Charlie's Voyage - Hello Again Atlantic, It’s Been a While
It's great to finally be back in the North Atlantic after eight months, knowing that it is the only ocean between me and home.
Thank goodness for baby wipes
One thing that I have learnt as I've sailed through various oceans is that they are not all the same. I may be quite naive on this point, but it never crossed my mind that oceans would have different salt levels. I’ve spent the last few months in the pacific where taking a salt water shower off the back was a great way to cool down, but since returning to the North Atlantic I've been covered head to toe in dried sea salt leaving me hesitant to take a refreshing shower. My only options have been to return to baby wipes.
I have heard that baby wipes may not be around for much longer and that got me thinking to what this race would have been like with no baby wipes. One thing for certain is we all would be a lot smellier than what I like to think we are, our fresh water use would have also increased which would mean more generator time so that we could keep up with the usage. I know this is possible as different boats across the fleet run different rules, for instance some say you are allowed a 'shower' on your mother day. After listening to what they have to go through for a 'shower' I'm not sure that it is worth it, they have to juggle between sitting on the heads and over a bucket so as to catch the water while they use the extendable tap to 'shower' after which they must clean up in the heads to make sure its left nice for the next person. I'm sure after all that they are sweating just as much as before?!
To get back to the North Atlantic we crossed through the Panama Canal, a day transiting the lake and the man-made locks alongside commercial shipping which one would normally try and avoid getting up close and personal with! Listening to the pilot as we transited, we learned the history around the creation of this route between the oceans, a lot of lives were lost, I for one am thankful as it has meant I am able to (as some would say cheat) avoid Cape Horn meaning I can be home quicker.
Some things never change…flying fish for example
So far in this race we have predominantly been sailing upwind with the odd downwind days thrown into the mix. Life onboard, whether we are upwind, downwind or somewhere in between, has become second nature to me, there are the odd few stumbles but when I compare myself to the leggers it looks like I've been aboard all my life. Be it climbing into my bunk or up the companion way, I am able to accomplish it with ease. Unlike in the first few legs when I hated life on the high side, I now find myself looking forward to sleeping on the high side.
There is however one thing that has not changed … flying fish, I am still very much not a fan. I had another encounter on the last few days of the last race, in the heat of the evening after giving up with sleeping in my sweaty bunk I took to the sail locker to sleep in the cooling breeze coming through the hatch, unfortunately the breeze was not the only thing coming through. On the verge of sleep, I was rudely brought back to full consciousness as something flapped around my feet, startled and unsure of where I was or what was going on, my mind went the usual route of being scared until I got a hold of myself and remembered that there was a light just above my head. Ah ha, the culprit, a flying fish, had taken quite a leap of faith and found himself sharing my makeshift bed, thankfully the on watch came to my rescue prepared with a gloved hand. The fish was swiftly removed and released back into the sea to live another day, although I'm not sure he will be flying quite so high anytime soon!
New York, our penultimate stopover, will be appearing over the horizon soon. As with all stopovers there will be a lot of work either from boat maintenance or corporate activities. I'm not sure which is longer - the list of jobs or my sightseeing list?! What I do know for certain is that time ashore with friends I've made from across the fleet is becoming scarce. Every moment ashore will be spent enjoying the atmosphere that the Clipper Race fleet bring to a port. I have an amazing group of strong females (and the odd male) which have become known as the Sea Hags. It may not sound endearing, but it has become a term of love. The support that they have given me throughout the race has been invaluable, they know what it’s like to live on the race and sometimes no words are needed, just a hug. Life will always throw you lemons, it's never going to be easy and the grass is not always greener, but I've been able to find solace in knowing that although they may be on a different boat, in some way they have been through everything I have. I have found a family in them and one that I'm sure will continue to live on after the race.
I may be at the back on the fleet and one of the last boats to arrive in New York but the best thing about that is I'll be welcomed in by the Sea Hags and that is a welcome that I have come to look forward to with each stopover. Plus New York is where I'll be celebrating our win from the last race to Panama!
This blog was written by Charlie Garratt, Clipper 2017/18 Crew Member and 3Si Ocean Safety Ambassador.