LN907, 7/11-27/11 2016
David Wilkins, Forward Starboard Watch
Canaries Passage

We are cruising through a gentle sea, far far gentler than it has been over the last few days.   When we sailed out the waves were high and a thump forward followed by a slosh aft indicated that The Lord Nelson had hit a wave and ploughed her way through it. But now only the occasional crunch forward tells of a larger wave. But the sea being the sea an unexpected wave can have the helmsman grabbing the wheel for support and all aboard spending a crucial two seconds getting their balance and breath back.

The voyage to the Canaries to seek the sun as I like to call it, began on Tuesday morning when we slipped anchor from Southampton. We had joined the ship the day before and after the usual briefings were busy until evening taking in stores. This meant forming a human chain and passing down crucial items, cheese, meat and potatoes to be made into chips. And less important items like beer and chocolate for the bar, all desperately wanted, but not really needed as much as water, veg, meat and of course tea!

There had been a concern that we’d be setting out on Wednesday due to strong winds, but fortunately a break in the weather meant we could sail out on Tuesday November 8. We then proceeded from Southampton to Swanidge harbour to anchor for the night. Again we were hitting gale force nine winds, and not wishing anyone to be prostrate, with sea sickness, we waited for the weather to calm enough to head out to sea again. This happened on Wednesday and we were able to raise anchor and sail out into the English Chanel before lunch. Bumpy seas made for a lively few hours. Particularly for newer members of the crew, those more accustomed to dingy sailing were astonished that there were toilets that flush but you don’t have that kind of luxury on a boat lowered into the sea from a trolly. Sadly a few crew members felt the effects of the sea on the second day, but this is now more or less gone.

In typical November style the weather has been a little temperamental for the last four days. Yesterday was cold, and somewhat rainy. With oil skins and wellington boots called upon for the watch on deck. But even then from time to time, the sun showed itself. Today has been a much warmer day by comparison, though coats are still in evidence on deck.

Although the Captain thought we’d have to motor for the first week, the weather has proven more in a sailing mood. At four, yesterday afternoon all sails were set, and throughout the night the creaking of ropes throughout the ship bore evidence to the fact that we were well and truly sailing far away across the sea. But by six this morning the wind had died down, and although it was far calmer than it had been so far, it meant the sails could no longer take us far. Anyone awake at that time would have seen the fore starboard watch working up their appetite for breakfast, hauling them in.   With the engines back on the ship developed a not unpleasant rolling motion, whereas before she had been a much steadier sailor.

We rounded Ushant northern France this morning and entered the Bay of Biscay which so far has not lived up to it’s reputation of bad weather. In deed at the time of writing the motion is most pleasant. Our next landfall will be Finistere, off the coast of Spain. From there we head for the Atlantic, to seek that most illusive of all things in November, the sun.