Most mornings, I awake into a routine of random resolutions. I embark on a mission to do what’s interesting and different, to find satisfaction for my mind.
My latest resolution was actually that which brought me to an awakening of unforeseen and quite extraordinary satisfaction.
After deciding to accept an offer of a voyage aboard the Lord Nelson, never would I predict that I in fact would come close to feeling the highs to rival his beaming statue in Trafalgar of Lord Nelson himself.
As I climbed the foremast of the ships towering height, I felt every bit as nervous as I imagined the man himself would have felt during the main battle so closely associated with his name. I climbed further and further, higher and higher until I reached my goal, my aim, my satisfaction… The very top of the tallest ship I had ever seen. I felt brave, heroic and above all satisfaction that I had achieved something that until that moment had seemed so unlikely and unimaginable.
By Ryan Tanner aboard The Lord Nelson on her voyage from Gran Canaria to Southampton
It’s pleasant weather here but light winds against us, so we had to motor sail 310’ at 8 knots towards the Azores. Alan was on mess duty and the ships motion made it very difficult. We were over to 40’ one time and at that angle even the best stowed items of kitchen equipment come loose and fly everywhere!
Captain Richard briefed us that we will definitely be stopping in the Azores so all were happy. The rest of us attended a good talk by Leslie (Chief Mate) on sail setting followed by dinner of Beef and Guinness pie with veg and mash followed by apricots with chocolate sauce and ice cream.
All hands were called at 1900 to brace the yards. We were on watch again at 2000 hours. From 2100 to midnight Aft Starboard watch handed the flying jib and the spanker. Then we set the fore and main topsail and the main t’gallant. The main t’gallant is on a roller (like a roller blind) and it jammed. Beth (Bosuns Mate) went up to un-jam it, climbing the shrouds like a cat.
After much heaving (and swearing) she called for Stu the Bosun. Stu donned his harness and climbed up to join her. We sweated on the furling lines while far above us in the dark they battered the sail into submission. At 0000hrs our watch was due to end but instead we carried on with Aft Port (our relief watch) to set the fore and main courses after furling the main staysail. We fell into our bunks exhausted at 0040hrs, up again for breakfast at 0800.
All of us love it here with the ocean four kilometers deep beneath us but at times it’s a real challenge too.
Peter (WL) Abby, Alan, Eddy, Kieran, Nicci, Robin, Roly.
4th March cont.
As the token Aussie on board Lord Nelson I felt as though I needed to greet you in this way. Aft starboard watch was on the 0000 – 0400 watch, and I must say one positive of having my slumber disturbed at midnight was being able to see my birthday roll in. Rory, the officer on watch sang a short Shetland rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ to kickstart the day.
The wind was against us on this cloudy evening and as such we were motoring along under engine. Every half hour we switched posts and took turns manning the helm and lookouts. It was on this watch that we discovered the marked resemblance of one particular watch member – Kieran ‘Yoohoo’ Fox to Oaken (the Frozen character). At 0400 we handed over to the oncoming watch crew and went below decks for some much needed sleep.
The daily wakeup call echoed through the cabins at 0730 and everyone was up and ready for breakfast at 0800. This was followed by a full crew meeting on deck where Captain Richard explained the course we would take to reach the Azores. I was then overwhelmed by an enthusiastic round like performance of ‘Happy Birthday’ from the entire crew. Devastatingly, we didn’t celebrate happy hour on this day, and despite offering to clean the heads, our magnificent medical purser Suzie denied me the opportunity. We then needed all hands on deck to brace the yards to starboard and set the square sails.
At 1600, aft starboard watch was back on duty and we met on the bridge. I and a few others were excused for the beginning of watch as Beth the BM was hosting a knot tying tutorial. We ‘mastered’ the figure eight knot, reef knot, round turn two half hitch, clove hitch, bowline and for the advanced few the one-handed bowline. When our watch duties were over we went below deck for a dinner of fish pie followed by apricot crumble. The entire crew once again gathered and Simon our chief chef surprised me with a chocolate cake that was to die for, and the Captain gave me a card that the entire crew had signed and written their well wishes on. After a birthday beer in Nellie’s bar it was time to hit the hay. Sailing a tall ship on the Atlantic… What a way to celebrate 20.
