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Challenger 4 - Blog 30th November 2011

Challenger 4 Blog 30th November 2011

"We now have less than 1000 nautical miles to go" was the primary message at the Skipper's lunchtime briefing earlier today. With each passing day, another milestone closer to the finish line and whilst some amongst our crew will doubtless be pleased to be rid of the difficult conditions aboard this sturdy vessel, I am of the majority who is facing the impending end of this amazing journey with some dread. The constant buffeting, the ever increasing temperatures below decks that is making sleeping extremely difficult, the 3 on, 6 off watch system, the toileting procedure which resembles (but is more vivid than) that of some Greek island holiday apartment, every 5th day that each of us spend on Mother watch - none of these things can detract from the fact that we are an extremely privileged group of people to be experiencing the magnificent Atlantic Ocean and all of its peripheral features, this close up and for real. We haven't seen another vessel for days; just the big blue yonder, every hour, for every day - and it is captivating.

The Atlantic swell has been deepening in recent days and we regularly see nothing around us other than white caps and deep blue water as we sink to another trough in the waves. But such is our appreciation for our rocky environment that we are in the process of choreographing a dance to be named "The Challenger 4 shuffle". In essence, it will replicate some of the comical involuntary jerks that we go through on an hourly basis as we battle with decks that ride up wildly towards us, bulkheads that stutter and change direction constantly and doors that would be easy to open if only the handle was in the same place by the time our outstretched hand got to it! As I write this, the letters that I am aiming for have often moved to the left or the right under my fingers, as the keyboard rocks to port or staqrboard! (Case in point - that was noit intentional!!!)

This morning it was my turn to finish a watch at 06:00 and start Mother watch (the twelve hour day of cooking and cleaning duties) at 07:00. We all have to do it at some stage, so no worries there. So for breakfast we so-named "three Musketeers" set about cooking two dozen pancakes for our fellow crew. With chocolate sauces, fresh fruit and toppings, the galley resembled some creperie from some far flung riviera resort of corse.

But our efforts were appreciated and the carb intake beneficial as things turned out because within an hour we were all on deck battling with a torn spinnaker. Fortunately it was daylight, the breeze was not too severe at around 20 knots and the sea state "Slight" so things could potentially have been substantially more difficult. With the spinnaker prepared and the crew poised at their various positions, the Skipper's command to "hoist" results in an instantaneous hauling on ropes. This is a tense moment - a lot can go wrong; every crew member has found a way to wedge themselves into a position to be unaffected by the violent movements of the boat as she rides the waves. No sooner than the spinnaker is set, we spot a tear in the lower right side and there is no choice but to immediately drop the sail before the tear widens or other complications arise. A complicated procedure that I shall not describe here. However full credit goes to Daniel, our 18 year old Thai crew member, who had to put on a harness without notice and with no time to find his shoes or put on gloves before climbing to the end of the spinnaker pole to release the sail. Congratulations and respect from us all Daniel - a mid Atlantic climb to the end of the spinnaker pole - not many can claim fame to that - well done you!

The spinnaker repair team led by Pam had the sail threaded throughout the boat and set to work on the tear - only to find a further eleven minor tears upon closer inspection! Everyone deserves a mention for their work on the spinny - they were working below decks in extreme heat with the boat rocking violently and stuck at it until the task was completed. So hats off to Sam (lamb), Christine, Kate and Roger. At one point, I was trying to serve up the pasta in the galley with the spinny passing between my legs and with Kate suggesting "watch out Trevor, here comes the clew" - that's a hard bit that could do some damage if it bashed you in that position!

After ten days at sea the development of a slight eccentricity can be detected among our ranks Phil can't seem to live without his Molly Mop hat since the fancy dress party, Steve the mate during his "off duty" moments has taken on the persona of the cuddly toy "elephant in the corner", we all seem to rejoice every third day when it is our turn for a shower - "normal people" would probably complain incessantly about the times in between. Steph was trying on Di's coconut shell bra from the fancy dress party today and looked forlorn that he couldn't make it fit. We tried to tell him that it was a Saturday night outfit really but he was un-consolable. Luis our Spanish crewmate is revelling in his new found command of parts of the English language and delights in his regular announcement that he is going for a feg, fek, or fag at the back of the boat - probably ten times a day! There are probably more examples but I should leave some stories for the other bloggers. For me, I am about to join my fellow musketeers in the galley where we will start to cook the evening meal. If it is anything like last time, the rock music will; be wound up, we will be playing our air guitars or saucepans and taking off the sound of Deep Purple with our vocal "dow- doww, dow-dow d'doww" - which at this stage is quite normal and acceptable behaviour on this happy little ship. Well secretly, I think the rest of them have lost it........ ;-)

Trevor B

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