Tag Archives: sport

Not getting barrelled at Teahupo’o

Teahupo’o. Having shared a big chunk of my life with someone who breathed, dreamed and lived surfing, I was somewhat educated on the waves of the world. And Teahupoo? I could fairly easily recognise the wave in a picture, that crazy, powerful reef break that has surfers around the world dreaming of making a trip to French Polynesia.

I’m a rubbish surfer. It used to wind up my ex. How can you surf for six years and barely progress? He wanted to be able to ride a two foot wave with me; actually, just riding a wave together – any wave – would probably have sufficed.

If I actually made it out the back, I stalled myself out of waves, freaking that they were too big for me. Often I was happiest on the smaller, reformed waves closer to the shore, or riding the white water when I got bored of waiting for a ‘proper’ set to push through (although when I started to finally take the little drops and get on the faces of waves, the white water lost a bit of its appeal).

Realistically, one to two foot on a sunny day in the UK suited me perfectly. I don’t like rips, I’m a bit over mid-winter surfs, and the necessary evils of stiff 5/4mm wetsuits and a full booty-glove-hood get-up makes me tired just thinking about it. I have, I suppose, given in to the fact that I am never going to be one of those girls that rip, and that maybe I am indeed a fair-weather surfer (yet, actually, if the waves are right on a British December day then I’ll definitely get in the water for a splash around, just don’t give me a biting wind and a troubled sky).

Not much happening wavewise back in Devon in the winter of 2007... but its sunny and I'm smiling. Enough.

Not much happening wavewise back in Devon in the winter of 2007… but it’s sunny and I’m smiling.

There was no way, then, that my trip to Tahiti would include me undertaking the giant paddle out to the Teahupo’o showpiece and scuffling for a place in the line-up.

But I wanted to see the magic first hand. I felt that this wave was part of my history, a wave that had been part of conversations and memories and dreams. So I wanted to see the wave and its birthplace, I wanted to experience the magic of bobbing about in a little boat close to the crashing power, and I wanted to watch surfers get barrelled, get air and then bail off the back before the wave closed out and slammed them onto the jagged reef.

Watching the action up close (*not my picture).

From photos and calendars and videos, I knew what it should look like. So why the disenchantment?

Together with my Pacific crossing crew mates, I arrived into the village of Teahupo’o and to a little beach at a river mouth. The only people around were a few kids riding the beach break, twisting and turning on boogie boards, a couple more on stand-ups. The café was closed, the houses empty, the narrow, stony beach deserted.

By the river mouth at Teahupo'o, Tahiti

By the river mouth at Teahupo’o, Tahiti

A couple of boats were moored up by a house but captains were absent and a ride out to the mighty wave began to seem unlikely. I looked out to sea, out past the flatter near-water to a section of crashing waves that occasionally delivered a peel and spit but more typically smashed down on to the reef without any form. Closing out. Surely no one would be out there today trying to surf? I squinted but it was no good. I saw no one.

Shall we just borrow it?

Shall we just borrow it?

Kinda doing... not much

Kinda doing… not much

After a wander through the ghost village and along a rocky, coral beach, we weren’t any closer to the wave or to scoring a boat ride. I wondered if some of these houses were even occupied by locals and just how different this sleepy place was when the annual Billabong Pro surf comp came to town.

A hint of what Teahupo'o has become?

A hint of what Teahupo’o has become?

I gave up on getting out there to see it up close, and retreated back to the hire car. The only friends we made were some stray dogs. Oh, and one of the teens who gave us a wave as we left.

No barrels for me, or anyone else it would seem. Maybe I should have done some research before I left? Sometimes things just work out. This time it didn’t. Back to the perfect waves of picture books, then.

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Day trippin’ Tahiti

Having picked up some maps at the tourist information by the docks, planned a few desired stop-offs and hired a car for the day, we were ready to drive the coast road that wraps around Tahiti Nui and smaller Tahiti to the south-east. The constructed concrete and development of Papeete slowly faded into the background as we sped south down the smooth roads of the west side of the island into a scene framed by thick, dark green trees and mountains that raised up from the roadside.

