Mathew Bennett – Blog day 26/27 (Written 2 days ago)
Just typing “day 26/27” really hits home how long we have been out here. Within the next 12hours we’ll be over halfway through our epic quest, it seems like only yesterday we left Portugal, yet so much has actually happened
The past week has thankfully been less eventful! We’re now positioned in the passage of the atlantic trade winds thanks to the great navigation of Mr Fox senior and making great progress. Our hurried requests to be passed full gortex sailing clothing due to biblical stormy weather has now been replaced with requesting your fellow crew to spray factor 50 sunblock on your back. Depending on who does this and the time you request it (not good when someone is coming off shift for a sleep) you can receive a course exfoliation in the process due to hand callouses. Temperatures have now hit over 30c so as you can imagine hydration is key. Our water maker is being put through its paces 3 times a day producing over 30 litres of drinking water from the sea we’re floating on.
Tuesday saw us give our beloved vessel ‘Ellida’ some well needed love and attention in the form of a scrub of the hull. Our resident frog man, former British Special Forces soldier Jason ‘Foxy’ Fox, was masked up and ready to go quicker than you could say “shark bait”. After a thorough briefing by our safety expert Aldo, Foxy jumped into the water with 2 members of the crew on standby. Oliver continued to row so that we didn’t lose any momentum. It took Foxy around 35 mins to clean Ellida, with one side of her being quite heavily inhabited by barnacles. The difference this made was immediately noticeable, our freeloading crustaceans had been slowing us down by 0.5 knts, speed we can not afford to lose! It was straight back to work for the team and the afternoon passed with usual monotony that we exist in, when all of a sudden Foxy shouted “SHARK, THERE’S A SHARK OVER THERE”. Ross and I were rowing and Ross immediately dismissed it as more likely to be a dolphin fin. I stood up as certainly was not missing seeing either creature. With all eyes fixed on the water we waited, seconds ticked by and Foxy reassured us that he wasn’t lying, when about 10 meters away the beast appeared again. It was in fact a shark and a bloody large one, somewhere between 8-9 feet long. Our commotion stirred Oliver and Aldo and we had a rare moment with all 5 of us on deck. I was completely amazed by the size and grace of it, gripping the safety rail I can remember the dialogue in my head being along the lines of “WOW a shark, it’s huge, like woooow this trip really has ticked some life long boxes” then as the shark continued to swim at our speed within a few meters away my dialogue turned to “right thanks for coming Mr Shark, but if you could go back to where you come from and NEVER make another appearance that would be great.” You see, I have a very simple rule in life when it comes to the animal kingdom, if it has more than 4 legs or less than 2 legs I probably don’t like it and don’t want to be near it (with the exception of dolphins and whales)
Now that’s the events of the last few days covered, I’m going to take a few moments to cover a some other topics that feature heavily in my life on Ellida.
Sleep. We work a continual rotation of 2 hours of rowing and 2 hours of sleeping. 1 shift has 2 people on and the other 3 and this will alternate daily as we pass through the role of being the boats admin guy (team cook, cleaner, water maker). Our bedding is now clothing on a fiber glass floor as the last capsize robbed us of our soft furnishings for our rowing seats. As described by Oliver the other day, sitting on the furnishings is still like sitting on a bed of nails. Take the sponge tops that we’d attached to the seats away and you’ll be sitting on hell on earth. So as soon as your replacement comes out the statutory question is aired “how did you sleep?”. Never ask Ross this question as its only a downside for the team as Ross takes less than 90 secs to drift off and will not wake for his entire sleep. Most of us grab somewhere between 30 mins ( expect grumpy slow start to the shift at this end of the spectrum) to 90 mins (expect the others on the deck look at you in disgust and envy)
Coffee. As with a lot of our last minute prep, coffee was a something we left to pick up in Portugal which has turned out to be to our detriment. Back in the UK I drink a lot of coffee. I’m happy to go further as to admit that I’m a coffee snob and I actively boycott the large chains for the small owner lead shops. That said I knew I wouldn’t be able to have amazing coffee on board, but there are some freeze dried coffees that go a long way to providing a good second choice. Back in Portugal, Oliver and his girlfriend made a last minute dash and bought packets of individual coffee sachets called Continente. To say its a taste explosion is an understatement…..it’s like a carpet bombing of your taste buds but not in a good way. Mr Continente must belong to the Portuguese guild of magicians, to take a simple ingredient like a coffee bean and turn it into that horrific dust is some cunning trick. Still each night I drink it as I need my caffeine high to wake up. I made a costly mistake the other evening whilst making a quick coffee before starting my grave yard shift of 0400-0600. In the pitch black of night I had missed poured the warm water, by missed I mean completely missing the cup. I was only looking to make a double espresso size cup so in my defence I can be excused for not noticing the lack of weight in the cup. I picked up my poisoned chalice and threw the contents in my mouth! I could still taste the unique favours of Continente coffee granules 45 mins later. Certainly not my finest start to 2 hours of rowing. Hey ho….. they say worse things happen at sea!
Before I go I want to say a big hello to all of Joshuas Bennett (my nephew) and his year 6 class mates at St Nicolas at wade Primary school, Hayden Daniels and his 4th grade class over in New York who are both following our progress and doing projects on our journey.