MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!! We have got through some hard stuff and life after capsize feels a whole lot more positive. It was the worst thing that could have happened at the time, but that event seems to have marked a turning point in terms of the weather and mood. We were more worried about our families than ourselves after that incident. Having spoken to them they all sound like they are bearing up very well – especially considering what we are putting them through. We have gone from the absolute low of capsizing to our current situation which is good weather, a working auto-helm and finally reviving the antenna on our communications kit. My role is not only to row but crucially to deliver the on-board media and having that job and still being able to do it is very motivating. It’s great to be able to get this story out there. It doesn’t feel like Christmas but I am sure that it is effecting us subconsciously. I feel that it has put us on edge a bit, in the back of my mind it seems that all of us are missing friends and family. At 2pm today we sat down with our Christmas hats and had a nip of whisky. We also exchanged presents – watch out for our next photo-shoot! Of the presents opened so far, James was given some women’s underwear by a mystery supporter. Hmmm.
My lowest ebb
Now for the many of you who have been following you would think that the worst was over but I can tell you that it was the night after capsize was the worst for me so far. Throughout the night, just as I got off shift the auto-helm would start malfunctioning. To fix it you have to be in the cabin and every time James took over the fixing and was I staying on deck to hand steer. Because of the chaos of the conditions and the challenges of operating at night on one occasion I got back out, smock on back to front with no other clothes on. The problem reoccurred a number of times before I then finally managed to get back into the cabin for an uninterrupted sleep. Just before I nodded off I checked our shipping alert system only to note a red warning message saying ‘DANGER IMMINENT COLLISION’. Bloody hell!!!James took over the radio and now I was back out on deck gripping the emergency hand steering. I was completely naked apart from my pants and attempting to steer a safe course (which was probably not going to make any difference anyway) whilst getting drenched by torrential rain. Hand-steering in my pants with a tanker on collision course – that should put you off your Christmas turkey!
Putting it all in perspective
Despite all of these little blips, the weather has immediately lifted the mood and we actually get a chance to talk to each other now. The shifts have been so exhausting and conditions have been so tough up until now we have just been getting off shift and getting to sleep as quickly as possible. We barely spoke to each other for the first week. So how did I start my Christmas day? Well I got knocked off my rowing seat this morning by yet another rogue wave. On one shift we counted 11 ejections between Scott and I. Scott said it was worse than being in Afghanistan. If you are not a bit scared that probably means that you don’t appreciate the gravity of your situation so at least this is a positive fear.
With our new position at 30 degrees West the moon rise is getting later so we often don’t have moonlight until mid-night. It’s often pitch black for hours and like in Top Gun ‘we are flying on instruments’. The nights are a blessing sometimes though, they are just amazing when you have a clear sky. Scott and I look or Orion’s belt and stuff like that. I had never seen a moonrise before this trip. An experience like this does put things in perspective. It’s humbling to face up to this environment and that is a great thing. Hearing our supporters say they are proud of us means a huge amount. Thank you to all of you at home, especially our friends and families – you keep us going.
Merry Christmas from all the crew,