I have been in Sydney now for 4 days and have completed the deep clean (very messy!) and many of the maintenance tasks resulting from the trip around from Fremantle and the prep for the Hobart race starting on Boxing Day.
I am only now able to piece together my thoughts on those 3000 odd miles of the Southern Ocean. I am sitting in my Airbnb in Sydney which I share with 5 of my crew colleagues and decided a good place to start would be to try to get into the festive mood by getting out the Christmas tree (see the picture above – it’s the one on the lamp base!) we put up in the boat a week ago and to open my Christmas card from Mary both which she smuggled into my luggage as I left the UK nearly a month ago.
I am having problems doing this – it is strange for me not to be able to pour out my thoughts in words so I apologise if this blog appears disjointed and unstructured – so here goes.
How do I describe the most amazing collection of experiences all rammed together in a never ending stream? How do you put across the range of emotions we went through? Fear? Exhaustion? Amazement? Stupidity? Exhilaration? Success? Failure? Insignificance? Teamwork? Wonder? ……….
The highlight must be “The Most Surreal Night of my Life” as described in a previous blog – a massive high which will stay with me for the rest of my life.
My low point must have been the realisation that my technical (sailing) skills significantly lacked those required to properly support the other members of my watch and the problem of poor balance when the boat is rocking around like a bucking bronco. Skills gradually improved but I do not think I’ll ever be able to move around the boat speedily in those conditions but feel better now I have discussed it with my watch mates.
Life aboard is relentless, “sleep, eat, sail, sleep, eat, sail……..” sums it up perfectly. There is little time for anything else and we all very carefully manage our time to ensure we maximise our sleeping time – more of this coming in a later blog. This cycle is an absolute grind and rules everything about life on board. We only had 15 days and I hate to think what it must have been like on the other longer legs. It rules the mind, it rules the body and it rules the soul. 4 hours on, 4 off, 4 on, 6 off, six on, 4 off, 4 on, 4 off, 6 on, 6 off…… never ending.
Emotions get layered across everything else. You are feeling low because you made a stupid mistake and let the team down. Exhaustion because of seven sail changes in one 6 hour watch. Sleep avoiding me for some unknown reason . Can’t be late for watch handover, can’t go to bed yet as there is a spinnaker to wrap, team meeting going on longer than I want and sleeping time being eaten into. Where did I put my head torch? OH NO, my socks are still,soaking wet. Missing family, someone is being a prat – hope it isn’t me.
Just got the latest position report and we have slipped down the field – again! Why can’t we go faster? Where are we failing as a team?
Aargh! we hit a whale – god, that must have hurt! Those dolphin are playing with us – aren’t they just beautiful! There is a flying fish – really didn’t know they were quite so big! A “super moon” just in time to light up the spinnaker as our trimming torch runs out of battery. Sunrise after a boring night watch – quite unbelievable.
Wind holes for 20 hours, force 10 storm through the night which was not forecast, relentless beat up the eastern coast of Tasmania for 3 days heavy work with little progress in return.
Friendships growing and happily not too many conflicts on board. We begin to trust one another and recognise what we each bring to the watch. Skills improve and the Round the Worlders can gradually hand over some of the basic tasks. We did not see Conall for a complete watch – he must be starting to trust us. (but he was downstairs listening to our every move- just in case we hear later)
Mountainous seas where we are clinging on for dear life. Flat calms where the life is bliss! Life at 45 degrees is interesting! How do you manage to go to the loo successfully – but we do! Why does the day’s cook have to smother everything in hot chilli sauce – again? Oh no, another tack, I’ll have to tighten up the strap holding me from falling out of bed.
And so it goes on “sleep, eat, sail, sleep, eat, sail”
But I’m on dry land now and can only try to start to put it into perspective. Well, that’s not really working as you can see so let’s think about something else.
Happy Christmas everyone!
And a huge thank you to all those that are supporting me on this adventure – may you have a great festive season and don’t forget the race viewer on Boxing Day as I start on on of the world’s most famous boat races – “The Sydney/Hobart” Am I looking forward to that one!