Water, no more?

Thursday 26 September 2013
CATEGORY: Expedition
TAGS: Sailing

Its 8am in the morning and I have just decided to quit my sweaty bunk. I am
off watch since 6am and usually should use the time until midday to catch
up on as much sleep as possible – it does not want to be! Charley, our
chief engineer, has just started the project “Generator revival”(it broke
last night due to yet unknown circumstances). Sadly my bunk is just
opposite the engine room door (see picture), which means the heat level,
which was already reaching uncomfortable levels, rose instantly by another
20 degrees, as the heatwave of the engine swaps into the living quarters–
no more sleeping then πŸ™ I jump out of bed and start my mission around the
boat to find an alternative resting spot – the galley is full with people
cooking and cleaning bilges, the rope looker – occupied. Finally a quick
check on deck – aargh, also no go as no shadow at all!
As you might refer from my reference to heat, we are still in the Doldrums,
slowly strolling along in this nirvana of flat sea and puffy clouds in the
sky with boat speeds of 1-2kts. Apparently its particularly bad this year,
which is interesting to hear, but doesn’t help a lot. Extrapolating from
the last weather reports, we will be stuck here at least until the 29th, so
another three days of no progress. Groundhog day! Our arrival in Rio is
still anybody’s guess – Whatever happens, there will be time for a nicely
cool beer (or two, or three πŸ™‚
Last time I was writing about the heat and bad sleep being the biggest
factor of discomfort – since yesterday we have a third. The problems with
our watermaker have finally escalated and it has decided to quit service on
Team Switzerland (maybe too much overtime work or just negligence when it
was installed by Clipper?). That puts us in a tight spot, asour water
reserve will only last for two more days. In an emergency crew meeting, our
skipper (in not her finest leadership moments I shall say) has put us to a
decision: Retire from the race or get water from another boat and continue
racing with highly rationed water!
The crew, after a very heated debate went for the second option – and off
we were to our rendezvous. Team Garmin, the closest boat with a proper
operating watermaker (it shall be said, that we are not the only boat with
this problem – hello Clipper, I thought you send us in working boats across
the ocean!!?), was selected to provide us with the necessary liquid. We
stopped our race for a few hours and motored the 9nm over. An amazing
experience to meet up with another boat so close in the middle of the
ocean! As we were shouting towards each other with, exchanging experiences
of the last few weeks, I realized – these are the first non crew members we
meet and speak to in more than two and a half weeks. Team Garmin sent us a
nice chocolate cake, for which we responded with sunscreen and wheetabix
(no joke, we have so much wheetabix on boat (?), that if sb could invent a
way to turn them into water all our problems would be solved!)
Our dingy was lowered into the water (see picture) and we made a transfer
line with our jerrycans. All possible containers on boat were collected,
drybags, plastic containers, drinking bottles, pots and close to 400litres
found its way over to our boat. All in all, the whole maneuver should have
cost us less than five hours in racing time, given the slow speed of our
boat anyway we hope that it doesn’t do too much damager to our race
campaign. With all that additional freshwater on board, we can only hope
that the skippers calculations are correct and that combined with our
reserves it will provide enough to reach Rio.
This will mostly depend on whether we a) can find wind (better soon!) and
b) we can survive on the tight water rations we will be provided going
forward. Daily allowance for the boat is now 54l of freshwater which
divides into 2litres for each of the 22 crew as well as 10litres for the
cooking (after experimenting around it was decided that cooking pasta and
baking bread with saltwater only just doesn’t hit the tastebud).
It is definitely not the most comfortable experience to work day after day
in the scorching heat with a constant feeling of thirst! The medical impact
on living with so little water for at least ten more days shall be
evaluated later. According to our skipper it seems to be possible. The
easiness in which she has brought the arguments keeps me stunned – A mere
ten days ago, she didn’t wanted to use any lightweight sail in case it
breaks, hence being ultraconservative with equipment. Now we are risking
the health of the crew? Might we have a double standard?
In the meantime we work together to explore all options to get additional
freshwater – from condensing water, to cooking it to collecting rain water.
– sadly the nightwatches have not brought enough rainsqualls as expected.
Instead we have seen fantastic warm (actually hot) nights with amazing
clear skies – I counted more than thirty shooting stars last night. This
morning we were even escorted by a group of ten dolphins and a few whales
into a stunning sunrise:) Its these experiences that stick to the brain and
let this experience be unforgettable.

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