The Round Britain Adventure Training expedition as part of the celebrations
commemorating the Queens Diamond Jubilee is underway. This page will be for
keeping the Regiment up to date with the course of the expedition.
The expedition is taking place over the period May - Aug 2012. The social event
in London, involving the sending loyal greetings to Her Majesty
and marking the start of the Exercise is reported on the Home page. A report
for each stage of the expedition will be posted on this page as each stage is
For further information or update contact Major A R Wood, Exercise DIAMOND BARBARA Project Leader,(firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07554 441919).
Status update as at 30th June 2012
:(27 - 31 May 12) - Gosport to Dover - 16 Regt
Report by Major RA Wade, 16 Regt RA
16th Regt RA had the privilege of sailing St Barbara from Gosport to Southwark
dock, south east London. 8 members of the Regiment took part in the exercise.
From the start point at Gosport marina, the crew familiarised themselves with
the yacht and were met by the RAYC yacht master, Bdr Brooker. Equipment such
as boots and oil skins were issued out to the crew. Some basic drills
including man over board, coming aside and raising and lowering of the main sail
were practised. This had to be achieved before heading out onto the open waters
of the English Channel the following day.
16 Regt RA Set Off
The first leg of the trip was from Gosport to Brighton. The trip was about 6 hours
of which only 2 hours involved any actual sailing. 4 hours were done under the
yachts own power, unfortunately conditions were not ideal for sailing. Despite the
poor sailing conditions morale was extremely high. The least experienced members of
the crew began to gain some valuable sailing skills and drills. On arrival at
Brighton marina the crew managed to get ashore and stretch their legs before
sitting down to a well earned evening meal.
Day three was a much longer leg, 15 in hours in total heading east towards
Dover. Conditions were choppy and some of the crew began to feel pretty sea
sick. Conditions were much better and the crew got stuck in to some good
sailing, working east along the coast of Sussex and Kent. As the day grew
to an end St Barbara and the crew headed steadily towards the port of Dover.
Cruise liners, container ships and cross channel ferries dwarfed the 42 ft yacht.
A late dinner was served aboard before the crew retired for some much needed rest.
Fog! The crew woke up to find that a thick bank of fog was lingering in and
around the port. Visibility was extremely poor and for safety reason the
skipper decided not to leave the port. The crew had the opportunity to go
ashore and browse the shops in Dover. Morale remained high sitting patiently
waiting for weather updates and hoping that St Barbara would be able to sail
at the next high tide.
At 0340 hrs the skipper and some of the senior crew members were up assessing
the situation. A decision was made to set sail and at 0420 hrs we were out on
the open water. 30 minutes after leaving the port, the coast guard gave a weather
update indicating 1 metre visibility at the ports entrance. This final leg was
the longest; St Barbara navigated around the Kent coast and into the straights of
the Thames estuary. With the Essex coast to our north and the Kent coast to our
south, the yacht began to head west up the Thames. On approach to the Queen
Elizabeth Bridge and Dartford, familiar sights such as Canary Wharf could be
seen on the horizon. Passing the Regiment's old station of Woolwich, St Barbara
passed the Thames barrier, the O2 dome before mooring up for the night at Southwark
at around 2125 hrs. The views and scenery made and excellent end to a superb week of
The final day consisted of sailing further up the Thames towards Tower Bridge
and HMS President in order to get fuel for the yacht. With the turn around of the
yacht completed in Southward dock, St Barbara was handed back to Bdr Brooks in
preparation for hand over to 7 (Para) RHA. This was a fitting end to the start
of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee weekend.
16 Regt RA Crew
(1 - 4 Jun 12) - (St Katherine's Dock)
- See Home Page
:(5 - 10 Jun 12) - London to Great Yarmouth - 7 RHA
Report by Lt Matt Aldridge.
7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery kicked off Exercise Diamond
Barbara by completing their leg from London to Great Yarmouth.
The crew, which consisted mostly of novice gunners from the regiment, battled
with gale force winds and some pretty unpleasant conditions to get St Barbara
to Great Yarmouth. Everybody really enjoyed themselves and we even saw a little
bit of sunshine.
The first part of the voyage saw the crew navigating down the Thames
past several landmarks including the Firepower Museum at the old home Woolwich.
After passing through the Thames Barrier and under the M25 we began our journey proper,
sailing round to Burton-on-Crouch.
7 RHA Crew
The next day the crew, who were really beginning to
get their sea legs, navigated round to Harwich. It was at Harwich that we realised how
small St Barbara really was when set against the massive container ships and cruise
liners using Felixstowe port. We braved the traffic and moored in Shotley Marina.
Things were going well and we were all set for a Five AM wakeup when the weather closed
in with some gales force winds. The crew were gutted to be told that sailing
would not be a good idea with such winds; even the Port had stopped operating!
We were forced to spend a day floating in the marina waiting for the winds to abate.
We eventually slipped our moorings at 3PM and sailed in the gusty conditions
towards Great Yarmouth. The crew had a brilliant time, especially as there
were no cases of seasickness on the trip. On the Mini-bus back to
Colchester the talk was of the next intrepid adventure for the crew.
7 RHA Crew at the end of their Leg
:(11- 16 Jun 12) - Great Yarmouth to Hartlepool - 3RHA
Report by Major Chris Gent
After a week of strong wind and rain bringing St Barbara up from London to Great
Yarmouth I looked forward to the inevitable series of high pressure systems that
would bring a steady breeze and sunshine to the 3 RHA leg of Ex DIAMOND BARBARA,
destination Hartlepool Marina. Think again - what the tabloids billed as
'Washout June' and with a crew of novices picking up on media snippets such
as "..three months of rain in three days" it was inevitable that the foul
weather would continue.
