Friday, 13 August 2010

Map of Girls Gold D of E Expedition

Day Numero Otto – Thursday 12th August

After another early morning getting us out of Lock Eatharna, with the stern crew wearily taking first watch, everyone was feeling rather down at the prospect of our last full day on the boat. Also, with only half an hour of sailing to do on Friday, this was really our last proper day, so we were determined to make it a good one, a feat which was roundly agreed that we managed!
After a rough, but fairly uneventful, start to the day, bow watch took over, but stern watch remained on deck to enjoy the trip. It was lucky that they did, as we saw a grand total of FIFTEEN basking sharks, in the space of about 20 minutes, even having the excitement of almost sailing into a particularly obstinate one, which refused to move from in front of us until the very last second!
And just when it seemed that nothing could top that, bow watch went below for a nap, and stern watch took control again, with Emma at the helm. All day, we had been determined to hit 9 knots of speed, as a final high note, as our previous top speed had hovered at around the middle 8s, although we knew the possibility was slim. Without help from the engine, the boat hit 8.9, and after a tense second… dropped back again, to groans and shouts all round. For the rest of the watch, we studied the speed carefully, shouting every time we came close until at last we hit the much awaited 9kt! In fact, by the end of the watch, this was a common occurrence, with each strong gust pushing us to around the 9kt mark, and our final top speed an amazing 9.4!! A possible record for the boat we feel!
Stern watch spent the next hour and a half having a well-earned nap below deck, despite the danger of falling off beds and couches, and only awoke to eat a fantastic dinner, made all the better by the fact that it was made by the instructors!! The evening turned into a big game of Articulate with the instructors coming a respectable 2nd twice.

Day Numero Nove – Friday 13th August

A quick motor the last mile to Kerrera for a shower and a clear up of the boat brought our excellent trip to an end. Thanks to David, Cath and Ian for their help.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Sorry a little late due to lack of signal


