Offshore Cruising log by Martin Johnson
Adventure of blood, sweet, tears and getting soaked ...
Martin Johnson went on a London Sailing Project's Deaf
Cruise and wrote about it in his
diary. Here is his story ...
Friday 18th September 1998
It is the beginning of a week long adventure of blood,
sweet, tears and getting soaked as twenty three people
resembling the cast of a 'Carry On' film made up the
crew of the ocean going ketch Rona II on her high seas
Unlocking the baggage on board, it was every person for
himself as grabbing their bunks on a first spotted this
is mine basis, except for the
ship's crew who had reserved bunks in the stern.
After a few introductions, we finally left the moorings
despite some hours delays, under the 'questionably' skilled handling
of the Captain 'Long John Silver' and his first mate
'Short John Silver' who was just as incompetent! A trial
run for the crew and their desk hands was made up
Southampton Water, to allow them to be acquainted with
the day to day operation of a yacht while at the same
time we made a 'victory' cruise past the Southampton
boat show just to show off!
Late afternoon, a couple of hours sailing under
our belts, we anchored in the Isle of Wight waters
as a watch rota was constructed by 'Short John Silver'
and we all enjoyed a hot meal before starting an all
night watch which consisted of every member putting
in an hour's time each. (Except the watch leaders at
two hours each. Ha, Ha, Ha!)
Saturday 19th September
The morning sun rose above the horizon making for a
sight one can really describe as breathtaking while
enjoying breakfast on desk.
Immediately after, we set sail for Cowes to get a new
water pump and some more supplies for veggies, (yes,
there were four on board) in the course of this trip
we had our first taster of docking Rona II to a pontoon
which turned into quite a shambles and a few lessons
were learnt from that.
As we departed for Weymouth everyone was getting excited
for their first day of proper sailing as the full complement
of sail was hoisted up, but sadly we ended up motoring
along as virtually no wind was left, so the rest of the
day was spent cleaning the cabins and desks or just plain
lazing around the yacht.
Docking alongside the Donald Searle at Weymouth harbour
it was off to the pub for a good booze up after a record
breaking evening meal and washing up routine on board yacht.
Sunday 20th September
06:00am Sunday morning and the throbbing of the engine was felt
throughout Rona II. It woke up a quite few desk hands who
may have mistaken the vibration for their alarm clocks!
The sun rose from behind Portland Point creating some
spectacular shadows and colours behind the lighthouse, whilst
at last we had some acceptable winds to suck us along to our
destination which at the time was still unknown to many!
A few hours later of almost perfect sailing conditions was
alarmingly disrupted by an approaching fog bank coupled with
an increase in wind and wave size, just as we were on route
to Salcombe harbour. It resulted in amore cautious approach
with twice the amount of lookouts on desk fully kitted out
for severe weather, their job to point out any
as buoys, fishing vessels, etc. Two hours passed without
incident as we made out approach into the mouth of a most
spectacular harbour, sheer cliffs either side spotted with
houses perched precariously on the edges. Mooring on to a
visitor's buoy, it was another record - breaking meal and
washing up routine all over again, then off to the pub in a
water taxi for yet another good booze up. Three desk hands
decided to have a late night skinny dipping game
return to Rona II as they managed to half capsize her
inflatable dinghy due to a slight off balance manoeuvre as
all three moved to one side at the same time.
Monday 21st September
Early morning, today will probably be the ultimate test for
all of us inexperienced ones as we prepared for a trip to
Guernsey carving through the English Channel and her main
In a Force 7 gale the bow lookouts were getting totally
drenched by waves crashing over them as Rona II sliced
through all the havoc of the cruel sea, her deck crew hanging
on for dear lives as two of them succumbed to seasickness,
down below the remaining deck crew trying so
hard to make
cups of tea, snacks and lunch which were proving even harder
Two huge monsters crawled their way across out bow as we
approached the main shipping channels steadily crossing their
wake as they made off into the distance seemingly unawares
of the fury of the sea, which was battering us so
Approaching Guernsey the sun descended the horizon turning the
sky into an absolute splash of brilliant red
streaks against a
deep blue sky which was joyfully appreciated by Blue Watch
still on deck, wet, cold, but determined to see Rona II to
the safety of Guernsey's sheltered harbour.
21:30 hours, an exhausted crew moored Rona II to the visitor's
pontoon while a hot evening meal was prepared and the rest of
the evening was spent having a few drinks, laughs and for some
of us, an early bunk down.
Tuesday 22nd September
A day of rest and relaxation as we spent a few hours exploring
Guernsey, taking a blissfully warm shower as soon as the inflatable
dinghy dropped us off on to shore.
Returning to Rona II at 16:00 hours having had six hours on shore
we prepared to leave harbour by 17:00 hours to catch the correct
wind and tide settings to send us on our way home but alas it was
not to be. Two deck hands had lost their credit cards and wallet,
which after some frantic phone calls to the police, was later
retrieved sadly too late for an acceptable window to make out
The decision was made to have an early morning departure the next
day, which meant it was back to shore and down the pub for another
piss up much appreciated by a few alcoholics.
Wednesday 23rd September
05:00am. A day that will not be forgotten too easily as we headed
back towards home. With the winds at a steady force 6 and the sea
picking up, but well within, what we experienced two days before,
we were warned that our route took us through some very treacherous
waters and that should be well prepared for it. The first signs of
the Alderney Race were when the waves started crushing over the top
of the cabin roof and cockpit, water seeping in the forward vents,
plates, tins and various footstock being tossed about, deck crew
down below being shaken like pleading for an end to this nightmare
Twenty minutes of continuous pounding was taking its toll as Rona II
violently carved her way through mountainous seas, her deck crew
getting battered and bruised, praying at the same time until an
eerie calm overcame us all as we exited the Race with a sign of relief.
Ten hours after leaving Guernsey the Needles lighthouse was a welcome
sight as we approached the Isle of Wight for the short hop to Yarmouth
Harbour just around the corner. The wind was so light and the sea so
calm that cruising the last few miles required us using engine power
up to the docking in full view of a mass of traffic waiting to board
the Isle of Wight ferry!
Quick clean up below and above deck ensured that it was straight off
to a good hot slap up meal at the White Hart public house in Yarmouth
and a few drinks included too, made up for a merry atmosphere after the
nightmare of the Alderney Race. A few bottles of bubbly cheered the
ship's crew coupled with some 'shorts' and a great many photographs
were taken near blinding everyone from all those flashes.
Thursday 24th September
10:00am The final journey home - an almost unbearably calm and collected
trip compared to previous days of sailing.
Arriving earlier than expected to the mouth of Southampton Water, two
afterguards decided to mutiny with help of a few deck hands and organised
a short sight seeing trip up Southampton Water for a bit of fun before
turning Rona II on her last short stretch of Hamble river to the moorings
back at Universal Shipyards.
For an hour and a half Rona II was cleaned and cleaned up, a final group
photo was taken as everyone took a last look at eacdh other and said their
goodbyes and "see you next year" lines before going their separate ways.
So we come to the end of a sea voyage which brought together seven hearing
and sixteen deaf people from different walks of life, who ate, slept, worked,
laughed, argued, supported, and most of all, mixed together as if a team
made in heaven.
Martin Johnson 1998