Airtanker Tall Ships Expedition Log 2019
A Ship's log of events & antics aboard the Spirit of Falmouth Tall ship for an adventurous training exercise with Airtanker with the Aid of Turn to Starboard
Airtanker Tall Ships Exped 2019
Spirit of Falmouth
24th – 30th September 2109
While most of Airtanker slept in the early hours, an intrepid crew gathered. 12
unsuspecting souls, volunteers you might say. They come from all corners of the
business, some never had experienced sailing before. All united, intent in the pursuit
So here we are, in Falmouth on a boat none of us are capable of driving, in the
pissing rain, what could possibly go wrong!
This log is in part a factual recording of our journey, but also hopefully the light
hearted literary musing of a 55!/2 yr. old teenager with minimal social skills & only
a grade C CSE in English.
A story of how 12 relative strangers are thrown together in a wooden coffin with
sails, enduring everything that nature can throw at us, these pages recording the
highs & hopefully not too many lows of a crews 7 day passage in to uncharted
24th September 2019
Coordinates 50° 09’.181 N 005° 03’.737W
Small out & return orientation sail to Falmouth
Slip Lines: 14:00 hrs
Alongside: 17:00 hrs
Joining the Spirit of Falmouth was straightforward, collecting our foul weather wets,
clambering aboard for introductions to the ship’s Captain & permanent crew followed
by the usual safety briefs. Then fighting for bunks whilst otherwise familiarising
ourselves with the ships facilities aka, the Head & its proper use.
It may come as a surprise to some that the sleeping arrangements were both compact
& mixed sex, no room for modern decencies on-board this vessel or any other of its age
where women were not the consideration, as sailing vessels were very much a male
domain. Thankfully times have changed, but the ships facilities sadly have not.
The crew welcomed us with a meal consisting of soup de jour, vegetable, bread &
cuppa. No time to get ship shape though, once the briefings were curtailed the lines
were slipped for the orientation & familiarisation sail & once clear of the harbour
constrains the sails were raised with military fashion to the, what would soon become
the familiar shouts of 2, 6 heave.
We were off sailing under full sails of Mainsail, Staysail & Foresail bound for Fowey
at a knee trembling 8kts +.
Then came the news over the radio from Falmouth Coastguard that the weather
was set to deteriorate & wind strengthen to gale force 7 (32-38mph) occasionally
8 (39-46mph), a prospect neither this fledgling crew or the captain relished the
idea of being caught in so the decision was made to return to port in Falmouth.
However the day’s events were not finished with us yet. Whilst gybing about &
resetting the sails for the journey back, the starboard upper backstay eyelet sheared
& let loose, flew up into the air with a huge bang, not a sound that instils confidence
in a crew on their first voyage, not to mention the proximity of the projected eyelet
to Harry’s (first mate) genitalia on its premature departure. As soon as the now
flailing stay line was secured, we beated our retreat to Falmouth without further
Once berthed safely the beaming faces of the fearless travellers told its own story,
undaunted by the day’s setbacks, they had tasted the sea & they liked it!
Not exactly the start that was expected, but the weather was looking promising in
the days to come so thoughts & expectations were gathering for an amazing journey
both in adventure, but also in personal achievement.
As a crew, it is early days to how the dynamics of the group will develop, but as
dinner of Spag Bol simmered quietly on the stove, thanks to Simmo & Rob rising
to the challenge of cooking for 18.
Tomorrow the anticipated passage will be to Fowey again & with it, more
25th September 2019
Coordinates 50° 09’.181 N 005° 03’.737W
Passage to Fowey
Slip Lines: 10:45 hrs
Alongside: 18:00 hrs
After morning chores & breakfast we all mustered on deck for the days briefing
& slipped lines setting out into the sound to a far calmer sea from the previous day
& kinder weather too. The order was given to raise the sails which was done with
an unexpected lightning speed, this time in addition to the Mainsail, Staysail &
foresail, the jib was raised. We were up & running, clear of the headland heading
due south into a large rolling swell of 4 to 5.5 metre high waves.
We settled down to enjoy what was to be our first full days sailing. The sea played
with our inner ear fluid, most feeling a little queasy & threatening to reunite some
with their breakfast.
Not long after a mop head strategically placed on the rope ladders to protect the
sails, called baggy wrinkles in nautical terms, became entangled in the mainsail
lanyard tackle block. Harry to the rescue! It would transpire this wasn’t going to
be the only rigging kafuffle or hero moment for Harry, but more about that
later. In fact it didn’t take long for what was turning in to be the trip that would
become affectionately known as ‘What the fucks broken now leg’.
