As preciously stated, this passage can be a tricky one. Let’s start that on a boat the size of Dazzler it takes 8-10 days to get from New Zealand to Fiji and, well, even the best weather forecast is only good for about three days. Add in the fact that this passage takes you through an area where three giant bodies of water collide…the Coral Sea, the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean, each bringing their own weather system, and I’m sure you’re beginning to get the picture. Yeah, it can be a challenge even for the very best of sailors. And so, from time to time you’ll find things going from bad to worse.
The first eighteen hours or so of this passage was delightful. Nice winds and the seas were fair enough. Big but at 8-10 seconds apart they were okay…nothing too painful. Then came the morning of the second day. Dan came on watch at 0430 and the winds were picking up into the twenties. Oddly enough the sea state was actually calmer with the increased winds as it dropped to 2-3 with longer rollers. Bonus!
With the ever capable Captain on watch I made my way below to get some much needed sleep. The thing is, with all the bouncing and rolling in the prior day I didn’t sleep much but that’s to be expected so I tried sleeping around the table for a few hours. Being in the center of the boat it has a lot less bounce than the forward bunk and it seemed to allow me to get bettter rest.
The day went on and the sea state began to get a little chunky while the winds continued in their boisterous velocity. I wasn’t feeling all that well but I decided it was due to fatigue and the fact that I wasn’t eating much. When the weather is rough it’s hard to want to spend time in the galley whipping up a meal. You tend to find yourself thinking it’s just not worth it. But, oh, it is….it’s so important to keep up your strength.
By the following afternoon I was downright miserable so Dan took over making dinner and I rested. It’s amazing what a salami and cheese sandwich and a little sleep will do for your attitude. When my watch came around later that evening I was feeling pretty normal again. I wasn’t even dreading going into the cockpit and getting slapped around by Poseidon as he tossed handfuls and even buckets full of green water into my face.
Remember the other day when I was boasting about my skills and how I could serve up hot stew on a rolling boat and not spill a drop? Well, this is not the place to be boastful as the moment you do Poseidon will step up and toss you a little reminder that he is the one in control out here and you are merely a toy to be trifled with at his whim.
As Dan headed for the bunk I followed my normal routine of rounding up a soda, apple and granola bar. I stood on the companionway steps and strategically placed them in the well of the cockpit. I stepped to the top step and before even stepping into the cockpit I attached my tether to the jackline. I ALWAYS do this. If I’m going to fall I want to fall into the boat not out of it.
All tethered in I made my way to the high side of the cockpit placing one hand on the bar around the nav pod with the other firmly gripped to the starboard side jackline. You see, unlike many sailors, we keep our jacklines about a meter off the deck rather than running them along the deck. They actually run from our stern arch across the dodger to the mast pulpit then over the dinghy that’s inverted on the foredeck and finally down to the bowsprit. Why do it this way? Well, aside from generally making it easier to walk the decks when you are clipped in; it provides an added layer of safety as even if you go over the lifeline you won’t go into the water and you can climb back over. At least in theory.
Anyway, as I was saying, I’ve got a firm grip on Dazzler. I’m standing on the seat watching and waiting for the right moment to step into the well behind the wheel so I can check the instruments. I see what looks like my golden opportunity and I begin to step down. About that time a huge wave comes racing through the darkness and slams the side of Dazzler like a semi hitting a scooter. The force is so great I lose my grip and my footing and the next thing I know I’m hurling across the cockpit like a rocket headed into space. Of course the sudden stop as my chest hits the teak combing around the cockpit seats lets me know I won’t be seeing Jupiter up close but stars, oh yes I’ll be seeing plenty of those.
The four letter expletives are flying so freely you’d think this was a pirate ship on a Friday night. I’m now curled up on the seat in a ball literally writhing in pain. Dan, hearing my screams, comes flying up from the bunk to see what’s happening. I can barely speak except to say, “It’s my ribs”. Funny how the expletives come so freely in a moment like this but a simple answer to the question as to what happened and I can barely utter a word.
After asking if they are broken and if I’m okay he starts to offer some safety tips. About a half a sentence in and, given my facials expressions that screamed “shut up!”, he stopped. He is a smart man after all.
I knew Dan needed rest so when he asked if they were broken I said it wasn’t likely and I could do my watch. Honestly I really thought my boob and my life vest padded the fall a bit and was pretty sure it was just a bad bruise. From here I settled into my seat in the cockpit with my Nook book hoping the pain would be milder as time went on.
Like I said before, sometimes things out here just go from bad to worse and yesterday was no exception. While the weather was a bit nicer with calmer winds and seas I decided to take the opportunity to do some housekeeping in the galley to prepare for dinner. Now there’s a saying amongst sailors and that is this… “You get one hand for you and one for the boat.” What that means us you can do whatever you like with one hand but the other better be holding on like your life depends upon it because, well, it does.
The things is, when seas are calmer than normal it’s easy to get overly confident and forget this simple rule. Sure, maybe you have a hand on the boat but you’re not necessarily gripping for dear life. It’s times like this that Poseidon delivers yet another not so subtle reminder of who is in charge out here. Apparently he assumed I’d forgotten in the past twenty four hours.
This time he tossed a rogue wave of sorts into the gentle rollers that sent me flying into the stove hitting the very ribs I’d beat up the night before. Dan was on deck tightening some screws on our boom gallows when he heard the screams and curses from his salty sailing wench come screeching up through the companionway.
This time however, they came complete with a flood of tears as it was a thousand times more painful than last night. At this moment, we, and by that I mean me and the little voice in my head, determined that yes, in fact the ribs are broken. This is when Dan took over demanding that I sit down and stay there. I think we was actually looking for some old tires to tie around me like they do on tugboats.
Now I sleep around the table with pillows wedged between me and the table to prevent rolling or bouncing. It’s tight and slightly claustrophobic but it works and if that’s the only way to get rest then I’ll deal with it. I’m actually looking forward to a flat calm, no wind day where we have to motor so I can sleep in the bunk for a bit.
And while a little rest is needed there is still work to do so I will have to rest between my duties. I have watches to keep and meals to cook and we’ve still got another four to five days on this passage. In the meantime I’ll take some mild pain relievers and hook up to the tens unit. Have I said how much I’d like a stiff drink about now?
It’s times like this when you learn just how tough you are and what you’re willing to endure to reach the prize at the end of the passage. For me… It’s the beautiful smiles and friendly faces of the Fijian people, the warm, clear waters and sandy beaches and the fru fru cocktails with the little umbrellas and extra shots of rum with a side of Mongolian Beef served up at The Boatshed at Vuda Marina. Yes…the prize will be worth the pain to get there.
Until next time,