Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas letter 2009

It has been another water-focused year, but less time on Kalessin in 2009 and more on other people's boats.

Sam (pictured mid-Atlantic with flying fish) has just completed his first-ever Atlantic crossing aboard Moonstruck, a Hylas 49 sailed by Alan Teed, his wife Joan and daughter Lauren. Alan and Camilla first met when travelling home from school aboard the 31B bus in Essex. He moved to the US in his 20s and we completely lost touch. Then three years ago, when planning to bring Moonstruck to Europe, Alan spotted Camilla's name on a review of a pilot book on Amazon, got in touch through Friends Reunited, and we finally managed to meet up for one evening in Barcelona at Easter in 2008. Later, Camilla mentioned on Facebook that Sam had always wanted to do an Atlantic crossing and Alan offered a berth.

It all came together with a delivery trip from the Algarve to Gran Canaria in October, and then departure as part of the ARC, the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, on Sunday 22 November. They finally reached the finishing line in St Lucia in the early hours of 10 December having spent 17 days, 14 hours, 49 minutes and 32 seconds on passage.

You can read Sam's updates here on the blog - see links to the right. He found it, perhaps, harder work than he expected. Running with the tradewinds meant constant rolling from the big seas (see video above) and that's wearing both for the boat and the crew. They managed to destroy a spinnaker quite early on and all the other sails suffered badly – but still a great achievement for all concerned.

Guy has astonished us by taking to sailing in a big way on a voyage on the 72ft Challenger, part of the Tall Ships fleet. Not only did he thoroughly enjoy the voyage (Ipswich to Portsmouth via various parts of northern France) he followed it up with a Day Skipper Theory course which he passed with flying colours. Clearly it's not sailing he hates, just sailing with his parents!

Earlier in the year Guy spent several months in India, initially doing voluntary work in Delhi and Palampur, and then travelling around. It was an exceptionally hot year and he didn't go until spring, so he spent most of his time in the Himalayas, in Manali and on the second highest highway in the world, to Kashmir. He thoroughly enjoyed travelling but was pleased to get home to see Beth again – they have now been together almost four years.

Camilla hasn't been anywhere quite so exotic but joined Aviva Europe in August for a six-month contract, which has meant travel to Dublin, Madrid and Warsaw so far – and learning to use Micrsoft SharePoint in Spanish and Polish. In odd spare moments Camilla now works as a volunteer navigation ranger on the Norfolk Broads (see ranger's keys, above).

We also joined a massive Herrmann family gathering in a beautiful villa in the Dordogne at the end of May to celebrate Lucilla's 50th birthday (Camilla's sister). 

Our family sailing this year has been modest, but we did manage to find a couple of weather windows to sail Kalessin to the Netherlands in July, and home again three weeks later.

Highlights included sailing through the busy oil and gas rigs off Ijmuiden at night, four memorable days moored in central Amsterdam (crammed into the Sixhaven, above),  some great short-distance, shallow-water sailing on the Ijsselmeer, and the night transit of Amsterdam, heading south to the Delta.

Ben (almost 17) is continuing to be brilliant. He now has 15 GCSEs including 4 A* and 9 A grades. He applied for and won an Arkwright scholarship for youngsters interested in a career in engineering - pictured above at the awards with co-winner Josh (Ben on the left). He's now studying physics, maths and further maths, but makes life more interesting by also taking classical studies and philosophy & ethics. Suppertime discussions at home are getting very challenging. His interest in gaming is leading him to become scarily knowledgeable about IT – following a recent Windows crisis on his old laptop he was able to salvage key files by running Ubuntu (Linux) from an external hard drive. Gulp.

Ben built a kayak for his GCSE design technology project. Here he is water-testing it along with Camilla in her birthday-present inflatable kayak.

So, here we go with 2010, and we hope it is as good for you as 2009 has been for us.

Camilla Herrmann, Sam, Guy & Benedict Brown

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Moonstruck's arrival

Moonstruck reached St Lucia shortly after midnight local time on Thursday 10 December, with an elapsed crossing time of 17d 14h 49m 32s. They actually crossed the finishing line at 03:49:32 GMT. I was in bed in the Warsaw Hilton and got a text from Sam at 0545 central European time. I love time zones. Apparently they were each then greeted by a massive rum punch of knock-out strength, and knew no more until late the next morning.

You can read more about the final hours on Alan & Joan's log.

Guy and I will go to Gatwick early on Monday morning to collect Sam from his flight. Meanwhile he is chilling out and appears to be finding lots of parties to join, including an improptu band with several guitars.

Party on the foredeck

Here's Sam's last email from out in the Atlantic, dated Tuesday 8 December:

Had an urgent invitation to a party on the foredeck in the early hours after the poled out jib sheet broke and the sail wrapped around the forestay. Why do these things happen in the middle of the night when you are asleep? Anyway, Alan and I were out there trying to recover the lazy sheet, straighten out and furl the sail, recover the lazy sheet and re-reeve it, while at the same time dodging an evil swinging pole (nothing to do with your Warsaw people)  that threatened to take out the forestay (now that would have been fun). Took about 30 mins invlding  re-set. Today's task will be to replace the other sheet.

I'm getting good at balancing in 2m swells. More squalls to follow, but mostly rain with winds about 25 kts max.  Back on course and hoping to finish at about 1700 local tomorrow, will text you when it happens.

[This trip is] definitely a one off for me. Alan pleased to get World Service, but having heard horrible tales of brutality etc in Africa and more economic gloom stories, I wonder why we are so keen to get back to "civilisation". T. Pratchett v good, must read  more. Don't know which came first but there are clear parallels with Hitch Hiker's Guide.

