1st July

Our apologies to the English speaking people on board and followers of this blog, but this blog will be written in French this time, in order to represent the 5 French Canadians on board on this wonderful trip from London to Quebec. Therefore, here I go for the blog of the first of July, day of the 150et anniversary of the confederation of Canada.

Après avoir navigue à moteurs durant les derniers jours depuis notre départ de l’Islande, nous avons enfin pu hisser les voiles ce matin et naviguer grâce à la force du vent, puisque ceux-ci sont devenus plus favorables (meilleure direction et force). Les membres permanents de l’équipage nous demande si des volontaires veulent tenter leur chance à dicter ce qui doit être fait par étapes pour déployer les 4 voiles carrées qui sont sur chacun des mats avant (fore) et principal (main), certains s’y aventurent, mais l’apport des membres permanents de l’équipage reste nécessaire : il n’est pas évident de retenir toutes les étapes et où se situent chacun des cordages associés, mais on apprend toujours un peu plus à chaque jour. Ayant navigué vers le Sud-Ouest les derniers jours, nous naviguons maintenant à environ 5 à 6 nœuds en direction franc sud, à quelques 90 miles nautiques de la côte Est du Groenland. Nous ne pouvons entrer dans l’aire protégée de la zone polaire (polar zone), pour cette raison, nous restons à cette bonne distance des côtes du Groenland.

Lors de la réunion matinale de 8h45 de ce matin qui en fut une qui réunit tout l’équipage, incluant l’équipage permanent, les volontaires (14 personnes) et le « voyage crew » qui rassemble nous l’équipage temporaire sur ce navire (34 personnes), le capitaine Richard Cruse nous a informé de la situation des derniers jours et de ce qui s’en vient cote navigation et température. Il n’est pas certain que nous passions à travers le détroit de Belle-Isle au nord de terre-Neuve, cela reste à voir compte tenu des dangers d’iceberg et d’autres types de glaces à la dérive.

Cote température, ça se réchauffe, mais très lentement… C’est très nuageux, gris et froid à l’extérieur, surtout avec le facteur vent, avec une température d’environ 8 degrés Celsius en ce moment durant l’après-midi. Comme cité dans les blogues précédents, nous avons encore une fois pu observer des baleines (fin whales, excusez-moi je ne connais pas leur nom vernaculaire français). C’est assez impressionnant de les observer lorsqu’elles passent près du bateau, ces baleines qui peuvent faire près de 25 mètres de long. Cet après-midi quelques percées de soleil se font voir, on se réjouit puisque nous sommes sur le pont supérieur en pleine période de vigile.

Cote sante, l’ensemble de l’équipage semble bien se porter en général. Le jeu de meurtre et mystères qui se déroule sur le bateau bat son plein. Déjà 10 personnes ont été « tuées » en ce moment : plusieurs personnes prennent grand plaisir au jeu et cela met de l’action sur le bateau!

L’équipage se connait de plus en plus et une belle ambiance règne à bord du bateau. Bonne poursuite de cette aventure a toutes et a tous!

Emilie pour l’equipe de Forward Port Watch : Sherwood (watchleader), Sarah, Sally, Mike, Jon, Liz

2nd July

For the last three days the seascape has been the same. Grey clouds with poor visibility at times with a little fog. This may sound miserable but it isn’t. There has been no rain!

This afternoon we had sunshine, the sea turned from grey to blue looking lovely with the white of the breaking wave tops. It has been a constant reminder of the Atlantic convoys which crept slowly from America to Europe with their important cargoes of aid during the Second World War.

It was here in the Denmark Strait which we have been crossing that HMS Hood in battle with the German battleship Bismark was sunk. On both Friday and Saturday evening a DVD given to Bryan by the daughter of the navigating officer on HMS Hood was shown. It showed the successful efforts to find the wreck and by chance the wreck of the Bismark.  It records the raising of the ship’s bell and its restoration and of the rededication ceremony before being placed in the Royal Navy museum. It is a very moving account of the ceremony at which one of the three survivors of the 1,418 persons on board attended.

This morning Captain Richard led the usual Sunday service held on the stern platform. Fortunately we have a chorister in Hywel who ably leads the singing. Richard spoke on the 5th ‘I am’ statement. I am the Resurrection.

