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Old 11 July 2001, 09:43   #21
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Does anyone have experience of using RIB collars with pressure relief valves fitted? If so do you know if they can be successfully fitted to egos that are liable to overinflation?

Good discussion so far - lets move the agenda onto the maritime aspects of the event please.

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Old 11 July 2001, 11:14   #22
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Well what can I say but thanks to the majority of you for contributing to this topic that I started last week. I never expected this topic to have such a wide-ranging agenda, touching on Philosophy to Politics.

I think we better leave this one now as I feel we are straying from the original reason and good intention that I started with!!!

Jason


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Old 11 July 2001, 16:02   #23
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Hand bags at 10 paces.
The bickering will not prove or solve anything.
The important point is fact and fact alone.
Fact: The event was a "success" in that no one was killed.
Fact: That it was dangerous.
Fact: That events of this kind are always dangerous.
Fact: It was arduous.
Fact: Next time they may not be so lucky.
Fact: The same applies to all sea events.
Fact: You should not go looking for bad wetather as it will find you soon enough.
Fact: QED.
OUT.
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Old 11 July 2001, 17:11   #24
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"One could ask if the fact that there were 'support boats' and other back-ups diminished the achievement."

Personally, I feel quite proud to achieved the circumnavigation in a support boat! Even if it was twice the size of the <5m boats!! As I say they were all bloody mad!

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Old 12 July 2001, 04:58   #25
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A bit about Tigershark to maintain the discussion….

The preparation.

Tigershark was outside the spec for the event. She is a rebuilt 15yr old (I think) 5.4m Avon Searider. She carries a Mercury 90hp 4 stroke new in 2000. TS and her skipper – me have attempted the BIBOA round Scotland twice. The first time in 1998 we were stopped by a gearbox failure at Skye and continued on other boats, the second time in 2000 we got all the way round and went on to take part in the BIBOA Scillies cruise that year. Across this period, John Harvey from BIBOA was fundamental in helping to build confidence and experience through his support and encouragement.

After watching from the sidelines the 1999 off shore expeditions event to circumnavigate the UK, an ambition consolidated in my mind to ‘get her round’ at some time when experience, equipment and preparation combined to make it seem feasible.

I was delighted when RIB International proposed the event, as it provided a focus point for which to prepare and offered the prospect of a fleet as apposed to a solo attempt.

The crew preparation included fitness training for the 4 month prior to the event focussing upon back and leg work. Both Skipper (Vernon Smith) and Navigator (Russell Lake) completed the RYA day skipper shore based course and level 2 power boat course with coastal endorsement. Vernon then went on to complete a 4 day training course with Dog Phillips team off Lowestoft and was awarded the advanced certificate at the end. Russell completed the day skipper practical to consolidate navigation theory. Vernon also conducted training sessions on engine maintenance with the supplier – Tony Hole marine of Plymouth. Both crew are professional outdoor instructors and hold current and often practised(!) first aid qualifications.

The boat preparation. We decided early on that we were not going to be in the fortunate position of acquiring a sponsored / supported boat that would meet the spec. As the motivation was more about the experience, rather than ‘being a contender’ – I was not too concerned, other than the financial implications.

It was decided that good old Tigershark would have to do. Her tubes were thread bare at the time, having had considerable use. She also had a transom problem, the new, heavy 4 stroke having caused a structural failure (again at Skye) on the Round Scotland 2000 event. Quite clearly, a total rebuild would be needed for the old girl if she was to be in a condition, I would want to commit her with.

Henshaws were lined up to replace the tubes and the boat was totally stripped. We turned her over, ground back and gel coat damage and prepped the hull. The Avon has a displacement chamber and it was decided to blank that to add to buoyancy. So again the vents were ground back, layered with glass fibre, filled and sanded. Once full prepped, the outside of the hull was sprayed with a polyurethane based commercial paint and left to dry for several days. As part of the hull manipulation during this process, I noticed water trapped inside the hull (could hear it sloshing!!). It turned out to be trapped in a baffle between the inner and outer hull that runs just below where the tubes are fitted, so this was drilled, drained, dried and sealed.

The hull then went off to Henshaws for the tube fitting – they did a marvellous job.

The transom had failed the year before and ha had an emergency bracket welded from fencing overnight in Skye to keep her going!. The failure occurred, because the original SS braces fitted on the searider, run next to the tubes straight up to the transom. There is a weak spot between these supports, caused by a cut down in the transom and this had failed. To overcome this 100% stainless in Plymouth, worked with me to design a new bracket for supporting the transom. The result was a substantial plate across the inside of the transom which both the top engine bolts and the outboard towing eyes were fixed through. Three legs came forward from this plate for deck fixing to support the stresses. The fitting of these legs to the deck, necessitated cutting inspection hatches into the deck. Below the deck in a searider, is a sealed buoyancy chamber filled with foam. This had to be dug out to create space for the under deck plates to spread the load from the securing bolts. The end result worked really well and saved a complete transom rebuild. The transom was further strengthened by drilling down from above and pumping full of epoxy resin, before resealing.

A new console was hand built for the boat. I designed it to provide good upright positions with leg articulation for absorbing loads. It was cast inside an 18mm MDF mould and was a foam / glass laminate construction for strength and weight. It was designed to house 2 x 80 ltr fuel tanks with under seat filling. The whole set up worked very well, but was a complete bitch to build!

The console was glassed straight onto the ground and cleaned surface of the deck and then fitted out in situe. As with the original, we of set the console by a smidgen to counter prop torque and help balance the boat.

A new double A frame was designed and built by 100% stainless and fitted. It was a balance between the double frame for added strength and a single for weight saving. Having seen several frames fail due to metal fatigue, I opted for the double, knowing that I was loading the back end of the boat with considerable metalwork – heavy engine, transom bracket and A frame. Finally, the inside of the boat was painted with a proprietary anti slip deck paint. Extra lashing points were fixed on the deck spaces for spare fuel and other items.

The nav systems were backed up by fitting two independent GPS systems, on the helm and one on the navigators station. The 25wt fixed VHF was fitted to the navigator’s station, which was in line astern of the coxwain’s seat.

The whole thing came together very well, but took inordinate amount of time and we run right to the wire – still fitting electronics at 5am on the morning of departure!

Some mistakes were built in and these came to light during the passage making, but more of this to follow!.

In essence, I was pleased to be able to present a home restored, old boat for the event though at times, I had the extra stress of waiting for a structural failure in the hull in heavy seas – she did remarkably well and is a testament to the hull design and build quality of Avon.

More to follow….


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Old 12 July 2001, 09:36   #26
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Tigershark,
Well done. That is the most informative and interesting piece about the whole event that I have read - hurry up with the next part !
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Old 13 July 2001, 04:05   #27
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Thanks Allen,

On with the show....

Day One
Plymouth – Milford Haven
Distance 180miles or is it?

