Life on an ocean passage by Emily

November 9, 2015

As Sunday began we were still in the process of eradicating the last of our increasingly annoying visitors from the insect kingdom. Heather, a 62 year old former sheet metal worker from San Francisco, first referred to as the ‘mother’ of the crew has since been renamed the ‘exterminator’ for her relentless efforts to the cause. Possibly one of my funniest moments so far was during one particularly voracious onslaught when Heather, armed with the Aqua vac in one hand and a deck shoe in the other and wiping the sweat from her determined brow exclaimed “I think I’m having a Zen moment”.
Every day the temperature rises slightly as we continue to motor south towards the next waypoint of Ascension Island. We are all hoping to find some b reeze from somewhere at some point to facilitate our passage which currently relies on efficient use of diesel at 1400rpm. The wildlife continues to entertain us with prolific sightings of Dolphins and trigger fish swimming with us at the bow and on board the crew have mostly settled into the daily watch routine of 4 hours on 8 hours off with a dog watch (small watch to stagger timings) in the evening. Two crew are pulled from the system each day to deliver the ‘household’ watch duties of cooking and cleaning. Imogen, Holly and I are working to 3 on 6 off so that we can spend an equal amount of time with all of the crew. So far it seems to be working well.

Sea sickness has caused issues for a few of our crew, some worse than others and we are monitoring hydration levels carefully. Out here we are almost completely self sufficient and a health issue that is very simple on land can become extremely serious if not managed well. Fortunately most of those that have been suffering appear to have turned the corner and there seems to be an increasingly content and confident dynamic throughout the boat.

The science began on Saturday as we cleared the exclusive economic zone of 200nm from any land mass meaning that data gathered cannot be claimed by any bordering countries. Each afternoon a few hours are given to sampling the waters using a number of tools and techniques and these are analysed and recorded on board by our resident scientists and their willing assistants. I am looking forward to playing with the microscope in the coming weeks and really tapping into the huge educational potential that we have on board in terms of experience in a broad variety of fields. Our resident humpback whale expert Tegan from the U.S actually has a favourite plankton, something which I hope to determine for myself by the time we reach Brazil. Watch this space.

When I original ly considered the benefits of 3 watches on board I had anticipated plenty of down time but so far almost every waking moment has been filled with the ongoing tasks associated with maintaining Sea Dragon and of course the issue of the biblical plague didn’t help. What better day than a Sunday for example to replace all of the filters and complete an oil change in the main engine. The 90 degrees plus below decks and 100% humidity made it a job to be completed in a bikini and even then it was hard not to slide about the boards beside the engine bay in a mixture of oil, diesel and perspiration. Lovely.

Needless to say our first squall was a welcome refresher as it blew through at dinner time on Sunday. The dark grey clouds of the squall line were evident from afar and at first we were excited at the prospect of harnessing some of the tangible energy and finally getting some pure sailing in. Unfortunately, the 25+ knots were right on the nose so i nstead we reefed her down and continued best course to windward but made few gains towards our destination. Nevertheless It was amazing to feel the cool wind on my skin for the first time in two weeks and each time we took a wave across the decks the temperature of the water was a remarkable contrast. I liken squalls to be like small hand grenades. Whilst they don’t carry the huge power of a large storm they impact quickly and usually represent a huge contrast to the prevailing conditions meaning that they can be troublesome if not managed early. All too often though they pass quickly and surrender back to the persistent tropical heat making it difficult to remember if the cool moment of respite was actually even real.

I finish typing this as I prepare for another watch and in a moment of contemplation I realise that it will be two weeks from tomorrow since I left home. That’s a quarter of my time out here already nearly over in the blink of an eye. I wonder at the vast endless ocean and its many surprises thus far, the hundreds of shooting stars that I’ve invested one or two wishes in along the way and of course the ongoing and constant reminder of why we are here as we track the marine debris along our path. Every time a plastic bottle floats past my stomach sinks a little lower and it becomes more and more evident and urgent that we all must do more to protect our precious and magnificent oceans. I have great appreciation for how lucky I am to experience this first hand as part of my daily life experience but as I had anticipated I am also starting to understand the weight of the responsibility that comes with that experience.

  • Emily Caruso, First Mate
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