Having found at the end of the 7 Para RHA leg that Great Yarmouth was completely
devoid of any facilities whatsoever (not even a hosepipe on the town quay,
apparently you have to ask East Anglian Water to come out and install a hydrant)
we skipped back 5 miles down the coast to the very accommodating Lowestoft Marina
where the new victims embarked. What followed was 5 days of tough sailing, with a
seemingly-constant 6 or 7 just coming off the nose and a strong NE swell in the
North Sea. We had to set off sometime, and it was clear the lows were just
continuing to roll in; unfortunately the choices for a short initial hop were
somewhat limited on the Norfolk coast and thus the baptism of fire was a 20hr trip
from Lowestoft to Grimsby, and as soon as we felt the harbour entrance and
turned left (to the usual unhelpful loud advice from bridge operators and marina
staff etc of "rather you than me" and all that) St B ploughed and rolled her way
through a beam sea to get us safely up to the historic Fish Dock in Lincolnshire.
3 RHA Crew
The friendliness and permissiveness of the
locals soon became apparent when the lock keeper agreed to open the lock for us
2hrs out of the window as long as we were happy to inch our way up the approach
channel. With few other options in the Humber, a very seasick crew, and the
fact that it was 5am I was somewhat inclined to give it a go and as luck would
have it (and constant re-plotting and re-evaluation of the tidal curve) we made
From Grimsby we headed up to Whitby where we enjoyed 24hrs rest
and which provided a very pleasant night pilotage approach. I arranged a visit
to Whitby lifeboat for the crew (weather still rubbish, trying to draw out more
positives of sailing for the novices.) and we were fortunate enough to enjoy
an hour of the Coxswain's time. Beyond Whitby we made direct for Hartlepool,
sailing through a huge thunderstorm which was extremely impressive, but which
included heavy hail and literally turned the topsides into a skating ring.
We handed in Hartlepool a day early and, once cleaned up, dispersed the crew
for a weekend off.
I don't know if you've seen Matt Aldridge's notes from the 7 Para RHA leg from
London - Great Yarmouth but overall from a skipper's perspective it has been a
thoroughly enjoyable two weeks' sail all the way up from London. Much
challenging weather, and nice unfamiliar waters to sail in. Once a bit
further north we were abundant with marine birds, especially puffins, and also
enjoyed the company of seals and porpoises - I am most envious of the 4 Regt RA
leg as they head up to much more wildlife rich waters. The flagship served
us well, as ever, and it was most rewarding to see her looking ship shape in
Hartlepool having delivered the crew there safely, ready for her onward legs.
3 RHA Team
:(17 - 23 Jun 12) - Hartlepool to Leith - 4 Regt
Report by 2/Lt Matthew Hine.
After departing from Hartlepool, the weather was clear, warm and the North Sea
seemed like a millpond.
St Barbara continued to head east into deeper water before turning north towards
its first port of call. En route, with the fairly inexperienced crew on board,
the basics of sailing were covered before the wind unfortunately faded away leaving
a stint of engine work before we were able to continue by sail later in the day.
With visitors on board, St Barbara was taken under the Gateshead Bridge once
again in an attempt to show our guests the finer points of sailing.
Unfortunately due to the lack of wind there was not much sailing to be had,
but all seemed to enjoy an afternoon on the water. With hosting completed, the
crew then prepared for the next part of the journey.
Gnr Watson at the Helm
Our luck changed as the wind finally picked up and everyone could finally
experience some decent sailing. Unfortunately this was teamed with some choppy
waters and large portion of the crew struggled with a bout of seasickness
before our arrival in Eyemouth.
The weather took another turn as departure was delayed out of Eyemouth due to
fog, but the crew were soon underway to their final destination. Changing
weather again plagued the voyage, and unfortunately 4th Regiment's arrival
into Leith was under engine. However, all involved thoroughly enjoyed the
expedition and we wish St Barbara and all future crews the best of luck with
the reminder of the exercise.
The majority of the 4 Regt crew (from left to right: Gnr Din, Gnr Tibbles, Gnr Watson, LBdr Anderson and Gnr Simpson)
:(24 - 30 Jun 12) - Leith to Wick - 26 Regt
:(1 - 7 Jul 12) - Wick to Ullapool (via Orkneys and Shetlands)- 105 Regt
Report by Garry Collins (Sent from anchorage 2 miles south of Muckle Flugga -
via iPhone 62 48.5N 000 52.4W).
Travelled the seemingly endless road from Edinburgh to Wick arriving at
1400hrs. After loading all of the provisions (cake) and fitting everyone out
with oilskins we set sail for Wick and the start of Leg 6. Pretty soon it was
found that one of our party had not found her sea legs (and wouldn't until
later the next day). The conditions were as you might expect for the area we
were in but not too daunting for our largely novice crew.
Kate on deck. Sailing through the night past the Orkney Islands we were
treated to freshly made bread cooked by Skipper Matt. Kate still on deck.
Our next sight of land was Fair Isle bathed in sunshine and soon off the port
side came the Shetlands; one rocky outline then a second and a few hours
later cliffs and real definition on the landmass. Kate still on deck
(considerably cheered by the idea of landfall). After a masterful display
of parking on the pontoon, we flaked sails, put the boat to bed, hoisted
our battle flag and settled down to Nachos and Cheese followed by Chilli
Con Carne. Kate (now smiling) was able to move again and the crew visited
Lerwick Boat Club for a well earned pint, a game of darts and then cake.
Day 2. Lerwick - Burra Frith
Waking up in Lerwick we set about breakfast and
then we had time to explore the Island. The whole crew met up with Sgt Tam Burns
who showed us Clickimin Broch a Neolithic monument built in 600BC. We then visited
Fort Charlotte the home of the Gunners in Shetland, G Troop 212 Bty. After some
photo opportunities and an exploration of Lerwick high street for cultural
enlightenment and retail therapy, we headed back to St Barbara to prepare to slip
and head further north.
The post of "on-deck-in-all-weathers" crew switched from OCdt Hassall
GSUOTC to 105 Regt as Gnr Hart took up position and barely moved all day
even through tacks, gibes, tidal races, puffin sightings and finally the
rounding of the corner and ghostly approach to our anchorage in Burra Frith,
the most northerly anchorage in British Isles. Once we'd dropped the
anchor in this beautiful spot, our "mother watch" chefs sprang into action
and managed to prove that "Smash" potato is far from instant. A mere three
hours after they started and closer to breakfast than supper, the feast
was served. More of the cake was served and everyone agreed that the meal
was worth the considerable wait. And so to bed, hoping for the fog to clear
and the chance for an expedition in the dinghy the following morning.
