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Shift Work on Khulula

13:46 28th October 2008 by Oceangybe
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Words by: Dave Abercrombie

Lat: 18 degrees 42 min S
Long: 066 degrees 38 min E

A tap on the shoulder and I’m awake. A friendly voice and a head lamp tells me its my shift. I look at my watch in some half coherent daze… yup 3:00 AM. It’s time to take my turn on watch. As I climb out of my bunk, the boat is tossing and rolling in every direction. The feelings of nausea quickly rush me. I quickly throw on some boardies and my stripy hoody. I grab my harness, life jacket, tether, and head lamp. The air is cool and everything is damp. I sit down in the cockpit, the same place I feel like I’ve sat for the last 2 weeks. I look up at the sails to see what sort of configuration the last guy was flying. I glance at the wind gauges and GPS: another 600 NM to Mauritius. It seems like a lifetime. Bryson pokes his head up from below and asks me what sort of tea I would fancy. “English Breakfast,” I reply. On goes the kettle. He comes up one last time a few minutes later to deliver a warm cup of goodness and explain any weather/swell abnormalities that he witnessed on his shift. Then he’s gone. Before I can take a sip of my tea, he’s got earplugs in and awaiting a blissful slumber. A wave of jealously comes over me. Dam.. I wish I was climbing back into my bunk.

We are following the “trades,” the seasonal winds that blow endlessly from the south east during the summer months in the southern hemisphere. Our course is 260 degrees True, or West. We left Cocos Keeling over two weeks ago and have traveled at a joggers pace for 1400 NM. We are smack in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The brains behind OceanGybe Inc. are expecting to make landfall in about 5 days. It’s unbelievable to think about my experiences on this passage. Time seems to stop existing. Even events in a day are hard to remember. About the only thing we can remember are the meals. I have read many books and spent countless hours staring at a landless horizon. This has truly been the trip of a lifetime.

I look at my watch: 4 AM, still 2 hours left on my shift. My tea is long gone and my eyes are getting heavy again. I stand up, stretch my legs and have a good look around, checking for boats. I look at the gauges, the GPS, the wind, everything seems normal. I look up at the different lines and cords running up and down Khulula, with their respective jobs. The pulleys used to make the work of hauling sails a little easier. My trusty back rest in the cockpit doubles as a winch for pulling in the last few feet of halyard for the head and main sails. I recall my cardinal rules that were drilled into my head throughout the passage: never let go of this line, always put your left hand here, what to do if someone falls overboard, among others. And now here I am, all trained up and trusted to skipper this vessel all by my lonesome on this starry morning somewhere in the Indian Ocean.

5:00 AM. Just one hour left. I day dream of what it’s going to be like to see land again. The guys said it’s an amazing feeling; A feeling of accomplishment. To think, traveling in a 40ft sailboat across many miles to another country using only the power of wind. In another five days, I will be stepping off Khulula onto Mauritius, a French island near Madagascar. All told, we will have traveled 2300 NM across the Indian on what has been, until now, Khulula’s second largest passage. Accomplishment is right! I am fortunate that I was given the opportunity to make this voyage with my friends to some places that I might never have seen otherwise.

Check my watch. 5:55 AM. Hell Ya! I head below and turn the kettle on. I tap Hugh on the shoulder and tell him it’s his shift. He dresses and grabs his harness, life Jacket book, etc, as he heads to the cockpit. I make him his tea. I pop my head up to the cockpit and deliver his warm cup of goodness. We discuss winds/swell and any wild dreams he had. I bid him goodnight, hang up my harness and life jacket, and jump into bed before the next wave tosses me across the cabin. I close my eyes, planning another day of sitting, reading, and fishing for incredibly tasty Mahi Mahi, Yellow Fin Tuna, or Spanish Mackerel.

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