Their Lives In My Totally Not Manicured (sob sob) Hands.


11th August

25 50N, 41 24W

By turns the most exhilarating and the most deadly boring of all the time at sea; the watch determines your whole day.  If you’re on first, as I’ve now been twice, you do 10 – 1 which can be cut shorter by the fact that the others don’t go to bed straight away and if you’re lucky you have conversation and companionship at least half way through.  But at some point it’s time to strap on the lifejacket and the EPIRB and deal with the fact that you’re in charge of the safety of everyone on board.  That’s the thought that keeps you awake; or brings you back to life when you feel your eyes have closed and in a minute you’re going to fall forward and be totally asleep.


It’s time to think; because you can do little else!  Scan the radar; look at all the little green and blue shapes that come and go in seconds – turbulence; or sometimes if they bob up and down you can imagine maybe a whale breathing on the surface.  You look for little green patches that come and go in the same place that could indicate a floating
wreck or debris that could damage us.  If it’s consistently in place, appearing and reappearing, and looks like it might be in a course to collide with us, the instructions are to wake up the GC.  Hasn’t happened yet but it might.  Otherwise the radar is clear; no other ships in our vicinity.  We are set to see 12 miles; we can change that of course and
sometimes we do just to keep awake and alert, but basically 12 miles is more than good enough.  Then you have to walk around to check visually as well; down to the engine rooms each half hour to make sure that there is no water in the bilge; check the autopilot is working; check that we are on heading.  OK; that took about 10 minutes.  2 hours and 50 minutes to go

…. Last night was beautiful and calm and I could sit out on starboard front; watching the sea in front and catching the moon, just off the full, behind the mainsail.  The night before was windy and very splashy so I holed up in the galley where if you sit on the port side counter you can see under the gennaker and the whole front of the boat; leaning forward you can see the starboard telltale (the important one at the moment on
this tack) and of course looking around you can see the back of the boat too.  It’s a good spot; but you still need to leave it occasionally to do the rounds – radar; engines; flying fish; use flashlight to check the rigging … back to your seat.  Betrave, who has her own waterproof gear from sailing at university often sits outside on deck on one of the
leeward benches and thinks.  She describes these as her Midnight Musings,
where she has come up with a theory that the internet may in fact be a God
(if not actually God) as well as a list of things that she writes down faithfully that she is going to ask Google when we get back in range….

I think a lot about what I might write, but as I can’t actually do so at the time I mostly don’t.  I’m not sure what the Genie does but he’s always playing with the radar screen, which is his baby, or fiddling with the ropes, adjusting the sails.  The GC doesn’t have to be awake, he’s never off watch.  He hears every change in his sleep; I’ve never had to call him to attend to a flapping sail; only to things that are less immediate – perhaps a light in the distance that doesn’t appear on the radar.  It’s also why he doesn’t like to go below; he can’t hear the boat as well, can’t feel it’s every flex and pulse.  For us; it’s time to have a tea or a coffee; eat something sweet – and figure out how you’re going to cram in
enough sleep between tonight and tomorrow to be fresh to do it all again! We change every third day; so from being on 0400 start I went to the 10-1 shift and tonight will start the 1-4 – the only one I haven’t done and frankly the one I’m looking least forward to.

I must say I’ve become better at doing feeling the boat too.  I first noticed it when the mast went on in La Ciotat; the whole boat changed in the way that it flexed and pulled; the hull responding to the tension and weight of the mast.  The addition of the gennaker changed the sounds and feel again; as does moving forward fast without motor.  There’s something so totally organic about moving forward under sail – intermittently you surge; racing forward; the water comes crashing over the stern or through the nets in front; then there’s almost a pause as though the boat holds its breath before plunging forward again.  She feels like she rocks back on her keels before tipping forward again, bows through the low swell. She is so heavy with all the stuff we have on board that she is slightly low in the nose; this does us very well as it makes her even more hydrodynamic than she already was.  Oh a big crash above my head.  The big block that holds the gennaker clew has thumped down; the wind has dropped and indeed we are suddenly barely moving ahead.  Yup; there goes starboard engine …. Time for a nap.

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