In 2015, the Joint Services Adventure Sail Training Center (JSASTC), organised the “Exercise Transglobe”. This exercise is one with tremendous military tradition, which happens every five years. A group of UK forces personnel take parts on legs of a trans- global trip on the two 72ft yachts.
I was lucky enough to be selected to sail on the second leg, from Lanzarote in the Canary Islands; to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Sailing the across Atlantic is a privilege.
The trip started with us all meeting on a bleak day in Gosport. After the meeting & greeting, death by PowerPoint and a safety brief that sounded like we were going on our last ever voyage, we finally got our heads down for an hours sleep before we had to catch a coach to Heathrow.
Sitting in the harbour, in the Lanzarote summer heat, were two beautiful Challenger 72ft yachts laying in wait for us. Once we settled in, we started preparing the boat. We purchased mountains of provisions for the trip. We sailed for hours around the Lanzarote coastline, familiarizing ourselves with the yacht, fixing bits and bobs and learning how not to end up at the bottom of the ocean.
According to our skipper, the trip would take us down past Cape Verdi to Salvador and finally to Rio. This would not turn out to be the final route however.
After a cracking last few days at Lanzarote, we were all set to tick off “the journey across the line” (across the equator) from our bucket list. We set off with good spirits, dolphins and flying fish at our bow, as we sailed of into the deep and landless horizon.
With a crew of 15 we had one skipper, a first mate, a second mate and three watches. The first few days we got used to the rotations of being “on-watch”, “off-watch” and “mother-watch”. Theses watches had one watch leader and three crewmen. The two watches and a skipper/mates would be on watch (on deck) for four hours each, then rotate, when the other watch would take over, whilst the mother-watch (the third watch not on deck) would cook and clean and maintain the boat. This rotation carried on for the 28 days, as we crossed the Atlantic Ocean.
We saw whales and more flying fish. At night the sea around our boat would light up with flashes of iridescent green and turquoise light, as the algae was excited by us cutting through the waves. When the moon was not out, we saw the colours of the stars and even glanced some stars shooting through the night sky. Away from civilization and cities, the moon seemed so bright at night that it was as if it was day.
During the day it would be hot and sunny. The only days it rained was when we got caught in the beginnings of the tropical storm which later turned out to be the edges of Hurricane Fred.
After roughly 20 days of not seeing land we landed early on the archipelago Fernando De Narronha where we planned to stay for a few hours. We were able to use the time on shore to go scuba diving and relax on the beaches. We met Paul and Rachel Chandler, the couple who were caught by Somali pirates in 2009. We spent some time in their company, listening to their stories, but had to bid them farewell as we needed to head off for mainland Brazil.
As we approached the Brazilian coast disaster struck. Our propeller got caught in a crab basket and we had to divert past Salvador, our intended next stop, to find a dock big enough for out boat. We sailed past Rio to a boatyard at a bay called Angra dos Reis. The propeller was repaired and we were able to spend a night on the island of Ilha Grande. It was like paradise. The next day we sailed to Rio.
In total we spent 35 days on the good ship Adventure, 24 days at sea and we have sailed 3740 nautical miles.
This experience is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity to develop qualities already established in officer training and see the world. I feel that every one on the boat has profited immeasurably our experiences as we were tested in ways we never thought were possible.
I am extremely grateful to the Ulysses Trust for the support that allowed me to be part of this adventure.