:(8 - 14 Jul 12) - Ullapool to Oban (Via Outer Hebrides and St Kilda) - HAC
HAC Crew on Kilda
HAC Crew on Kilda
One of the advantages of being an active member of the Honourable Artillery
Company is the opportunity to take part in adventurous training. Seven of
our active unit members had the good fortune to spend 1 week of the summer
by taking part in the Royal Artillery Yacht Club's expedition Diamond Barbara.
This exercise is commemorating her Majesties Diamond Jubilee by sailing the
Clubs flag ship around the British coast. The HAC was assigned Leg 7
consisting of travelling around the Outer Hebrides including a visit to the
archipelago of St. Kilda which, as well as being the Westernmost Islands in
the Outer Hebrides, also has a historic connection to the Royal Artillery.
The Royal Artillery Plaque on St Kilda
As this offered a chance to the do some blue water sailing away from the usual stomping ground of Solent a crew from the Regiment was quickly assembled. The experienced sailors consisted of Tpr Charles Stevenson (1st Mate) and Lt Cy Lloyd Jones (2nd mate), Tpr John Wynn-Davies and Tpr Brown. We also gained three novices; Tpr Chris Magee, Tpr Edward Randall and Tpr Cain Hayward-Hughes.
After a number of emails and paperwork we finally met at Euston Station on 7th
July for the long train ride up to Ullapool where the last group had moored the
yacht (St. Barbara V). It was a journey of 12 hours involving two trains and a
taxi but this gave us plenty of time to do the final organising. We first
prepared a list of food desired for the journey and created each evenings menu
then assigned cooking. Lt Lloyd Jones was very enthusiastic about a chilli con
carne recipe of his which he dutifully added despite Tpr McGee's aversion to
all things spicy! There were also discussions on the various hazards of sailing
including seasickness, most had brought pills for the trip and Tpr
Hayward-Hughes had already started taking his as he was already feeling a
little ropey from the night before! We also had our first meeting with our
skipper, a retired Royal Artillery Major by the name of Peter Crump who also
was the RAYC's Secretary.
Tpr Wynn-Davies tidying up the main halyard whilst 'Skipper'
Major (Rtd) Peter Crump oversees procedures
We arrived at Ullapool harbour in the late evening, being unable to locate the
harbour master, who was supposed to give us a lift to our mooring. Whilst the
crew were contemplating a chilly swim or night on the quayside, Lt Lloyd Jones
and Peter managed to negotiate one with a Langoustine fisherman with a gentle
persuasion with 10 of Scotland's finest 'legal tender'. Once we were all aboard
he politely informed us "You make better doors than windows", we took the hint
and stopped blocking his view out of the cockpit. Once we had arrived at the
boat we assigned ourselves our bunks for the week and turned in.
The following morning we sorted out our foul weather clothing and stored it
the aft compartment so we all had a complete set ready to hand for when things
turned rough. When that task was completed we sat around the table below deck
to have breakfast. The skipper then took the opportunity to tell us about his
sailing experience which started in 1962 as an officer cadet and that he had
sailed offshore every year since bar one! The HAC were certainly in good hands!
We then took it in turns around the table outline or own experience and our
hopes for the trip, after this we were divided in watches with Tpr McGee,
Tpr Hayward-Hughes and Tpr Stevenson (watch leader) becoming the 'Port watch'
whilst Tpr Randall, Tpr Wynn-Davies, myself and Lt Lloyd Jones (watch leader)
became the 'Starboard watch'.
After we had finished dining on the supplies that had been left by the previous
party we were given a brief tour of the ship and a familiarization with the
various nautical equipment we'd be using, this was punctuated by anecdotes
about stubbed toes and lost fingers which certainly gave some of us pause
We then made our first voyage, a short motor over to the harbours pontoon to
ferry the various supplies we had listed yesterday. After sourcing them from a
well known chain store we had a little down time. A few of us went to the
Ullapool woollen mill where I purchased a pair of socks and a jumper.
Tpr Hayward-Hughes did the same and purchased a jacket and Tpr McGee bought
himself a jacket and also a baseball cap firmly branded with 'Scotland' written
above the brim. There were contrasting views on whether or not our STA Patrols
Course instructor (of Scottish heritage) would approve! Tpr McGee later informed
our party the he was 3/8s Scottish. This was seen as comparable to Idi Amin's
claim to have been King of that land! Sufficed to say we were all pretty proud of
our woollen purchases, it was only when we returned to our mooring that night that
we discovered that they were pure Acrylic!!
After our brief shopping spree we joined the rest of the party at a local
pub to catch the end of the Murray match. The locals for the most part
seemed fairly underwhelmed by this event. From the remote coast Northern
Scotland the Wimbledon final seemed very remote indeed. We returned to our
mooring for our second night aboard where we had diner and then turned in.
At breakfast we were briefed by Tpr Stevenson (1st Mate) and Lt Lloyd Jones
(2nd Mate) about the first leg and they informed us that we were to sail
overnight to St. Kilda rounding the top of the Isle of Lewis. This was going
to be an arduous first outing as the wind would be against us until we
rounded the isle. It would also provide a testing introduction for the
novice members of the crew.
Overnight passage round the Butt of Lewis
We started out of Ullapool and raised our sails as soon as we were in open water,
there was a strong wind from the north and we spent most of the first part of the
day on a single tack. The rolling seas meant that a fair few of the crew started
to feel queasy but Tpr Randall particularly suffered. Despite this he remained
on watch with the rest of the Starboard contingent.... a bucket by his side!
Tpr Stephenson giving a briefing as Tpr McGee pilots St Barbara V
out of Ullapool
As we started to tack up to northern tip of Lewis we saw our first pod of
dolphins who, for a short while, rode our bow waves, agilely ducking under
our hull to appear on the opposite side. We were visited by Dolphins at several
points during the exercise where they often provided a light distraction during some
the longer night watches (we had only 4 hours of night time due to the Latitude of the
In the morning, St Kilda was clearly visible in the very far distance however
a thick patch of fog and cloud cover decided to come in and complicated matters.
