Tonight I am speeding downwind towards Australia with my surrogate crew sleeping, one in the cockpit and the other in "the nest" also known as "the pit". With Pam's absence aboard Starship "the nest" is just one of the strange changes that has taken place during this piece of the voyage. You see normally Pam and I alternate sleeping in the aft berth while the other is on watch. The linen is always kept crisp, clean and dry to maintain one haven of sanctuary while living on passage in what is similar to spending your days inside a washing machine. Alas the pristine sleeping berth, now known as "the nest", has become a conglomeration of sheets, sleeping bags, blankets, throws, pillows and maybe even a towel or two, all swathed and intertwining. Starship's current crew does not clean one's feet and carefully climb into the aft berth; they now hurl themselves upon the nest and burrow their way into position so that there is a thick barrier against the lee cloth and ample layers of sinewy coverings twisting and snarling around their body parts to serve as covering during watch. Add in the factor of limited showers and washing, hot tropical weather, and by the end of the voyage the nest would serve as a great whelping den for a litter of street puppies.
Yes, things aboard Starship are certainly different. The crew is made up of me, Tony Purkiss, and Patrick Silver. Tony has been mentioned in a number of prior Log-Blog's, he is an Australian blind sailor who became our mate last year during cyclone season in Australia. When I phoned Tony to see if he could help me sail the boat to Australia from Vanuatu due to Pam's sudden vision crisis, Tony simply said he would do whatever he could and promptly cancelled all of his commitments to help out.
Patrick is a new acquaintance and now friend that we met in Port Vila. Patrick is a friend of Graeme and Rebecca's on 'LL" and has been working in Vanuatu for the past eighteen months. While in Vila we were soon seeing Patrick often and he quickly became a regular member of our little group as we explored the island. In fact, it would be strange if we didn't run into Patrick whenever we were in town, and he could always be located at the coffee shop. When Patrick first learned of Pam's situation while we were on Santo he was off in a second hunting down local medical resources in Vanuatu. Knowing that Patrick was planning on returning to Australia for a few months I immediately thought of him as potential crew for the passage. Upon asking, Patrick said he needed a little time to work on the details, but called the next day to say he would be happy to be on the crew. I now had two crew members in less than two days!
As this is not an official passage of the Blind Circumnavigation with Pam and I aboard, but rather a delivery of Starship so that Pam can continue the voyage from a port she has previously sailed the boat to, we are able to allow Patrick to be crew despite his limitation of being fully sighted. An example of this limitation became clear when I was orienting Patrick to the boat and I described the location of the fixings for tea. These items are tucked way back on top of a shelf in a locker. I told Patrick if he just reached in the locker he could feel four Ziploc baggies. Well, he rooted around, fumbled, groped but still could only find two of the baggies. Eventually he had to succumb to bending over to stick his nose in the locker and even with his eagle eyes; he still only managed to find three of the baggies. Sighted people! You wouldn't want to stand between one and the toilet the first night in an unfamiliar dark hotel room, yikes! We have officially dubbed Patrick our token ‘sighty’. Actually he is an excellent sail trimmer and racer by day, but needs to be kept below at night so he doesn't hurt anyone. Okay - okay - okay, maybe I am being just a little silly here, and I do have to admit that it is awfully convenient having a pair of 20/20s on board. Imagine being able to see the direction of an approaching container ship, or thread your way almost effortlessly through a narrow marina. Having Patrick aboard has given me a true respect for the challenges Pam and I face every day on voyage.
Speaking of sight let me give you a few visuals of the temporary crew aboard Starship. Tony is a big guy, not obese, just big in a Shrek sort of way. He has a booming deep voice and would be your guy if you needed to fend off an oncoming fishing trawler or push an iceberg out of the boat's path. Patrick is tall and wiry, bordering on lanky. He moves gracefully around the boat but is quite strong from his profession as a builder. Both Tony and Patrick are seasoned sailors with far more racing experience than me. We have settled into an eating pattern that coincides with our body types. Tony gets about half the meal, I get a third and Patrick is happy with whatever is left over. Our meals on passage have been quite gourmet with offerings like pork loin baked in apples and cinnamon, and pan sautéed steak in fresh garlic and olive oil. Being volunteer crew, I was determined to feed the crew well. This may be the first passage where I have actually gained weight.
Now I must say that the new crew does have a tendency to taunt me with their
Aussie slang and threats of feeding me Vegemite and lasagna with cream sauce (imagine that, lasagna with cream sauce… Hey, that's okay mate, I just pull out the yellow American mustard and instant coffee bags to keep them shivering in their boots.
So far our voyage has been quite peaceful, especially compared to my last tour of this part of the ocean. It is a pity that Pam is not experiencing these calm seas, light winds, and endless blue skies as we traverse a big 1020 high. We have had both good fast sailing and long calms with the iron headsail purring away. Oh, did I mention that we are not only crossing with the boat "LL", but as always we are racing. As of 06:30 this morning we were nearly 30 nautical miles in front with eight less engine hours. Now, the fat lady hasn't sung yet, but I can almost taste the frothy schooners at the pub, our prize for not only winning this leg of the race to Australia but also having already won the leg from Vanuatu to New Caledonia. Looks like "LL" might stand for "L- Loooooooooosers" - hehehehehee. Okay, enough of my gloating, they could magically still pull out a win on leg two. We will just be happy to see our friends in Australia - and of course catch their dock lines for them!
Each day I have communicated with Pam via email over the SSB radio. She has been to the doctor as described in her recent Log-Blog. It seems from here that she is doing well and her retinal tears are healing as expected. Starship and I certainly miss our fellow crew member, but soon she will be back in the saddle, or rather the PFD to continue the voyage after cyclone season.