FROM 2-2. Equator-Dutch Harbor

Noon 4253.46 17341.60 Mon 26/05/2008 04:13

dtd 1039 dmg 115
Kimbra, I’ve left a message for Gary Ramos Been thinking about state of mind, cold feet, endless finishing straights – all more or less linked. Standing beside the Cutty Sark, before the fire when she was fully rigged, I wondered how anyone could get that huge ship with that enormous sail area and unimaginable power up to maximum speed and keep her there for 90 days through the southern ocean rollers, the doldrums, and all the storms and calms in between. How would you feel as the captain, making daily decisions about sail, course, weather and the rest with the ship creaking and straining around you and water crashing across the decks and the rig vibrating and shuddering and flexing with every huge wave? Disaster lurking every moment and with every breaking wave – some bigger than the ship itself. Were those men so confident in their ships and their own abilities that they would sleep easily at night with all that going on – and, above all, a deadline to meet and a race to win in some cases? Or did they, like me, live their lives in a state of nervous, analytical, catastrophising, anticipation? Was their whole attention focused on the ship and its dialogue with them, the subtle changes in tone and pitch, in vibration, in motion through and over the water, the tiny sounds that signalled changes in condition, in the state of a massive brace or a spar and the state of the crew and their capacity to keep driving the ship? That’s me and it’s a big big strain. Only at times when the sea is at its most benign and there’s nothing in the forecast can I ease up and read or do a crossword or listen to music. Inevitably, when I do, it gets interrupted by a random thought about something that needs fixing or that should go on the list for Dutch. I sleep tuned to the boat and when things change, I’m usually awake immediately and trying to sense what has changed. When things are bad, I doze, but don’t sleep, and usually sitting on the floor of the boat at least partly dressed in party gear. I guess that in my world, shit happens and I like to feel that I’m prepared to deal with it and am at least partly on top of each possibility before it happens and have taken action to minimise or prevent it. Lots of examples on this trip – checkstays, furler mods, backstay tackle. And simple things like noticing that the shackle pin holding the tack on the main to the gooseneck had unwound a couple of turns, or that my mousing line for the checkstay was about to fly loose in 30 kts – little things that so often get ignored or missed And as I write this, I wonder what I have actually missed as we enter the never ending finishing straight.

The Melbourne marathon finishes next to the Art Gallery almost in the city centre. The last 8 or so kilometres are almost straight – a long straight stretch along St Kilda rd, about 4 k, the long shallow bend to the left at Toorak rd, and back again past the old barracks and then a final kink to the left and you can see the finish. A whole kilometre away at least. If you’ve never run one, you won’t have any idea how difficult it is to keep pushing a screaming body metre by metre along those stretches and the final k is almost the hardest because that’s when you know you have to push even harder and you cant feel your legs any more and your eyes have no focus. The headbangingest thing I’ve ever done and not just once but about 15 times. This little stretch of 500 miles or so to Amchitka is similar – never seems to get shorter, day to day – GPS always seems to say 5 days 6 hrs to go. Immensely difficult to stay cool and just wait while it all happens – but happen it will.

And cold feet. Dry though they may be, they just don’t ever get warm. I’ve just remembered that Pete and I used plastic beer bottles as hotties and I’m experimenting as I write. But we’ll buy those little metal camping drink bottles in Dutch and use them for the next leg.

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