Enter the lushness

Enter the lushness

Our first stop was at Grotte de Maraa caves barely 30km south of Papeete, a public garden bursting with every tone of lush green imaginable, despite being but a machete strike away from the main road. The detail of fanned leaves, the variation in plant patterns and the odd splash of water and other colour created a world in which I wanted nothing more than to walk alone and once again get lost in the thicket of nature whilst Joel and Matt headed up into the jungle, following an overgrown path.

Plants and water and happiness

Plants and water and happiness

...and more...

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Beautiful, right?

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Yep.

The caves themselves gave cover to pools of water on which lilies clustered, some white petals on display. To the side of the main cave was a sign hidden behind foliage that stated No lifeguard on duty, surely a joke of sorts. Matt went for a paddle and the water barely reached his knees (although apparently further into the belly of the cave it drops away).

Really?

Lost girl? Nah, not really.

Lost girl? Nah, not really.

Back behind the wheel and we drove on down to Teahupo’o on Tahiti Iti, Tahit Nui’s little sister joined to the main bulk of the island by a slim stretch of land over which passed two roads. A few young teens body boarded on little waves on the edge of the village whilst the infamous Teahupo’o break smashed about a couple of kilometres out to sea. We walked by empty houses and quiet air, accompanied by a stray dog.

Arriving to the village of Teahupo'o

Arriving to the village of Teahupo’o

Hanging out on the wire looking out towards the famous break

Hanging out on the wire looking out towards the famous break

Shall we just borrow it?

Shall we just borrow it?

On the way back up north we decided to head to the Taravao Plateau, stopping first at a little spot off the beaten track by a river where we dunked in cool waters and got nibbled by creatures in a murky river bed. At least I did. Joel and Matt, my crew mates from the Pacific crossing, swam against the river flow, then let themselves get carried for a little while. I guess it had been a long time at sea without exercise.

Taking a river rest

Taking a river rest

Capturing the creature who had a good nibble on my toes

Capturing the creature who had a good nibble on my toes

The boys think about stretching their legs again

The boys think about stretching their legs again

The viewpoint of Taravao Plateau itself took us out of the jungly lowlands, high enough to get a wide look over both parts of the island. A little hut shaded us and the gentle yet constant trickle of tourists who pulled in for a quick glance. Beer tops, a few empty bottles and a smattering of graffiti hinted at a place that went beyond that of a lookout. This place saw it all. Or some variation, at least.

Views one way... down to Tahiti Nui

Views one way… down to Tahiti Nui

Views from the same spot

Views from the same spot

Our last stop-off was driven by the need to get to the water’s edge once again. Whilst the west coast beaches seemed unreachable and – where visible – chunked up with rocky entries, the east coast offered up a good dose of sandy beaches. Finding an unmarked place to pull in, the boys were quick to the water whilst I lay down, full stretch, and the warmth of the sand against the length of my body made me sleepy.

Getting drowsy

Getting drowsy

I dozed through all the fun – the body surfing, the local kids playing up to the Go-Pro camera, the refreshing splashing around – and roused only for the homeward stretch, a half hour drive with a red dusk sky backdrop

Nearly there

Nearly there

And we were back. In Papeete, at the pontoon, within the rock of the boat. Home.

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Are we really in paradise? Tahiti falls short of expectations

Despite still living on the boat, we were now moored up in Papeete in Tahiti Nui and I was making that sea-to-land transition without too much bother. After weeks without crowds and flashy lights and shop windows full of unnecessary lures, I had been looking forward – a little – to some built up bustle and human life.

But postcard pictures of Tahiti, with their promises of a tropical paradise, didn’t deliver. I half expected Robinson Crusoe emptiness and fallen coconuts scattered on wide, white sand beaches, and maybe a little bar built out of wooden slats tinkling out upbeat songs to paddling and sunbathing holidaymakers. I thought back to my time in Mompiche in Ecuador and predicted something along those lines, only lit by a warmer sun and dropping off to a vibrant, turquoise horizon.  I knew that as the main hub of Tahiti, Papeete would be a bit more of a regular, developed city but again previous adventures channelled my expectations and I anticipated something closer to the carless charm of Ilha Grande in Brazil.

Needless to say, with a head full of romanticised candyfloss, my first impressions of being back in civilisation weren’t great.

First views of Papeete

First views of Papeete

Arriving into Papeete

Arriving into Papeete

The sail in to Papeete should have given me some idea of what to expect. Perfectly planted palms and trimmed, irrigated parks did little to set my excitement alight.

