MY TALL SHIPS RACE JOURNAL DAY 9 – (12/07/2015) – Oil rig aliens, a few tears and a lap full of bras!

Christmas-Trees-on-the-horizon

Oil rigs on the horizon as we come on watch

Began watch at 12 midnight to an abundance of Christmas trees on the horizon.  Why has Christmas featured so much during this voyage I do not know!  We even had Once in Royal David’s City sang during watch tonight as H could not think of anything else to sing.

Anyway back to those Christmas trees on the horizon.  They were not Christmas trees, they were fishing vessels, oil rigs, drilling platforms, Floatels and guard ships.  We were right in the middle of an exclusion zone for the rigs!  We should not have been in these waters.  Thankfully though due to no one working in the water around the rigs tonight we had been given permission to pass through the exclusion zone.  We had planned to pass with the rigs to our port side but a wind shift put us on course to pass right between a fully built rig and a partially built rig. A manoeuvre which was forbidden.  We only had permission to pass with at least a mile between us and these two rigs and to go between them would have put us within this smaller exclusion zone.  Due to this we had to take a detour, to change tack and pass the rigs to starboard side.

They are pretty impressive.  I do wonder how they manage to stand on those spindly looking legs.  The partially built one looked like an alien robotic monster!  A monster that preys on passing ships to capture the crew for alien experiments.  It was very eerie, especially from one aspect, as the rig looked like it had red staring eyes; all the better for seeing those unsuspecting ships who wrongly believe they are sailing past oil rigs – what a surprise they would have when the monster propelled through the water to capture them!

Oil-Rig-1

Oil rigs and Flotel close up. The dark shadow to the right is the partially built oil rig (the alien robotic monster).  The Floatel is the vessel with lights low to the sea.

The rigs have guard vessels patrolling them, one of which stayed about 300m off our starboard side to make sure we did not go any closer than a mile from the rigs as we passed.  The guard vessels reminded me of guard dogs sniffing you out and getting ready to pounce should you cross the invisible line onto their territory.  The rig that was partially built had a huge support vessel called a Floatel.  This is where the workers have their accommodation, and it comes complete with a helipad on top.

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Example image of a Floatel from the Marine Traffic website Photo credit: Jan Henry Knutsen

In among all this excitement there was a fishing vessel which we would have to give way to as it had reduced maneuverability due to having nets out.  Luckily though it turned and headed away from us just before we needed to take action to change course.

It took most of the watch to get from seeing the rigs on the horizon to passing them by.

We left the watch with a handover of three fishing vessels to our fore, two of which were working together with a net strung between them.  It had been a very busy watch for lookout, so much to keep our eyes on and report to the officer of the watch.

This would turn out to be the only night I would get to see any stars or the chance of an aurora However it was not meant to be as it was very cloudy and as usual for most of our watches on this voyage it began to rain part way through the watch.  The night never got fully dark, only as dark as it would be during dusk, that murky light just before the sun drops below the horizon.  In fact no sooner had the sun ducked below the horizon in the very north west, it was coming up again in the very north east – very impressive to see sunset and sunrise in the same sky almost at the same time.  It was so light at the darkest point of the night that we could still see each other quite clearly.

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Poor H was suffering tonight, he was very tired and just wanted to go to sleep.  Although I had taken my pain medication at 7 pm instead of 10 pm I was groggy and a bit zoned out when I first went on watch.  This was the watch I was so looking forward to and is the only one of this voyage that I would be able to do at sea, the first one I was on mess duty so I was exempt from watch and the third will be on Thursday in port – I certainly was not going to miss it for love nor money or drugs!

Hubby has been a star on this trip, I have really needed his assistance in doing the basic of every day tasks especially when I am cold, stiff and sore.  Without him being with me tonight I would have struggled to get down below and undressed for bed.  I had gotten so stiff and cold in the last 15 – 20 minutes of the watch. It was strange how it happened, one minute I was fine and the next – bang – I was stiff and cold.  With help from hubby we managed to get undressed from our wet gear, and me into my PJ’s and into bed in double-quick time.  It only took 20 minutes instead of our usual half hour!  A short time before our watch finished hubby had been down to my bunk to put the hot water bottle into it so I would get into a toasty warm bed.

I must admit I did get a bit emotional when I came off watch.  Emotional about the pain, the fatigue, the cold, the constant sense of achievement, and because I suddenly realised I have hit the enjoyment stage of a voyage where the routine is becoming the new normal and everyone has settled into the challenge.

