Recently our crew member the Force 7 made a point about the personalities on board, saying Miss Catana has one Captain, one President and two Crew. No reward for guessing who Madame President is. It was a throw away comment made in jest but it did get me thinking. What is it like living with us on a 42 foot Catamaran…
I would suggest that living and sharing life in a confined space with strangers is a rare experience, equivalent perhaps to prisoners sharing a cell at her majesties service.
It can work or it can be hell. Once underway though there is no escape.
Re Crew The Risk Goes Both Ways
While we walked around Las Palmos in the Grand Canary, many public walls and cafes had notice boards filled with A4 pages of singles or couples looking for passage across the Atlantic. Each was a sales page of why you should “pick me”. All promised to cook, clean, mind children and entertain needed as well as assist with sailing, anything to gain passage. Some guaranteed never to be sea sick whilst others shared photos of gorgeous bodies and flexed muscle. It was a smorgasbord of choice.
Warning: Your Are Entering The Red Zone – If as crew you pick a boat that has dodgey owners, or the vessel is not seaworthy or safe, the comparison to a prison cell may end up being your experience. Whilst in Las Palmas I spoke with an American man in his late 60’s. We were both looking over the notice boards and I asked him if he was looking for passage. “No” he informed me he owned a 40 ft boat and now had 4 crew, all single women, though all with little sailing experience. He seemed delighted with himself and so sleazy, yuk. He even said “just because I can”.
I wouldn’t trust this man as far as I could kick him, which wouldn’t be far.
On The Miss Catana
Meanwhile on the Boat Miss Catana, the love had begun between crew and owners.
Sailing from Spain to Gibraltar is what I would called the honeymoon phase of having new crew. It was where we knew we liked each other, are mostly compatible but are yet to reveal our true natures. Sailing from Gibraltar to the Canary for days was the real deal. We got to live up close without land escape for days, travel with routine and monotony, testing weather conditions and breakdowns all perfect opportunitys to show our true colours when under pressure.
Oh How I Failed
Our journey was from the Island of Lanzarote Port Rubicon to Grand Canary Port Las Palmas. We had decided earlier to leave at 5.30 pm so we did not have to pay for an extra night of port charges. Throughout the day large black clouds had gathered and the wind had picked up, the weather forecast was not great. The weather was only going to get worse for the next four days so it was go now or not at all. As we sailed out of the Marina and into the Bay I watched a monohull moving quickly in the opposite direction, I could imagine their relief as they would have arrived to the safety of harbour before the sunset. What they thought we must be doing is anyone’s guess, I am 100% sure they would have discussed the Catamaran heading out as they headed in. In the distance there was a distinct line of large waves and rain closing in, I was uneasy with our group decision to go. Yet my opportunity to change the decision had passed so it was a mater of whatever was ahead of us we had to face.
It Was A Long Night
The conditions were tough. Well I thought so. The wind was Northerly and right behind us, it had been blowing for a few days from that direction so the waves and swell were large. When I say large I mean these were the biggest waves I have ever sailed in and made anything we had previously sailed in, look like a walk in the park. Certainly not the strongest winds I have ever sailed with but 30 to 35 knots is a fair call on strong winds, it was this wind combined with big waves coming in an opposite direction that made for a hell of a ride.
This is the most uncomfortable I have been on a sailing boat. EVER.
How I would describe this night’s passage compared to the Captain’s story, are two different points of view. He called it a shake down passage. A perfect chance to test boat and crew. The winds, the weather, the absolute darkness and the need to stay fast enough to surf the waves was perfect testing for the final 1900 nautical miles to cross the Atlantic. These conditions demanded all hand steering and a high skill level to keep the boat safe. My Captain loved the challenge and excitement, he was a Captain in his element. Even when the waves came over him from the side he didn’t seemed too fussed.
The Boats President Was Not Happy
Both the noise and the action of the boat were crazy. There would be a huge bang and then the boat would shudder as she moved from one wave to crash into the next. We were at times faster than the waves. Our top speed was 16 knots and in 30 knots of wind, we were cruising along at 10 to 11 knots. This aspect of the trip was fine, it was not the speeds that bothered me, it was the crazy unruly motion and noise that brought me undone. Both Gael and I suffered sea sickness, my first time in months. Gael had one side of the couch, I had the other and we played no part in the sailing process once our seasickness set in. Truth is even if we both had come to the evening with 100% health, neither of us were trustworthy to sail these conditions. For this night it was the Captain who had the lions load and Carole would be his trusty assistant.
What’s With The Yelpy Noises
On two occasions when I did doze off, I would waken with a start, and a loud yelp at the banging and noise. No one appreciated these moments, including me. Certainly not a good look for any President.
On this night I measured time by toilet stops rather than nautical miles. Going to our toilet took a huge amount of effort and care. Actually weeing while on a moving noisy toilet is an experience in itself, one that will be remembered for a long time. Gael had a different toilet approach. He just refused to go. He decided to test his bladder to within a millimeter of no more room. When he was telling me of his pain from needing to pee so badly, weighed up against his need to stay away from the stairs and going into the bowels of the boat I laughed and laughed but with a deep understanding.
What I don’t understand, is that I drank and ate nothing the entire evening, in fact I was probably dehydrated, yet on that night I managed to go to the toilet 4 times? How is that possible?
When the Captain needed to grab a couple of hours sleep, he took my spot on the couch, I took the floor, I honestly didn’t care. As for Gael he had become a fixed piece of furniture and there was no moving Force 7 this night. He was a done deal once he got soaked through by a huge wave and had to go downstairs to change early on in the night.
We Made It Safely
I shouldn’t have worried!
We arrived in the Port of Las Palmas at around 5.30 am and had to wait around for daylight, plus large cruise ships moving in before us. We were all relieved to have made it to Las Palmas.
As we all reflected and debriefed the next morning, Carole suggested that I brought the mood of the boat down and the other two agreed. This one comment cut. I was devastated. It was a fair call and in a moment of testing I had failed. In the thick of things instead of shutting up, I reminded the Captain that this was his decision to leave port and I thought a bad one.
Oh and I also suggested I needed a divorce and I couldn’t believe I gave a perfectly good picket fence for this experience.
Boom and Shut The Front Door !!
For that moment of fracture and failure I was disgraced.
I tried to make up for my poor behaviour by cooking hot apple muffins for breakfast and cleaning the boat. I was feeling very guilty.
Now I am OK
My lesson is learned.
Next time if I don’t agree with a decision I know I need to accept the final call and suck it up and shut the hell up. I know whinging is not allowed on a boat and bringing down the mood is something I don’t wish to repeat.
Next time dear Team Miss Catana I hope to do better!
PS I don’t feel bad about being seasick. The conditions were atrocious, none of my words will ever come close to describing just how horrible it was. I am glad my seasickness actually passed and I didn’t get off the boat demanding a ticket home. That would have been the ultimate FAIL.
PPS Gael has just told me his epic bladder hold was 13 hours and 27 minutes. Now that’s impressive.