And yet, I was excited as we approached Papeete, and I caught myself holding my breath as I stood on deck and watched glaring shopping centre signs and double lane road running alongside the marina moorings get closer and closer.

Sitting in the dock of the bay watching the....

Sitting in the dock of the bay watching the….

Homes and houses

Homes and houses

Road, boats and concrete

Road, boats and concrete

Traffic... Ah yeah, I remember

Traffic… Ah yeah, I remember

In the town itself my eyes zoomed into the duality of the place, to lazy grafitti tags and rubbish thrown on the floor, to pristine lawns and carefully constructed window dressings full of jewellery and pictures of airbrushed women draped in pearls and handsome men.

I searched for free WiFi, but found only gifts and food that cost a small fortune. The famous fast-food joint, which in other countries is known to lure in travellers with the promise of internet access, had only the usual glossy wall pictures and a predominantly obese clientele.

In a side road I saw a woman lean over and onto a bin, dirtied white pants reaching high above her rolling waistline, no other clothes, whilst a group of well-dressed friends sat in a trendy cafe on the next street across.

On the edge of a little shopping centre a middle-aged man held out his hand to a passing woman, man and boy, who instead dropped coins into the hands of a sweetie vendor.

Shop windows, cafes and browsers

Shop windows, cafes and browsers

But really, none of this is that unusual. Although Papeete suffers the same ailments as many a built up town, my disappointment was my own fault, possibly influenced by tourism advertising, inflated expectations and island dreams, but ultimately the result of a hopeful imagination. And, maybe, because the slick side of the town – the ‘better’ side – was so not my thing, frustrations with society and consumerism and all those bigger issues were brought back to the forefront. And the irony? I’d just sailed in on a million plus catamaran. Sure, it wasn’t my boat or the boat of the boys onboard (we were on a delivery) but without this world and these extravagant lifestyles, the privilege of sailing the South Pacific Seas would never have occurred.

My mind had a bit of a wrestle about and after a few weeks of living in a dream world of the Pacific Ocean sail, reality wasn’t just giving me a nibble. She was biting hard, locking down her jaw and thrashing her head about.

And so, I couldn’t help but feel a bit deflated. Where was this paradise that people spoke of? Was it equated to expensive purchases and monotone restaurants dishing up small servings on large plates?

I definitely needed to do some more exploring.

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Winding up life on board

It’s all whizzing by so fast now! I’m watching the miles tick by and it’s making me a bit nervous. I’ve mixed feelings, of elation and apprehension. Some excitement too. How do people go back to real life after sailing the seas?

Our ration of sweet things ran out over a week ago. Alan, the captain, disappears into his cabin and returns with a Toblerone bar. I make a mental note to remember to have my own secret stash on future voyages. Surprising the rest of the crew is priceless. We each break off a piece – dessert for the evening – and leave the rest in its packet in the middle of the table.

We’ve eaten well on board, a little too well and I know I’ve definitely put on some weight. The lack of ability to exercise has been frustrating, but I’ve resisted keeping up with the boys’ daily press-ups and sit-ups in favour of lounging in the hammocks and watching sunlight speckle the ocean surface with a million diamond fragments. Between losing myself in Paulo Coelho books and reflections brought on by the Ya Ya Sisterhood, I’ve been listening to Keith Richards on my MP3 player. Stories. People. Life. I can’t get enough.

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Hammock time to tune in, tune out, switch on

And I’m writing like a woman possessed, articles and diaries full of thoughts about past and future, about opportunity. Out of nowhere come contemplations on life and philosophies that reveal some growth and the start of a connection with something a bit bigger. And hope and confidence. For the world and everything in it, including little me. Cabin fever has got to me, it would seem, in a crazy, creative sense.

Two days later and we glimpse land for the first time since leaving the Galapagos. With no deep-rooted earthiness, in some respects this coral collective is a bit of a cheat claim to sighting land, but the tree-lined strip of the atoll nonetheless breaks up a constant flat horizon and reminds us of a different view, of a world we were part of not too long ago.

Mirage fuzz or something more?

Mirage fuzz or something more?

Later I wrote in my diary that it

‘was so exciting to see something other than ocean! Birds were flocking towards it, around it. Signs of life. Wonderful.’

