25 December 2005

25 Dec, 05 – 17:01

For GPS position, race position and miles from La Gomera, see http://www.atlanticrowingrace.co.uk

Happy Christmas!

Of all the latitudes, in all the oceans, in all the world, I had to pick this one.

It seems that I, and I alone out of all the race fleet, have found myself a uniquely unhelpful weather system. I’ve been heading south in a desperate attemp to avoid these headwinds, but didn’t make it in time. Christmas morning brought the news that I had dropped several race positions, and that the winds would be against me all day.

For several hours this morning I valiantly but grumpily battled the headwinds, rowing hard just to stand still, nearly crying with frustration as time after time the fickle wind would change direction so in the space of a few strokes I’d find myself pointing completely the wrong way. Happy bloody Christmas, I thought.

Exhausted and fed up, I took a break to open my presents (thank you to Jan, Pauline, Peareys, and the Gurkha Spirit guys) and then checked my emails. One was from my friend Adrian Flanagan, who is currently bidding to be the first person to sail around the world via the polar regions. He sent me the 3-day forecast, showing much more favourable winds from tomorrow. The day suddenly seemed brighter.

So rather than row myself into an oblivion of misery and exhaustion today, I thought to hell with it – today I’ll enjoy Christmas and get back to racing tomorrow.

So how have I spent my day?

One special experience was going over the side for the first time. Not many people have swum in 2-mile-deep water. I was worried I might struggle to get back in afterwards, and after Tara and Ian’s scary shark experience last week I was a bit apprehensive, so I put on my mask, snorkel and Baltic safety harness and hopped in before I had a chance to think about it too much.

It was beautiful – cool and blue and limitless. I was supposedly there to scrub the barnacles off Sedna’s hull, but had a good gawp around as well. I’d envisaged maybe a whole colony of wildlife congregating under my boat, living off any scraps that go overboard, but there wasn’t much at all. There were a couple of tiny little stripey fellows, and further down hovering around Sid’s rope was a bigger fish like a tuna. Apart from that it was just clear blue infinity.

That done, I washed my hair and bathed, did some laundry, cleaned the boat, and settled down to a good Christmas dinner of chicken with cranberries, peas, sweetcorn and gravy (it was good, but maybe not as good as it sounds – the chicken was diced and freeze-dried, and due to death of camping stove everything was served cold) followed by Christmas pud. Thanks, Tiny, for the pud – it was great with Irish Coffee syrup and sweetened condensed milk. Scrum!

I rang a few people, including of course my mother and sister, celebrating Christmas at Mum’s house in Leeds. It is just the second Christmas since Dad died, and a bit of an odd one, with me being out here and my sister about to set off on a one-year trip around the world. Mum told me about my present – she got a new screen for my beloved Mac laptop, to replace the one that got smithereened between Lisbon and the Canaries.

So all in all a very satisfactory Christmas Day, my only gripe being that Father Christmas failed to deliver the one thing I REALLY wanted for Christmas – a nice steady northeasterly. But hopefully tomorrow…

Wind: 5-7 kts from the south/west
Weather: sunny
Sea state: slightly choppy
Hours rowing: 3

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