When the islands finally became visible, the mist did add a certain majesty to
the various rock outcrops as they slowly revealed themselves.
St Barbara anchored at Village Bay, Hirsh, St Kilda
The Artillery Gun at St Kilda
We anchored at 11:00 at village bay on the Isle of Hirta, which is the largest
island on St. Kilda, we had a light lunch and readied the tender. The skipper
decided to stay aboard as he had already been to Hirsh some years back and
wanted to keep an eye on the yacht.
Tpr Stephenson - coxswain, Lt Lloyd Jones - the engine and
Tpr Wynn-Davies - ballast
Once we were all ashore it was decided after an initial explore of our of the
surroundings we would climb to very top with the HAC and Royal Artillery flags
and take some photographs of our endeavour. This leg being allocated to the HAC,
we had all suspected that there would be an uphill tab worked in somehow and so
we consigned ourselves to our fate and headed skyward!
Tpr Randall at the Conachair Trig Point, the highest point of
St Kilda (Boreray in the background)
Once we reached the top and had taken in the breathtaking views and plenty of
official photographs we decided to take some informal photographs using fancy
dress we'd brought along for the trip. This being a nautical outing the general
theme was Captain Birdseye so each of us was furnished with a white beard and
Captain's hat, there were two exceptions to this... Lt Lloyd Jones, as the
Exercise Officer was given a sailor cap of the American "Dixie cup" variety
instead of a Captain's hat and Tpr Stevenson received a beard which was of an
orange so vibrant that it was unlikely to found anywhere in nature.
Exercise Diamond Barbara HAC Crew at the top of Hirta, St Kilda
There was then a short break to take in the surroundings before we descended by
an alternate route (the classis STA patrols 'direct' route!) as it was deemed
more direct than the path which took us up. This was to prove to be slight error
as we walked into the nesting area of two Skuas which set upon us by diving and
quickly swooping at our heads. In one instance one of the Skuas came close
enough to topple Tpr Hayward-Hughes and in an effort to scare off the birds,
Lt Lloyd Jones removed his wind smock and started to flail it at them which
gave the impression of some form of avian matador! When up against the
protected residents of a nature reserve there is little left to do but beat
a hasty retreat and so we quickly descended until the aggressors no longer
We were back aboard by 16:00 where for dinner we had Lt Lloyd Jones' chilli
con carne which met our now high expectations after which we lifted our
anchor at 20:00 and prepared for another night sail to the Sound of Barra.
Captain Birdseye/Tpr Hayward-Hughes - The classic lunge in red trousers
Lt Lloyd Jones sweating in the galley
That night's sail was comparably calm compared with our initial leg with the
wind dying down sufficiently in the night that the Starboard watch had to
switch the engine on and motor until the sun came up the following morning.
Tpr Brown on the helm
Sunrise occurred as we passed through the Sound of Barra, being so far north there
was only around 4 hours of darkness during the night which made all crew members
awaken at times we normally never normally would outside our TA careers. The wind
picked up at 09:00 so we turned the engine off and continued under sail. This was
also about the time when we saw our first Puffins. The Puffin generally spends most
of its life at sea which is not hard to imagine as they appear to be fairly
aeronautically challenged as a species.
In the early evening we also saw a school of Basking Sharks feeding; they were
floating just below the water and seemed completely oblivious to our craft, one
being so close as to give a few of us a good view of its gapping mouth and
colourings as it passed under our bow.
Basking Sharks in the Sound of Barra
We then anchored at Loch Na Cuilce on the Isle of Skye for dinner. Some of the
more adventurous members of the crew had a short swim of the starboard side of
the yacht which doubled up as a chance to have a good wash (our first since
leaving Ullapool). After we had eaten we moved on to our final anchorage at
Loch Scresort on Rhum Island and after we a few drinks we discussed what
name we would give a boat if we ever owned one, Tpr McGee decide he would
call his 'Flattery' as it would get him nowhere.
A chilly swim and chance to freshen up in Loch Na Cuilce
Bay, Isle of Skye with the local Seals looking on (below)
A chilly swim and chance to freshen up in Loch Na Cuilce
Bay, Isle of Skye with the local Seals looking on (below)
Kinloch Castle, Rhum Island
We had an early start the next day as we wanted to get some sailing practice
in during the morning. This consisted of rehearsing our Tacking and Gybing
drills whilst answering questions on various nautical topics we had been taught
over the last few days.
We reached an anchorage on the Isle of Eigg and had lunch in the sunshine, the
weather had been gradually improving throughout the trip. We sailed off our
anchorage and headed back out to sea. There was a slight problem. Tpr
Hayward-Hughes had noticed that one of the bolts, where the Boom joined to
the Mast, had been damaged. This would prohibit our use of the mainsail but
since we were moving with the wind we raised the spinnaker and so still made
good time. This was the first opportunity we had, had to use the spinnaker
and Stephenson proved to be a great instructor, taking each member of the
crew through the necessary drills.
Tpr Brown making the brews
We reached Tobermory at 14:40 and put ourselves up on the pontoon. Tobermory
is a very picturesque town on the Isle of Mull. Its main claim to fame being
that it was the location for the children's television show Balamory. We
decided to have a meal ashore and to toast our Skipper, Peter, for a great
week's sailing. The restaurant cooked deep fried Haggis and tasty fresh
Salmon proved to be a much deserved break from the yacht's galley. A few of
us did complain later that being back on solid ground left them feeling quite
off balance though this was quite late in the evening!
Tpr Brown and Tpr Stephenson focused on the route whilst
Admiral/Tpr McGee contemplates life
Lt Lloyd Jones and Tpr McGee
The last day of sailing got off to a slow start as we needed to remain in
Tobermory until the chandlery opened so we could conduct repairs on the mast.
Our Skipper Peter had decided that on the last full day we would have a
Champagne breakfast with smoked salmon and scrambled eggs... it was a fitting
end to a great week. We repaired the mast and refuelled then headed south
down the Sound of Mull to Oban. We had sunny weather throughout which was not
only enjoyed by us but also the local seals who floated on their backs bathing
in the rays.
