Well we thought we’d finally take the opportunity to down tools and update you on the last week or so- and I mean literally down tools. It’s been an interesting time on HMS RLAG with seemingly one thing after another being sent to test us.
In fact at this stage it might be easier to list what hasn’t gone wrong but I won’t jinx it. So, the short version of events… Well it all started when we hit this period of bad weather, Hurricane Alex, and ended up on para-anchor. Not sure what signs to take from that as my other half also goes by the name of Alex, thanks honey… Initially thoughts in camp were that we were quite glad for the break and would relish a 48hour snooze. However this quickly faded when the realisation dawned that two people in a hot cabin virtually stuck together was verging on unbearable. None of us could stand to touch each other as it was too hot nor could we lie on our bums as they were too sore so every moment of the day became like a game of hot naked Tetris- which was no way near as fun as it sounds!
During our para-anchor hot box hell our water maker also packed in. After a series of tests and calls to Jim MacDonald (the water maker man) we established that our motorised pump had died. Thankfully we had a spare but removing the old one, fitting the new one and rewiring the whole thing was not going to be an easy task- as Jim also made quite clear on the phone. However, two days later we had done it, though discovering a number of other problems in the process. Our water maker is second hand and a lot of the connections and pieces are a bit knackered, or are so tightly bound together we’d never be able to get them apart. We were unable to reconnect the pressure switch to the new pump so had to by pass it completely and in doing so have a hole in the pipe work which we have attempted to fill. Anyway, in short we are now making water (yay) but have no control over the pressure and the piping leaks profusely in one place (boo). This means that the hatch has to be bailed out constantly while the machine is running. Did I mention that all this was done hanging upside down in to a fairly inaccessible hatch? Oh the joys. Just a quick shout out to Jim who must have taken about 50 calls from me at all hours over the couple of days we tried to fix it. Jim you are a star thank you so much for your help and desalination wisdom. When you guys all rush to purchase a new desalination water-making system look no further than Mr Jim MacDonald.
Next the para- anchor decided to test us. The weather had started to settle and we decided to pull it in and try and get rowing again. Lauren hauled in the retrieval line (the extra long line attached to the top of the parachute which collapses it and allows it to be pulled in with ease) only to find that it had snapped about 20m down. During the day we were circled for a number of hours by two large whales and at one point the boat was pulled sharply sideways and downwards dragging the whole side of the boat in to the water before it eventually sprung back. Looking back we now believe that one of the whales may have got caught in the retrieval line puling the boat down and snapping the line. Cheers Free Willy. This is probably an appropriate point to introduce Uncle Ian and Uncle Lee or as we like to call them, Leeian. Not because I’m talking about whales but because these guys are the race Duty Officers and check in with us regularly to make sure all is well and send us weather updates. They are also our first point of call for when/ if something goes wrong, big or small. We decided this was a good time to drop them a line see if they had any advice re. pulling in a fully inflated para-anchor. To which the response was “Ah… well, it’s been done.” Brilliant. However with a DIY winch system in place 45mins later we had the para-anchor back on board. The only other option would have been to cut it loose which, thank goodness, we didn’t as we used it again only half an hour later when we realised we weren’t making positive progress.
What next, ah yes the autohelm and rudder. After our para-anchor and retrieval line debarkle we spent another 24hrs or so on anchor before pulling it in and trying to set off again. Liv and I started to row and Lauren was hand steering to get the boat back on course. However it quickly became apparent that the steering system was having no effect on the direction of the boat and the rudder wasn’t moving. A quick assessment of the situation soon revealed that the pin that goes through the rudder to lock it in to the tiller steering arm had snapped clean in half and the rudder was flapping around completely uncontrollably and unsecured to the boat. Not only did we have to reattach it but we would have to ensure it was attached back in the right place i.e. the rudder was straight. So Olivia and Bells were in the water under the back of the boat trying to hold the rudder straight whilst getting battered by waves and trying to avoid the boat dropping on them. And Lauren and I were in the cabin trying to line it up with the tiller arm and re drill through both pieces when they overlapped and aligned in order to get a pin back through both parts. There was also the small yet of so vital point that we no longer had a pin to attached the rudder and tiller together even when we did get the holes lined up. Anyway turns out screw drivers work pretty well and it’s continuing to hold for now. Thanks Halfords. We also had the added joy that when we had overcome what we thought would surely be the final hurdle our auto helm (auto pilot steering) was playing up and kept crashing. We brought 3 of these with us, just to be safe, but we have killed one- literally blew it up- and two are on the blink. Without an autohelm it means hand steering, which is dire and also very difficult. In some of the big weather we have been facing it would be impossible to manually hold a course and this would certainly slow us down.
However for now everything is holding and surviving, including us, and I think that’s it in terms of minor crisis… but anyway just pray to the ocean rowing gods for us and hopefully all this equipment won’t have to hold out for too much longer!
In other news we’re now glad to be going again, making good progress and seeing some good speeds. We’re all counting down the days to the finish but at the same time trying not to get too excited. During the night times between 12am-6am we do two 3hour shifts instead of our usual 2hours on 2hours off shift pattern, which means a bit more sleep for everyone. Counting down the number of 3 hour rowing night shifts left is certainly hugely motivating! However, although the 3 hours off is great, because we do 2 hours throughout the day so often one of us will wake up after only 2 hours so sure that we are due on shift and start getting ready. It’s happen to all of us more than once. You poke your head out of the door and say, “s**t am I late?” only to hear, “no babes, you’ve got another hour.” Weird the things that happen to your mind out here!
Music, podcasts and audiobooks are dwindling and I have taken to rowing in silence sometimes and just letting my mind wander. Safe to say I have planned my wedding, bought 4 houses around the world and decorated them, named my children, won the lottery and spent it all, picked places to travel, planned the next holidays I will take, started numerous companies and generally mapped out my life, for now. I got pretty bored of my standard, mainstream music that at home I love but out hear just annoys me. I listen to the lyrics and can’t believe how terrible my taste in music is. All the songs on my ipod are about clubbing, drinking, partying, women, sex and cars- great after a few drinks in 151 (my favourite dive of a nightclub in London) but out here just no. Take for example Justin Timberlake’s song ‘Carry Out’ featuring Timberland. A catchy tune great to dance to and I’ve listened to it a million times. When I actually really listened to it out here Justin is comparing women to takeaway food!! What the £$@! “Take my order ‘cause your body’s like a carry out”… “Number 1 and I’ll take two number 3’s, that’s a whole lot of your and a side of me”… “Baby get my order right no errors, I’mma touch you in all the right areas. I can feed you, you can feed me. Baby deliver that to me and come see me.” I love Justin as much as the next guy but I mean really what is that about- I expected better from you JT! Safe to say I am in need on a musical education if someone fancies helping a gal out when I’m back.