I didn’t think I would be up for breakfast a couple of hours later because I was so exhausted.  I managed it though and I am proud of my achievement especially as I had fully intended in going back to bed after morning meeting and a shower – boy I need a shower!  I didn’t though, I carried on with the day without hitting the sack – there is always so much going on in the morning.

Everyone is looking tired today, out of the seven people in the bar before morning meeting four of them have their eyes closed.

At 1137 hours we had an update from Captain Darren with the latest positions – Santa Maria Manuela has 201 nautical miles to run for the finish line, we have 208, so we are still in for a chance of not coming last.  The Europa is too far ahead now for us to catch, well at least under sail that is.

We are getting closer to the finish.  I can’t believe how far we have come and that we are now on Sunday.  Time is strange on board a tall ship.  I found that on STS Sir Winston Churchill and now on Lord Nelson.  Time seems to run away yet go slow with the routine. Days and hours seem to mean less and less, the importance being on the routine of the ship with the watches and mealtimes.  Everyone knows mealtimes!

Always.

So.

Very.

Hungry!

As for watch times you remember what you were on last to plan for the next.  I have had to plan plenty of rest between watches to ensure I am not getting too exhausted, to prevent my foot from swelling, and to keep the pain levels as low as possible.  I still prop my foot against various parts of the ship when the roll of the ship allows, however some days this is impossible for safety reasons.

I don’t feel at all seasick any more as I am back to writing in my pad rather than recording on my mobile phone.  Had I not had my mobile with me on this voyage I would have missed around four days of my tall ships race journal.  Some of the most important days.  The days where you do from the transition of “oh my God, why did I book this for my summer holiday” to the “wow, this is an amazing experience”, and this is with all of the horrible bits like over coming the debilitating sea sickness.

We had another talk this morning.  This time from J, one of the voyage crew who was born and bred in Norway.  He spoke a bit about Norway, its culture, tourism, travel and Alesund. He is a very knowledgeable man and I enjoyed his short talk and finding out a bit more about Norway.

Before this talk we had a whole menagerie of animals and birds come through the ship.  We are at sea for goodness sake so how on earth did a moose, a kangaroo, parrot and then a penguin get on board whilst at sea.  Yep there is another penguin (apart from me) on board Nellie and a very good penguin at that.  All great fun!

Animals

You may have got an idea from my blogs about the people and routine on board, what I have not yet written about is the noise.  Living in the countryside where it is so quiet I thought noise would be one aspect I would struggle with and I am pleasantly surprised that I haven’t.   All day everyday you can hear the low hum of generators because even under sail we need the generators running to supply the lights, navigation equipment, etc.  So the ship has been far from silent.  This noise does get louder when the engine room door is opened.  Where our bunks are we are just up from the engine room door.  Me being very observant only realised it was there at 4am this morning, yet I have been passing it a couple of times a day since we boarded!  I thought the Louvre doors down the corridor were to the engine room. I could not figure out why the noise would get so much louder every now and again until I spotted the actual engine room door which is a proper metal bulkhead door, and each time it is opened the noise of the generator is released and is much louder than the low hum.  So now I have answered the puzzling question I have had for nine days!

With that said I have got used to the noise on board. It’s weird that when I awake from sleep I don’t hear the generators for the first few moments.  It’s as if they have been switched off.  Slowly my hearing comes back into focus and there they are humming in the background.  I never realised that this happens with my hearing.  The one noise that my hearing does not switch off to, no matter whether I am trying to fall asleep or just waking up, and that is the beautiful sound of the water swooshing and tinkling by the hull, with the occasional slap of a stronger wave.  It’s this noise that I find myself focussing on and it’s this noise that acts like a lullaby to lull me to sleep.  With both the motion of the boat and the noise of the water I have been able to sleep the best I have in the last seven years.  To me that is a huge bonus!

There are a lot of young ones on board and I thought maybe their antics would keep me awake however they are all surprisingly sensible, either that or they are just plain exhausted.  Yes there may be times when they are a little hyper, who can blame them, they are only having a bit of fun but nothing too overboard (see what I did there).  Even the movement of people along the corridor have not woken me from my sleep.  Someone had a shower in the head opposite our berth last night and I never even heard them go in or come out and that door can bang if you judge it wrong when opening and closing it.

So really what I am trying to say in a very roundabout way is that noise on board, which I thought would be an issue especially as I don’t usually sleep well, has been my lullaby that I will miss on my return home.

Here, changing the subject abruptly, do you want a laugh?

