So if you have a ticket for the sailing at Weymouth, what do need to know?
Getting to Weymouth
I took the train and that's probably the best idea if you're coming from London. There was all sort of talk of crowding but in fact the train wasn't too busy so no need to drive unless you really want to.
You could bike to the site as there are racks just outside.
Organisation at Weymouth
Really, really good. There were meet and greeters handing out maps to get from the station to the viewing area (free) and also programs (£5 for sailing only). The route to the Nothe is well sign-posted and pedestrianised so an easy walk:
There's also an area for those without tickets set up with big screens etc.
Getting in to the site
There is bag security and ticket checks on the way but they went pretty smoothly and then the site is quite small so easy to find your way around.
Food and drink
There's a good choice for lunch, from the normal burgers, bbq sausages, hog roast, lamb wraps, chicken and chorizo, pizza, fish and chips etc etc all looking rather tempting.
Of course there was a good sized bar:
If things were exciting and you didn't want to leave the viewing area then there were people walking around selling drinks and ice creams etc - all you had to do was wave them over.
There were some limitations due to sponsor restrictions, and also scope. Not much puds, fruit, cakes or sweet things apart from ice cream, but you could get a tea and cake in the cafe in the Nothe Fort (more on that later)
Other things to know
There's a Olympic shop for t-shirts and souvenirs but note they accept only cash or Visa credit cards.
The races offshore are shown on big screen TV the same as elsewhere, except if you wave your flag a lot and paint your face with your country's flag you have the chance of being shown up there thanks to the many TV crews wandering around.
The seating area is basically a grassy hill so if its wet you might want something to sit on. However there are tables and chairs for lunch including a large covered area.
The Nothe Fort is mostly indoors which could be nice if its very wet or hot.
You can keep track of what's going on using the fantastic London Olympic Apps which have everything from schedule, tables and athletes but also who's in what position around each mark.
Couldn't find anywhere to buy things like sun cream so you might want to bring that with you.
Remember you're there to have fun and you don't have to watch every second of every race!
Just returned from a fun day out in Weymouth watching the Olympic Sailing.
Perfect conditions, good wind, no rain, mostly sunny (sometimes too sunny) and lots of action in front of the Nothe Fort, including the prang above when in the 49ers the Finns got their spinnaker in a knot in the water and promptly capsized.
The only downer was that Team GB was less sparkly than the water, with even mighty Ben struggling against that darn Dane.
Its not all bad as Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson are doing rather well in the Star class.
It the event on the tall ship Maja there was of course a celebration of Denmark's food and drink, and appropriately they chose two favourites of sailors.
How many sailing trips of mine have started with a juicy bacon sandwich prepared in a cafe somewhere on the shores of the Solent? And how many have ended with a beer in some bar, from St. Lucia to Reykjavik?
So yes, there was bacon, prepared by a chef with beetroot, and also a bottle of ice cold beer, brewed and bottled especially for the Maja (see above).
Now that cold one did go down very well on a day when London glowed under a scorching summer sun.
Earlier last week I heard that Denmark had brought a Viking boat over to London and after the Arctic Sail expedition was immediately interested. Pinging off an email I got an invitation to go on-board the tall ship Maja, as blogged here, and a lovely boat she was too.
Built in 1918 she was originally a two masted fishing boat, iron hull with Douglas-fir masts. Then in 1931 she was extended by 7m, given an extra mast and converted into a cargo ship.
Remarkably her working life ended only in 1979 and now she is the centre piece of Denmark's Imagination event at St. Katherine's Dock London for the next three weeks:
The Maja was sailed over from Denmark by just 5 crew - the skipper and then two sets of two person watches, which seems quite minimal to me.
I would so like to have a chance to sail something like that at sea, watching those masts and sails silhouetted against a night's sky full of stars.
After last night's great opening ceremony it was time for sport and one of the first events was the men's cycle road race. Its route crossed Putney Bridge twice, once on the way out of London and once on the way back, so of course I went down to watch.
There was a great mood all the time, with the police motorbike riders doubling up as warming up act for the main show.
Of course the bikes flew by in a second or two, just time for a lucky shot to capture Britain's Bradley Wiggins (above), winner of the 2012 Tour de France
Then they were gone and the crowd relaxed, smiling and barriers were broken, so strangers talked to strangers and found connections (more later).
Alas the race didn't go according to a script by Danny Boyle and so there were no medals for Team GB.
Today London is the Olympics, the Olympics is London.