On the morning of the event Tigershark launched from her home slip at Weir Quay on the Tamar. The short run down to Plymouth saw us join the fleet at Mount Batten for the 11 am start, though we missed the skipper’s briefing, which unbeknown to us was at 9am. This proved to be significant later in the day.

HMS gave us a quick update on the plan, we were due to run with the two Ribcraft Grey Seal and Team Ribex. The plan as we understood it was to run in loose formation, providing support to your ‘paired’ boat down to the Lizard and then to make a decision to proceed or divert based upon eyeballing the conditions.

The fleet left at 11am into a playful SW sea. By the time we chopped through the head swell waiting off Rame Head and turned full into the force five for the run down to the Lizard, the fleet was already spreading out. Several times the fleet hove too in an attempt to allow boats to close up. However, after several delays and short hops the boats started to settle into the work of crossing to the Cornish headland and the fleet spread apart.

After a couple of hours uncomfortable work, Tigershark hove too off Lizard point in the lee of the headland, we had maintained visual contact with both our partner boats for most of the transit and they were now about 2 miles astern with a couple of other boats. We waited for them to close to eyeball the overfalls which were looking to be in angry mood. However, the fleet to our rear headed inshore, for what I took to be Cadgwith. We tried to raise them on the VHF for confirmation of the plan but with no luck. We sat and waited for 20 minutes or so, unable to raise any other boat in the fleet. Lesson 1. - stay closer to your ‘oppo’ boat. Lesson 2 – from the receiving end – don’t change the plan if all are not briefed unless essential. Lesson 3. - comms are unreliable between fast tracking craft even within visual range.

With the clock ticking, the sea angry and the visibility deteriorating, we decided to close on the Lizard and get round into St Michaels bay, heading for Penzance. It was now obvious that the fleet had put to port, but having been through the Lizard several times, I was confident she would go and once in the shelter of the bay, we could wait it out for the fleet or run for Milford.

We picked our way carefully round the nose, through boiling and confused seas, the 3 – 4m chop quickly coming back to a more regular sea as we opened the throttle onto a significant beam sea for Penzance.

Once in port, we had a bight to eat and discussed options. I was of the opinion that some, if not all of the boats would make it into the bay and there was a fair chance of a following sea for Milford, once we had cleared longships. Our discussion was centred around when the others might arrive and would they run up the coast or cut across? We double checked the mileage from the GPS – the coxwain’s set (a lowrence / eagle view) having failed in the head sea after an hours bashing. The navigator’s set (Garmin 162 map) was still operating, but the power cable was prone to being knocked out if the coxwain lent too far back on the seat rest (lesson 4). Before leaving, we had prepared folders for each day with all copies of way points, passage notes, scanned chartlets, secondary ports, relevant almanac sections etc laminated. This proved to be invaluable as a ‘hard’ and waterproof back up to the electronics, particularly as it was all held together in an A4 binder that was just about usable at 20kns in a bouncy sea! (lesson 5 – good prep of paperwork for use in a hostile environment) However, one glaring omission was the tide timetables !! – basic stuff.

We checked our fuel and decided that we would prefer to make Milford on the direct line, fuel being very marginal if we run up the coast – the nearest fuel in Penzance was half a mile by foot. We tipped the two 25 ltrs of spare fuel into our main tanks and estimated the levels. We left Plymouth with 210ltrs on board which, should give us Milford and about 30 miles spare – we decided to risk it (lesson 6 and a bad call!!) – never miss a chance to top off your tanks, more basic stuff!

By about 4pm (I think) we left Penzance and headed for Land’s End. As we cleared Mousehole in improving visibility, we spotted several ribs off to port and closed on the fleet – a fortunate and morale boosting coincidence of timing. As I recall, Grey Seal, Team Ribex, Black Max, Gemini and the home made boat (Team Aldiss) rounded the corner with us all together. The flotilla hove too to discuss options. The sea appeared better with the wind off the stern, however, Team Aldiss – fitted with a Tohatsu 2 stroke were low on oil, having stowed extra supplies onboard “Yes Dear” the big Ribtec support craft, which had consequently turned back after engine trouble (lesson 7) – rely on nobody but yourself and keep all your shit together.

Advice was exchanged with Team Aldiss as to which port on the north Devon coast would best serve their replenishment needs. A loose plan was agreed to run direct for Milford, with the Team Aldiss diverting up the coast for oil. I seem to recall several boats discussing fuel reserves, but don’t remember the outcome, as we waited on the edge of the pack for the run to commence. We checked the distance to run with two of the other boats and came up with a figure 20- 30 miles longer than our estimate – our fuel states were now suddenly critical for the direct line and impossible for the in shore route! (lesson 8). We had failed to double check the nav prior to departure, so didn’t know if it was a GPS error or an input error (I haven’t had chance to check yet) but we didn’t have a manual tally in the passage notes- yet more basic stuff. We were going to have to ‘tighten the nut’ pretty quick on this one if we were going to stay with it!, our hasty prep beginning to bight us in the backside!

We set off for the 80 or so miles (?) across the Bristol Channel – we were now running with Black Max as the two boats were well matched for speed and impatient to settle for the work ahead. Within 10 minutes we had lost sight of the rest of the flotilla (lesson 9) - the fleet splits frightening quickly at sea, you need exceptional station keeping discipline and watch keeping to hold the small boats together within visual contact in anything but clam seas. This essential lesson, was to prove vital to us for the rest of the trip and I can’t emphasise it enough. When the coxwain is busy ‘driving’ through water that demands his or her full attention, the crew must remain alert and maintain visual contact - an 80 mile transit in a following sea to a way point is a tempting scenario for the crew to switch off and the fleet scatter. It is a credit to Russell who was in the rear seat for this leg, that he maintained his concentration for several uncomfortable hours, a feat of seamanship matched by both MarkBeeley and young George Harvey in the black Humber. Through the diligence of all four crew the two boats held station and pace through a lengthy and demanding passage in deteriorating light.

Black Max had lost all comms, as both her VHF antenna had failed. Several boats had fitted both their operational antenna and the mandatory spare to their A frames. Antenna failure due to whip induced metal fatigue (or construction error) was to plague the fleet, with several boats losing comms. A ‘specialised’ RIB antenna by Tectronix was especially prone to this and many of the boats had these fitted (temporarily!).

The comms situation, combined with marginal fuel reserves, focussed the mind on good station keeping with Black Max as we crossed to South Wales in the gathering gloom. We arrived off Milford together just after dusk in drizzle as the last of our fuel gave out right by the channel marker at the entrance – Thank goodness, Black Max had a spare can, which they gave us despite the fact that they were on marginal reserves themselves – top boys. However, we had already tipped the ‘dregs’ from our reserve tanks into our forward 80 ltr tank. This was a bad error, I hadn’t thought through the whole fuel situation thoroughly enough – the reserve tanks had not been cleaned and I saw about 11/2 ltrs of dirty petrol drop into my main fuel tanks – very basic, very poor, and potentially very dangerous for us (lesson 10).