Sunday lunch was roast beef with roast potatoes and roast parsnips etc. The beef was as good as you would find anywhere.


3rd July

Wonderful watch last evening – winds gusting up to gale force 8, 3 meter swells and Nelly whizzing along at over 7 knots.  The whole watch was on the bridge feeling elated.  Later as the fog closed in, we had the eerie sight of the moon peeping out from the clouds.  It was the first time in a very long we had had darkness at night so seeing the golden hue of the moon through the clouds was a novelty.  It was a beautiful end to a quiet Sunday.

Indeed, so quiet was Sunday there wasn’t a murder on board all day!  (We are currently playing a complicated murder game among the crew, as detailed in the 30th June blog!).

More interesting is watching the development of our younger crew members.  Aft Port is blessed with 3 young men of 17, 18 and 19 years who have learned to engaged with their older crew members, assist  individuals with disabilities in a kind and genuine manner and develop their people skills.  Undoubtedly this trip will benefit them and make them very fine young men.

Best wishes to all our loved ones – Aft Port – Roly, Myles, Euan, Barbara, Beryl, Jane, Doris, Tadhg and Robin

4th July

Another day passes on our travels towards Canada and at least 3 more murders have been committed (I am the victim of one of them and so, in theory, I am a ghost writer!). I can assure people that the act was painless and was committed in the laundry room with a game of monopoly by Robin.  Our night watches are becoming darker but thankfully less cold and with favourable winds last night we were able to sail until dawn.

Today, being 4th July, we are celebrating not only Independence Day with our American crewmates, but also our Captain’s birthday! Simon’s birthday cake creation of chocolate, rice krispies and marshmallows was enjoyed by all at smoko and we were granted a holiday from Happy Hour. Tadhg entertained us with a great talk about his work with hot air balloons in Ireland and then Simon fed us with Chinese duck and noodles.  Our afternoon watch started with fog and rain, which turned to hail before clearing but was made more interesting by unidentifiable objects on the radar which could have been icebergs. Lookouts were extra observant but were only able to spot a few fulmars before the unknown objects disappeared.  It has been excellent practice for when we are closer to any icebergs but we would all rather see them in the clear daylight than a foggy night.

Spirits remain high and the younger members of our watch are forever finding ways to entertain us all with songs, quizzes and games.  They are also taking turns at being watchleader for a day and may well be given further tasks as part of their Leadership at Sea programme. Meanwhile, we are starting to prepare for our arrival in Quebec by checking over the bunting and generally smartening up the ship.

Best wishes to all, especially those who will shortly being travelling out to Quebec to meet the ship.

Forward Starboard, Steph, Colin, Keith, Portia, Anne, Anna, Eddie, Tracy and Kevin

6th July

The first watch (8-12) last night was ours. The first hour was spent handing square sails and tidying up – it is hard to believe how many – 60 sheets, tacks, clews, buntlines and braces just for the topsails and the courses alone. All have been cast off their pins during handing sail and put back on the pins leaving masses of lines all over the deck – a knitter’s nightmare- and then the ends (or tails) neatly coiled and put on their pins.

The rest of the watch was spent sharing the look outs and helming with occasional visits to the upper mess for a hot drink and a warm up. It was an extremely cold night with the ship dancing about in the near gale force winds. The one excitement was the sighting of a ship on the horizon on the starboard beam. It was the first in very many days – we were not alone after all!

This morning’s 9 o’clock meeting was held in the lower mess with all crew present (worry ye not, there was someone left on the wheel!). The forecast is gale force 9 (45 knots) from the SW – just where we want to go.  Capt Richard talked to us about ice. We will be sailing through areas where icebergs and growlers (the ice just below the surface which is difficult to see). He showed us pictures of what we might expect to see emphasizing the need for extreme concentration on the part of lookouts.

During the day the bosun’s mates were busy creating a shelter on the foretop, for the use for two crew (a bosun’s mate and a voyage crew member) as lookouts once we near the ice.

Our night watch was the middle watch (midnight to 4am). We arrived on deck to find a full moon which lasted the whole watch, going down just as the sun rose just before 4am. The sea was rough with waves breaking white in the moonlight. We could see stars but due to the bright moonlight only dimly. It was our best night watch so far.

