We were honoured to leave the pontoon first at Gosport Marina to rendezvous with the media helicopter off the Isle of Wight. The crew all cheered ‘Hip Hip Hooray’ as we slipped our lines. A lump in the troat suggested the enormity of what we were about to do.
We motored out into the Solent line-astern before hoisting the main, staysail and yankee.
Soon we were all milling about with close passes to suit our camera phone’s wide angle lenses. By this time Unicef which hadn’t dropped her staysail zoomed amongst us like a dodgem car in the Brownian motion of the rest of us.
After what seemed like an age, the helicopter did some low passes, with media crew on board. With staysails and yankees again hoisted, and sailing various formations for their benefit. The wind had stiffened and in a lumpy sea, complete with white-horses, left a good wake and layed us over at good angles of heel.
Once all the formations had been completed we pealed off and set off toward London.
The crew’s excitement was palpable. I took over the helm from Graeme as the wind dropped from it’s previous 25 to 30 knots to 20 to 25. We dropped the headsails to preserve their pristine condition and by the time we were off Brighton the wind had fallen significantly.
Motoring on we eventually anchored off Margate. Stern to, I rose from my off-watch after having sailed on through the night. Anchor watch was kept all night in overlapping shifts of an hour.
Rising early the next morning we weighed anchor and made our scheduled time for rendezvous at Southend Pier where the rest of the fleet was waiting. We weaved amongst each other like sniffing dogs before processing up river in line-astern formation with Unicef leading the flotilla. At some point a pilot joined the fleet but not entirely sure exactly when.
By the time we passed under the Queen Elizabeth suspension bridge we were dressed in our parade banners, flags and sail cover. We passed by the O2 arena, Greenwage observatory and many of the other historic landmarks before sighting Tower Bridge. With St. Catherine’s dock nearby we milled about in general disarray keeping our keels off the bottom to the ire of the harbour master trying to control 11 yachts going up and down river, waiting for the lock to open.
River traffic seemed chaotic with lots of vessels needing to go in both directions at differing speeds.
We entered the lock to our team song ‘Titanium’ after which two minuscule rubber ducks nudged us savely into our narrow berth, like tugs.
And then I crashed with the effects of a cold going round the crew. I missed most of deep clean the next morning, laid up in my bunk. The chart in the heads keeps indicating dehydration and am struggling to achieve a healthy colour.
Wallet went missing until later found where it was stowed. That got my attention with calls made back and forth to the bank to place a temporary block on accounts.
Feeling more myself today. Have washed clothes used during Prep week and here.
We are so lucky to be in the heart of London. The party is just beginning.