When I'm on a racing sailboat, I expect it to heel (lean over) on certain points of sail. Going up wind, sailing as near into the wind as we can, the boat heels. It's expected, and you accommodate. You change the positioning of your body with respect to various sail controls you must use, and sail on. But I'm used to day racing. Once done racing, it's back to shore and terra firma. When I've lived aboard a boat while cruising, we often picked our routes to avoid the heeling kind of sailing. When at anchor, the boat gently rocks - for me, a very comfortable feeling. Ocean racing, crew spend as much time not racing as in racing mode. And you can't pick your route to avoid the tilted sort of sailing. This race is called Clipper Race Around the World because it mainly follows the old clipper trade route, with its favourable trade winds pushing the boats along flat and downwind. These boats are designed to go best downwind. They are slow and clumsy upwind. But, global weather patterns seem to be changing and recent versions of the Race have seen the boats tackle a lot more upwind sailing. The challenge for crew is that the sparse living space below decks is not really designed for living on a tilt. Except for the oven/stove, which is gimballed so that it tilts on one plane such that its surface is close to level with the horizon ahead of the boat. The angle of the bunks can be adjusted, even while you lie in them. This is important because the angle of heel can change throughout the off watch period depending on changeable wind conditions or tacking angle. In addition, there is a lee cloth that can be tied tautly along the open edge of the bunk, so you don't fall out with a sudden change in tilting angle. These features make the bunk often the safest place to be when off watch, I think. It feels to me a bit like being cradled once I'm in it, the motion of the boat rocking me to sleep. Getting into the bunk is a huge challenge. Mine is the upper bunk on my left side. Left foot on stowage ledge under bottom left bunk. Right hand high on opposite wall. Left arm reaching for my top left bunk. Right foot on edge of upper right bunk. Left foot on edge of lower left bunk. Right foot on pipes above upper right bunk near porthole. Butt on my bunk. Left foot joins right foot on opposite wall. Adjust tilt of bunk. Time lying down with motion of the boat. Get lee cloth up quickly. Like getting into the bunk, when living on an angle, everything takes 10 times longer. You can't simply stroll down the hallway to the freezer to get the chicken for dinner preparations. There are grab bars everywhere. On a tilt, we swing like monkeys through trees, from one grab bar to another, just not as gracefully, often bracing feet against walls or shelving. The floor is in constant motion. There are ropes strung across key passage ways for grabbing onto. A clever bloke on our boat fashioned a lattice made of spectra, a hugely strong form of line (ropes on boats are called lines), along the side of the ladder that leads from the deck to below decks (companion way) for additional support climbing and descending the ladder.
If the hot sauce bottles, popular for dressing up the meals, were simply set on the counter, they would topple off in a great clatter. So they are lain down, their bottoms braced against the counter's 3- inch lip - another safety feature. They seem to be more standing than lying. The foul weather gear hanging in the locker swings out into the passage way. They drape and sway eerily in the low level red lights used below decks at night, leggings and sleeves seem to be reaching for you as you pass by. "Excuse me, pardon me," we say for a laugh. Going fast upwind is wet work topside. It means all hatches must be closed. Near the equator, that makes it like a sauna below decks. It's a constant battle against dehydration as we are drenched in sweat, even as we sleep. If we sleep. Going into this, I knew these sorts of things would be among the challenges of this Race. I'm loving the sailing and racing aspects. The challenging living aspects weave our small group into a tight community, very dependent upon one another for accomplishing even the smallest of tasks. "Sorry - as you're there just now, could you please pass me the X so I can Y?" Substitute hand pump and empty bilges, sponge and clean heads, etc. Manners go far. Each person fulfills his or her assigned role to the best of their abilities, and then goes further to bring their personal strengths to team functioning. Extending a caring touch, lifting heavy objects, being vigilant about boat operations or safety aspects, plastering a smile on in the face of challenge... With the effort that comes with living on an angle, on top of the demands of sailing and racing, naturally fatigue and exhaustion sets in for some, frustration and impatience live near the surface for others. So this Race is in part about finding the strength within you to meet the living challenges each day brings and the tolerance and support for self and others when we are not at our best. On my off watch hours, I often have in mind the many people I have met over the years of my career in rehabilitation who must find the strength and patience to live with a disability in a world that for them must be at least a little like living on an angle. They must find a way of living in a community that is not designed for their abilities. I can step off the boat at the end of the Race into what is for me and people like me a much easier world. Let's all use our manners and bring our tolerance to the fore. And support work to make our world a more safe, accommodating and welcoming place for people living with disabilities. Thanks for reading, and especially thanks to those who have given donations. Links can be found on my blog webpage.