Oh my gosh – Annie and Mel have been really busy on the old blogging front the last few days! Rather than publish each one individually, I thought I would do one long catch-up one. So in true blog style – the most recent one is at the top – and they are all labelled….here we go…
Blog 30: Mel - ‘Alarming’
I slept through the alarm twice last night - lovely for me as it means I must have been sleeping really deeply, which can only be a good thing, but v annoying for Annie who had to keep track of time on a watch with no light and shout at me when it was time for me to wake up! I'm putting it down to the fact that I'm so used to life on board now that my brain tunes out noises it knows aren't important - or that's my excuse anyway! Our cabin is actually not a particularly quiet place to sleep - especially in rough weather. The rudder is a few centimetres from our head and bangs around like a crazy thing in a cross swell, water breaking over the cabin top sounds like someone thumping the hell out of it and the autopilot is constantly chuntering away to itself. So I think my subconscious sees all these noises as normal, plus the alarm, and disregards the lot! But I expect if a new noise occurred I'd be awake in an instant wondering what it was.
I think we are both so used to life on Explore now that we're actually going to have more of a problem when we get to land. We're used to the watch system, we're used to never walking more than about 6 steps, and those holding onto something, we can both make a decent cup of coffee on deck in the pitch dark and the basic hygiene facilities are no problem at all - it's amazing how clean baby wipes can make you feel! We are also totally happy with rowing for 12 hours a day, if someone asked me to do that at home I'd think they were nuts and I probably couldn't do it, even if I wanted to, but out here you just get on and do it as we're not going to get to Antigua if we don't!
When we get to land we are going to have other problems, some more fundamental, like walking! We won't have used those muscles for so long it will be a struggle, as will standing upright on a non moving surface. And the noise and bustle of normal life will be overwhelming. I've had problems adjusting to land life in the past after an ocean crossing, I'd never slept walked in my life but started doing it on land during Clipper (I was hoisting sails, flaking sails, helming and all sorts in my sleep!) and that was after only 3 weeks at sea; God knows what 2 months is going to do to me!
PS I've dug out my mobile (horrible I know at sea) and am using that as an alarm now, and will change the alarm tune daily in an attempt to wake up!!
Blog 29: Annie – ‘Tragedy at Sea’
WARNING! STOP. EXPLOSION IMMINENT. STOP. CONSUMPTION OF FLAPJACKS REACHING DANGER LEVEL. STOP. IMMEDIATE RATIONING REQUIRED OF SECOND TUB. STOP. I REPEAT. STOP. IMMEDIATE RATIONING REQUIRED. END.
So how was your weekend? Mine was pretty much the usual... Even managed to fit in a spot of rowing in between all my various social engagements.
We’ve not had the best in the way of sea conditions of late with reports of worse to come in the next few days but we’re still racking up the miles and making good progress towards Antigua. We’re managing to hold our race position too which is excellent news. This looming bad weather is threatening to bring with it strong winds in totally the wrong direction which, if we do actually suffer from it, will be frustrating beyond belief as it will probably see us back on the para anchor going nowhere for several days – not what you want when you’re racing at all! Fingers crossed that it either decides to die down before reaching us, or decides to make its merry way elsewhere.
The sea right now is kind of lumpy. Not easy to row in at all (see Mel’s last blog). We’ve become quite the weather experts of late and are using all the correct terminology to describe the conditions:
Lumpy. Rock & Rolly. Wobbly. Downright nasty. Swelly. All over the shop. A bit curly wurly. Bloody indecisive. A right pain. Scary as hell. Swoopy, to name but a few. Earlier I came on watch and asked Mel what it had been like. She replied with “$*!!£?! &%!£**!!” – We’ll just add that one to the list I think.
Apart from weather issues, we’re having a lovely time on board it has to be said! Spirits are high and neither of us appear to be flagging yet but there’s still a couple of thousand miles to go so maybe I’m speaking too soon!
