Friday 31st July Day 12 at sea
We are moving again, and in the right direction. I sleep in for the sunrise watch, having stayed up late to edit my report on the stormy seas, and prepare for my live radio and television broadcasts later (I'm down to my last clean "television" shirt and need time to shave!). We have a couple of computer glitches just before my BBC Newsline live, but the satellite link works.
We're almost halfway to Belfast and I'm broadcasting live from the tall ships race in the mid-Atlantic. It's a satisfying achievement, made possible by technology and the hard work of many people behind the scenes.
We've adjusted our clocks again and are now two hours behind British Summer Time. My live broadcasts have delayed the start of the knot- tying competition, giving the trainees some extra time to practice the bowline, clove hitch, figure 8, carrick bend, alpine butterfly, anchor bend and round turn and 2 1/2 hitches.
I know white watch have been practising hard under the eager eye of our secret weapon, Nick the Knot, and we are keen to avenge defeat in the pin rail chase. But unbelievably blue watch triumph again, coming from behind to win the Nick Knot Relay.
I watch crumbs from the (slightly out of date) chocolate fall to the deck and am almost tempted before Margie takes pity and allows me a bite of the first prize bar. I film Sean Og tying a figure 8 knot using his feet - impressive but not sure when he'll be putting this skill to use!
I received an e-mail from the BBC Belfast newsroom with all your comments on my blog. I've printed it off and passed it around the trainees. Thank you for all of the feedback on my reports. The trainees really appreciate all of your good wishes.
In the coming days we'll post some of their thoughts and experiences of the trip online. Watch out, too, for reports on living below deck and how the cooks in the galley produce such wonderful food (you may have noticed my obsession with what's for dinner in my blogs - tonight it was spaghetti with a delicious, creamy chicken spinach sauce - followed by lemon cheesecake to celebrate Michael's birthday).
And hopefully those of you trying to spot Doddy saw him pulling some ropes during the storm (it's an important lesson - never get on the wrong side of the cooks or the barman!).
Saturday 1st August Day 13 at sea GPS position N 48°06', W 34°25'
White watch 0000-0400. It's force 7 and there's a 12-foot swell and it feels like we're flying. Mike, the bosun, tells us that he needs three people to man the helm, and lookout has moved aft from the bow to the side of the wheelhouse.
As the wind and waves become stronger, we take down sails to try and make it easier for the three people on helm to stay on course. Europa seems to sing with the noise of the wind in her sails and the water rushing past her hull.
Even in conditions like this she moves with grace as she rolls from side to side. It's thrilling to be standing out on deck (those being thrown around in their bunks as they try to sleep may have a different view). I help Mike on helm and it requires all our effort to turn the rudder and ride each wave to maintain our course and speed, while Roisin studies the compass. For half an hour we work in unison; feeling Europa respond to our exertions, it's the highlight of my journey so far.
Later, I ask Marteyn, the mate, to turn on the working lights on the main mast so I can record the scene on my television camera. They illuminate waves washing over the deck and cast shadows of sails and rigging onto the foam and spray rushing past. It's like we're white water rafting, or riding on a 500 tonne surfboard.
We hit 11.4 knots.
Marteyn says these are the best sailing conditions of the trip since leaving Cape Town, and Europa takes full advantage. Although we're in a race, we could easily be in another age and trying to outrun pirates. We cover 39 miles in our four-hour shift, and go someway towards making up for our day in the doldrums on Thursday.
At the end of our watch we're on a high, and I go back to the deckhouse with Mike and Marteyn to share a beer and talk about what we'd just experienced. It may be 4am but we can't sleep just yet.
You can see the exhilaration on the faces of trainees and crew alike. Some may have found it frightening, but I feel as if we have experienced something special, something of the spirit of the age when square riggers like Europa, and clippers and schooners, ruled the ocean waves. It's a magical feeling.
At our 2pm meeting on dec,k Captain Klaas tells us we are now over halfway. We cheer when he reveals we have travelled 191 nautical miles in the last 24 hours. There are now 1091 to go, but the 2 ships ahead of us are in Force 8 westerly winds so they'll be hard to catch now.
In the evening we are joined by more dolphins, and this time they stay to play in our bow wave. Recently they have been disappearing as soon as I get to the deck with my camera.
It's a relief to finally get them on tape - I did film a previous encounter but managed to record the lecture on the Gulf Stream over the top, forgetting I had rewound the tape to look at it. I still don't think I'll ever be a wildlife cameraman.
There's something to celebrate tonight - Swiss Independence Day. We have three Swiss on board, including Christian, the ship's engineer. He prepares to fire the cannon, I get ready to film, those on the poop deck put on ear protection, the trainees gather on the main deck in anticipation and.... pop. Not quite the bang we were expecting.
They have two more attempts, but each time the cannon misfires. We are informed Swiss Independence Day has been postponed. Perhaps this is why Switzerland is neutral?
Sunday 2nd August Day 14 at sea GPS position N 49°29', W 31°44'
Foggy and wet. These are the conditions when it's important to maintain a proper lookout. Last night, we received a lecture on collision rules and who has right of way on the seas. Sailing through fog, our world is reduced to a small bubble.
As we prepare to raise stuns'ls I spot 20 or 30 dolphins jumping from the water towards us. They disappear into the gloom as quickly as they arrive, but it gives us a short break from pulling on wet ropes. We now have 940 miles to the finish. And with a warning of a Force Eight westerly gale blowing tonight we should make good speed, but we could be in for a rough ride. As white caps begin to form on the waves, sails are brought down and gear is tied to the deck. There are two more birthdays to celebrate today, Nick and Wolf, so there's more cake after dinner! The watertight doors are shut as the waves start crashing over onto the main deck.
It's good exercise trying to stand in one spot. I stay up late to film the gathering storm, but I miss the biggest drama of the night, involving Amy and a bucket of dirty water. You can picture the scene as she makes her way carefully down the corridor, until someone approaches wanting to walk past.
Amy steps aside as a wave hits, and she disappears sideways into a cabin, landing in a bottom bunk and tipping the bucket over herself and the sleeping occupant of the bunk. I think they saw the funny side, but I'm sure it made many people listening to my live on Good Morning Ulster laugh on their way into work on a Monday morning.