What's life like aboard Gipsy Moth as she crosses the Bay of Biscay?

Gispy Moth’s online log:

Elaine took the helm and like all of us aboard marvelled at how Chichester managed to sail Gipsy Moth single-handed. With the backdrop of a wild and windy night, a steady Force 5 gusting 6, and a dramatic whitecaps breaking up the black seascape, she admitted it was ‘daunting’ to helm the 53ft ketch across the notorious Bay of Biscay. Matt has been battling tiredness and seasickness and bravely continued to stand his watch last night.

Early this morning Peter sighted dolphins, Paul saw a shooting star and in the afternoon there was a rainbow. Miles from civilisation, nature takes on a special significance for the crew on GMIV as we battle with the elements. We were facing another head wind, now locally known as a ‘Baggett’, a phenomena to which our hardy skipper was becoming accustomed. This would frustrate our progress to make Cabo Finisterre, the western-most point of Europe — translated as the Cape at Land’s End.

The only other signs of life out here today were a couple of long line fishing boats and, curiously, a Lear executive jet, identified by our RAF man, Dewi. For a split second we thought DG had chartered one to keep tabs on his ‘baby’.

All day long today we’ve been racing across the bay – at the time of writing we are now one-third of the way there, heading towards a midway point on the chart called ‘Biscay Abyssal Plain’? Sometimes, especially at night, hurtling along into the blackness, it feels like the edge of an abyss. Imagine driving your car, without headlights, of course, over a badly ploughed field, with no seatbelt, no shock absorbers, no brakes, no windscreen wipers, and — it’s a convertible and it’s raining salt water!

We’ve all got well and truly dowsed by the odd rogue wave striking the side of the boat and dumping several bucketloads on us! One of us is down to his last dry set of thermals! Moral: don’t go on deck without oilies. Trying to live at the angle of heel that Gipsy Moth seems to enjoy – 25-30 degrees, with occasional violent swings to 40 in gusts and waves, is like a permanent aerobics class. Think of the savings in gym fees! Elaine says one of the great surprises has been simply ‘trying to stay steady on my feet. This morning I was starting to loose patience’.

Getting dressed to go on watch in boots, oilskins, lifejacket and harness is an ordeal. Going to the loo is like trying to stay in the saddle at Beechers Brook in the Grand National, with your trousers round your ankles! Terra Firma beckons!