Approximately 2 miles out whilst being buzzed by an RAF Merlin helicopter, the
sails stalled & the engine was required to assist getting the ship moving again,
however it refused to comply. The crew tried to get the stubborn motor to play ball
for some 10 minutes & word started to spread of a further impending return to
Falmouth which would have been a most unfortunate & disappointing event.
Eventually however with many “What ifs” & “how about” the idea was suggested
to remove the key & re-insert it may solve the issue & to the disbelief of onlookers it
worked as the 6.7 litre diesel marine burst into life.
Captain Paul made the decision to push on to Fowey & with that we tacked &
turned east, trimming the sails for maximum speed.
Lunch comprising of Pasty & beans, dutifully prepared by Richie & Mick, both
of whom were seen bolting for fresh air mid cook as the sea did its best to reunite the
pair with the contents of their stomachs. Mick finally succumbing to motions &
becoming the begrudging winner of the first to puke prize! Or he could have been
looking for an unknown crew member called Ralph, difficult to ascertain.
Post lunch it was time to gybe again to avoid unnecessary sea cliff interaction &
take us into a position to enter Fowey’s narrow entrance safely.
During this leg Captain Wolverine as he was becoming informally know as due to
his uncanny resemblance to his X-men doppelganger, gave us all a crash course in
knot tying which passed a little time & were even briefly joined abeam off our port
side by a pod of common dolphins, but were gone as quickly as they arrived,
presumably because our bow wave was bit boring.
The threat of rain was never too far away, but although the skies we dirty grey &
promising a drenching, thankfully it remained dry although the sun refused to come
out to play.
After the last tack to head into the port of Fowey, it was time to start lowering the
sails. First was the jib & as I eluded to earlier, the day had already been full of
rigging related events. This time the jib refused to lower as was expected, the halyard
having become jammed aloft in the rigging.
After attempts to release it from the deck were unsuccessful it was concluded that the
only way to release it was by climbing aloft to detach it manually. A task that was
behest to the hero of the day Harry & Topknot aka Bernie, both shinning up to
carry out the dangerous task not only 30 metres up the mast, but also in heavy seas
which was propelling the said mast side to side with uncomfortable monotony.
An hour or so later the jib was finely released, brought under control & struck to the
deck followed by the rest of the raised canvases, finally making our way under
motor through the narrow channel to, our home for the night. Berthing on a
mooring in the harbour which was successfully attached eventually by Bernie who
probably should have paid more attention during the knot lessons earlier that day.
Tonight’s culinary delights for our delectation was chicken fajitas thanks to Katie &
Mark D of which there was plenty. Belly’s full, talk turned to tomorrow & where
we would end up. The plan was to slip lines early at around 06:30hrs for a passage
to Dartmouth, so with that & our tired minds from a full day battling the elements
& the ship, it was time for bed, goodnight!
26th September 2019
Coordinates 50° 19’.904 N 004° 38’.108W
Rest & recuperation day
Slip Lines: N/A
Today was to see us passage from Fowey to Dartmouth & the intentions were good
with the crew & a few volunteers rising early at 05:30 hrs with the plan of slipping
lines at 06:30 hrs.
The boat had other ideas! The engine refusing to start once again. This time
however the prognosis was more devastating & this time the remove key, refit key
solution of the day before no longer had any validity in the seaman’s book of handy
fixes. We were stood left scratching our collective heads to diagnose the cause at the
heart of the disobedient engines refusals to comply with our demands. The wiring
was checked, well once a serviceable multimeter was found it was, but without
knowledge of the actual wiring system to hand it was proving difficult to pinpoint the
faulty component. Was it the ignition barrel? Well maybe, it had seen better days,
or was it the starter motor, a far more undesirable challenge, should it be faulty.
Much tinkering & old school testing was carried out, namely hitting the starter with
a hammer to try to ascertain if it was stuck, nope!
Attention was then turned to the relay that was clicking contently to itself alongside
the starter. Eventually after much tutting & multimeter prodding a faulty relay
was diagnosed, not because of expert electrical knowledge, but because when the
multimeter was used to earth the relay the circuit was complete & the engine jumped
into life whilst yours truly was still laid over it at the time.
Once I had changed my underwear, we set about trying acquire a replacement
relay. 2 hrs later & numerous phone calls someone was despatched from Turn to
Starboard base to collect & deliver the offending item to Fowey.