Everywhere you go there are events, on the tube and trains arrows point towards sports grounds, countless people with LOCOG badges or 2012 organiser t-shirts, camera crews, sports men and women, pavilions for each of the countries of the world, flags, costumes.....
Connecting everything together is an electric excitement, the knowledge that this is the moment, where it begins, where it happens, where the gaze of the world is focussed.
Welcome, everyone, to London: we hope you have a truly great time here in our wonderful city.
Yesterday I was lucky enough to go on the tall ship Maja for a short cruise up the Thames including as a highlight going under Tower Bridge.
Lots more pics to come but many thanks to Visit Denmark, currently installed at St. Katherine's doc, for the invite.
The best of best bits of the trip has no photos because that's when I put down the camera and just enjoyed the moment.
To be on a tall ship, under Tower Bridge, in bright sunshine on a hot afternoon, in the centre of London the day before the Olympics started.... just wonderful, my heart was full of excitement and pride.
OMG, you will not believe it but that email on my BB meant I just scored tickets to the invitation onlyPaloma Faith gig at Hackney House tomorrow!!!
JP is like gutted he didn't get any.
So anyhow, as I was saying I was doing this Media Studies course and the lecturer had this thing about traditional journalism skills bla bla bla and the need to get a good grounding bla bla bla and so I thinks to myself what is more traditional than blogging? Right?
And to be honest these bloggers need a little help - I mean JP didn't even get a pic of that Star Trek actor holding the torch! What was going on there? No chance for "Phasers set to run" gags than.
Anyhow my agent says I need a more rounded CV so here I am.
There was the thrilling air of excitement at JP HQ for the official launch of Team JP.
Its a once in a lifetime opportunity to blog the Olympics here in London where the usual hectic swirl had become tornado intense.
Every day there are countless events, and that's before the games have even begun, so covering it all single handed was clearly out of the question. But who could I turn to?
One person literally camping outside was of course our good friend Buff Staysail (btw Buff, the residents association were not impressed by the peeing behind the tent episode). How could they have a top of the line sailing event without ol' Buff commentating?
But I was also convinced by an expert (she says) in the industry of the need to reach out to beyond the usual blog audience to a younger, hipper, more with-it, in-time, connected generation.
So please give a big welcoming hello to this blog's show-biz and yoof columnist, Sassi Tweet!!
Over the next two blogs I'll let our two guest commentators give us their vision for blogging the Olympics.
One of the good things about the route chosen was most of the way we didn't have to worry much about ice, which keeps within the East Greenland current and doesn't venture much west.
The only tricky spot was coming round the north west corner of Iceland, and even then most years its relatively free. But looking back on the web site there were some reports of the odd berg so I kept a regular watch on the Icelandic Met Office's web site.
Then as we approached that coast I used the Iridium phone to call some of the experts over in Greenland to get the very latest.
There was half an idea that if conditions were good we could have headed in towards Greenland but the books were right - its not until late July that you get a chance.
Anyhow I had a bit of fun stringing some of those sea ice charts together to make the animation above. There is of course a big gap in the middle when we were off sailing so I was unable to capture any of the updates.
It loops and the start is when its mostly red i.e. very close drift 9/10 to 10/10 ice.
Where Ackroyd disappointed there was one book both of us really enjoyed and could relate to while sailing those northern waters.
Its author, George Mackay Brown, was not someone either of us had heard of but Tristan picked it up in the small bookshop in Kirkwall, Orkney.
I'm guessing he's deeply unfashionable with those that value the latest linguistic innovations, convention breaking style or paradigm changing literature, nor those that like twists and cliff-hangers.
It has a plain, straight-forward approach to story telling, where plot points are well sign-posted and language is used simply and cleanly, as in the opening two sentences:
There was a boy who lived in a hamlet in Orkney called Mannavoe. The boy's name was Ranald.
The book tells the story of Ranald from childhood to grave. Mostly he lived on Orkney but he travelled as a boy across the wide sea to Iceland, Greenland, Vinland and Norway, and in later years to the south.
It is set in the time when the Vikings were settling down, converting from their pagan gods to Christianity, when there was conflict as to who should control Orkney between three of the ruling Earl's sons, and between their allegiance to Scotland or Norway.
While there is politics and battle this is ultimately something else, the author's spiritual vision coming through, though not overpowering or distracting.
It felt right to be reading it while sailing those waters north of Orkney that the long ships roamed across a thousand years ago, written quietly yet capturing the spirit and tone of those sagas.
I took this book with me on sail to the Arctic Circle: boy was that a mistake, wrong on pretty much every level.
