"I'll hae nae hauf-way hoose but aye be whaur extremes meet..." Hugh McDiarmid

Monday, 26 January 2015

leg 7 race 2: panama to jamaica

early in the morning we all got up and got the boat ready to transit the canal. we were going through with invest africa and gb. we were going to be the centre boat, and in charge of steering the massive three way raft through the locks. in between each set of locks we would separate and make our own ways to the next set, where we would raft up again.

it was a long motor to the first lock, and I rigged the gopros: one on the shrouds facing forwards and one on the a-frame at the back facing the rear. they were both set to time lapse, taking a high resolution photograph every 30 or 10 seconds, depending on the setting.

me having just set the gopro on the starboard shrouds

in the first set of locks, behind a tanker

one of the trains that the big ships need to drag them through each lock

invest have split off, gb are just about to

once we got through the first set of locks, it was a long motor through gatun lake, heading for the next set. once we got there, we waited for hours for another pilot. it was going to be really late by the time we got to the atlantic, and the rest of the fleet would have been heading to the start area. this was going to get stressful...

the tracks at each side of the canal, for the trains needed for the big ships
the second set of locks, late that night

it was a long motor to the first lock, and I rigged the gopros: one on the shrouds facing forwards and one on the a-frame at the back facing the rear. they were both set to time lapse, taking a high resolution photograph every 30 or 10 seconds, depending on the setting.

the second set of locks, I wasn't on watch so I slept through it. in the dark it just felt different, and I wasn't as interested, having already gone through the pacific side in the daylight. I still time-lapsed it, but I went to sleep in between :)

when we eventually got through to the atlantic, the rest of the fleet had already started motoring to the start line. another le mans!! us, invest and gb put the hammer down and headed for the start. this was going to be quite a short sprint to jamaica, and we'd decided to specialise the crew for this bit to try and get a better result. as I'd not been on the boat from san francisco, I wasn't driving. only four of the crew, two on each watch, were driving and there was starting to be a bit of bad feeling about it. the only time we'd specialised up til then had been the sydney hobart, we had been a really even boat in that sense.

it turned out everyone had agreed to do this on the way down from san francisco, so I just had to suck it up. driving was something that had taken me a long time to get on with. I was convinced I was a terrible driver and matt had spent a long time telling me otherwise. I had really enjoyed driving in some really heavy conditions on the north pacific and was actually looking forward to driving the bus again. when I found out I wasn't driving, I started to question all sorts of things, including my reasons for getting back on.

a few of the other guys felt this way, although not everyone. most of the crew were happy to effectively just be rail meat for a few days, but I wasn't one of them. this appeared to be non-negotiable until it was brought up at one of the daily meetings and matt agreed to add two extra helms to each watch as the original drivers were getting exhausted. thankfully I was added to the helming roster, but by this time I was feeling quite down about rejoining and wondering if I'd made a bad life decision.

having not driven for almost six weeks, I had gone back to not wanting to drive at all, even though I was now allowed! this made no sense! thinking about it, and talking about it with peter, started to make it a bit clearer. I had felt really settled on the boat before I'd got off and was working as media crew and bosun, and felt pretty relied on. having to let go of that was really difficult - the same way as letting go of the opera house the previous year. I knew they had been fine without me going down the west coast, and was now completely unsure of where I fitted in having returned.

you learn a lot about yourself sailing around the world in a small space with a random group of people. you learn how to deal with all types of folk: the single leggers who you have to train, the multiple leggers in that weird space between doing one leg and doing the whole race, and the round the worlders who, by now, were like family. on our boat everyone was equal and there was no differentiation between folk who had just got on and folk who had been on board for 8 months. now I'd rejoined I didn't know where I fitted in. was I still a round the worlder, or was I a multiple legger? matt reckoned I was still rtw as I hadn't flown home between san francisco and panama. clipper said I wasn't. I had got off, and it was that simple.

this weird limbo made it a difficult race for me. I had gone from being really excited about getting back on, to not knowing where, or even if, I fitted on the boat any more. this race was just about enduring time at sea, hoping I hadn't lost my sea legs and getting to jamaica.

thankfully it only took three days to get to jamaica. we sailed most of the way with one headsail up, which meant a long time on the rail. thinking. this is not a good thing for me. I know this now! I have always had a tendency to overthink things, and worry about what other folk are thinking. are they ok? can I do anything to make it better or easier for them? with nothing much going on evolution wise on the boat, I had a lot of time to think. too much time.

the last bit of the race into jamaica itself was really slow. the wind died - obviously - and it took us ages to go the last hundred miles. we were so relieved to get there! after all the thinking, I was glad to get there. and with my crew. they were still my crew! I was so happy to have finally got over the worry of rejoining. and I was looking forward to a whole week in jamaica, with very little to do for the boat. and the next stop would be new york, where my mum, dad and sister would be visiting :D

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