I will remember Friday 13, 2013 as my first birthday at sea, racing across the Atlantic Ocean. The day started with a bang. Literally. We were running fast with a Yankee headsail supported by a pole, which allows you to sail almost dead downwind.
In the middle of a pitch black night, just before changing watches, a scary metallic noise made everyone aware that something went horribly wrong. It took a while until we realized that the pole tore away a part of the track on which it was raised, and was now swinging wildly on the foredeck. Before I was able to say a word, the deck light went on, and the skipper was already there, sorting out the situation. Ability to deal with the unexpected is the ultimate test for any skipper, and ours passed it with flying colours. The damage was done, but fortunately nobody got hurt.
Fortunately, the next morning began on a much better note. After being surprised by all hands on deck singing Happy Birthday, and getting a card signed by everybody, I was able to get six hours of well-deserved sleep.
After waking up I decided to give myself a treat, and change the t-shirt I had been wearing for almost a week to a clean one. People on land don't appreciate the importance of little pleasures like that. But there was more to follow.
Coming on deck for lunch and the daily happy hour I was welcomed by yet more well wishes, followed by a three-course meal featuring a gourmet duck dish and a home-made (or rather boat-made) cake. Some people can do magic in the galley.
Another highlight of the day came just after lunch. There was some maintenance to be done at the top of the mast, and I volunteered to go up, supported by a climbing harness attached to two halyards (one for security). I'd done this before in port when the boat was steady, but going up the mast swinging wildly when the boat cuts through waves in the Atlantic Ocean is a completely different story. The higher you go, the harder it gets, and at the third spreaders it started to become scary. For a short while I cursed myself for volunteering, but then I took a big breath, reminded myself that fear is just a state of mind, and dashed straight to the top. I tried not to look down too often, but the view around was breathtaking. Limitless stretch of ocean offered yet another birthday treat.
Finally, the night brought some surprises as well. By chance, we were sailing across a patch of phosphorescent plankton, which created a shining trail of particles in our wake, which we called "fairy dust". Great highlight of a magical day. Without any doubt, 13 has always been my lucky number.