Abby ‘skippy’ Dixon – Aft starboard watch
There were Atlantic spotted dolphins seen this morning, Portuguese Men of War and jellyfish. There’s a good chance we will see whales and turtles as that is their food.
We’ve traveled 767 nautical miles. We’ve set all the sails and turned on the engine. After a leisurely day with Sunday Service, Roast Lamb lunch and Captain Richard serving in the galley for Cooks Asst. Emma’s afternoon off, the crew is retiring between the sheets. Those on the starboard side now have a comfortable night’s sleep.
Hello to Everyone at Home!
Julia Birkinshaw – FWd Port Watch
Eight days ago on the afternoon of Monday 27th February 2017, thirty-two complete strangers from as many different places met for the first time. Each with their own reason for being here and problems to face.
Eight days later we are no longer 32 individuals, we are four watches clearly moulding into a passing resemblance of a competent crew.
My watch ‘Forward Starboard’ (is clearly right up front) consists of Phil (Watch Leader) from Barrow-in-Furness, Lorn (South Yorkshire), Margaret (Devon), Oli (Ireland), Heather (Shetland), Martin (North Yorkshire), Peter (Edinburgh) and myself Chris (Cleveland).
Some had previous experience, some had none. We’ve been shown the difference between a Clew and a Buntline, a Sheet and a Halyard, and how to work in unison to achieve a task. How to keep watch and how to steer the ship.
Now we have all found our sea legs it is clear each watch is bonding well.
Tomorrow we will reach the Azores and will dock on the Island of Facail. Then there will be new sights to see and the adventure continues.
After 9 days sailing we went ashore for 2 days, first to Faical and then Sao Jorge.
The weather was misty and wet at times but we enjoyed the botanical beauty, strip growing of crops; cows, goats, chickens and ponies all seen. There was also a wide variety of plants including hibiscus, lillies and bananas.
We had good laughs at a local restaurant where we dined on swordfish and wreckfish.
A drive around the island included stops at another café and we just about saw the volcano through the mist.
The drive was mostly on cinder track and like a switchback in places with steep drops. We were kept safe by driver Mike and entertained by him, Joe and AJ.
Aft Starboard Watch
Leaving Sao Jorge was as beautiful as arriving and the brief time there. On our starboard side was the sheer cliff and eroded caldrons of Sao Jorge and to our port the towering majesty of the snow clad volcano of Pico.
A whale spout was spotted and for the eight on deck there was a choice – run for cameras below deck or put out the call and live in the moment. We remained and were treated to the graceful beauty of this humpback whale pass by within feet of the side of the ship. We’ve revisited this moment many times since and agree that our photo was with that shared experience.
The lighthouse of Sao Jorge remained visible til shortly before midnight but even this beacon atop a cliff becomes a memory. A beautiful moonlit night gave an opportunity to picture the Lord Nelson in full sail.
This trip has been a series of these moments that steal your breath away but at least with a photo we all now share a little of the Nellie magic.
Sunday dawned as another grand day with Forward Starboard watch taking the 8am to 12.30pm Forenoon watch and the 8pm to midnight First watch.
The morning brief highlighted that with the light winds we had only travelled 120 miles north of the Azores and would continue to track up the west side of the large high pressure at a leisurely pace but still sailing in lovely weather. Sunday is generally a rest day for most other than the normal Watch keeping duties and we had a full Sunday roast at lunchtime. For most of the crew the afternoon was spent lazing in the sun on deck either reading, listening to music or just taking in the majesty of the open ocean. This was to be followed by a sumptuous pasta meal in the evening prepared by none other than the Captain and 1st Mate!