The Sound of Mull
We berthed at Oban Marina at around 16:00 and after a short tea break we set
about cleaning and reorganising St. Barbara and dined on fish and chips sourced
from the marina restaurant.
The last night at Oban Marina
A tally of the log measured that we had travelled 293nm for our leg of the
exercise. The longest period we had spent on the water was just over 48hrs.
It was safe to say that those of us who were new to sailing had lost their
amateur status. The only thing left for us to do the following day was to take
the water taxi to Oban and catch the train back to London. The return journey
was comparatively quick and like any at the end of an exercise we spent most
of it dozing or catching up on news. We arrived back in London that evenin
There was a slightly embarrassing chapter of our trip concerning the fancy
dress costumes... When we were heading back towards the mainland from St.
Kilda we were unable to locate the hats and beards. After several searches
of the vessel during the week we could only conclude that they had been left
at the ranger's station on the island (where we'd all popped in to buy a
'St Kilda' mug). All was not lost though as Katie Hatton, an ex-member of the
HAC, was conducting a wildlife survey of Hirsh and after contacting her, the
hats, wigs and beards were recovered much to the hilarity of all the islands inhabitants. After some discussion it was decided that they should be donated to the island's 'pub' to provide entertainment on the long winter nights. This we hope will be our lasting legacy to the island.
All in all Leg 7 of Exercise Diamond Barbara proved to be a truly amazing week and a lifetime experience. The scenery was outstanding, the weather fairly kind considering the Summer that we have had. It was hard work, but also tremendous fun. Seven members of the HAC, 3 of whom had never set foot on a sailing yacht before, have come away utterly enthused, very well bonded and extremely keen to organise more Sailing for the Regiment. Mission accomplished!
The HAC would like to say a huge thank you to the RAYC and to all those involved
in organizing the exercise. Special thanks go to the Exercise Director Major
Andy Wood and most of all to our Skipper Major (Rtd) Peter Crump who's
knowledge of the boat, instruction and years experience proved invaluable.
It was a pleasure to share this most memorable experience.
Write Up - Trooper Roderick Brown, 2 Squadron, The Honourable Artillery Company
Photographs - Tpr Edward Randall, 1 Squadron, The Honourable Artillery Company
Edited - Lt Cy Lloyd Jones, 1 Squadron, The Honourable Artillery Company
The Gun at St Kilda
The view down to Village Bay, St Kilda
(Left to Right) Stac an Armin, Stac Lee and Boreray
Soay (adjacent to Hirta), St Kilda
The cleits and Victorian houses at Village Bay, St Kilda
:(15 - 21 Jul 12) - Oban to Troon (via Bangor/ Ardglass)- 12 Regt
:(22 - 28 Jul 12) - Troon to Lancaster (via IOM)
- 103 Regt
103Regt RA (V) crew meet at IOM Ferry terminal in Liverpool for the 11:15
over to IOM, because the original plan was to handover the St Barbra on the
Sunday. The IOM Air Cadet force had kindly offered accommodation in their hut,
located at Peel. This changed on arrival as 12 Regt RA had been called back
early. As well as the handover, we were told to get ready for a reception at
the Town Hall with the Lord Mayor and the RA Association. With a guided tour
from the Lord Mayor himself and hosting from Brigadier (Retd) N A Butler CBE,
it was quite a special occasion. Sunday morning came far too early. The
skipper Tony Field decides to take her out on a sail training day. Out of the
harbour straight into force 6/7 winds. A great wake up call, after changing
sails and man over board drills we headed in for evening meal.
His Worshipful the Mayor, IOM RA Association and crew at the reception
With a poor weather forecast predicting strong winds and rough seas the crew
tentatively head out of Douglas Harbour, headed for Bangor NI some 89 miles
away. The conditions were not too bad for the first 3 hrs and the crew spotted
some porpoises, who decided to play around the bow for 5 minutes. Then as we headed
round the IOM the wind increased. Now blowing N' Easterly 6/7 the yacht instantly
became uncomfortable and seasickness soon had most of the crew in its grip - most
badly affected was Bdr Scott (Nicola), who opted to spend 15 hours clipped in the
same location on deck. The only two people not feeling the effects were the skipper
and Gnr Green (Tony). Despite the rough conditions, the crew still worked hard and
everyone completed all their tasks. At one point Bdr Scott was grinding a winch
and being sick at the same time. What a way to multi task! As we entered Bangor
marina the conditions suddenly became much better. Everyone was glad to get back
on to terra firma.
Bdr Scott Enjoying the Irish Sea
After a quite rough 16 hrs the skipper decided it was time to get the books
out again and go through the competent crew syllabus. Tender inflated, it
was time to witness the worst rowing ever seen, but great for morale. Also
the Mate, Major Devaney (Dev) getting the crew to practice tying knot after
knot. All the theory gone through; it was time to get the Yacht ready for
the next leg, Bangor through to Strangford Lough.
Gnr Higgins trying to escape Sgt Hamlets rowing
With not too early a start and much better weather conditions, it was quite a
different journey. A Force 3/4 and a small wave height so no rain to dampen
sprits. 32 miles down to the entrance of the Lough, the plan was to swing at
anchor have our evening meal then to make ready for an over night passage to
Holyhead. Port side entrance to the Lough gave us a very nice natural harbour
to swing at anchor. At this moment Capt Steutel (H) decided it was time to
set off a fire extinguisher in the Galley with his very small size 12 feet
and become the most popular crew mate. After a lot of cleaning it was time
for Gnr Shaw-Binns (Andy) to cook up the evening meal and at 18:00hrs we set
sail for Holyhead. For most of the crew this was their first overnight
passage. All the crew commented on the most amazing sun set. All settled
into the routine having 2 hrs on 4 off. Unfortunately not for the Skipper
and first mate who had to have one on watch at all times. A great crossing
enjoyed by all. Finally approaching Holyhead Marina at 0600hrs on the
Gnr Green and Bdr Scott at the Helm
After a few hrs well deserved rest we moved the St Barbra round the pontoon for
refuelling. Also the batteries that the skipper had organised had arrived and
had to be fitted. A new fire extinguisher and gas bottle had been found and
other jobs done to get her ready for handover. Also the crew were kindly given
a guided tour around the Holyhead lifeboat.
