Lia Ditton who set off from the US last Thursday on her trip across the Atlantic now realizes why Ellen MacArthur and Thomas Corville are still in NY
As I enter the swelter of the cabin, I accidentally knock the air freshener hanging from the ceiling. A wave of ‘mango colada’ hits my nostrils, as the hula girl, who swivels at the waist, is set merrily into a dance, her grass skirt swishing from side to side. If the cruise liner which passed me earlier, had come a little closer they would have observed a mermaid at the helm, sheltering not, for once, from an onslaught of spray, but from the heat of the midday sun. Hotter than a Caribbean sauna, there is a reason why Thomas Colville is still in New York, with his ORMA 60 trimaran Sodebo, parked tidily at the dock. There is absolutely no wind right now; less than 6kts apparent.
With Ellen MacArthur enroute to make a second attempt for the transatlantic record and Thomas Colville for a first, I wondered if I too, could join the gravy train. I realise that this is a bit of a joke with a humble 35ft boat, but perhaps there was a WSSR (World Speed Sailing Record) catering for the smaller trimaran sibbling? Apparently there is not; probably because the string of lows which they await to barrel their racing machines across the Atlantic are the very same lows which I am endeavouring mightily to avoid. No Hurricane Lia, for me please. The laughable thing of course is that Ellen MacArthur might journey down from Newfoundland, set off from Ambrose Lighthouse en cue and still beat me to the Lizard before tea. Perhaps if I raced from west to east, with a stopover at the Azores to speed-climb mount Pico on the way, I might set a record of a different kind. Exchange Blondie Hasler’s ‘One man, One boat, the Sea,’ for ‘One Woman, One boat, the Sea,’ and throw a mountain in for good measure.
‘Du-donk,donk,donk…’ It is early evening and I was having a pleasant doze in the bean-bag cushion in the cockpit, until I ran over a lobster-pot with a radar reflector attached to it on a stick. I peer through the net on the starboard side and watch it helplessly go by. Not a trace of any dings thankfully, so I resume position back in the cockpit on the L-shaped bean-bag cushion, eyes shut, head cocked to one side. For $18 from Wallmart and very appropriately of survival orange colouring, the bean-bag cushion, is a huge success. Every boat should have one of these! You may categorise it as one of those ‘luxury’ items that are not exactly practical for offshore sailing purposes, get in the way, and will probably spill beans everywhere at somepoint; but right now, to hell with it- It is wonderful!
I have been envisaging something like it for deliveries for sometime. The downwind sled, ‘Bright Star,’ (a R/P 78) with its open deck and twin helm, left nowhere comfortable to sit and steer. One of those inflatable sofas in fluro green, I reckoned would have fit nicely at the back behind the wheels. This takes Peter Harrison’s plastic white garden chair, which sat in a dugout, after the after-guard on the America’s Cup boat GBR challenge, to a new level. Who said that performance racing had to be uncomfortable?
What with lack of wind potentially signaling something nasty brewing elsewhere (ie a tropical cyclone), and last night’s encounter with the pot and radar-on-a-stick, my paranoia has been working overtime. Last night was punctuated with sharp awakenings; visions of fishing trawlers near by, the lights of freighters before my eyes and more pots with radars-on-sticks. In a split second, I use my arms to slide me up out of the bunk, to the level of visibility above deck, out of the Perspex pod. Nothing. There is no one else out there, and still no more than a flutter of wind. Note to self: keep taking the pills! I am reminded of my idea of a diamond-shaped radar that can be hoisted on a halyard, that relays a scatter picture back to a laptop, for race boats, in non-racing mode.
This morning my bird came back. With a black head and black markings on its swallow-like tail feathers, it is perched again on the jib sheet. For now, it is certainly not in danger of being blown away. The wind generator is static and the nets are making a perfect wavy grid pattern on the glassy waters surface. Like the Marblehead to Halifax race in 2004, my journey so far is more wildlife watch than ocean-fairing passage. I have had frequent visits from dolphins, jumping fish (at sundown), whales exhaling in the distance and even while I was on the Iridium phone paying a bill on my Barclaycard, a 2m wide Ray, which I had initially dismissed as a clump of weed.