Meanwhile it was decided by Wolverine aka the Captain that by the time the part
is delivered & fitted plus the poor weather forecast outlook, it would be prudent to
scrub the sailing for the rest of the day & rethink our plans once the repairs had
been brought to their fruition.
Breakfast duty due to my slaving over a hot engine fell upon Kath’s more than
capable hands as a lovely cooked breakfast was manifested in the galley &
disseminated the plates of yumminess to the hungry hoard.
With the decision made the ship became Mary Celeste like, most choosing to go
ashore to watch the rugby at a local pub, probably given hindsight, not the great
idea given the duration ashore & the compulsion whilst watching rugby to consume
I chose to remain aboard, mainly to assist with the repairs, but also the opportunity
for a bit of fishing proving an irresistible lure.
sightseeing tip in a rib up the river & harbour area, both
involving totally sensible drinking practices! The crew relaxed
Many activities occurred over the passing day, those that had taken root in front of
the rugby, others taking a aboard & provided taxis from ship to shore for those
wishing to do a little shopping etc.
The part arrived mid-afternoon & was duly fitted, to much applause & high fives.
We were set, but enthusiasm was now well & truly leisure orientated.
For my part the fishing proved awesome. Fishing from the back of the boat aka
the stern, I set about attempting to surpass Jesus’ record of mass feeding miracles
with a plentiful bounty of fish with 3 sizable Bass & a cheeky little mackerel caught
on a lure. They were gutted & filleted in preparation for the pan, fresh as your
Late afternoon saw the return of the marauding sailors & to use another nautical
term were roughly 3 parts to the wind, the transition from tender proving very
entertaining, Kath testing her core as boat & tender parted mid move to much
The crew had once again produced a hearty meal of Tuna pasta bake & garlic
A boozy day all told, but amazingly sociable with everyone enjoying the unexpected
change in plans.
The day’s mood was only dampened by the untimely starboard head becoming
blocked & deemed out of action for the foreseeable future which leaves a lone port
side head to take the brunt of the abluting crew of 18. Trying not to think about the
possibility of that becoming unusable too!
Tomorrow now, after rest & recuperation & running repairs,
fingers crossed we will slip lines at 06:30 hrs again & try for
Tomorrow now after rest, recuperation & running repairs fingers crossed we will slip
lines at 06:30 hrs again & try for Dartmouth with a fall back plan of Plymouth if
the weather or boat beats us again.
As a crew we have been tested over the last couple of days through learning to adopt
to life at sea & mastering the ropes & other seamanship skills. As a team we have
operated effectively together with the help of the permanent crew to keep the ship
sailing, serviceable & ship shape plus keeping her course true & our spirits high. Job
27th September 2019
Coordinates 50° 21’.372 N 004° 07’.009W
Passage to Plymouth
Slip Lines: 06:30 hrs
Alongside: 17:30 hrs
As with yesterday, orders were given for an early start to slip lines at 06:30 hrs &
head out into what was looking likely to be a rough trip with a moderate to rough
swell & force 6 – 7 becoming 8 later.
First challenge for the day was finding our fouls & lifejackets that had been truly
mixed up through the previous days R&R which lead to Watergate type
interrogations, pocket searching & mild toy throwing until eventually sorted. Early
signs of the day to come were Harry not making it out of the relative calm of the
harbour before calling for God over the side. With the boat fettled & engine
serviceable El Capitan Wolverine decided sails would be a terribly dangerous thing
to do given the following winds & sea state.
Exiting Fowey harbour neck where the swell funnelled like a venturi. It was a short
sea & heavy swell bringing some early excitement to the voyage. Sick people clinging
to the handrails being reintroduced to the previous evening drinks & fine dining, but
at least the rain washed away any facial residues.
First leg was with the sea abeam & wind howling from the same direction, a long
They say to expect the unexpected at sea, but I don’t think anyway expected to be
wowed by quite so many common dolphins given the previous fleeting visit, but a
large pod arrived & enjoyed surrounding the ship & playing around in the waves,
surfing, leaping & splashing. They stayed with us for the rest of the leg before
disappearing as quickly as they came as we bore off the wind on a new bearing for
It was about then that someone said “has anyone seen Helen”?” Errr no”!