After a 0430 start to get us from Holyhead to Liverpool Albert Dock 69 miles.
The timings were tight as we were to be at the entrance to Canning Dock between
1730 and 1800 hrs that evening. At the beginning of the day it looked like we
weren't going to make it. At one point only making 0.5 knots against the tide.
The skipper changed the headsail from a Genoa to a Spinnaker. After hoisting he
then made us go through Spinnaker dropping in drills. With the change in sail
and the change in tide it looked like we would make the entrance to Canning Dock
in good time. Making 8 knots at the entrance to the Mersey Bar we were 45 minutes
early by the time we got to the Liver Buildings. All the crew enjoyed the
experience of motoring up and down in front of the historic maritime buildings
of Liverpool. 17:38 hrs the entrance to Canning Dock was dropped and the
St Barbara was called forward. A crowd had gathered on the dock front and
we arrived back in Liverpool where our adventure had started a week ago.
Major Devaney, Gnr Shaw-Bins, Sgt Hamlet at the Mersey Bar
After the hospitality of Liverpool city centre it was time to unpack everything
aboard the yacht and clean and repack ready for the handover/takeover to 39 Regt
RA. The CO 103 Regt RA (V) Lt Col Richard Jordan came down to welcome home soldiers
from his Regiment. A thoroughly great leg which was enjoyed by all crew hopefully
looking forward to participating on a leg on the forthcoming Atlantis Barbara
ST Barbara V arrives in Liverpool's Historic Albert Dock at
the end of Ex DIAMOND BARBARA Leg 9
:(29 Jul - 4 Aug 12) - Lancaster to Aberystwyth (via Liverpool) - 39 Regt
:(5 Aug - 11 Aug 12) - Aberystwyth to Bristol - 39 Regt
:(12 Aug - 18 Aug 12) - Bristol to Plymouth (via Scilly's) - 29 Regt
(Skipper Maj Andy Wood)
A crew of keen sailors trekked up to Penreath dock in Cardiff Bay to take over
St B from 39 Regt RA. Maj Ed Perris, Maj Ned Shanklyn, Capt Paul Green,
2Lt Luke Wadman,LBdr Oli Amesbury, LCpl Ian Chapman and Cfn Cameron Beman.
Some had been seasoned in fairer climates (the RAO spun
dits of sailing Miami). With fair winds forecast we spent the day on safety
equipment, victualling, prep and revising / learning knots and skills.
13 Aug. An early start, farewell to our excellent hosts in Penreath Marina and
we were out of the impressive lock gates from the vast Cardiff Bay on the tide.
We had been sheltered somewhat, and it was immediately clear we had good wind in
the Bristol Channel. The crew were grateful for the Musto midlayers. We soon had
the boat whipping along at 7 knots and took in the sights as we went. The Severn
Bridges disappeared in the far distance, Hinkley Point power station, Steep Holm and
Flat Holm islands went by and soon we were storming past Lundy Island. The north
Somerset coastline was sporadically visible behind swirling August cloud. Our
destination for the night was Bideford, Appledore Pool. We rounded Croyde Bay,
Braunton and Saunton Sands and surfed our way up the River Taw / Torridge Estuary
on the edge of high tide, squeezing in over the bar to 7m of safe water and a mill
pond calm anchorage for the night with a clear moon light night. A military band
could be heard in the distance, and it was not long before all were tucking in to
hearty onboard scran and excitedly talking of the intent to head to the Scillies
and Guernsey. This required an 0500 wakeup to make high water out over the bar,
an early night followed.
14 Aug. 0257hrs - an almighty crash - a trawler, returning from sea, heading to
the Bideford fishmarket drove into us. Not ideal. Frantic activity established
all were safe, St B. was water tight, and that we had been extremely lucky. The
RNLI assisted and with newly emptied bilges and after a bowlful of cereal, we took
St B, now looking slightly misshapen at Bow and along the starboard toerail out on
the tide - still with the Scillies in our sights. Organised into 2 watches we were
soon flying along again, reassured that all was well despite the trawlers unwelcome entry
into our lives. The sun came out and both watches saw pods of dolphins, the trawler trauma
seemed a distant memory, less for the skipper who was tied up with info ops. As the day
progressed met reports emerged that indicated sailing to the Scillies involved heading
into a F8 Gale - despite the wind dropping to 4- 6 kts and brilliant sunshine resulting in bouts
of motorsailing. Breeze followed and wind kicked in, the sky in the west turned black, and
our refuge destination became St Ives Bay. By the time we had lassoed a buoy (6th time lucky)
the wind was howling and gusting 30kts in the lee! We resigned ourselves to leaving the
Scillies to another time.
15 Aug. The met was honking, spent at anchor in St Ives Bay. Crew rehearsed
setting the storm sails. Some determined fishing landed two decent sized
mackerel providing a tasty amuse bouche for dinner. The one that got away
was massive! With winds over 30kts, the decision to take refuge was appreciated
by all. The destination for the next day was to push around Lands End and up to
Falmouth, still aiming to make Plymouth in time.
16 Aug. 0600 departure out of St Ives into F6 / 7, plenty of rain and some big
Farewell St Ives
Crew members bid a growling cheerio to their early breakfast of Cheerios
over the guard rail at various intervals. With the watch system in place at
8kts we hammered on down to Lands End. Longships Light house was periodically
visible through the mist. Rotations of hot soup and chocolate sustained progress
and thankfully Lands End disappeared into the distance. Half way across Mounts
Bay, and the decision was taken to to seek refuge in Newlyn Harbour.
The visibility had closed in, the RNLI were assisting various vessels in distress
and the wind had not abated. The crew caught glimpses of Mousehole as we entered the
calm water of Newlyn, to see the entire fishing fleet all in; fortunately our favourite
trawler did not feature in the line up! The skipper fought cross winds to bring St B
obediently alongside, assisted by a friendly fisherman. Newlyn has a limited number
of berths for yachts, this includes limited shore power and no yacht facilities.
