FROM 1-24. Closing on the Barn Door

Oct 15, 2005 - 1640hrs UTC

1640hrs 15 Oct 2005 UTC 39’03”S 000’05”W Ref 443

I’ve just started to read Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth (the paperback Virago edition, 1978), a special favourite, which I’ve been carefully saving until things started to get really hard. I found it on a shelf for book swapping in the marina laundry in Lymington and feel guilty that I took it without leaving anything in return. All Berrimilla’s outward books went to a charity shop in Falmouth. It’s the second time I have read it, the first being inspired by the BBC TV series based on it about 20 years ago. There’s a line in it that I remember from the first time in which she says (p. 20) ‘…a family’s estimate of its intrinsic importance is not always associated with qualifications which immediately convert the outsider to the same view’. Austen or Wilde couldn’t have said it better.

This echoes, for me, something I was trying to say in an earlier note, about not getting hooked on my own hype and there’s aother mirror somewhere reflecting Douglas Adams’ Man Who Ruled the Universe, whose lack of any passionate conviction except perhaps to self doubt was his chief qualification. Having read Ed’s article, it seems to me that I can go on churning out this stuff only as long as I can see no intrinsic value in it except that which each individual one of you chooses to instil into it. As soon as I cross that line, I’ve lost the plot and you should drag in Pelagia’s goat immediately. But then, perhaps this rather self indulgent bleat is exactly what should be fed to the goat and appropriately reduced to its proper state. Stuffed if I know.

We are about to cross the Greenwich meridian. Big milestone but we are still 900 miles from the barn door and the Indian Ocean. It’s bleak, blue-grey, wild, with misty rain, it’s cold and the 30kt wind is playing its muted howl in the rig. Halyards banging against the mast. Berri is rolling and gyrating along at about 6kt under tri and #4 and I’ve just been up into the cockpit to have a quick squizz. Mistake! I took a risk and didn’t put on the party gear, having not heard a greenie for some time and, of course, temerity got it’s just reward. I just managed to duck under the dodger and avoid most of it but I’m wet and cross with myself. Greenies, incidentally, are seldom really green – they mostly arrive as about a carload of horizontally crashing white water. It’s an expression indicating more or less solid water arriving as a moving wall. I’m now sitting wedged at the nav table on the port side and I can look across out of the starboard window and see sky – no texture, no form, just translucent light. I know the boat is rolling, but can’t tell which way except by the movement of the Cone of Silence, the heavy plastic curtain now permanently down to keep water off the electronics and the sky teeters up there for an age and suddenly there is angry grey water and rushing froth as Berri shoves aside tons of south Atlantic. And then more sky. And so the day goes on!

I’ve just tried to send a lot of stuff which has banked up – seems the Africa sailmail station has gone to sleep – and had another USB crash with attendant blue screen of death ……desperately desperately frustrating and every time it happens I lose about ten miles of recorded GPS track and forty two of the last remaining hairs on my head. Only about another hundred of them to go – hairs and crashes – before we get home.

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