Bryan, Andrew, Hywel, James, Henry, Tom, Rejeanne, Kathleen & Jocelyn

7th July

Yesterday, Euan and Myles spent the day as cooks assistant. They had to delegate tasks to the messmen, organize stores and do tasks for the cook. Their work was well rewarded as last night, the 8 till 12 watch brought the most spectacular sunset we have seen so far.

The sky was filled with beautiful colors, burning oranges and deep purples. This was then followed by the first stars of the trip. We saw several we thought were planets and spent time discuss which ones they were, we decided they were Mars and Jupiter. Spirits were high and despite the cold, the watch was enjoyed by everyone.

This morning we had no watch, however Euan made a talk on free running (an up and coming urban sport) and how he uses it to learn to overcome obstacles, both physical and mental, which he encounters in his life.

Our watch today was the 12:30 till 16:00 and the sun came out once again. The sea and air temperatures are beginning to rise and the winds have been perfect. Currently we are sailing west and we are on course for St Anthony, which we are all looking forward to as it will be the first land in a long time.  It will also give us some respite and a proper sleep without being thrown around by the sea.

At 16:00 Sherwood gave us a talk on how to lookout properly. We learned to use our peripheral vision to spot irregularities in the sea so we’re all kitted out for spotting potential dangers. He followed this with a talk on the history of the JST where we heard the inspirational origin of the organisation we’re sailing with.

Tonight we have the 00:00 to 04:00 watch so we’ll be able to employ our new lookout skills. It’s going to be tiring but with land not far off the horizon we’re feeling prepared and looking forward to the next few days.

8th July

The previous day saw another two voyage crew volunteer as Cook’s Asses in somewhat adverse conditions. Average four meter swell, it turns out, is not ideal for grating cheese. A determined mess crew persevered, however, and the entire crew was rewarded with burrito bowls and apple crumble for dinner. Another rocky night provided difficult sleeping conditions, and a sleepy ship awoke at 0730.

As the morning dawned, fog closed in around the ship, bringing visibility down to 50 meters. The 0000-0400 watch saw a rapid drop in both air and sea temperature. This brings an exciting milestone nonetheless, as it indicates that we’ve met the ‘Labrador Current’. Although not ideal for iceberg lookouts, the fog seems to have brought calmer winds and swell – a pleasant break from the dramatic rolling of the last few days.

Breakfast was accompanied with an update from the Captain on our progress towards St Anthony. Happy hour – and a change of bed sheets – followed. A few of the crew braved the cold at lunchtime to set the outer jib before the oncoming watch arrived. The afternoon watch did spot an underwater bergy bit, which was described to the Deck Officer as a ‘bright blue ball thing’. Splashes of rain interrupted the day which turned into a biblical deluge of apocalyptic hell rain (just as Forward Starboard came off watch [get in]), but apart from that most people enjoyed a slightly more restful day. Not long until land!

Forward Starboard

9th July

Today was a nice day for everyone I think. We woke up with the bing bong, and one of the voyage crew announced that we just arrived in the Canadian waters. What good news!

It was a sunny morning. Right after breakfast, while we were still motoring at an approximate speed of 5 knots, Captain Richard announced that there was an iceberg at about one and a half miles away. Everyone gathered on starboard beam of the ship to take some pictures. It looked quite big, but we were glad not to be that close…

Then the fog started to appear once again, and the look outs of the morning watch (Brian’s watch) and also the bosun’s mates that were rotating on the bowsprit were very useful. By the way, these bosun’s mates did a really good job for the icebergs, growlers and berg’s bites watch, getting very wet and cold in the past days.

We had an early dinner and got prepared for the afternoon watch. We were very lucky as a team, because we have been once again the watch on the bridge during the arrival in St-Anthony. The French Canadian on our team, Emilie, was on the helm and under the captain’s command, she steered the ship into the harbour, following a fishing vessel, and steering amongst some icebergs, taking the sailship back to home (Canada)!

It was such an experience for her and she is so grateful for that. Sarah was scribe on the bridge (noting the hours of the different events until everything was attached), and Sherwood, our watchleader, helped with the lookout on the bridge. The other members of the team helped on the lower deck.

Everyone was so glad to be on land again, but it took quite a few hours before having the permission to go ashore, after the Canadian customs were done. So at approximately 17:00, we have been able to go ashore. The crew split into little groups, but most of them went to the only bar in the small town of St-Anthony, passing a great night, and some of them went to the lighthouse restaurant where the food was really tasty.