Firstly the topic was the great, sprawling, historic city packed with millions of people and their noise, pollution, views, dramas, money and so much much more, while of course I was living isolated surrounded by nature and with just one other person for company.
Then it was home, just when I should be ignoring those memories and concentrating on the present and the near future.
Finally of course there was Ackroyd's style, which regular readers of this blog will know I compare to a bucket of the richest vintage port.
This book is called the "concise" biography but still its over 650 pages long, packed full with the juiciest stories his team of researchers could come up with.
That's one problem of having read several of his books, you begin to see how its been put together, what the skeletons are underneath - which is a very appropriate analogy for Ackroyd, who loves writing about death, the macabre & grotesque, damnation, bodies, salvation and the spiritual.
Its not really a book to read, cover to cover that is, more dip into. It has 52 chapters, one for each week of the year, and it would be a good choice to be left in a bathroom to be examined as you do your motions.
With that appropriately Ackroydian image there is no more I can add so I'll leave it there.
We had a day spare before our flights back to the UK and felt like stretching our legs so took the short ferry from Reykjavik to the island of Videy.
Its a good place for a walk, about 2.8 km long and only 0.6 km wide, mostly covered with long wild grass but no one lives here - now.
At one end of the island there is an abandoned village, though one thing we noticed that pretty much every house had been actively destroyed. Again and again on the information boards for each the key word of the last sentence was "demolished" but no reason was ever given.
Just in front of the landing there's a lovely little church and the mansion created by the founder of Reykjavik, Skuli Magnusson (now a nice little cafe).
Somewhere there's the Yoko Ono Imagine Peace Tower but we weren't that interested enough to find it instead admired Richard Serra's installation basalt pillars standing like a Stonehenge split into isolated pairs.
All in all a very good way to clear some cobwebs and get those walking boots muddy.
Its a good idea not to rely on a single source of navigational information.
To sail to the Arctic Circle we had charts in paper form, plus chartplotter plus iNavX on iPad. On the last day before leaving in a moment of you-can't-be-too-careful I also bought the charts for iNavX on my iPhone as well.
So how did they compare?
It's a good idea to have these just in case of a catastrophic failure of the electrical system and we did get them out from storage as we progressed along our route. However we didn't actually use them much, apart from when planning approaches to land, and then mostly by Tristan as I'd just pull out my always to hand iPhone.
A backup then, not the primary tool for navigation.
This was in practice the main navigation tool, located as it was on the chart table handy for the log book. It was also integrated into the other electronics, such as the VHF's DSC, the radar and the AIS (which stands for Automatic Identification System). The AIS meant that if the radar spotted something you usually could put the cursor over the target and get the ship name, heading etc and if necessary could call them over the VHF by name.
The data it used was Navionics, so actually the same charts as used by the iPhone and iPad.
Generally it worked well though there were some weird things. As previously blogged at times the change in latitude and COG were not consistent and that was worrying, particularly, such as when trying to make Reykjavik without tacking, it mattered.
The AIS sometimes seemed to think the empty seas not worth waking up for and fail to work, plus the radar could interfere with the GPS lock, but it did its job (unless you really, really needed a COG that you could trust).
iNavX on iPad
I was pretty pleased with this. It had the same Navionics chart as the chartplotter and could do similar calculations of COG, manage waypoints, routes etc. While it didn't connect to the radar and AIS it has the ability to do so (wirelessly I guess) plus it had the ability to download weather data in GRIB form.
It could also be used safely on deck due to the waterproof case which for pilotage, for example through the Faroe Islands (above), was pretty useful. It created the track which could then be exchanged via Transverse with the iPhone (and vice versa) or emailed in KML format.
This was all great but using the iPad with GPS on all through the Faroes drained the battery and then when plugged into the 12 volt socket it went all "I'm too magical for this dirty power supply" and refused to re-charge, which meant it was useless until Iceland.
Yes I did test it out on Goldeneye, but alas while attached to shore power.
Moral of story: test electronics when disconnected from shore power.
iNavX on iPhone
The iPhone was a bit more tolerant of the low amps and varying voltages of the yacht's power supply and charged just fine. The software was similar but not exactly identical to that on the iPad - sometimes in a better way (for example its easier to say "Goto waypoint" on the iPhone than iPad). Again the charts were from Navionics.
Of course the screen's a lot smaller but when the magical iPad gave up we had to rely on it for downloading and viewing GRIBS. So that last minute urge to have the iPhone as a backup to the iPad turned out to be a good one.
