My greetings and salutations to all four corners of
the known Earth,
T'was the depth of night in Komaleland and
something stirred inside its troglodite abode. Homo burgensis, the last
surviving non-human homanid on Earth awoke from a deep slumber. It looked from
side to side, then out of its cave - as it did every time it woke up - and then
lay back with a sigh. Mustering the will to move its tired muscles, he rose and
poked his head out of his dark cavern and into the night. He let out a grunt,
for Homo burgensis has barely the weakest grasp upon the rudiments of spoken
language. His smell is foul, due in part to his high protein diet and in part
due to his appalling hygeine; he is very large and brutish and covered head to
toe in thick mats of hair.
"Conditions are much the same, see you in an
I hope this finds you all well, we are experiencing
far more favourable winds, force 4 ENE, but our speed is still being frustrated
by highly confused seas: The bulk of the waves (there is very little swell, only
surface waves) are going with the wind, but there is a consistent wave
travelling almost due North, and another travelling almost due South! The
combined effect is that we are getting thrown about like a rag-doll and making
about 1.5kts progress, no matter what we do!
James' depression deepens each day we lose miles,
to the extent that last night he seemingly began to fantasize about big waves
and impressive boat speeds. On two shifts changes i appeared from the cabin to
find James in a state of excitement:
"It's nuts out here, nuts, loads of big waves and
I'd then quickly tie myself on to the boat so as
not to be knocked over by one of those huge waves James was talking about and
look at the GPS. On each occasion he had barely rowed 1.5kts and the sea state
was identical to the previous few hours! I didn't say anything though until this
morning when i came out after James had rowed the dawn shift (currently
"Alright mate? How is it?"
"Really good, we're going to have done our best
mileage in weeks!"
"No we're not, if we're lucky we'll scrape past 38
miles by 12." James looked amazed. "Don't you look at the mileage on the
"Not really, no."
I was utterly speechless. In case any of you
haven't yet been out and bought it, there are still a few remaining copies of
the first edition of Captain James Burge's Guide to Ocean Navigation, the second
edition will be released in the Spring if you miss the boat on this
One of the most common themes in emails we have
received from home has been people congratulating James on his wit and
eloquence. Friends, colleagues and even his own family have been amazed at his
literary abilities! James very rarely asks me how to spell one word or other, in
fact if ever he looks up from his typing it's normally for something much more
"Niall, i need another Mexican name!"
Soon followed by:
"Niall, i need one more!"
"How do you spell that?"
"Ha ha!! This is going to be superb!"
As happy as he is that people are appreciating his
abilities as a writer, James is a little perturbed that he has quite evidently
left a lasting impression of stupidity upon everyone he has met! I've tried to
explain that this is largely because of his appearance: Eyes close together,
small cranium, mouth hanging ajar; all these tend to be indicators of imbecility
(and go some way to explaining why i have such an outlandishly large head: all
the better for thinking with my dear!).
I explained to James the Victorian theory of
Phrenology, whereby someone's intelligence and civility could be ascertained by
examination of the shape of his cranium, which was unfortunately used to
separate humans into a descending order of civilization, with white western
europeans (surprisingly!) at the top, followed by the ever-increasingly more
primitive savages, as the Victorians saw fit to say, and how by this method he
would have been categorised along with the Welsh as a very lowly
The mistake people make with James is to mix up
lack of intelligence with lack of interest, James can quite easily comprehend
most of what i say to him, he just has no interest in it. This leaves me to hold
wild political debates alone in the dead of night! My brain is a coalition
government with the Tories to the right and the Whigs to the left. Last night
they were engaged in a fiercesome debate over the White Paper produced by my
right hemisphere on how to deal with the ASBO problem: Where ASBOs and
electronic tagging have failed, this new Catch, Neuter, Release Programme is
sure to succeed!
This does actually have a point: What do James and
I talk about out here? We don't actually talk that much, we have 12 hours of
light, during which James sleeps 2 shifts and i sleep 1 and bits of 2 others,
leaving 8 possible hours for communication. While we're emailing we're
unlikely to chat much, so that leaves about 4 hours, during which i like to read
and James likes to watch Transformers on his ipod touch! But we do get the
chance to chat every now and then. Both of us naturally miss female company, and
this is a frequent topic of conversation; being British (i am actually British,
despite appearances!) we talk about the weather a good deal; James likes to talk
about what he's going to do when he gets back, especially for the first few days
after his return; i tell stories about my friends a lot; we occasionally talk
sport; we talk about how random our MP3 player is; we naturally discuss our
progress; we talk about the other competitors, all of whom we have an enormous
amount of respect for and some of whom we are highly fond of!; we talk about the
wildlife; we talk about the puppies James is going to buy; we talk about our
bodily functions and state of our backsides and we talk at great length
about the vile nature of our food. We don't talk about Antigua much, though i'm
sure that will change as we get within touching distance of it.
Right, i shall leave you all there as it's my turn
to get back on the oars and James' turn to have his afternoon nap. Our food bags
today are full of crap, so James is likely to miss a couple of meals again (we
have a huge pile of food that James hasn't eaten!) and i'm going to have to
struggle through some foul excuse for a meal. The Raven foods proudly say that
they contain no artificial flavours, which under normal circumstances might be
all well and good but when you freeze dry food and store it for months a little
bit of flavour wouldn't go amiss thanks chaps!
The next time i write, we should be within 1000nm
of Antigua, goodness only knows how long that will take us, but it's a nice
My regards to all of your partners,