Or: Upon discovering the dictaphone feature in our cheap chinese mp3 player

March 8, 2230-0130

"I'm lying on my back, staring at the windvane on the top of the mast.
Green light on one side, red on the other. Whirr of Keith by my left
ear. Beyond the windvane and the lights, a skyful of stars. I'm watching
the arrow as it flicks between two critical tabs that show the wind is
directly behind us. If the arrow goes beyond this point, the sail luffs,
makes a slappy flappy noise. I guess its not good for the sail; I also
don't want to wake up Andy. Then I go up to Keith's control point and
press a minus or a plus to change the direction which we're going. I
have to do that right now.


Well, we seem to be holding. Night-shift becomes much more interesting
the more I learn about sailing. To start with it was all I could do to
not touch anything. Andy would set up the windvane, set up the rudder,
set up the sails, and get it just perfect and my job was to not touch
anything, look out for ships every ten minutes, and wake him if the
winds or the waves got too big, or too scary. As a result, I felt quite
powerless, and quite useless. And quite dejected. As time has
progressed, the dynamic between us has varied. There are some days when
he does everything, and I just stay inside. I'm sure he thinks I'm very
lazy, or otherwise uninterested. Both of which are, to a certain extent,
true. But I think it's also just my way of not getting upset because I
don't understand it.

Every few days I get annoyed with myself for not knowing more about
sailing. For not getting it, for not understanding, for not doing more,
for not even being able to walk around on deck without falling over or
hanging on for dear life. I raise these points with Andy and he looks at
me as if to say,- what do you want me to do about it? how hard can it
be?- And I don't know if he knows just how hard I do find it. Some days
I just want to cry, just be good at it.

Unfortunately it wasn't my life's dream to learn to sail. And right now
my motivation to be good at sailing does not stem from a fascination
with sails and wind, like it does for most of the sailors I meet. It
comes from a –

what's that noise? sounds like a big wave coming. We're riding over it.
Ha,- the wind's picking up again, the waves are whirring a bit more
loudly, the sails flapping… there's a heightened excitement in the
air. I'm still watching the arrow. We seem to be holding course well.
Why do the waves sound so noisy? And what was that clutter? Huh-
something just went flying, I don't know what it was.

What was I saying? My motivation to want to know how to sail, that's right..

My motivation to want to know how to sail stems from the fact that we
are sailing. And I don't want to be scared. And I don't want to be
entirely dependent either. So that when the wind does puff up, or the
waves puff up, I can remain calm, and lucid, and feel in control. Like
if you're driving a car, and the traffic lights go red. Or there's a
steep hill ahead of you and you need to shift gear suddenly. Or you're
on a steep hill, and the lights go red, and you have to wait, doing
clutch control. That used to terrify me when I was learning. Holding a
car with clutch control at the top of a steep hill in central London. It
took all my energy, focussed on my ankles and my feet and my toes. And
now, you barely notice it, it's almost enjoyable, feeling the car
driving forwards, sinking back, held on that balance between
acceleration and gravity. So it is with sailing I guess. I've got big L
plates on my front and my back. And it's driving me mad.

I look at my watch: 1:15. Time to give Andy his fifteen minutes notice
before he takes over. I've enjoyed this hour though,- has made
night-watch more interesting. Makes me feel engaged and connected to the
activity that we're currently – engaged in. Like a part of it, rather
than just a passenger."


"Me again. Back on night-shift. Looking at the windvane. Drinkin' a
cupatea. Eating crackers and marmite. The windvane kissing that corner
of the –of the – circle. Eating crackers and marmite. Once I start, I
can't stop. It's a bit like sleep: once I start, I can't stop. I find it
so hard to get up. And then once I am up, especially for this shift, I
have to keep myself awake somehow to start with. So I drink tea and eat

Snacks is one thing I did not buy enough of. Well, there's lots of
things I didn't buy enough of. I didn't really know what I was doing
when I was buying provisions. People said 'write down all the meals you
might have and then multiply by the days that you're going to be away.
Or make a menu plan for two weeks and multiply by the number of weeks
that you're going to be sailing.. And they were serious. And really, I
tried, but really I couldn't think of two weeks worth of meals, let
alone nine months of meals. And I also had no idea what I was going to
be eating, or wanting to eat. For instance, back in Puerto Montt, Andy
and I barely ever ate pasta, but here we're monsters for it. The same
goes for biscuits and crackers and midnight snacks.

Now, if I'd have thought about it, and said to myself 'why don't you buy
as though for yourself when you were a grad student pulling late nights
in the lab', well I'd have shopped perfectly. I wouldn't have bought any
of the lentils or black beans or chick peas or rice or any of that
healthy stuff that we don't seem to be touching. I would have just
gorged on peanut butter and marmite and crackers and nuts and dried
fruit.. and.. o, and also Berocca and Ribena and a million different
flavours of tea.

