July 1st 2002, 3:00 AM Bay of Biscay
I wake up, a moment of confusion, looking around, I remember where I am. On Ruffles Spray, a 13.5-meter steel sailing yacht.
Ruffles Spray is 39 hours out from Cameret, near Brest in France, heading for La Coruna in the westernmost tip of northern Spain.
The crew has 106 nautical miles to go, which means another twenty or so hours to go.
I am snuggled up in my bed situated under the starboard saloon settee. Next to me, little Monty is fast asleep, snoring lightly, not a care in the world.
I peer out towards the companionway steps, a five-step arrangement made of oak wooden planks topped with anti-slip strips.
I can’t turn round easily as the bed is a little tight, maybe I have put weight on?
Or the bed is shrinking, then I remembered first mate Ann (I call her That Woman) is up in the cockpit for the 3:00 AM to 6:00 AM watch. Tucking my tail in, closing my eyes I get comfortable again.
I can still hear Ann moving around, clambering down the companionway steps, probably to make another cup of tea. I hadn’t counted how many, but cup number forty is most likely.
She is tiptoeing around, but to me, it sounded like a herd of elephants, even though the roar of the engine nearly drowned out everything else.
For the last 39 hours, that engine had been running non-stop, broom, broom, broom, thump, thump, thump, gurgle, gurgle, gurgle. Hour after hour after hour pushing us slowly but steadily towards La Coruna in Spain.
Two hours later, Ann wakes me up again as she rushes down the steps heading towards the aft cabin where Mike (Mike who I adore) was snoring away peacefully.
I hear her say, “Mike, wake up. Something is going on. There is an odd swell coming from the Southwest. Come up and have a look”.
July 1st, 2002, 5:00 AM, 96.4 Nautical Miles to La Coruna, Spain
Skipper Mike mumbles, “Another hour, couldn’t this wait another hour”? I watch as he follows Ann up the companionway steps into the cockpit.
I thought, what’s going on now? Extracting myself neatly out of bed and thinking ‘in for a penny’ clamber up the companionway steps in two well-practised moves.
Front paws on step number three, pull up, back paws on the step two, then front paws on step five and hey presto into the cockpit.
Mike was staring Southwest, watching the inkwell like sea in the Bay of Biscay rolling in, not very high waves but short, sharp ones.
Swish, swish, swish. Rolling us gently over to port, then almost immediately, back the other way again.
Mike says, “Yes, it looks like we have got a bit of wind coming our way in a couple of hours or so but remember the forecast we looked at before we left Cameret, no wind for five days. Well, perhaps we can get a little more speed when it arrives”.
Ann says, “That would be good, can’t wait to arrive in La Coruna”, off she pops down below no doubt to put the kettle on.
I hear her shouting from below.
“Mike, do you want a cup of tea?”
“Oh, yes, please.”
Told you so.
Both skipper and first mate drink tea, I have a slurp of water, skipper and first mate have Weetabix for breakfast. Chicken and rice for little Monty and me.
Two hours later the movement has become worse, the wind has increased, and I can hear Mike say, “I think it’s about ten knots gusting fifteen, I really should have fitted a wind speed system”.
I thought oh well, too late now. If this is their dream of cruising around the Mediterranean, count me out. I’ve had enough already.