Exercise Midnight Sun - Greenland 2008


Star Date 19042008 2140hrs

Leg 2 Crew collective blog

Well, it’s 8pm on Saturday evening and we’re glad to be snug (12 of us) in the saloon. Emma and Louise’s tomato and ham pasta is bubbling in the galley (they did volunteer honest!).

And now for the important stuff of how the day’s sailing went. We felt that we off to a flying start because even Josh was on time (Early in fact - Josh). Most of us had been on the Easter sailing week, specially designed for team-building the Leg 2 crew. This weekend Alan from Leg 1, flew down from Scotland , to join us for his first day’s sailing.

At the start

After a victualling (Louise and Andy drove to Morrison’s Gosport branch at the peak of Saturday morning’s business to buy enough to feed 12 people for all meals from scratch for 2 days), pre-sea checks and selecting and bending on the No3 Yankee (Radio 4 Shipping Forecast: north-easterly, Force 6, gusting F8 at first ; veering SE F4/5 later), the warps were prepared for the yacht to slip. Our destination was the vicinity of the Nab Tower , off Bembridge Ledge at the east end of the Isle of Wight .

The wind was strong and very cold for the time of year. Notably, the visibility was extremely poor. For those that know the area, the Portsmouth Harbour entrance forts were invisible until we were right alongside them. We encountered a large number of huge merchant vessels of all types anchored around the eastern approaches to the Solent , near Seaview. Only when we were quite close did these loom threateningly out of the fog.

into the fog

For this weekend, Sail Training Craft ‘Adventure’, had taken delivery of a new Man Overboard System. Each crew member is issued with a small sender unit, designed to be worn round the wrist which alerts the control unit on board if a crew member is more than 20 metres from the yacht. Each wrist unit also activates if it is immersed in water. Leg 2 skipper, Windy Gale, planned to do an initial test of the system, while we continued to improve the sailing skills learned in the week at Easter. We very soon discovered that there was no signal in the vicinity of the ship’s wheel, so whoever was on the helm set off the alarm! We attached one of the wrist sensors to Ruth and eased her over the side.

Don’t worry Ruth, is a fluorescent dummy! As she floated away from the yacht we had no alarm at all. Attention was now turned to recovering Ruth; jobs were given out to the crew as Windy was driving. As we approached Ruth everything was going well until the point where we had to get her onto the boat. At this point the plan fell apart meaning we missed her and Mr Gale ran to her rescue diving under the guard rail and grabbing her by the scruff of the neck. We had hold of her at last!! So picture the scene Windy on his belly with Ruth by the scruff of her neck, the next stage of this picture is to imagine Josh climbing on top of windy to attach a more secure line to Ruth. Which he did eventually! Then we could finally haul Ruth back on to the boat. We practised this evolution a good few more times . Each time the crew drills were getting much faster and better.

Crew drills

Louise took the helm for the sail back to the Hornet in continuing poor visibility. She brought ‘Adventure’ alongside expertly to complete the sailing part of the weekend.

On Sunday we practised rigging the stormsails and triangulating the boom alongside. Tom and Andy were winched to the top of the mast.

practice rigging

L/Cpl Allan Macdonald (52 Sqn, 32 Sig Regt). This has been my first time out on the Challenge 67 at sea since the on side training in March. Let’s just say being in the bow of the boat trying to sort a foresail in a swell concentrates the mind and shreds the nerves wonderfully. But a real buzz and good fun. Getting round the boat whilst at sea was a bit of a confidence test as well. The team I have worked this weekend have been great and helped to keep me on the right track. I have learned a lot on my first day at sea including dealing with sea sickness and am really looking forward to my next weekend in May and my comp crew course in June. The expedition is coming over the horizon fast. Sailing the Atlantic is going to be awesome and I am really looking forward to few more freeze frame what am I doing here thoughts in future training.



2nd March 08


50:47.355N 001:07.143W

Louise Smith

After a hearty breakfast on the Saturday morning a group of us all trooped down to the JSASTC classrooms where we discovered who of us were competent (experienced) crew members. Alarmingly, the majority of us appeared to be incompetents (some in more ways than others), or in other words naive novices who had little idea about what we were getting ourselves into. Any hopes of the forthcoming expedition being a fun cruise were every quickly dispelled by Richard explaining that the high risk expedition would be very cold, very wet, very windy and that we would be far from any mobile phone connections and far from any hospital, indeed far from anyone other than those 13 other crew members on board with whom we would be in very close proximity. We realised later just how close to each other we would be.

Although our floating home for two weeks, the yacht - a Challenge 67 - seemed large from the outside, it became apparent that on closer inspection there really was little room for anyone or anything: 3 bunks to 4 cabins each of dimensions 1m x 3m x 2m, toilet, shower, bathroom all in a space of 1m x 1.5m, very narrow passages and certainly no room to swing a cat.

After being subjected to a video showing on board medical attention administered to a crew member, in this case the stitching of an instructor's keen sliced open on a cleat on a previous expedition we were divided into two groups and shown around the Challenge 67. To the untrained eye the deck or topside of the yacht was littered with various ropes which we later learned had names such as sail tie, main sheet and halyard and weren't just coloured for aesthetic purposes.

