Sun 13 Jan 2008 21:31

50:47.355N 001:07.143W

Cpl Bruce Tarbet

Having been picked up by a Corporal Scott McDonald at lunchtime on Friday, we headed south to Gosport. After ten hours and 470 miles driving from Dundee through the sleet and rain we arrived at the welcoming Fort Blockhouse accommodation, getting our heads down ready for the morning.

What a contrast Saturday morning was; bright and sunny. I hoped I would be in the crew practising in the Solent on the 34ft yacht. The introduction by the Lt Col was interesting and shook us out of any complacency about holidays to Greenland. This was going to be hard work so made a mental note about doing some running, press-ups and sit ups to prepare. Having to do the self introduction last was a little awkward because all the reasons for my wanting to do this expedition had already been said, but it did break the ice.

My group spent the afternoon being shown the ropes (I mean halyards and sheets) on the Challenge 67. You can see why it is called a challenge when it takes four people to pull up the mainsail! Then it sunk in that we were doing this alongside, not out at sea at a 30 degree angle into the wind with cold water being thrown at you. I struggled with the knots (should that be bends and hitches?), particularly the bowline but I think I will get there with it.

Saturday evening was spent in the yacht club chatting away to each other and picking the instructors brains about sailing. Real Ale was served so I was happy anyway. Being from an independent squadron you don't often meet people from other parts of the Corps so it was good to compare notes. The fresh air and long day took its toll and we all turned in early in preparation for the sailing the next day.

Sunday morning was a little overcast. We received a safety briefing followed by some instructions on the Victoria 34 before we slipped our berth and put to sea (well Portsmouth Harbour). I used to know Portsmouth quite well and it was strange seeing it from seaward. The instructors took us through man overboard drills, then gybing followed by reefing the mainsail. The boat was riding the sea like a fairground ride which gave all us crew a buzz. Then we headed back to in to the marina to practise going alongside before coming back to our berth to learn how to put the boat to bed. After lunch we returned the stores before a debrief; we had all enjoyed learning so much that we had forgotten or not noticed that we were being assessed throughout for our suitability for the expedition. Then it was program the Satnav and head home to Scotland. Does TOMTOM work on boats?