Day Numero Uno – Thursday 5th August
We met at Penrith station- all together, except Zaak who travelled by car with the all important frozen halal meat! Our first change was at Glasgow central, where we had lunch on-the-go and unfortunately the train was delayed by 40mins. One consolation was that we had time for a quick nap and some interesting, (if not particularly flattering) pictures.
We met our instructors, Ian and Cath on the train to Oban and arrived there to meet Zaakirah. We met Dave (our skipper) to get the ferry to Kererra but didn’t make it due to the late train- so we went food shopping instead- meticulously calculating food for the trip, with special consideration going to the biscuit supply! We began to run out of time for the next ferry and so split into 2 groups; one for taking luggage to the boat and the other to finish shopping. With 2 trolleys of food, the cashier was less than impressed at our slow calculations and ended up sorting us out instead! We then took the food (and the trolleys) to the ferry, and with some very helpful local hands we managed to take all the food across without trouble and amazingly pack it all in to the limited space on the boat.
For the first night we decided to keep dinner simple, with stir fry vegetables & noodles for our main course and then two pre-prepared cheesecakes of the lemon AND raspberry varieties! No chance of any of us going short of food on this trip!
After dinner, having cleaned up efficiently, we were given a short talk on charts and measurements before heading for bed, and a hopefully peaceful night’s sleep.
Day Numero Due – Friday 6th August
The first task of the day was making brekkie! We had some unfortunate issues with the grill, some slightly well done toast to begin the day- this was cleverly sorted out with heaps of butter and jam, and of course choc spread. Abandoning the grill after the second round of burnt toast, we instead used the boats two piece toaster and after a few pieces of “perfectly done” toast and a round of hot drinks we felt ready to begin the day.
Getting our kit on took a lot longer than was expected, struggling in to salopettes only to realise they are a size too small is not amusing when you’re stuck in them. As soon as we sorted out our salopettes and got our lifejackets on, we all climbed on to the deck and started sailing. We covered 25 miles- not bad we feel, for a first attempt. A few of us got a chance to steer the boat and learn how to use the compass and annometer to sail on the right course. We were taught one of the most important procedures which was the man overboard drill. Obviously using a live specimen would be too risqué, so we used Bob the fender to demonstrate the drill. We valiantly rescued Bob as efficiently as possible, learning to keep sight of the man overboard, send a mayday signal, turn the boat around and collect the casualty as calmly and quickly as possible.
We then anchored at Loch Na Droma Buidhe, and promptly began dinner. After dinner of chicken korma, rice and naan bread with dessert of cookies and cream, half of the group went around the loch in the dinghy with David. David let us all drive and we steered around the loch, getting eaten alive by midges! We played a rather interesting game of Articulate, which was interrupted by the surprise sounding of the emergency horn by David to scare us all, which led to an interesting evening discussion on the best way to kill him. Shortly after the games (of which every team except Preeya, Michelle and Zaakirah won) we all went to bed to get some sleep.
Day Numero Tre - Saturday 7th August
A slightly early start for some of the team at 7.30 am, the four people sleeping in the bow were on breakfast duty and cooked up a breakfast of porridge, crumpets and the usual cereal and toast for everyone. When breakfast was done the team sleeping in the stern donned their salopettes and got on deck, ready to pull in the anchor and set sail. This was the first day any of us felt sea sick as we hit a rough patch of weather all the way from Rio de Janeiro -our first experience in the open sea was unfortunately very unpleasant for one or two of us, even despite having had sea sickness tablets. We quickly learned being on the deck was far better than below it, and the team who weren’t working relaxed out of the way on the stern. The crew from the bow also learnt the same lesson and we particularly glad when the time came to change watches to ease their seasickness. Another reason the fore crew were happy to be on watch was that Ian spotted two porpoises to the port side of the boat! Later on in the watch, he also pointed out a basking shark, we were really surprised to see a range of wildlife so early in the expedition and were hoping they wouldn’t be the last...
By lunchtime the weather had calmed and with baked potatoes already in the oven those on duty below deck loaded them with cheese and beans to be passed up an eaten as quickly as possible. With everyone tired and cold by this point, the hot food was much appreciated. After lunch was time to swap watches and those above deck now learnt about “tacking”- in simple language, this is switching the sails to other side of the boat to make the most of the wind available. This was more dangerous than it sounds with the sheet (or rope) needed to be pulled in being very heavy and wet, and with the wind picking up it whipped more than one of us pretty hard. A learning point was found here- everyone unanimously deciding to now reel in the sheet from inside the cockpit and avoid getting bruised. Luckily to nurse our bruises the team down below had baked an amazing cake, covered in icing, buttercream and approximately half a tub of sprinkles. Dinner was also very well prepared, spaghetti bolognaise and garlic bread was on the table and ready to eat when the team above had finished working.
Having cleaned up and relaxed for a while, having discussed the distance we had sailed (54miles!) we briefly went over meal plans for the next day, and all excited by the prospect of a shower soon if we reached Portree, we decided to have an early night.
Day Numero Quattro – Sunday 8th August
After what we felt, was a necessary lie in, the team of four from the bow started their watch at around 10 o’clock. Their watch was fairly slow as the wind was practically non-existent, and the boat was sailing along at a top speed of about 1 knot, making staying awake and concentrating rather more difficult than it should have been.
At 12ish – with Michelle taking her time as per usual, the first watch were relieved. They promptly started making toasties, which were much appreciated by the team up on deck, for whom the wind had picked up somewhat dramatically. “Team Extreme”- as they appropriately named themselves (Team Extreme would like to point out that WE DID NOT NAME OURSELVES!! We earned that name from the instructors! =P) - after they had managed to sail under the Skye Bridge, tilted at a precarious angle that shouldn’t have been possible, under the careful steering of Natasha, were then relieved by the first watch so they could come off their adrenaline rush!
