Position (in reality). Close middle of no where! We are really in the belly of the beast now, having crossed the halfway point in our Pacific crossing (2176 Nautical miles remain to the Horn, with 2332 Nm back to our pitstop in Bluff). Halfway in and we finally have true Southern Ocean conditions too. Its currently blowing a heavy 35 knots, it’s dark and wet outside and we are stalking a monster depression ahead of us that might contain 50 knots of wind. We just gybed away from the ice exclusion zone to give us a little more room to avoid the worst of the storm ahead, although it looks like Renault is going to receive some really horrendous conditions for their passage of the Horn. Good luck guys, clip on and hang on!
Otherwise life is good, but seriously cold. The sea temperature is down to 8 degrees C but the air is surely colder. We see our breath with every exhalation so conversations with Nandor make us look like chain smokers with clouds of vapour billowing everywhere! The temperature is not the worst, it’s the constant dampness, the cold socks and the droplets of spray that are whisked into the boat with every wave that crashes over us.
I remember going to Phoenix, Arizona for spring training with my cycling team when I was in college and was impressed by the ideal conditions for racing and training. But that was in March, when Colorado was still snowed in by comparison. I struck up conversation with a local cyclist who said that in summer its regularly over 120F/ 40 Degrees Celcius “but you don’t feel it, because its a dry heat”. Sure, I thought, already parched and sweating in the mild spring conditions. Dry heat or not, humidity significantly changes the sensation of ambient temperature and if the sunburned cyclists in Arizona win out, we lose big time with our wet cold!
During night watches I do pushups, crunches and squats to keep the blood flowing and refuel with regular soup breaks. I’m dressed in so many layers that an eskimo would feel right at home yet still the cold creeps through. I have a collection of chemical warming pads and these are the ultimate solution. Ripping these guys out of their plastic wrapping is like discovering the Holy Grail! I stick them on my wooly base layer on my chest, like IronMan’s glowing powerpack, and the heat slowly trickles through and makes for a happy sailor. Good times on the high seas!