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Race 10 day 21

GREAT Britain - Stephanie Evans

07 APR 2014 - Race 10

The last couple of days have had many highs and lows, both emotionally and weatherly! We were enjoying strong breeze and rolling seas, but got rocked by some squalls coming in regularly for the last couple of days. Just when we'd think the coast was clear and shake out our reef to make the main sail bigger, a squall would be on us in minutes and we'd be scrambling to put the reef back in. We started growing paranoid about every black wisp of cloud potentially bringing 50 knots of breeze. 

We were all sitting in the pit during crew changeover when a huge wave crashed over the boat and threw half of us to the low side. I was fortunate that my tether spun me around and kept me from hitting the low side, but it was definitely a wake up call about the strength and suddenness of the waves around us.  The scariest moment during the series of squalls was when we were sailing along with a full main sail, gybed (turned downwind), and suddenly a squall was upon us with thrashing hail, huge gusts, and big waves. 

But we didn't even have our preventer on (which helps keep the boom from swinging across the boat in case the wind catches the sail)...so we were well and truly panicked for the moment. If the boom had swung in that kind of wind with no preventer...we could have brought the whole mast down and rigging with it! 

It was a very sobering moment. Our next watch, we heard about poor Andrew on Derry~Londonderry~Doire being in the water for 90 minutes, and another crew member going overboard on Mission Performance (fortunately on tether).  We went on deck feeling a bit timid and were very cautious about shaking our reefs. We quickly became 'cloud experts' as Ollie dubbed us, predicting the weather...usually erring on the windy forecast side! On a brighter note, though, we finally pulled in front of Invest Africa, taking over the lead, so all of our hard work trying to get the sail plan right has paid off. 

On a lighter note, I'll be on Mother Watch tomorrow, making all the food and drinks for the crew for a day, along with my fearless partner in the galley, Trevor. The boat mostly runs on tea, coffee, and nutella, so there are lots of drinks orders!  Being mother makes me think a lot about my family. Even though I grew up in South Africa, my family are all English, and so 'tea' is a very loaded word. If you're at a family gathering (and we were a lot when we were all living in England for a time before moving to the US), and you dared walk within a meter of the kitchen, someone would surely start singing, 'Polly, put the kettle on!' And then you were done. 

Because as soon as your hand came within grabbing range of the kettle, twenty hands would shoot up with a chorus of 'Tea, please!' And god forbid you dare ask how someone 'takes' their tea. To forget would be the equivalent of an act of disownment. Surely you know Granny likes it extra strong with 3 granules of sugar, and will only take it in the mug with the thin rim and dainty handle! And Aunty Julie wants it in the big mug with the piglets on it and only enough milk to create a certain shade of tan dress she wore at that party in 1982. To be good at making a strong cup of tea was a dubious honour...it usually led to more tea making! So making teas, coffees, and hot chocolates for the crew takes me back to the good old days when we my family were all together, and it's nice to be part of a new  family for a little while at least. We had a lovely fruit cake from round the world crew member Steve's Mom to celebrate crossing the date line, and some scrumptious chocolate Easter eggs from Skipper Simon's family.  Boat life is a lot like family life, you quickly grow close to those around you and get used to their constant presence like an extension of yourself. It's hard to believe it's already been over two weeks and the adventure will be ending in a little more than a week. Not sure what I'll do with myself without 50 cups of tea to make each day! And I've only just learned how everyone likes to take it!