Day 17: The Final Countdown
'7 days to go', that's what I tell myself as I wake up on day 18. I don't quite believe it though... it's been '7 days to go' for the past 3 days.
The reasons for our dodgy eta estimates are varied but mainly come down to lighter wind than expected and the extra distance we've had to sail to avoid the various high pressure systems that have blocked our path to Rio. Don't get me wrong - I'm still loving the time out here, every sunset, the endless starry sky and the isolation from the crazy world that awaits us. But 17 days are a long time to go without a proper shower and a full night of sleep - so to say that we aren't looking forward to see the shores of Rio would be a lie.
The sun was shining and it was already hot by the time I got on deck for the late morning shift. The respite of cloudy weather and rain squalls from the previous day was clearly over and we were in for another day in the cooker. Fortunately, we have a few pieces of equipment on board to help us deal with the searing heat. Currently they are among the most cherished items on board and probably hold more value than speckled eggs and Oreos! You wouldn't think it by looking at them though - I certainly didn't when I first laid eyes upon the faded-yellow, rust stained bits of material that we use as our 'Air-con' and shade cloth.
Our 'Air-con' is a half sausage shaped attachment about 1.5m long that works by catching wind from outside and funneling it into the boat. It's currently been modified by our resident Bosun (Hearn) using our day shapes to increase it's effectiveness. Our other cloth, nicknamed 'Slim Shady', is used to provide shade to whoever is on the helm at the back of the boat. With no direct sunlight on you and an uninterrupted ocean breeze, the helm is often the most pleasant place to be during the hottest time of the day.
Now Tawanda, who is not one to miss out on opportunity, was exploiting the aforementioned advantage in the early afternoon. There was a light breeze with large waves and all was calm inside the vessel as a few of us were napping and others were playing Monopoly. All of a sudden, with a riiiiip that haunts the darkest nightmares of any sailor, the peace on board was shattered. In a flash heads popped outside, expecting the worst - a torn main or popped spinnaker but nothing could have prepared us for the absolute horror we were about to witness... There hung Slim Shady, torn and in tatters flapping uselessly in the wind after a particularly large wave had caused the boom to swing across in an inadvertent half-gybe which reduced our beloved cloth to a mere shadow of it's former self.
There were cries of protest and, unfortunately for Tawanda, who now sat squinting in the full force of the afternoon sun, blame was passed copiously to he who had been on the helm during this unfortunate time. Once the initial shock of our loss had passed a needle and thread was sourced and sewing lessons with Emma began. At present I am pleased to say that the repair is well under way and our not-so-slim Shady will live to see another day.
The rest of the day passed without incident, couscous and sprouts for lunch, followed by family time and pesto pasta for dinner. Afterward the sky was lit up by thousands of stars in a moonless evening. A newly downloaded GRIB showed stronger wind for the next few days and perhaps even a storm... Maybe 7 days isn't long enough after all.
- Jonathan Ham