All is written on my face…

So here we go… Fortunately, despite our concerns, all participants were ready to take the challenge as they arrived at the start line (it wasn’t so obvious after the feast), and just before 12.00, without any needless delay, we took a course toward Gotland. Finally, 11 boats showed up at the start line (Albacora retired). After starting procedure (from the race Committee vessel – Aramis), accompanied by Major, Czarodziejka, Wareg and RIB from MOSiR, which had insured the regatta – regatta has started!

The weather is beautiful, just perfect for sailing – at least for the layman – the sun is shining, we have small waves, stable and quite strong wind. It has begun – I can’t believe this is for real. The last few months of preparation have gone very quickly, it was a very intense time, we had to buttoned everything up. Now, it feels like the time has stopped, I’m looking around and I’m really surprised when I notice that it’s happening right now. I’m going to the sea for the very first time.

I started to doubt, if I’m ready for this (or maybe it’s just the “yesterday training” effect), but my fear seems to be real: how do I manage the lack of the land in the horizon, what if the wave catch me up? But, in the same time, I’m very excited – I’m going to the sea for the first time and straight away, to the 500 miles of the race!

My collegue Rafał on the RIB, from our Gdansk Marina, cheers me up with his smile. We’ve talked a lot about the regattas and his previous cruising lately, so his smile insures me – it’s gonna be alright!

On-board, we have two winners of our competition, associated with regattas  -“Write and Swim” – Monika and Szymon. They’re both ambitious and just starting to fulfill they sailing dream.

At the beginning we couldn’t stop smiling. But after we passed Hel, Monika felt the first symptoms of seasickness. She found out very soon, that it would be better for her to stay recumbent, so she spent her watch also recumbent, whole way to Visby.

We (our captain Jacek Zieliński and I) were sleepy after yesterday, so we started to consider to give up our watch. Suddenly, we saw a storm on the west and we started to wonder, if the storm can reach us, or not?

Storm on the sea is not very pleasant, especially for the layman, so I decided to reconsider it by hiding myself in the cabin for a short time, to be honest I had to get some rest. Fortunately, our male part of the crew was fighting very bravely and we made it – without a single scratch. Maybe I shouldn’t say it, but the storm moved sideways ;)

The first night just passed. Apparently – I don’t remember that, but captians says so – when he tried to wake me up, when it was my turn to take a watch, I just smiled at him tellingly.

During the next few days it turns out that it’s quite normal for me – during the holiday I used to wake up with a huge smile on my face. And now I’m smiling all the time, maybe it’s because my mobile drowned in the sink, or because my laptop is turned off or perhaps because I still have maritime adventure in my mind?

I woke up at 4.00 a.m. and I saw Szymon (his expression was very telling), who had enough of the service for sure, so we swapped with each other.

And now we have come to the point, where the most terrifying moments of the race has began.

I go out and see, that s/y Słoni just passed us by on the left. I look at our sails and see only Genoa (it was there since the storm). My fighting spirit took control and I called: Jaaaaaceeeeek! Our skipper drags himself out of the cabin, he assesses the situation, and still sleepy he ordered to put our mainsail up, straight into the wind. Our plan looked good when it was in our heads, but when we tried to accomplish it… it was worse. I was barely awake when I set the rudder on the port side, Jacek’s eyes are at the top, he’s waiting for the right moment, and the boom is swinging.

– Watch out! – First avoidance – Watch out! – Second avoidance. There was no third avoidance (or warning). We heard a clunk when the boom hit Jacek’s head. Blood covered Jacek’s neck, ropes, capstans and white laminate turned into red.

There was no need to say a word, it was all written in our eyes – Jacek: the kids, Ola, Quick, how they will handle without me, I have to set everything up before I lose my consciousness. Ola: oh my God, he bleeds firmly, he’s going to pass out, what will I do without him with the kids and all that stuff, but I cannot show him how bad it looks.

We tried to overwhelm this situation, so we started to do something just to have time for mulled it.

Fortunately, Jacek has very hard head and swinging boom (when there’s no wind) is not a killer. We managed to regain control of the boat – Jacek took Ibuprom (analgetic), I took care of his wound, we cleaned the deck and some jokes broke the ice. Phew! We can go on.

If the winds blows, you will go further – it’s rather obvious. Our speed seems to be very very good, so we started to think, that maybe we will be able to reach Visby even today? But.. No way… Apparently Baltic wanted to give us some lesson, and we crossed the finish line in Visby 18 hours later..

In the meantime, we hit the calm. We felt the need to enjoy the moment of silence, the amazing flat sea around us, so we turned off the radio. I was lying in the stern and thinking about everything and completely nothing at the same time, capturing the smallest changes in the sky and the sea. As an award for my patience I saw two seals, only 50 meters from our Quick. Later we heard from our colleagues from Resumee, that those seals were very mean and they tried to take control over their boat :p

I have to admit that we’ve had a lot of luck on our way to Visby. Master of navigation, our captain, chose wrong harbour at the GPS, so we’re heading in the wrong one. We realized that after we turned there. As the time had shown, that error had some benefits. While other boats stuck in windless zone, sea currents pushed us straight to the target.

