Dee Caffari celebrates her 33rd birthday 23/1/06

Date22 January at 2239

PositionS 48° 47’/ W 124° 4′

This time last year I was on the North Island, visiting Waitomo Caves during our stop over in Wellington, New Zealand. This year for my birthday I am in the same hemisphere and similar area of the planet, but slightly different circumstances.

Well, it is one thing to have a quiet day but to be at the furthest point possible to land is a little extreme maybe. Therefore just this once I have accepted that turning 33 years young will be quite a public affair this year and I am telling everyone who reads the website. This will be one year that I can’t deny my age.

The day began with the cloud and drizzle still firmly in place, but as dawn broke and an array of colours illuminated the dark clouds behind Aviva, I knew the day was going to improve. I tacked just after dawn and the wind slowly lifted me on my course and increased to a healthy 20 knots.

As I settled on the sail plan, the warmth of the sun became apparent. The sky was blue and the clouds had changed to be white and friendly and thinly scattered the sky. I hadn’t felt the warmth of the sun for some time and it felt wonderful. I showered and then investigated the birthday cupboard. Unbelievably, the stash of pressies was as impressive as Christmas time.

I had invited my astronaut neighbours to my birthday party, but I think the invite was lost in translation somewhere. My friends missed the ride down here so I guess the party is all mine. At least I don’t have to share the chocolate!

It is wonderful that so many schools have taken on following the Aviva Challenge and I can be an inspiration to so many. As a former teacher I am happy to be giving a new dimension for lessons to use and add to the interests that children have. I am blown away by the amount of support on the website from school age followers.

My own school, St Clement Danes, Hertfordshire, before departure, presented me with an Old Danes school tie, which was in the cupboard with my presents. I put it on and I can safely say that it is the only Old Danes tie that will have circumnavigated the globe with its owner.

Having thought carefully about it, 22 years ago when I started secondary school, I had no idea that I would be sailing to establish a world first, in the footsteps of Sir Chay Blyth, later in my career. I don’t think I had much direction in my career path whilst at school, but what I did learn is that life is full of opportunities and it is your choice if you take those opportunities or not. I concentrated on subjects I enjoyed and then worked around them when choosing options and further educational and career paths after school. The teachers had a major influence on my life and that may go a certain way towards why I became a teacher. But that still doesn’t explain my desire to run away to sea. We didn’t sail at school so where did that come from?

I think I can safely blame my father entirely, not only because he is no longer here to defend himself, but his love of the sea and boats, sailing or otherwise has clearly rubbed off on me. My whole childhood has been spent in or around boats of some sort or another. I even learnt to swim in the sea off the back of a boat, so I guess I have been pretty close to the ocean all my life.

At University, I majored in Outdoor Education and again water sports played a major part for me. Using nature and getting the elements to work for you, then stretching the comfort zones and pushing your boundaries to see what you can handle. That sounds pretty familiar dealing with ever changing winds in the Southern Ocean at the moment.

During each chapter of my life so far, I have enjoyed tackling what others tend to shy away from. I am keen to push the boundaries and I thrive from stretching myself and I am learning all the time.

Even on this voyage I am constantly learning, often from my mistakes but more often from successes. I have also learnt that although I am onboard alone, I am only as good as the team of people behind me. That is not only the Technical and Support Team but also everyone that writes a message to help lift my spirits on a down day and also enjoy the good parts of the voyage with me. It would be twice as difficult without the unbelievable support I am getting as I tackle this Challenge.

I also couldn’t do this without Aviva, and she knows it!

Dee and Aviva