Saturday, 15 December 2012

Arrived in Sydney and bad experience with scoot airlines

                                   I arrived in Sydney

I was flying with scoot airlines. I thought it would be a great deal but I was wrong.  I had to pay 330 S$ !!!  (205 Euro) for my suitcase and that was only one way. My travel arrangement  showed 1 suitcase included in the initial price of ca 450 Euro. With the return bags fee I’ll have a ticket close to 900 Euro with a lousy service. I guess I’m not using a long-range low fare airline again.

It is cloudy here in Sydney with temp around 30 degrees!! Training starts tomorrow. Can’t wait.

I had some time on the flight and I let my fantasy and my experience from 2 offshore races mingle together. Maybe my anger about scoot airlines helped to make it a bit more "dramatic".

Read what came out of it:

Imagination of a wild ride
(to give you a taste)

I’m on the boat in the middle of the night on the open water, there is a storm building up. It is wet, it is cold, it is windy, it rains and the boat is rocking violently in the chaotic sea. The waves are braking. Waves, the current and the wind working against each other.

Every minute or so a load of spray is sweeping over the boat, but I’m in the bunk - at least protected from the water and the cold - not really sleeping but somehow I could manage to rest. I can hear the wind howling and I can feel and hear the boat working hard its way through the waves.
This is the sound of offshore sailing!!!!

Someone is waking me up.
WHAT!! Shift change already? Can’t be. I just jumped into the bunk, maybe 1 hour ago I would guess but no, I’m wrong. Well more then 3 hours passed already!!!

Rest time feels short on an offshore race.

We have to get ready for a Sail change. We’ll do it together with the other shift. They are waiting.
10 minutes to get ready and to take over from the crew on deck.    10 MINUTES!!! For getting out of the sleeping bag, stow it away and make the bunk ready for the next guy, go to the head (toilet) and get dressed. BUT there are 5 or 6 other guy’s doing the same in a very restricted and small place.
It is dark, only the light of a few red dimmed headlights from some crew members and the dimmed light from the boat. We don’t want to spoil our night vision. We need it in a few minutes.

Oh, and the boat doesn’t seem to like us. Her brutal rocking reminds me on a rodeo. I’m the cowboy and the boat is the bull, a good one, a bitch. We are tossed back and forth. Bruises and scratches are guarantied. Al right, I know, no pain no gain.

Now imagine you use the head in this environment. You better sit down to pee or the head will be wet all over…. not from the water. And hold on tight or you’ll bump your head.

I still have to get dressed.
“Where the hell is my gear? I can’t see much. Luckily I don’t need 3 layers. It is not as cold as on the fastnet race. A sweeter and the “oilskin” – the top waterproof layer - will do.
 Beanie, sailing gloves and the head torch. I got it all.  Finally the Life west with the lifebelt attached to it, probably the most important piece of equipment.

 Ready,….in less then10 minutes. I don’t want the crew on deck to wait 1 minute longer then necessary. I know how tired they are.

But first the change of the head sail.
I’m one of the bowmen. We are the guys who have to go to the front (bow) of the boat to change sails or prepare the spinnaker.

I step up the companionway. Wooosh, the fist spray of water is greeting me. I’m happy that I closed my jacked already all the way up. The blowing wind makes communication over a distance of more then a few meters almost impossible.

Now the most important thing to do……….


Always at night and in stormy weather. We have it both now.

I need a minute or so to accommodate to the new environment. The crew is ready for the sail change. The headsail has to be replaced with the next smaller one. The main is already in its 2nd  reef. It is 3 of us going to the bow, we are taking the new sail with us. Our lifelines are now hanging on the running lines of the deck.

You have to stay low, with both hands on the boat. No room for error. If one forgets to connect with the lifeline to the boat and goes over board in this weather he is history.

We look ahead to see the waves coming. Good that our eye’s are adapted to the night.  If spray is coming we go down and hold tight on anything on the boat. The same we do if she is crashing down a wave or when we are heeling too much.

Finally we make our way all the way to the bow. Communication to the cockpit is only possible with hand signals. The sheets are tied on the new sail and the cockpit crew starts hoisting as soon as the head of the sail is fed into the free slot on the forestay, all communicated with hand signals.

To keep an eye on the water is always a good idea and we see that the boat is on the top of a wave and just about to fall down into a dark, wet abyss. Someone is screaming a warning and we lay down flat to the deck and grab on anything we can grab on. We know what’s coming. It feels like free-fall. It takes 2 seconds, maybe 3 and then the bow is diving into the water. The boat becomes a submarine and we are on top of it. Hold your breath. Pure adrenalin for no additional charge. The water has immense power. We have to hold on with all our power. But then she comes out of the water again and we continue changing the sail. 

The new sail is hoisted and the old one taken down. We need to work together with the crew on the “piano” - an array of lines coming together left and right side of the companionway - and with the guy on the halyard. The new sail is trimmed and sheeted in.

We grab the old sail and pull it down on the deck. All 3 of us need to work together. If only a part of the sail goes over the side then the sail could be lost. The water that would fill in the sail could simply pull it down and out of our hands.
We fold the sail as good as we can in this condition and get it in the sail sack.

Done, only moving back now, careful, slow, backwards facing the oncoming waves. The crew takes the sail down to stow it away and gets ready for the rest.

Now there is some time to relax. I feel wet and tired and the shift has just begun.

These are the moments when I wish to be at home in my cozy warm bed and I ask myself what the hell has driven me to go for this mad offshore race.

But I know, as soon as we are on shore for maybe 1 hour, I start to get the feeling that it wasn’t really too bad. I start thinking of doing it again, maybe…….

Isn’t offshore sailing wonderful!!!!!!!!

This is just one possible scenario. I admit, a wild one. The header says it all.

Bowmens work

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