A typical day

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7am. My first move after waking up is to check my course on the compass. I then wipe the porthole and hatch which trickle with condensation and take a quick glance through the hatch to check the weather, the state of the sea, the direction of the wind and the general tendency of the day.

I then reach for the GPS so as to know my precise position and deduct the number of miles covered in the past 24 hours. This morning, the result is 42 miles, (80 kms).

My first telephone call which is going to determine my mood for the day is my router Pierre Lasnier. He gives me the weather forecast for the following hours, for the days to come.

I then prepare an energetic breakfast based on cereal before washing up, with baby wipes.

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That finished, I cover myself with sunscreen and start to row vigorously : 10 hours a day with a break every 2 hours the heat becomes scorching at noon. No less than 30° in the shade, but there is no shade in the cockpit. Down below, it is like a sauna. 35 to 40°.

During the hottest peak of the day, I consult my standard C messages and start to desalinize, and then change the batteries of my CD player which doesn’t stop 13 to 15 hours a day.

Music is company a background noise to which I sing. The fish are my public.

Night on board

mini-DPPI_20000234_000006-copieIam thrown non stop, from one side to the other and have to secure myself with clothes spread around me, thus avoiding bruises.

Every night, I have to sponge the roof of the cabin down, every hour, because of condensation. The atmosphere due to all sorts of sounds is awful.

12 mm plywood partitions are not very efficient and there is permanent sound box effect.

Since nightfall, the wind never stops shifting. 4 am. Suddenly, I wake up. Lack of oxygen, I can’t breathe. My first automatic reflex is to check my course. It has veered from 220° to 330°. For the tenth time since going to bed, I must once more go on deck. I am furious, exhausted… Violently, I kick my sleeping bag away into the cabin. The percentage of humidity reaches 90°.

However, in spite of the very small space, I manage to struggle into my oilskin and harness. So much energy wasted, before proceeding to the necessary adjustments to the rudder and drop keel from the cockpit. I open the deck panel. A wave hits me. Still half asleep, I stagger, hanging to the handrail so as not to fall overboard. That done, I return to the cabin, wetting everything on the way. In less than an hour, the sun will rise, and I will start to row.

Half way

December 14th 1999, at last, I have reached half way.mini-DPPI_20000234_000049

It is a very strong moment, which makes me enter a different form of logic.

Until now, I counted the miles separating me from Cape Verde. From now on, I will count the miles left until the arrival in Martinique.

I had specially packed a small bottle of Champaign to celebrate.

Unfortunately, 30° added to the rolling of the boat, made it explode a few days back. I am too tired tonight to get anything ready.

I am on the verge of hypoglycaemia, not having more then 800 calories a day when the minimum required is 3300 calories.

During my first attempt to cross the Atlantic, I lost more than 12 kgs. Rowing across the Atlantic is far more efficient than any gymnasium if you want to lose weight. I definitely recommend it, and guarantee the sea view.

Food makes me sick, and my dreams are full of fruit salads, steaks, massages and sodas with ice.

The sea, not being too rough, I can ventilate the cabin, and change the dressings on my wounds. The sun, its reflection and salt water have irritated my skin. My hands are sore, and my backside is burnt by salt and permanent rubbing. The heat and humidity do not favour the healing. My back aches and so, with the doctor’s approval, I start taking pain killers to ease the lumber pains. A permanent sitting position also gives me terrible stomach aches.

mini-DPPI_20000234_000051In the afternoon, I have the nice surprise of coming across an Australian yacht, less then 100 meters away from me. They couldn’t see me at first, since I am very low on the water (25 cm). After radio contact, they came up to me asking me my age, whether I was alone or not, chatting away. I answered all their questions, adding that my parents had given me permission, which made them laugh. It was very moving, since I had not seen anyone for over a month. It made me feel less lonely.

The enthusiasm would not be the same the following night when coming across a Porto Rican ship with what seemed to be like underhand practices.

Contrary winds

Headwinds. I hate being inactive when the boat goes backwards, and decide to react. The only way to do so is to row. Because of my weak motor functions, this headwind strikes me, making me lose accumulated miles.

The only solution to avoid any more waste is to throw the floating anchor.

Having done so, the boat starts to rear, is convulsed, makes plaintive sounds. The waves roaring against the hull make me shiver, but from the cabin, I can keep an eye on the colours, hoping the wind will drop. I am scared of switching the GPS on, to find out the number of miles that have been lost over the past hours. I must react instead of putting up with nature, and decide to go back to the front, despite the contrary winds.

mini-DPPI_20000234_000008-copie ROWING: ATLANTIC CROSSING

How many times a day do I scream, perhaps to exorcise the fears doubts and anger I have. My throat burns, my temples hurt. I am conscious that my hatred and discouragement… Are not enough !

These few miles, gained during the day will probably be lost overnight but at least, I will have reacted.

Christmas at sea

I usually spend Christmas at home in Haute Savoie with the family. A Christmas tree, huge of course, a gigantic meal and of course, the indispensable presents.

This year it all seems different. Alone in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, by 30°, the huge delicious meals reduced to frozen dried food, water and thank god, a few presents.

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However I respected my 10 hours of rowing and organised my day. Tidying up the cabin, washing up (just slightly)  small shower under a most welcome squall, clean clothes, removal of unwanted hair and discreet make up.

Being alone is no reason to let oneself go !

To come back to the meal, I am no good cook ashore, so at sea, you can imagine !!! Tinned tuna salad. Frozen dried spaghettis carbonara and stewed apples for desert.

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Then, most important of all, the presents, which had to be small. Question of space of course. Bracelets, a necklace, decorations for the cabin, a tin of foie gras, comics. I spoke to myself, commenting each packet.

Tears ran down my cheeks as I read the cards that came with the presents. All of them wishing me a merry Christmas. A lot of friends and members of the family called. I was so happy to talk to them and wanted to know what they were doing, I wanted to know everything about their evening. Where they were. What they were having to eat, what presents they had, details on everything.

My mind travelled towards them, I ran away, or should I say, I floated away.