We also learned a whole new vocabulary of sailing terms such as heads (toilets), tack (front of the sail), clew (back of the sail), reefs (folds in the sails), fore stay, baby stay (support wires) and may favourite, cringle. We then got put the fore sail up, took it down, put the main sail up , took it down and learned a few knots.

The following windy morning we took out two smaller yachts and tried our hand at gybing (turning the yacht) and the main event which involved Windy, one of our instructors donning a dry suit to cut a rope which had got caught under the rudder whilst the rest of us heeled the yacht onto one side.

We all realised there was a lot to know and learn and practise and looked forward to the next training weekend.



50:47.355N 001:07.143W

Ramesh Manickavasagan

02/03/08 How many ways to die when sailing!!!!

After completing the 1st selection weekend, on the 18th Feb 2008 I got an e-mail saying that I was selected for the first leg of sailing to Greenland. It was an exciting moment and could not wait to tell every one in my family and all at work. I got my JI on the 25th saying that I should attend the 29 Feb - 2 Mar for the first of many training weekends at Gosport. Got here on the Friday night, booked in to the accommodation, and met the rest of the crew in the bar for few drinks.

Saturday morning after the breakfast we had a briefing from Richard, I am not going to type the whole brief but to summarise what Richard said,

"If you don't learn on this weekend you will die,
If you don't like sailing you will die,
If you don't do as I tell you will die,
If you question me (the Skipper) you will die,
Any questions?"

So all of us got the gist of what, how and how not to do things on the weekend. Through the day we were shown how to put the main sail up, and how to put 1st, 2nd, and 3rd reefs. I got to know the layout of the yacht "Topside and Down Below" of the Challenge 67.

MJ the First Mate took us through how to put up the Foresail, Trysail, and the Storm sail. This yacht has got a lot of rope on the deck, but the sailors call them all sorts of different names that the rest of the world would not understand. I think they do this so that they can keep the sport to themselves, rather than let any Tom, Dick and Harry call themselves sailors. I learned all the names of the ropes, but still haven't worked out how to spell them.

I was well excited to learn that by the end of the Exped we will be granted Comp Crew if we make the grade, to achieve the standard of a comp crew you should be able to row the tender 50 meters away from the yacht and back and much more. I managed to do this without any drama, but one particular crew member once set off didn't want to come back to the yacht, so MJ and I got in to another tender and went to rescue the crew member who was on her way rowing to France.

To finish off the day we all went and had dinner, and Richard suggested over the dinner that we all meet up in Landers for a team building drink. The first hour went without any dramas, all the crew sat around with their favourite drink and caught up on the days activities. Around 2100 Hrs this young pretty (not) girl came to MJ and whispered in his year, and we were all starting to wonder what she wanted. I found out that she wanted to know if MJ had a girl friend and if not will he go out with her mother. MJ declined the offer, but I suggested to the young pretty (not) girl that she can have a photo taken with MJ if she likes. I have not finished what I was saying she was sitting on MJ's lap with a big grin on her face, MJ looking really scared and I have the incriminating photo which will be here in the near future.

On Sunday morning we were shown how to store the anchor the correct way, and how to climb the mast. I got in the galley and made 13 cups of coffee and tea for the crew as they got on with jobs tasked by Richard.



21st Feb 08 - Cpl Bruce Tarbet


Having been picked up by a Corporal Scott McDonald at lunchtime on Friday, we headed south to Gosport. After ten hours and 470 miles driving from Dundee through the sleet and rain we arrived at the welcoming Fort Blockhouse accommodation, getting our heads down ready for the morning.

What a contrast Saturday morning was; bright and sunny. I hoped I would be in the crew practising in the Solent on the 34ft yacht. The introduction by the Lt Col was interesting and shook us out of any complacency about holidays to Greenland. This was going to be hard work so made a mental note about doing some running, press-ups and sit ups to prepare. Having to do the self introduction last was a little awkward because all the reasons for my wanting to do this expedition had already been said, but it did break the ice.

My group spent the afternoon being shown the ropes (I mean halyards and sheets) on the Challenge 67. You can see why it is called a challenge when it takes four people to pull up the mainsail! Then it sunk in that we were doing this alongside, not out at sea at a 30 degree angle into the wind with cold water being thrown at you. I struggled with the knots (should that be bends and hitches?), particularly the bowline but I think I will get there with it.

Saturday evening was spent in the yacht club chatting away to each other and picking the instructors brains about sailing. Real Ale was served so I was happy anyway. Being from an independent squadron you don't often meet people from other parts of the Corps so it was good to compare notes. The fresh air and long day took its toll and we all turned in early in preparation for the sailing the next day.

Sunday morning was a little overcast. We received a safety briefing followed by some instructions on the Victoria 34 before we slipped our berth and put to sea (well Portsmouth Harbour). I used to know Portsmouth quite well and it was strange seeing it from seaward. The instructors took us through man overboard drills, then gybing followed by reefing the mainsail. The boat was riding the sea like a fairground ride which gave all us crew a buzz. Then we headed back to in to the marina to practise going alongside before coming back to our berth to learn how to put the boat to bed. After lunch we returned the stores before a debrief; we had all enjoyed learning so much that we had forgotten or not noticed that we were being assessed throughout for our suitability for the expedition. Then it was program the Satnav and head home to Scotland. Does TOMTOM work on boats?