Finally, the night harbour’s watches went well and we will have our day off tomorrow to visit what there is to see in St Anthony. Everyone’s glad to spend some time on land. We are going to leave on Tuesday morning a 07:00 AM, and another week and we will be in Quebec, our final destination. Good last leg to everyone!

11th July

“How do you explain this reality to others?” asked Roly.  “Impossible” we replied.  Glorious clear blue skies, indigo coloured sea; garnets, dolphins and whales all putting in appearances along with the icebergs. Life is good.

We were on midnight to 4am watch (middle watch) on the 9 July.  At 2.45 am we were identifying various stars, watching airplanes rush hither and tither when an eerie fog rolled in.  At 2.50 am we couldn’t see the bow of the ship.

We knew we had arrived in iceberg territory! All hands were on look out and the engines slowed. This cautious approach followed by subsequent watches until the morning when the fog lifted and a wonderful iceberg appeared in the distance.  We all stopped to take photos.  However, the fog soon descended again and we returned to our cautious approach to Newfoundland.   Following a roast dinner, we glided into St. Anthony at 1.00 p.m. for a short visit.

We were champing at the bit to get off the ship in St. Anthony but formalities (including a ship inspection had to be completed).  Eventually we were released and went in search of wifi and the Canadian icon of “Tim Hortons” coffee shops.  We found both and had the usual chance to catch up with family, news, etc.

Roly organized a restaurant for dinner for the watch – the Lighthouse – it was fantastic. Super seafood, friendly staff in a delightful setting.  The first restaurant we have ever been in where the icebergs wafted by and you could whale watch at the dinner table.  It was so good that almost the entire crew went there last night too.

The day in St Anthony was a day to relax with most people taking the opportunity to go for a hike or simply enjoy meeting the very friendly locals.  Delightful people!  Needless to say Nelly was the talk of the town and when we sailed off the wharf this morning many of the locals had gone up to the point to wave us off, Such nice people.

Shortly after our departure, Captain Richard brought us close to a very large iceberg.  It was an amazing sight – so many different surfaces – smooth, wrinkled and lined in places.  It was reportedly one of the biggest icebergs in Newfoundland this year.  Then it was off to Quebec however not before the dolphins and whales appeared to bid us adieu.  One whale was lucky enough to appear to watch us at the bridge just in time to see our dear watch leader Robin being murdered – the murder game continues.  It’s a slow burner – those alive are very cautious of individuals carrying strange objects such as a teddy bear!

Love and best wishes to all – Aft Port: Jane, Doris, Beryl, Barbara, Myles, Euan, Tadhg, Roly and Robin

12th July

Well here we are, on the closing stages of our voyage in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. After passing a little close to a fishing boat which didn’t seem to understand the traffic separation scheme in the Belle Isle Strait last night, we are once again in comparatively open water with land just visible on the northern side.

It was good though to see other shipping and lights on land reminding us that the sea is not entirely empty. We believe though that we are now clear of icebergs, “bergy bits” and “growlers”. However the wind is still not cooperating and we find ourselves motor-sailing into a fresh south westerly towards the St. Lawrence River.

A pod of orcas was sighted in the small hours of the morning by the on-watch team. The whole ship’s company were informed after breakfast of an “exercise” involving a warning of a simulated explosive device. The voyage crew went to muster stations, and various parts of the ship were evacuated before it was announced that there had indeed been an explosion (still simulated of course) and the “abandon ship” order went out. Finally order was restored and the permanent crew de-briefed on the exercise. The only real damage was the absence of smoko this morning, a delayed lunch and a delay relieving the morning watch.

The weather this afternoon is bright but still cool, and Nate’s muffins, which had been made for morning smoko, have been enjoyed by all; and well worth the wait.

Forward Starboard Watch: Ed, Acting (unpaid) Watch Leader, Stephanie, Anne, Portia, Tracie, Anna, Kevin, Keith & Colin.

13th July

Thankfully, the worst of the storm has blown through, and we have been sailing in sunshine and a fresh breeze.  It has been wonderful to feel the sun on our faces and to feel that we are closing in on our destination.

It hasn’t been quite as eventful as yesterday, no explosions for us today, but the Bosun’s mates and some of the voyage crew have been hard at work with metal briting (removing rusty stains with something really caustic), and painting the bunker boxes. A good job, well done!