Our night watch began with a beautiful full moon that shone brightly to starboard on the gentle swell as we sailed under full sail at 7 knots to begin with but dropping to a leisurely 5 knots. The sky was clear and stars twinkled overhead, with the Bids star shining brightly over us.
As if it couldn’t get any better, the last 20 minutes of the Watch were highlighted by a pod of a dozen or so pilot whales which kept us company on the port quarter just feet from the ship which was an amazing experience for us all.
This trip has been a series of these moments that steal your breath away but at least with a photo we all now share a little of the Nellie magic.
Beginning the day with an 8am-12:30 watch, our main objective was speed! In order to make good distance we were issued a challenge to maintain a speed of over 5.2 knots, and so began the sport of competitive helming. Each member of the watch had their chance to beat the maximum speed of their predecessor, but in the end Rachel emerged victorious with a maximum speed of 8.1 knots (although she does admit she wasn’t technically on course at the time).
In the afternoon we were given a talk on advanced knots by members of the permanent crew, where we were taught the technique of some of the more complex knots such as the rolling hitch and the double sheet bend. While some people were able to apply their new-found knowledge with relative ease, others (myself included) ended up tying themselves in knots.
Fortunately a tannoy announcement sent us stampeding to the upper deck before we became permanently entangled, as a pod of dolphins had been spotted off the starboard bow. The rush proved unnecessary, however, as the dolphins play close to the bow for about an hour. A spectacular end to a great day!
Starboard Forward Watch
The Great Egg Drop Day.
Our mission is to throw a raw egg from the Main Mast top to the deck aft so that it lands unbroken. Any padding used can only be sourced from the Wheelie bins at the back of the ship.
A verbal presentation is also required before the throw with eggstra points added for eggscrutiating puns.
All four watches entered as did the Bosuns Mates. After listening to eggstremely, eggsuberent eggsagerations of their individual projeggts the ‘tossers’ climbed the mast and the projeggtiles were tossed. Two were deflected by the rigging, two landed on deck and broke. Only one landed and was recovered intact – ours, the starboard forward watch.
To celebrate victory the Captain then inspected our egg and with the words “It gives me no great pleasure doing this” but with a gleam in his eye; smashed the egg over our watch leaders head. The egg was proven to be raw and not hard boiled. Phil retired for a shower.
Aft starboard was on the 0000-0400 watch. We were steering by the wind (70 degrees off port bow) and it was a crucial watch to determine whether we would reach Southampton purely under sail. Wind speeds reached 32 knots and we cracked the top sailing speed of the voyage with a speed of 10.7 knots. But at the conclusion of our watch, Nellie was still half a latitude degree short of our goal of 47 degrees North.
As part of the youth Leadership at Sea Scheme, all of the participants must spend a day blindfolded to simulate and experience the reality of being blind. At 0800 it was my turn to take on the challenge and wear the blacked out goggles for the day. The goggles only provide the sensation of light and dark. The experience as a whole felt isolating; you don’t know who is around unless they want to speak to you, and I must say it can get embarrassing if people don’t announce their departure from the room during or after a conversation. Lunch was definitely amusing for those around me. Cookie decided to serve spaghetti which can be tricky at the best of times, let alone on board a rolling tall ship while blindfolded. Sail setting and rope handling became even more of a challenge. The wind made it difficult to hear instructions, and to be honest I am not sure what sails were set or handed, I was just led to specific ropes and told to sweat, tail or heave it. Without my sight, I struggled to judge the swell to know when Nellie was going to roll, and my watch did have a good laugh when I sweat my head straight into the shroud. Helming was my next endeavour and using the audio compass and my watch mates to guide me, I attempted to steer Nellie on a course of 060. It was quite difficult and took a while for me to adjust, as I was only able to use quantitative stimuli.
