Chasing the Albatross

My adventure in search of a bird by David Lawson



0 6 November…diary

  • by David Lawson
  • 06-11-2017


Crew ready to depart Cape Town

The day starts bright with some good wind and it’s cold as we’ve come a long way south on our chosen route to Fremantle. The boat is heeled over and we are making good headway, 12knots.

This morning I’m on ‘Mother Watch’ so it’s up early to prepare breakfast for the oncoming watch who will want to eat at 7.15am and the off going watch who’ll be eating shortly after 8am. Mostly breakfast has been cereal or porridge but I’ve decide on a Lawson twist so today it’s going to be pancakes. Fortunately, a client of mine, Jill Heeley, has given me a secret tip, a teaspoon of sugar in the pancake mix.

The secret of preparing food in our galley is organisation and with my Mother buddy, David Kemp, we have a well oiled machine. The pancakes go down well and it makes a good start to everyone’s day. Result!

Just after 10am I’m back on deck. It’s a drysuit day today as my boots are still wet from a previous wave encounter in my foulies. The challenge of foulies, as I’ve found is when a wave comes down the deck the water rushes up inside your salopettes and then down into your boots and the result is wet boots which is really unpleasant. With the cold weather I’ve upped my layers and today I have on 2 thin base layer tops, 2 thin base layer trousers, a pair of fleece lined trousers, 3 more thin shirts, a thin fleece lined dinghy sailing jacket, a soft-shell jacket and then my drysuit. Fortunately I can still move with all this on and it provides a good level of protection from the elements and will keep me warm enough in the condition. To finish I have a neck muffler, a hat and some gloves.

There are decent waves behind the boat and on occasion we are surfing down the swell. It’s interesting to feel the ocean rise and then pass under the boat and as we reach that tipping balance point the boat pushes forward down the next wave. As the wave catches back up with the boat we start to surf and then it has gone and we wait for the next wave to follow behind and it all starts again.

The wind is changeable today and there is lots of physical work to change the sails at the front again. It’s clear I am no longer 30 years old and recovery time takes longer but I’m sure over the forthcoming weeks that my overall strength will improve.

There are lots of Black Browed Albatrosses circling the boat today. They come in such close proximity you can see the black eye marking they are named for.

Today’s highlight though is my first sighting of a Wandering Albatross. It’s like watching a large glider slowly approaching. With effortless ease this giant seabird glides over the waves. Majestic in size and posture, this is a bird to take notice of and other Albatrosses are dwarfed by its form. From far out it approaches and comes close by as if checking this other glider, of the seas, CV28, our home on the seas. As the wind reduces we wish we could use the natural speed it’s wings generate to give the sailing wings we use to push us on in our search for more speed. Unfortunately, is not going to be our day. The albatross will always win this battle of millions of years of natural evolution over our crude desire to master the seas with a machine. And to prove the point without a wingbeat it effortlessly glides off into the distance. You can almost hear it chuckling to itself. And now we’ve hit a wind hole which seems to underline our technical limitations!



Nature is still in charge and we still have much to learn. As for me, this is one of those moments in life I will always treasure. Seeing nature up close and personal from this most unique of perspectives is a real privilege. Long may the albatross rule over this beautiful yet inhospitable part of our world.

The wind gets up tonight and after a flat sea state day day we’re back to life on the lean. Boiling seas and gusty winds make helming hard work. The swell passes under the boat and changes the direction of travel and you have to catch it quick. Everything is so hard to do and takes 4x longer than usual.

It’s cold tonight and my gloves get saturated. Aargh!! Gloves are one of the biggest challenges I’m finding on this trip. Sit by cubby trying to get warm and find some ‘hot hands pouches’ to keep the cold at bay.

Helming is hard. One hand on helming station cage, left hand works the wheel. Hands are freezing but the concentration relieves the cold pain.

Day 12, 7 hours and 32 minutes [!]

“My Everest of the Seas”

Andie here! I’m delighted to at last be able to share some of the excerpts from David’s emails to me. Communications are unsurprisingly sporadic, and David is now using the email facilities from another crew member. When calls are made…they are 1-way only as David can’t hear me! However it is still wonderful and amazing to hear him chatter to me for 60 seconds….whilst in the middle of the southern ocean! He’s safe, well, exhausted, sore, sleep-deprived, exhilarated, cold, and wet and YES I can confirm he has now seen his albatross….actually he’s see hundreds of them!

Sadly, Roy Taylor, the Skipper for the first 2 legs decided to leave the boat in Cape Town. He thought the crew needed someone who was more race-minded so took the tough decision to stand down. The new skipper Matt Mitchell joined the boat with 24 hours to go before departure. Whilst Roy will be sorely missed, it is going really well with Matt and he is leading a really strong crew.

So, rather than me rambling on about having to do all the chores around the house etc.,, I thought David would like me to share with you what life has been like so far on the Mighty PSP Logistics boat!