We quickly tipped into the rear tank, ½ the can of pure gold given selflessly to us by Black Max and motored up into the port. The other half being left in the can in case they needed it. We were met by a police rib which looked like a 9.5 m Delta off the entrance – they had been waiting off the entrance to guide any boats in, they were a welcome sight and lifted the spirits of both crews.

We got to the pontoon at Neyland at about 11pm after a really good shake down and a near run epic. The boat had performed well, but I was less than impressed with command and control of the fleet at sea and some of my own thinking and preparation. We had screwed up on several fronts, but were fortunate to have made it and learned several valuable lessons some of which I already knew!!. The lack of time for preparation (the previous week I was averaging 3hrs sleep a night as we struggled to get the boat ready) and no consolidation / shakedown was already picking out the weak points in our performance – sobering stuff.

I thought it unlikely that many, if any other boats would make it in that night. We had no idea of the start time for the next day and having missed the skipper’s briefing that morning, had not realised the excellent back up and comms route offered by Jo from RIB International’s shore support.

However, I viewed all this as tomorrow’s problems – we had independent land support (lesson 11 learned the hard way on the Round Scotland event several years before) . Rob was on the pontoon with the hotel keys ushering us towards our waiting Discovery with a promise of food and a late bar. We secured the boat and walked away from the first test, to mull over the lessons and our good luck.

A good piece of fortune for us, was a ‘bedraggled but jolly’ Hugo walking into our bar from the late night drizzle just as we finished our second pint – its amazing how satisfying and uplifting simple pleasures can be! We were pleased to hear that more boats had arrived and we clarified the meeting time for the next day. He impressed me with his cheerfulness and words of congratulations for us – a good character test as I often remark about such situations. After a quick exchange, it was off to bed to wash the salt from, well just about everywhere and a few hours kip.

Personal Opinion
A significant day. I thought that the decision to run the day was a marginal call and was a little surprised that we left that morning. I agreed with the plan to run to the Lizard and take a peek – but, at 11 am in Plymouth, I thought it unlikely we would run on to South Wales. The plan B and ‘what if’s?…could have been established more strongly – once at sea and separated, without solid alternate plans agreed for the fleet, skippers act on initiative and command and control is quickly lost. However, as it happens, the weather and seas did moderated as the day progressed so the passage was to prove feasible, if marginal.

With hindsight, the stiff conditions, late start, long distance and heavy loads on the boats made for a very punishing 12 hour run. Lack of experience of operating together as a fleet, coupled with crews and boats ’settling’ and experiencing teething problems, led to the fleet wasting time at sea, scattering and consequently significant damage being done to equipment and engines as coxwains drove hard to maintain the slipping schedule. I believe that the seeds were sown on this day for problems latter on and ultimately the demise of one of the teams and nearly several more.

As for the other boats – I believe, but I don’t know for sure, that the small Avon 4m rib Avon Seal, made it to Newlyn and then called it a day. The Bangor Challenger, I think made it to Newlyn and was then subsequently recovered by trailer and taken north. Team Aldiss, made it to north Devon and over - nighted in one of the ports there, leaving early the next day. Gemini, Team Ribex and Grey Seal run into Milford at about midnight. Team Spirit, supported by the big Scorpion, Cyanide, made it to Milford at around 3am following a significant tow after their engine saddle bracket failed. The big Ribtec, Yes Dear support boat, returned to Plymouth early following tappet problems, then made the run to Milford Solo. These are my recollections and impressions and are likely not be totally accurate.

Some key lessons were learned at personal, boat and event level. We were beginning to understand the nature of the other teams, the style, strengths and gaps in the flotilla leadership and the nature of our own weaknesses and skills. We were confident that we would be better prepared for tomorrow – but then, as it happens, tomorrow was also busy preparing for us too!!?!…..



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Old 13 July 2001, 18:28   #28
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Vernon,

Fascinating stuff! Having run behind the fleet for so long we were unaware of a lot of this!

Let me add my contribution to your Day 1 story...

Team Spirit & Cyanide left approx 1 hr later than the rest of the fleet having had our own problems with preparation. Seas were exactly as Vernon described..."nasty" and our plan was to run to Newlyn and take a view from there.

About 3hrs out we intercepted a radio call from Bangor Challenger to the rest of the fleet. Challenger was standing by Team Seal who had swamped their engine in the big seas. Plugging the data into the GPS, Cyanide headed off to their assistance with Spirit following behind in our wake.

The guys in Seal were maintaining a cheery face but the boat was completely full of water and the engine had failed. Challenger was standing by but there was little they could do. Fortunately Brian Elliot on Cyanide had prepared for just such a situation and was equipped with a dirty great submersible pump that we could plug in and drop into another boat to bale it out!

Having taken over rescue operations on scene as it were, we released Challenger and Spirit to continue on course with a plan for them to wait for us at Newlyn if we didn't catch them before.

It was apparent that Seal was so flooded that we needed to get the crew out onto Cyanide. Seal wasn't going anywhere under her own steam so a tow to the nearest port - Falmouth - seemed the only option. The concern for us was that this would take some hours and seperate us from the RB4 fleet. Fortunately, we had also made radio contact with Bose MG the 8m Ribcraft that had accompanied the fleet as far as the Lizzard and who was returning to Plymouth. They rendevoused with us and we handed Seal over to them. My understanding is that they towed Seal back to Plymouth.

Thinking about this situation in hindsight it raises the greatest concern I personally had with RB4. My concern was that one <5m RIB is unable to provide anything other than dire emergency assistance to another <5m RIB without putting itself in danger, unless conditions are very calm. I don't believe a 5m RIB could tow another 5m RIB very far without putting itself under strain. In extremis if the crew of the RIB in distress had to be taken on board the rescuing RIB that would put 4 people on a small RIB potential overloading the rescuer! This is why that I believe extremely strongly that larger support RIB's are a vital part of such an event. It was unfortunate therefore that Cyanide and Spirit were to spend half the trip running a day behind the main fleet! But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Having handed over Seal to Bose MG we set off in fine style to catch up with Spirit & Challenger. Cyanide showed her true pedigree by being able to maintain 28kts through 3m seas to catch up with the other boats in complete safety if not total comfort!

Having caught up with Spirit & Challenger, as well as the other support boat Yes Dear we all put into Newlyn for a break and the all important coffee and pork pies! (Team Spirit existing on Pork Pies & Sausage rolls for the whole trip & if I don't see another one for a very long time that'll be great!)

Conditions were improving & the sun had come out so we decided to push on to Milford Haven. Given the wind direction we also established that there was nothing to gain by running along the North Cornish coast so set course directly to Milford Haven across the Bristol Channel.

Running down to Longships with Challenger we had a conversation with them regarding their fuel state. They were down to 15 gallons with a 5hour plus passage ahead of them. Having no spare fuel on Spirit (& Cyanide being diesel) we were very concerned that they did not have enough fuel for the passage and contingency. The guys on Challenger came to a hard conclusion and made the brave decision to return to Newlyn. It must have been a tough one as the pressure was to push on but it was the right one and all credit to them for that.

