12:20 am Woo hoo! Finally crossing the equator! GPS reads: 00deg 01 S 86deg 16 W. Do I risk the wrath of Neptune? Best not (we sailors are a superstitious lot). Ok then, maybe a bit of self-humiliation? I settle for a bucket of water over my head. I don’t really feel like cracking open that bottle of champagne that I don’t have….
02:00 AIS alarm is screeching!!!! Ship alert. Wake up, Ken. Come on, wake up! Nasty – this one is aiming right at me, moving at 17 knots, targeting Ecuador I guess. Call him up on the radio? Nuh, I think I will just turn sharply and go behind him. Hang on, he is changing course? Towards me?
02:15 Ok, dodged that bullet. Back to sleep
02:45 AIS alarm!! I am starting to feel like a Disney cartoon mouse, crossing an 8-lane highway. Yep, we must be in LA.
03:15 Survived. Again. Sleep, please sleep.
05:20 Bloody boom! There’s not enough wind to stop the mainsail from slamming as the boat joggles in the waves. I’d better motor sail a bit just to save the rig. Coffee? Nuh, I’d better try to sleep again….
07:00 Alarm. Rise and shine! Quick check around the boat. All good. Coffee. Museli (Janice’s homemade super food), but I am down to the last banana today. Plenty of papaya, though. The fridge is full of it. Oh and one token mango. Oh, and a ripe avocado. I have Cup’s secret guacamole recipe somewhere.
07:30 Emails. Its Hannah’s birthday!! Lets start with that. Ok, Janice needs to pay some tax. Georgina is not getting my SPOTME updates. Hang on, neither are others… They’ll have to use the YB tracker instead. Astrid from Zwerver has sent another hilarious email – it is becoming an absurdist humour ping pong match. I’ll get back to her later… Patrick and Sandy from Hope have got their new engine. Yay! Poor Rubicon has had to turn back to Panama after frying their batteries with a dud regulator. Lots of news then. One thing for sure, something is always going wrong on some boat or other. I love Ressie’s simplicity at times like this. Generator problems? Nuh, we don’t actually have a generator… Hydraulic problems? Nuh, don’t have them either. How about your a dicky electronic engine management system? What? Nuh, I reckon our diesels came out of a 1960’s truck.. you can’t kill them with an axe….
08:30 Wind!! I can’t believe it. Suddenly the day is sunny and we’ve 11 knots from the north east. Ok, dare I? Yep, why not. I’m going to put up a kite. But how to actually get it on deck? I know, I’ll pull it out of the hatch on a halyard and a power winch. Bad idea – I nearly broke a piece of watermaker that got caught on the sail bag on the way out, and tore the sail cover. That is ok, I’ll sew it up later. Let’s hoist this thing. And then figure out how I am going to get it down again on my own…
09:30. Oh bliss! We’re making 7-8 knots in 11 knots of wind, and Ressie loves this. Turn up the music! Ok, now sew up that bag… And its exercise time…. Aches and pains. This video starts with this fit dude saying ‘no pain, no gain!’. Crap. I am determined, though. One fitness or strength video each day, plus either a stretching or a yoga routine. I am amazed I am sticking to this, but mostly because I wrote this huge schedule. I am shaming myself into some fitness. And let’s be honest, I have enough time. God it is hot, though, and my muscles hurt from yesterday. And I am seriously flabby. Who wants to be 60?
10:15 Pour a bucket of salt water over myself to cool off, and dry in the sun. Clothing optional. This ocean is BIG. I have only sighted 4 ships in 5 days, and no yachts. Its clean, though. The water is amazing, actually, and there are lots of sea birds.
11:00 Ok, now the work list. I’m going to reverse the topping lift first. I need a mouse. Ok, now check the oil in the engines. And time to sew up my Henri Lloyd bag, whose waterproof seams have failed. Oh, and finish re-lacing the trampoline. And change the watermaker filters. The thing about this work list is it always has 20 items on it, no matter what you’ve just completed. But in all truth there is some joy in slowly getting the boat to optimum condition. I just need to remember to do something every day.
12:30 Lunch time. So the thing is, I am not eating that much. I guess I am just seriously lazy. I have this emerging Ryvita addiction, and then I add crème cheese, smoked salmon, capers, red onion (thanks Mike) , hard boiled egg and maybe some salad. I would never eat that in a million years at home (think pizza) but it just feels right here. I might relapse, of course. I’m loving this classical music. This is also out of the box. Actually, I am probably channelling Joan, my mum, who, as she fights memory loss, is taking more and more solace from really loud Bach. From down to dusk. Go Joan! I’m going to try that super hard sudoku.
