Friday, 6 July 2012
Atlantic Ocean blog #Clipperrace History made + 6years celebration
Tears running down my face as I step onto LondonDerry's pontoon in Ireland. I've done it! About 15-16 days crossing the Atlantic Ocean, an achievement that over a week into the venture - I was unsure I could actually complete. History made, as the 1st double-lung transplantee in the world to have sailed the Atlantic Ocean.
Cameras and all the media in my face filming my watery eyes, when all I wanted was me time alone to cry by myself and enjoy a bottle of Pepsi given to us in a complimentary goodie bag given (for every crew member by Sainsbury) and to savor the taste of fizzy pop.
So many memories:- highlights, highs, lows..... Where to start? What to say first? Maybe, this blog will be jumping about as I try to recall excerpts from my memory on this voyage of challenges.
I guess, part of the clipper venture is not just the sailing, but the mental aspect cooped up like hens in a cage & if you don't get on with someone - you still have to live and breathe in that tiny space. Learn to deal with it and carry on in a harmonious environment for the sake of the crew. It's true to say, you see different sides to people's personalities when stressed, hungry, or even sleep deprived. Also, all the crew were fabulous and understanding to my condition and my struggles became evident after departing from Nova Scotia.
The first part of the race from New York to Nova Scotia as I've said in a previous blog, was sun and calm seas. Now this was not to be the same course on the books. The few days starting across the Atlantic were of sea sickness and about 3 days of no eating. Then that awful feeling of trying to throw up and as no food/fluids consumed, the constant reaching and stomach pains. A worry that my immuno suppressants were not staying down and some dosages being missed. So, early into the journey and I was already unwell. I did turn that corner and began the strenuous watch systems again and throughout the night too. Initially all seemed ok, then I realised on top of being sleep deprived, my body was really starting to struggle and I felt as every shift/day passed I was getting weaker and weaker. One night watch sitting in the cold, my lungs felt tight and hurt, and my bones were literally shaking with cold. I knew this was no good for me and would see me get very unwell with chest infections/further lung complications and I was so upset and tearful with no one seeing. I knew then that I was going to keep struggling and be unable to keep this up. I emailed my parents saying, 'this is killing me' and thought game over and I would need fly home to recuperate/recover.
I did confide in someone, who said I should speak to our skipper. An alternative shift was created just for me to work from 6am-12noon on the first watch and then 12-6 pm on the second watch with breaks in between. Hurray! What a god send. Time to let my body repair and sleep. I tried to explain to Piers (our skipper) that if my body can't repair, I cannot function/improve. No night watch systems, and a chance to try and sleep through the night.
Being questioned onboard by Della filming for the Clipper series and media upon arrival...I was asked if everyone was supportive, I said yes. Sadly, that wasn't true - only one person confronted me with their opinion who basically said I had no right to be on the boat and other stuff. Again, this experience challenges you mentally how to deal with issues like this, confront and talk about them. I went back on deck and was so hurt cried my eyes out. Then put my smiley face back on and carried on. Everyone IS entitled to their opinion, that is fair to say. My opinion is that I have every right to be onboard regardless of how much I can do with any strengths/weaknesses. Also, knowing this person is older than me and has lived life - an opportunity I know will never happen. My lungs are rejecting and every day for me is a bonus, and I DESERVE the chance to achieve whatever I can whilst I can. Rant over, sorry. However, I have learnt one other person feels the same way too. So, in life not every one will get you/understand you/situation/health etc and that is another challenge to deal with and carry on.
Onwards and upwards, days and days of sea and nothing but waves, reefs in/out, sails up/down. Sitting on the high side, days withs lots of chatter and laughter. Then times getting soaked on shift as waves crash over, little or no conversation just wishing the shift to be over or consume lunch/dinner and sleep. Moments eating whatever you can - time has no function and days get lost. Eating biscuits at 9.30am or 4am, crisps, sweets at any hour - overdosing on sugary boosts to keep you going. Excitement when dolphins swim by and chase with us as we pound through the water. Or, the occasional whale spotting! Nature at its best and raw habitat, stunning and awe inspiring. Even seeing birds sweep across the waves like surfing and chasing the ocean at a speed only one can imagine. Beauty. Life. It's happening right in front of my eyes and that feeling of deja voux as it repeats itself again and again.