However the next / back on-screen buttons for the GRIBs were way too small.
There was one strange omission on iNavX on both iPad and iPhone which was the lack of tidal data (or at least I couldn't find it). But if you downloaded the Navionics application (chart) you could click on the map and see tidal flow and direction.
Paper charts seem expensive when you consider how they're not often used, but then they're like EPIRBs, you need then to be there just in case.
But Navionics did rather well out of us as we bought the same data four times (chartplotter, iNavX iPad, iNavX iPhone, Navionics app iPhone) which all added up.
There was no ideal do it all solution, and maybe its not right to rely on just the one. The iPad was pretty good, but would be better iNavX also had tidal flows and the magical device could be recharged.
The reality was that the Raymarine chartplotter was what we used the most, integrated as it was with the rest of the yacht's systems.
However think of this: as we approached Reykjavik the only device onboard that could reliably give us our COG and determine whether we should tack or not was a phone.
It was rather cold at times so an important part of preparation was making sure we'd be able to keep warm.
Three things helped:
1. Layer up. I think I had 8 layers (t-shirt, long sleeved shirt, base layer, jumper, mid layer, fleece, salopettes, oilskins) or maybe 9 (another long sleeved shirt) plus of course the lifejacket etc. It was heavy but worked
2. Bivi bag. The bivi bag lent by my friends Dave and Angelika (who I sailed with from Lisbon to Gibraltar) was fantastic. Get inside the sleeping bag (fully dressed) and then inside the bivi bag and it would be warm and snug
3. Thermal mug. This was my treat: at the start of the watch I'd fill my LifeVenture mug with hot tea and it would keep warm until the end of the watch whether three or four hours.
As Napoleon would have put it, a double handed expedition sails on its stomach, but on what, exactly?
It was difficult when surrounded by Tesco's heaving shelves to guess what we'd like when the seas were heaving.
I like coffee - no I love coffee - so stocked up with two big jars of instant, and then didn't open either. The thing is that soon into the voyage we discovered the secret to a happy on-watch was to sleep when off-watch, which meant no coffee, just lots and lots of tea.
Then to go with the mythical coffee what would be better for breakfast than brioche?
Excuse me a moment, but ..... ha ha ha ha!
Sorry, that got to be an in-joke as we soon got sick of the sight of those brioches and were lucky to find another boat to offload donate them too, complete with their hydrogenated fat.
Instead breakfast (and a couple of other meals) was that old reliable, cereals. Lunch was rolls grabbed when we got a chance, preferably with those part baked ones.
The real meal of the day was dinner which was when both of us would be awake and hungry. We'd take it in turns to prepare something sustaining which needed no more than two pans, such as pasta, rice or noodles with sauce.
Top sauce for pasta was those bottles from Lloyd Grossman, though the green pesto was made more zappy by adding pine kernels and slices of chorizo with their kick of paprika.
Indeed anything spicy was good, and our tops favourite was a tinned curry from Tescos (above).
There was of course a cupboard full of treats to keep us going through those tough early morning watches and this was the one we never tired of, namely dried mango:
In fact these are too good just to be eaten at sea and (full disclosure) I'm nibbling some right now.
On the horizon were mountains and these too were streaked in ice, but between them and the water were a spread of buildings together with a church spire.
The Imray pilot said the approach was straight-forward but gave no details. While we had to hunt for a bit to spot the safe water buoy and north cardinal just beyond, eventually both were identified and the final pilotage went smoothly.
Lines were prepared, fenders attached and with an easy leap I was ashore making fast.
Land seemed to heave beneath our feet but Tristan and I exchanged grins and high-fived. We had done it:
- sail through the Faroes....... tick
- sail up to the Arctic Circle..... tick
- sail into uncharted waters......tick
Many thanks to Tristan for suggesting it in the first place and then making it happen: it had been an amazing sail, great fun as well as a great adventure.
There was a gorgeous sunset behind the impressive cone of Snaefellsjokull, the extinct (or at least dormant since 200 AD) volcano that was the setting for Jules Verne's A Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
Unfortunately that was followed by a rather bumpy night with 25 - 30 knots of wind, gusting a bit higher. However it wasn't dark that long and the sun soon re-appeared
Reykjavik seemed very close, though as Tristan pointed out it was still as far as a channel crossing from the Solent to Cherbourg.
We kept on sailing, as tight to windward as we could trim the sails.
Updated: Oops, originally mistook the photo to be sunrise when actually sunset - an easy mistake at that latitude, but now corrected.
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