50 Shades of Grey, Yes, we know what you are thinking given the hype back home and the 2 destinations for our final 48 hours, however 50 shades of grey can also describe and in this case, does describe with accurate detail the spectrum of white to black within a nautical context of our immediate working environment. The Mediterranean sea and in particular the Balearics conjures up beautiful blue cloudless skies and sun drenched beaches, palms and orange groves with gentle sea breezes that require little effort to enjoy everything that is good about sailing, however there is a darker side to the Mediterranean and the crew of Kukri were to experience this in all its raw form.
Having “exchanged” Skippers (rumour has it the AAC needed 2 because they keep wearing them out) our new Skipper Maj Jerry Smith RE advised that we are slipping lines at 19.30 that evening. Weather forecast was NE 6-7 and where are we heading? NE – of course we were, this is Adventure training. Destination Ibiza – rum line distance 94nm. Wave height 3m. Having cleared Alicante marina, Red & Blue watch settled into the all too familiar routine for a 24hr stretch at sea. Wind 18-20Kn sea state slight. Everything was looking good. However things were to change rapidly, the wind increased, the waves increased the sky already grey was turning a darker shade of grey, the sea already grey (reflecting the mood of the sky) was also turning a darker shade of grey, by contrast, the crews faces nicely bronzed after from a week of Mediterranean sun, started turning white but that change was not immediate, it started with a sort of egg-shell then to off-white progressing to ashen white before settling for a neutral shade of grey. And so 50 shades of grey aptly described the rapidly changing mood of the crew and their environment. It is said that if one person succumbs to seasickness it sets off a chain reaction amongst the rest of the crew and so this proved to be. Before long the crew of Kukri were in full vocal harmony with each other regurgitating and reciting unique tunes that only the body in its totally out of control state can produce. This one-off performance was to last for a while or at least until the body was so exhausted that even breathing became an effort.
Beating into a sea that has had several days to build is always going to be a very wet experience, but this particular sea was vicious. A wave profile is determined by its height and length. Height is crest to trough and length is crest to crest and so it stands to reason the longer the wave at a given height then the angle of its slope is a ratio of that. However this particular sea seemed to defy the laws of nature – it was high and short which meant the waves were steep and steep waves are like walls of water that one has to negotiate through. Not easy at night and not easy to maintain boat speed at around 5.5 – 6kns. These waves in open water were like a never ending assault course, no sooner had one recovered from overcoming the wall of water then the next one slammed into the boat, killing speed and direction. Even sailing full and by offered little reprieve, the best course of action was to get into the lee of the land as soon as possible. Easier said than done and progress is depressingly slow. In conditions like these 4 hours on watch can seem like 8 and the sleep period of 4 hours and seem like 2. During the night while the crews resolve to remained strong and determined to complete this ordeal the No1 jib did not share the same aspiration – it gave up as one of the seams ripped from leach to luff. And so it was the No2 Jibs turn to strut it’s stuff. We experienced Force 8 on the nose for long periods with foam and spray stinging the eyes and making reading the binnacle with its red light challenging.
Wet and tired but in great spirits the crew of Kukri arrived in Ibiza late evening, however is was to be a whistle stop tour, Robo did a sterling job on supper with a Mediterranean pasta dish that was definitely Michelin 3 stars. By mid-afternoon, fed, watered and recovered, we prepped for sea – most people (99.9%) who visit Ibiza at least get to taste and sample the local foods and wines – some of the crew of Kukri didn’t even get to leave the marina before we were of again on another night passage this time to our final destination for leg 2 Palma de Majorca. The forecast NE 7-8, sea state 3m+. Overcast with precipitation expected. Rum line direction – NE, of course it is – this is adventure training – isn’t it.
Having just come through the last 24hrs, we all knew what to expect but hoping it wouldn’t actually be like the previous night. Hope and realities are often diametrically opposed and so it proved on our final sail. Very wet, Growlers, bloopers, sploshers, whatever you name it, it ended up on the boat and crew, there was no hiding place from the constant cold water (8°C) soaking of the grey Mediterranean sea. More of the same and more of the same strategy get in the lee of Majorca as soon as we can, at least the sea would be flatter which in turn improves the average Speed over the Ground (SoG). Sea sickness was far less prevalent the 2nd night despite much larger seas, perhaps attributed to acclimatisation of the conditions and another remarkable example of the human body’s ability to adapt to an adverse environment. Isn’t this the real outcome of Adventure Training and isn’t offshore-sailing the epitome of everything that Adventure Training is designed to do. Develop the individual with skills to perform as a team and overcome one’s adversary – in our case – the Weather and all it has to offer.
Arriving in Palma was a relief but also tinged with a little sadness because we all knew that our particular contribution to Exercise Gallipoli was at an end. When one reflects back to that first coming together at Gatwick airport at 04.30 in the morning with everyone casting a cautious eye over those they didn’t know and wondering what the next 14 days would bring and today as we close the blog of leg 2, the camaraderie and friendships that have been established, to witness a crew working together as one has been an honour to observe and a privilege to be a part of. The AAC have successfully completed its mission with true grit and pride and hopefully a passion to do it all over again as soon as possible.