Rounding Lands End in Bright evening sunshine and putting the seas behind us we began one of those "this is what ribbing is all about" type journeys. Glorious. We soon caught up with Spirit and Yes Dear who were making good time and were able to do some filming of the boat performing well in big seas. We were on track for a 10:30 arrival in Milford Haven and all seemed well with the world.

Never get complacent though. Suddenly Spirit stopped. The call over the radio was stunning. The saddle bracket on the outboard had failed. Disaster! Clearly Spirit was not going any further under her own steam and a long tow (45nm) lay ahead of us. Taking Mark and Martin onboard and rigging up the towing bridle we set off. We found the max speed we could make without a risk of Spirit broaching was 12kts. It was going to be a long night!

Yes Dear pressed on to arrive at Milford Haven at a reasonable time. We settled down to what was a long, depressing, boring and cold tow. Morale was at rock bottom. RB4 seemed to be over for us. We all had to dig deep into reserves of strength and willpower to keep alert and navigate safely into Milford Haven.

Arriving at the outer bouys at around 3.00AM it seemed like an intermiable journey up to Neyland. Those tanker jetties seemed to go on for ever! Identifying Neyland Marina in the dark was also tricky but we finally arrived and even had some very welcome help in making the boats fast from the marina staff / RB4 support team. Peter had organised taxi's and and the hotel keys to be left out and we finally got to bed, exhausted about 4.00AM

What a day!

Thats our first installment. Back to you Vernon!

Alan. (Cyanide)
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Old 14 July 2001, 14:54   #29
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Good to get some clarrification on the other goings on Alan, thanks.

On with the show....

Day Two
Milford Haven – Port St Mary, Isle of Man
Distance 180 miles (if I remember right!)

I knew it would happen and sure enough it did! No sooner were my eyes shut then Beeb, Beeb, Beeb The alarm mechanically called me back. It was 6.30 am we needed to fuel and check Tigershark before breakfast, pack kit for the overnight stay in St Mary as the next time we would see our support crew would be at Isle of Skye. The scheduled briefing time was 9 am on the pontoon and there was much to do. I swung my legs out of bed to discover that I was stiffer than a lab rabbit used for Viagra experiments! The kit I had hung to dry the night before had been successful in transferring the water to the bottom half of each garment only – deep joy.

We left and fuelled the boat. Independent shore support really comes into it’s own at these times, you can progress without the need to co-ordinate or rely on others and I was determined to ensure that Tigershark would at no stage hold up the morning proceedings.

I was surprised to see how full the pontoon was with the fleet, when we carried the fuel down to the boat. Jan was sorting himself from a night kipping on the gangway, the sun was shining and the breeze didn’t feel too bad. Most of the boats were lying lazily on their painters. Altogether things didn’t look too bad.

We sorted the boat, returned for breakfast and gathered for the 9am off. Well it couldn’t last could it? A whopping spanner flew into the fly wheel of RB4. HMS was needed at home to deal with an urgent and imperative family matter. Jan was rapidly promoted from seedy old sea dog, to Rear Admiral in charge of keeping things together. As if the borrowed Gemini was not enough, he now took on the roll of leader with the considerable extra responsibility of Hugo’s young son Tom, who was to remain with Grey Seal. The man rose to the occasion with good cheer, or at least most of him did, certain bits of him, being reputed not to rise to anything anymore.

I felt desperately sorry for HMS – to leave an event that holds so much for him and into which he had obviously invested so much time, energy and spirit, must have been desperately disappointing for him. To do so and leave a 12 year old boy, with still so much to do, would burden any father and it speaks volumes of his respect for Jan’s judgement that he was prepared to do so. I watched as Hugo briefed his son on bits and pieces about the boat, he was thorough both in his care and in the evident preparation that had gone into Grey Seal’s kit – it was good to see and no doubt gave confidence to young Tom.

The morning unfurled at it’s own pace from Hugo’s news onwards. Departure was delayed as teams were slow to gather, needed to be briefed in on the new arrangements and boats were prepped. My frustrations grew at the nonchalant pace people appeared to be preparing for sea. Grey Seal, had fractured the waterproof mounting box for her CD player and HMS wanted the item removed. This we did for him, which gave me a chance to look at the factory fit out on the Ribcraft – very good.
Team Ribex had a prop change to do – the reasons for this I was unsure of, but I assume it was to do with performance, rather than damage. Other boats in the fleet tinkered and altered bits as the pounding from day one was dealt with.

As tools and bits were sought and passed between boats, I started to get a feeling that several of the crews were ‘light’ on the equipment lists asked for in the joining instructions.

While milling around on the pontoon, I noticed that team Aldiss were tied up – I have no idea if she arrived early in the morning after a stop over further back, or run in late last night. The lads, two ex Royal Marines, were very determined and the boat looked to be well prepared. They came looking for ratchet straps, informing us that their console mounting had failed the previous day, we had none, but offered our support crew to take them to a B&Q to buy some.

Black Max was also missing from the pontoon, she had a thoroughly professional support team, complete with trailer and the boat had been taken out on the slip and was off having the comms repaired.

Jan gathered the skippers and gave a stirling briefing on the pontoon. His style was a mixture of RAF and Cptain Scott of the Antarctic – it was a quality act and a thorough brief. Things started to feel organised and purposeful. We would run as pairs, we being paired with Team Ribex. Jan was keen to keep the momentum and had briefed to prevent excessive stopping, by use of hand signals and two hour stints – a good plan.

By late morning (I think it was about 11.30) the first flotilla finally set off. This consisted of ourselves, Gemini, Grey Seal, Team Ribex and the support craft Yes Dear. I was expecting Team Aldiss and Black Max to follow, and thought that team Spirit and Cyanide would be on the trailers for home after wincing at the sight of their saddle bracket.

The run down Milford docks became progressively ‘lumpier’ and it soon became apparent that we were in for some stiff passage making. All the boats were heavily laden, carrying full fuel loads – we had 250 ltrs on after yesterday’s near miss – plus extra kit for the overnight in the Isle of Man. Yes Dear had the film crew on board and there was a fair bit of messing about getting shots of the fleet as we moved towards the open sea, and what was beginning to look like a good pounding.

No sooner were we at the outer marks then we were in it. Huge, steep aggressive seas (at least 100ft waves!!) of 5/6 meters were on the nose. The heavy boats struggled to make the plane in these seas. The conditions demanded full attention from each skipper, with extremely careful reading of the water, throttle use and steering required to thread the boats slowly out towards the headland. Station keeping with Team Ribex was hazardous and arduous, but all the teams were working well to keep together, not easy when a boat 10 meters away could be lost for 45 seconds behind walls of water.

