04 February 2003

Keeping calm in heavy seas

2.30 pm
Just letting you know we're still chugging away. Sea still looks very rough when you look out of the windows but it has lost the aggression that was knocking us about. We are now at 45.5n 8.09w and doing about 5.5 knots. Are now about six hours behind schedule because of storm.
We are about 160 miles off Finisterre so we should be there for breakfast tomorrow. Will then change to southerley course. The wind is expected to come round to nw so should be over our right shoulder which will give us good speed to Gibralta. That should take about another two days. We are going to keep close to the African coast for good tides and warm winds. Still intending calling at Valetta.
David has some lunch but rushed straight back to bed. However, he has just been up for an hour and we've all had a chat and a joke around the mess table. Good to see him smiling again. Stuart is doing well- sleeps like a top and eats like a horse. John H., of course, takes it all in his stride
though he has had difficulty sleeping.

I've definitely got my sea legs and even joined the crew's ritual 10 am beer this morning. Crew are absolutely brilliant and I think we have all fallen in love with Barbara (the boat). We've just
overhauled a Dutch vessel of the same size - left her in a cloud of dust - that can't be right!
Coming up to the separation zones as we go past Finisterre. Had to report position and cargo and destination to the authorities and then heard a captain being fined for going the wrong way up the one way street!
Sea is pretty calm now just a scattering of white tops. David has had a shower and shave and looks human again. Playing happily with his laptop linked to a wap mobile. We all had breakfast together for the first time today.
Mealtime is worth telling you about. Probably obvious to anyone who sails but you have to remember to put the non-slip mat on the table, leave empty glasses upside down and be ready to catch them when the boat rolls. Never put cutlery, even when it is dirty, on a plate. Always put milk marmalade tomato sauce, salt pepper etc in the racks around the table immediately you finish with them. Don't ever try to get the milk out of the fridge - that requires a level of
skill far beyond the average land-lubber. you leave that to the chef who will spend several seconds looking out of the port and starboard windows until he has the measure of the sea, when he deftly swings open the door, extracts the milk, closes the door, picks up your dinner, and walks calmly across the floor at an angle varying from vertical to 45 degrees to the mess where he serves it with reverence and then watches me pick it up and spill it. Even with all these
precautions the floor is often liberally scattered with a mixture of broken crockery, lager and peppercorns.

5.00 a.m.
We are now at 44.17N 9.13W about 60 miles from Finisterre. Sea much calmer and as predicted, the wind has come round to our right shoulder, for want of a better nautical term 11. Speed has increased to just over 9 knots so we should be off Finisterre by 11 am today. We will then change course to due south and should be making 10 to 12 knots to Gib. So about two days from Finisterre. Less if all goes well.
David cheered up a lot yesterday evening and spent half an hour in the wheelhouse. He finds it physically very draining and feels safer lying down.
I had a bad fall yesterday. Was just picking up stuff which had spilt across our bedroom floor when I trod on a nylon coat just as the boat pitched. My feet shot up in the air and I landed on
my coccyx on the sharp wooden corner of my bunk. Thought I had done something serious but it’s just a bruise.
I was in the wheelhouse chatting with Heine (capt.) early yesterday evening. Sea was moderate but the boat suddenly pitched and there was a different sort of bang from usual. I thought nothing of it because things are always banging. Heine was up in a flash out onto the side deck where he found 4 x 45 gallon drums of engine oil had broken loose from their lashings. I ran down to get the others then watched as they battled to control them and lash them down. Let’s you see how
the other half live. It took about 15 minutes. An awful lot of weight in each on a rolling boat. One barrel had alrewady crashed through the railings into the sea before Heine got there.
Hopefully the worst of the weather is behind us and we've just got the real job to do now. I'm glad we are flying back. I would not want to do The Bay of Biscay in a force 11. Approaching 9 was plenty.
John Hingley (team member) has been fishing in an 11 in his youth. Hurricane Hingley they call him. Stuart (team member) is in his element now. We discovered a huge supply of English videos in the boat library so with crates of lager in every cupboard and choice of two video rooms there is always something to do.
I have not felt like risking a drink since the vomit and have had a pounding head for the last 24 hrs. I think it’s a combination of no alcohol, coffee or tea detox symptoms.