Sailing an ocean.. the beginners guide.
Everyone has an idea of what sailing maybe like, lots of wine, cheese &
port, quaffing champers on the poop deck, sunbathing on the front of the
boat, blue and white stripy tops and people saying pip pip and tally ho. Ask
anyone that visits Salcombe in Devon or Cowes week in the isle of Wight and
they will tell you that this is exactly what sailing is and they will also
say how marvellously adventurous it is to take their yacht out of the marina
for a 4 hour motor up the coast and back again on a sunny, flat, light
winded kind of day that allows you to sunbathe on deck and look fabulous in
all your photos and not ruin your hair.
These people are called fair weather sailors, anything more than 10 knots of
breeze and they will just sit on the boat tied to the pontoon rather than
risk going to sea. Now when i think of sailing i also have a romantic notion
of relaxing, spending days at sea and while booze is off the menu on a ocean
crossing, calms seas, fast sailing, cheese for snacks and not a blue and
white stripy top in sight is most defiantly my ideal forecast for 2 weeks
plus at sea with nothing but my game of Jenga, 2 obedient children, 1 angel
of a toddler and 2 parents.
I have done a few oceans now, and so far sailing an ocean is not what you
picture it to be…. at all. For fair weather sailors the very idea of
sailing one may be considered an outrageous nightmare. Let’s start with the
obvious, there are no 4 hour round trips when sailing an ocean, this is a 2
week plus trip spanning 2300 miles without rest. You self-incarcerate
(English dictionary definition: the state of being confined) yourself into a
situation where escaping your confinement is all but impossible unless you
fancy swimming 1000 miles to the nearest landfall. Using the engine is
possible but sort of pointless as unless you’re towing a fuel barge you will
never make it across the ocean on one tank of fuel. Booze is off the menu
as last thing you need is to be drunk on a boat miles from help should you
decide to take a drunken stumble over the side. As for calm seas and fast
sailing, well forget the first part, we have been lucky with the wind and
have held up an impressive top speed, but like all the other oceans i have
sailed there is rarely such a thing as a flat calm ocean. They are decidedly
lumpy and uneven, surprisingly so.
Every time i go up on deck i am constantly surprised by the sea state, my
brain sort of expects fairly calm waters and instead you are constantly
confronted by 1-2 meters waves (they don’t crash, just roll underneath the
boat.) plenty of choppy water and often waves not just coming from one
direction as that would be far to sensible, no they come from 3 directions,
on this leg from behind, from the side and then the diagonal one making
Jenga impossible and defiantly off the cards. It also means as i sleep up
the front of the boat i roll around my bed a fair bit and goto sleep lying
one direction and wake up facing a completely different direction. It also
means somedays you have to shut all the windows due to water splashing up,
when this happens you either flood your room or your room turns into a
sauna, the latter is preferable as my laptop doesn’t thank me for regular
flooding and neither does my bed.
The relaxing and restful part of an ocean crossing is 50% true, the only
stresses are deciding what to cook for food, which depending on how far into
you trip this can range from steak at the beginning of the trip to super
noodles somewhere near the end. The restful part however depends on how much
sleep you like to get. We run a 3 hours on 6 hours off shift pattern. Luxury
i hear you cry. well no not really heres a break down of 24 hours.
6- 9 pm Clean up from dinner as on watch, do the log and keep watch
chat with everyone
9-10pm Read and relax
10 – 3am Sleep
3 – 6am – On watch, sit on deck watching the stars, read a book,
anything to keep the eyes open.
6 – 8am Sleep
8 – 9 Breakfast
10 – 12 – Read on deck impossible to sleep as everyone is awake.
12 – 3 Make lunch, on watch, clear up
3 – 9pm Maybe grab an hours sleep, play with kids, get jumped on and
do some sailing stuff.
Repeat the cycle daily but the times change every day.
on average i consider 6 hours sleep good a day, at home i live off 6 hours
sleep so no different, the only difference is the 6 hours is in one block at
home not spread over 24 hours. This does take its toll after a week. At
first it is impossible to sleep during the day, after 4 days you fall asleep
in 5 mins standing up. I can’t help but marvel at the energy levels of
Nichola and Caspar for sailing without a third person some of the time and
still being able to function, teach kids and sail a boat but then i think
that because I don’t have kids myself i have always underestimated the
energy levels required to be on the go all the time and keep them
entertained and out of mischief.
The kids on board like all kids range from placid and fun to screaming
bundles of energy who will wind each other up just for fun, at home you can
send them to their room, on a boat you can do the same, but living in such
close proximity means it is hard to get a degree of separation that you may
otherwise get at home. You find you live on a fine balance of being happy to
see sunrise as it means you have got through a night in the ocean and means
everything becomes safer when moving around the boat to being happy when the
sun goes down as it means everything goes quiet on the boat and you watch
the stars and ponder about the small things in life.
While the kids do have the ability to wind you up at times, i don’t believe
its anymore than how kids wind up their parents during the summer holiday,
and i can see why sailing as just a couple around the world is actually
rather relaxing and enjoyable.
Before coming on this trip i thought these people that sailed oceans for fun
on their own were bonkers, now i realise they are probably the sanest most
interesting people you are likely to meet. It takes a certain kind of person
to be what is in effect a modern day explorer. People on the World Arc are
not likely the type that gossip about what others are up to simply because
these are the type of people that have such interesting lives that they are
the focus of the gossip at home. Do they care, i doubt it, they are too busy
having fun sailing the oceans, seeing far flung places and living there
dream while the rest of us sit at home talking about how crazy they must be
sailing round the Caribbean while we stumble to work in the rain and cold. I
don’t think they are the crazy ones, it’s us that are crazy ones. Having
sailed an ocean with these people Tesco’s will no longer hold the
exhilarating thrill of adventure it once did. Seeking out the best buy one
get one free deal doesn’t quite compare to catching a meter long fish in my
pyjamas and helping teach math to Columbus and playing shops with willow on
my bed in my down time. This trip may not be my idea of what sailing is
meant to be like, it’s far far better and there is still not a stripy blue
shirt in sight, i feel Nichola is saving these for when we hit land!!
On to the next adventure exploring Maturities Tally ho