We made slow progress, there appeared to be problems with Grey Seal, and the flotilla often stopped and stemmed the sea. The intimidating nature of the situation, appeared to be causing a confidence problem for them, which was expertly rectified by a crew change – no easy operation in these conditions. The pace improved and soon enough we turned the corner and things calmed down a great deal.

The boats settled to a steady 15 – 18 knts with a large following sea as set course for the Isle of Man. The day was bright and sunny, with a strong wind on the back of our necks, nothing to look at and the prospect of several hours tricky coxing.

Our game plan had always been to run the boat and crew nice and steady, rather than charging at things – it’s an endurance event, not a race I kept telling myself. There was precious little time for that on yesterday’s long leg and the late start today meant that we were pushing on again – never a good thing in a following sea, where being too aggressive is an easy and costly mistake to make. First major lesson of the day – use the morning to get down your route, not to get down your breakfast!

The little flotilla of five boats worked well together this day, each pair maintained station and discipline most of the time and a signalling routine became established to prevent the whole fleet stopping every time a boat came off the plane.

The pace was a bit punishing for the boats and crew, given the sea state and I was very wary of damaging our prospects. At this time, the fleet was running very close together, which caused a few problems with lack of space to manoeuvre and a fair bit of wake crossing. Things were further complicated by the support boat manoeuvring for the camera crew. There was the cery real potential for two fubars in this; 1, tracking off the heading as the nav boat needed to hold it’s line and 2, a silly collision with serious consequences. With time, things calmed down a bit, but we were to remain wary of particular coxwains for the entire trip!

The seas slowly began to easy and the pace crept up. I seem to remember several stops for tinkering with engines and bits, and I have a vague recollection of a trim problem with Grey seal, but I might be wrong. By the time we had cleared north Wales, it had turned into quite a pleasant affair with good progress being made. The crews could relax and open the throttles as we picked up the pace. Time, which was to plague us for most of the trip, now became the main concern. We wanted to make St Mary before nightfall for a couple of reasons; crews needed to sort accommodation, there was a reception waiting for us, we needed the rest, and boats needed maintenance.

I recall it being an uneventful, if long run, with only minor irritations and stoppages. We were in by about 8.30pm I think and soon had the boats secured on long lines for the large tide. There were quite a few people out to meet us and several ribs on the water. The place was informal and friendly and we finally started to feel that we were ‘on something’ rather than just out boating. A fine reception awaited us in the Yaught Club, which all enjoyed.

Team Ribex had their boat out and onto a trailer for an engine service – it being a brand new mariner 50 4 stroke. I think, Gemini did the same, but not sure. The people on the IOM were fantastic and we enjoyed the evening.

Opinion
It was another long and arduous leg, the boats took another heavy pounding in the large head seas off Milford and then the substantial following seas on the run up the Welsh coast.

The fleet was split, with some boats left behind at Milford that morning - I held little prospect of them catching us this day. The boats in our flotilla – we were doing OK, but we were a bit bigger than the others and had a little in reserve, both in boat length and power. Gemini was doing well, she looked to have a superb hull and was packing a 60hp mariner 4 stroke. Grey seal and Team Ribex appeared to be picking up the problems at this stage. They were the only two boats really in class and equipment failures were starting to appear. I went to bed that night thinking that if the weather didn’t break, our chances of getting round at this pace were about as good as the prospects for a Turkey at Christmas!

Still we had had a better day, one new major flaw being our refuelling – trying to tip petrol from 25lt cans into the main tanks in a 3 meter swell is silly and potentially very dangerous – I should have fitted separate fuel lines for each tank – Oh well, live and learn!!

It would be good to get some comment or observation from anyone out there reading this - the motive for putting all this up is to help consolidate the lessons and clarrify the true nature of what went on, join in please.




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Old 15 July 2001, 07:15   #30
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Vernon,

This is fascinating reading and it's so good to hear it from one who took part..warts and all. When and if an account of the tour is published it will probably be a little sanitised. This way everyone will be able to learn from your and others pitfalls. You have my admiration.

Look forward to reading the rest.

Best wishes,
Nick
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Old 15 July 2001, 11:30   #31
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Good reading.

Would be interested to learn of the boat/ equipement spec for some of the crews, or better still a site for pictures.

Particularly keen to see how you managed to get so much stuff/fuel on board.

Chris h

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Old 15 July 2001, 15:59   #32
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HI Nick and Chris, thanks for joining.

Will post some picks up when we get them back.

The popint about gear is a good one - I'll do a wrap up at the end when we can have a good look at how we coped with it all on TS - there are yet more valuable lessons from the gear stowage point of view! It's funny, I thought I was quite well organised until we tried this one!!

Still, we're on our way north....


Day Three
IOM – Kyle of Lochalsh, Skye (via Hell!)
Distance approximately 230 miles

Refuelling was scheduled for 8am, with a bowser organised for the quay. There was quite a bit of activity by the time the bowser was ready, which bode well for an early start. Team Ribex was on a trailer on the slip with ‘Eddie’ the local mariner dealer doing a demonstration of impromptu servicing. Other boats were ‘cyling’ through the refuelling process. Time dragged. I wondered off to find a shop open (not easy on the IOM on a Sunday) and stocked our chocolate store for the long run north.

Eventually, all the crews were sorted and Jan could issue the morning brief. Basically the same as yesterday, we would run with Team Ribex, Gemini being paired with Grey Seal, with Yes Dear in support of the flotilla. It was rumoured that Black Max had made it to Pwllheli in North Wales and that Spirit with Cyanide were back in the running from Milford with a new engine fitted.

Our little flotilla of four plus one, slipped the ropes at about 11 am (late again!) and turned to run up the west side of the IOM. There were several Ribs in support, with a couple having come over from Ireland the day before. A great effort and much appreciated – sorry that I don’t know their identity to share with you here. The sea was approaching calm, which was a tremendous luxuary after the last two days. The spray rails were swishing rather than crashing and the sun was out.

The augmented flotilla blazed north at about 20 knots with Gemini navigating. After about an hour, the supporters peeled of and the old team settled to the day’s work. Boring sea, no land to look at, just sit there, think, plan and wait for something to go wrong!

The easy conditions gave the film crew a chance to get around the fleet and do their stuff. My navigator, Russell jumped on yes dear for a while to have a fag and a chat – a manoeuvre we were able to perform at 20+ knots thanks to the training I had received from DMP on their Lowestoft course. It was good to practice the high speed interaction with the big Ribtec in moderate conditions, to ensure that all were OK with the procedure before we might need to do it in nastier water – besides it looked good for the film crew!

Team Ribex had problems with their engine mounts on the mariner – no doubt caused by the punishment of the first two days, Grey Seal had problems with her trim and so the pace was kept moderate. Phone discussions were progressing to organise support for Kyle that night to sort the boats “Just get a top mariner engineer to the pontoon and they can do the work overnight” was overheard – we wondered at the pull needed to achieve that for a Sunday night - but give HMS his due, they got it sorted.