The passage under Skye Bridge (otherwise known as the epic Skye Bridge Adventure) was definitely the most challenging and exciting of the whole trip (so far), with Ian commenting that it was “the best sailing he’s ever done!” With Natasha at the helm, and Emma, Michelle and Shannon controlling the sails, we repeatedly tacked towards the bridge, at impressive speed, in order to get us in line for going underneath. This in itself was pretty difficult stuff, and later we were told that if we’d discussed tacking under Skye Bridge that morning, we’d have been laughed out of the room, but at the time, seeing as the team were working well together, and knew what to do, it worked. After tacking around three times to the left, we were in line, avoiding rocks, shallows, and, of course, the bridge itself (although there was one moment when a bridge pillar seemed rather close!) Not to fear, Natasha’s steering, and the other crew’s (expert!) pulling, loosening and winching successfully got us sorted, ready for a smooth passage under the bridge. What could possibly go wrong now?
Then, the ferry appeared. Oh. Just as we were getting close, a huge ferry came round the corner, under the bridge straight at us, prompting a chorus of the legendary phrase “Oh, SHIP!” from David, and some other crew members. A number of the crew feared for their lives, but, luckily, the ferry driver seemed to be in a good mood, and both vessels veered to the right, and avoided collision. Veering right was not a problem for the ferry, with almost the whole bridge to go before he reached the other side. For us, however, close to the right already, there was a very scary few minutes, where it was impossible to turn back, and we had to slowly ease under the bridge, with Shannon and Emma either side of the mast, watching the top, in the agonising moments when everyone was afraid we weren’t going to fit, and, in words of Emma’s often repeated over the course of the trip “we were all going to die”.
Soon enough though, we were in the clear, and looking over our shoulders as Skye Bridge flew off into the distance. After a unanimous decision from the newly-named ‘Team Extreme’, that it was, frankly, just boring now, watch changed, just in time for the bow watch to take over the helm, and steer us through rather less exciting waters, whilst Team Extreme recovered below deck with a packet of biscuits, and a long rehash of their finest hour.
With Shakti steering and a reasonable wind, the fore (bow) crew managed to harness the wind and get the boat up to a speed of 7.8 knots, with such a big tilt that everyone had to tether themselves to anything that was bolted down to stop them from falling off. Cath downstairs had to be tied onto her bed, from which she could see that the starboard windows were completely submerged! We were very proud of our achievement as we changed watch.
Dave, our skipper, called for a team “conflab” with hot brews all round, in order to discuss the prospect of night sailing. As we were on a roll, we unanimously decided to continue sailing through the night to East Loch Tarbert.
The aft crew quickly prepared a tea of burgers and homemade chips, which we all ate together as Dave, Ian and Kath took the helm for a shift. Just as we were finishing the washing up, the tap began to spurt water at us and make worrying noises, which made us think we’d somehow broken it. Ian assured us that we hadn’t broken it but that we had run out of water and we would need to use sea water for everything but drinking, until we reached somewhere suitable to fill the tank.
The fore crew finished their shift and went below to get some sleep in the little time they had before their next watch which began at 10pm. The aft crew meanwhile began the night sailing.
Between 8 and 10, the excitement of night sailing had not really begun, and seeing as it wasn’t even dark yet, the first shift passed without much incident. Or any at all really…
After being woken up by Michelle at 9.45 the fore crew got up and started their shift in the dark. The sky became darker and the buoys, which were marking the danger zones, became easier to identify as they all had their own unique flash sequence. The wind had died down again, but with high tides and the darkness, it was difficult to steer on course but Preeya managed it with some wild swinging of the steering wheel! Other than the difficulty in steering, the watch was pretty quiet and peaceful in the open sea. Before they knew it the aft crew were being rudely awakened by Ian and dragged themselves out of bed ready to start their watch at 12am in light rain.
Yet again, Team Extreme managed to get themselves the exciting part of the trip. What can we say? Must just be our amazing sailing skills… or not. Natasha again took the helm, steering us through the first part of the watch, before handing over to Michelle, which is when the fun started. “Michelle’s going to kill us all!” came the cry, more times than should probably be normal, as the boat rocked wildly from port to starboard and back again, each time accompanied by screaming and frantic grabbing for anything remotely resembling a support from the entire crew. It may sound like an over-reaction, but hurtling along at almost 8 knots (really rather fast) in the pitch darkness, with the sails almost touching the water on first one side, then the other, is really a terrifying experience. Terrifying, but amazingly fun. All in a day’s work for Team Extreme.
However, the wind did soon calm down, and, with it, the boat and its wild rocking. The last half hour of the watch was not too exciting, as we had left the open sea behind, and hence the worst of the weather too, and we headed towards our anchorage at Loch Talbert. At 2am, the watch change, Dave informed us that we were only ten minutes to quarter of an hour away, so we decided to leave the other team to sleep, instead of swapping for such a short time. An HOUR later however, we were huddled, tired, wet and freezing cold, as we were finally told to begin letting the anchor down, and at around 3.15, all the 11 crew members were finally below deck, on a stationary boat.
The fore crew were particularly grateful to the aft crew who during the extreme conditions on deck decided to stay on for an extra hour, staying on watch from midnight until 3am, allowing the rest of us to get some much needed kip :D
Due to the somewhat choppy conditions and the fact that we were all completely and utterly exhausted, we all slept in the stern in the end. The aft crew had come down, bedraggled and exhausted, to find the rest of the team crashed out on the bench seats and in their beds. With a bit of shuffling, all 8 of us managed to squeeze into the limited space to get a well-earned sleep, (we sailed 62 miles without putting the engine into gear at all!)
Day Numero Cinque – Monday 9th August
No surprise at all to our instructors, we were all still fast asleep in the stern at 9. We decided to take it a little easier to compensate for our valiant efforts earlier that morning, with the first watch starting at 10.30. We sailed for around 4 and a half to 5 hours, before Shannon pulled up alongside the ferry terminal where, after a lot of tying on of fenders, so the boat didn’t hit the pier, we began our ominous ascent up the rickety old ladder up to the top. After adjusting our sea legs back to “land legs,” - not an easy task, with many people still finding that the ground felt as though it was rocking even after being on land for two hours, all 8 of us plus Cath set off to find a much needed, and appreciated, shower. We enquired at tourist information, where the very helpful lady phoned the outdoor centre on our behalf. Much to our dismay however, the group was too large. We managed to find a hotel which let us shower and sit in the lounge where we watched children’s TV and drank copious amounts of fizzy drinks. Many of the group began to fear for their (already tenuous) link to sanity, as we found ourselves genuinely engrossed in the plight of an animated dragon, and a penguin afraid of water.
