It’s been a while since I finished my level 2 training and loads has happened between then and now. Christmas, New Year, Crew Brief, East Cheshire Hospice Winter Ball and just LIFE. But after seeing Ollie and Adam from my level 2 at crew brief on Saturday I realised the need to continue my tales from Level 2 just for the sake of my story.
Thanks Ollie for the kick up the bum to get on with this.
Ok, so I left off the story at the part, when, after the worst night of my life… Seasick, hot sweats and general Blurggggg! I woke up next day about 12.30pm in time for 1pm watch change over, starving hungry and full of beans and ready to face the day. The wind was still blowing hard and the other watch had had a busy morning sailing in good strong winds and a pretty heavy sea. They had done a headsail change to the smaller Yankee and put the first reef in the main. I had been aware of the weather and the waves from the warmth and comfort of my bunk but in the light of day their puke making powers had no hold on me. So there I am in my long johns and socks propped up in the galley stuffing my face full of lunch/ breakfast. Onboard this noontime, first meal of the day, definitely does NOT fall into the category of brunch as there was not an avocado or flat white in sight. Laurence who was my Mother Watch buddy had made the food and I was to clear it up and take over from her when she went off duty. When SPLASH just before watch change BOB made a quick exit overboard. Damn you BOB and your timing! Our Skipper, Conall, knew that the danger times in the REAL race when REAL accidents are likely to happen is on watch change, at night or at other inconvenient times…. like when you are otherwise engaged stuffing your face with food after a night throwing up! I was down below when the words “MAN OVER BOARD!” were shouted from on deck. Closest to the nav station it was therefore my role to ‘pretend press’ the DSC button on the VHF. We don’t really do it, as the last thing we need are the actual emergency services dashing to the rescue. I marked the position on the chart plotter, wrote down the LAT LONG in the Log. I then had the shout from the helm to say that the engine was in neutral and I was clear to start the engine. I then pretend called in the MAYDAY on the VHF. It is essential that the person closest to the nav station marks the point both on the plotter and on paper, as without the accurate position you wouldn’t know where to look for your friend, this case BOB, in the water. We write it down old school as well as using the electronics, can you imagine if for some reason the electrics went down and you couldn’t remember the position. I stuck my head up the companionway to let Conall on the helm know that the position was marked and to see what needed doing. Our crew were on it, the outgoing watch still on deck took charge, we had George pointing, Lizzy and Derek on the winches, the foresails were down, staysail halyard ready to be attached to the rescue swimmer and another halyard ready to attach to BOB. As I was down below I passed up the scramble net, helistrop and boat hook then I helped Ollie our designated rescue swimmer into the drysuit and climbing harness to get him ready to be lowered overboard to pick up the unfortunate BOB. Glyn was tasked with leading the rescue and with the support of his team, and after a slightly over enthusiastic dunking Ollie and Bob were safely hauled back on deck. It was at this point a bleary eyed Adam AKA Media Dave emerged from his bunk. ” What’s going on?” he says, Doh! Adam the sleepy head had slept through the whole thing. The kettle was on and then after BOB was securely tied back in his place at the stern it was time for a nice hot cuppa, a debrief and watch change. Night night! Lizzy, Ollie, Glyn, Laurence and George. It was lunch time therefore time for them to go to bed. The watch system is bonkers but it works. It is basically 6 hours on 6 hours off during the day then 4 hours on 4 hours off through the night. So one day you sleep in the morning then on watch through the afternoon then sleep early evening and up in the middle of the night then sleep very early morning and up again next morning to repeat until you next make it to land but next day it is all reversed. So you are on duty all morning and asleep in the afternoon. You really have to learn to put your head down and go to sleep regardless of the noise and activity going on around, but still be aware that at any moment you might need to get up and leap into action if there is an emergency. It is going to be a real challenge during the race, getting enough rest and being able to perform at my best at any hour of the day or night. I am used to having a good 9-10 hours unbroken sleep every night. I am sure we will all soon adjust and it will quickly become the norm.
So here we are after the worst night of my life, my seasickness HELL now forgotten, and after the excitement of the watch change Man Over Board we settled down to a nice strong wind. I wish I could tell you the windspeed, but I can’t remember, but we were sailing fast and the boat was heeling over nicely. This is what it’s all about, waves splashing over the bow, sails full, huge grins plastered on our faces. We had been sailing, really sailing at good speeds all morning.
A few gybes, and another reef needed now in the mainsail as the wind was rising, we were actually doing all the things that we had been trained for without incident or too much faffing about. Derek and Mark were on the helm, always two by the helm, one person actually steering and the other there just incase! Next thing we hear is Conall saying ok we need to get the staysail down now. “Heather and ‘Dave’ you two go forward and get it down, and quick please.” Conall never really did get all our names right, but by now Adam was answering to Dave 🙂 The wind really was building and we had too much sail up. So next thing I know is Adam and I are up front, harnesses well attached, standing up in the pulpit, waves crashing over us, hauling the sail down with every ounce of determination and strength. Hanging on literally for dear life, reaching high up and then using our whole body weight to haul it down whilst being constantly drenched in the chilly English channel. Still the sail wasn’t coming down fast enough so Conall, oh my goodness, showed us how Pro Sailors do it. He literally threw himself in the air grabbed the sail and fell back down on it hauling it down. Ok so that’s how you do it! Adam and I followed his lead, albeit with a lot less actual body throwing and within a minute that sail was on the deck with a sail tie securing it. The picture below shows Adam putting on the sail tie on the staysail, the little Yankee still up. Look how wet the deck is. It is a shame the picture doesn’t capture the waves crashing over the bow too. C’est la vie, I am definitely going to have to improve my picture taking skills.
The grin that had been stuck on my face all morning threatened to split my face in two. It was the most adrenaline filled moment that I can remember in my life to date. A quick check of the trim on the staysail and the main and we edged our way back amidship. Steven who had been manning the winch did a great job too and as a team we nailed it. Our first big sail evolution under pressure. The picture below shows me literally having a quick collapse.
Adam and I then collapsed, knackered, buzzing and smiling like fools. Bloody Hell! after both spending much of the previous night puking and generally feeling like this was a really really bad idea, now we were a pair of grinning idiots. A little while then to enjoy the moment, some encouraging words from Mark now on the helm and Holly, who was our current Mother, soon had a hot brew in our hands. I felt really honoured to have shared that moment with Adam and Conall. For Adam and I it was a lifetime first, we are now bound forever, we broke our sailing cherry that day, and thank you to Conall who showed us how.
We were really sailing that day, these pictures show how the boat heels, Mark at the helm on the picture above and my buddy Adam AKA Media Dave without whom our pictures from level 2 would be nearly none existent. The picture below shows the angle nicely those are my feet and I am sitting on the high side looking down as the starboard gunwale was practically running through the water.
The most amazing sunset, anchor watch knot race, dolphins and level 2 spinnaker excitement tomorrow.