Greetings from Lord Nelson, currently at anchor off Watchet on the Somerset coast.
When we left Southampton for the final time on Sunday, we headed down the Solent on the tide but into a very blustery SW’ly wind. This was forecast to decrease substantially later in the day, so we anchored for a couple of hours off Yarmouth to wait for the latest time we could get out of the Needles Channel whilst the tide remained fair. We weighed at 1600, and squeezed out of the channel at 1700 just before the tide turned foul. It was a bit lumpy off the Needles, and the wind was still blowing around F4-5, which is the point at which it becomes troublesome to motor straight into it, so we bore away to the south and set some fore and afters until it dropped further. By 2000 this was the case, and we tacked round and headed west.
Now, I had anticipated having to stop en route to wait for another weather window to continue, but by Monday evening it was evident that we would be able to crack on and get round Land’s End, after a very quick run down-Channel. This we did, and by midnight we were heading NE into the Bristol Channel, still in light winds. By breakfast time on Tuesday we were off Ilfracombe in N Devon, and I considered anchoring there, but the forecast was for stronger winds on Wednesday, so we carried on further E and anchored here instead, yesterday lunchtime.
Without the anticipated need to stop en route, therefore, we had time to play with before our planned arrival in Bristol on Thursday morning, which due to a combination of factors involving tides (there is a very narrow window twice a day during which we can get under the M5 bridge), daylight hours and tug bookings (we need a tug to control us as we go upriver on the flood tide), could not be brought forward. We have used this time constructively to start preparing for de-storing the ship on arrival, sending down sails, and other of the many jobs we need to do to ensure the ship is safe and secure for her stay in Bristol.
Once we are alongside, the pace of laying-up work will necessarily increase as the remaining sails are sent down, dried and stowed, stores are gradually transferred by van to Tenacious in Portland or to the office in Woolston, and engineering systems are shut down, cleaned, drained and generally winterised, in order to preserve the ship as best we can in the time available.
Helping us will be a small but select band of volunteers, some of whom are on board for the delivery, whilst others will join us once we’re in Bristol; a deck team on the sails and securing the exterior of the ship, and a small engineering team assisted Chief Engineer Steve with his tasks.
We have been overwhelmed with messages of support and offers of assistance, and I thank you all wholeheartedly for those. As you can imagine, our task is a sad one, but everyone on board is committed to doing the best for the ship to preserve her in the best possible material and mechanical state for the winter, and they are all approaching the task with the utmost professionalism. I know there are a large number of Nellie’s and JST supporters who would like to come and say goodbye to the ship, and if we had the time and capacity to do so, I would love to be able to welcome each and every one of you. However, our task is huge, and manpower, time and resources limited, and unfortunately as we gradually shut her down, we simply will not be able to entertain casual visitors on board during this time; indeed, I think many visitors would be disappointed and heartbroken by what they would see if they were to visit, as stores and equipment are removed for safe-keeping or use elsewhere.
So, I would like to finish by saying a HUGE thank you once again to all our supporters, from the ship which has primarily been my home for the last fourteen years, and which has been my responsibility as Master for eight of those. I am naturally quite heartbroken to be leaving her, and the JST, and if I have one final message to you all, it is this: whatever you may think of what has happened over the last few months, please remember that it is the people – you – that make the JST, and it was you, Lord Nelson sailors, who built Tenacious. With the spirit and fortitude that has brought us this far, I urge you to continue to support the JST so that it will continue to change people’s lives, and Tenacious will continue to sail the oceans for many years to come.
STS Lord Nelson