The crew scrubbed up onboard and on the advice of neighbouring crews settled into
good food at the Fishermans Arms after a fairly emotional sail. The ceiling of the
pub is covered in antiquities from around the world, including a dried out human
skull and Ugandan witch doctors wand; recommended to any crew in a similar position
in the future! Our ultimate destination for the crew had by now changed to Falmouth,
on the assumption that the next crew would like a clean and prepared yacht in Falmouth
on 18 Aug, instead of the opposite in Plymouth.
17 Aug. Departure from Newlyn was at a civilised hour, once the town bakery
had opened, interestingly the fishing fleet were not heading back out to sea
until the following day... However the wind had dropped to a reasonable F6, and
with sea legs fully on, we blasted out on the tide hitting 10kts over the ground.
The Lizard peninsular kept us tacking for the morning, with a stunning backdrop
- it was pleasant to finally see the coastline. And then we began to run with
the wind towards Falmouth, weaving our way between tankers and shipping all at
anchor due to the storms. The Helford Estuary looked enticing, glimpses of
more dolphins in early afternoon sunshine and the sudden realisation that the
sailing was almost over. Falmouth Week was in full flow. Sunseekers, mammoth
'motor yachts' and some stunning J Class classics were alongside. We had
secured a berth right in the middle of it all. Once safely alongside, and
with dhobi out of the way, a final crew supper in a cracking fish and chip
restaurant. Dits were spun. It was agreed that we had all hoped for a sunny
week; however we had been dealt some real AT by the met and the sailing had
been an enjoyable challenge.
18 Aug. St B was prep'd for handover. The crew ate pasties.
The sun came out.
:(19 - 24 Aug 12) - Falmouth to Gosport - Hors Concours
Falmouth was shrouded in fog as we slipped moorings early on Sunday morning on the 19th August and crept out of the harbour to set our course for Salcombe. A flash of lightening close by and thunder heralded an increasingly rain sodden and wallowing passage until we reached the Eddystone Rock Lighthouse at 1030. At that point, the fog and cloud cleared, the wind picked up and gave the crew a chance to exercise their sea legs. We had all sailed on St Barbara V on different occasions and we were pleased to re-acquaint ourselves with the flagship of the RAYC and learn about the improvements to the engineering and technology aboard. This was the first time that we had sailed her together, though. Graeme McDonald, and Matthew Sleap, both retired officers, had sailed her for regattas with industry and the Defence Procurement Agency. James Pulford, Steve Hitchins and Tom Maher had been crew on St Barbara V on some of those occasions. By the time the approach to Salcombe and the sand bar hove into view, two hours after passing the Eddystone Rock Lighthouse we felt confident and ready to bring St Barbara home after her voyage around England, Scotland and Wales in celebration of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.
Salcombe seemed to be thronging with holiday makers enjoying the late afternoon sunshine when we tied up on a mooring buoy and it was fun to go ashore. Our neighbour on the buoy was so intrigued to learn about the progress of Exercise DIAMOND BARBARA round Britain. He was especially interested in the preceding leg when St Barbara rounded Land's End and the Lizard in storm force winds and seas that were over 4 metres in height. He was so impressed that he gave us his catch of prepared mackerel and herring for a delicious lunch on our next stretch to Dartmouth.
A stiff westerly on Monday gave us a great sail in glorious sunshine that had been in short supply until now. It took a few short tacks to round Bolt Head and then a broad reach to the Dart estuary leaving the Skerries Bank to port. Graeme, a military historian, and the researcher for the last remaining German Schnell Boat restored in UK gave us an account of the rehearsal for D Day on Slapton Sands. That disastrous exercise was intercepted by a pack of Schnell Boats in the Channel leading to great loss of Allied Forces' life. The broad stretch of Slapton Sands on our port side couldn't have provided a better setting for a story that involved Western Command at Plymouth and the unescorted troop carriers coming down the Channel from the east. It wasn't difficult to imagine the horror of the situation with the privilege of this perspective so elegantly described.
Off the Skerries
No sooner had we tied up in Dartmouth, overlooking the Royal Naval College on the opposite bank, than we had a visitor, Harry, who had spotted the Gunner pennant and came hot foot to inspect St Barbara V. He had, he said, been the bosun for St Barbara II which put him at the same vintage as the skipper confirmed by some mutual delving into the past over a gin or two. Dartmouth held some other delights including a steam train on the harbour quay and car ferry that was operated by the skilful use of a tug escort to cover the short but deftly executed crossing into the main town.
Waiting for the Dartmouth Ferry
The crossing of Lyme Bay on Tuesday was characterised by light airs, sultry conditions, but a remarkably swift passage from a favourable tide. Even so, the journey took eight hours, and six hours before the Bill of Portland was spotted. During that time, there was very little shipping or yachts for the time of year leading to some speculation about the holiday trade this year which is reportedly very low. The speculation resulted from sober and analytical conversation brought about by the discovery that we had a dry boat around lunchtime. There had been an unfortunate oversight in the victualing so there was an on-board enquiry and blame was liberally assigned. The wind freshened as we approached Weymouth which concentrated minds and we continued to benefit from the counter-rotating tides around the Shambles that took us into Portland Harbour and so arrived in good time to look around the Olympic venue.
We were joined on Wednesday by Simon Jewell (ex Gunner officer and Managing Director of Niteworks, the industry supported MOD problem solving organisation) and his wife, Tracy for the stretch around to Poole. After a quiet start we looked back at the Weymouth Nothe grandstand for the Olympic sailing trying to envisage the yacht courses sailed just two weeks previously. These courses were being made ready for the Paralympics, in two weeks' time. The wind picked up under a dramatic Cirrus "Mares' Tails" sky. St Barbara swept past Lulworth Cove and James at the helm recorded 9.6 knots with the new Yankee Jib set. We maintained a speed of over 9 knots even after coming onto the wind well to seaward of St Alban's Head, Anvil Point and then Old Harry. We sailed right into Poole Harbour to come alongside at Poole Quay. It was noticeable how little other yachting traffic there was and how empty the Town Quay was at this stage of the season. Steve, Simon and his wife left us, at this point, having enjoyed a turn of speed from Weymouth that created more than just a frisson of excitement for most of their journey.
