Working on a yacht on a long passage such as the one im on now, can get quite tedious if you let it.
Different boats have different systems for how the shifts will run. The larger your crew the easier it is too, as you will only have to do every 3rd or 4th shift.
Being light handed as we are now, with only 2 of us aboard, means that we are one shift on.. one shift off.. 24 hours a day… for as many days as it takes for us to get there.
In this case.. the trip to madagascar alone will take between 10 and 14 days, and the skipper has elected to make the shifts 6 hours each.
So every 6 hours.. i go get some rest.. and six hours later im watching the boat alone.
For the most part we only pass each other at the changing of shift.. or every now and then he, or i, will come to the bridge during down time and shoot the breeze a bit.
But other than those times, you are alone with the vast expanse of electric blue ocean in front of, and all around you.
Alone with the occasional flock of flying fish, or soaring sea bird. Alone with your thoughts, and a lot of time to kill.
Fortunately for me i have always been quite content to be left inside my head. Free to dream, think.. plan and scheme.
Some would say that i have already spent too much time in my own head.. and it has affected me socially… and its probably quite true.. though i do a decently adequate job of being sociable from time to time.. when i have to.
But even this internal dialogue is not enough to while away 12 hours on shift every single day. So you have to find ways to wind down the clock a bit.
When I get up in the morning i brush the old teeth.. release the tension in the bladder.. and pop upstairs to take my shift on.
This starts at 6 am everyday for me. First thing to do is to ascertain what sort of wind we have been given for the day to convert into propulsion, and then work out which way we would like to travel for the next 6 hours, then work out the best sail plan to get us sailing in the correct general direction of our ultimate destination.
Of course the path that youd like to sail is not always available to you… so you have to find the best compromise.. taking into consideration the wind direction and strength, the sea state and direction of travel of the swells, as well as direction and strength of the current. Then of course you also have to consider any obstacles or hazards.
Based on these factors you will work out a sail plan to help you achieve the optimal angle of travel so that you dont have to do too much travelling in the wrong direction.
Once you have all your sails up and trimmed… the boat is balanced and the autopilot is not having to work too hard to keep you on your intendef course, then its time to admire the sunrise.
I usually take pics of every sunrise and sunset when im on a boat, but sadly the sun has put on a very poor show out here in the indian ocean. At least as compared to the spectacles i was treated to in the southern Atlantic on our way to Brazil last year.
Its still nice to see that the sun hasnt forgotten to rise today though, and its always a welcoming sight after a long dark night at sea.
After the sun is safely up.. i look for as many creatures to say g’morning to as possible.
I look for any sign of the whales and dolphins.. but they have been very scarce since we left Africa side.
There will often be a bird or 2 bobbing about on the water, waiting for the sun to warm em up enough before they attempt to fly. Just like an old tractor… i dont think they enjoy a cold start.
The flying fish will be awake already.. dodging the tuna who is looking for a good breakfast, packed with omega 3, before work.
This ritual will usually kill the first hour as i gradually warm up to operating temperatute myself.
I kill another half hour trying to convince myself to start my daily exercise routine.. then i go back to staring at whatever wildlife im able to see for another half an hour before i actually get started.
My exercise ritual usually takes between half an hour and an hour.. depending on whether im working on strength, endurance or speed.
Right now i have a 100km cycle race looming large just after i get back…. so im trying to get the ol leg muscles used to the idea that they will be asked to do impossible things for me again soon.
I will typically do around 5 different exercises with varying amounts of reps.
Most of these are either calisthenic or resistance exercises, and require very little in terms of equipment, and can be done almost anywhere.
After ive finished hurting myself, i wait around till 9am. This is half way through the shift.. and to celebrate i have breakfast.
At the moment that is usually a ham and cheese sandwich with lots of onions and tomato.. with paprika, salt and mustard.
Onion breath in the middle of the ocean is not an issue at all so i pile em on thick!
I always save a piece of bread for the fish. After they and i have been fed.. all is good with the world.. and once i have decided there are no ships or other dangers… its time for a bit of daydreaming.
