Chasing the Albatross

My adventure in search of a bird by David Lawson



0 Thursday 26th July – update

  • by David Lawson
  • 26-07-2018

Thursday 26th July – ‘To sleep, perchance to dream….’

So this afternoon I thought I’d try and describe what 6 hrs in a bunk trying to get to sleep sounds like.

I can lie in my bunk willing myself to sleep knowing I’m dog tired and need it and yet I can’t switch my head off. Invariably it starts with me having a conversation about something with myself or I’m imagining scenarios being played out. You know, the ones that will never happen in real life. Then a song will start playing around and around and I can’t get rid of it.

Then the boat will tack or gybe so it’s a rush to let my bunk down or pull it up. Both of these are achieved on a pulley system whilst lying in my bunk. And then I also need to adjust my lee cloth which is on the open side of my bunk and should stop me falling unexpectedly to the floor of the gangway below and breaking a few bones.

My sleeping bag will become uncomfortable and I’ll need to try to rearrange it. The zip might be catching on my back or my feet are getting too hot or there is a bunched up feeling under my shoulder.

Then the contents of my pillow will have become bunched up so I need to unzip the outer, take the inner out and reorganize then repack. Then I might need to put a shirt under it to give it just that extra bit of height to ensure my neck angle is right.

It might not be possible to get the bunk angle right and I feel as though I’m lying in the v of the wall and the bunk mattress. My solution to put my trousers in the v gap to make it more comfortable.

Oh and I’m still having a conversation with myself in my head.

Light is streaming in from the porthole glass directly at my bunk height. I need to find my neck warmer which doubles up as an eye mask if I pull it down over my head.

Still that song is going around my head.

On deck the on watch are using the grinders directly above me or they are walking around above me or their tether clips bang on the deck or the sound of their talking, laughter or shouting instructions to each other pervades below. Oh and when it come to a sail changes or a tack or gybe then all hell breaks loose as all the grinders are put to use and people care shouting insyructions over the noise.

A spinnaker might have been replaced and needs to be repacked down below. People are walking around and talking to each other whilst they carry this out.

The skipper goes on deck and calls instructions to the helming team.

When my bunk is on the low side I can hear the wind and water rushing along the side of the boat. It sounds like a force 8 gale going on out there!

That song is still playing……really, I don’t need this.

Ok now concentrate….I try to distract my brain. My turn to method is to imagine driving down the farm drive to my Gran’s house. I park the car and walk towards the main door recalling all I remember of her garden as I go. Often I don’t get as far as the doorway and I’m asleep. But not today.

That song is still playing in my head!

So find a comfortable position, no that’s not working, got it….no that’s not working either! Where is a comfortable position because I’m not finding it.

What about reading on my kindle for a while or I could listen to some music maybe???

Sleep…..absolutely no chance!! This is going to be a long off watch.

So this afternoon rather than bother with the above it’s been time on deck chatting (quietly) with the on watch, enjoying the sun and listening to music. And the great thing about head phones? Your noise doesn’t disturb any one else.

Wonder if I’ll manage a sleep on my next off watch at midnight……well we’ll just have to see!

And that is one of the reasons ocean yacht racing won’t be making an appearance again anytime soon. Sleep exhaustion is just so…….exhausting! And yet we put up with it and still manage to do the job we need to do whenever needed at whatever time of day or night and in any type of weather.

Madness! Pass me the sleeping pills…

Thursday 26th July – update

Well as I got up this morning, after a decent sleep at last, guess what….it was a full sail plan and going hell for leather and the lean we had on was incredible. Helming was hard work as I just couldn’t get my feet settled until DK managed to find a wedge to raise the height of an angled board we use to stand on and then hey presto…so much easier.

At 11am we rounded our final southerly mark and started to head for home…well Liverpool at least and finally after 3.5 days of bashing, crashing and horrible conditions we are back with a flatter boat state, with the wind behind us and a spinnaker up and life is good again.

A quick poll yesterday of ‘would you do this again’ elicited a significant number of votes in the ‘hell no’ column. The key number on our minds yesterday, 4,290, had nothing to do with sailing. These were the number of minutes left before we were off the boat!!!

But today after 3 hrs of sun and a flat boat 3.5 days of pain have just been swept away as if they didn’t happen. It’s amazing how quickly the human brain blanks painful memories out! Champagne sailing is an amazing thing or should I say champagne and sailing? Let me think about that one.

It’s amazing to think this will all be over in 2 days now and I’ll be back on land with a beaming smile, joking with everyone about what we’ve achieved, with a large glass of something cold and a huge amount of pride in what we’ve done. It’s quite something. I don’t have the words now to sum this up but I’m sure they’ll come to me now that we’re not fighting with the elements and the boat.