Shouldn’t we have checked prior to leaving, probably? Anyway, Tony was elected
to investigate the missing person’s report & descended into the well christened
washing machine that was the forward sleeping quarters. Bless her! Having decided
06:30 hrs was a little early to rise, opted for a more relaxed morning regime, but now
at sea in a rolling sea, it was proving far more difficult to eject herself from her bunk
as sitting up brought an instant feeling of nausea & was forced to return to a prone
position before another attempt at extrication could be attempted. Once Tony
arrived however to assist, she made one last bid for freedom & the dash to liberty &
a horizon began carrier bag in hand. The entertainment at least whiled away the
time & brought smiles back to a few pallid faces.
Now we were running with the wind breakfast was started, myself & Kath
plunging into the galley & firing up the stove, bacon sandwiches the order of the
day. Kath unfortunately didn’t last long however before dashing back to the deck,
apologies still hanging in the wind, leaving me to produce the goods. I wasn’t so
lucky to be able to make fresh air though before succumbing to the evils of the
washing machine & my returning dinner, the only option being the galley sink &
resorting to have to pump away my embarrassment.
Once composure was regained. The goods were summarily produced & delivered to
the flight deck for consumption. This had of course its daily challenges as the boat
tossing from side to side & occasionally broaching violently as we descended
particularly large waves, cups & plates were flying, as was much of the cabin that
hadn’t been secured or nailed down prior to setting off & that included me,
performing the instant starfish on more than one occasion.
The toing & throwing continued unabated for the remainder of the voyage until we
turned due north for Plymouth Sound & things began to calm down once in the lee
of the headland.
Berthing also had its late challenges & indecisions trying to find a suitable berth.
Meanwhile ham sandwiches lovingly prepared by Helen & Mark &
complimented with a cuppa soup filled a small gap before finally putting alongside
at the Mountbatten Marina at 17:30 hrs.
Once the ship was tidied dinner was readied consisting of Chilli con Carne made by
Mark & Tony which was fabulous especially with the addition of a little bit of
Stumpy’s special sauce. The culinary pleasures didn’t end there though, the
crowning glory going to Harry & his amazing digestive trifle.
Captain Wolverine having been stung not once, but twice in a week by a bee in
Fowey was now suffering an allergic reaction which required him to seek medical
advice at the local walk in centre & then onto A&E . He didn’t return for nearly 9
hours, God bless the NHS.
The decision about tomorrow will be left till his diagnosis is complete & the weather
forecast, but expect to start the return west
28th September 2019
Coordinates 50° 21’.372 N 004° 07’.009W
Weathered in to port Plymouth
Slip Lines: N/A
Although the plan was to leave Plymouth with a view to make Falmouth or fall
back to Fowey should the weather & time require curtailment?
Everyone was up & ready, but the weather forecast was not looking favourable with
talk of force nine & Falmouth Coastguard reporting locally force 10, it was a good
call to scrub sailing activities until it passes. Instead Wolverine suggested a pleasant
cruise up the Tamer River for a sightseeing trip after lunch.
After chores were completed people drifted onshore to a local seemingly very popular
café, ‘The Guardroom’ for a spot of brekkie & some real coffee before sauntering
back to ready the boat. One of our number decided that he rather fancied a trip into
Plymouth over a motor cruise & was last seen clinging undignifyingly to the tender
trying not to get his feet wet on his way to the shore & his solo adventure.
The rest of us made our way up the Tamar, Helen grappling with the principles of
steering a large boat through narrow tidal channels.
It would seem that TripAdvisor is not the best resource for
restaurant critics such as would have been afforded by the
I descended into the galley once more to prepare afternoon snacks made up of the fish
caught a few days earlier, cooked in 3 different ways, Greg Wallace & John Torode
would have been impressed. They were served with freshly baked bread rolls. Other
morsels, burger or sausage rolls were made for those fish shy amongst us.
Halfway round the heavens opened again, a by now regular monotonous event so we
returned from whence we came, tied up & prepared for an afternoon of relaxation,
chit chat & catching up on sleep for some.
Some disappeared immediately to the pub for sustenance & the promise of a
porcelain toilet, no pumping required.
The evening was to be the ship curry night at the locally Balti house a short walk
from the pub, which had come highly recommended on TripAdvisor & had a bring
your own drink policy. The taste buds were tingling.
The troops prepared, pruned, teased & otherwise beautified themselves in a scene that
could have been confused for an episode of Love Island.
Enter stage! A very wet Tony A, having returned from his Plymouth adventure.
He seemed much aggrieved with the general weather, but more so from his terse
treatment at the hand of the local river ferry attendant, the lack of taxis & having to
use public transport to get back to the boat.
