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Friends and Family Onboard, and our Departure from London

 Saturday 15th April - Friends and Family day in London

 In true project style, all the crew were up early in the morning to clean
 the boat after the previous night's shenanigans and continue with the last
 few bits of maintenance in preparation for the race.

 Disaster at breakfast! The water pump stopped working so Charlie the mate
 had to be woken up to swap over to the spare one. Fortunately we had some
 Super-Quin sausages to eat to make up for it. After breakfast I, Ferghal,
 had to spend the guts of an hour with my head under the floor boards
 taking off the old pump and attaching a new one. Watch Leader Will once again was
 up the mast trying to attach and wire the deck lights moving onto fitting
 the ones on the mizzen mast. Were they finished today? In a word, no.

 The cleaning had a special importance today as the boat was open for
 friends and family to look around. The boat was filled from around 1330
 until 1700 with some important people and presents arriving. Lots of
 chocolate for the crew and the fore hatch... finally! As always, this was
 never an easy job to complete with the use of drills, chisels, other boats
 screwdrivers and a crowbar. Luckily we had the help of Jules Fynn's Dad to
 sort it out - he spends a lot of time fixing cars and had a trick or two
 up his sleeve...

 Red watch were on mother watch and made some lovely looking flapjacks for
 the visitors to the boat. Although they looked great, I cannot say the
 same about their structure once cut so a dust pan and brush were on hand
 to pick up the pieces.

 Today marked the end of the first complete 'food cycle'. The way the food
 works on board, we have a whole week's menu worked out, and each week's
 food is packed into a number of watertight boxes. They contain everything
 needed for the menu, and in addition snacks, biscuits and night-watch
 munchies. The Food Bible [tm] has all the details of what is in each box,
 along with recipe suggestions. We'd like to make a special mention to
 Nathan and his food committee for the excellent job they have done.

 With the boat buzzing with people, I took the opportunity to do some extra
 fundraising in the form of a hair cut. Matthew Woodcock, Joe Hogg and
 others took it in turn to lop bits of my hair off in an attempt to "style"
 it for the race. I got slightly worried when some sheep shearers came out
 but the end job isn't too bad.

 We had many visitors, including project members, friends and family of the
 crew and some of their youngsters who will hopefully sail with us in the
 2030's when they hit 14 years old. We were lucky enough to have a visit
 from the Commodore of the Little Ship Club, along with a few of their
 members. We also had visits from sea staff and volunteers with OYT, OYT
 Scotland, Gordonstoun sail training and others.

 The evening arrived quickly and we were all up on deck after dinner to
 watch the fireworks from the middle of the Thames. We had front row seats
 aboard Rona II with crowds gathering on the shore and tall ships swarming
 the barge with the fireworks. As the loud and proud crew we are, we had a
 couple of chants and songs on the go and reports came in that we could be
 heard very clearly. The spectacular show ended with a snap, crackle and
 pop but the crew stayed up to enjoy the last night in London as a team.

 Sunday 16th April - Parade of Sail, Thames Estuary and Beachy Head

 Midday Position 17/4/17: 50:44.4 N, 000:26.4 E (South East of Beachy Head)
 Sail Plan: Full Mizzen, Full Main, No.1 Genoa
 Days Run: 166NM

 Easter Sunday began in true Rona style as we awoke to learn that the
 Easter Bunny (aided by White Watch) had hidden 50 Easter eggs around the
 boat for the crew to find before we had even finished breakfast. Once
 these eggs had been found we collected together all the chocolate that had
 been brought down by friends and family, culminating in over 200 chocolate
 eggs being on board. Hence spirits were high as the crew prepared the boat
 to cast off. Breakfast was varied, and included some home baked

 With our planned departure at 1400 there was a rush to finish a number of
 jobs including sealing our brand new deck hatch, and stocking up on the
 survival essentials such as water and bacon. Will finally managed to get
 all of the new deck lights working, bearing fruit from an endeavour that
 had lasted several days.

 Following a hearty lunch of risotto - which was somewhat over zealous on
 the pepper - we slipped lines and headed up the river. We motored through
 the Thames Barrier, round the Greenwich Peninsula and past Canary Wharf
 towards tower bridge. It was a fantastic sightseeing tour to see London
 from a different angle, and on our way through Greenwich we had our first
 chance to see some of the bigger tall ships who would be taking part in
 our race including the Norwegian Christian Radich and the Portuguese Santa
 Maria Manuela. The cruise up to tower bridge was somewhat surreal and
 enjoyed by all. As we returned towards Greenwich the river was inundated
 with tall ships jostling for their allocated position in the parade. We
 found our spot and watched the square riggers maneuvering for position,
 including the Earl of Pembroke which carried the Ship Liaison officers. We
 cheered them as they passed and sang a special song for Ian who had done
 so much for us while we were in Woolwich including taking home bags of
 crew laundry which he returned washed and folded the next morning.

 At 1700 the parade began downriver. It was truly a sight to behold as
 square riggers from all around the world sailed down the Thames with Rona
 II in the middle of the action. The crew were on fine form, showcasing our
 repertoire of songs and chants as we passed the thousands of people lining
 the shore at Greenwich and Woolwich. We played to the crowd in true Rona
 fashion and they responded well. We may not have had the biggest boat but
 we certainly had the noisiest.

 Having passed the mayor of Woolwich we set out along the Thames towards
 the open sea, settling back into our normal sailing routine after the
 excitement of London. White Watch served a dinner of corned beef hash and
 Smash potato followed by brownies for dessert. Easter eggs were consumed
 long into the night watch. We passed Southend pier at approximately 2130
 hours, this time under the cover of darkness.

 We sailed down the princess channel with Hosanna, Peter Von Danzig and
 many of the other race competitors. We slowly over took Jolie Brize, one
 of our closest rivals. With the wind dead astern helming was tricky
 however we were soon able to bring the nose round onto a broad reach for
 champagne sailing of up to 12 knots. By morning we had reached Dover and
 we are now close to rounding Beachy Head. Jolie Brize is just ahead of us;
 we wanted to see what her stern looked like as we won't be able to see it
 during the race. Spirits are high on board as everyone is enjoying being
 back into the sailing routine, helped by the favourable wind conditions.


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