We have a new friend, who we’ve christened Fred (after our favourite La Gomera ferry). We’re not sure what he is (Or even if he’s a boy for that matter. Do fish have a sex??). Anyhow, Fred is an electric blue fish, approx 2-3 ft, who’s been following us for some time now. He’s beautifully sleek and elegant through the water but when he decides to jump... well, he’s rather fat to be honest! (Personally I think he’s chomped too much of the Shepherd’s Pie that we’ve been turfing overboard!!). Anyone got any ideas what type of fish he may be?
We also see flashes in the water at night time. Some kind of electric fish akin to an electric eel perhaps? Answers on a postcard to: Annie Januszewski. Stern Cabin. Little Red Boat. Atlantic Ocean.
Blog 28: Mel – ‘It’s been swell!’
Oh what a night! It's been officially voted by all parties as the worst ever of the journey - and considering we were making progress in the right direction that's a big negative. The reason was we were experiencing a swell from 2 different directions, we've had this before and although v annoying nothing to worry too much about. But this one was different; the swell from behind us was irregular, no real pattern to it, mostly about 2 metres but with the odd 4 metre one, breaking at the top thrown in. These were excellent fun, if you took 2 big strokes near the top you could surf them and get well over 6 knots, the waves were powerful but with no real venom. The cross swell on the other hand was positively evil, it was v irregular as well, pretty small, 1 to 2 metres, but with a double wave every 5 minutes or so that hit you with such speed and force it knocked the boat and you for 6. We were being knocked off our seat with annoying regularity, which didn't particularly hurt, but knocking an elbow on top of everything else really wasn't what we needed. And I was mindful of the fact that cracked ribs from falling off seats are a common injury amongst ocean rowers.
I will try to describe what it's like to be hit by one of these side swipers.
It was dark, so dark you could make out the horizon but not the waves, except the big ones when they loomed v close, hiding the horizon. As the swell from astern was irregular, coupled with the cross swell, it was taking every ounce of concentration to find the water with each stroke, you had to feel for the water with each one, while keeping a very close eye out for the big waves, and then suddenly you get smacked from the side, the boat immediately lurches violently to one side pinning one blade in the water and smashing the blade handle down onto your thigh, then one second later the boat's over the other way as the wave rolls on, other blade stuck in the water, other thigh smashed and then the boat just carries on rocking while one of the big waves looms on the horizon. You know you've got to take a stroke to get the boat moving again and stop the rocking, but you've no idea where the water is on either side and it's changing every second anyway, but you've got to go for it so you have a light jab at the blades, one catches the water, one doesn't making the boat lean even more. You have another go and manage to catch another side swell at the top, the blade stops in the water and the handle whacks your knee, cursing you try again and finally manage to take a vaguely clean stroke and are on your way again. Repeat continuously for 2 hours and you've got one of our night watches - we had 3 each like that. Eventually at about dawn the swell that had been behind us died down, the wind changed direction and I changed course to put the side swell behind us for a much more pleasant ride.
We're heading further West now but that's no bad thing, Antigua is West and there's no point trying to fight this swell as well as the wind.
Much as neither of us enjoyed last night I think it sums up this race - just keep going, keep taking the knocks, don't let them get you down and you'll eventually get there. Although there were obviously physical discomforts and pain it was far more a mental challenge, getting out of a warm, dry cabin for a 2 hour watch to be thrown around, bashed, bruised and soaked. But Annie and I have come onboard with a very positive attitude and bucket loads of determination, nothing will stop us getting to Antigua and we're determined to have some fun on the way. Although we were both a bit quiet at times last night we did manage to laugh about it and there was no question at all of stopping. I think last night is something we will enjoy with hindsight, when we look back on the race we will rememeber it and be proud of the miles we made, they were hard fought miles, but if all miles were easy this wouldn't be a challenge and we wouldn't be here!
Blog 27: Annie - ‘Rant, grumble, mutter.....’
