After the fickle conditions that dictated our journey south at the start of this adventure, it was a welcome relief to pick up the south easterly trade winds that offer us consistency as we sail on a beam reach towards Recife, Brazil.
Our sail plan changes just once a day as we drop the stay sail, engage the engine and deploy the manta trawl using the spinnaker pole and its associated lines. The trawl lasts half an hour before its contents are sorted and analysed by eye and then under the microscope in the saloon. Further water samples are then taken, filtered and preserved for future analysis before we re-hoist the stay sail and return to a compass course of 255 degrees for the South American coastline. The stable conditions mean that little else changes and the watch system rotates again and again as the full cycle of a day continuously evolves around us.
We are now well into our third week at sea and it’s interesting to watch the individual ways in which people cope with this unique situation. Suffice to say that sharing a confined space with 13 other women on a moving platform in the heat of the tropics for 3 weeks will never be a walk in the park.
The overall mission gives us a common goal which is fundamental to the success of any team dynamic but even our shared love of the ocean is overshadowed by some of the fatigue and frustrations that come with ocean sailing. For some coping with the pressures of this environment it is tears that offer a release valve for pent up thoughts and feelings. For others it is finding a precious moment alone or by becoming immersed in the daily tasks and chores onboard.
Whatever the method of coping with daily life in this extreme environment the experience of one crew member can profoundly affect the overall dynamic and so it is the responsibility of the other members to make the conscious effort to buoy each other’s spirits. For many of these women, the true immensity of what they are undertaking will only become evident when they have the opportunity to reflect without distraction, that is when they reach the other end. I often tell my training crews that much of what we garner from these intense challenges is retrospective and this can be powerfully reassuring during some of the tougher personal moments.
As we draw closer to Brazil I am excited by the possibilities presented by our return to coastal waters. Each morning the unfortunate passengers that we discover on the deck such as flying fish and squid are dissected by Diana for scientific study and I can’t help but wonder what the South Atlantic may have in store for us next. The contents of the trawl has become more and more interesting as we slowly move towards leaving the pelagic behind us once again. The weather still doesn’t differentiate with daily sunshine giving warmth to the steady driving winds but the mood aboard Sea Dragon is gently changing.
The talk of new possibilities and excitement for the rhythm of Brazil is becoming more and more evident. The final chapter of the first leg of our adventure has begun and the passion is gently returning to each of us. During the course of the next few days as we make our final approach to Recife we will once again see the boat filled with the excitement and anticipation with which we began. This time however it will be accompanied by a huge dose of personal satisfaction and accomplishment for every one of the remarkable women on board.
-Emily Caruso, First mate on Sea Dragon