Capturing every moment before my eyes, like a camera...click... click. I have taken many photos and something to organise when back in the UK and put some on here too! Savouring every breathe, deep breaths in and smiling :)
On one occasion, Doris (Lesley) was on the helm, and the yacht came to an almighty halt for precisely 1 second. Doris hit a whale, or the whale swam passed us at the bow as untimely and unlucky. Woooooo surreal and shaky experience, still intact the wind in the sails moving us through the sea.
So, what about the food - you may query? Well, fresh meals and fruit/vegetables are for the taking until supplies run out. Then tinned food, noodle sachets, and space food (boil hot water into food and leave for few minutes) and then options such as:- lasagne, chicken teraki, sweet & sour pork, sweet & sour chicken, and so on. Generally, not too bad - but, it gets to a point whereby burgers, steak, chips, bacon, fresh veggies/salad, and all other delights become far fetched imaginations and cravings that are still like weeks away. My body was craving real food, but, consumption is that mostly of carbs, bread made daily,cakes/crisps/biscuits and sweets. For some reason leaving Halifax (Nova Scotia), the water tanks filled had a heavy influence of chlorophyll added - the taste making me sick and reaching every time. I asked my parents for any bottles of water as a slight taste before departure (I noticed this twang). These few bottles became my lifeline crossing the Atlantic and tiny sips rationed as best as I could. I was dehydrated at times and didn't drink enough - only when the water cooler tank was turned on and fresh water was being filtered. Eventually, lemon and ginger tea was my only option for little sips somewhat disguising that awful taste. Other crew members also felt the same, but managed to drink it. I guess my body is very sensitive and it just said, NO! Sometimes, when we were having tinned fruit as dessert, it was like I was begging for any syrup juice left (even if 1/4 cup) to try and rehydrate my body!
I also started to become very homesick. I'm so glad I set up satellite email and was also able to have updates done for me on Facebook + Twitter. Thank you to all those who tweeted/replied and messaged me back whether emails or via Facebook . My PA's ...hahaha..(one of my brothers, Gavin and friend, Andy - have been superstars in orchestrating the delivery of these. In my low times, these gave me strength to continue and I am extremely grateful :)
So, as you can see the Atlantic became a struggle for me with good and bad days, determination to keep going and hope and pray for land soon. It wasn't happening fast enough...and I really had to dig deep. It was hard for most of the other crew too at times and pulling together as best as possible is necessary. We even went through a storm, an experience that filled me with fear and relief when it was over. The last couple days were of rain and stormy seas until land came in view. WOW! LAND! Smiles all around, joy, amazement that we - I had done it...........and as we pulled up onto the pontoon I became overwhelmed, and that is when the tears started. I stepped off the yacht and burst into tears. Cameras, filming, media...all a buzz among my teary face and stuttered words of OMG I've done it.
Justine Laymond has sailed across the Atlantic Ocean...anyone contacting the Guinness Book of Records please for me! Giving up almost an option - became NOT an option!
I have spent some time now in LondonDerry and a day in Belfast, making many new friends also from this Clipper trip. More media buzz from Irish TV, radio, Scottish newspapers, CNN news, ITV news, and apparently newspapers back home - that I didn't even know had been done. I am trying to get as many links from whatever articles possible and will publish once home on my blog or as and when I can. Amazement from recognition again being out and about having people approach me like in Nova Scotia. Also, for other crew on Clipper yachts talking to me, and for me saying oh I'm Justine......"we all know who you are" was the regular reply.
One day was spent doing a corporate sail this week in Ireland with breathing support groups, (British Lung Foundation and Breathe Easy) and the NHS UK Blood and Transplant Group, and a couple people also joined with lung conditions. It was a great day out and more photos done and further media articles to follow up (again to which I have asked for any links). I also met another lady who had a double lung and heart transplant of almost 8 years, needless to say we got on very well! It was an inspiring day for me too, and I have been asked to visit and do a talk for these groups sometime.
My blog is jumping from topic to topic as I remember things, but time to call it a night, as I'm departing again to sail to Netherlands 5-8 days at sea. I hope it goes well and I'm not sea sick or feeling unwell. I have had early nights most nights and socialized to a minimum to get much needed rest still for the next voyage.
We depart 7th July, and on Monday 9th July at sea, it will be my 6th double lung transplant anniversary. Thanks to my donor letting me breathe and relish every new day. Breathing for you, I hope you are proud of me.
Lotsa love everyone xx