13:00 Sleep – I need to break my sleep patterns so that I am more rested at night. But how? It is so hard to get to sleep during the day, even more so than when there are other people on the boat. I’ve been trying meditation to help, but I sometimes struggle on a boat to meditate. Closing my eyes doesn’t work – it just focuses me more on all the other things going on with the boat. Maybe I’ll listen to an audio book.
13:45 Well – I am returning to my favourite book of recent months: A General Theory of Love. It is one of those books that I could just read over and over, but I am struggling to get past Chapter 3. Here is a quote from the introduction: “We take up the challenge…. exploring the nature of love, drawing upon imagination, invention and the ascendant scientific knowledge that biotechnology places at our disposal…. As we do so, we will travel afield from what many people consider the proper territory of the psyche. Before we are through, we will touch upon the mewling of lost puppies, the mathematics of memory, the marital fidelity of prairie dogs and the facial expressions in the South Pacific. We will consider the child-rearing experiment of a medieval emperor, psychotherapeutic techniques, the intuitive genius of newborns, and why people hold hands at the movies’… We ask what feelings are and how blind babies know how to smile…. The authors are psychiatrists, and they gleefully debunk Freud early. It is an amazing book and I figure that, alone on this boat for weeks, I have a chance to really absorb this tour de force. So here goes. 20 minutes later, I am asleep.
5:00 pm I have this little nagging question about how I am going to get the ‘coloured sail’ back down. Usually it is a job for 3 people – two on the trampoline pulling down the sock, and one helm, letting go of the sheets and guys at the right time. So, I need to be 2 places at once. Eventually I have a plan which involves running the engines really fast, setting the sail to leeward (easing the windward guy, so that the sail is pulled tight along the side of the boat), and then using the autopilot to turn the boat sharply downwind so the kite collapses from the leach. I then need to run forward and pull down on the sock quickly whilst easing the sheet. Nothing too complicated then! Eventually I try it, in about 15 knots of wind, and it works a treat. Woo hoo! Not sure if it will work in 25 knots, though. Anyway, I am game to try it again…
5:45 pm Sunset! It is always a special time at sea, but today is spectacular. I am so moved I go and get a gin and tonic, and turn up the Tchaikovsky violins. Again, I wonder at how I got to be out here. I’ve no idea.
7:00 pm I’ve decided it is BBQ night. I have the BBQ set up in the forward cockpit, and I am cooking some chicken thighs to have with Noni’s creole spices, a fried rice and some salad (I still have a lot of greens on this boat!). It is a beautiful evening – a light breeze and the boat just gliding along. The stars looks so close it feels as if you could reach up and touch them. The BBQ actually smells wonderful, and I am glad I have bothered. Over dinner, I listen to an audio book. It is called ‘Girls and Boys’, narrated by Carey Mulligan, who is fantastic. I guess this is like the world before TV -people huddled around the AM radio. But it is nice. I am avoiding videos and TV shows, actually, in a bid to break the cycle of distraction. I don’t want to do what I could do at home whilst I am out here.
8:00 pm Time for my radio sched with the mad Spanish. These guys on ‘Gota de Rocio’ (means Dew drop, of all things), have adopted me. There are 6 of them on a 46 foot mono, and one of me on a 48 foot cat… One owns the boat, and the others are paying passengers on an adventure holiday. We were next to them at the marina in Panama, and they insisted we stay in contact. So we have these hilarious Spanglish radio calls each night. Tonight they have crossed the equator, and they tell me about their party and how they demolished a bottle of rum. They are brimming with latin brio, and I think they feel they need to look after me (like many sailors, they don’t get why anyone would ever want to sail solo!). I tell them I used the kite today. They tell me I am mad. Who is mad?
9:30pm. Time to try to sleep again. I check the boat over carefully with my head lamp, set the autopilot to course based (the wind angle function is still a bit temperamental), and lie down. I wake up one hour later feeling so much better.
11:00 pm. Another day gone. This is day 7. I wouldn’t even know if I didn’t have the date on the bottom of my computer. I really am not counting the days. Quite the reverse. I snuggle into my bed again, wondering what will happen next….