The shower boosted our spirits greatly and morale was pushed even higher by bright sunshine, a full water tank (never has washing up been more amazing), being on deck without any waterproofs, and a freshly cleaned boat as we headed out to anchor for the night, not a long sail, as we only went around twenty minutes from the pier, moving in order to let the ferry in and out through the night. The bay in which we anchored was sheltered and had a beautiful view of Lochmaddy, the Lake of the Wolves (luckily referring to the rocks at its entrance and not the local wildlife, or the suggestion of a dinghy expedition might have been less enthusiastically received!). The fore crew prepared pizzas from scratch and baked 2 apple crumbles as the aft crew (Emma, Michelle, Natasha and Shannon) went out in the dinghy with Ian to explore the nearby bay, where they discovered the delights of being on a deserted island, running up and down grassy hills, trying, and failing, to sneak up on a pair of stags, and lounging on the walls of ruined buildings, enjoying the spectacular views, and deciding that this was, most definitely, ‘the life’. We decided to eat up on deck to make the most of the good weather and after stuffing ourselves with our “stupendous dinner” (in the words of Dave), we all sat and watched the enchanting view of the seals playing in the sunset. Natasha, Sarah, Michelle and Shakti then headed to shore to admire the view from the top of the hills, while the rest of us cleared up, sat and gossiped!
We had a briefing about the next day being the start of our true expedition, and were told that we now had free reign on the boat and the route that we wanted to sail. We collectively chose a long day of sailing the next day so that we could reach Loch Scavaig, which our instructors had told us so much about, allowing us to experience the now infamous anchorage soon, as well as allowing us two and a half days to cover a much smaller distance, giving us the option of short days, anchoring back at Kererra on Thursday night, or having time to explore the small islands between Skye and Oban, and the freedom to change plans depending on the weather or crew feeling seemed appealing. This meant an early morning start, something several of us were not too happy about, however we did just about manage to get up at 7, albeit mostly half asleep and purely out of desire not to mess up our first day of being in charge of ‘The Plan’.
Day Numero Sei – Tuesday 10th August
Luckily we all got up at 7am, and managed to stick to our schedule to set off at 8am to get some much needed supplies(biscuits) from the shop before the ferry got there. The first team on watch were the aft crew with the fore crew taking over at half 10. With a slow start, we made the decision to use the engine to get to Loch Scavaig. Yesterdays showers and the beautiful sunshine meant that spirits were high and as the wind picked up, we were able to turn the “donkey” (engine) off and get some “proper sailing” done! We were lucky enough to see our first Minke whale emerging from the depths about 150m off the port side of the boat. Only five minutes later, our second whale appeared on the same side, with another larger whale spotted on the starboard side around half an hour later! We also saw another basking shark rising out of the swell a few hundred metres away from the boat!
It was time for another watch change, and the aft crew took over for the next two hours. Before we knew it, it was time to change watch again, with Zaakirah taking the helm (with her glasses for once :D) It was amazing to finally see the Loch Scavaig that the instructors had raved about, and we finally understood why! With sheer drops, waterfalls plunging straight into the bay and seal covered rocks in such peaceful surroundings, Loch Scavaig proved to be our favourite anchorage :) Ian dropped Preeya, Zaakirah, Shakti, Natasha and Sarah off to explore the surrounding area whilst the rest of the crew prepared a tea of spicy and non-spicy (for the wimps…) pasta bake with Roberta (Bob-for-short) the cake for desert. After lovingly baking Bob for the last 2 hours, Michelle and Emma were somewhat reluctant to cut the cake, although not as reluctant to eat it!
After tea Michelle, Shannon and Emma were dropped off to shore by Cath. After spotting a family of four struggling to make their way across a huge waterfall and down the rocks, Cath decided to be a Good Samaritan and rescue them in the dinghy! Whilst the others were off exploring, Sarah, Shakti and Cath went fishing in the bay, where they spotted an otter. We didn’t actually expect them to catch anything, although after the first mackerel, the rest soon followed. Very quickly, we established our roles; Sarah would hook the fish, then scream and run to the other side of the dinghy and pass the line, Cath would steer and Shakti would pass the fish up to the boat. After seeing Dave preparing to gut the fish, Natasha, Preeya and Zaakirah decided they wanted a go! However it soon got out of hand, with cries of “I want to kill it” and “It’s not your turn – you didn’t kill it properly” being heard across the bay which somewhat scared Dave and Ian who were stuck on the boat with them! In total, we caught 10 mackerels which were killed humanely and quickly by the “killing crew” which now included Shakti too. Dave also taught us to fillet the fish which is much harder than it appears, especially without a sharp filleting knife. We decided that the fish would benefit from an expert filleting hand, and so Dave took over, diligently filleting till midnight whilst Natasha and Ian used buckets of sea water to remove any evidence of the massacre that had just taken place on deck! We finally managed to get to bed by half past.
Day Numero Sette – Wednesday 11th August
We woke up around 8ish, and prepared breakfast. Half of the team seemed to have developed an egg craving during the night, so Michelle made us all scrambled eggs. During the night, the wind had grown stronger, meaning that we had drifted towards the hills at the edge of the bay. As soon as Dave got up on deck and saw just how far we’d drifted, he decided it was time to leave the bay, and called the fore crew onto deck at 9 – slightly earlier than planned. As we moved out of the bay, the wind was strong enough for us to get up to 6 knots with just one sail up! As we sailed towards Rhum, Cath decided to have a go at steering before handing over to Preeya to keep us on course for the rest of the journey. With the wind in our sail(s) we arrived at Rhum after three hours of sailing at 12pm – Just in time for lunch! After anchoring, everyone came down to the galley, where Dave expertly cooked the mackerel fillets from the day before. It was very satisfying to know that they had gone from sea to plate in less than 24 hours –and know that they hadn’t died in vain!
After lunch, we all headed to shore where we explored the small village of Kinloch on the island. This included some MORE walking – yes, we thought this was a sailing expedition too, and some exploration of the local castle. After various photo stops we headed back to the ferry port to meet Dave who would take us back to the boat. By the time we were all back, it was around 4, so the aft crew took the first watch. Much to the delight of the fore crew and Dave who were trying to make dinner and pancakes down below, the seas roughened with some big swells. Luckily, Dave kept his cool, even managing to get in a couple of pancake tosses whilst the rest of us were being thrown around the galley!

