Radio Scotland - Days Like This

Jamie Andrew

North Sea Yacht Race

Jamie Andrew

As Mrs Chippy leaves the great glacier carved bay of Stavanger and moves out into the North Sea, it's startling how quickly the conditions change. The pleasant breeze which played round our sheltered fjord now becomes a powerful wind and the surface of the sea rises up in a relentless procession of choppy waves, big and unpredictable.

I haven't even had a chance to change into my sailing gear so I duck down below to pull it on. Almost immediately the nausea hits me as the boat, pitching and rolling wildly, throws me around the cramped cabin while I wrestle with the waterproofs.

I make it back on deck feeling very green, but in fact it's our skipper, Stuart, who is first to succumb. He is sitting at the chart table, attempting to plot our course, but has to break off to wretch into a bucket. He emerges on deck looking grim, his face the pallor of a corpse.

Before long Alan also reaches for the bucket.

As dusk approaches, we begin our watches, each taking two hours at the helm, followed by two hours on standby, huddled under the spray hood, and then two hours down below, trying to sleep. The two hours down below are the worst - the motion of the boat is absolutely unbearable, and the sea-sickness becomes all encompassing. It engenders in me a strange desperation. It's more than wishing that I was not on the boat, more even than wishing myself dead - I simply wish that I didn't exist at all. I am uncertain that I can bear another moment of this. Looking at their faces, I guess that Alan and Stuart feel the same way.

At 2 am I rise from my tortured slumber, brave the heads for a pee, wretch into the bucket, struggle back into my cold, wet waterproofs, and stagger up on deck. Stuart passes me wordlessly as he descends to his bed while Alan makes way for me at the helm and without further ado curls up foetus-like in the cockpit.

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