Bermudes 1000 - Time in slow motion
Have I really only been out here for 5 days? It feels a lot longer. Time does funny things when you are alone on a boat and today seems to have stretched out immeasurably.
The action today started with a wind shift. The night had been blustery, cold and wet so I was sat in the cuddy, occasionally popping on deck to check the gooseneck and scan the sails with a torch. The rest of the time I dozed, watching the numbers on my instruments, waiting for the shift I knew was coming but hoped not too soon.
When the wind changed direction it did so quickly and it was time to tack Superbigou and make what I hoped would be my final run south to our virtual mark. Tacking was going to take some time and some planning. I have set up quite a system of ropes and lashings to keep the gooseneck in place and stop the mast from rotating to leeward if the pin does pop out. All of these needed to be undone then replicated on the other tack. This manouvre would take some time.
The tack itself was swift, I am now getting used to throwing this 60fter around like it is a dinghy. Sure it takes a bit more effort to haul in the sails, but the boat is responsive and I am learning where to be and when to pull which rope for maximum effect. During the tack the pin worked a bit loose again so I worked for a further two hours setting up the gooseneck and safety systems before we could let the hand brake off again.
The rest of the day we have made gentle progress south, the sun came out, my solar panels are now mounted on deck and my bones feel a little less damp, drinking in an albeit weakly warm sun. The wind is not strong, it's changing direction often and the swell making progress difficult. I have needed to make constant adjustments to the keel angle, sail shape and steering angle. The boat just won't settle and it's not been a relaxing day. The waypoint doesn't seem to be getting any closer and time is stuck in slow motion. Looking ahead it only seems to be getting worse with incredibly light winds around the virtual mark, I think it will be at least another day before I can turn around and head for home. Though the course mileage has not changed, every day I stay out here without a permanent solution to my gooseneck problem is an extra day I am hyper vigilant and carrying the extra burden of what could go wrong. I am stuck between hoping for more wind to get me home quicker or being happy with less which will put less pressure on the rig but keep me out here for longer. In the end, I have to settle for what I have got – work with it and keep everything together. Just finish the race.
Many hours a day can also get sucked up with routine chores and maintenance. I have crawled through every compartment on the boat, emptying water and checking for things that don't look right. There are a few leaks that need addressing but on the whole, it was quite dry down below. I am getting better at contorting my body through small holes in the frames which the boat is bucking around. I remember the first time I crawled through below decks while the boat was sailing I felt terrified at the notion something would go wrong on deck and I would be stuck in one of the dark little caves below decks, unable to get out and powerless to take corrective action. Now it feels completely normal to be jogging along at ten knots with the sound of the water rushing by while I crawl through the labyrinth with my head torch on. I trust the boat more, I am more confident in my autopilots and the ability of the boat to withstand any mishaps, but also out in the middle of the ocean it is way easier to spot trouble coming from a long way off.
While competing in this race I have been sharing my journey with a group of school children from Fairlight Primary in Brighton. They have been studying the impact of single use plastics on our environment and during the race. I have been sending them reports about my progress, logging any wildlife and pollution I see along the way. Happily most of what I have shared has been wildlife related, I think it's a real privilege to engage with the oceans in the way that I do and it's important to share the raw and staggering beauty of our environment in a positive way that helps young people feel ownership of our natural world. Today though a whole heap of plastic sheeting actually got washed over the boat and I was sorry to send the picture back to them instead of a dolphin or seabird. These children have already completely engaged with the problems caused to our environment by our current habits involving single use plastics and their generation will doubtless be the ones to make big changes. I am staggered how engaged and willing to make a difference these children already are – they want to make a difference.
Through logging pollution I am simply making what they already know real, I am not changing them just bringing context in a different way. But I also think it is important to share with them the amazing beauty of the oceans – and to help them feel a guardianship towards this breath taking natural world. I am humbled by the fact that year 4 primary school children are so engaged with the plastics problem and are all taking direct action.... and I who have sailed and loved this watery world.