Well, having come last the only way is up (thanks Yazz!). It’s good to be back on the water and making fast progress to Rio. We were made to feel very welcome in Madeira, even having the president of the Island come to our prize-giving and providing us with amazing canapés and a free bar, he must have known the way to our hearts. I guess he also wasn’t too busy that evening as the island is only 50 miles long by 20 miles wide. Our boat didn’t get to see the island as we had too much to do on the boat, only Hector, our Mascot, made it on the island tour.
We’re currently sailing downwind, almost straight south to Rio. There are a couple of tropical storms we need to avoid and of course the Doldrums to negotiate but other than that it’s head south and keep going just don’t hit the Canaries on the way past. We’ve a force 7 blowing from behind and some big waves so we’re surfing along. Bazza had the ride of his life as he helmed us down one large wave at a boat speed of 20 knots. He’s a smiley guy but this grin was the biggest I’ve seen yet. Our sails are set now for the next few days so it’s just chafe (the enemy!) on the ropes that we are looking out for and being alert to rogue waves which sneak up on you from behind and pour sea water down your back when you’re least expecting it and leave the helm fighting a bit to get the boat back under control. Other than that it’s just trim, trim, trim to get the tiny bits of speed that will make us faster than the other boats on this leg to Rio.
The way to Rio is paved with sweat…
Phew, I’m writing this at 3am as it’s the first time the temperature below deck has been bearable today. Much as I’m all for the positive mindset and all that, I did have a minor blip this afternoon after lunch. I usually look forward to our daylight off-watches as this is normally a time when we can get some personal time and a nice long sleep, however, today was just a bit challenging. The further towards Rio we get the hotter the boat gets. It’s around 35 degrees at the moment inside the boat during the day. With no air conditioning that’s a bit of a challenge. Just imagine if that was at home – perhaps 2 of you in the house, all the windows and doors open, cold drinks (wine/beer – yum!) in the fridge, sleeping just under a cotton sheet, cool showers to refresh in – sounds quite pleasant, yes? Well, there are 18 of us in a tin can (well it’s fibreglass really but you get the gist!) with little ventilation, tepid squash, a weekly shower per person and sleeping bags designed for colder climes. Outside it’s even hotter when the sun beats down and little/no shade. So I had a tepid Haribo wash (you’ve no idea how much joy can be gained from a 1/3 full Haribo sweetie pot! – I also forgot a face cloth so I’m using a cut up tea towel as a cloth), even before I had my clothes back on I was sweating again. I got into my bunk – sleeping bag firmly closed, me lying on top of it and on top of the silk liner, showing my very attractive sports bra and Bridget Jones knickers to all that would care to look on the way past (matching colours though!). I managed about 2 hours of very uncomfortable sleep before having to extract myself from the sleeping bag liner that had now stuck to me with my own sweat as I made my way to the galley for water. ‘Manage your state’ was a phrase I was ready to throttle by around 4pm!
The rest of daily life carries on as normal in the heat. We are flying the spinnaker and trying to tease every last bit of boat speed from ‘The Purple Beastie’ as we move up the rankings. We’re heading for the scoring gate and hoping for the best. The shoals of flying fish that appear every few hours are beautiful to see, as is the sparkling Atlantic as the sun bounces off it. Less beautiful are some of the more naked bodies around the boat. As the heat soars and people try to sleep and work below, more flesh appears. I passed the engine today in time to see Keith leaning into it in just his shorts to perform a routine engine check. Let me help with a little mental picture for you – since Keith has grown his beard this trip he shows a remarkable resemblance to Gimley (hope I have the character’s name right here?) the short stocky chap in Lord of the Rings. Keith even has the same walk and personality – stomp, stomp, stomp and full of gruff grumpiness on the outside but inside a heart of gold and real care for others.
Add to all of the above the joy of one shower a week and what more could a girl ask for – a shower that works perhaps? Picture this – Our shower is a hand held tap hose that is used in the port head. You step into the head, zip down the door, take everything off, look for places you can put your clothes so that they won’t get wet, stand on the floor grate and turn the tap on with great expectation for your weekly shower – except this time there was no water to be had. So, towel round body, I extracted myself from the shower and went to seek help. Our skipper came to the rescue only to inform me that there was a broken wire under the kitchen sink – I wasn’t about to bend down to have a look and fortunately David came to my rescue and quickly fixed it but not without me having to stand just outside the heads in my towel for 10 minutes. Ordinarily who would see this? However, on a 68 foot boat full of 18 people and from my position outside the heads I could see the helm, the saloon, the nav station, the galley, the Ritz, it was all to play for!!
So what else have we been doing other than sleeping, mother watch and sailing? – The list of boat fixing jobs is endless so when the weather and sea state permits we have been doing those. Most recent of which has been fashioning an anti-wrap net from some very large red stockings and gaffer tape. Our frugal Scottish skipper likes a bit of a Heath Robinson approach to things, so after a bit of stitching here and there and a bit of ironing of gaffer tape (I kid you not!) we hoisted our red stocking, only to see all the gaffer tape peel off. Oh well, at least it flies and is preventing our spinnaker from getting wrapped.
I suspect the way to Rio will be paved with even more sweat as we get closer to the equator – bring it on!