I have been told of, and shown some pics of a big steel yacht that is bobbing about in Madagascar.
The dude who used to own it im told, is nuttier than squirrel shit (in a good way) and has changed this once regal old ketch (2 masts) into something that very closely resembles a u-boat.
Who on eartb would try make a yacht look like a submarine?
I like him already!
Im a huge fan of the Mad Max movie franchise, and the other post apocalytic movie, Waterworld… and this boat would look equally at home in either of these movies.
I have been told that it may be available… and so i have been daydreaming about it for the last few days.
I have already planned exactly how i would modify it to make it a bit more user friendly without destroying its cool factor.
The previous owner was some sort of weird sailing genius (read crazy), who took a perfectly good and working boat… ripped all of everything out of it.. and i do mean everything.. including the motor and gearbox, navigation equipment etc. He also took off all the hatches (windows) and welded steel plate over them.. and then painted the entire thing, masts and all, matt black.
I know it sounds like a totally hairbrained scheme to anybody who knows anything about yachts… destroying a respectable yacht to create this monstrosity.. but this thing, and its back story, really speaks to me. Loudly.
But you would definitely have to be crazy.. or some sort of sailing genius to be able to sail this thing with no equipment, but more importantly.. with no motor.
I know that its definitely above my skill level.
The open sea i would have no issue with.. but docking and undocking such a beast under sail power alone really blows my mind.
So now i sit around daydreaming about what i would need to do to it to make it suitable for me and my intended purposes. Finding adventure in far away lands.
This daydreaming about a pirate boat i have never met.. but am already in love with, can easily consume at least 2 hours of a long shift.
After i shake myself out of la la land.. i get myself an orange to eat. They are not the easy peeling type.. so this takes longer than usual.. but its the ritual thats cathartic.. not the eating of the actual fruit.
Its always a good thing to keep scurvy at bay when youre sailing though.
Then its into the engine room to check out the motors fluids and general well being. Engine coolant. Check.. Oil levels for motor and gearbox.. check. All worm drive clamps for fuel and water system… check. Any oil leaking in the bilge… check.
Our 2 motors potentially hold our lives in the palms of their non-existant hands.. so it is important that we ensure they are in tip top shape at all times.
The skipper looks after the motor on his side of the boat.. and i check up on mine daily.
The last part of my first shift is spent writing. Either this blog.. or a piece of stand up comedy that i may want to try out at a later stage.. they all get jotted down on my trusty telephone.
Hopefully ready to be posted when i hit the island.
I may not be a lazy writer.. but i most certainly am a lazy editor.. so most of these posts will be first draft affairs.. bar the corrections i have to do to all the THE and THEIR words, which since my phone updated itself 2 weeks ago.. my keyboards insists i have typed TGE and TGEIR instead.
What a clever piece of technology. Not!
1800 hours and im back on the bridge. Ive just had six hours of down time… which today consisted of a little reading.. a little writing.. dozing off a few times.. watching a few episodes of the inbetweeners.. and watching the boat tv.. which in this case is the escape hatch in my cabin.
This is designed to be used in the event that the boat flips upside down, so that you can climb out of the overturned boat through these hatches on the bottom side of the hulls.
The reason im watching them is because of the colour of the water. Its a mezmerizing shade of blue. The agua is absolutely crystal clear.. and every time a swell comes over it i can see under the water. Kind of like putting a set of goggles onto the boat.
Im also watching to see if i can catch a glimpse of a powerful tuna in action.. or maybe a whale on his way to work… but so far.. nada. But ill check again tomorrow.
I also killed some of my off time today rubbing kagilia.. the sausage plant extract that my Botswana mates gave me.. onto my now badly burned legs as well as my bright red beak.
I had said that i would try the kagilia out and i thought id give it a real test.. but these 7th degree burns i now have are probably not treatable by any bush medicine. I always manage to take a thing too far. Damn me!
So now im back on duty.. and we are now motoring again as the wind is not being kindly to us… again.
