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Around the World with Catherine Nurrsaw

September 27, 2005

Greetings from Portugal!

Well, I guess I am offically now an ocean racer, as the first stage of the first leg is now over. And an incredibly close and exciting race it was too - according to our very experienced skipper, you could go the whole of the rest of your life racing without ever being in that kind of close and competitive race again. Me, I dunno - I just thought it was pretty cool when, not having seen another boat for nearly 3 days, one dawn the Western Australia clipper just appeared suddenly out of the fog and crossed our bows close enough for their crew to ask us what we were having for breakfast. They were very jealous when we showed them our slices of toast, as they had run out of bread some days before, but strangely they declined our offer to cook them some toast if they just dropped their sails and waited for a little while....

I'm the official Durban diarist for this leg of the race, and Ive done one report so far which is up on the Clipper Ventures website (click on Durban and I think it's there under "Diary") so I'll try not to duplicate stuff. I think I was too tactful to mention on the official diary report that the almost universal seasickness which struck most of us down on Monday even included our skipper, Criag, who claimed never to have been seasick before in his life. Unfortunately for him, he tried one of the vile pork hamburger concoctions which Tom had cooked up for those feeling alive enough to want to eat - that was enough to set almost everyone off. Luckily, most of us were well on the way to recovery by the next day, and for the last few days even those of us who were most prone to seasickness were absolutely fine.

We came through the first stage of the race much better than some of the boats. Not only did we come in a very respectable 3rd (yay Durban!) and not only are we all getting on extremely well together (very much yay Durban!), most of our boat equipment is still working properly - largely due to Steve, our engineer, who does an incredible amount of work on the boat. Some of the others are not so lucky - for example, Glasgow, which arrived last, had had no functioning heads for the last 3 or 4 days, the generator and water maker were not working, they'd been without power for a while, there's a crack in the deck by one of the runner tracks and so on and so on. We feel very lucky by comparison (especially in regard to the heads - we lost the lid and the seat of one when the seas were rough, but at least both of them still work, thank heavens!).

When we arrived in port on Saturday morning, we immediately started deep cleaning the boat and doing the bits and pieces of repair and maintenance stuff that needed to be done. Mark and I were hauled up the mast and spent about an hour up there tying on the spreader cover sheets (the spreaders come out of the mast horizontally and the cover sheets are to stop the sails from getting worn rubbing against them). Not easy with a stiff breeze blowing and about 5 meters of string knotting itself around you, the spreaders, the halyards and anything else up there. When we finally got down, someone from another boat very kindly pointed out that we had fastened on the whole lot upside down. We replied with freezing politeness that we thought they looked prettier that way. Fortunately Craig doesn't seem too bothered by this (Mark says he's the one who demonstrated which way up they were meant to go anyway) so we don't have to go up and redo the whole lot.

Because all of the boats took longer to get to Portugal than had been predicted, due to the wind conditions, and because some of them had so many repairs to do, the start of the next stage on to Brazil has been postponed a day. This gave us at least a little time to spend in Cascais, which is a really lovely little place. I had yesterday off, and spent the day wandering around the town - I even borrowed a bicycle (you just give your passport details and they let you have a bike free! Such a civilsed idea). Today has been spent doing more repair and maintenace work - I have been splicing and making doughnuts and Moebius Bummels (far too complicated to explain but deeply cool) in a fine frenzy all morning.

I think the plan for tonight is pizza or something on the boat and perhaps a movie - we get to watch a movie every week on the computer - it was quite a challenge during the race with the boat heeled over and the computer lashed to the high side, having to be swapped over to the other side when we tacked...... We have all the Monty Python movies and the Rocky Horror Picture Show, so I'm doing pretty well!

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