Dee Caffari crosses paths with HMS Chatham and also has a chat with a VOR skipper 17/5/06

DateTuesday 16 May at 2256

PositionN 47° 14′ / W 9° 42 ‘

Today was a day that I have read about in books happening to other people. I had to pinch myself to realise that it was now happening to me.

During last night I had been updating Lt Jim Edmondson, the Navigation Officer onboard HMS Chatham with Aviva’s position, heading and speed. He was navigating HMS Chatham on deployment to the South Atlantic but was hoping to locate Aviva and I on our way south.

At 1030hrs UTC Royal Navy Lynx Helicopter 348, under the command of Flight Commander Russ Clarke located Aviva and I in the middle of the ocean with 400 miles left to run to the finish line. They buzzed around and we chatted on the VHF. They were impressed with how Aviva looked given where she had been and what she had been through, which made me swell with pride. Shortly after at 1100hrs UTC the Frigate HMS Chatham steamed into sight and swung round to run alongside us. They departed Plymouth yesterday and have been deployed to the South Atlantic for six months, and took the trouble to find me on route. It was an awesome sight and the closest I have been to people in 178 days.

It was every young girls dream and probably many older girls dream too, to spend time with the navy. It was strange to think that the crew of HMS Chatham were about to spend six months away from loved ones and I was returning to my loved ones after six months being away. After we had taken some video footage and photographs I chatted to the Captain and then we wished each other safe passage for our onward journeys.

As the Frigate swung round and headed off on her course once more and the Lynx made their final sweeping runs across Aviva’s bow and flew off towards the horizon, I felt that all too familiar emotional surge from within. This time tears did not follow but the thought that I am a matter of hours from seeing loved ones that won’t disappear again after an hour of conversation through a VHF radio.

I also did my own forward thinking and I quite fancy being a naval helicopter pilot when I grow up, it looked amazing. But as Russ Clarke informed me he still wasn’t a grown up!

My day continued in the manner it started and during the afternoon I had an incoming call on the iridium phone. I answered it half expecting it to be the shore team and to my surprise it was Mike Sanderson, the leading skipper in the Volvo Ocean Race onboard ABM AMRO ONE. He sounded really relaxed as he informed me he was currently sailing at 20 plus knots. I was still quite proud of my nine knots that I was making and we laughed; as we are both due to converge on the Solent this weekend.

Mike still has 1700 miles to go and I now had about 360 miles to go. The Volvo Yachts have had to face four days of some upwind sailing at the start of their leg from New York in the type of conditions that are boat-breaking stuff for them – the conditions that Aviva and I have faced on a daily basis for the last six months. It definitely highlights the differences in the two voyages around the world and how well Aviva has done in handling her voyage.

The Volvo yachts have a large low-pressure system to negotiate in the middle of the Atlantic and have an eta to Gun Wharf Quays, Portsmouth of Saturday and then I am due to Ocean Village Marina, Southampton on the Sunday. So it will be a busy weekend in the Solent, I can’t wait to arrive back and be part of it all.

Dee & Aviva