This was to be the start of the big sail, and we were all quite excited – the day before had been so much better! And the sun was still out!
All thoughts of getting off the boat had gone…and when I mentioned this to my fellow crewmates over half of the people there had also been seriously reconsidering what they were doing there!
Our first new adventure was to go up the mast – the mast was 90 foot high, and we all had to get to the top. When my turn came I had two of the smallest people sweating me up – I really felt sorry for them, but it did not unduly slow me down.
The view from the top was quite outstanding! I did not feel as though I was overly worried about being so high up, when but I was down on the ground I could not seem to undue the harness.
Skippy told me I had probably been holding onto the halyards too hard, and had made my muscles spasm….so I was probably m ore worried than I had thought! Sailing was good – the weather was more appropriate for complete novices, and was light enough for us to undertake many sail changes – and we sailed with the full main sail out and the largest head sail – it was quite noticeable how much quicker we went with the larger sails out-probably my first experience of how the correct sail choice will help the boat sail faster – and thereby by extension how all the hard work of changing sails was worthwhile!
We were split into two watches to help sail through the night. After the evening meal – baked beans and pasties (and they never tasted so good) the watch system started. My watch had the first sleep (from 8 til midnight), and after so much physical exercise I went straight to sleep.
Or at least I would have done, except that as soon as I got into my bunk we tacked (changing direction when heading into the wind, when the bow goes through the wind) and all of a sudden I was no longer leaning against the side of the boat in my bunk but leaning towards the middle of the boat – now usually there is a sheet that ties onto the edges of the bunk keeping you in place, but unfortunately mine was broken – this meant I spent almost all of my 4 hour sleep, lying on the wet Number two Yankee that lived in the honeymoon suite waiting and praying for the next tack. We were awoken at 11.30pm with the offer of a hot cup of coffee – and we still had not tacked again!
My first impression on changing directions was that I had never seen such an impressive display of stars. It transpired that one of our number was an Astro-Physcist and that the previous watch had a very interesting time learning all about the heavens. We were poorly served, with one financial journalist, one chandler, one psychiatric nurse and myself, a hotel agent /valuer.
As such instead of talking about stars we just sang songs all night! For almost the whole of our night shift we were alone without Skippy or the first mate – which was an incredible testament to how effective our training had been!
Don’t get me wrong Jim (the first mate) was down in the navigation station listening to every word to ensure we were not being reckless (poor chap had to listen to about five renditions of American Pie!) The other watch had also been showing off and had cooked flap-jacks – they left us a load, as well as the washing up –which was my first job! I was given a “night compass” to see whether we were going to crash with any boats on the horizon.
It worked by taking a reading of the boat on the horizon regularly – if the reading remained constant it suggested we were on the same course as the other boat and would crash if we did not change course. I was also shown how to keep the log – taking notes on position, course direction, wind direction and speed, cloud cover and barometer readings.
This fell to me throughout the shift, as did all the “tea making”, as I felt less comfortable helming (or steering as I called it!) because in the dark I found it difficult to “feel” where the waves were coming from, which made it difficult for me to keep to the correct course!
At one stage I accidentally steered the wrong way, which led to an accidental Gybe. This can be relatively dangerous as it leads the boom to swing across the boat, and if anyone is in the wrong place they can get a nasty knock – or indeed end up in the water. When our shift was up at 4am, I stole one of the other watches bunks – it was headed the right way, although to my concern it was a top bunk – if the boat changed direction once again and the sheet failed as it had on my bunk I was going to have a long fall!