Wed 19 Mar 2008 10:00
After we rounded Bishop Rock - the South Western most point of the Britain, we spent a good few hours stemming tides and fighting against a wind directly from the direction in which we wanted to make ground! Frustration began to creep in to people but I never once heard "Are we there yet?" Watches came and watches went and I had a similar conversation with many on board - "what happens if this happens on the way to Greenland?" (we get there late ... and miss our flights - sailing is not an exact science!) "What happens if we get nasty weather like we have had?" (we have not really had any nasty weather so far - winds up to F7 and seas up to Moderate but all with a chilly northerly and easterly wind - anyway the answer is we dig deep and get through it together). "What if I feel sick on the next trip?" (You may well do but I have brought you sailing for 4 days and nights for a reason - from my experience many people are over their sickness by Day 4, waking up demanding food, drink and music, with a smile on their faces and conversation reappears in the saloon and cockpit)
And so to Day 4 (a day early for some). Let me explain; Emma has been our "sick-as-a-parrot crew member" on this trip so far. A really fun character and the only female aboard with a lot of foul smelling blokes. But it has been Emma who has led the "over-the-side" watch. She says its like being bolemic (I would not know from personal experience! It's a girl thing ...). Well over the last 18 hours the watch with Emma have been on Motherwatch. Andy Whitmore had them organised exceptionally well allowing each to take some extra rest from the 4 on 4 off watch system we are using. During the night the duty two (from 4) had to assist with sail changes in addition to clearing up after dinner for 14. And all this in a choppy sea on a blowy night in cold Western English Channel (on teh French side so I suppose it ought to be called La Manche). Well it still takes this novice crew longer than it should to changes sails - 90 minutes or longer is not uncommon given this is their first few days on a Challenge 67 and for some first days at sea ever.
After considerable effort the No 3 was down, the No 1 up, the reef shaken out, the staysail re-rigged, the yacht tacked ... you get the idea. Emma hit the sack. Bright early this morning she was up to help prepare breakfast alongside the indefatigable remainder of her watch. And - wait for it ... I caught her smiling. Then a few minutes later eating a little Ready Brek with jam (just like mum used to make ...) and now I can hear her laughing a little and music using my iPod and iTrip over the saloon stereo! So you see, her Day 4 has come a day early! And now maybe she will have faith that she can cope; there is an end to the sickness if you fight through; the I tell the truth ...; and that sailing is fun! I hope she keeps the faith and chooses not to forfeit her deposit!
Now what of our training achievements? Well there is a train of thought that says one needs to stay close in to land and teach all the basics until they are common practice and then move offshore to experience a different environment. That is fine for RYA syllabus stuff. But that is not how I started my sailing in 1987. I had given up my passionate pastime the previous summer - skydiving. I was looking for something to take its place and a friend suggested offshore sailing. Well we trained ashore over the winter and at Easter we set sail for the Channel Islands. I recall it vividly - it was a F8 gale, there was ice on the deck, the seas seemed huge, there were big ships all over the place, I felt like an intrepid explorer! I was hooked. And so 20 years later and now a Challenge 67 skipper I still have the same boyish enthusiasm and love to see the change people go through when they discover sailing out of their comfort zone. So to this trip to Greenland ... there is every opportunity for everyone to find themselves over the next few months. Several of those sailing with me this week have already completed a good number of "firsts". One chap who can not drive a car can now drive a 50-Tonne ocean going yacht. One person who wanted to frighten himself as a way of leaving his comfort zone - has done so and come through it stronger. One person who never thought the sickness would end has seen that it does! And the whole lot of them have worked together as a team.
And so MJ and I are happy people. A tidy ship is a happy ship; do it nice or do it twice; ... the skipper is looking chilled! All are somewhere on the road from unconscious incompetence; conscious incompetence; conscious competence; to unconscious competence!
Richard Quinlan :-)