Massive seas. Auto-helm steering suspended. Oar broken. Soaking wet. Pitch black. As skipper of the boat, my number one responsibility is safety and we have had to be vigilant for the last few days because it has been extremely rough. It’s sensory overload. This kind of experience means that the little safety details could easily be forgotten, and I am monitoring crew safety particularly closely now.
With massive following seas we have been forced to disable the automatic steering. Sticking blindly to a straight course would be too risky in these conditions. We are balancing taking the right direction to our destination with the complying with the direction of the waves around us.
The waves have been crashing over the deck which means that anything that is not tied down can be washed away. I fear that a couple of items went AWOL last night. However, since I can’t see the end of my outstretched arm in the dark its not been easy to tell what has happened until the light comes up the next day. Last night we snapped an oar. Who knows how it happens, you can’t see much at all. At least we have 3 spares!
Last week we were crawling along at a snails’ pace. Now we have the opposite problem - we almost need to slow ourselves down. The key thing is to maintain direction with the waves - we have a long rope ready in the cabin in case we need to trail it over the back of the boat. This allows us to keep a good course on the wave without being turned size on.
Skipper’s new regime
Currently the only rowers are Cayle and Scott. Mark and I are having to steer and keep watch as far as that is possible. The auto-helm will be brought back to life when conditions calm down but for now it’s back to the old fashioned method.
Routine has been disjoined and we are eating cold, wet rations. It is foul. All of our wet rations are Army issue and these cater for times like the water-maker breaking or in this case the inability to cook safely.
Being a team
Many would imagine that there are special measures for Scott or Cayle but we have started this on an equal level and everyone continues to play a critical role. We share responsibilities for cooking, administration and we rowing all as equals.
I haven’t had much of a chance to reflect other than to simply observe life on board. It has been different from what I expected. The nice tropical weather and naked rowing conditions have failed to materialise thus far. We are rowing in thermals, gloves, waterproofs, oilskins, warm hats and headtorches. It’s still quite cold at times. It comes as no surprise to hear that yesterday featured a third boat withdrawal from the fleet.
Water is everywhere, but the guys are coping really well.