Suddenly the excitement of a piece of chocolate is put into perspective. It was important, for sure, but this sighting? Something else.

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Sampling the sounds at sea

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Sound check

20th Century American writer, Henry Beston, once said that ‘the three great elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of outer ocean on a beach.

But what about getting away from the beach and actually being out in the outer ocean? Maybe he never had the opportunity to check out the sounds associated with sailing across the vast South Pacific Sea. During my three-week journey from Galapagos to Tahiti I certainly had the time to get familiar with the noises of the middle of nowhere.

Back sometime in the reign of the Romans, poet Virgil uttered that ‘every sound alarms’. Totatlly out of context, I hear him on a literal level, because although this quote is more usually linked to discussions of guilty conscience and such like, sounds – and unknown sounds in particular – seem to put me on high alert.

The creaks and thuds and squeaks of the boom as the wind grabs the mainsail and rattles her about were initially unsettling, but now I tune out, to some extent. Below deck clunks and bashes as waves whack the bottom of the boat are sometimes so strong that they physically jump me in my bed and send a shock through my body. These sounds, in forte, are so linked to motion that their impact is accentuated. I feel each thing that I hear. Their sound is fully imprinted.

Gentler overtones include the flutter and ripple of the sail when the wind blows a different directional gust, whilst the whoosh of water rushing out of the back of the boat gives a sense of momentum and is the constant soundtrack to our voyage. It’s too light a sound to be the baseline but it’s there, always; a practised concerto with a limited melody.

Bursts of laughter and conversation colour the piece and add a choral element, whilst the daily generator eruption provides some guttural oomph. Indoor fans and the random hum of the sumps in action add some sound fuzz and grate and purr to the score.  We need some electronics in there. Let’s make this rich and big and keep it real. This isn’t a fairytale with a twinkly, tinkly track list.

In some respects our boat and time at sea are part of an expressionist orchestral piece, dissonant yet full of life. And we’re not talking vivace here, please, this is a sailing overture created by the universe, our great conductor, our maestro, and the tempo is far more lento than we’d like at times. Lento yet full of awkward dissonance; gentle with some heart tightening explosions.

As I conclude this post, I think back to Beston’s comments and realise that the sounds I’ve experienced out at sea are the result of interactions between humankind and nature, and not just elemental forces working alone. In terms of elemental forces out at sea, the sound of night-time silence has to be the strongest, a loud sound accompanied by a full, sparkling sky.

But no! Of course, that silence isn’t true! I’ve obviously tuned out the gentle water rush as we slice through the sea, onwards to French Polynesia and the upcoming reality of real life. The tricks of sound and of the mind. Who knows any more what is actual or imagined out here. Does it even matter?

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The need for patience on a long distance passage

We are sailing…

It’s Day 5 and we’re flying along a calm ocean, slicing through the chop without too much clunking and smashing about. It’s not long before the South Equatorial Current gives us an extra 2knts, and then we hit the trade winds – the South East Trades. We’re being treated to a great start averaging between 7.5 and 8.5 knots. If only we knew what was coming up.

Day 8 and we’ve nearly covered half of the 3,650nm between Galapagos and Tahiti. I haven’t seen land since we left, or another vessel in nearly a week. Other than sea creatures – the suicidal squid, the dolphins and the – we’re now truly alone in the great South Pacific Ocean.

Day 11 and the Trade Winds are not working their magic. We slow significantly. Speeds of 6.04 knots feels crippling slow. There’s worse to come.

On Day 12 we have a bit of a slow struggle and thrash about in changeable winds. We have to do something but with over 1300 miles to go, it’s definitely not the time to start up the engines. A change of course makes the most sense. It’s a case of weighing up wind direction and speed against what ground we would cover (or sea). Joel and Matt do the math (it’s something to do; keeps the grey matter active) and Alan makes the call to gybe, heading significantly away from our waypoint bearing. It’s a bit of excitement, our first gybe of the whole trip. Within nine hours we switch back to a port gybe and it’s back to familiar boat wobbles and what we know.

Day 13 turns out to be a beautiful day for cruising. Everything feels unhurried. Time takes on a different dimension and we all relax into the sunshine and super slow speeds of 3 to 4 knots. If we weren’t on a delivery, maybe it would have been even more enjoyable. ‘Today would be the day for a swim in the sea’ says our skipper, Alan, but none of us take him up on it, not even Matt, who is proving to be the waterboy of the boat with daily bucket dunks and sea water washes out on the back landing deck. Instead, we consider resorting to a stint on the engines.

