11 Dec, 05 – 19:11

Latitude: 26° 06′ N
Longitude: 22° 19′ W
Miles to Antigua: 2205
Miles in last 24 hours: 6

Sid the sea anchor was a dirty stop-out and stayed out all night. Me, I stayed in my cabin, apart from one desperate foray to the cockpit, scrabbling around on all fours to retrieve various items that were making a bid for freedom. I managed to haul in a jerrycan that was dangling by a bungy cord over the side, and rescued 2 buckets and a pair of trainers that were floating around in the flooded footwell. The only escapee was a bumper size pot of Boots baby wipes (my toilet paper) last seen bobbing off in the direction of Greenland.

Yup, it was a Saturday night to remember.

I’d finished a rowing shift at 1am, and noticed the wind had moved round to the south. Bad news, when that’s the way I want to go. So to stop me being blown in the wrong direction I put out the sea anchor – a fabric parachute 12 feet in diameter that is let out on a long rope from the bows of the boat. It grabs hold of a big fistful of water and stops the boat going too far the wrong way.

The next time I woke up it was about 3.30am and blowing a storm. Waves were crashing over the boat and we were pitching every which way. I stuck my head out the hatch and was greeted with a blast of wind and a scene of devastation. I put on my waterproof as some token protection against the elements, clipped on my safety harness, and did what I could to restore order. I paused briefly to note the wind speed – 22 knots at that moment, but I’m sure it was gusting more.

In hindsight I suppose it was a scary situation, but I didn’t notice at the time – I was too busy to be scared.

With everything stowed I retreated for the night while the wind continued to blow. At one point the whole boat tipped 90? – I found myself lying on a leecloth instead of my mattress, and all sorts of things that normally live on the right hand side of the cabin were later found in unlikely lodging places on the left.

Today the wind has been gradually easing, but is still coming from the wrong direction, so Sid the sea anchor is still out partying. I’ve been taking it easy, enjoying the extra recovery time for my shoulder. I had to call Tiny to make sure I was justified in not rowing today. It felt weird to be doing so little. Those who know me well on terra firma will vouch for the fact that sitting doing nothing doesn’t come easily to me. It seemed inappropriate to be discovering my lazy side in the middle of a race. But Tiny gave me the reassurance I needed, and gave me a suitable anecdote of a round-the-world yachtsman (whose name I didn’t catch). ‘Racing’, he said, ‘is an insult to the ocean’, and with that he carried on past the finish line, did another half lap of the world, and went to visit some friends in Tahiti.

Wind: 22+ kts last night, now about 5 Weather: sunny, overcast later
Sea state: rough, very rough at times
Hours rowing: 0
Hours sleeping: 10
Thought for the day: Surprise yourself every day with your own courage (Denholm Elliott)

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