I appreciate and am thankful that I had the opportunity to participate in this activity. It definitely tested me in numerous ways throughout the day, but it also gave me an invaluable insight; I have a whole new appreciation for the challenges that blind people face on a daily basis. This task also reinforced to me how crucial it is to provide support and encouragement to people of all abilities, to enable them to participate in activities from which they are often excluded.
We’ve all learnt a lot on this trip about the weather, finding winds blowing in the right directions, and then setting our sails to make the best use of those winds. Captain Richard taught us about areas of high and low atmospheric pressure, and most of us had already heard of the Azores high. Winds circulate clockwise around highs in the northern hemisphere, so we set off from the Canaries with winds blowing from the north-east which let us sail on a north-westerly course. That was OK for the first couple of days, but then the wind shifted to the north and north west so we had to hand our sails and motor.
After a great couple of days on Faial and Sao Jorge, all we had to do was sail to Southampton! That meant sailing roughly north east, but we couldn’t go straight in that direction as we’d have been trapped in the centre of a high with very light winds. We needed to go north first. Luckily the wind was blowing from the south for the next few days, but that introduced us to the next lesson. Tall ships don’t sail very efficiently with the wind directly behind them – they roll and go slowly. It’s better to have the wind fifty or sixty degrees to one side of the stern.
So we sailed north east for a few hours, and then north west for a few hours, and then north east again, and north west again… And with each change of direction we had to “wear ship”, which meant bracing the yards round and furling and re-setting the fore and aft sails. We got very good at it! We also learnt to “goose wing” the main course (the bottom sail on the main mast). Goose winging means clewing up the windward side of the sail to make it almost triangular, and allow the wind to get to the fore course. Each time we wore ship the goose winging had to swap sides, so we got very good at doing that too!
After several days we were finally far enough north to be able to head towards the English Channel without the risk of being becalmed in a high pressure area. The wind came round to the north west and north, and we needed to head roughly north east. We set the spanker (the large fore and aft sail on the mizzen mast), and set about learning a new skill – sailing by the wind. We weren’t steering a compass course any more, we were steering to keep the wind coming from a direction of seventy degrees off the port bow – or sometimes even sixty degrees. Lord Nelson is very stable sailing on the wind like that – often several minutes would pass without the wheel being moved. But it was important to keep concentrating – if you did let Nellie turn too far to port, the wind would get behind the sails, the ship would stop, and then you couldn’t steer at all!
So altogether lots of new skill learnt and old ones practised and refined – definitely what it’s all about!
Mike, Aft Port
Right ladies and gents, buckle up, hold on to your hats and take a seat because this is the first piece of ‘extended’ writing I’ve done since school, here we bloody go.
I am writing this on the 21st, almost a week after I was asked to by Susie. As my former school teachers would tell you it wouldn’t really be authentic Eddy if I got an assignment in on time, therefore I will have to strain my mind to recollect the events that feel like weeks ago.
After a glorious ‘happy’ hour (in which I was graced with the hard fought over honour of cleaning the heads) it was aft starboards shift on watch at 12:30. Abby was our watch leader for the day and despite widespread popular expectation, things ran smoothly, nobody was injured and the ship remained afloat. She even managed to spot a few ‘w…w…whales!’, so it’s fair to say that despite a bit of rain and an Aussie at the helm it was a pretty good watch.
We then had the long anticipated egg toss, I was given the duty of sending our pet egg ‘Junior’ on his/her/its maiden voyage. As I ascended the main mast to the first platform clutching Junior in his meticulously assembled shuttle I stopped and had a moment of clarity. This was it. This was my moment. This throw will be my legacy. We managed a distance of -1 meter thanks to a cheeky bit of rope and it’s fair to say Junior (god rest his soul) got a bit scrambled. In shame I retreated to the galley, as it was my turn on galley duty.
That is about as much as I can remember, all in all it was a great day for all, for all except Junior and the other eggs that (willingly or unwillingly – it’s hard to tell) gave up their young lives to amuse some clearly very tired people on a boat somewhere in the North Atlantic.
Eddy Dyer – Aft Starboard