Kate's journey to Brazil

Kate who has been sailing in Stage 1 of the Clipper Round the world challenge with her crew in the boat UNCEF is due to arrive in RIO this Friday 2nd October

OceanStars :: Monday 5th October 2015 :: This Story

Please have a read of Kate's diary entry of her nights under the stars.


RACE 1 - DAY 22

One of my best watches when the skies are clear is the 2200 to 0200 shift. I go to sleep in daylight at around 1800 and wake up in time to go on deck at 2200 after the sun has set and the temperatures are starting to drop.

Climbing up the companionway to be met by a cool breeze and a canopy of stars is second to none. As I lie on deck looking straight up into the sky and past the top of the mast I regret not knowing more about the celestial bodies around us. The constellations are there to be identified and as we move further south the familiar 'Plough' and 'Orion's belt' occupy unfamiliar places in the night sky. We will soon be south of the Equator and the 'Southern Cross' and southern hemisphere stars will replace all that is familiar. Stars shoot across the sky and if you look carefully satellites can be identified as they appear to travel through space, faster than aeroplanes though slower than shooting stars. The Milky Way presents as a ribbon of light from one horizon to the other, star studded with bright and not so bright stars. Somewhere up there is the star my daughter, Becca, gave me for my birthday. 

Yet to be identified but I know that it is up there looking down on us both. We have been blessed with a bright moon for most of the journey so far and this along with the light from the stars means that we have not been sailing in total darkness, though a new moon for the past couple of nights has made it difficult to see at times, especially if there is any haziness around.

Closer to hand is the sea and all that it has to offer in terms of animal life. Flying fish are frequently seen during the day as they fly away from the boat to avoid colliding with our blue hull, but after dark and when there is a light shining on the spinnaker these flying fish head straight for the boat, attracted by the light we surmise. They can be heard landing with a thud as they hit the deck, or there is a loud screech as someone is hit on the head by one. Waking up in the morning to find numerous dead fish on deck or in the sails is a common occurrence, as is finding everywhere covered with scales. As we crossed the Bay of Biscay many days ago there was a screech from one of the crew, a light was turned on, and on the deck lay a squid. Now, has anyone heard of flying squid?

Dolphins are always a welcome attraction whether day or night though once it is dark there is always an added element of magic. Phosphorescence is a welcome companion at the best of times but when dolphins are added into the mix the magic and mystery is taken to a different level. These sea creatures can be tracked through the water as fast moving ribbons of light, weaving in and out with each other. When they come up for air there is a break in the trace of light which is accompanied with a short snort as the creatures take a gulp of air before diving back down under the water again.

They appear to be having a lot of fun, weaving, ducking and diving around the boat as we all sit and stand in awe at the beauty of their creation.

Night is also the time for big ships and tankers to pass silently by, their lights twinkling in the distance as we try and identify red from green; is it travelling towards us or away? Computers help to identify hazardous cargoes or fishing boats with limited maneuverability and we can only guess at where their destinations might be. A couple of nights ago we passed through the Cape Verde islands, close enough to see the evidence of human occupation with street lights, an aeroplane taking off, for who knows where, and a number of navigation lights on the ends of significant promontories. Strange to be in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and to be presented with the ability to make phone calls home and to send text messages.

Our senses are heightened when darkness falls. Sounds of the boat are louder, the noise from the water as we pass through it is amplified and the snorts from the dolphins announce their arrival before they can be seen.

On stormy nights the sound from the flapping sail is cacophenous as we struggle as a crew to put in a reef and reduce sail, the wind whipping and howling around the mast and making life very difficult. Even on calm nights the sails snap as the wind comes and goes in the stillness of a nearly windless night.

Night time is different. It is special in it's own way as we experience the darkness, sights and sounds that are unattainable in everyday life.