We’re still in the Gulf of St Lawrence, and there is nothing much to see at the moment – a couple of bouys, a few sea gulls, and lots of sea.  However, there is land in the far distance, on the northern shore – Quebec Province, which is tempting us; only six days to go until arrival at Quebec.

During the watch, we braced the yards and are continuing to motor in south westerly direction, whilst our permanent watch leader kept himself busy, by ‘murdering’ two of the crew.  The remaining 17 had better look out for themselves, as he seems to be rather good at it?!  Emilie stepped up and led the watch today, and did a great job.  It was fun and relaxed, although she kept us on our toes.

We’re keeping everything crossed that all remains calm, as we head towards evening; a nice meal and our midnight to four am watch.

Liz, Sarah, Emilie, Sally, Jon, Mike and Sherwood

14th July

The day opens sunny calm and cool with a promise of 17 degrees later. Our watch is the afternoon watch, 12.30 – 4pm but it is not going to happen as we are GOING ASHORE. On the North side of the Gulf of St Lawrence at the start of the St Lawrence river is a collection of islands now part of a national park. Richard intends sailing through these and anchoring at one of them so that we can go ashore for a picnic lunch.

At noon we dropped anchor in a lovely bay of the uninhabited Ile Niapiskau.  Some of us boarded the “rib” for the run ashore.  ‘Wait’ came the cry from Richard ‘we don’t yet have permission, I’ve been on the phone and they say ‘give us ten minutes’’.   Twenty minutes later bosun Dave who was acting as bowman on the “rib” asked to be handed some metal bright and a brush so that he could clean some rust marks off the side of the ship while we were waiting. From Richard we learnt that our request to land was being referred higher and higher! Eventually (it was an hour of waiting) permission was granted. It was not a wasted hour as the stern of the ship was now clean of rust stains.  Off we now went the 300 yards or so to the beach.

The beach was formed mostly of a grey sedementary rock which split easily into squares and rectangles , some being ground down to a fairly fine sand. The island itself was perhaps no more than 30 metres high and covered with short to medium height firs of some sort. Most of us ate our lunch without further ado. Some then just sat to enjoy the heat of the sun whilst others walked along the beach or into the island.  It was all too soon a return to the ship. It had been a most welcome and enjoyable break for us all.

All back on board and anchor aweigh at 4.30pm, we continue steaming south west in calm water with clear skies.

Bryan et al of the Aft Stbd watch

15th July

Helo i bawb, as we say in Welsh.  We have just entered the St. Lawrence River from the Gulf, we’re all sleeping very well since we are not rocking so much. It’s a beautiful sunny day and the temperature is now at 18 degrees.

Yesterday we visited Archipel de Mingan National Park following a short delay while we waited for the Canadian authorities to allow us to land.  We waited in the dotty boat for an hour but we had terrific fun watching BoBo scrubbing the stern of the ship from the dotty boat. We also had a singing session in the dotty boat which was matched by the voyage crew on the deck of the ship who sang sea shanties.

When we eventually got to a magical island, where we ate our packed lunches – we used all our bread and poor Cookie had to get up at 4.30 a.m this morning to bake bread for us. Following our lunch a few stalwarts went into the icy cold water for a swim. Aft Port was well represented by Euan, Robin and Jane.  Of course, Jane stayed in the water long after everyone else got out shivering. Some people will never learn!

The island was covered in spruce trees and very tranquil.  Most people took some time to explore the island. There were a couple of other people on the island but it was largely overrun by Nellie’s crew – when the permanent crew took a few minutes for enjoy the peacefulness on the isle.

Today we are progressing (with Beryl on the helm) up the St. Lawrence heading rapidly towards Quebec where we anticipate to arrive on the, Monday 17th July in the afternoon on berth 19. We are looking forward to seeing loved ones who have been very patient and supportive in our absence. We thank all of them irrespective of whether they will be in Quebec to meet us or not.

As this Is Aft Port’s last blog greeting to all and thank you for following us.

Diolch am ddilyn, dia libh, au revoir and best wishes  (in Welsh, Irish, French and English)

Aft Port – Beryk, Robin, Roly, Doris, Barbara, Jane, Tadhg, Myles and Euan