FROM 1-12. 26°S-Nose Brazil

Apr 17, 2005 - 0615hrs UTC │Surviving the Bus Shelter

0615hrs 17 Apr 2005 UTC Map Ref 171

Imagine you are sitting on the long metal or plastic bench in a bus shelter. I know this may be a difficult concept for some of you, but indulge me. In front of you, about a metre away, is a similar bench parallel to yours, just far enough away so that you can brace your back against the wall of the shelter and your feet against the opposite bench. Your arms are spread as wide as possible away from your sides so that the heel of each hand is braced against the edge of your bench. Imagine that the wall of the bus shelter is cut off at the height of the middle of your back and the left hand wall (as you sit) is just high enough to duck your head behind. It has a little canvas awning (called a dodger) you can just get your head under. This is a rough approximation of Berrimilla’s cockpit.

Comfortable? Close your eyes and imagine that the whole contraption is moving at a fast walking pace from your right to your left. There is a wind blowing from your left front into your face. Someone is throwing buckets of water up into this wind and you have to duck behind the dodger to stay dry.

Now for the fun part. Count slowly to six and fix this period in your mind. During this time, the cockpit moves vertically up and down about three metres, sometimes with abrupt changes of direction and there is a longer period – about half a minute – during which there is a background lift and drop of perhaps six metres behind the shorter motion. At the same time, in the six second period, the cockpit is rolling around the length of your bench, perhaps 20 degrees each way, so your legs and back have to keep you in place as your face alternately looks up at the stars and down at the water. The points where your backside and back are in contact with bench and wall are subject to changing pressure and the force of gravity which tries to slide you off the bench and back on. And the really fun part is that the cockpit is also pitching in time with both periods, quite violently over the short one, so the ends of your bench are lifted and dropped over perhaps 40 degrees, often with severe and abrupt stops as the left hand end pitches downwards. As it stops, you get an extra bucket of water directly in the face unless you duck…

Bracing against the pitch is very difficult and tiring and your backside and back tend to get very sore and battered, and the salt water is squeezed into your skin unless you have waterproof pants on and it’s really too warm for them – each cheek of your backside in turn takes the pressure and tries to slide forwards, sideways or backwards – your skin stays locked to the bench, but your pelvic bones move inside it against the muscles of your backside. Same effect with your back – the spine moves against the big muscles going up your back and they move against your skin.

It’s all very tiring and difficult. Going to windward in these conditions for long periods is always like that in small boats but it wasn’t in the brochure for this tour. I hope it stops soon…

Enjoy your breakfast!

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