The weather slowly deteriorated as we headed north – we had been warned that the Mull of Kentyre (spelling?) was ‘the worst bit o water in the UK’ – a claim we were to hear many times for many places over the next few days! She did indeed look moody, and I’m sure she can be a bitch, but today she just boiled gently to let us know as we slipped by in calmish seas and deteriorating visibility.

We headed north into the Sound of Jura and things started to stiffen up a bit. The seas were starting to rise, the visibility was now down to less than a mile and there was drizzle – must be Scotland! There was a bit of trouble finding the entrance to the Sound of Islay and by this stage we were back to fairly regular stops for engine problems with the two Ribcraft. Just before the entrance to the sound, Grey Seal run over a lobster pot and snarled the prop. The fleet hove to and what was to prove one of the funniest moments of the trip ensued.

Steve Harvey and Andy Haffenden from Team Ribex sorted the problem. They tried desperately to cut the ropes without going in the water, clambering all over Grey seal with knives clutched in teeth like pirates. The fleet circled with a mixture of interest and frustration while progress continued. Cassy, who was helming Team Ribex at the time of the incident, swiftly moved the Ribcraft in to help, just as Steve stood up on the rear sponson of Grey seal after yet another overbalancing act. She nudged the side of GS and Steve was all but in the drink – a timely hand to the A frame saved him, there was an exchange of glances and some micky taking starting, when the stern wave from TR caught the two bots and in he went!! Russell, who was back on Yes Dear, for yet another fag, commented to the camera crew, who had missed the incident!! That it would have been worth £250 to them on you’ve been framed – the most they were likely to make from the whole endeavour! There were smiles and laughter all round and just what we all needed. Now committed, the lads quickly dealt with the snarled prop in an efficient manner – well done, their dry suit sponsors would be proud!

The fleet set off again and Tom very nearly repeated the same incident on the next pot in his path!. It was a light hearted moment, but a serious situation really and was a further harbinger for me about the state the crews were getting into.

In the growing gloom slipped between Islay and Jura and gathered as a fleet. Nav was now becoming more important, as was station keeping. The crews were getting tired after the long and boring day – it must have been about 7.30pm by now and there was still a long, long way to go. We firmed up the plan to stop at the Puffin Dive Centre just outside Oban to refuel. We had set up our land support for a visit to Oban anyway, and I was in doubt about the push on the Kyle given the hour and the state of the crews and weather. A conflab with Jan, and it was agreed to make the call at the PDC. A call was made (incredible that a mobile worked out there!) to release Rob to head for Skye, and to make arrangements with PDC to stay open late for us.

We set off again, the seas were now more serious, a following sea of 2m had developed in the evening gloom as we run up the Firth of Lorne. Further stops for TR and / or GS bought the pace down to a dreadfully slow 12 – 15 knts.

We crept into Puffin just as it was getting dark (10ish I think) and the long process of fuelling commenced. GS had a problem with her steering which Jan sorted I think. It seemed to take for ever to fuel the boats and Jan pulled a stroke of Genius, by arranging fish and chips to be delivered by taxi.

It was now late (11ish), raining, dark with a building SW wind. Decision time. Well there wasn’t really much of a decision anyway, TB and GS were dead set on pressing on – they had mechanics waiting at Kyle “ to start work first thing in the morning” Jan quickly squashed that, insisting that the work was done overnight, so as not to hold the fleet up – a phone call got the poor lads back out of the pub for the long wait!

I must admit, I was not in favour – the crews were evidently tired, it was cold and wet, we had boats with problems that had plagued progress all day. It was a 4 plus hours to Skye and we had a nasty headland at Ardnamurchan to pass. On to of that we had two minors with the fleet – 12 year old Tom and 15yr George – oh yes, more of him in a second!

To mitigate this view, we were chasing a bad forecast to get round the top of Scotland before the weather got there, we had mechanics and accommodation sorted for Kyle and we had a fair degree of support in the shape of Yes Dear. The flotilla wanted to go, so I agreed – though my professional judgement as an outdoor instructor said it was a bad call. I would rather have stopped the night and gone early, the mechanics were only three hours by road away – it would take us longer than that top get to Skye. Jan thought it would go, so I agreed to it – I’m still not sure it was the right call and a bit weak of me, not to argue for safety - a sign of the state we were all in perhaps.

The plan was simple – Gemini would lead and nav, the rest of the fleet would follow line astern with Yes Dear brining up the rear and doing back up navigation. Russell jumped on the Ribtec to work the nav – he had a similar system on our boat. This left me alone on Tigershark and was an error of judgement – he was obviously keen to help after the boring and frustrating day. But it left me alone with no relief and no back up if we had to deal with anything.

Oh yes, back to George!!. We had just finished fuelling at Puffin and were eating the chips when we saw a set of nav lights go by at 25knts – we couldn’t be sure, but we thought it the Humber, Black Max. A quick radio call produced nothing, but then Toby like a man possessed, leapt into the Gemini and roared off into the night. He returned 5 minutes later with Black Max on his stern – a good effort by him, or she would no doubt have been alone in Oban for the night. Mark Beeley and George Harvey had make the passage solo from North Wales in one hop – a marvellous achievement, we clapped them in, the crew of Tigershark, particularly pleased to see them after their help on the first day.

OK back to the story. We set off, rounded the island off Oban and struck out in very low visibility and constant drizzle for the entrance to the Sound of Mull. Within 5 minutes a call came over on the radio saying one of the boats was down. I was about two boats back from the front, but TS had really good comms and I knew that the radio on Gemini was playing up. She was running on into the gloom and we had the very real danger of splitting the fleet before we had got going. I opened the throttle, raced to catch them and hauled them up. This was going to need some concentration if we weren’t to end up all over the west coast and the papers!

The fleet got going again and I slid in behind Gemini, knowing I had good comms and the power to chase her down if need be. What I didn’t have was another pair of eyes to keep watch on the trail of boats to my rear. Several of the boats had nav lights down, so it was quite hard to distinguish particular craft from the trail of fairy lights weaving way behind me. What was worst though, was Gemini’s own lights – no white steaming light! All I had to follow in the heavy drizzle was a slight glow reflected on the tubes from her lateral lights and an occasional glimpse of her navigation screen. My best chance was to stay within her wash line where the stern wave was breaking – this was perilously close and it became hellish trying to hold station and judge speed through the visor of my helmet – squinting through pebble dashed eyes was no better – this was going to be a long run.

We made good progress with very little upset all the way along the sound and round Ardnamurchan through a lolling swell, that was quite hard to judge with no definition in the dark. The long run up the Sound of Sleat continued with several near misses as boats nearly run over me or I over Gemini!!. She had a mad five minutes while they tried to rig the steering compass when the entire flotilla was weaving away like a gaggle of ducklings following their father home from a good night at the pub!

We made it though, all the fleet running into Kyle at about 3 am together. A magnificent effort of steady seamanship in very demanding circumstances. At one point, I’m sure I nodded of at the helm! No sooner were we in, then GS and TR were being halled from the water and the tingle of spanners and swearing danced on the light evening breeze – I d’dn’t give a f**k though, I was off to bed!