Did I get it right about Gatwick arrivals. It says eta 9 something and two stars with a note that says arrives following day. Very confusing , especially as we are now into our third time change on the boat. What's wrong with UTC all the way, I say.

Take care of yourself. I miss you hugely. Love to all.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Squalls all round

From Sam:

We have been having some problems with connections for email transmission so you may have had a bit of a gap. Anyway, progress is good after we hit a lull which lasted the best part of a day and a bit with very light winds. We have now run into the squall zone and encountered two of three little ones before hitting the big Momma last night (my watch of course). Winds up to 50 kts. We got the main right in and slimmed down the genoa (left the pole out). The squall looked huge on the radar and very black and threatening when seen alongside, with its own private donner und blitzen going on inside. The B... thing seemed to follow us, changing shape on the screen and developing "arms" that reached out to clobber us with heavy rain every time we tried to duck and run. We had to take a 60 degree course change to eventually shake it off. Not fun, but we were able to rack up some good speeds 9-10 knots at times. And of course in the middle of all this the autopilot dropped out and I had a hell of a wrestle with the wheel to get us back. Didn't do much for general crew morale which is a tad frayed in places. I'm ok. As the hired hand, I just slink off to the barn until it's all over. Oh how I love my Kalessin crew even old dreadlocks grumpy! Our boat is so easy and uncomplicated to sail, a shining example of the KISS principle.

Played Trivial Pursuits with Tucanon yesterday, we lost, but not by much. I felt that the US contingent were less than enthusiastic because it had  too many English questions. Alan has threatened to challenge them to Scrabble in which we have the board.

Two yachts in sight this morning which is fine and bright with blue sky. Very hot.

Distance to run now in the 700 range so (all things being equal) landfall by Dec 10/11. I am looking forward to a very long walk!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

And here's another one

We received two emails from Sam at 2120 today. Obviously they go into an SSB stasis somewhere:

Just sea (one bird) no fish (although we do have a line out but Joan has sworn to have nothing to do with whatever we catch), no tonnes of crude oil, no shortened ships in fact the Atlantic equivalent of the Aussie GBA. Very hot and sticky, winds very light, struggling to keep up to 5.5 knots. Hope for more breeze later.

Many boats reporting damage, broken booms, spin poles, sails, rudders etc. A 50ft Bruce Roberts [steel yacht] has been abandoned after the rig became unstable and the engine packed up. All crew rescued by cargo ship and taken to Gib. One of the boats that diverted to the Cape Verdes with a medical probem has retired after finding an unspecified fault on the boat.

We now have less than 1000 miles to go and St Lucia is on the same plotter page as our current position, which is a bit too south at the moment, but we can correct later if the wind plays ball. If propagation is good and the sunspots have healed maybe Uncle Herb can give us joy this evening.

Am juggling MP3s on the night watch. Some of Nick's stuff is really good. Listened to a lot of Pink last night plus Gabrielle and Cilmi. I shall be so cool when I get back!

Am still not used to broken sleeps. I expect that when I do get back, I'll still rise at 3am and dismantle the shower head before going back to bed at 6am. I think it's a silly place to put a shower control.

The sea has calmed down a lot and is a fabulous colour, very tempting, but I'm not convinced about the MOB capability on board.

Downhill run

This update from Sam arrived at 1.37am today, but I think may have been stuck in the ether for a while. As of noon today they had about 1000 miles to run and were goosewinging (wind dead aft). The first and fastest yachts are expected to cross the finishing line sometime tomorrow.

Alan had a long conversation last night with a South African deck officer on a container ship bound for New York. He was a bit curious as to why he was suddenly ploughing through (not literally) 250  yachts. Madrid sounds fun [I'll probably have to go there in January - c]. Coincidentally I am reading about the siege during the Civil War.

First flying fish on deck this morning, about as big as a tinned sardine. Pic taken. Showered and shaved and wearing last clean knickers. Did a Roamer trick by washing three pairs in the shower. They are hanging on the winch and getting salty. Still long on t-shirts. We have dived down a lot more South because the Grib files are showing very thin winds where we were. Herb was faint last night (They talk about propagation being poor and warn us about sun flare activity. New world to me).

For the cocktail hour radio net tonight someone has organised a radio Trivial Pursuit contest. If Team Kalessin was here, we would be invincible!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


Latest update from Sam:

The big lead boats (Wallys etc) are about 850 miles off the finish and all pretty close. A record crossing is possible.

We are still making up our lost time for the sail repair but did a 176 noon to noon from yesterday. We shall be moving south in the next few hours to dodge the forecast wind hole, so the pole will come down and the motion should be smoother. Sleeping is very difficult even with lee cloths and cooking is nigh impossible, but Joan did manage sausages and pancakes for breakfast yesterday. I passed on the mapleen syrup.

The GPS is giving an eta of Dec 10 which is about what I expected, but we still have 1334 N M to go, but at least we are on the right side of the hill. Had a Vivaldi night last night (plus a bit of Status Quo).

We have been using [radio] links from Nova Scotia, Switzerland, Virginia (US) and GC. Got good copy (that's how they talk here) with Herb last night, so are up to speed with weather.

Poor Alan is a bit down, His father has been in for surgery but it turned out ok. His sister was less fortunate and bas been diagnosed with breast and lymph node cancer. He feels a bit helpless. Joan is holding up but I expect her to kiss the ground when we arrive. I have to say I shall be quite glad when I get back to terra firma.