We have arrived into Cape Town in one piece. Or at least I have. At one point I didn’t think that would be possible. The past couple of days have been a bit challenging to say the least. My joy at having a beautiful sunny day was very short lived. The wind turned again, and was well and truly on the nose. Fast. The boat was heeled over at the maximum degree of angle, and the weather was foul. Cold, wet and windy. Not a particularly good end to the race. If that was it.
Just to set the picture, if the boat is heeling at 45 degrees or so on a starboard tack, as we had been for the last two days, the boat is tipping over to the left. The stairs to go up to the deck is about six feet, and about six steps. One side is a wall, which, if you are on a port tack, you can lean on when you go up. If you are on a starboard tack, there is nothing but fresh air between you and the wet locker about four feet away. If you hung on the side rail of the stairs, and allowed your feet to go vertical, they would hang in the wet locker when you were half way up. Getting from my side of the boat to the toilet requires mountaineering skills. The floor is slippery with all the water coming off the clothes and the odd wave that manages to find its way inside. There are a few wooden slats to help stop your feet slipping (good old Pops added a couple, but could do with adding a couple more) and a hand rail in the middle to help pull yourself up. Apart from that, it is up to you. Even the most fit have problems. But, as I am one side and the toilet is the other, it has to be done. So far, I have made it when I have to, but I can assure you that if I don’t absolutely need to go, I don’t. Not good. Once you get to the toilet your troubles don’t stop there. You have to manage to sit on a toilet bowl that is 45 degrees different to what your body is expecting. I have taken to sitting on it sideways, and having my feet on the wall instead of the floor. OK (comparatively) to do your business, but no good whatsoever for doing anything else. Try cleaning your teeth at 45 degrees. You position your mouth over the sink to spit, get it lined up with the plug hole, and lo and behold it goes up the wall. The spit comes out of your mouth at 45 degrees as well. Takes a little bit of getting used to, although I think I never will.
If you have ten minutes, take a tour of the boat with Jim.
So, the night before we get into Cape Town I have the double night shift. The first night shift was hairy, with the waves making the boat pound and bounce around. But no harm done, and I get back downstairs with more than a little help from my friends. Getting back down those steps is worse than getting up them. One small slip and you are in the wet locker with a broken arm or worse. The next night shift was somewhat worse. The weather had deteriorated, and the boat was constantly at a huge degree of lean. Getting all kitted up to go out is one thing, and that took nearly twenty minutes. Then came the stairs. After two failed attempts to get up them, Banno suggested that there was enough people on deck, so I should go back to bed and they would call me if they needed me. Great. The first shift over the two legs that I had missed? Emily came down off shift quite white and shocked – she had had an issue and got stuck on deck which frightened her. That did it, and I took off my gear (eventually) and got into my bunk. Which wasn’t quite at the right angle. Even though I had it in a V shape, I still felt as if I was rolling out. So out I got, and tried to move it up more. I managed another couple of inches, but then I couldn’t get back in it. My feet were on the wall opposite, which meant that the bunk came up to my chest. My feet were too far away from the bunk to enable me to launch into it. This is where the worst low moment of the trip so far came. I felt such an idiot. I have the coffin bunk, which is the lowest bunk on the boat. And I couldn’t get in it. I tried for about ten minutes, until finally a wave just about flattened the boat a small way and I was able to get in. I tied up my lee cloth tightly, knowing that the boat was heaving so badly I might need it. And I did.
The first time a big wave nearly made me fall out of the bunk but the lee cloth caught me, and I was able to get back onto the bed. That frightened me.
I then tried to sleep with my hand against the wall near my head to stop it from happening again. I must have fell asleep, as the next thing I knew was that my whole sleeping bag had slid into the lee cloth with me in it. With my hands and my feet inside the sleeping bag, and unable to move.
I hoped that the knot would hold. I didn’t know what to do. I felt so stupid, desperate, embarrassed and a failure. I must have been there for about thirty minutes before I managed to get my hands free, but then there was nothing inside my bunk to get hold of, to enable me to pull myself back in. If I could have cut my trip short right then I would have. What was I thinking? How on earth am I going to get around the world if I can’t manage to get into a coffin bunk?
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Find out what happens in Table Mountain at Sunrise – Part II soon