In this blog we have 3 viewpoints from Em’s (First mate) watch team. Sounds like the girls are having a heavy but exhilarating ride!
I am in my bunk, there is just enough room to roll onto my side but not enough room to touch my toes. There is a shelf four inches above my nose . When I first scrambled into it it felt like a coffin but tonight it is more like a cocoon.
I am reading my friend Jack’s book A Case Full of Insects, a young boys adventures around the world. Below me Imogen, Emily and Holly have their head in the engine, using intelligence, experience and a too healthy dose of trial and error to fix a problem. I feel like a six year old in the back of the car, holding my breath and wishing I had a magic wand to make it all better.
I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I am being woken for my watch, the engine hatch is down and all is quiet below deck. I put on my one size fits all orange waterproofs which give me the silhouette of a garden gnome.
The night is dark, the rain is lashing and we are one watch member down as Jan is having an evening off after cooking and cleaning all day.
It is left to Amanda, Jess and I to fulfil our watch duties. We start off quietly as the rain lashes horizontally and we retreat into the hoods of our waterproofs like shy snails until Jess suggests we learn a song and soon we are all singing about cheese and Amanda is enthralling us with tales of the Yukon, of gold mines and best friends. I relay to them what I have just read, that the man who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace sailed out from Dakar with a cargo of slaves, when he was out in the Atlantic ocean he had an epiphany, realising that his cargo was as human as he and he set them free. We sang Amazing Grace, pretty much in tune, apart from that high note. He turned the tide, Captain Newton, inspiring the anti slavery campaign. As we sing I make an intention to the waves that our campaign can be as effective. That we can change habits, policy and people. We sit in silence for a bit. Then the wind came.
The radar was covered in red dots showing no sign of a break in the rain any time soon. Resembling wet rats we sat on deck wishing for the moment to be dry. A rush of adrenaline came over the deck. As the wind came round we set the headsail, increasing our speed to 12kt. We all took a moment to admire how beautiful Sea Dragon looked finally in her comfort zone. Then the wind shifted again requiring us to grind the winch and take in the sail to avoid going too far in the wrong direction. We would set and take in canvas 4 more times in the following hour trying to keep up with the weather changes. I was very motivated, finding my inner ox as my team cheered me on. Feeling the force of the ocean air reminded me to stay strong during physical and mental challenges our crew would face in the weeks to come. Prior to the voyage we all experienced prejudice opinions towards 14 women crossing the Atlantic. No we are not all butch, no we don’t have pillow fights, and yes we drive the boat. Everyone of my crew member is a courageous women, who in a short time has become a sister, a mother, an aunt and a best friend in one way or another.
Having watched 18 year old Amanda step up to the plate with her ox like grinding, I decided it was my turn to help our intrepid watch group out. By now, we were all drenched after 3 hours of solid atlantic rain with another hour to go. I took the helm as the wind got a bit fruity, filling all three of our sails to the full, launching us fearlessly through the black swell. It could have been the lack of sleep but my experience of the next hour was similar to clinging on to the reigns of a stallion, as we galloped over the rolling hills of a black land . exhilarating does not come close, racing through the ocean at 12 knots on clasping the helm of Sea Dragon knowing i’d be screwed without Amanda the ox, Sarah the sea whisperer and our trusty first mate Em.