I could have crawled under my duvet in embarrassment earlier.  Captain Darren was doing his rounds and passed by my berth as I was having a bit of a luggage reshuffle and repacking our packing cubes.  I only had my bag with my bras open on my lap and a bra next to me on the bed.  How I managed to hold a serious conversation without going bright red I will never know, plus I instigated a continuation of the conversation by asking some questions.  Shows I must be getting old when I can talk to a member of the opposite sex who I have not known for very long with my bras sat on my lap.  Afterwards I thought it was so funny.  It’s all part of living in close quarters on board a working sailing vessel.

We were on watch between 4 pm and 6 pm, we arrived on deck just in time to see the tail end of a pod of pilot whales and a pod of dolphins.

Whales

During watch Nellie was a little rocky and the decks were wet.  For some reason my wheelchair was a bit more slippy slidy than usual due to the steep angles of the deck when she rolled from one side to the other.  I think because I have been tense due to this I have spiked my pain levels.  When we came back down below I really did not feel like eating because of the pain and just wanted to go to my bed.  Hubby encouraged me to get my roast dinner, I ate it but didn’t enjoy it.  I am so stiff and sore, poor hubby had to strip me out of my clothes and help me into my PJ’s.  There is a quiz tonight which I am missing, I can hear the laughter and fun from my bunk.  I am sad to be missing it but I know I must rest to be able to do my next watch.  Hubby went to the quiz though, he was needed!

Our watch leader B is a beautiful young lady.  She came to check on me after the quiz and had me in tears.  She is so kind, told me not to get up for watch in the morning between 4 am and 8 am.  We came up with a compromise that I would go on watch from 6 am to 8 am, and only if I was feeling better to do so.  I told her I enjoyed being part of the watch and didn’t want to miss any and already felt bad missing the one the other night.  She told me I was doing better than some on the voyage who were not suffering with the pain I experience day-to-day let alone the additional stress a body goes through sailing a tall ship.  We also chatted about young H who has become disengaged.  If B was my daughter I would be extremely proud of her.  I have said it several times already and I will say it again – I am so proud to have the honour of her being my watch leader.  For one so young she is so switched on and caring, thinking through how to deal with different characters and different people issues and difficulties; keeping everyone engaged through what has been a difficult voyage at times especially in terms of the weather.

Thinking of the weather did I tell you, we have only had one dry watch!  The rest has been a mixture of rain, heavy rain, mizzle, drizzle and more rain, oh and a couple of rogue waves that have come on board and soaked various people including hubby.

Sitting here now if I had known what I know now before I booked the trip last November would I still have booked?  Too right! I would do it again in a heartbeat.  I am enjoying every moment, even the not so good moments, it’s all part and parcel of tall ship sailing.

Well for now I am off to sleep.  Here’s hoping the pain settles overnight.  I have been constantly fighting the pain into submission since before I stepped on board, to be on day 9 and to not have completely crashed and burned is a miracle in itself.  It is also testament to my pacing skills showing I have been pacing myself really well, even better than at home and I am in a tougher environment.  How is that, you may wonder.  I have been wondering too and the only reason I can think of is that I am doing short sharp bursts of activity followed by taking plenty of rests, which has included afternoon naps.  I am proud of my pacing skills, and particularly proud that I have not run out of spoons way before now.

Here’s what Aft Starboard Watch had to say about the last 24 hours on the Lord Nelson’s blog

July 12, 2015

12/07/15 LN872

Yesterday was really exciting because we had our first glimpse of sunshine, with the miracle of blue sky surrounding us. This then resulted in everyone quickly putting on shorts and sunnies! Probably the only chance we’ll get to wear them as it is now back to rain, rain and more rain.

On the night watches last night, we had our first beautiful sunset on watch, and also later on, the first night it never got dark. This shows how far north we are and that we are finally getting close to the race finish.

Last night the Blackpool illuminations were spotted on the horizon (at 3 points off the port bow), which turned out to be many oil rigs. This was an amazing sight to see after days of seeing absolutely nothing (apart from St Kilda).

We are looking for new wake up call methods after many failed attempts to awaken a certain member of Forward Port watch in particular. Techniques that may conflict with the Geneva Convention are currently being discussed.

Racing is becoming exciting, as we close in on our only remaining rival, the Saint Maria Manuela. We are hoping that the winds are favourable to us over the next few days so we can sneak past her! In the last few moments of writing this blog, a pod of dolphins has made its way past us. Being closely followed by several Gannets, who were diving into the ocean for fish. In another surprise a flurry of dolphins and whales circled the boat with fins breaking water. With a posse of Short Fin Pilot Whales appearing only 10 metres from the Port side of the ship.

Another update, yet more whales, and Andrew finally managed to get his camera and take a photo of a fin or two.

K, E, J, G, P, C, A, J and T (Aft Starboard).

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