142. Life As A Walrus.

Today is Sunday 27 March (or at least it was when Keith wrote this).. its a week since we sailed from Subic Bay. Those of you who are following progress on the Race Tracker will know that we got off to a pretty good start. With over 6000 miles to race its slightly demoralising to talk about distances to Seattle but we are pleased with our progress so far. (As of April 6 Unicef are sailing hard to the scoring gate).

Conditions have been tough with strong head winds meaning we have spent most of the time since March 23 slamming into the waves with the boat at a 45 degree angle. Its been stiflingly hot below deck. Someone described it like being in an earthquake and a tsunami inside a sauna. Getting ANYTHING done at a 45 degree angle is difficult. Everything is much harder and takes at least twice as long. And when I say everything I mean EVERYTHING from moving around to dressing and from cooking to washing. And the less said about going to the heads (toilets) at 45 degrees the better…….

….. there are 10 bunks on each side of a clipper 70 yacht. On UNICEF the bunks are named after sea creatures. I think the idea originated with my predecessor as Team Coordinator as something that might appeal to visiting children. In any case I saw no reason to alter this when I took over, so the names have stuck.

The skipper and AQP get their own bunks and do not share. The skipper is on the starboard side furthest aft and the AQP port aft. The bunks above the skippers and AQPs are full of stores/spares/spare lifejackets. The front two bunks on either side forward of the mast are also used to store food and equipment.

To save you doing the maths that leaves 6 bunks on either side of the boat for crew. 4 bunks either side on the outside of the port and starboard passgeways leading aft from the galley and 2 bunks on the inside on each side immediately aft of the engine/generator room. These inside bunks are known locally as the ”coffin bunks” as they have reduced headroom and no ’cave lockers’- cubby holes in the side of the boat to store kit. The top coffin bunks on either side are normally kept free to facilitate the 2 crew on Mother Watch getting an undisturbed nights sleep on completion of their duties.So on UNICEF the starboard side bunks are named Bass, Salmon, Ray and Tuna, with the starboard lower coffin bunk called Clown. on the port side its Ocra, Whale,Dolphin and Shark and the lower coffin bunk is called Walrus. For the duration of the crossing of the North Pacific I am living the life of a Walrus. In addition to no cave lockers there is very limited storage space underneath the Walrus coffin bunk as I sleep on top of the boats batteries. The bunk is about one and a half ’Keith’s body’ wide and to get a sense of the headroom imagine you are in bed on your back – put your elbow on your tummy and extend your arm,fist clenched, upwards. That’s it for headroom.

Thankfully there is extra space at the foot end of my bunk helped in part by a number of bungy cords I have rigged underneath the bunk above me from which I can hang my carefully packed and organised kit in dry bags attached by carabiners. My lifejacket with safety tethers attached lives in a pocket at the foot end of my bunk with my sea boots nearby. I have 1 dry bag containing all my base layers and mid layer clothing plus hats etc for weeks 1 & 2 and a second dry bag containing the same for weeks 3 & 4. Another dry bag is spare for my dirty laundry. My top layer (fleeces etc) are in a bag that doubles as a pillow and my wind proof jackets hang on their own. My Musto foul weather clothing- sallopettes and a smock- hang on a numbered peg in the wet locker immediately next to the ladder up to the upper deck.

I have separate bags for my wash kit, diabetic paraphernalia, and my ’electrics’ required for my phone, my battery pack, my head torch and my portable fan- a lifesaver in temperatures above 30 degrees. The fan is lashed to the bottom of the bunk above me and my head torch is looped through one of my bungy cords. The bunk can be adjusted to stop me falling out in the middle of the night when we alter course and go from being healed over 45 degrees in one direction to 45 degrees in the other. For limited privacy each bunk has a Lee cloth- a piece of blue canvas that you tie up behind you when you get into your bunk…..inside your sleeping bag if cold but outside if not. I have yet to be inside my bag on this Leg. And if that all appears pretty straightforward then imagine finding what you are looking for at 02.40 in the morning ahead of the 03.00 watch change under red lighting in a pitching rolling slamming yacht. All good fun and would knew the domestic life of a Walrus could be so much fun 🙂