Wednesday, 4 December 2013
My apologies for lack of a recent update but things have been a bit hectic. The Southern Ocean kept it surprises in store right until the end. After the big storms as previously mentioned, things really calmed down, in fact we had champagne sailing for a couple of days, flat seas, sunshine and a good breeze with the kite up. That was some of the best helming I had. We also had some very scary seas. Helming was mad. Massive seas, massive weather helm (where the boat almost decides itself where it's pointing) and all in pitch black. Squeaky bum time on the helm let me tell you. This all culminated in a big squall 2 nights from the finish. We knew there were squalls around which can be very dangerous if you are carrying too much sail. On this occasion we had a spinnaker up and a reef in the main when it hit. Not sure what the wind got to, not as high a previously, but still too much for the sail we had up. Despite our best efforts we broached with both the main and the kite in the water at one stage. Pete came on deck and by releasing various sheets we retrieved everything intact. Then bizarrely the squall passed and the wind dropped. A quick check of the sails revealed no damage and we carried on as if nothing had happened. Amazing! Prior to this we had blasted through the ocean sprint, getting the second fastest time(no points unfortunately)but we did achieve 296 miles in the 24 hours that Clipper measure, however, on a rolling 24 hour period, we exceeded the magic 300 miles. In those last 2 days we moved up the field from 10th to finishing in 6th place, overcoming Pete's tactical error at the start with him getting the angles right forthefinish and jumping 4 places. Albany was bitter sweet for me. I was happy to finish but I was leaving some great friends behind. I was quite emotional when I said goodbye sfor the final time. I will do top/bottom 10's later but for now me and Sharon have a holiday in Oz, with us going sailing for 3 days forms from tomorrow on Ningaloo Reef. I'm missing the sea already!
Monday, 18 November 2013
Well what a day Saturday 16th November turned out to be in the Southern Ocean. We are currently 2000 miles from civilisation. Antarctica is the closest land, which wouldn't be a lot of good if things went wrong! We had been expecting a big storm for a couple of days. We get daily weather forecasts on board and this one was forecast to be bigger than the previous one where we experienced 80 knot winds. It was not to be wrong. The winds had been building since Thursday as inevitably had the seas. However, you soon get used to 30 -40 knots of wind and big waves, in fact the helming can be really good fun. Come Saturday morning things really started to increase. Mid morning we had gusts of 60 knots which meant we had to drop the staysail which would leave us sailing on the main only with three reefs in. That drop didn't go totally smoothly as the plan was to dump the sail rapidly on the deck and then we jump on it to stop it blowing over the side. However, it didn't come down quick enough so we had to pull it down. When nearly fully down, we lost grip and it shot back up the stay again of its own accord. We got it and secured it the second time. That steadied us for a while. Then just before lunchtime the sky went dark and with incredible ferocity a squall hit us. A massive hail stone white out backed up by a massive wind. The hail stones stung like wasps on my hairless bonce. The sea went white and was flattened by the storm. A tempest had hit us! The wind gusted amazingly with the direction violently fluctuating. The inevitable happened and the boat crashed gybed ( where the wind gets the wrong side of the main sail and tries to throw the boom across the boat)Fortunately the two lines attached to the boom to prevent it flying across catastropically held. The skipper appeared on deck and took control but in the effort to centre the main in order to regain control, a wrong line got released meaning we had to drop the main sail. A hard job at the best of times, very hard in the eye of a storm. However, the crew rallied round and with everyone on deck it was dropped and secured. Incredibly the boat suffered no damage and apart from a couple of bruises, no one was injured. My words cannot do justice to what we had experienced. The helmsman says he saw an indicated true wind speed of 120 knots but is could have been higher. (knots being less than MPH so in the region of 140+mph) The air pressure dropped to 989 having been 1034 a couple of days earlier. Unbelievably I feel incredibly lucky to have experienced such a storm, after all that is why I came to the Southern Ocean. To have experienced two massive storms is amazing. I just hope they are the last of this trip as they are incredibly hard work and people take a long time to recover from the physicallity of it all. We are finally over half way to oz where I will end my big adventure, something I am pleased about but also strangely emotional about. I am not often given to emotion, but I have encountered more of it on this journey than in the rest of my life put together. The sea obviously does strange things to you!
Saturday, 16 November 2013
We have just had the storm!!!! We are 4 hours in front of you currently. What a whopper. It was building all morning and we had 30-50 knots of wind in big seas. Brilliant helming in such conditions, I will never get to do it again. Then lunch time it increased more. We had to go on the foredeck to lower the staysail as the wind was too strong then a violent squall hit. We registered a gust of 120 knots!!!!!!!! We had to go on deck and get everything under control in what was a violent hail storm. it was exceedingly painful! Then it all went wrong when someone released the wrong line and the main went awry. We had to drop that to bring everything under control in the middle of the storm and then raise the staysail to regain some control. It was a bit manic to say the least and rather scared some people but I thought it was an amazing never to be repeated experience (hopefully)!!! Words cannot describe how bad the conditions were. It has calmed a bit now and everything is being put back as it should be. Luckily we did not sustain any damage and no one got hurt. Pete did a brilliant job of getting everything back under control in pretty dire conditions. I am now motherwatch. Dinner is made and the bread for breakfast is proving. I am totally knackered though so hopefully i can get to sleep early tonight and get 8 hours in.
