Cruising Helmsman

In the steps of Shackleton

DESPERATELY trying to conserve heat in a sodden, salt encrusted sleeping bag. Cold, wet, somewhat battered and completely humbled by nature; it was probably the longest night of our lives and presented each of us with the opportunity for the deepest introspection.

We three were alone in the Southern Ocean. Alone save for the company of the sound of the tempest outside.

The seas and winds continued unabated, we had the sound of the recently-compromised rigging with the grating of the gyrating mast succeeding in keeping us focussed that long dark night; focused on each and every successive wave that rolled us until our leeward rail again submerged.

Some hours earlier we had suffered a knockdown that sent us to our beam’s end. A frothing freight train rammed us broadside and pushed us off the liquid cliff. The surge, the ride, our world upended beneath us until the navigational lights and anemometer atop the masthead were completely submerged and broken off.

The violence of this second knock-down was such that our helm too was literally sheared off. Anyone who has experienced a knock-down at sea knows that you literally stop breathing as you desperately attempt to attune yourself to the boat once again. Like a rider taking a jump

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