Day 16 is the actual day we stop for a swim and snorkel. Flat seas, not much wind to get excited about and enough of the noise, we switch off whirring motors and jump into 4,000m of clear blue water, sunlight sending slithers of light deep, deep below. It rejuvenates us. A nice change after more than two weeks of routine.

And then finally, on Day 18 the wind picks up. Averaging 7-8knts, we do what we want to do: sail west. Even the shifty winds of later in the evening don’t dampen our spirits. We are sailing again! The trade winds are back doing their thing.

On Day 19, after a few hours of wind drop I suggest that we switch on the engines momentarily. The rest of the crew pretend not to hear, so we continue on, switching between genoa and spinnaker, trying to harness the wind as best we can. And all is well. Because by Day 20 we are firmly into the islands of French Polynesia. The waypoint countdown suddenly feels all too quick and close.

Are we really ready to re-enter society?

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A little boat and a vast ocean: are we the only people in the world?

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Our world

In my South Pacific sailing adventure there was no getting away from it: hundreds of miles from anywhere and anyone, we were in the middle of a big blue ocean, and for three weeks that ocean was our world.

Crewing on a boat from Galapagos to Tahiti with three strangers, this was an adventure in learning to live at sea, a reminder of routine, and a privileged opportunity to totally remove myself from civilisation and see what long distance sailing was really about.

And, I realised, it was largely about being alone.

The first sense of aloneness was that of looking out at a vast ocean brimming with blue-grey choppy waves and not much else. After a tuna catch on the second day, the only sea life that seemed to still show itself to us were flying fish and little, squidgy squid. Initially both littered the deck, but even they started to desert us as we sailed on, passing the 1,000nm and then the 2,000nm mark. Dolphins made a brief appearance, playing and ducking and diving at the bow of the boat, and a still-day swim and snorkel allowed me to see salps and sunlight streaking the clear, 4,000m deep water. But human life? Nothing to be seen.

For most of the voyage, all we had were 360° views of water leading to a drop-off some 8nm away. Sometimes choppy, sometimes eerily still, there were no indications that anything else existed out there. Instead of being scary, it was strangely calming. The heavens reached horizon to horizon over the top of our world, day times presenting Simpson skyscapes and night times a brilliant blanket of dense starriness and Venus brightly guiding us on to the West.

For twenty days, I didn’t see another boat, another sign of human life. My world was me and these three new friends. Supposedly, whilst I slept, we passed by a Japanese sailing ship that the others made contact with, but who knows that they didn’t dream it up after weeks with no interaction. No, unfair, I did later hear some chatter on the radio, an unfamiliar language. I scanned the horizon. Where were they? But nothing.

There was also the mental and emotional test of being disconnected from the ones we love. My skipper had a satellite phone from which he sent regular updates, but beyond that, no one knew where we were or how we were all really doing. Surprisingly, this wasn’t too much of a problem. Despite only meeting my crew a day before I boarded the boat, we all got on fine; good chats, interesting views, plenty of learning points. Maybe I’ve just got so used now to not being surrounded by my usual friends and family that I easily adapt?

It was only after two weeks that I realised if something big went wrong, we were fully alone. Sure, the EPIRB would fire off and let the main guys around the world know that we were having problems, but the best that they could do would be to find a boat close to us, which could be hundreds of miles, and direct it to our rescue. ‘What if my appendix ruptured?’ asked Joel. ‘Surely they’d send a helicopter or a rescue plane?’ I asked. ‘The best they could probably do would be to get us to a bigger ship with better first aid provisions’, said the captain. Death at sea, then, was a possibility. ‘I give you guys permission to operate on me’, said Joel.

So here we were, four strangers sailing in the middle of a big blue ocean, and for three weeks that ocean was our world.

And, at least in terms of humankind, we were very much alone in that world.

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Boat guardian of the hour: what happens on watch?

I’m sitting up at the helm, rocking and rolling around on a slightly choppy sea and studying the spinnaker – the big front sail – for the two holes that I spotted yesterday. They seem to have disappeared. Fair weather clouds clutter the sky, moments of beautiful sunshine breaking through and warming my bare feet.

