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Night watch [May. 25th, 2009|02:45 pm]


More problems, this time with the gas sensor alarm sounding when there’s no gas leak. I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry. While a variety of Clipper employees hopped on board to try to solve the problem, the delay of three hours did have its up side – we got to go on a tour of Hull & Humber, one of the Clipper 68s that will be racing round the world. The skipper is Piers Dudin and he let us poke our noses into all the nooks and crannies. It’s so much bigger on the inside than Black Adder, even though it’s only 6ft longer. We were shown the cubby holes we’ll have to store our things and I realised there’s no way I’m going to be able to fit in as much stuff as I’ve brought for this week.

Mind you, fewer clothes might not matter. As I write this I’ve been wearing the same things for two days on the run, sleeping, eating and working on deck in them (and not showering), and it’s not that bad. The only things I’ve taken off are my boots, oilies and hat. There’s no mirror on board so we don’t know what we look like anyway. The biggest concern is just being warm enough.

Last night was the first test as we did a three-hour watch system. We sailed continuously from 11am until 5pm the following day. The crew of nine was split into two groups and the first stayed on deck from 8pm to 11pm, then woke the next watch and tried to grab a couple of hours’ sleep before getting up and doing it all over again, twice over. I was on the first watch so saw sunset, and then spent the next three hours occasionally tacking, which meant someone had to go forward and shine a torch on the sails so we could see if they were in the best position and trim them (adjust) if not. We also had to keep a look out for other boats, which you can only identify by a code of lights which determine their size, whether they’re moving, what they are doing and how (by motor or under sail) and what angle they’re at in relation to you. We were lucky in that we had very calm seas and light winds and the three hours flew by each time. Coming on deck for the 2am to 5am shift was the hardest as it was very disorientating. Lights are not allowed below so as not to spoil your night vision – there are low-level red lights like in a darkroom but they don’t help when trying to take out contact lenses or pour boiling water into a dark-coloured cup when making a morale-boosting round of teas and coffees. We got through a lot of hot drinks, several packets of biscuits and a lot of sailing anecdotes.

It was my first night sail (8pm to 11pm on, 11pm to 2am off, 2am to 5am on, 5am to 8am off, 8am to 11am on, 11am to 1pm off) and went fine, apart from the cold. I could still feel it despite wearing long thermal underwear, a T-shirt, fleece, hooded jumper, hat, oilies, two pairs of socks, boots and gloves. Now I wish I’d signed up for a tropical leg instead of an Atlantic crossing! Any tips on the best thermals, fleeces, etc to buy for keeping warm gratefully received…

More pictures:

Emma helming along ther solent

Working with the sails