LIFE AT SEA
On some of the world's roughest oceans
It’s a strange feeling, the one you get after about six or seven days at sea, it’s even stranger if you have spent the majority of that time being tossed around on a rough ocean. A full night’s sleep is by now a distant memory, in fact day and night seem to have become the same thing. You no longer have a single dry item of clothing and your bed is sticky and salty from going to bed wet with sea spray. Shuffling through the boat from hand-hold to hand-hold seems normal by now and you’ve mastered the starfish pose to stay still enough in bed to get a few valuable hours sleep. You can tell if there’s been a wind shift or if the helms person goes off course while in your bunk down below just by the sound of the sails or a change of motion in the waves. You've read all your books, watched all your movies, eaten all your snacks and you have sat for hours on end with crew-mates rocking side to side, saying nothing at all because it seems like you have already covered just about every conversation you could possibly have with another human. Inter-crew conversation by now is mostly about food, what kind of decadent delights you will stuff your face with when you get to land, something you have to fix, or most common of all, the weather. Because it is the weather after all that dictates your entire life out here, a change in wind direction, a drop in air pressure or an ominous-looking cloud can mean the coming of a storm and that, on a rough ocean is a very uncomfortable two or three days trying to navigate mountainous seas, sail-ripping wind gusts and arm-aching helm-shifts. But for some reason, you are happy, you are content, you are fascinated, inspired and you have hit a personal rhythm that is impossible on dry land. Such is my experiences of long passages on rough oceans.
These weather forecasts are pretty much what you do not want to see when you are in the middle of the sea with nowhere to hide. This was a forecast on a sailing trip I did from Greenland across the north Atlantic late in the season and we got hit by three of these storms on the way over, each one lasting around two days and nights. While we missed the worst of this one by sailing as far south as possible and running with the storm to decrease our apparent wind and have the seas following behind, it still rocked us.
During one stormy crossing, a wave put a crack in the pilothouse above my cabin giving me a lovely trickle of freezing salt water right above my bunk for the last 15 days of the journey (which led to me and a few other crew members sleeping under garbage bags for 2 weeks!).
With weather forecasting at sea in the more volatile latitudes, you really do have to allow for another 5-15 knots of wind for the gusts above what is predicted.
While our forecast was for sustained 35-45 knots we were definitely getting sustained winds in the late 40s and plenty of gusts in the mid 50s and even higher in the worst of it (we didn’t have a Anemometor -wind monitor unfortunately).
It made for a very uncomfortable ride and long sleepless nights but it was amazing to see how powerful this part of the ocean can be. Looking back, often spirits onboard were at their highest during the worst of the storm as we were able to witness these huge waves and incredible winds as well as test ourselves in some of the toughest sailing conditions you could find yourself in.
After too many years in the weather and too many storms, Infinity's sails looked like this. You wouldn't believe it but after months of work gluing and stitching, we actually fixed these tattered rags and sailed another 10,000 miles on them!
But storms don't last forever, so when the wind dies down, the waves get smaller and the sun peers through the clouds, it's time to shake out those reefed sails then bring all the wet clothes, foul weather gear, mattresses and bed sheets up on deck to dry!