Back on dry land

I should probably start by apologising for my recent silence. You may have been wondering if I had been lost overboard during our Indian Ocean crossing given the supreme amount of blogs written by Alex compared to the meagre amount (well, none) written by me. I’m sure you’ve been sick with worry about me! Please, worry no more – I am alive and well!

We arrived in Rodrigues a few days ago and never have I been happier to set foot on dry land. I’ve been walking around with a new and bountiful lease of life. The world seems better somehow – brighter, cleaner and generally more pleasant than I remember it. In all honesty, I had forgotten that it was possible to get this much enjoyment out of life. Of course escaping from a deathly cyclone probably has something to do with my enlightened feelings, but mainly my intense happiness comes from being away from the unforgiving high seas.

This recent passage was a very difficult one for me. It turns out that my initial excitement in Indonesia of “having gotten over my sea-sickness” was completely unfounded. The seas in Indonesia were so wonderfully calm and the stark contrast of the reputably-lumpy Indian Ocean meant that I spent most of the passage in a prostrate position feeling very sorry for myself. I had very little energy or motivation for blog writing and anything I would have posted would undoubtedly have been very negative. I must admit that I did, in fact, write a blog towards the end of our passage but it ended up turning into an outlet for venting my frustrations. It’s actually quite hilarious to read back as it clearly demonstrates the psychotic episode of a woman going completely insane. In the end I decided not to post it for risk of sounding too negatively opinionated about the sea. I hope you can forgive me.

The good news is that we are now safely in Rodrigues and refuelling our energy reserves. The island is charming. It has a relaxed Caribbean feel alongside tasty French desserts. We went for our first snorkel yesterday and today we hope to rent a scooter and do a spot of sight-seeing. Apparently there is a lot of interesting endemic wildlife here along with some impressive cave networks, which I’m very much looking forward to seeing.

Most of our boat jobs have been completed and we are ready to head back to sea once the time is right. We are keeping a close eye on the weather and assuming there are no major changes we hope to continue on to Madagascar on Wednesday morning. In the meantime, I am doing my best to repress the memories I have of the Indian Ocean so that I can bring myself to board Bob once again and head back to sea. It would be unfortunate for Rodrigues to acquire itself an illegal immigrant.

Setting anchor in Port Mathurin, Rodrigues.

A local fisherman on the edge of the reef outside of the main town.

Almost 3 weeks at sea

The motion of the boat is really starting to get to me. Just as I was beginning to get used to it and my sea sickness subsiding, the wind changes direction and I find myself back at square one – lying in a horizontal position trying to hold back the vomit. We do, however, have some wonder patches (Scopoderm) which are small patches you stick behind your ear to suppress the feeling of sea sickness. They really are brilliant and it’s largely thanks to them that I can function at all on board. The only downside is that they don’t stop my nausea completely if conditions are bad. Also, one of the side effects is that they leave a foul, frothy taste at the back of my throat, so I feel the need to brush my teeth a million times a day. I suppose the dentist will be happy at least.

Over the past 24 hours we’ve turned up wind and are now heading into the swells. This means that even the simplest of tasks, like sitting down, becomes much more difficult as the boat gets picked up by a swell then slammed back down again on the other side. About an hour ago I felt a particularly steep swell pick the boat up as I was sat on the toilet. As the boat was lifted by the swell, I felt the downward force push me into the toilet seat, as though it was trying to suck me through. Then, as the boat dropped back down to earth again, for a split second I was levitating clear off the toilet seat, the pee going everywhere!

We’ve had typical British weather for the last day or so which is now starting to get a little better. All day yesterday the sky was full of dense grey clouds which rained on us pretty much constantly. Now the grey skies are subsiding and even though the sun is now shining, the wind is from the south and feels pretty chilly. I’ve not showered in about 5 days because I just can’t bring myself to stand on deck, in that cold wind, and wash myself with cold water. I’ve noticed that Alex is doing more things independently today…. I must smell pretty awful!

Anyway, it’s not all bad. In fact, overall there is a lot more good than bad. I feel like I’m getting to know the boat much better and I’m finally starting to understand how everything works. It’s nice to actually feel useful when we’re doing manoeuvres rather than Alex having to go out of his way to show me every little thing. I also saw my first whale the other day, it was probably about 50 feet from the boat and quite small as far as whales go. I’m not sure what species it was, maybe some sort of pilot whale? I’ve also had a lot of time to read, play games and watch tv series’ which is very relaxing. I can’t remember the last time I got to relax and rest as much as this, it’s very pleasant.

