Day 30: a sailor’s life

I could really get used to this – Odyssey has now spent the last three days doing all the work and I haven’t needed to touch anything at all. Yesterday we made another excellent run of 160 miles, and in exactly the right direction too which is always a bonus. Nothing has broken, no sails have torn, and Monty is steering a nice steady course over the big swells.

The only problem really is finding something to write about as the sea is still as big and blue as ever, as is the sky. I haven’t seen any ships so there are no thrilling near-misses to report, and the hurricanes have been lashing my former home of Fort Lauderdale so I have no tales of daring seamanship to regale you with either.

So what do I do all day? Now that I’ve got the hang of tradewind sailing (ie letting the boat do the work) I have the same routine every day, which goes something like this:

0800: Rise and shine! Or more accurately, swear at my alarm clock and go back to sleep unless I’m feeling really perky in which case I stagger out of bed, slide back the companionway hatch and check that we’re still afloat and sailing in vaguely the right direction.

0830: Breakfast – my favourite meal of the day and the most vital as it gets me going. I’ve learnt that even I shouldn’t talk to myself before breakfast as I’m such a miserable old git in the mornings. I always have the same thing: a large bowl of cereal, a mug of tea, and a glass of fruit juice. After breakfast I read for a bit, either in the cockpit if it’s sunny or lounging in the saloon.

1000: Start to think about what I should do today, but can’t be bothered to do it yet.

1100: Elevenses, after which I really can’t dawdle for any longer, so start on the list of repairs which is never-ending as I’m constantly breaking things. All this week I’ve been sewing up the huge tear in the genoa, but there are lots of other things to do like generally tidying up and cleaning the boat, or fixing little things like leaky hatches.

1200: Write my diary entry and emails, then spend half an hour trying to get my satellite phone to connect before I can send anything. It always seems to take a dozen or so attempts to dial before I get connected, although there hasn’t yet been a day when I’ve totally failed to get online so I can’t really complain.

1300: Lunch – my second favourite meal of the day as it’s the second one. All I eat is four slices of Ryvita with either vegetarian cheese substitute (pre-formed yellow rubber slices) or brie, depending on how posh I’m feeling. If I’m really hungy I might splash out and have an extra two Ryvita, but then feel terribly guilty so spend the rest of the afternoon regretting it.

1400: Siesta, either in the cockpit to top up my tan if it’s sunny, otherwise in whichever cabin is most comfortable. Comfort level is a complex mathematical function of angular vectors, flow rates and decibels, but what it boils down to is whether I can find a bunk where I’m neither dripped on by cold wet seawater or flung out onto the floor every two minutes, nor kept awake by a crazy drummer on the roof. Not always easy in this boat, I can tell you!

1600: Tea time, either on the lawn if it’s fine or in the conservatory otherwise. Or if you’re feeling nautical, in the cockpit or saloon. Consists of a cup of tea and three slices of Ryvita spread with peanut butter and strawberry jelly. With the crusts cut off, of course.

1700: More boat-related tasks, if I can be bothered, which is by no means certain at this stage of the day as I’m starting to wind down for the evening after my strenuous day’s work.

1830: Tidy up the boat and get it all ship-shape (boom tish!) for the night. This includes such obvious things as checking that all the sails are up and looking well set, and that there are no ropes trailing over the side. Sailing boats have far too many ropes in my opinion, and there’s always at least one sneaking quietly towards the edge waiting to leap overboard the moment you start the engine and wrap itself inextricably round the prop.

1900: Prepare dinner. Thanks to my terrible memory I can barely remember what I ate yesterday, let alone the day before, so with a fixed menu of three different dishes which I eat on consecutive days I am constantly surprised by my culinary creativity. These three are: pasta with sauce, rice and beans, or vegetable stew with artificial mince. The latter is not disimilar to the fabled sock stew which my father used to cook when taking my brothers and me away on holiday as I tend to chuck anything to hand into it, but it always ends up tasting the same.

1915: Eat dinner in the cockpit. Come rain or shine I eat alfresco as I believe it’s character building and if there’s a nice sunset I can pretend I’m at the best table in a really expensive waterside restaurant, albeit one where the waiters keep rocking the table and occasionally chuck a bucket of water over me.

Atlantic sunset

2030: Darkness is now upon us so I start the engine to run it for an hour to cool down the fridge and charge the batteries, and settle down to watch a film on my laptop with a nice glass or three of red wine. I sit where I can see the radar screen, which comes on every 15 minutes to have a quick scan around and will alert me if anything is close enough to care about, but there very rarely is.

0000: Make final log entry, usually somewhat illegibly due to wine, and retire for the night. Initial cabin selection invariably fails the tests described in the siesta paragraph above, so I usually spend the first hour trying various sleeping positions. I’m a light sleeper and hate noise at night so it’s probably foolish of me to even try to sleep on a sailing boat with it’s multitude of creaks, groans, taps, rattles, bangs and squeaks, and I spend ages going round tightening halyards and stowing loose items. However I do eventually fall asleep, usually just before my alarm goes off saying it’s time for another log entry.

And so pass my days. Nothing too taxing, but then I’m still on holiday so that’s exactly as it should be. In some ways it’s a shame that I’ve just about got settled into my routine when I’m only a few days from land but to be honest it’s not that different to being at home really.

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