Mon 8th Feb
Sat in the saloon (or as Molly would have it – the front room of our Victorian terrace) wedged against the bulkhead hanging on tightly to the laptop as it repeatedly dances across the table heading for the far wall. The reason I’ve put myself here when I could be sleeping is to try and capture what it really means to be crossing the Southern Oceans in a 67ft yacht. It’s a difficult ask, Molly compared it to Christmas with all your in-laws in a tiny Victorian terrace house, I might suggest it’s more akin to a family break in a caravan with a wonky wheel and a leaking roof………
Just to pick up on some more of Mollys’ observations from yesterday, we are now settled into a relatively ‘slick’ routine where everyone instinctively knows what needs to be done to make the boat function and lives on board that bit more bearable. That said the routine is a demanding one that saps strength and tests resilience on a daily basis. Just getting out of your bunk after the on watch ’terror shake’, can be a mission in itself , as Matt discovered this afternoon, emerging with a bloody nose after an altercation with his cabin door (at least that’s what he’s claiming gave him the nosebleed). The next challenge is getting dressed for the Antarctic in a wildly pitching cabin. Thermal base layers, are followed by a fleece of some description and then for most people either the excellent Shackleton woolly jumper or the white submariners jumper of WWII vintage. Say what you like, but wool really is warmer than any high-tech manmade fibre and there’s something comforting about looking like an extra from ‘The Cruel Sea’ as you make your way up top. Having managed all of this without knocking yourself out, it’s time for the Musto mid-layer which is effectively a big furry baby-grow for adults. Next, a Musto mid-layer Jacket, or a down smock and on top of that comes the Gortex salopettes and ocean Foulie jacket then Two hats, neck warmer and gloves or mitts to complete the picture. By this time you’re in a race to get to the upper deck before you overheat or sea sickness claims you. If it’s a watch change at a meal timing you’ve got a decision to make; eat down below in the warmth and risk not holding your lunch down, or eat on deck in the cold and wind and risk scattering your lunch over the southern Oceans…… either option brings much hilarity to the rest of the team when it goes wrong. Shady opted to combine the two today, slipping as the boat hit a particularly big swell and throwing warm soup and burrito all over himself and most of the galley………
As you may have picked up on from my previous blog, good food is central to all of our morale, but making it does not come easy. For starters the cooks face the constant challenge of a heaving deck and no horizon to combat sea sickness and the extra heat of a confined galley. On top of that there is the constant task of discovering all of Stephen’s secret hiding places. Food for 40 days for 12 people takes up a significant amount of space and rations are crammed into every conceivable hidey-hole on the boat. Fresh vegetables are under the floor in the rear of the saloon, cheese and pasta packed next to the bilge pump, Tinned tomatoes and yeast for bread making behind the mid-cabin seats, and biscuits rather suspiciously, in the Commander’s cabin………. Once cooking starts it’s a a game of chess trying to balance the right pans on the right burners at the right time and you can guarantee anything you put down on a flat surface, won’t be there any more just a moment later. All of this has to be completed while doing an abdominal work out just to hold yourself in place.
All of us are distinctly aware of the stark comparisons with Shackleton’s crossing to South Georgia and fully appreciate the extreme hardships he and his crew endured, but as they grew and learned from their experiences, so too are we. Adventurous Training is about proving to yourself that you can find a way through difficult situations and that you can then draw on the experiences to help you through tough times on operations; whether it’s repeatedly dragging ourselves up onto a bucking upper deck in the freezing cold of the southern oceans or stealing ourselves to two hours trapped below in a hot heaving galley despite the sea sickness, we are all learning where to find that little extra motivation and that additional hard core of resilience that will no doubt stay with us long after we return to the UK.
In a final correction to the last blog ‘Mimicry is they say the highest form of flattery…………. there is only one Alpha watch on this boat…….!