My skipper, Alan, let me off watches and cooking for the first day to allow me to find my sea legs and adjust to life on the ocean. I needed it.
I popped a travel sickness pill just before we set off from Galapagos as dusk set in on May 13, 2012. ‘I take pills for the first couple of days’, said Joel, a young American crew member ‘and then after that I’m good’. I followed suit. Slight nerves about the upcoming journey together with a bit of boat rock were giving my stomach that sickness potential.
Matt, another crew member, cooked dinner first night. Spaghetti with a vegetable sauce. Perfect. No wine. A sober boat. I fell asleep shortly after food, swayed to sleep as the 50 foot catamaran climbed and descended gentle nighttime waves. It wasn’t even 9:00 p.m.
I woke up every few hours and finally decided to get up at 7:00 a.m. The sun was shining; a beautiful first day at sea. A fat tuna jumped out of the water; a seal swam close to the boat. We were making good speeds – over 8kn an hour – and already it felt a long way from shore, over 100 miles at this point. I went out on deck and stumbled around a bit and looked out at the views: 360° of nothing but a vast, composed ocean and a 180° sky speckled with the odd fluffy cloud.
I checked out the route progress and boat speed. Our estimated time of arrival for Tahiti fluctuated between 2nd June and 5th June in the morning. We were looking at spending at least three full weeks at sea. Repairs and victualing had been done back in Galapagos. Hopefully all would be well for what is one of the longest crossings out there.
During the day I learnt how to put up the spinnaker on this boat, switching over from the genoa, and I held a few ropes and did what little things I could, but mostly I observed. And made tea.
And then I lay on the hammocks up front, face down, watching the hulls slice through clean, clear water. Up close, against the white plastic, the water was a brilliant blue. Hypnotic. I fell asleep and woke up a few minutes later in a bit of a panic. What if I rolled off? I guess that would be me done, finito. I felt less worried when I gave up the panic, but decided that I’d quite like to get to Oz and see friends and a certain someone, so I moved back indoors.
I tried to write a diary but was too dozy and ended up asleep in my cabin for a few hours. Drug induced or my body trying to figure out what the hell was going on? I’m not sure. I’d only taken half a travel sickness tablet this day, surely it wouldn’t have the power to knock me out?
Washing up after a lunchtime bite, I looked up to see a fishing boat heading straight for us. 60ft of bulky metal towing four smaller fishing boats, this wouldn’t be a pleasant encounter. I alerted the others. Matt jumped up top, switched onto manual and steered us off course. A vast ocean with nothing and now a potential collision. Why they chose to head straight for us, who knows. A game of chicken? They won.
That would be the last boat that I’d see for twenty days.
Late afternoon, I woke up from another state of doziness to discover that Matt had got a bite on the hook he’d been fixing up for a couple of hours. He pulled her in, a skipjack tuna. The boys spilt her blood and guts and prepared her for the evening meal. I couldn’t watch. The blood bothered me less than the fact the boys were so close to falling into the ocean. No lifejackets.
And then after a tasty fish and rice feed, my eyelids grew heavy and an early night beckoned once again. This tiredness was a symptom of sea sickness that would take a couple of days to straighten out. Ah, sleep. My own cabin. Wonderful.