Charlie's Voyage - Crossing the International Date Line
Welcome to the real North Pacific Ocean
Wow, what a week this has been. Phenomenal sea states, 60+ knots of winds, hail and extreme coldness with the odd rainbow thrown in.
The North Pacific is an Ocean that I shall be glad to say goodbye to, it will not be one I shall hurry to return to. Don't get me wrong this ocean has had me in awe of its power along with its majestic beauty, to see the ocean roar around and underneath you is a sight that not many will have seen. There have been days where the sun shines but then the clouds will roll in bringing with it a hail squall which whips the sea up in a frenzy, visibility will suddenly drop and no matter where you look you are confronted by spray either from the tops of the waves or from the one that's about to crash over the top of you. The moments of sunshine break up the bleak greyness which we've become accustomed too, it's just unfortunate there isn't more warmth too.
Our Storm Jib has had its first outing on the race this week as we prepared for the stronger winds, that along with three reefs in the mainsail, which has seen us hit record speeds of 32.8knts as we careen down the waves almost like letting a horse gallop, you are on the edge of control. The bow slicing through the oncoming waves like butter causing a wall of spray to form as high as the boom. Conditions such as this is what I've been looking for; I wanted to push my limits and see how I'd fair, suffice to say it’s not the sea state that has got to me. Instead, three weeks of putting on cold and wet clothes is enough for my lifetime. There is an ever-present danger of trench foot in these conditions which means as soon as you are off deck you need to ensure feet are dried and put into dry socks so that they can warm again before the next onslaught. Touch wood we haven’t and will continue to not have any cases. My main issue at present is keeping my hands from looking like an 80yr old that has been sat in the bath for too long!
International date line
In happier news, we've crossed the international date line which lead to our very own ground-hog day and much confusion onboard. We've now settled into the new time and date, approximately 12 hours behind the UK I believe. Crossing the date line really signifies that I am on my way home as not only am I back in the northern hemisphere, but I am now the correct longitude for the UK and I can now write west in the log book from now on.
A moment of panic
A new talking point in the run up to the date line was; if you could relive a day on the race again which one and why? I thought I'd want to relive the moment I got pummelled by the waves on Leg 2 but after the other night I'm not so sure I do! My first mistake was deciding to wear my foulies as they were dry compared to my dry suit. Little did I know that in the pitch black of night I'd be swept along the deck and pinned into the cockpit by the freezing water, much like being hit by a car but without the pain. I was clipped on, twice in fact for extra security, unfortunately my short tether caught me and due to the angle swung me round into the oncoming waves.
With no moon or stars out, the night was jet black. I was unable to see where the waves would end and with a face full of water, unable to breath, I made the mistake of letting myself start to panic. Had I taken a moment I would have realised that fortunately I was not really taking in water, my buff had protected me and in fact all I was doing was breathing in a soaking wet buff. My second mistake, a rather natural one, was attempting to get up and fighting against the flow, I was never going to win that battle. This took more energy out of me and, with being on the verge of a panic attack, did not help in any way. The sheer force and weight of the water is such that I should have remembered to sit still, and it'd be over in a matter of seconds.
All the while this was happening I could feel myself getting more constricted and restricted in manoeuvrability. At the time, I couldn't understand why again it was unhelpful in my heightened state, but thankfully it was only my life-jacket doing its job, although the helms did not appreciate the white flashing lights from both AIS and life-jacket!
On to the next milestone
We are nearing the end of our virtual ice barrier, after which we will be able to set a course to Seattle edging further north (yay more coldness!) the next milestones for us to focus on will be hitting 1,000nm to go as well as giving the Ocean Sprint our best shot. This race has really put our endurance to the test, we are living it one day at a time, I for one am extremely looking forward to arriving into Seattle. We are all eager for our first hot shower, we don't mind about being clean we just want the warmth that it will bring! However, most of us have lived in the same clothes for most of the race, it's been far too cold to get that naked to change clothes! So, we should all probably take an interest in being clean too! I dread to think how bad we all smell after 3-4weeks, the Clipper Race staff are very good and give us all welcoming hugs no matter how bad we smell!
Hopefully it won't be long now!