Today is Monday already – how time flies when you’re having fun! I think it was on Tuesday last that Pete, one of my mates from TNS 427, Canary-hopping, called me urgently to say that bursaries were on offer for this voyage from La Palma to Seville – thrilling news which put me into a real spin, trying to book flights out and back and do online check-in. I discovered a vitally important truth – Opodo have a toll-free 0800 number – all done in 10 minutes!

I struggled through the night to get an atom of order into the jungle that is my bedroom before we left for Victoria – Pete in a wheelchair with an enormous backpack and I with two smaller rucksacks. We discovered that there is no lift service at Victoria – amazing! So we got off at Green Park and hailed a taxi, to take us all the way round behind to the access for Gatwick Express – only to learn its no longer possible to buy a ticket on the train – which we did from two nice folk at the entrance – phew! we just made it!

Arrival in La Palma, the charming little northernmost, tear-shaped island, we took the local bus into town, a short, easy, inexpensive ride – and a charming driver who invited us to stay on board for a circuit of Santa Cruz, the friendly little “capital city” of this lovely place, since we had an hour before we could board. There is a nice bar right by the main bus stop going southward, so it was a tight thing for us to make it to the ship by 6 for briefing!

Why do we all keep coming, as one’s friends do sometimes wonder? The reply is always – its addictive! And I am sure that all on board would agree with me. The wonderful founder, Chris Rudd, had such vision…..I have been an avid supporter for exactly half my life, since I encountered them at the London International Boat Show in the happy old days when it was at Earls Court. I was working for a charter company and I had worked with the OSTAR (Observer Single-Handed Transatlantic Race) and the America’s Cup in Newport Rhode Island, the only time in 12 years, and the last, that they would coincide.

My maiden tall ship voyage in fact on the  wonderful , lamented Sir Winston Churchill,to Lisbon from Weymouth, and then on via lovely Madeira to Tenerife – I was hooked! Mixing with an inspirational group, some courageous disabled folk, is the greatest privilege, and making lots of new friends is always fun.

What more do you want to know? The food is always splendid and almost unlimited, with smiling service from the galley and the mess men and women, boys and girls. The eight cabins on Tenacious (six on Lord Nelson) for “PH” crew and their “buddies” are small but just sufficient, while the “foc’sle dorms” are, surprisingly, very comfortable for a dozen in each, in theory gender-separated but mixed when pressure requires, each with shower, and shower and heads “loo”, plus two salt-water heads for general use.  We use water sparingly but nobody smells! The day (and night) is divided into watches, up to ten per watch with a full crew of 40 plus 8 Permanent Crew and 3-4 Supernumeries, house in even smaller quarters aft of bar!

Destinations depend on the wind, waves and weather somewhat, though obviously flights must be complied with. Normal sailing under ideal conditions allow us to use the ten square-sails with some of the fore and aft. If heading into the prevalent North-East Trade winds, while trying to hit Spain, we motor! This has its advantages – more time to read, less sudden demands for all hands on deck to brace the yards – merely calls for help with happy hour (cleaning), smoko (coffee breaks), meal times and talks.
X X Chimpy

My watch say a friendly “hi”!