We are now in Southern Ocean below 40 degrees South and it is a place of contrasts. Over the last few days we had 70 knot wind gusts, big waves, horizontal rain, and beautiful sunshine, double rainbows, 15 knot breeze in which we surfed our heavyweight kite. This leg I am looking after the Lightning Watch and it is fantastic to see the old hands and new joiners working together as a team, like we have been sailing together from the start. It strikes me that ocean racing is full of extremes.
Extreme watersports: you are on the bow plunging into the wave in front, holding a bunch of sail ties balancing on an ankle breaker, crawling under the Staysail to sit on the low side rail and on command start grabbing the slippery folds of the formidable Yankee 1.
Extreme friendship: you have never met before, or perhaps only very briefly at crew allocation, you come from very different backgrounds, countries and may well have different mother tongues, yet on night 3 you are discussing your closely guarded life plans with the neon hooded buddy next to you on the high side rail.
Extreme sleeping: you have just about managed to get your legs far apart to straddle the walls of the companionway as you inch your way up in spiderman fashion to your bunk grabbing at any protrudence, you wedge yourself in, shoulder touching the ceiling, do up the blue lee cloth as tight as you can, and still wake up half way through off watch grabbing onto the bunk storage locker sides with all four limbs because the boat has gybed and the extreme lean angle of your bunk is no longer sufficient to keep you in.
Extreme wildlife watching: you are putting in a reef and suddenly a humongous black back and fin appear 1 metre from the beam, yes, it's probably a short fin whale. Yesterday a tiny beautiful swallow landed on my bright red foulies and stayed in the shelter of the helm for an hour or so, he probably got blown off course in the depression which brought us the 70 knot gusts, and unfortunately will probably never make it back to land. It made reminded us how vulnerable we are on our 70 foot home in the middle of this great expanse of ocean, and that we must look after ourselves and each other to survive this journey.
More extremes in 10 days time!
Today is our 6th day at sea but it does not feel that long since we slipped lines at Cape Town. Life at sea is a great deal of routine – wake up, eat, go on watch, trim sails or change them, hand over to the other watch, go below and get into your bunk to be woken again 4 hours later. Mixed in with the routine are also the daily chores which have been spread amongst all of us, so when its your turn, you also get to clean the heads, wipe down all surfaces, check the bilges, etc...
The nights seem to be the longest watches even though it is only 4 hours long, especially when it is squally with loads of sea spray and/or water across the deck. Management of your layers becomes really important to your well being and one which I have only in the last 24 hours got just right.
During some of the cold n wet night watches, you find yourself thinking about some of the creature comforts at home but then you realise that this adventure you signed up for is not meant to be like home otherwise it would not be an adventure and experience of a lifetime.
Earlier today I awoke to hear shouts of “whales” followed by Richard going “shoo, shoo” to chase them away as they were really too close to the boat.
So it is a mixture of great delight to see one of the seas largest creatures and apprehension about whether they will bump into us – which would not be good for either the whale nor us. It has also been wonderful to see the bird life as well as the majestic albatross flying so effortlessly inches above the water. It is mesmerizing to watch. There is another squall coming and I am needed on deck, so this blog will have to be continued another day. To all my friends and family, keep up the support for Invest Africa, and see you in Albany, hopefully in the leading bunch.