JOHN LAING’s latest trip featured an excellent group from the West Sussex Youth Service, who had all recently finishes their GCSEs. They had spent the week before the voyage together, learning skills like first aid and sports leadership, so they arrived on board already working as a team. They came with three group leaders whom relief skipper Brian Eyres described as “a textbook example of how youth workers really should be – absolutely superb.”
This was evidently a crew which didn’t need to be broken in gently, so on the very first morning they got up at 5 am and left Poole, heading for Cherbourg. This was one of JOHN LAING’s more robust Channel crossings: strong stomachs required but not always in evidence. Phoebe was rather proud that one of the crew later announced that his best moment of the trip was being looked after by her while he was being sick. Everyone else says that this is just because he fancied her.
But Phoebe wasn’t the only person to make a new friend during the crossing. Brian struck up a relationship with a racing pigeon which hitched a lift for the second half of the passage to France. Apparently he took it down to the navigation area and was seen showing it the chart and earnestly explaining possible routes for it to fly, and encouraging it to look at the latest weather forecast. This was obviously an altogether more sophisticated pigeon than the one we sheltered on board last year, which showed its gratitude by biting Bourne College crew member Joby.
Anyway, there was great sorrow on board when this latest pigeon passenger left the boat in Cherbourg. Brian was particularly upset at not being able to send if away with a Competent Crew certificate, after all the navigation training – I gather it failed on the rowing section of the syllabus.
The next day the crew spent some time exploring Cherbourg and doing their own Competent Crew training, before setting off back across the Channel in the late afternoon. They anchored in the small hours of the following morning, “somewhere off the Isle of Wight.” The team was originally unable to be more precise about the exact location – perhaps featherbrained navigation is infectious? – but later enquiries narrowed it down to somewhere near Saltmead Ledge.
Later in the morning they went into Yarmouth where they had a barbecue and a game of football. The following day involved a trip to Portsmouth, and the voyage finally ended in Southampton.
All the crew passed their Competent Crew certificates, and several are keen to sail again (not merely in the hope of seeing Phoebe). This is another group which would be welcome back on board any time.
Thanks as ever to the sea staff: Brian, Craig, Dave Eagland, Denis, Trevor (who can fit kitchens when he isn’t sailing – allegedly - I'm waiting…..), and Phoebe (who passed her second mate’s assessment this week, a mere three weeks after becoming a third mate. A record, perhaps? – though Wolf did say she was very close to second mate standard last time).
This morning JOHN LAING was lifted out of the water in Hamble for some repairs to the rudder; and we are also taking the opportunity to get a proper mend on a tear in the mainsail. The team were slightly disconcerted to find that the antifouling has turned bright pink, making a lovely eye-watering contrast with the dark red topsides. But it sounds as though one of the plans for the next few days is to keep embarrassing Phoebe in the hope that if she stands next to the hull and blushes, it will make a perfect camouflage.
If all of this makes anyone nostalgic for the unique JOHN LAING atmosphere, call the office on 0870 241 2252 to enquire about any remaining berth vacancies.