A day in the life of intelligent ballast

Day 3 of our trans-Atlantic crossing + so far it has all been plain
sailing. I confess this is not as I had imagined it would be – clearly too
much reading of ‘disaster at sea’ type books on my part. However, even
though the current going is easy I am not letting my guard down because I
suspect that when the Atlantic kicks off it does so big time. Right now we
are bowling along in 10 knots of wind and the beast within the boat is calm.

In global circumnavigation terms we are sailing south of the main fleet (~40
nm south of the leading group – CV24, 27 & 30), the other boats appear to
be hugging the southern extent of Georges Bank. Down here we have both wind
+ tide to ferry us on our way + we are well clear of the iceberg field,
Titanic’s resting place + any Perfect Storms that might be thinking of
keeping us company. Long may consistent wind – blowing in the right
direction (that’s the important bit) – be our companion.

Life sailed on a reach is just SO much more agreeable than life on a
dangerously precipitous incline. True it doesn’t ‘feel’ like we are racing –
no pain to be endured for the gain etc. But I have no doubt that extended
periods of sailing close hauled + with overwhelming qualities of winds will
come – just not yet please wind gods.

As a member of the crew I have found it is very easy to slot into the watch
regime – the big decision are made for you + you just get on with
adjusting the variables that you can to make life just that tinsy bit more
bearable (like the angle of tilt on your bunk).

Our watch system is a relatively humane one – we have 3 four-hour watches
during the night + 2 six-hour watches during the day. There being 5 watches
for any one 24 hourly period means also that each day you alternate your
watch pattern for the day + therefore only every other day get the dreaded
midnight to 4am watch when there is no light + no meal on offer. This also
gets us round that ‘groundhog day’ phenomenon when all days seem the same.

Personally I love being awake for the sunset + dawn watches – we have had
some quality showings of both + watching the path of reflected sunlight turn
from silver to gold via orange neon high lights (and vice versa) brings out
the inner poets in us all.

Sleep but mostly lack of it can be an issue + so one of the active watch is
assigned wake-up duty to get everybody on deck in time for change over. Wake
up techniques vary from gentle to the special branch on a drugs raid

Food is served at a given time to each watch in turn – breakfast always in
the galley, lunch + supper possibly on deck if condition allow when extra
seawater dressing is not on the menu. The regime is the same day in, day
out and we have all turned into Pavlov’s dogs – watch change over means
food, start drooling. But that said the food is amazingly good given the
catering conditions + the ‘Delia award’ for best food of the week is a
seriously contested competition between mother watches.

When we are sailing we tend to be assigned duties – ‘man spinnaker sheet on
main winch’ sort of stuff. The young bucks go for the serious stuff up on
the prow + helming and the rest of us if not on winch duty are ballast.
Personally I am happy enough being ballast – although I would really like to
do something slightly more ‘contributing’. But all boats need ballast
(sitting on the high or low rail as conditions dictate). Intelligent? We are

Life at sea right now is plain sailing + it’s watch change over. So start
drooling Rose change-over means lunchtime.


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