Opinion
The punishing pace from the first two days was really telling on the fleet by day three. The mechanical problems, combined with crew fatigue were starting to stack avoidable incidents and near misses in our way. We were making things worse for ourselves by the consistently late starts each morning – something was going to give and give soon. Black Max, typified the effort being made by half the entrants to catch up. Solo passage making of dangerous length and risk taking was pushing the trailing teams, who were caught in a spiral set off by the nature of the first leg. Engine mounts and trim problems were the obvious weak points on all the engines and failures were coming thick and fast. It was only the support of manufacturers and local dealers that were keeping many of the boats in the game. As a fully independent, we were feeling very vulnerable – a mechanical failure and we were on a trailer home with absolutely no reserves. That night in Kyle, I thought the event hang on a knife edge. With GS and TR fully repaired, the pressure would be back on top beat north before the weather would close us down. Team Spirit, Bangor Challenger and Team Aldiss were all well up against it – it was hard enough staying with the pack, let alone trying to close ground.

Looking back, I still think it was the wrong call to run on from Oban. I am a little concerned that I got caught up in it all. We were very fortunate to get the fleet through without further mishap. But as I have said elsewhere – it’s a fine line…. I did resolve to myself though, that I had to start reasserting my own discipline and leadership – getting bowled along with marginal calls is not my style and I felt I did not exercise due influence on the debate or decision at puffin. Still we were in Scotland – at least the GPS said we were, not having seen any of it yet, it was hard to be sure. Tomorrow, Cape Wrath, if we get out of bed and get away before lunch!

Tigershark and I had been to Kyle twice before, both times we had suffered a breakdown, would tomorrow be our Waterloo?……




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Old 16 July 2001, 05:31   #33
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OK.....*well done* to them all.

Anyone know what the fuel bill was???

D
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Old 16 July 2001, 08:29   #34
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This stuff from Tigershark is brilliant and gripping. Next installment soon PLEASE.
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Old 16 July 2001, 13:19   #35
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Brian, I see you are getting the hang of the "one armed" typing then!!
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Old 16 July 2001, 13:42   #36
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To second Brian's comments, More please Vernon!

I'll give the Team Spirit story when you've finished so as not to break to flow of your narrative.

Only thing I will add at this juncture is that you left Port St Mary at 11.00AM and we arrived at 4pm the same day so at that point we were 5 hrs behind!

Alan (Cyanide).
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Old 17 July 2001, 15:22   #37
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Hi, this is Alan from the Nisoft Bangor Challenger. I'm just typing up our story of the event and will post it after the Cyanide one.
I have to agree with you, Vern, about allowing myself to be "bowled along" as there were a couple of times when my own personal call would have been different to the collective's. BUT we finished, not bad for two 50 year olds in a 15 foot boat. Next time give me >5.5 metres and/or <120 miles per day!
P.S. how do I post photos?
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Old 17 July 2001, 19:51   #38
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Don't stop now!!! I can imagine being there...my feet are starting to ache...
One question...why the late starts?
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Old 18 July 2001, 12:47   #39
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Have been away on business for a couple of days - will try and get the next instalment up later tonight

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Old 18 July 2001, 17:25   #40
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Day Four
Skye – Scrabster
160 miles (ish)

We were in the beds at our B&B just long enough to get the sheets warm!

The crews gathered on the pontoon at Kyle for the 9.00am RV that was agreed. We arrived to find both Grey Seal and Team Ribex sitting on the floor in the car park of the local hotel! Black Max was on the slip on it’s trailer with the normal daily checks being carried out. They took BM out most nights and went all over the boat, checking and prepping it for the next day. Mark and George benefited from having a very large Willie (ha ha) as their support driver. We soon coined the fraze “everyone need a Willie!” as he was totally reliable and could get a trailer in and out of places most people would struggle to get a shopping trolly.

I chatted with them as the three of them swarmed over the boat with spanners and other bits and bobs – I remember watching them check the engine bolts and thinking to myself , we must do that tonight. George was very competent. He was a superb helm in all sea conditions, obviously with loads of stamina and would volunteer and muck in – a real credit to his father and definitely one to watch for the fututre.

Once BM was prepped and launched the trailer was free to recover GS and TR from the car park. Teams were still fueling and generally sorting out as 9am slipped past 10am and moved relentlessly towards the normal 11 am yet again! Perhaps fair enough on this occasion as we all arrived at 3 in the morning, but frustrating yet again. There were mutterings a starting as some of the crews were consistently ready on time and the late starts were pressurising the event and potentially jeopardising our chances.

It was impressive that they had managed to organise mechanical support at Kyle for three ion the morning, it was even more impressive that the engineers has replaced the engine mounts on Team Ribex and repaired the trim and tilt on Grey Seal (at least I think that is what they did). Russ and I laughed the laugh of nervousness, knowing that any failure we could not repair for ourselves would almost certainly finish our run for us.

It was good to see the fleet growing again, and we all had a sense of expectation as the fleet put to see late morning. The run up the west coast towards Cape Wrath, saw the fleet doing 15-20knts through a substantial following sea. The weather was clear, we at last had something to look at – what a view the west coast is.

All appeared to be going well, and I was starting to relax about my ‘history’ with Kyle. It’s interesting to comment on the differing driving style s of the crews. Some, would open the throttle to set the desired speed and more or less just sit and ride it out, while others, myself included, tended towards a more active style. Constant throttle work to keep the nose level and the prop in the water, combined with steering adjustment, to drive the boat around the troughs and peaks in the seas. Admittedly, this was easier to do, without the added pressure of trying to hold a bearing on a long transit. I comment, because, it seems to me that when you are sitting (I use the phrase loosely!) on a rib in substantial seas, it appears that everyone else’s boat is coping better with the conditions, then your own! Several people had already remarked how well Tigershark appeared to be riding the seas, we however, thought it to be like riding in a landrover with square wheels over a giant piece of corrugated iron!

We certainly paid a lot of attention to doing all we could by way of loading and driving to minimise the fatigue and stressing on both the crew and boat. So our driving style was a bit more active then some. Funny, though, it didn’t seem to make that much difference to our pace against the other boats until the seas became more challenging. I was genuinely surprised and impressed by the speeds that the five meter boats were making with only 50 horses to push them on.

The boats that appeared to ride the seas well were definitely the Gemini, which appeared stable, but wet and was definitely underpowered, even with her 60hp mariner. Black Max, a Humber attack (I think) was a very good sea hull and a fast boat, she did however pick up quite a bit of damage to fittings etc with Willie making a couple of runs to Hull. The two ribcraft had suffered engine problems, but apart from a seat failure on TR they hulls appeared to be very solid, with both boats looking very lively in the seas. Bangor Challenegr – also a Humber, though I don’t know which model looked steady as well – she also was the only small boat with side by side seating for the crew, which looked to be more sociable, but crampt. I have no idea how the other boats performed as I can’t recall running close to them in anything other than reasonable seas, but Team Spirit (who’s hull I cant remember) didn’t appear to have any failures with the boat other than engine and nav pole.

