Simon's Lay Day and the Search for Cheeki Rafiki

Simon Ridley
Fri 23 May 2014 00:38
LAT 38.31 N LON 49.05 W
“If I were you I should get some sleep.” Skipper said to me. Admittedly, it was a welcome relief. We’d been hit by a little rain and I was exhausted from staring out into the darkest night we’ve had yet. We’d spent the day hammering it up to get ourselves well into the search area. The day had given us blessed weather; a summer day by all accounts, with perfect vision to assist the search. Simon and I were on watch, and the conditions had deteriorated considerably. As I scuttled off we were pulling about half a knot and Gertha was being thrown about in a horrible boil of water. Skipper seemed strangely calm. When I got below deck I crossed paths with Mauritz.
“How you doing?” I asked as I began to peel off my water-logged gear. He responded more or less inaudibly, with some reference to being tired. Up he went. I wobbled my way to my bed, and as I peeled off the last of my gear I heard Simon saying something really rather clearly about God and reproduction. Turns out, the boom had just skimmed his head. He ducked out of the way, anticipating her return swing, at which point Mauritz, keen-eyed and on-the-ball as ever, reached out to stop his skipper from going over board. He held his overalls. Simon’s exclamations referred once again to that god of reproduction and firmly told Mauritz that he didn’t want any holding. Morning Mauritz Winking smile
To me, the rest of this was just smashing, metallic banging, rattling and swearing that was keeping me from my hard-earned sleep. Turns out, a fairly integral shackle had popped a spring and sent some rigging on the loose, nearly knocking skip and Mauritz overboard. That would have been an interesting awakening for Emma and I.
It was a rough night for Simon, who was apparently on his lay day. Due to the search-and-rescue operation at hand he’d spent most of his lay day making sure we arrived well into the search area, which we did. In all honesty, it was a rough night for all, with extremely inclement conditions and terrible visibility. This was difficult to take considering we were searching for the Cheeki Rafiki. All credit to our skipper and Maurtiz for getting us there in good time and working so hard through such difficult condition in the night as Emma and I rested up.
Today couldn’t have been more opposite. Our dampened spirits were dried off in the beautiful sunshine, visibility was more or less perfect and from nowhere Emma cooked one of the greatest lasagnes I have ever experienced. Our sail matched the asymmetry of the night and day, and we’d been cruising along at a good speed in the search area.
The messages of support that have come through in response to our contribution to the search really have been warmly received. Thank you to all! Last night, in such ghastly conditions it was difficult to remain positive. Simon has been talking to the BBC as well, with an update on our contribution to the search.
During one of the interviews we were joined by a small, playful pod of dolphins who jollied for a while around the boat. A beautiful little calf gave us a small acrobatic show.
We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day for searching today, but sadly we were unable to see anything. Nothing came our way. It is with a great sadness that Gertha has to stand down from our part in the search. We have a broken propeller, which means we are unable to motor, and a limited supply of provisions. The decision has not been taken lightly, but under the circumstances, staying much longer might mean that further down the line we would require assistance ourselves, which is of no use to anyone. Our love and hope go out to the families of those lost and we are listening out keenly for positive news.
We had heard some radio chatter from both US and UK search and rescue teams, and we know too that other ARC vessels are bound for the search area. There is a large operation going on here, and we will very soon be replaced by more boats. That said, it is a sad and difficult decision to take and we are sorry that we never did see anything.