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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Highs and lows part 2

0700/11th position 1733 02456 trip 131/24 and 2524 to CT

From the cloud patterns it looks as if we are dropping into the top of the S Atlantic high. The barometer is rising and the grib, while still showing us as in the trades, has the high below us at about 25 S
As I said in the last one, below thr high you get down into the line of lows - depressions - that march across the world all year round and go all the way down to the ice at times. To be avoided unless you are deliberately looking for a slingshot into the next dimension, as Groupama will be when they get down there in a few days. Then they will start to go very fast indeed and will sustain those speeds for thousands of miles as they follow the great circle to the Horn as far down towards the ice as their data tells them is safe.
I have been in 4 really severe storms and the '98 Hobart with winds over 60 kts and at least 2 of them gusting over 80. Two were approaching Cape Horn 4 years ago and the other two were in the S Atlantic, off Montevideo and just a bit further along our current track towards Cape Town. All but the '98 Hobart (where we were just behind it) found us in the dangerous (left front) segment of one of these depressions and if you haven't experienced the ferocity of an even relatively mild 60 knot southern ocean storm it is very hard to describe - a combination of wind and huge breaking waves, gut wrenching knockdowns, the screaming of the wind in the rig, violent movement with no frame of reference and the crashing of water against, around and over the boat. Plus your own fear. Grown men have been reduced to tears - and at least one has been brave enough afterwards to make his videos public. You sustain yourself from wave to wave, knockdown to knockdown by remembering that no storm lasts for ever - they just seem to - and you have to outlast them and hope the boat is strong enough to last that long too. I seem to remember that the one we went through over here had winds over 45 knots for 9 days and we were bare poled (no sail up, trying to keep the wind and waves on the quarter and sometimes surfing at 10+ knots) for most of the time. While there's never nothing you can do, you are pretty much helpless and it feels that way. Not funny. I hope the Examiner is kinder to us this time.

David - interested. We may be in touch shortly.
Allan - more interesting than ever. I guess you have to ask how often it happens around the world and never gets reported.

The butterfly flapping

Port tack, my bunk elevated. I'm lying on my left side, elongated S shaped, back pressed into a long roll of clothing and bunny rug, itself filling the curve of the lee cloth under its aluminium support bar. My head is pillowed on my double thickness Finisterre fleece jacket on top of a scrunched pillow, locking it in place so that my neck muscles can relax, arms bent away from me trying to keep circulation unchecked. Dozy, having just come off watch in the dark and drooping for sleep. Woolworths pyjama pants (yes! and they are perfect for sleeping in the tropics) and a T shirt. Boat gently rolling and pitching. I'm conscious that - well, I'm conscious that I'm conscious, awake, and Berri, as always, is talking to me in her own special language, grammatically and syntactically unique and so dense with implied and nuanced self confirming cross reference. Tiny, irregular 'click' 'click click' continuous, barely audible yet also transmitted through the fabric around me. Sleep denied - what is it? Brain surfaces through dozy daze - first, there's none of the usual roar and clatter of Berri's passage through the Atlantic moguls - just the music of water burbling past the hull a few inches from my ear. And the undulating pitch of the wind generator in the back of the orchestra. The wind has dropped and the seas have subsided. Nice!. So...what is it? Audit and inventory of everything around me, reluctant to wake properly and find head torch. The boat feels balanced and happy, no longer thudding through the swell - so for the first time, perhaps since we left, I'm able to hear this click? Careful mental review of everything around me capable of making the sound - doesn't seem very important but I must identify it and file it so that when I hear it in future it's part of the natural background. Ahhh! There's a fire extinguisher above my feet on the bulkhead and it has a little metal label with the date of last service that is usually captured by the strap holding the extinguished into its bracket - could it have come out? I sit up, feel for the label and yep - that's it. So is the extinguisher secure? Seems ok. Uncoil back into sleeping S and let the dozy daze envelop the swede.

I think it is this flow of the subconscious, a subliminal sensing of the unfolding pattern of things that makes it so difficult for me to listen to music or to read anything more demanding than escapist whodunnitry. Each requires a level of concentration that drowns the subconscious and the subconscious keeps fighting back. It's a form of obsession but it has saved our bacon several times that were obvious and I'm absolutely sure umpteen times before they became obvious. It is aural, visual and tactile - like the aircraft pilot whose eyes see broken patterns on her instruments or who feels that tiny buzz of resonance and is instantly warned, I hear and see and feel the boat. Today the click, yesterday the tweaker on the wrong side of the sheet, years ago the feel of the almost broken forestay. Makes me highly unpopular sometimes! I remember getting cross with McQ last year for being so absorbed in whatever her ipod was doing to the inside of her head that she had not noticed the leech flutter or something equally trivial in itself but part of a larger pattern - the butterfly's wing on the other side of the world.

And I still miss heaps - the disconnected windvane when Pete went overboard 4 years ago, for instance. Complacency sucks but it's so easy!

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Berri ritual part 1

Just had a hard boiled egg for lunch that I certainly wouldn't have looked at at home! Big air cavity, black yolk end and sort of flaky - very hard to peel. Interesting pong. Disguised it with mayo - the real thing, not the insipid goo that passes for it these days - and some pickled beetroot. Loverly! I could eat beetroot all day - smashing veggie! And it makes peeing into our little plastic bucket such fun.

Norm - one for you - I think it was Helena Rubinstein who said that her product represented the triumph of hope over reality. Or words to that effect.

Daily rituals: very important for marking the passing of time and ensuring, for instance, that things don't get forgotten.
0900 - I'm coming off watch and Pete is coming on. 'You awake, Pete?' 'aarghmpfh yes' ' It's time' So he gets out of his pit and I work my way around the dodger -tricky in these conditions - with a bucket containing 2 cans of Dr Murphy's excellent medicinal compound all the way from Crosshaven. I work my way forward to Berri's fridge - Coolgardie variety, milk crate with wet towel wrapped around 2 Murphy's similarly delivered yesterday and exchange the warm for the cold. Surprisingly effective fridge if you keep it primed - see below - and in the shade and the breeze. The evaporation of the water from the towel requires heat and this is extracted from the cans. Great care required on return journey so as not to shake cold cans and exacerbate widgetary effusion - see below. Pete gets out special tankards from the sliding cupboard, carefully deals out small handful from last bag of molto toothsome crisps from Lisbon. Then the careful positioning of can - for me, inside the tankard - so that the instant widgetary effusion at the moment of unzipping goes mainly in the pot and then I pour it and - sweet nectar of the gods, it slips away with gentle fluid caress of the olfactories and the other thingies on the tongue.

Then I go to bed and last about an hour before the pee bucket calls. Bugger decrepitude!

Fridge priming - at least three times a day it is necessary to pour sea water over the towels to keep them damp. Pete usually does the final one in his 2100-midnight watch. There is also a bottle of tonic cooking quietly in the fridge awaiting its fate at 1700 - see part 2.