WRITTEN BY SOPHIE DINGWALL, DECKHAND
ON LEG TWO FROM AZORES TO ANTIGUA WITH COPERNICUS MARINE SERVICE

At first I was apprehensive at the thought of living on a boat with 13 other women for the best part of four months. How will we all get on? What are the dynamics going to be like? And will there ever be enough chocolate? Even worse, what happens if we run out?!

The boat

Each individual has their own story, have come from all different countries and have levels of experiences – including some who have never even stepped foot on a boat before. We are teachers, artists, consultants, sociologists, scientists, students…

The list is never ending, all crammed together on one boat. With one thing bringing us all together…the ocean.

Each girl here, is taking back home this experience to make a change and protect the environment in which we all rely on and yet have become so distant from.

So what is it like, really?

Women are naturally home makers, transforming a dull rental flat to a warm and cosy home with cushions and candles, sweet treats and all that other stuff we/I love to fill a room with. Although we don’t have such things to decorate the boat with, it does feel like a home here. Not the same as my home home with Tim and the dog but it’s comforting here. There is a genuine care for one another and a sense of togetherness. The support for each other’s ambitions is overwhelming. Being out of our comfort zones, makes for a compromise from everyone and an overall understanding of one another as we’re quite literally

‘in the same boat’

We eat together and sit our night watches talking real talk. Conversations from painful life experiences to hilarious ex stories that are never to be spoken of once leaving the boat. So if you’re a past acquaintance of one of the crew, you may have just been the highlight to our 3am night shift, so thank you!

What else can I tell you…? A lot of talking, continuous talking I’d say. Terrible singing, even worse acting and a whole load of hair but the deck is filled with laughter for the most part. It’s easy to be yourself and there is no judgement here. It doesn’t matter that your legs are hairy, your eyebrows are well overdue a good plucking or that you are wearing the same t-shirt as yesterday even though it really should have been washed.

I take every opportunity I can. Sleep when I can, eat, wash and launder when I can as you never know what might happen when you’re on a boat. Your plan to do your laundry gets disrupted by a wind shift or searching for the right type of tinned bean to use for dinner and then before you know it, its two days later, no laundry has been done which results in you wearing just your swimming costume.

Fresh water is treated as a precious commodity onboard. The water maker which converts salt water to fresh using reverse osmosis is well looked after as this is our lifeline to fresh showers! If unavailable, nothing like an excuse to wash on deck in a big heavy downpour – just got hope that it’s long enough to wash all the soap off again.

eXXpedition

Date and time have no real meaning here.

I had no idea what day it was, nor did it matter. Time revolved around being fed and if you were on watch or not. Different numbers become important, such as boat speed, wind direction and the amount of miles left to go.

It’s a strange feeling as we get closer and closer to our destination, excited to get there and yet have this feeling of not wanting to get back to land and stay in our little bubble…But then I remember all things I am missing.

A big topic of conversation is ‘what will we do when we get to shore?’ The detail and time spent planning our first days ashore are filled with hope of cold, cold, cold drinks, wine, gin and tonic or rum and ting… Maybe a Prosecco? Chicken is also high on the wanted list, along with fresh salad and fruit. Massages and swimming, clean bed sheets, clean clothes! Reality for me however, is going to be quite different and my arrival on land will start with cleaning out the bilges. (That’s the bottom of the boat, under the floorboards – Never a nice job!)

Truthfully, I do not miss a ‘normal’ modern day, or all the technology that goes with it. It’s all pretty simple here and I like that.

 

Read more stories from Sophie about life at sea here.

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