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Last Day in Oban

This morning Toryn, Alistair and HRH Neil were left to sleep through everyone else’s breakfast, so started their morning with a trip to the showers. There followed a trip into Tobermory to stock up on fruit, sweets and a toastie loaf. As we deliberated over the shopping list in the Co-op, a certain instructor from school cycled in. After being told just where he could park his bike, Rick told us how he had tried to follow us on Skye, but we hadn’t stopped. After Col threw Rick’s bike into the tender, we realised that he was coming aboard for the journey to Oban. We managed a thorough hoovering just before a large round of toast, then we were off.

The day’s sailing was fairly unremarkable, the weather was favourable (minus the occasional shower) and the wind was mostly in our direction. We made good time to the island of Kerrera (a small piece of land barely separated from the town of Oban) with a small amount of motoring. A brief spell in Oban (for some deep fried tea) sparked some excitement for crewmates JT and Tim D. The prospect of a deckhand job aboard an ancient Dutch pirate ship was enticing. An eight day expedition to Hartlepool lead to JT (and co) enquiring about the position, unfortunately, the vacancy had been filled earlier in the day. Better luck next time guys.

It now seems appropriate to consider some of the things we achieved on board:

Total number of miles covered: 509

Total hours of motoring: 53

Route taken: Glasson (Start) to Ramsey to Port Ellen to Ulva to Loch Scavaig (via Gunna Sound) to Mallaig then anticlockwise around Skye to Tobermory to Oban (Finish)

So ends our Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award expedition. We departed from Glasson dock early in the morning on Saturday 24th July and arrived at Oban in the late evening of Saturday 31st July. All that remains is to give thanks for a truly fantastic week to: (in no particular order) Skipper Colin, Phil (Aladdin) and George.