Alex has been wonderful company and a great skipper. He’s gone out of his way to look after me when I’ve been feeling ill and has been very patient with me learning the ropes (literally as well as metaphorically). This lifestyle is very different to the one I had planned a little over a year ago. If someone would have asked me back then where I thought I would be in July 2016 – I think ‘the middle of the Pacific Ocean’ would have been the last answer I’d have given. However, I feel completely at home on Bob and that old lifestyle seems so far in the past that I can barely see it. It feels so alien that it must have belonged to someone else – not to me. It’s been a difficult road to get here and in many ways I was heartbroken for the life I was leaving behind. Now I’m fully settled in and couldn’t be happier. I think that says a lot for two people stuck within 36 feet of each other for 3 weeks, with no one else for company. It feels like I’ve hit a big personal milestone and I can’t wait to see what else is in store over the coming years.

When inception becomes reality

We’re currently on day 12 of our journey from Galapagos to Pitcairn Island and today is the first day I’ve not felt sea sick – woohoo! Don’t get me wrong, it’s not been unmanageable and I’ve not even been physically sick, but I’ve had vague, underlying nausea and a general lack of enthusiasm to do anything particularly active for fear of feeling even worse. Today, I have a new spring in my step. The day is splendid with decent wind for the most part, glorious sunshine and the sea seems a little calmer. Now that my underlying sickness has disappeared I feel like I actually want to get up and do stuff. So far it’s been a very productive day – the galley has been cleaned, a cupboard has been fixed, a cup holder has been mounted on the wall, the washing up has been done, I’ve showered and now I’m writing a blog. Fingers crossed I stay feeling this way for the rest of the journey!

It’s hard to believe that after all this time at sea, we’re only about half way through the voyage. It’s very different from your run-of-the-mill long haul journey in a plane or by car or train. Firstly, we’re travelling at the speed of a fast jog towards our destination. Secondly, gravity is all wrong here. It reminds me a little of the film ‘Inception’, when gravity in the dream world becomes abnormal if the dreamer is, for example, falling in the real world. For those who have not sailed a small boat (or seen Inception), the closest thing I can relate it to is one of those simulator rides you find in theme parks. Your whole world is constantly moving in sporadic and unpredictable ways, never going up-side-down (hopefully), but often picked up and lifted, then dropped back down into the waves, or brutally jolted from one side to another. Now imagine trying to live your life in those conditions – sleeping, cooking, washing, going to the toilet etc. when the room you’re in is being jerked and shoved in unpredictable directions. Not surprisingly, everything becomes much more difficult. Everything takes about 5 times more effort and about 5 times as long to do. It’s even more difficult when you have sea sickness to contend with as well.

There have not been any major hurdles to overcome and overall this trip has been relatively easy going. We’ve had rough seas for the last couple of days which are finally starting to abate, the wind vane had a problem a few nights ago which was fixed within the hour and probably the worst thing to happen was the freezer breaking, which happened to be crammed full of frozen food. Luckily we’ve manage to save pretty much all of it by some clever space management and by turning our fridge down to act as a freezer instead. I’ve particularly enjoyed coming up with new and interesting dishes to eat as some of our food items have been gradually going over. For example, our sliced bread started going stale and mouldy and we needed to figure out a way to eat a lot of it quickly. Bread and butter pudding I thought seemed like a good way to use it up. Whilst I’ve eaten bread and butter pudding numerous times in my life, unfortunately I have never actually made it myself. I know that you layer bread in a pan with raisins and other fruit (we used bananas) then cover with some sort of custard and bake it. I’ve never made custard from scratch in my life and come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever even made the powdered stuff. With no recipe books on board and no internet access, I turned to a dictionary for help. Custard is defined as ‘a dessert made of eggs, sugar and milk, either baked, boiled or frozen’. Well that was good enough to give it a go and luckily we had all the ingredients, including some powdered vanilla stuff that you’re supposed to mix with milk to make a vanilla drink.  So, armed with my dictionary definition of custard and some mouldy stale bread – I began the pudding. Amazingly, it turned out pretty good!

Out here, in the middle of the Pacific and over a thousand miles away from the nearest land, we’re essentially trapped in our little 36 foot boat because immediately surrounding us is an incredibly hostile environment. Having said that, I don’t feel particular trapped out here. Our little boat is a bubble of comfort which is well equipped to keep us alive and well, even in this difficult terrain. There’s also something quite liberating about being so far from civilisation, we’re free to go wherever we want, behave however we want and are not bound by the trivial rules and bureaucracy of modern society. It doesn’t even feel lonely in this seemingly barren place. We get visits from birds at least once a day – what they’re doing in the middle of the Pacific over a thousand miles away from land is beyond me! Dolphins, porpoises, sharks, squid and flying fish have also put in an appearance.

Right, I think it’s time for some lunch followed by some episodes of game of thrones. I introduced Alex to the series last week and now he’s hooked – I think we’ve watched about 24 hours’ worth so far!