A Brisk sail from Weymouth
Thursday was characterised by altogether lighter winds, but we took advantage of a fair tide to the Needles Fairway Buoy and turned north east up the Needles Channel with benign conditions over the Shingles Bank. The conditions allowed us to spot Tennyson's Monument on the Downs beyond the Needles and look closely at the interesting Needles Coastguard buildings which had been at various times, a Coastal Artillery post, an observation post for D Day convoys and a test site for Blue Streak (engine run up only - the launch of a satellite took place in Woomera Australia). We timed our arrival in Yarmouth to beat the foul tide and were escorted to a reserved berth on the new marina. Yarmouth was lively with a childrens' regatta and water sports event adding colourful atmosphere to the harbour activities. During the course of the entertainment, the Yarmouth Lifeboat was called out with two gunshots and scrambled to an event in the Solent, out of sight but marked by maroons which was a salutary reminder of the importance of the Yarmouth situation at the western end of the Solent.
Off Lulworth Cove
The forecast for Friday was for rapidly deteriorating conditions ahead of a deep depression. Anxious to bring St Barbara home to get some much needed TLC we set off in good time from Yarmouth and again enjoyed good sailing conditions on a favourable tide exceeding 9 knots as we passed Cowes again helmed by James. The only constraint in a relatively empty Solent was to avoid a vessel towing a Trinity House Light vessel manoeuvring ahead of us to enter the Newport River. Although its progress was slow it had complex towing lines. We brought St Barbara home just ahead of the arrival of the front with heavy rain to a small reception party on the jetty at Gosport.
The Exercise DIAMOND BARBARA began on the 27th May, acknowledged by Her Majesty and toasted at the London Cocktail Party for the RAYC on the 1st June was completed as we brought St Barbara home. Although it was thrilling to be the crew with the final leg of the Exercise, the real joy was to develop our sailing skills as a team and enjoy learning from the experiences of each other. With such collective knowledge on board, there was never a stretch of the coast that passed without some interesting perspective, geographical or historical that did not keep us enthralled.
:(27 - 31 May 12) - Gosport to London - 47 Regt
Report by Maj Matt White, 2 i/c 47 Regt RA
On a very sunny Sunday morning with very little breeze, the 47th Regt RA crew
for Bombardier II gathered in Gosport Marina to load all the vittals and
personal kit before setting sail at 1300hrs.
Having completed all the mandatory safety briefs, some boat handling skills and sail
raising/lowering drills we were quickly established and heading out of Portsmouth
Harbour, round the Solent Forts and setting a course West to Chichester Harbour.
En route MOB drills completed our familiarisation and the crew settled down to
some pleasant motor sailing (a feature of our trip which became rather "more on than off").
Chichester Harbour is a fantastic place most of the time but in the sunshine and light
airs of a May weekend, it was glorious. Past all the small sail boats and motor pleasure
craft we sauntered up past Itchenor and into the lock at Chichester Marina. The Premier
Marina "facilities" were outstanding.
The following morning called for an early start in order to make the tidal gate
which falls approx 2 hours plus of high water. We were straight out of the
Harbour entrance and, in very light winds, headed South around the Nab Tower
for what was our only sailing of the morning. St Barbara V was closing from
Gosport and we RV'd mid-morning before motoring West towards Brighton.
Fortunately at Worthing the breeze picked up and we were able to (slowly)
make our way towards our destination. At least both boats got to Goose Wing
for a while in following airs; eventually that tactic had to be wrapped up as
we finally reached Brighton Marina.
By the following morning when we set off towards Dover, all crew members had taken a turn at
the helm with some notable successes. This meant the skipper was able to ponder the delights
of the Goodwin Sands in the dark for the following night's leg. Sadly this did not transpire
due to fog but it would have been an interesting night sail I am sure. Skirting the Sussex
coastline we made our way, once again motor sailing, past Newhaven, Eastbourne and Hastings.
Eventually the wind did return as were approaching Dungeness and we tacked our way across the
bay towards Dover (naturally with our destination directly to windward. Approaching the Port
with FBSs everywhere and the light fading fast got the attention of several crew members who,
tired of sleeping(!), came up to witness the bright lights and diesel powered monsters diving
in and out of this busy terminal. Fortunately all the correct procedures were followed as we
entered the Port and the Marina had even reserved us a couple of berths - not bad form after
their initial response of "first come first served - their may be space if you come early".
Another early morning start greeted all the previous night's crowd and we headed
out of Dover Marina into the channel between the coastline and Goodwin Sands, wishing
to give the latter as wide a berth as necessary. North to Ramsgate and Margate, then
West along the North Kent coast before entering the Thames Estuary for real. Not the most
exciting of motor sails (yes the wind was a good Westerly and straight on the bows again!)
but with several Tall Ships bearing down on us we had some fine sights to behold as they
themselves motored past Bombardier II. Square Riggers to Starboard and FBSs to Starboard -
looking one side was like participating in an episode of the Onedin Line and the other side
was a "Who's Who" of container shipping lines. On on we went with the wind increasing to F6,
gusting 7, right on the nose - at least reefing was simple enough and prudent incase we had
to bear away for any reason. Past Tilbury Docks and the QEII Bridge at Dartford and then into
the Thames proper, past Woolwich, the Olympic Park and on through the Thames Barrier and
finally Greenwich. As dusk fell we tied up alongside a waiting pontoon directly opposite
Canary Wharf - there were some odd looks the following morning from City dwellers as they took
their commute by river taxi past St Barbara V and Bombardier II tied to the jetty. At least
we had spent the previous 4 days afloat as they thrashed themselves in the high rise offices
So ended a great trip for all. Lots of good lessons, tremendous fun and a few
nuggets of experience to add to the store for future reference as required.
Thanks to the RACPD for their funding assistance; presentations and articles to
:(1 - 4 Jun 12) - (St Katherine's Dock)
- Yacht reserved for RAYC committee
:(5 - 10 Jun 12) - London to Gosport - 106 Regt