Catching mini water balloons in the middle of the Atlantic


Marconi Transat 2019, Day 5 and 6 onboard Challenger

COG 11 SOG N50 10.8 W31 54.7

It’s watch change on Challenger and it is POURING outside. Heavy cold droplets seemingly the size of mini water balloons and they are coming in sideways from the South.

Marconi Transatlantic Voyage

In answer to the crew’s questions about ‘How long will it last?’ I have to point out to them that as we are travelling at 12 knots to the East and the weather system we have entered is travelling at 18 knots North East the amount of time we are under these clouds will be much greater than had we been stationary sitting in a house watching the rain on the window. In short ? it’s here to stay.

This is an aspect of ocean racing that many people don’t consider -racers are actively seeking out ‘bad’ weather with its accompanying strong winds and trying to get under it and stay under it for as long as possible. Of course we do not want to put ourselves in any kind of danger so we will control how far into the system we go and how much wind we expose ourselves to, but essentially if we break out into full glorious sunshine and fluffy white clouds we have made a mistake in the navigation.

Managing yourself emotionally in these conditions long term can, therefore, be a concern. Poor weather and dimly lit conditions can, over time create a lull in a crew’s natural energy and their positivity can wane ? let’s face it only ducks really love such rainy days right?

So, with the onset of this weather- which we know will last until Wednesday- must come a concerted effort by everyone to be cheerful, to be extra helpful to one another and most of all not dwell on the inconvenient reality that all foul weather gear in the end succumbs to the rain and inevitably inner layers become wet. We get it, we know , get over it.

This crew although new to this offshore world are excellent. Instead of gloomy faces- jokes are being passed about. Instead of complaints- comedy is being found in little miseries and a good old fashioned ‘Blackadder’ sense of humour is being developed about everything it would be very easy to mope and whine about.

After two decades out here doing this- these trying times are perhaps some of my most favourite moments on a sail training boat at sea. This little period of hardship is where the rubber meets the road creating an opportunity for ordinary people to be something other; to be something extraordinary.

People think they are going to cross the Atlantic so they can tell people in the yacht club ?I crossed the Pond you know?? and discuss currents and ETA?s and top speeds and the like. But the ocean and the mariner?s life has an insidious and philanthropic effect on any crew member smart enough to recognize the lesson being provided and that is what crossing an ocean is really about- learning about yourself and rubbing shoulders with your crew mates.

Voyaging on a vessel large enough to have a decent sized crew and yet basic enough to not hide the facts of life with modern conveniences and molly-coddling gadgetry, slowly removes the insatiable contemporaneous need to complain and criticize and be outraged all the time; it removes also the necessity for absolute comfort 24/7 and replaces those empty triumphs with camaraderie, kindness, care and empathy; with a new appreciation for the simpler things in life ? like the warmth of a hot cup of tea someone else has made for you without asking or the happiness that comes from a dry sleeping bag and a deep sleep when the long trick?s over.

All’s well on Challenger CSM