At what point did I decided things had changed! I would have certainly have told you 24 months ago the day I walked out the door of my position in the architectural firm was the turning point.
On reflection sitting here in the aft bunk over-looking the nav station on a Clipper 70 somewhere in the middle of the English channel someone hit that reset button and I feel its started all over again.
Its hot below decks as I update this latest blog. The current on-watch crew are between the galley baking Madeira cake and the rest are calibrating the twin rudders as the current biennia conditions allow us the privilege.
It’s been an adventurous year for me, having secured a number of great clients and with little time to thing about what’s happening the season has rolled on by without much thought.
I have no social media or cell phone to distract me and I find this down time amazingly insightful.
I guess the big question to much of you who know me, is why are you on a Clipper in the Channel. Good question? Last night I was asking myself the same question.
I have been gifted the opportunity to work as an on-board camera man/reporter for 4 legs of the race, the first of which starts in just over a week. (London-Rio). It’s day 3 onboard and last night I really had a one of those moments why do I want to do this race? Why do I want to try film and edit and write in these conditions.
Late yesterday afternoon the conditions started to change quickly, the barometer dropped and we had a little too much canvas up. The crew were tasked to reduce sail. It’s just not that easy on a boat this size. Meanwhile the decks were busy with crew I had begun to start my edits and photos from the previous day. The boat had a decent 30 degree heel, I was sat at the Nav station. The laptop half tied to one side and any loose items being utilised as props to stop my most uncomfortable edit suite from sliding 10 foot across the rear of the boat. The motion was rather less than desirable and after 30mins the heat started to get to me. It was so bloody hot, the sweat dripped from the end of my nose to my keyboard and every now and again I would wipe it dry with my t-shirt.
Conditions were not bad, in fact I would have considered this to be champagne sailing. Not the same applied to working below decks. And I will repeat conditions we NOT bad.
I need to locate my Zoom recorder as I had some audio interviews I wished to download. The boats while big, do not have much storage space and the simple task of opening my peli case (located under a persons bunk) was an ordeal. There’s a 6 inch gap to open the case, shove my hand in and locate without waking the person at the same time. Oh and at this stage it was dark below so only the faintest red glow illuminated the sleeping quarters. I battled with this dam case for 5mins but it really felt like an eternity. I blindly negotiated it and upon its retrieval I pulled out several CF memory cards which seemed to scatter like marbles along the floor.
At this point I was just out of sight of my laptop, the boat was heeled well over, I could hear the winches grind and deafen the occupants below decks, my media was all over a damp floor and all I wanted was the bloody recorder to download a file. A loud bang came from behind the Nav desk and while in the middle of this chaos I was only hoping the laptop which was propped from every angle had not taking flight and crash landed into some pipe cot and I was about to face a salvage operation.
I got my recorder, shoved the media into my pocket and ran back to either witness a sight of relieve or what was going to be the same feeling as having your dog run down. Alas some luck sided in my favour, what the loud crash was, has never been discovered.
After the incident I very quickly realised if I was to maintain my camera kit and do my job I had to figure this out quickly. So I pulled the bag out and put away an unnecessary gear, stowed it away and kept my essentials.
I, at this point moved my office to the high side, rested in the very aft pipe cot where my skipper Rich Gould had kindly let me sleep. I don’t think these Clipper skippers sleep much in the early days of the race and if permitted I feel they would spend most of their time glancing at the AIS and chart plotter.
I was perched in the pipe cot a good 7 feet from the deck, pinned between some foul weather gear, like another fixture anchored with my laptop in front of me finally able to work.
I was very content, almost happy with my situation, I found a little piece of heaven in this boat even if I was still raining sweat from my brow and on a constant wipe dry rota.
I had just about managed to edit 20 photos or so when i was instinctively stirred into action when I heard the words “Man-Overboard”. I guess at this point I surprised myself. My role is to document and tell the stories of our crew aboard but I immediately dropped the laptop with little regard to its welfare, shoved on my boots and ran while securing my life jacket to the deck.
It took little time and when I got to the action zone the skipper had the boat under control. A spotter was pointing off the port beam calling distance to the MOB and crew were already been tasking to harness and lift a swimmer in to retrieve the MOB.
It was as real as any situation I have ever seen. It was in fact a drill! And one that will no doubt be repeated again. These crews maybe amateur but they showed true professionalism in a very critical MOB drill. I certainly felt a lot more confident with the crew having seen what can only be described as a text book MOB exercise.
Ah, but I heard my producers already saying, “Brian why didn’t you take your camera”. There was no time to think, I just did what I’ve been thought since I started sailing, safety is far more important than anything else at sea. Of course when I was told this was a drill, I ran back down to my bunk with the same vigor and grabbed my camera to film the rest of the exercise. And hear lies the second lesson, always have your camera accessible, have a formatted media card and ensure there’s a full charged battery. I now use my camera bag as a pillow so no matter what time something happens day or night I know where my kit is.
The conditions have been good mostly with little over 20 knots from time to time. I have yet to get to grips with serious weather but I’ve no doubt I’ll be on another steep learning curve. As my friend Marcus Hutchinson says, “You don’t know, what you don’t know, until you know”. The statement is every bit as applicable for me now as it ever has been.
If I’m to deliver valuable and commercially useable content its time to “know the things I don’t already know” and its little about using camera’s and editing. Its 90% related to how to work on these boats, how to keep your person safe, your kit dry and somewhere in it all “Enjoy” it..
Leg 1 is either going to make me or break me….. I believe with re-adjustment and re-planning it’s very achievable…. It’s also going to give me some insight on what the potential job as On board reporter for the Volvo Ocean Race is going to be like. Right now, I can tell you it’s going to be a job for few people….. I’ll leave it as “What’s your limit of true pain” !!!!!!!