THE DOLDRUMS (e-mailed23/08/11)

Well the Doldrums aren’t quite what I had imagined. I was expecting beautiful sunshine, us being so hot and the water being so calm that we’d be swimming round the boat and that, when the odd squall came through, we’d be showering in the snake pit laughing and trying to decide how much clothing was appropriate to wear yet still being able to get clean. I couldn’t have been further wrong with the exception of the heat!

Today for example we have been sailing up wind at an angle of about 30 degrees and trying to maintain a course in the right direction. The sea has been rather lumpy to say the least and things have been a bit whoa, a bit whahey, a bit splishy and a bit splashy – not at all what I had on order. I came on watch at 6am for us to have a soggy physical workout for 6 hours. We started with getting the number 1 Yankee down and bringing the number 2 up on deck – no mean feat in the dark, past the sleeping off watch and through the small entrances on the boat. After hanking on the number 2 we put a reef in the main then hoisted the number 2 just in time to see her working sheet fly free. Oh joy, we dropped her again re-attached the working sheet, hoisted her again ( I hope you’re keeping up here with all the sailing terminology?). No rest for the wicked though, it was on with hoisting the staysail only to drop it due to the wind strength 30 mins later. My wonderfully imagined snake pit shower was more of a torrential downpour which soaked through our clothes and into our underwear in seconds (those of you that know me well or have been in the outdoors with me will know that dry is good, completely immersed is good but being damp just makes me grump, especially wet underwear (no laughing!), however, this was so soaking wet it was amusing – we couldn’t have been any wetter had we gone for a swim), blinding us in the process and making communication even harder over the wind and now rain too. If it wasn’t rain we were being drowned by it was huge waves breaking over the boat as she flew through the air and into another wave. Even in the second torrential downpour we didn’t manage a wash although it was lovely to be dripping in fresh water for a short time as opposed to sea water or sweat. You couldn’t manufacture this experience or the camaraderie that my watch had along with it. We laughed and smiled our way through the very wet, physically exhausting roller coaster ride and as soon as we had had some soup for lunch we were off to bed which is where I should be now. So off to a very sweaty and bumpy sleep I go. I don’t expect there will be much sleeping like a baby – I’ll be clinging on for grim death to stop me falling out of my bunk and drowning in my own sweat – what more for could I ask for? Let’s just hope the southern ocean doesn’t turn out as I’ve imagined either and that it’s a champagne cruise all the way!

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