Monday, 11 November 2013
Well its cold and wet in the Southern Ocean right now. Its lunchtime Monday and we have 30 knots of wind with big waves so there is water everywhere on deck. Any time on deck results in a soaking and then the wind makes your extremities cold although the foulies do keep you dry underneath. Last night I think i did the hardest physical effort i have ever done. We needed to put a reef in the sail, the 3rd one, so the sail would become the smallest it could be as the wind was blowing 40 knots. It was my job to climb about 4 foot up the mast to pull down the sail when it was released to a point where I could attach a hook which then holds it in place for its smaller configuration. I was attached to the mast on a safety line,it was raining and blowing a gale. Would the sail come down, would it buggery. I was holding on with one hand, trying to pull the sail with whatever I could get hold of with the other all the time the sail resisting in the gale. inch by inch it finally shifted as my hands colder tireder and colder. At one stage I was holding onto a seam on the back of the sail with my fingertips. Fortunately I was being supported from behind by some one as the boat was obviously bouncing around as well. As I got the attachment point down I then had the struggle to attach the hook to it. The watch leader shouted from the deck to attach the hook at which he was called every swear word under the sun. What did he think I was trying to do!!Of course I had been swearing at the sail before this, using my anger to try and keep me up there and to get the sail down. Eventually, after what seemed an eternity, it was connected and all in place. I immediately went below as I could not feel my fingers. I just sat below in pieces. I was shattered physically, and for a short period, mentally. I have never before encountered such a physical challenge, albeit not for a particularly long period. There just was not an option to let go of the sail, as potentially it could have all gone flying and I would have gone flying backwards with no guarantee the safety line would have stopped me before I hit the deck.. Apart from that everything is fine!! People are dropping like flies! On the second watch last night we were down to 5 out of 9 due to various illnesses, real and imagined, and another doing mother watch. Lets see what today brings.
Sunday, 10 November 2013
Well, the Southern Ocean has certainly lived up to it's reputation! After a very beautiful but benign start under a cloudless Table Mountain, the Southern Ocean threw its worst at us 24 hours later. The start was awesome. The view of Table Mountain was majestic, with calm seas and a good breeze, we hit the start line right on the money, as the gun fired from the stern of South African Navy ship marking one end of the line. Immediately prior to that we had seen 3 Humped Backed whales in the bay. Sharon, Ed and Josie were out on the water as well following the fleet on a chartered boat so saw all the action. After the short sprint around the bay, the fleet split in different directions, all with their own plan to get to Oz first. We stuck to the coast which did not immediately pay off, but the views were fantastic as we passed the 12 Apostles and Camps Bay. Finally we caught the wind and headed out into the Southern Ocean. Then the storm hit! Oh my God, did it hit! The winds quickly built as the promised weather front came in but they got so strong that ultimately we were sailing with only the main sail flying with 3 reefs in. Effectively just about the least sail you can have up! The reason was that the wind was blowing at a constant 50 - 60 knots with gusts much higher. The highest gust we recorded that night on the boat was 80.3 knots (90 mph). More than you had at home in the recent storm I believe! The seas were massive. I helmed a number of times that night, doing no more than half hour at a time as it was so exhausting. Somehow we managed to keep the boat upright and I even achieved the new Jamaica Get All Right speed record of 26.7 knots! There were a couple of brown trouser moments that night! Eventually, after 24 hours or so, the storm passed and bright sunshine and calmer seas returned with the albatrosses in close attendance. It was only later, when we looked at the blog the skipper Pete had written for the Clipper website, that we found out that in his 250,000 miles of sailing he had only seen conditions worse than that once before! He didn't disclose that one to us!! Still, we survived and I have now experienced something that few sailors have. Unfortunately during the storm, one of our crew fell in the sail locker and dislocated his shoulder. On the upside we have proper medics on this leg (ie not me!) and they did a superb job on re-locating it on the bouncing boat. He is a tough guy as he is now back on deck working hard. He's also lucky as he does not appear to have suffered too much collateral damage. Two other boats have not been so lucky. One crew member on Mission Performance got a deck cleat through the calf and Derry got knocked flat on the water resulting in an arm injury to one of the crew necessitating her being medivac'd. Onwards towards Oz for us. We are now at 40 degrees south, in the roaring 40's. The wind keeps coming and going meaning lots of sail changes. I have just over 2 weeks to go on this big adventure which at the bad times seems a long time but in the context of what I have already done is not very long at all. I'm looking forward to the end, but will be sad to leave the boat and my new friends, with whom I have experienced so much.