But the sea state is nice and calm so we are making good way on only one motor.
Tomorrow we are expecting a good wind shift so we should be able to fly up the madagascar coast… which i still have not been able to spy.
We are at the moment only about 35nm aways from Europa island in the middle of the Mozambique channel.. but i cannot see that either.. no matter how intently i peer at the horizon.
My evening ritual has already begun.. i have put on one fleecey top already.. and in a half hour i will put on my hiking jacket.. which is sort of wind resistant.
I have also bought my Delorme satellite communicator up. I will switch this on just now and get in touch with the world.. see whats cooking back home.
Maybe check to see how Easy is going.. and also try to get a wind and weather forecast for tomorrow.
This is quite a good way to kill 2 hours… and 2 hours is all i have on a set of batteries.
This thing eats batteries like whales eat krill. Very fast, and in bulk.. but it does have to send and receive a signal from outer space… so i guess a few dead batteries is a small price to pay for such a cool piece of technology.
I have to make sure i keep aside at least 6 sets of batteries in case of an emergency so i only use one set per day.
This shoukd take me up to round about half past 8… so i only have 30 minutes to kill before im half way through my shift. Which means a celebration again.
Last night i treated myself to a bowl of ultra mel custard… tonight will be a bar of toffee which i will place in the freezer an hour beforehand.
Take that bad boy out.. smash it on a winch.. and you have a delightful sweet delicacy to use to extract the fillings from your teeth.. which you got because of other sweet delicacies youve eaten in the past.
I musnt joke… this is no place for a dental emergency.
The moon should be rising by that time. The moon rises have been really amazing the last few nights… which has slightly made up for the fact that there have not been many periods of clear sky so that i can stargaze.
This is one of my favourite hobbies and a large part of why i really enjoy these long distance sailing trips. There is no light pollution at all out here.. and the milky way is a veritable river of distant suns.
But if the stars will not twinkle for me.. then the sea creatures certainly will.
I stare for ages at the bio-luminescent creatures that flash their bright green phosphorescent lights as the boats bow wave disturbs them as we pass noisily by.
These were some of the first things that fascinated me out in the ocean at night.. and i have not stopped being fascinated yet.
After that i will daydream a bit about the boat i hope to one day have… and possibly it is the one i will be meeting for the first time in Madagascar.
It is my daydream.. so anything i like can happen in my head. The impossible made possible. This is the beauty of daydreaming.
But daydreaming also has its own power to manifest these things that we visualize strongly enough.
My life is living testament to that ability. The world is truly a strange and remarkable place.
All along i will also be on the lookout for shipping.. though we have hardly encoutered anything the entire trip.. and i have only had to take action to dodge one cargo ship thus far.
I will also be watching out for a windshift which will hopefully allow me to pull the sails out.. so we can travel on gods breath, and allow me to turn this infernal motor off as its shattering the peace and tranquility of this beautiful setting.
This sort of trip maybe doesnt sound like everybodys idea of fun… and im not sure i could do these longer stretches all the time either.. but for a break from the rat race every now and then.. this is the way i prefer to do it.
A trip like this is a total recalibration. There is loads of time available to be introspective… and grateful for all.
The beauty and might of the world really brings home the fact that you are not all you think you may be.
The scale of the sky and the vastness of the ocean and the raw power contained therein.. combined with the massive capabilities of the wind.. and the constant threat of disaster… really reminds you that you are just a speck of dust on the back of a raging bear.. that could swat you off this mortal coil at any time if it feels the slightest inclination.
To even say that we are ants at this picnic would be to greatly elevate our status far beyond what influence we actually are able to weild.
We dig out a mountain here and there.. build a few skyscrapers, and assume we are the masters of our environment.. but just as the world showed us during the recent Mexico quakes.. the bear has but to shake itself a bit and the fleas drop off.
Do not take your place on this planet for granted.. ever.
We are but tourists visiting for a short while.
Make sure you take in all the beauty while you can. Cause no holiday lasts forever.