>Tuesday began with me being shaken awake at seven and told I had to get up as I was ongoing watch. I had no clue who woke me just that it was a big guy standing over me when I openned my eyes. Turned out it was Jason from the current watch. Matt came down to chivy me along after a bit as I was late for first sitting breakfast (ongoing watch and messmen) and then a few minutes later Jo came down and helped me with my trainers (Rosie was on mess duty and so not there to help me). I got a few comments about being late when I made it to the upper mess but they had given me twenty minutes to do bathroom stuff, get dressed down to trainers and put on safety gear and get up to breakfast – with no help it wasn’t gonna happen! When Jo came down she told me to leave my safety equipment. I was a little more than five minutes late for breakfast and the food was really nice. Someone else at breakfast tried to comment to me that “it must take you longer to do stuff because your in a wheelchair – it must be frustrating” I told him I’ve always been in a chair and I wouldn’t know. He tried to force the issue saying I must know that but soon realised he wasn’t gonna get me admitting it. I also spilt my breakfast down myself and got told I was a naughty girl for that.
After breakfast we had ten minutes or so to get sorted. Rosie took me back to our bunks to get my waist harness and jacket etc. Unfortunately we got one of the straps of my transit seat caught in the wheel and I had to talk her through taking the wheel off, untangling it and then putting the wheel on. Then after going to the loo I realised the wheel was not back on properly. A few minutes late again! More comments about that and the question – am I always late? We were doing the 8 – 12:30 watch and Matt took us through the various things we would have to do, the log, lookouts, steering etc etc.
Everyone else was having breakfast then and after that it was all hands on deck to raise the anchor and set the sails. Raising the anchor is very noisy and involves two teams working together on different levels of the ship. There is a hatchway between which is open but because of the noise it’s hard to hear so my job was to sit at the hatchway and shout any messages up or down as necessary – especially if the lower team shouted to stop. There weren’t any messages and I was worried that I had missed one but Matt said they would have made so much noise if they needed to stop I would have known!
We all had to help haul some ropes to set the sails and it was very physical work. After a while it made my arms ache but I loved doing it. I think I am something of an endorphin junkie. The person in charge would stand at the front and yell “2, 6!” and then we would all be lined up one behind another on the rope and would yell “HEAVE!” as we pulled the rope. That took a very long time as there were a huge number of ropes to adjust. But we had Smoko after to make up for it.
I was assigned to steer the ship next. Matt talked me through it and the Laura stood with me for a while. There was a big compass with a black dot at the top the idea was that you were driving the dot and it had to line up with the compass heading they told you. I was really good at the bit where they would give you a heading like “225” and you had to shout it back to confirm you heard it right. But the actual steering, not so much. It seems like it should be pretty easy and I think it’s probably something that once you’ve got it, you’ve got it good and proper. But it’s also much harder to get then you think it should be. Because you line that little dot up with the heading and expect it to stay like that but it doesn’t. It takes a lot of concentration and I found it hard to concentrate for as long as I needed too. Matt told me that they have a talking compass so blind crew can steer. He said that he had a go at steering blindfolded using the talking compass and it is almost easier in a way because it forces you to concentrate on the readings being given to you. The best bit about steering the ship was that I was doing it when everyone else was called to Happy Hour (cleaning the ship) and so I didn’t have to do that! After a while I started feeling a bit sick (didn’t take any pills as I was in a rush that morning) so Derek took over steering and I went to do starboard look out.
I only got moved a little bit of the way when my chair jammed and Matt said that my tire was half on, half off my left wheel. So Matt and Jim (another guy on our watch) helped me move out of my chair and fixed it. Unfortunately what they propped me up on wasn’t designed for a cripple to sit on and I wasn’t very well situated – there aren’t any true seats on deck although plenty of things people do perch on. I really felt like I was going to get thrown or fall off as I couldn’t get my balance and was freaking out a little but thankfully it only took them a few minutes to get it sorted and me back in my chair. Look out combined with the fact that Rosie brought me some water and my sickness pills made me feel a bit better.
Next was lunch and I only ate a very tiny amount but did feel better for doing so. Then it was quite time and I slept for an hour or so maybe an hour and a half. I felt a lot better after that. We spent some time up on deck in the sunshine after that, i took my book but just ended up watching the world go by and chatting and didn’t read at all. The captain was fishing and caught some fresh Mackral which some people had for tea. Others had Spag Bol. I had nothing because I’d started to feel nauseaous again and had fallen asleep. Anyway after the sunshine enjoying and the fishing but before my second nap it was time to haul ropes again as we’d lost the wind and needed to get the sails in to motor. I really did love hauling ropes, can’t explain why.
Pretty much as soon as I woke up again we dressed in really warm clothes and boots and went on deck. It was just before 8pm and we were doing the 8 til Midnight watch. The sun was setting and it was really calm and spectacular. It was also still relatively warm although I was cold by the end of the watch despite my many layers. I did look out for a while again and also had another go at steering. Pickles, the chief engineer, stood with me for a while chatting as I did that. He was really fun to talk to and he really helped me to focus – giving me some good tips. I still struggled to focus for long enough and we did get pretty off course a few times. As we got closer to cherbourg, Dan, the officer of the watch asked Pickles to take over from me as I kept losing the course. I felt a bit rubbish about that but everyone kept telling me not too. And it turned out Dan hasn’t been with the company long at all and it’s obviously a big change from commercial shipping to a ship crewed by novices.
I really enjoyed being out there so late and it being just us and the ship and the water. Once the sun had gone down it was a little misty so we couldn’t see any stars but it was full moon and it was an amazing site reflecting off of the water etc. I did get several brilliant pictures of the sunset but couldn’t get any of the moon as the battery in my camera ran out and the spares were below deck in my bunk. Towards the end of the watch we could see the lights of the French coastline approaching which was really cool. Right at the end of my watch we came to anchor for the rest of the night just outside the harbour of Cherbourg,
There were only about ten minutes of our watch left but only half the watch need be on at anchor so Rosie and I escaped to the ships bar for a drink and a chance to unwind. I’d guess we made it to bed about 1 am.