Anyway, here we were blasting through a following sea up to Cape Wrath, being very active with the helming of Tigershark, when Russ taps me on the shoulder and says the phrase that I had been waiting days to hear “ You had better stop and have a quick look at this…” I hove too, with an immediate evaluation of towing options etc from our remote position, before I even knew what the issue was. After the lessons on day one, immediate priority was to make sure that someone else knew we had stopped to look at a problem, before the three minutes it would take for the fleet to lose us had elapsed. This done, Russ directed my attention to the engine – oh no!

The top bolts holding the engine to our wonderful support bracket, were dangerously loose, with the whole rig flexing by at least 15mm! Why the f**k didn’t I check them this morning when I saw Black Max do it? – I had made the mental note to do so and I certainly had lots of time to do it!! – fool. We carried quite a comprehensive tool kit on the boat, but I knew I only had one spanner that would fit, and I would need two to tighten the bolts back up, that if I didn’t drop one to the bottom while trying! Yes dear lolled over with mixed blessing – they are merciless in taking the Mickey – I dodn’t know where this culture develop from? They and the film crew with them, who just live for moments like these! But they did have spanner – the most useful of all fittings on a Ribtec. Not only does he know a thing or two about engines, but he had more tools with him then a snap on salesman. After much banter and offering of expensive salvage deals, spanner found the spanners and we tightened the bolts back up. Crisis over, but a most valuable lesson learned again! But for Russell’s diligence in noticing the engine flex we could easily have lost the whole thing off the back of the boat at any moment! Needles to say, I spent the next couple of hours going over all our maintenance and prep routines to revamp them – a close shave.

At the morning brief – Jan had proposed the plan that the fleet would run up to Cape Wrath, stop just short, then if conditions looked iffy – the Gemini and Tigershark would pair up and take up station off the headland, while pairs of boats came through. The thinking being that if a boat had problems, we had the power, space and rig to either recover the crew or assist in holding the boat off until the big ribtec could be brought up on station to effect a proper recovery. Once the fleet was safely round, the ribtec would come through bringing up the rear.

We slung our towing rig ready for deployment. The whole rig lives in a bag which is cable tied to the double A frame, so it can be found and deployed quickly even if the boat is swamped. The basic towing kit is a 30m length of rope, a sling, which is clipped to the two towing eyes on the transom – one each side of the engine. This gives a bridle to attach the towing rope to that keep it clear of the back of the engine. The towing rope is then clipped round this bridle so that it floats fee and can run either way along the sling to find it’s own position. We then feed the end of the towing rope through ether a loop or an eye on the boat to be towed and then bring the end back onto our boat. The navigator, then takes a turn round the engine support bracket with the rope end and holds it. The towing rope is not tied to the boat being towed, nor is it tied to ours. To escape all the crew has to do is drop the rope and we can drive clear of the other boat and recover the line. The crew also has a knife on then in case of any snagging. This system works really well. For Cape Wrath, we rigged it all up and just clipped the sling to the top of our A frame – if we needed to deploy, we could rig a boat to be towed in a matter of seconds.

As it happens, Cape Wrath was in a good mood, if a little lumpy, so the corner was turned with no incident. All that remained was a 40 mile beat across the top to Scrabster, the hour was good, the seas were lumpy and following, so the boats set off and were soon scattered all over the place.

We made a tactical error, by running too far off shore and took a bit of a beating in the larger seas. At one point, I leaned forward to Russ and asked him to be easy on the bow as we were hitting waves a little hard for my liking, he came back with a score of five on to me for today by his reckoning – two minutes later he drove Tigershark into the bottom of one of those holes that just suddenly appear (like lobster pots I guess!) and the next thing I saw was green water coming at me over the top of Russell’s head! As he is over six feet tall and was standing at the time, I had just long enough to think – this is going to be a bad one!

Bless the old girl, she bobbed straight back up, spewing water over the top of the tubes and settled in the sea, full to the brim. At the same time I yelled to Russ, to keep the revs up and make way. The engine was still running, I wanted to keep it that way and maintain some steerage while we let the bailers do their work. Russ responded as well as the boat and she quickly emptied. Its an experience I have had a couple of times now, but it’s always unsettling, because it’s dramatic, it always happens when conditions are serious (by definition, they must be to find a hole that will take the boat) and it takes good awareness and discipline from the crew to recover the boat without stopping dead in the water. We had passed the test on this occasion, but I think Russ was a little shaken (it was his first time in the green room and quite a wild place to try it out!)

We decided to run inshore after that and the rest of the run up to Scrabster was more or less uneventful. We reached the friendly little fishing port at a reasonable hour with Black Max the only boat in ahead of us.

We got the boat fueled and sorted with the new improved, fully detailed daily check of absolutely everything at least twice with bells on!! Everything was sorted and stowed by 7pm, all the boats were in.

The hour was reasonable, we were all jolly to have turned the corner and it was time to go on the piss! Things were looking up at last!

A table was booked for the restaurant by the quay and crews went off to get changed – actually most of us went to the bar. It was time to be social and things were shaping up for a good night.

The crews from Grey Seal, Team Ribex and Black Max were staying up the top of the hill at Thurso and didn’t make it back for the evening do. However, the rest of us, set too to sort the world out, if you know what I mean. Bangor Challenger, Yes Dear, Team Gemini and Tigershark were all in the bar and muttering of late starts and delays soon became the topic of conversation. I wouldn’t say that the crews were revolting (well actually…..), but there was determination to sort the start times out. There was also much discussion about the run down the East coast, the proposed use of the lay up day and the tactics to be deployed. One proposal from Jan that was gathering support was to split the proposed 230miler from Berwick to Wells with a stop over in Whitby and use up the rest day that way. This would ease the pressure and give the boats chasing a chance to close the main fleet. A discussion point for the next morning when all the crews were present. Business out of the way, we got on with some drinking, despite the protests from Bangor Challenger, who didn’t like the idea of beer at all!!?! – if only.

Opinion
We had all had a good day and needed the shorter leg to recover. Spirits were lifted by turning the corner and the prospect of running south. However the event was starting to feel like it was splitting into two camps. Some crews were becoming frustrated by the late starts and it didn’t help that the crews were billeted in different places at Scrabster – it’s a shame we didn’t all make it to the meal that night.

Jan had asserted himself well as the leader but Hugo was due to rejoin the fleet tomorrow at Berwick – that would be an interesting dynamic. We were aware that Steve and Jo were briefing Hugo by phone and representing his views back at the morning briefing – entire right. Hugo was keen for the fleet to run onto Wells, chiefly because there was a large reception planned and they were expecting us. This had the potential to cause some tension within the fleet unless it was handled well. Yet again, tomorrow would be an interesting day.


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Vernon
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