the Eye sailing!
Eye of The Wind - Newsletter
The sun shone from an azure blue sky as we stood at the base of a 10,000 year old glacier, amazed at the greeny blue colour of the ice, and the surrealist formations that the wind and rain had formed over the years. A perfect setting for Mid Summer's Day at Hardanger Fjord in central Norway, en route to the Baltic for the Tall Ships gathering.
Mid March found us anchored at Grand Bay, St Martin at the completion of our West Indies season. Our last chance to do the bright work before the bi-annual drydocking in Gloucester. The northern hemisphere had been subjected to one of its coldest winters this century (as you were no doubt well aware). The weather faxes we had received were still showing a continual series of intense lows tracking further south than normal for this time of the year.
Some nights it was difficult to pick who was who, as 'Michelin Man' types appeared for watch, nearly unable to move for the 15 layers of clothes they managed to squeeze on.
Due to the delay with the "Ocean Defender", an ex whale catcher that was in the large dock we usually use, we squeezed ourselves into the small one. We had to first remove the jolly boat and martingale rigging, so as the water was pumped out, Fred was found bobbing around the hull in his dry suit, waterblasting off the weed and barnacles that had accumulated since last time.
Owing to a paint reaction and the surveyors wanting to see the heads of the rivets, four days peace was shattered by the continuous sounds of needle-guns, as we stripped the hull plating below the waterline of the last few years' antifouling. We were to emerge from our time in Gloucester with the hull looking pristine both above and below the waterline. A new stainless exhaust system for both generators and the overside discharge was put in by John and David Williams. David's state of the art equipment and knowledge certainly made it a lot easier, and we appreciate all his help. Also everyone else that turned up to assist, especially Terry Pooley, Dan Gold, Helen Bird, Jack Peppiatt, Roz, Carole Conconi, The Motleys, and our faithful Bob Godfrey.
Fred's van nearly knew its own way between Gloucester and Crediton, as he whizzed back and forth, bringing equipment and parts for us.
We had a very pleasant soiree on Saturday, thanks to everyone who braved the rather cold wind and grey day to join us. Hot mulled wine ended up being the order of the day, and provided ample internal heating.
'TS Royalist' came to Gloucester on the Saturday, and we were both due to depart for Sharpness on Sunday morning. However, a Force 8 gale was blowing, and it was decided to delay our departure for Bristol until the winds had abated on Monday.
Poste haste had to be made in the transit of the canal to catch the first of the ebbing tide at Sharpness. Both vessels locked out into the Severn Estuary as the ebb tide was running. Deb and Emma were driving Fred's van to Bristol when it came across the car radio that a sail training vessel with 34 people had gone aground north of the Severn Bridge. Thankfully the mobile phone was working, and Deb was able to phone up (with her heart in her mouth) to see if we were alright. It was a shock for everyone aboard when our pilot learned from Avon traffic control that Royalist had been swept by the tide out of the deep water channel and had grounded. Thankfully she sustained no appreciable damage, and everyone aboard was safe.
Our first engagement was the International Festival of the Sea at Bristol, a gathering of ships from many nations, including the American vessels 'Pride of Baltimore' and 'Rose'. The two Square Sail vessels 'Kaskelot' and 'Earl of Pembroke', which we had last seen in Malta for Cutthroat Island were also adding to the atmosphere. The Festival was to celebrate the commissioning of the 'Matthew', a replica of John Cabot's sailing vessel that voyaged to Newfoundland in 1497. Numerous old friends turned up on the dock, with a surprising number of 'Young Explorers' form Operation Drake days, many with their children in tow all wanting to see where Daddy or Mummy slept on the ship.
Stormy but favourable conditions continued as we sailed north up the Irish sea, and entered the Hebriddean Sea by the Sound of Islay, an exciting passage with both wind and tide in our favour. Scotland was at its wonderful best, and we called at Fingal's cave, lona, Tobermorry, Rhum and Stornaway.
There were a few nervous people aboard as we departed Oban, but we managed to get to Stromness in time for the wedding of Angela and Benny Gordon. Stromness turned on a perfect day (by their standards) and everyone got to the church on time. Benny and Fred cut very fine figures in their ancient Gordon tartan kilts as they waited for the bride to appear. Angela of course looked stunning, complimented by her very able flower gins, Emma and Angela's cousin Amy. After the ceremony there was a cocktail party aboard, with approximately 200 guests (I don't think even Benny realised Angela had so many relations) with a jazz band accompanying proceedings.
En route to Sweden, and with Lennart Martinson aboard (his family used to own the ship when she was 'Merry') he guided us to her old home ports of Stockevik and Fiskeackskil. We were grateful for his knowledge as we have travelled through the southern archipelago of Norway and the western archipelago of Sweden. At times it seemed as if the yards would be scraping along the pink granite rocks as we traversed these narrow coastal waterways, with its breathtaking scenery. Boatsheds and wharfs are to be found in the most unexpected places and one can see how these people have so much in common with the sea.
Rostock saw the start of this years Tall Ships race, which for the first time will visit Russia and the fantastic port of St Petersburg. During the cruise in company we plan to visit Mariehamn, the home of Erikson's sailing fleet, which was the last commercial fleet of sailing vessels in the world and plied between Australia and Europe up until the late 1940's.
12 October 1996 will once again see us bound for Australia, 20 years after our maiden voyage.
Whilst the finer details of our programme after Tasmania have not yet been finally formulated, at this stage we are planning to return to the UK via northern Australia, Indonesia, Indian Ocean, Cape Town, South Atlantic and the West Indies.
We have finalised a series of voyages along the Australia eastern seaboard, which we feel will be a great introduction to anyone who has never been to Australia.
The emphasis on the northern cruises will be the ecology of coral reefs and tropical rainforests. An opportunity will be given to learn to dive and experience the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef. A local expert will be aboard to lead you on excursions to the islands and the tropical rainforests of Queensland.
This is your chance to sail in the Roaring 40's which should give us sightings of numerous seabirds, various species of seals, and whales.
NEWS FROM FRED....
I think Tiger has given you a good newsletter yet again. From my point of view, Jacci coming on the scene this year has been great. She has taken a lot of the hassle away from me and together, with her enthusiasm, I think we make a good team and I have actually had time to do some of my own work including finishing my new house (Squirrel Lodge).
Things are looking real good for the 'Eye' and all the hard work by the Shore Crew i.e. Lisa, Helen, Sue and Jacci over the past couple of years is paying off. We have managed to get good press, even a full page spread in the Times and front cover of Classic Boat.
Nine of the trips between now and Auzzie are fully booked and others filling fast. So if you are interested get in quick! Even though the 'Eye' is off to Australia we will of course keep you up to date with news and progress.
I would like to thank the past and present crew members for helping make the Eye of the Wind what she is....the best.
My love and regards to you all