So here we are then… Somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, almost halfway to Antigua, in our ‘beautiful pea green boat’ Mrs Nelson (A.K.A ‘Nellie’).
Hygiene is certainly key to short term happiness out here, once a day or so teeth get brushed, hair plaited, boat scrubbed and rubbish rinsed for storage below deck, all executed as we pitch and roll over 20–30ft rollers. These waves are enormous, yet it’s not the big waves we have found to be the problem to date, the ones to watch out for are the sneaky little sideways lickers that creep up, pitch the boat off balance and spit all over contents and crew, leaving everything and everyone completely drenched (often moments before it’s time to retreat back into the already damp cabin at the end of each rowing shift).
Small comforts for me today include one bag of chocolate raisins from mum, one fresh white cotton t-shirt smelling of soap (pure joy), a small bag of lavender wrapped in a silk scarf to induce relaxation, and a slice of polyester cut from my seat, releasing pressure from sores threatening to blemish my (so far) surprisingly pimple free bottom.
Rowing at night is either wonderful or horrific. Nights that begin with the sunset behind moonrise ahead and colossal westerly rolling swells are the bestest… reflections streak across the blackened sea for miles, with liquid silver flecks dancing along a glistening beam connecting moon and boat. I find myself disappointed on nights like this to give up my rowing seat and swap with Bella.
One night Bell’s woke me as usual by singing my name through the cabin door whilst rowing the final strokes of her past 2 hr shift… this is my 10 minute warning to get on the oars. Croaking back to assure her i’m awake, I switch on the dim cabin lights and try to move my aching limbs. Getting up, I roll into the cabin wall as we lurch over a wave, get my shit together and squeeze through the hatch door to join the girls on deck. No moon tonight, this saddens me as it is undoubtedly one of the coolest things to see mid-ocean, however, what came next was even better. If daytime at sea is amazing… Night-time is when the real magic happens. My eyes adjust and within minutes I’m transfixed by a dense twinkling tapestry, carpeting the sky above.
Millions and squllions of stars arching around our little boat in an enormous dome… stars so bright that they create their own light halo through passing clouds.
It’s these moonless black nights that can be the most disconcerting too as I can’t see Gee rowing in front of me which increases chances of blades getting smashed as rhythm is lost. I sometimes just about make out the silhouette of her right elbow against the light of the digital deck repeater, set in the slanted carbon-fibre that makes up the front wall of the aft-cabin. Every now and then this little digital screen, which normally sits about eye level with me, will rise up way above my head as the bow of the boat is lifted by a wave, both exciting and and terrifying, especially as it’s too dark to see. One wave was so powerful, it lifted the boat like a toy as we travelled down its face at 18kts (we normally travel at an average of 3kts) spinning us in a complete 360, and sending the auto helm into a tantrum.
Other times a wave will catch us completely off guard by lifting the boat from the side before suddenly dropping it again, a similar sensation to riding a horse when the creature decides to drop its front shoulder to dislodge the rider from its back… when this happens, it leaves one chucked from their seat with loose oars digging awkwardly into hips and shins, this hurts.
There are also those nights that never seem to end, so often I have fallen asleep on the oars and ‘crunch’ the blades nip the top of a wave and send the wooden handles straight back into my shins. Every morning the deck reveals the carnage from the night before, in the form of a sort of chocolate bar massacre, with sprinkles of broken Twirl Bars and wrappers from confectionery we scoff to keep ourselves awake in the wee hours.
Funnies: – you literally can’t make this stuff up:
- New years eve photo preparations had Lauren balancing precariously with a pot of gold glitter at the front of the boat trying to apply it to her face in less than calm waters… suddenly her stance changes into that of Bambi and “POOF” the glitter went everywhere – all over the boat, skin sores and food leaving us all bent doubled in chronic laughter.
- Gee leaning over Mortsy to adjust the Efoy settings in the cabin, wearing nothing other than a pair of trainers and socks. As she leant into the cabin, Lauren was left to row face first right up her arse crack; after which a wave jolts the boat and sends Gee falling back, bare-buttocked, on Lauren’s shoulder.
- Bella, naked as the day she was born, bar a pair of sunglasses… comes out on-deck, prances down the boat, sprawls elegantly in-between myself and Gee rowing, and continues to soak up the midday sunshine whilst tucking into a chilli con Carne ration food pack. She looked like some sort of nude vision from a post-modern Botticelli – ‘The Birth of Bella’.
- Gee was hit in the head by a flying fish last night (she is terrified of fish), you had to be there.
- Lauren and myself cleaning the underside of the boat on a calm day – stitches of laughter – video of this to be shown on our return.
Happy New Year to all, thanks for all the lovely emails and messages… keep them coming through, especially of fun life back at home!
Read more from our rowing escapade here, with written accounts from the boat from all four of us.