Once dried & dressed, the first port of call was the local pub, The Boringdon Arms
for liquid refreshments before heading for the exquisite Asian culinary delights that
was Lacky’s Balti House with a can or bottle of what was your particular fancy.
It is visive to say that TripAdvisor is probably not the best resource forum for
gastronomic critic more worthy of late Keith Floyd & one presumed this one had
slipped under the net with its reams of supposed positive feedback more likely selfconstructed adulation. It was however edible & the beer was good, but try not to
glance right as you chance a visit to the toilet.
The rain featured heavily, literally, on our return providing yet another soaking, but
as we settled in for the night stuffed to the gunnels, thoughts of the possibility of
sailing the next day subsided as the crew drifted off to sleep & I sang sweetly, albeit
quite loudly, apparently!
. DAY SIX
29th September 2019
Coordinates 50° 21’.087 N 003° 34’.029W
Passage to Dartmouth
Slip Lines: 14:30 hrs
Alongside: 22:00 hrs
With the weather promising to improve once the deep depression out in the Atlantic
passed through overnight, the plan was to make a break for Falmouth leaving
around lunchtime leaving us the morning for relaxing. The crew dispersed, going
their various ways, some choosing to breakfast again in the modest comfort of The
Guardroom, others taking in the sights with a brisk walk & the mad amongst us
setting off for a run, returning some time later sodden to the skin & shivering like
jelly on a trampoline. Those that remained just chilled rested or chatted whereas
Katie tested her grey matter with the Daily mail crossword with the help of others
including Google when things got a bit tough.
We all gathered for lunch & re-brief for departure, the tide was too low for the
Spirit of Falmouth & her deep draft to exit berth safely so would need to wait a little
longer for the tide to rise sufficiently.
We slipped our lines eventually at 14:30 hrs & made our way out into Plymouth
Sound & then on to Falmouth if the conditions allow. The wind was good, but the
tide & swell was against us making it painfully slow going.
With the daylight ebbing away the decision to turn 180° was made by Captain
Wolverine abeam Rame Head coordinates 50° 17’.143W 004° 12’.735W.
Once turned the foresail was raised & with it an instant increase of speed now
heading for our alternative destination of Dartmouth at a break neck speed of 9kts +
with a strong rolling swell helping & hindering in equal measure as we rocked our
way eastbound & ever further into the darkness.
Rob & Tony prepared what would become our last supper aboard the Spirit of
Falmouth & what more fitting a gastronomic delight than an epic veggie curry with
all the accoutrements’ deserved of such fine dining as poppadum’s & naan breads. A
very welcomed meal to keep us going in what was becoming a very long day.
By now the wind was starting to decrease & the seas subside as night-time fell. To
add & beautiful air of tranquillity to the evening, the skies cleared to reveal the
astonishing beauty of the Milky Way & the vast cosmos beyond. As the
International Space Station scooted across the night sky shining brightly &
shooting stars flashed across the horizon. One could not help but feel a little humbled
to be privileged with what the past week had given us.
We entered Dartmouth under darkness using a combination of modern & not so
modern traditional navigational aids afforded to us in all their flashing glory &
made mooring at 22:00 hrs expertly positioned by our captain & crew
Once the ship was tidied away, a few made the short tender trip to shore for one last
pub visit whilst the rest started what would be a memorable end of Exped party
aboard. We drunk what was left of the drink left aboard, sang badly to Dancing
Queen & in a touching moment led by Stumpy gave a traditional military toast.
“Never above you”. “Never below you”, Always beside you”, God Save the Queen”.
The frivolities continued into the early hours & a fitting end to an incredible week.
20th September 2019
Coordinates 50° 21’.087 N 003° 34’.029W
This next morning, with heavy hearts, we packed away our belongings &
disembarked ashore for one more breakfast together before parting our ways,
thanking the crew & making our way home to our more normal lives & dry beds.
In what can only be described as life changing experience in many ways for all
involved, 12 inexperienced co-workers came together, spent seven days squeezed into
a floating wooden coffin, learning to sail, live in close proximity to each other at sea
& challenge themselves like never before. Not a voice was raised & not a soul didn’t
give their all participating in the pursuit for a great adventure.
To the Crew
Never have we appreciated more, the life we have & the shared experience you gave
us over the week we spent together. We know your lives have been changed by the
marvellous work that Turn to Starboard do in providing help to build new lives.
We are humbled by what you have given to your country & also to us, we truly feel
part of us was left aboard.
We will always be beside you mates!
Until the next time
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