All night long I’d been looking forward to that... What a waste of a night! I do not recommend that anyone, given the opportunity, accepts the offer of vegetarian burgers and beans for breakfast! The beans, to give them their due, were as bean-like as beans can be, but the burgers?? Are you sure that’s what they were?? Here’s a little list of things that I would have rather consumed with my beans this morning:
An ironing board cover
6 fake plastic wine corks
A cardboard box
A toilet roll
I must say that the food on board is leaving rather a lot to be desired and already a few items have been banned due to their unsuitability to race conditions. Freeze dried Shepherd’s Pie is one such item that will never find itself hydrated again on this boat that’s for sure... I had the pleasure for my supper last night and subsequently visited our little yellow bucket no less than 5 times during the night! (Too much information I know, but I feel it’s important you guys share the ‘real’ experience with us best you can). Syrup Pudding sounded good on the label too... but turned out to be little more than a somewhat gooey house brick. All bricks have now gone overboard... but I do feel a little sorry for all the unassuming fish down there!
So. Yes, an eventful night for me. Made worse by the fact that I was absolutely knackered for some reason. I was still able to row (we don’t need to be awake to do that anymore!) but it was a highly labour intensive ordeal just trying to keep the curtains from closing. So many times I was reminded of my Father behind the wheel! I don’t know why I was so tired last night specifically – maybe the accumulation of 19 days spending a minimum of 12 hours exercising, 6 of which are in direct blazing sun... yes, that could be it I guess! When you’re so tired, all you want is sleep and it can’t come quick enough, so even though it’s the worst thing to do, you tend to spend every minute of every 2 hour shift looking at the clock and wishing the night away!
I will try and grab an extra hour’s sleep or 2 during my off watches today. Easier said than done though because the cabin is like a sauna during the day. And not the nice kind with a lovely swimming pool just outside. We do have a very large swimming pool obviously, but sadly it’s a little on the salty side and there are far too many things floating in it with big teeth for my liking! When I get home, I think I need to check into a posh hotel and just float.... no salt, no sharks, no waves... maybe just a little G&T.
Blog 26: Mel on ‘Pain’.
Pain; it's a relative thing. How many times have I heard that said, but now I know it's absolutely true. Annie and I have got used to living with a certain amount of pain - mostly in our hands, feet and bums, and mostly from repeated pressure in the same place, not blisters. None of it is too bad, more a dull ache or sharp pain if the foot strap scrapes an odd blister, but sometimes one pain is so intense it will block all the others for hours. And it's our hands that win the award for causing the most intense pain, not through blisters, both of us are doing very well on that front and have a lovely set of calluses (nice, sooo girlie!). The best way I can describe the pain is to imagine your hands laid palm up on table and someone bashing them with a hammer for a few mintues, then sitting you on a rowing machine, turning the resistance up to 10 and making you row - I kid you not! It happens when there isn't much wind and the boat feels heavy, the start of the stroke, the catch, puts enormous strain on us which all seems to get channelled into our hands, I guess they're getting bruised. At the start of a watch in light winds the first minute or so is agony (that pain where you sort of want to laugh) even if you're just going through the motions of taking a stroke, not putting any effort in, but then it gradually wears off and by then end of the watch your hands are totally fine - normally to be taken over by bum ache! And it's always the way that if your hands are bad then so is something else, and Annie and I are usually experiencing the same aches and pains - sort of reassuring I think! We have fascinating conversations at watch change in the middle of the night, such as "WhaT hurt the most for you that watch?" - we do need to get outmore don't we!! Another hand problem is they sometimes get stuck in the shape of the blade handle during an off watch and we have to force them straight, not good, making coffee in that state takes ages!!
But we're not complaining about the pain, it was to be expected (this is a huge challenge!) and to be honest it's not nearly as bad as I thought - yet... We;re looking after ourselves out here and really hoping our bodies will last the course!!
PS I've thought of something far scarier than all Annie's scary middle of the night scenarios - being forced to listen to her iPod for a whole watch, that would be truly awful, she has terrible music taste!!!