Race 3 - Day 10
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Crew Diary - Race 3 Day 10: Cape Town to Fremantle
As we've sailed past various countries in the past three months, the mind strays to imagining dry land and the products or memories that hail from it. From Ireland: thoughts of Guinness and hedgerows full of vivid orange flowers. Portugal: fizzy 'schop' beers and fresh fish on the beach. The Gambia: home of a migrant family that moved to my sleepy rural town in Wiltshire and Nguneh, a newcomer to our form group one day in 1991. And Rio: Carnival and memories of an incredible New Year's Eve dressed all in white on Copacabana beach with dear Brazilian friends Maria and Eduardo. We're just about (finally, are we really still off Africa after all these days?) sailing due south of Madagascar - I've never been there but believe it the home of superior vanilla (and monkeys, a slightly sleepy Seumas informs me).
We have three Australians on board. They are all tall, broad, good at hanking on a sail on the foredeck, and don't know much about boomerangs. At the moment our boat is going forward so slowly, it feels a bit like a boomerang. There would be some merits to a bounce back from whence we came. I'd have brought more baby talc and my dry suit for Leg 2. Besides, several of our crew didn't have time to visit the Beatles Experience in Liverpool, their home town. So: boomerangs. Product of Australia. When I asked John from Sydney, Australia, why boomerangs come back, he wasn't sure. "They're pieces of stick and you throw 'em and they come back atcha", was what he could offer. "There are multiple different types of boomerangs, some designed for hunting which are not intended to come back. You throw and they go. And there are an awful lot for sale on Circular Quay in Sydney Harbour for tourists. But the purpose of returning boomerang? This is a mystery. I've never really thought about it," he 'fessed up.
On the boat we're all quietly boomeranging in our own way. Whether mentally bouncing back to our homes and families on dry land all over the world, or physically one by one hopping off at the end of one leg or another returning, inexorably, to the same. It's fascinating listening to everyone's 'stories' on the boat - a Swiss living in Sweden, an Australian living in Switzerland, an environmentalist who's lived all over the world but has returned to his home town of Cambridge. Even my toothbrush thinks it's a boomerang. After all the effort of finding the darn thing it escaped me and jumped into the bilge in the aft heads last night and I'm still waiting for it to come back. Maybe it's gone hunting for a better mouth.
Meanwhile, not to forget the sailing, this ocean is something else. Don't believe it when they tell you it's just another ocean. So far it's thrown a lot at us, and skips tells us we've seen nothing yet. Incredible sunshine hot days suitable for my red wine-stained Cape Town uniform (just shove on a life jacket on waking for deck watch), squalls coming in within ten minutes turning skies from blue to black and completely bossing the spinnaker, broaching the boat and prompting a hasty blow of the tackline and professional letterbox drop. 15 to 50 knots in ten minutes. The other day, helming, I encountered a flicker of 76 knots of wind (if our instruments are to be believed). Surfing huge waves which roll from the horizon creating a crackling and roaring under the hull - cool on deck, weird below. Rainbows galore, short and stubby and wide and thin. A swim by an over eager crew member while we were up on the bow. A moonrise second to none - huge orange orb floating above the horizon. And then of course, the birds. Always the birds. 'On watch' is a free four hour ticket to the movies. An IMAX experience of rawest nature and the most glorious wheeling, soaring, silent birdlife. We've got a book - you'll be familiar with this from Scott's blog - and have identified most of what we see. Sooty Shearwaters and Albatrosses. Northern Royal and Wandering Albatrosses and their little sky neighbours, Antarctic and Slender Billed Prions. They are beautiful birds the albatrosses, travelling in ones and twos, coming within meters of the boat. More serene than their land-based feathered friends, large and small birds play together in our wind shadows and wake as if inspecting this weird and slightly out of control sailing thing whose yellow drysuit-clad humans fling out tennis court-sized spinnakers and brown paper bags of loo roll (and the occasional radio or boat 'ook - we miss you Sylvie). Sunrises and sunsets in prairie-sized skies throw us huge cloud formations heavy and light, red and pink, black, grey, blue and yellow shifting 360 degrees around us. And yesterday morning as the sun rose behind the clouds dozens of shining shafts of light burst their way through the tiny holes in the cloud, a majestic set of ladders to heaven.
These are the things we see while on our boomerang journey through oceans. Some days I could stay here forever feeling as alive as I ever have, and other days I yearn for all things land and home. It seems the wind is dictating the speed of this throw. Who knows when we'll get to Oz. As Bob says, it's not about the destination, it's about the journey.