There was fierce excitement on the family pontoon and in the air generally on Sunday morning as everyone made their last minute preparations. Excitement, anticipation and a good strong helping of nerves and anxiety. The forecast had been increasing all week with a prediction of Beaufort 7 gusting 8 for later in the day. In layman’s terms that translates as really bloody windy!! Not the wind any of us wished for for the start of the crossing and as the week had progressed you could sense a slight air of panic building. The predicted 2-3 metre waves became 8–10 in general conversation and there had been talk among many of not heading out. In the end I think all boats sailed out to the start. Which was quite a sight I can tell you. 100 boats all heading out to fulfill a dream.
We had moderate 15-18 knots at the start line but we put a heavy reef in the main to air on the side of caution given the weather forecast. To begin with we were flying, it’s not a race of course, we all know that don’t we, not a race until you see the next boat on the horizon! We headed out to avoid the acceleration zones and then rather pathetically just kept going, super fast, but in the wrong direction. I would like to pretend it was all part of the plan and simply say we were sailing the angles but truth be told we couldn’t quite build ourselves up to the first gybe. When we did, it was, as these things always are, not nearly as bad as expected and it has been plain sailing ever since. Well sort of.
We experienced really rough seas, not wanting to sound like the fisherman describing his fictional catch but the 2-3 metres forecast were easily 6 at times 8 metres high. Many of the Saoirse crew were feeling rather delicate and the youngest member just wanted to be attached to my boobs all day which was pretty exhausting and made being an otherwise valuable member of the crew rather difficult. On the up front it meant no one was really up for eating so I at least didn’t have to brave the galley. We feasted instead upon delicious dry crackers, hmmm yummy.
When we received the positions by email the following day and realised quite how much ground we had lost by our chicken sh*t approach to gybing we felt quite down. Moral hit an all time low when we read the forecast which looks like more of the same for the next three days (we had expected it to ease off Monday night). We were all tired after a rather sleepless night, I was worried about Cuisle who has been properly seasick for the first time since we moved our lives onto a boat a year and a half ago and Oisin just wanted to super glue himself to me all day. There was nothing else for it, time for chicken soup. Chicken soup always makes everything better doesn’t it?
Cooking in such wind and sea conditions can be quite a challenge. Ordinarily simple things like taking your pots out of the cupboard require considerable planning and a good dose of luck. You wait until the boat heels so that the contents of the cupboards slide away from the doors, and then with razor sharp dexterity and super human speed you open the cupboard and try to grab the pot and close the door before the boat rolls back the other direction and everything falls out on top of you. This you have to do for every bowl, every spice, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. It’s not unusual to be flung from one side of the boat to the other mid-chop with knife in hand so it’s of course important the kids stay with daddy as I ninja my way through the evening meal prep.
It was all worth it in the end. As I write this, the baby is sleeping soundly below, he went off like a dream. Cuisle is sleeping under the table in the cockpit feeling a good deal better after getting something warm in her belly. There is a brilliant full moon and we are making good fast stable progress and in the right direction to boot. Ahhhh the magic of chicken soup.
By Aisling Fenix