It was a chilling 50-degree Seattle day and even colder on the water, so there I was, bundled up three layers deep with a foulweather outer layer as I sailed into Puget Sound aboard Visit Seattle while the crew chuckled.
“This is the tropics for us!” laughed Visit Seattle crew member Andy Farnum. This short stopover in Seattle finished leg six of the Clipper Round the World Race and marked the end of the lengthy Pacific Ocean crossing. It was no easy sailing. Wind gusts of 110 knots truly tested the crew’s limits, something that crew member Paolo Bramucci, as well as others, signed up to do. Having never sailed before, Paolo committed to this year’s Clipper race back in 2015 and is completing a half-circumnavigation from China to the race’s end in the UK. Leg perched on the edge of the rope-ridden cockpit, he dove into the details of life aboard a racing yacht.
Each sailor is assigned a different duty each day. From updating the logbook every hour to being the cook, there’s always work to be done. The heads are cleaned up to five times a day. If there’s one thing I’ve taken to heart after this sail, it’s the luxury of being dry. When asked how many days crewmember Eric Froggat actually felt dry and comfortable, he said “One, when we boarded the boat.” Out in the middle of the great Pacific, swells topped a steep 46’ – that’s as tall as “Echo,” the giant head statue in Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture Park. The masses of water from these swells that flowed over the deck, into the cockpit, and only occasionally into the cabin made avoiding pruney fingertips nearly impossible.
The crew eats well on board—they need as many calories as they can get to keep warm out in the cold. Food is stored in day-designated bags and range from porridge to pasta. They even make bread onboard! A little morning toast topped with marmite makes a great meal, something they picked up from the boat’s British origins.
“Time washes away aboard Visit Seattle,” explains Paolo. “It’s more of ‘how far did we go and how much distance is left’ that matters.” Letting my ears wander, I hear stories of markers ripping out of the mast, steep heels, and heavy wind gusts – I can only imagine what could possibly go wrong. When asked how to cope with the unknown, crew member Andy responds, “you just have to focus on one task at a time. It’s big and scary, but big and awesome.” He jokes, “It’s something I can talk about at dinner parties for the rest of my life.” For Eric, “It too shall pass” remained his mantra during the life-threatening journey across the Pacific.
Despite nerve damage, ripped sails, and lesser injuries, the Visit Seattle crew isn’t letting up. They took off on April 29 and will be heading through the Panama Canal as we’re off to press. Their latest onboard addition is a pH sensor meant to track ocean acidification in unprecedented ways. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), partnered with the University of Washington, Sunburst Sensors, and Visit Seattle to raise public awareness about ocean acidification. Increased carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are making their way into the ocean, resulting in increased acidity directly affecting ocean organisms and inhibiting their abilities to produce shells.
captained Visit Seattle for the day.(Photos: Eva Seelye)
These changes have been recorded over the past 30-40 years with noticeable fluctuations in shellfish farmer’s larvae; even our salmon population is affected. Our global seafood ecosystem is at risk. This Sunburst Sensor will continue to accompany the Visit Seattle crew through the Panama Canal and up the East Coast, monitoring ocean acidification throughout this 6,000nm leg. The data will be available in the next several months. We bid all our Clipper sailors farewell and safe passage on the last few legs of this incredible journey. You can follow along at clipperroundtheworld.com.