Thursday, 31 October 2013
As the avid race followers amongst you will know, Jamaica Get All Right made it into Cape Town just before midnight on Sunday 27th October in 10th place. For me personally that was significant as I got there just in time to celebrate Josie's 18th birthday on that day! It had been a very frustrating day for us as we had first sighted Table Mountain at 8am and it then took us the next 16 hours to sail 40 miles as the winds died completely as we approached the coast. At times we were stationary or sailing away from the finish line trying to pick up any sort of momentum. We tried various sail combinations from the wind seeker to the Yankee 1, with and without the Staysail until finally a little wind and current carried us over the line. It was so calm we could hear the shouts of our families on the shore and we gave them a loud "Jamaica" in response. It was a great relief to finally moor just before midnight and wish Josie a Happy Birthday before we had to troop through Immigration. We popped a bottle of bubbly and then legged it to Mitchell's Bar in the V& A Waterfront for some well deserved beers! It is ironic that the wind died as the last few days into cape town had been really windy with us sailing really close to the wind to make the angle. This meant that we were again sailing at 30 degrees to the horizontal making all of life's routine activities very hard indeed. In the last 48 hours I had 5 hours sleep and the food was running out. The watermarker went wrong so we were on water rations and also bizarrely it was claimed we were running out of toilet paper, although this later proved to be unfounded as several more packs were found when we did the deep clean. It did, however, produce a bit of fun when one of the crew came up with a useage monitoring record where people had to enter how many sheets they had used on each visit. Quite funny when a couple of people took it seriously! Yet again I found myself up the bow of the boat in the wet rough stuff. On the second to last night we were changing a sail in quite rough conditions. The wind was increasing as we had to take down the big sail at he front and replace it win a slightly smaller one. Hard at the best of times but aggravated by wind, dark, the boat jumping up and down and half the South Atlantic tipping over us. Inevitably it went a bit wrong and the one we had taken down started to fall over the side. One of the crew stepped across to save it. Unfortunately he strapped across the other sail as it was going up, which left his safety line attached to one side of the boat whilst he was on the other and a sailing hoisting him up as well. Due to the tension on the safety line we couldn't undo it so there was only one option left, to cut it so I whipped out my multitool knife that is attached to my life jacket and cut the line with one swift slash! Luckily someone was holding onto him and he didn't disappear over the side. Cape Town has also seen our second crew departure of the race with another Round the Worlder deciding to get off. It had not been an easy trip for her and it cannot be said that she was particularly happy on board so it was probably the best decision for everybody. I'm loving Cape Town. Being here with the family is special after having been away for over 2 months. We are staying in a superb apartment right on the waterfront and are having a great time exploring Cape Town, although our trip to Robben Island was cancelled today due to the weather meaning I won't get the chance to go there. Last night we had a crew party which everyone came to with an African band and unlimited food and wine! Superb night rounded off surreally with us doing the conga around the club with Sir Robin Knox-Johnston on my shoulder giving it large! A cracking night. We depart for Australia on Monday for what will be me last leg, but this is the big one, he Southern Ocean where the waves can be a big as houses. Hold tight!
Thursday, 24 October 2013
We are now (early hours of Wed 23/10/13) just under 1000 miles to go to Cape Town. At this time its predicted we will not be in the top three but if the wind changes then that could all change. Its amazing to think that we have re=crossed the Atlantic and we now think in terms of 1000 miles not being too far! imagine how many times yo would have to sail up and down the solent or across the channel to achieve that. We have been so lucky with the weather on this leg, excluding the first 4 days of course that were the hardest of the race so far. Following on from those exhausting days, the weather has been of clear blue skies, moderate wind and calm, even flat seas. We have had amazing sunrises, stunning sunsets and phenomenal moon rises. We have passed close to the isolated Tristan da Cuhna islands, home to 300 people The main island is a spectacular 2000 metre snow capped monolith rising from nowhere out of the ocean. We briefly saw a mother and calf whales which we passed within 20' of. We even feel rested and and well feed, not something I ever thought I would say in the South Atlantic. The atmosphere on board has been slightly more relaxed than leg one with less of the stronger characters that were on that leg, that's not to say that there have not been some tensions between a couple of the crew! I am pleased to say that me and my motherwatch partner won the coveted Delia award for our beef casserole, with honey and balsamic glazed carrots and roast potatoes and so far, I have not been awarded the Hanker award on this leg, although it has been close a couple of times particularly for the photo that I wanted to submit to Clipper to accompany my crew blog about the toilets! It was censored by the skipper!! (Everyone else thought it was hilarious but he was quite right, Clipper would not have put it on their website, but don't worry, it will appear here in due course!) So , onward to Cape Town and from there to Australia. Really looking forward to seeing the family again and celebrating Josie's 18th birthday in Cape Town.