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Up top pew…

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…with a view

We’re heading towards a dark lined horizon, maintaining a steady speed of between 6 to 7 knots but it feels slow after a great yesterday averaging 8.4kts. Tahiti is still over 2,500nm away, at least another two weeks on this empty ocean. It seems both a short while and an eternity.

Occasionally I contemplate how vulnerable we are: four somebodies floating along in a carbon fibre frame, trying to employ and mix ancient sailing wisdom with modern technology.

My skipper is relaxed and knowledgeable. I wonder if he ever wonders just how he ended up crossing the Pacific with three newbies. Too late to switch things up now. What we lack in experience and knowledge, we make up for in interest and enthusiasm. He keeps the lads busy changing sheets on the genoa and unfurling the spinnaker. Other than watch duty, I’ve put myself forward as cook. I’m keeping busy.

With four of us on board, we can develop a routine. Every six hours, for two hours it’s my watch time, during which I look out for potential collisions or obstructions, keep an eye on wind direction and speed, check the sails, make minor adjustments to our course and, where necessary, trim the sails (or rather, I help to trim the sails, because although I have a good idea of what needs doing I lack the experience and therefore the confidence to make any bigger decisions).

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Keeping an eye on the sails

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Captain’s seat

And I try not to hit the track button on the captain’s main computer. It resets everything. But then someone does hit the track button and our whole mapped course disappears. Uh oh.

Honestly, it wasn’t me.

Far out in the South Pacific and unsure of where we’re going or where we’ve been? Nah, it isn’t quite that drastic. A tech savvy captain and we are back on track with only a little gap in the mapped route to show for the mistake.

And I am reassured that even in the event of a full on technological failure, night sky navigation isn’t something unfamiliar to my skipper, Alan . I put my trust in him and my crewmate Matt, who starts to read up on celestial navigation.

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Night time nav and sail switch

But now, back to my watch and that oncoming moody horizon.

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Dolphin delight

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South Pacific companions

It was Day 9 of my sail across the South Pacific and finally, – finally! – I saw some dolphins.

I ran from a conversation, grabbed my camera and raced to the bow of the boat, sitting myself down and hugging the guard rails as I watched a private wildlife show close-up.

The rest of the crew soon tired of the dolphin dance but other than a single, bigger dolphin that I’d seen briefly on a boat ride over from Santa Cruz to Isabella in the Galapagos Islands, these were the first dolphins I’d seen out here.

I don’t know what it is, but there is something about these beautiful, majestic and intelligent creatures… Something gentle yet strong, graceful yet powerful. And social all the way.

For ten minutes or so I observed these slippery grey beauties lead the boat; dancing in and out of the water as a group, dashing ahead, falling a bit behind, but dancing, dancing all the way.

And as suddenly as they arrived, dolphins started to leave the party. For a few precious moments a pair stayed and danced close to my dangling feet and I felt my gaze get lost in the royal blue playground of the sea.

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And… just about had enough

And finally they too turned around. Off they swam, leaving us to sail unaccompanied once again.

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A day in the life of a crew member crossing the Pacific Ocean

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Anything up ahead?

My home is currently a fifty foot carbon fibre box rigged up with sails that are helping me and a crew of three to cross the mass of the South Pacific Ocean from Galapagos to Tahiti.

What I’ve come to realise is that long distance cruising is as much about adapting to life at sea as it is about the sailing itself. Compared to coastal sailing where you’re frequently making quick decisions and pulling ropes and following carefully constructed sail plans that take into account regular waypoints, out on the great ocean the same awareness of weather systems and sail trim and all that stuff still needs to be in place, but everything is at a different pace. Our first waypoint was over 3,o00nm away. When I’d done coastal sailing back in the UK, waypoints were usually plotted every few miles.

So how does an average day pan out? What does one actually do without going crazy inside this confined space on a vast ocean of no escape? Although different for everyone, here are extracts from a day in my life at sea.

12:30am
I finally get to bed after a two hour watch and hand over to Matt, one of the other crew members. Brush teeth and all that stuff. Then sleep, delicious sleep.

5:45am
My alarm goes off. I push snooze. Twice. But it’s time to pull on some clothes and splash my face with water. My next watch is coming right up.

