Primal cradle of seafaring culture, anthology of myths and crossroads of people, the Mediterranean Sea is a continent in its own right, a “fluid” continent as the French historian Fernand Braudel described.
A long time ago, before the Suez Canal, the only way in and out was the Straits of Gibraltar, the famous Pillars of Hercules, beyond which there was the unknown. And the Unknown was just the Ocean, a way to a new World. The sixth episode of this blog is a tale about my first experience (and hopefully not the last) as an onboard reporter over the turbulent waters of the North Atlantic Ocean.
The Ocean has been always a dream to me, a desire, coinciding with the mythological vision of going beyond the well known world, beyond the boundaries of the Mediterranean Sea, enclosed among its lands and therefore ideally comforting. Sailing on the ocean means pushing our limits.
I went to Lorient last September, in Brittany, where the Defì Azimut Regatta would take place. It is an Imoca 60 Class Regatta with an onboard reporter together with the two skippers. The format is two days of coastal races returning to the base at night and 48 hours offshore consecutively.
Sailing onboard an Imoca 60 is already in itself a stunning experience. It is like being in a giant mixer, where the sense of balance is faltering and where we find ourselves at the mercy of the sea waves, sailing up to 30 knots of speed and constantly under buckets of water.
The living quarter is very small and It has to be shared not only with the double handed crew but also with sails, boxes of food, medicines, bottles of water and all the sailing gear. Every change of tack sailing upwind needs “matossage”, shifting the weight windward, and we can stay only in this half part of the boat.
Onboard life is tough. The easiest things to do, like preparing a coffee, become exhausting. As the onboard reporter I can sleep whenever I feel like but the two skippers have to respect sleep schedules. Despite the difficulties, you adapt.
When there is a relatively quiet situation, you are bound to find yourself spending the time staring at the ocean as it flows under the hull of the boat and it’s like feeling our thoughts scrolling in our mind. It is a moment of reflection and self-discovery not so easy to find in the normal life. The landscape around helps to do it because it is quite bleak and comforting at the same time, so you might realize that you are alone but never completely.
Many questions came up to my head in those moments. Would I be able to stay only with myself for three months consecutively like an ocean skipper that wants to do the Vendee Globe has to do? Could I stand living on this kind of boat for more than two days? I didn’t find a definitive answer but I understood that if I don’t try I will never know.