This race from Sanya to Qingdao has been incredibly varied, from tropical sunshine to crisp and chilly and all manner of wind and sea conditions. We have had some tough times – hence no blog until what is now less than 300 miles to go and day 11 – and the early hours of 14 March.
After several benign days we started to experience lumpy, unpredictable, rough seas, upwind sailing, in a boat that sails at a silly angle and is poorly designed for beating into the wind. I have been very relieved to experience the strength, resilience and leadership of our round the world crew, watch leaders and skipper. They gave me the confidence to struggle out of my berth, find kit and make it onto a slopping deck, and scramble around. I noticed I just stopped thinking, and was just hanging on in there, taking care, as best I could, of my body and managing to function in a basic way. Getting a few bruises along the way, wishing I had some experience at mountain climbing as we clip on and off to manoeuvre on deck.
Before leaving I realised I was afraid of what lay ahead – acknowledging this in myself and sharing this with our skipper and my watch leader brought perspective, reassurance and ease within myself.
It wasn’t until we woke up to flat seas off the beautiful, mountainous coastline of Taiwan on what was day 8 – Sunday 11th – I think – another glorious sunrise and a flat boat as the wind had eased and changed direction – oh joy – that I felt human again. I wrote a crew blog for the Clipper website entitled Cheerful Again. Heartfelt gratitude for mother nature’s blessings, team buddies who are kind and generous of themselves. Just not being at silly angle was a most welcome respite.
Since then we have continued with a flat boat and crew morale has improved as those that were sick have been back on deck. Our watch system has changed back to a two watch system with dedicated mothers responsible for cooking and cleaning etc. Net net results include yummy fresh bread, much improved food – and a happy team.
As we sail north the weather is becoming properly chilly and we are digging out our sleeping bags and thermals. The China seas at night are ridiculously busy with fishing traffic – making it tough, tense and very demanding for our navigations. Tonight – in the early hours my mother watch buddy is clued to the nav station as we sail goose winged – our kite and full main delicately balanced – between lines of dangerous fishing nets. In the early light of day the mass of rusty fishing boats make a curious sight – but in the darkness of the night – you can feel the tension and stress energy rippling and resonating through the boat and crew. Hot drinks for those on deck are embargoed, whilst focus is maintained.
Fresh bread is in the oven, with the most delicious aroma. This will be my simple gift to watch buddies when they finish their watch at 4am, before we hand over to the new watch and snuggle back into our berths – safe in the knowledge that they too will be vigilant in watching over us and our boat as we continued north to Qingdao – our home port, with arrival perhaps in the next couple of days.