It takes a few minutes to get into it. I catch up with Alan, the skipper, who is on watch before me and I check over the log book. I notice one of the guys has made an entry about a great dinner the previous night. Always nice to know that my cooking hits the spot.

In amongst all the usual watch stuff, I grab some breakfast and a cup of tea and go to sit up top to watch the sunrise. How did I land this shift?! Mornings are difficult for me but I love this time of the day. Other than the sunrise, there’s nothing to report; no dodgy sounds, no boats on the horizon, no shifty winds.

8:30am
I go back to bed for another two hours sleep. I drop back off fairly easily. It’s taken a while to adjust to these strange sleeping patterns but by having set watches, it’s possible to have some sort of a structured day that your body clock can understand.

10:30am
Up and about. Time to do any small jobs on board, plan the evening meal, take meat/food out of freezer, or read/write/watch movies/listen to music if there are no chores to do. If I’ve had a rough night, I might just grab a few more zeds.

Midday
Log book round up where we find out the miles and average speed for the last 24 hours. Anything below 180nm and a speed of 7.5 feels disappointing because we’ve had some great days doing way above that. Need to keep it all in perspective. It’s funny how little moments become such a focus in this environment.

One of the guys puts together something to eat for lunch, a concoction of yesterday’s leftovers. We’re eating well at sea, even if the chocolates and sweeties have all but run out.

2:00pm
It’s my second watch of the day. In between checking out the numbers on the captain’s computer below deck, I head up to the helm and chill there for a while, watching the sails and the clouds in relation to the numbers on the instruments. I love standing on the upper deck, holding on to the rails of the helm cover and letting the wind mess my hair as I scan the horizon and cloud patterns. I feel invincible and in control of my own destiny: me, a sailing boat and a world of blue. Anything is possible. Maybe a pirate ship of olden times will appear? Maybe a giant whale will rise from the depths and swallow us whole? Maybe I’m having some quality time to let my imagination run free. Yes. Definitely.

4:00pm 
I make an entry in the log book and start to get ingredients out of the fridge for dinner. Right now we’re still eating fresh vegetables but within a couple of days it will be on to frozen and finally tinned. At least we’re not going hungry. I’m so excited to be cooking again after months on the road where few hostels had a kitchen. Here we have spices and utensils and all the things I need to cook up some loveliness. I can enjoy getting food creative again.

6:00pm
We all sit down to eat together and catch up. Because everyone is on different watches there is usually always someone sleeping or having some time out, so its great when twice a day we all gather together. After food I get to sit back and relax whilst the guys sort out the washing up.

And then I try to sleep for an hour or two, although often I’m not tired enough until 21:30, which is just about when my alarm goes off for my final watch.

10:00pm
Final watch of the day. To start with I’m usually pretty groggy and tired. I check in with Alan, look over the previous log entries to see how we’re going followed by a natter about everything and anything, night time reflections on life. Often I head up top for a while where it’s easier to feel in tune with the boat as she glides through a night-time ocean.

Regularly there’s a change in wind around this time so I might help to reef in the mainsail or collapse the spinnaker, depending on what the weather is doing and promising. In all fairness though, the boys seem to do most the laborious stuff. How this sail has ended up being gendered is anyone’s guess! They’re going easy on me, for sure.

Once again it’s a clear night. I love looking out at the blanket of stars that reaches horizon to horizon, a density of sparkling spots in an immense sky. I search for streaks of light, hoping to spot a dying star in its swan song fall towards the earth.

And so the days roll by – sail by – each day not so different to the previous. In a strange way, the monotony is a welcome change from constant on the road movement and daily exposure to new sensory experiences that I’ve become accustomed to in the last year of travel.

I realise I am a bit tired. This time at sea is healthy for me. It’s giving me routine again, space to catch-up on writing and reading. And a chance to rest. I don’t have to plan my next day, my next couple of weeks. My body and mind can relax into this different way of life.

Who knows what will happen when I get to Tahiti. For another two weeks, I won’t find out whether I’m staying on board this boat to Tonga and then Australia, whether I can and should find a new boat to crew on, whether I decide to settle in Tahiti with a stocky, local lad. Or whether I just want to find the cheapest, quickest flight out of there, back to Australia.

For now I have no choice but to stick with this schedule. And you know what? I’m enjoying it.

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