Level 2 sunset, spinnaker and dolphins and celebrating in ‘spoons

Sunset in Swanage Bay

After the excitement of working the bow with Adam, Conall made the decision that we would spend the night at anchor in the bay off Swanage  on the South Coast. We headed in and as we tucked ourselves in towards the land the wind died right down and we looked to be set for a decent nights sleep. We lowered the sails and put the boat to bed for the night, setting the anchor with what seemed about a mile of chain and the massive anchor. After raising the anchor out of its locker with the winch we lowered it over board then  we used the special Clipper windlass called ‘all hands on deck’ to set it. We took 3 bearings to mark our position and set the anchor light and ball from the mast. It was time then to sit on deck for a while and watch the most incredible sunset. The sky was on fire, it was glorious a perfect end to a perfect  day. Next up was a cunning knots assessment run in the form of competition, this should be incentive to all to practice. The aim of the game was who ever tied the knot that Conall shouted out correctly and fastest got to choose which hour watch they were to be on through the night. We each had a one hour watch to do overlapping by 15 minutes with the last person  to hand over and ensure we did not drift, run aground, get ambushed by pirates or  reported to the coastguard by a local and radioed in the middle of the night. I say that in jest but that actually happened, a worried local saw our anchor light which was all present and correct and even though we were out in the middle of the bay they thought we were someone that had fallen off the cliffs and were flashing a torch at 3am  to be rescued. Anyway a quick call from the coastguard double checked we were all ok and it livened up the watch. It was a good practice in taking bearings with the handheld compass, walking quietly on deck with your harness on and chatting quietly with a couple of crew mates for half an hour.

The last day of sailing dawned with a spot of mist but the sun soon shone through and after a quick breakfast it was time to get the sails up and get moving. The plan today as we all had a good nights sleep was to sail together as one watch and really get to grips with tacking and gybing, getting the foreguys on and off and getting some sail trimming done. It was still good and windy when we got out into the channel and we were soon moving well again with a little pod of Rissos Dolphins who joined us for a while.

We were obviously doing OK as later in the morning Conall, who is possibly the most chilled out fella, an amazing teacher, softly spoken with a sexy Irish accent , patient, funny and as one of last years Clipper Round the World Yacht Race Skippers, very experienced, said “Lets get the spinnaker up!!!!” Level 2 ……. What was going on? We were not expecting that until our Level 3 training but he thought we were ready and the weather was right. While  getting it all set up the halyard got a little tangle just by the first spreader, George let it go a bit too soon. We think it was accidentally on purpose as the next thing  George was being winched up the mast to release it. Oh silly George! The grin on his face was blinding we all needed our sunnies on. The spinnaker took some winching up , heavy going on the coffee grinder to get it all the way up fast before it bust its little wool bindings, then when it was up WOW  it was incredible, the size of a tennis court and such a bonus.

Me with the Spinnaker up

When it was time to put the spinnaker away we dropped it through the letterbox, that is the gap between the bottom of the mainsail and the boom then squirrelled it back down the companionway again using the all hands make light work method. I was the squirrel which involved yet more hauling and general pulling and body weight to get the sail inside as fast as possible with the rest of the crew on deck controlling the sail from flapping around. Once inside it makes you realise what a huge sail it really is and we began the arduous task of re tying the little pieces of wool  around the fabric  ready for next time.

Laurence with the spinnaker 

The rest of the day we sailed in the general direction of Gosport.

It was late when we arrived back, dark and the last hour or so we motor sailed to get in, we had been putting as much away as we could as we travelled but still when we got back the last of the sails needed dropping, flaking and putting away. The deep clean in the morning was looming and the main focus of this evening was get in, get everything stowed and get to the pub. After only a few days at sea we were all smellier than we were used to, just a taster of the month or so  that we will all face in each race. Once secured to the pontoon and Conall was happy everything was in order we made dash onshore. We made a pact to head straight to the pub in time for last orders but all the fellas stopped to shower …. Pussies!! So it was Lizzy and I still in our merino wool base layers in the pub waiting for all the boys. The Castle had called last orders so it was off to ‘spoons for a couple of drinks and time to chat and laugh and relive our highs and lows. Giggling and giddy after perhaps one too many we made it back to our boat to sleep on the flat and get ready for deep clean and debrief in the morning. You will be pleased to hear that Lizzy and I made it to the showers before bed and George definitely agreed to team tattoos in each port during the Clipper Race.

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