When I read the various books about cruising, they all came across as so
twee, and quite annoying. Especially the cookbooks. Don't get me wrong,
some of them were extraordinarily useful; they've told me how to grease
my eggs and sterilise my fruit, and- our sailing friends here even
recently told us how to preserve butter, by keeping it in a jar with
seawater. The books are also full of baking recipes, absolutely crammed
full. It made me think that we'd have all the time in the world for
cooking, and for cooking up yumcious treats. Now, there's a couple of
flaws in this plan… the first being that I'm not much of a baker, and
I don't really like to cook. The second being that we don't have an
oven. But thirdly, nothing about the motion of the boat, or the
annoyance it is to create anything in the galley, is mentioned in these
books. There's some days, the last thing you want to do is be in the
kitchen, work in the kitchen for several hours. But maybe the urge will
come. I guess I need to find some recipes for some good yumcious snacks
that I can make in a frying pan.

Talking of food, we're nearly out of carrots, we've finished our
tomatoes, we've finished all of our fruit except for the citrus. We've
got left: half a marrow, a ton of onions, potatoes and garlic, three
butternut squashes because apparently they last forever, and a shriveled
up old beetroot. Which for me is surprising considering the mountain of
fresh food we set off with six weeks ago, or whenever it was now. It
lasted pretty well. The plums did much better than the peaches, which
did better than the nectarines… no, plums did better than the
nectarines which themselves did better than the peaches. The bananas, oh
my goodness we had so many bananas. The last good ones got flambéd with
rum by Jaimes, that was delicious. Rum and sugar. After that the
remainders got successively thrown overboard. It was like sacks of
liquid banana puree. Again, I know I should have made banana bread out
of it, but we hadn't even figured how to make bread at that stage. Now
we have. Andy made an amazing loaf the other day in the pressure cooker.
Something didn't smell quite right afterwards, I'm not sure if it was
the metal -on- metal of the sieve and pan that we'd jerry-rigged inside,
or the fact that you're not meant to use a pressure cooker without
putting water in it, I don't know. But it definitely was bread-like.
Which opens up a whole world of possibilities for us.

Mostly we cook up some kind of main meal at lunch time or mid afternoon
and that morphs into an evening meal later on in the day. Sometimes we
really crave carbs: pasta pasta pasta potatoes. And then other days,
weirdly, meat pops up on the menu. Something which I barely ever eat.
We're slowly getting through the jars that I made before leaving. Eight
jars of mince and four of steak. I remember when I made them it was a
disgusting job. I remember thinking how strange it was that having never
cooked mince in my life, ever, I was now cooking it off in a pan; so
much that I was cooking it for hours and hours and hours. But it seems
to be doing the trick, and is preserving well. These jars are amazing.

What else about food? O, we've got some eggs left. We've got twelve
greased eggs and three fresh eggs from Juan Fernandez. They'll go soon.
We set off with .. about 50 or 60.. I guess I should have taken more. We
were warned about it before we left,- apparently an egg costs two
dollars in the South Pacific. Hey, I guess if we want it badly enough
we'll pay the two dollars. If we don't, then we'll go without eggs, no
great hardship. It sort of reflects the overall philosophy that we've
got. Some people buy for nine months and then never spend anywhere they
go. We firstly don't have the cupboard space for that. But secondly, I
just didn't have the capacity within me to buy that sort of volume of
food. As it was, I bought at least three full trolley-loads of food in
the supermarket, as well as numerous shorter trips. I was so embarrassed
on one trip when I had two cart-loads that I checked out one cart, went
to the car, and then came back to check out the other cart.

And I figure people in the South Pacific,- they eat, they live. They
must have food somewhere. So we'll find stuff on these islands. And if
not, we'll fish and have rice. We've got enough rice to get us all the
way to New Zealand.

Right, my eyes are lagging. I should try and find some other activity
that will keep me awake for another couple of hours.

4 thoughts on “Nocturne

  1. Considering I have google at my finger tips I thought I would search for some frying pan recipes. I can't believe that I've never tried cooking "pan bread", maybe you have. It sounds so simple, I might try it out tomorrow, smother it in marmite and eat it during my night shift of baby feeding! Here's a recipe …
    1) Place a small amount of all purpose flour in a bowl.
    2) Add enough salt to the flour to flavor.
    3) Stir in enough water to make a soft dough. Knead it in your hands and form it into a round, thin shape.
    4)Heat a small amount of oil in a frying pan, cook the bread in the hot oil for a few minutes on each side. Don't turn the heat too high, because the bread will cook on the outside, but not in the middle. It should take at least 5 to 6 minutes per side.

  2. no te desanimes amiga,despues de un tiempo vas a ser experta en navegar a vela ,no te exijas tanto y levanta el ánimo, aqui estamos reconstruyendo mi pais(Chile)han sido dias duros, pero no bajamos los brazos,espero lo mismo de tí, te quiero ,saludos a Andy

  3. Eres una mujer muy fuerte al lado de un gran hombre, las mejores vibras para ustedes, saludos mauricio y koka.

  4. Rhian I am sure that boy of mine, should stop giving you blank looks and help you master this sailing thing, he obviously does not have his fathers patience. Yvonne at this time has past me in fits of laughter, I cant think why?
    I am little behind with this comment, but my week away skiing in Anddora(name dropper)

    Those books on cooking at sea, Well I think they are written by experts, its all well and good do this etc etc. I have been on mother watch and when you are bobbing around and things are always sliding about its not the right atmosphere for cooking up a master piece in fact I think Yvonne and I would be starving by now.

    Love you both I & Y xx

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