this has improved as Chris had us performing various manoeuvres in the 12? days before the trades established.
An illustration of the on board harmony is that my recollection of the most frustration being expressed is when Ian and Nigel had their respective dinner and breakfast preparations interrupted by a spinnaker manoeuvre at the precise moment their painstaking preparations had come to fruition and they were about to serve a delicious cooked meal.
I will have more to say about my crew mates later; at this stage let me document that it has been a pleasure and a privilege to spend the last 3 weeks in their company.
2 Freedom. She has handled everything effortlessly. She even rounds up and broaches gracefully. Given Chris’s insatiable quest for boat speed I find it interesting that he and Ian decided to invest orders of magnitude more in an auto helm and water maker than in rig and sails (big red is 50 years old !!!). The water maker means we are able to shower daily and the auto helm makes life in the cockpit a lot easier. I take this opportunity to thank them for prioritising our comfort and ask you all to bear this in mind at results time.
3 Extended Crew. It has been uplifting to receive messages from acquaintances, friends, family and (to me) many strangers. Clearly many of you are talented writers, an art I had assumed would be lost in this data driven era of social media. One of the highlights of the day is sitting in the cockpit listening to Chris read out your messages. I thank you all for your feedback and feel the need to mention 2 individuals. Firstly thank you to Rachel for the prayer I believe you wrote specifically for us. I believe it was answered one night when things got a bit lively. Thanks also for the wise words about valuing the efforts of others above ones own. Secondly thanks to brother Dave for curating comms with Chris’s fan club😊. Though we have not met, I feel I know you from the on board banter. I look forward to meeting and thanking you personally at some stage in the future.
Ok that’s it for strengths.
Before the trip my biggest concern was our combined lack of medical knowledge. As my daughter said there is not much point in having a bunch of kit (including aforementioned ships medical manual) if you don’t know how to use it. Nigel has some First Aid training and I did a course in Fremantle just before coming away. Frankly it wasn’t that helpful as it focussed on stabilising a patient for 30 mins until an ambulance arrives. I am extremely grateful Nigel’s minor rope burn is the only incident to date and resolve to remain vigilant til the end of the trip (see below). I believe our ad hoc safety meetings, where we discuss ways to improve performance and mitigate risk, have been beneficial.
My heartfelt thanks to Ian for inviting me and to Chris for agreeing to me to be part of the crew. I rarely let a day go by without being in, on or by the water. It has been a priceless experience of a lifetime to spend 3 weeks crossing an ocean within 42 ft of my beloved brother.
Speaking of beloveds providing opportunity, I thank Shelley for her support of this and other adventures while she provides succour and strength to her father and mother at a difficult time. Love to you all in Perth.
Nigel wisely advised that most mountain accidents occur within the last 20% of a trip. While we have ‘only’ about 500 nm to go this is the equivalent of our initial passage from Plymouth to Bayonne. Complacency is our enemy.
Ok that’s the SWOT finished but as this is probably my last blog I would like to address the Freedom Fighters in writing.
I can think of no one better than Nigel to share a small cabin containing 2 coffin sized bunks with. Nige, You are a considerate room mate and source of non stop information and entertainment based on an apparently encyclopaedic memory and rich life experience. You are the first to volunteer for foredeck and the only volunteer to go up the mast. Thanks also for being the bosun or chief fixer. Maintenance is an essential part of seamanship. You were a pretty good breakfast chef also. These qualities will serve you well on your solo crossing in the lugger….
Stuart thank you for your calm demeanour at all times, especially under duress. You are a highly intelligent person and the epitome of a quiet achiever. Your knowledge of the intricacies of the boat is fundamental to the success of the passage. Apart from all the sailing stuff Stuart keeps an eye on the water maker, the batteries, the engine, our ocean sampling and the log. Stuart does not let us overlook important tasks and usually does them himself. Perhaps Stus only fault is that he didn’t bring his guitar.
Chris thanks again for having me on board and for a lifetime of memories. One that will last that lifetime is from the night when things were getting interesting. Big red was up and pushing the boundaries of polite behaviour when she should have been tucked up in bed. Chris grabbed the helm and the mainsheet, interrupting the grin on his face only to issue instructions to the crew and manoeuvre Freedom through the squalls as if she were a dinghy. You can take the boy out of the Merlin….
I would also like to record and pay tribute to the delicate balance Chris has maintained between his natural inclination to push the boat hard and his realisation that this is a rally and we are here to enjoy ourselves. You have achieved this balance admirably as demonstrated by a score of only one dinner on the cabin floor and one cooked breakfast upended in the cockpit. Not bad after over 2000nm. It shouldn’t be a surprise that you can pull this balancing act off as in real life you combine a caring and nurturing soul with a fierce ambition and drive to succeed. Bravo! Not many people can combine these attributes.
Ian thank you for the carefully selected and managed stores, the wonderful meals, the good humour and your kindly demeanour. I will forever remember this trip and be grateful for your invitation to be part of it. I think you know how much it means to me. An abiding memory will be our handovers of the night watch. They were classic occasions of quality over quantity, the accompanying drink much appreciated. Some useful family ground was covered as well as words of wisdom and humour. I intend to take these with me when I leave St.Lucia.
On the basis this is my last blog I am going to conclude by remembering our late father. Dad introduced us to sailing at a young age. He literally bought the cheapest boat at the boat show; there are photos of us in a pram in this 10 ft single sailed gaff rigged plastic dinghy. This adventure is a marvellous culmination to a lifetime of swimming, sailing, windsurfing, surfing and paddle boarding. Dad was immensely proud of what you have achieved Ian and I think he would be equally chuffed that his boys sailed across The Atlantic together. He would be pleased you brought his binoculars along for the ride.
With apologies for the length of this blog and again Thanks to all for the support from near and far.
PS Chris sends his love and belated birthday best wishes to Auntie Ann - he would have written more but apparently I have consumed our daily satellite data allowance!