A Traditional Sailing Experience

So you’re thinking of joining us for a traditional sailing experience on board Irene but not too sure what to expect?  Hopefully, this should give you an idea!  Of course, every sail is different.  Different destinations, different guests, different weather and different wildlife.  However, we thought we’d share one of our day sails from last season to give you an idea of what you should expect.

A Day in the Life of Irene

It’s five o’clock in the morning and the alarm goes off in the fo’c’sle.  Its the start of another day for the crew of the Irene.  First up is Rachel, our ship’s cook.  Yesterday was a busy day and there’s still work to be done to get the ship ready for today’s day sailing guests.  First job is to put on some coffee and then start the dough for today’s freshly baked bread ….

Meanwhile, Charlie our skipper, and the deckhands are lured out of their beds by the promise of imminent caffeine.  Coffee first, of course, and then up on deck to start the pre-flight checks!  The weather forecast is reviewed and Charlie plans the day’s events whilst the deckies make sure Irene is looking her best.

At 8:00, today’s guests are starting to congregate on the quayside.  Irene is moored on a buoy, a short ride in the tender away.
The tender is loaded up with lifejackets and Charlie jumps in for the short buzz across to Clovelly quay.  After a quick introduction, the guests are instructed in donning the lifejackets and once all are safely wearing them, it’s back in the RIB (rigid inflatable boat) to return to Irene.  It’s a climb up the rope ladder to get on board but all guests successfully manage it with the assistance of Zach and Brendan.

Charlie gives a quick safety briefing to the guests whilst last minute preparations are made.  It’s then on with the engines and away with the mooring strop.  Irene is underway!

_DSC0080 (1)Once the ship is a safe distance from any potential hazards, the engine revs are reduced and the newly signed on crew lend a hand to haul the halyards and raise the mainsail.  Traditional sailing is hard work, but with some muscle from Zach and Brendan, the gaff is soon flying up the mast, pulling the rest of the sail below it.  The throat halyard is made off as the last few feet of the peak is hauled up before also being secured.  The main sail is up!  The exercise is repeated for the mizzen sail and then the crew move for’ard to raise the four headsails.

With the six sails up, the engine is turned off and Charlie eases Irene off the wind.  The sail’s fill and she leans slightly into the breeze.  We’re sailing.

_DSC0091 (1)Now seems an appropriate time for some refreshment.  Tea and coffee is produced from the galley accompanied by fresh bacon sandwiches.  Rachel has been busy whilst the guests and crew have been hoisting the sails.  It may be a traditional sailing experience but there’s no need to forego a few luxuries!  Suitably refreshed, the guests have the opportunity to admire the scenery or get involved in sailing the ship.  Whether it’s learning to helm her under the watchful eye of Charlie, some instruction in producing the perfect long splice from Brendan or merely watching the world pass by as Irene serenely glides past the North Devon coast.

A shout goes up from the starboard bow.  ‘Dolphins!’.  The crew and guests dash up to watch a pod of twenty of these fascinating creatures dart in and out of the bow wave.  It’s a great moment that we don’t get on every trip.  The cameras click and a dozen people capture the moment for posterity.

All too soon, Charlie gives the word to drop the sails.  We’re approaching the island of Lundy and it’s getting close to lunchtime.  With all the sails down and safely secured, Charlie brings the bow up into the wind and gives the word for the anchor to be dropped.  A swift application of the mallet to the pin releases the large lump of iron and gravity does the rest.  Irene settles to the wind and tide and the crew prepare the RIB.

Another short trip in the tender sees the guests safely on land again.  Lundy is a fascinating place and an hour spent exploring the wildlife or just the Marisco Tavern is time well spent.  It’s then back to the ship where Rachel has rustled up a gourmet lunch for all.  A glass of wine helps pass a very pleasant hour at anchor whilst the sea birds and seals pay the occasional visit.  Once lunch is cleared away, the guests and crew man the yoke to haul up the anchor.  It’s then a repeat of the sail hoisting activities before Irene is underway for her return voyage to Clovelly.

_DSC0083 (1)Before long, Rachel appears out of the galley again, sporting some afternoon tea.  Freshly baked scones and cream replace some of the calories burnt on the physical activities.  It’s a two hour sail back to the mooring so there is still plenty of time for everybody to have some experience of sailing the ship, whether this be helming, navigating or trimming the sails.  For those who prefer, the time is spent admiring the fantastic scenery or learning about the history of Irene from the crew.

As the sun starts to dip, Charlie gives the word to drop the sails and the engines spring into life.  We’re now approaching the mooring buoy and, with cropped-20130606_213626.jpgZach’s help from the RIB, Irene is neatly secured.  The engines are turned off and another fantastic day is nearly over in the life of Irene.  A final coffee on board and an opportunity to purchase a momento concludes a memorable day.  All that remains is the quick run back to the quay and some fond goodbyes.