Chasing the Albatross

My adventure in search of a bird by David Lawson



0 Sunday 1st July

  • by David Lawson
  • 01-07-2018

“We’re driving through the Newfoundland fog banks this morning. The sun has just risen and we’re in for a beautiful day’s sailing….again. All on board are good. No sickness just a healthy appetite to help the boat go faster as we head across the great blue yonder.

Last night was wonderful here.

I was due to helm at 9.30pm, our time, and just beforehand the temperature dropped quite quickly as a low fog bank enveloped us. It was just getting dark and the stars were out so I could look up to find a way point to steer by. The moon wasn’t up but soon I could see an orange glow as it rose above the horizon. It was soon swallowed up by the fog and cloud above.

Off our starboard bow we could hear dolphins calling from the water as a small school played beside us. With phosphorescence around them as they surged through the water they seemed like mermaids calling us to join them.

The moon continued to rise and eventually broke through the fog and low cloud off our starboard bow. At one point it was sandwiched between a layer of cloud and appeared to sit on top of one layer and hang from another. A shining beacon whose watery glow shone a path to our boat over the ocean.

As the cloud cleared, Mars could be clearly seen just below the moon at a positionong of 4 o’clock. Further left of the boat, Jupiter and Venus followed us with a watchful eye.

Petrels flew around the boat as if the moon’s light on the sails created a guiding light for these ocean moths to follow us by.

Above the moon a plane heading westward created a silvery trail in the sky. Families, loved one’s, business people all heading for a different destination high above us, unaware of our watching presence far below.

At 11.30pm I was on the helm again.The conditions were ideal as the boat, beautifully balanced, skimmed effortlessly across the ocean surface. What an absolute joy. As the next watch came on they offered to relieve me of my helming duties before my allotted time was up. Enjoying the moment, living firmly in the now, I politely declined and stayed until midnight appeared on the instrumentation. An end to a wonderful moment. An end to a wonderful day and the start of a new one to come.

In these days of Instagram, selfies and the recording of moments in search of a ‘like’ from peers, what I had witnessed needed nothing more than my memory and presence to capture it. A photograph would never have done justice to what I had seen. My trying to turn pictures into writing can never put across the full beauty of the images of the natural world I had just experienced , and there must be millions of these moments that go unwitnessed every day.

Undertaking this venture gives me the opportunity to see amazing sights that will stay with me forever and when this ‘Clipper bubble’ is over and reality returns and I wake early from my sleep one morning I wonder where I will wish I was…..tucked up in a cosy bed or gliding across the ocean in the middle of the night? No camera required, just a desire to be present and alive to what the moment has to offer…mmmmm…..a difficult choice, but in my mind I will still see those unique memories…..

And so another 6 hour watch comes to an end. The wind dropped off somewhat this afternoon and we’re not quite as far ahead as we had hoped. We’d ideally liked to have benefited by a further 50 miles from the current we had been hoping to find but as we’ve come to know there is no such thing as plain sailing. On PSP it’s always a bit of a lottery. Still there is a long way to go and there are lots of things that will undoubtedly play out over the next week or so.

I managed 3 hours sleep after breakfast this am and am eating well. The mood on the boat and the team are great to work with.

The boat is sitting a little flatter now and life below is more manageable. With hot days but cold nights we’ve all stopped overheating thank goodness.

What an amazing journey! We are so privileged.