We saw the right harbour around the 12.00. The whole crew was very excited, so we crossed the entrance of the harbor prepared. Quick check-in, cleaning of the deck and we hit the city – straight during the Middle Ages Week. The city looked like in XIV century for a few days: ladies in long dresses, knights in full armor, braids, ring mails, swords, axes and bow, roast and Nordic music.

In the evening, we organised some Polish Day in Visby, vol. 1, which has finished about 5.00 a.m. We were talking, discussing about our strategies, problems, adventures and so on.

And, of course, jokes about Jacek, who apparently was secretly hit byMarina Gdansk bootsman with a crank, because he was late with his fee – what can I say? I’m not going to argue with those stupid talks, but I would recommended to pay the Marina fee on time ;)

We rent a car next day to look around and see those amazing cliffs along the coast of Gotland.

Another brilliant show of skills of our “master of navigation & orientation” – he tried six times before he found the largest cliff (the one he had an opportunity to see during the last edition of Sailbook Cup). Finally, we found the way and we stayed there for a few hours: swimming, sunbathing, taking photos – perfect chill-out.

After we paid 350 pln (sic!) for dinner, there was some time for shopping, and Polish Day in Visby, vol. 2 could began.

We were suppose to leave the next morning, but after we tossed a coin we decided to announce the start at 00.00. Charming boatswain form the Marina tricked me and we had to wait until the ferry Gotland came through. Anyway, about 00.30 all six boats headed  safely to the sea course, which was astonished for Swedes who were neighbouring the quay.

We’re trying not to fall asleep after we left Visby – who the hell is starting at night…I cursed.

There’s no wind, so there’s no chance of racing. We were gloomily during the whole day. I didn’t even noticed that we passed by Faro,  I probably missed the headland because of yawning and short snooze. Or maybe it’s because of sadness that we were going back already? We were all very lazy, so our guys arranged “Men Day”. I don’t remember what that’s supposed to mean to them, but the message was clear for girls: guys are doing everything, Monika and I can lounge – and so it was.

Finally came the night: deep and black, and terrifying depth. Three green lights ahead. The sky is covered with stars, the rustle of spinnaker on the light breath of breeze – we could hear it well, because of ubiquitous silence. Just great. I cannot stop myself and I decided to spend that night on the bow (I slept already on both lockers, stern, sides, almost every buck, next time I will have to hang myself on braces over the mast and boom;))

I woke up in the morning when Genoa started to tickle my nose and then I discovered that I lost captain’s red pillow forever. Hmm… maybe that’s the reason why he picked on me all the time?

The day was windy, with endless turns. In the evening, the wind increases, the waves are growing, forecast: 7-8 B – it’s going to hurt. The kids went to sleep, and we’re waiting what will happen, sitting in our sleeping bags.

The captain was undecided if we should reef or not, and now it’s too late. Because of the wave we have to fight for the couch on leeward. Finally, I hear the order to give mine back to the captain. Ok, that means that my watch is just finished and I can go to the cabin and fall asleep “properly”. “Properly” means my face was pinned to the right side, and when the wave is a little bit calmer, I fly with all our stuff over a bunk.

In the morning, between two snooze alerts, I exchanged places with our captain, he took off my bunk, I don’t know how, so now I became the skipper. The boat rocked completely, waves had 2 meters at least, I thought that my gifts for Neptune are just a matter of time. I decided to focus on taking photos, making video and all that would help me to forget that I have a stomach. Somehow I made it, but all is unequal fight and not everyone was able to win it…

And by the way, we’ve had a various meals during our journey. At first, we didn’t eat any dinner, then we had something very light, jelly, apples and sausages. We had our first real dinner in Visby. But in our way back home, our dinners were almost first class of food. The captain and I tried to guess what our kids would like to eat, so we started to prepare more fanciful meals (we wanted to catch Anitra, with their pancakes). Vegetarian meals and sandwiches were common in our menu, though our captain complains.

I didn’t get used to the sea, and to navigating without any help, but after few watches, I started to appreciate all electronics on the boat: thanks to autopilot I was able to forget myself at night, between 19 minutes of snooze (there was no chance to fall asleep, I need much more time than 19 minutes for that), and thanks to the aggregate I could take a warm shower in the middle of the sea. Of course, all devices was beeping sometimes without any reason or not in time, but it’s a cost we have to pay for our comfort.

Just a few hours before the finish of the race, our aggregate breaks down and we have to use our muscles at the helm. We’re sailing with full set of sails, and we don’t even have much time for any summary.

Longing parents are waiting on the shore, so we decided that the kids don’t have to clean on the boat. We can do this alone, though I feel a little bit dizzy during the next hour. We are excited that our journey was so successful, that we decided to welcome the rest of the crew, so hm.. vol. 3 – Polish Day in Poland?

In the end I found out, that the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen is water that surrounds me. Water and sky, that amazing  play-of-colours, freedom and unbridled force of nature.

It was perfect cruise, we could both relax and could see the fascinating world of sailing. I’m going to go on a course this year, and for all those undecided – it’s definitely worth it!

PS. Our captain allowed us to help, especially when he was asleep (extremely often) – it’s that type of a person… I’m writing ironically, because it goes deeper that that. The truth is, that Jacek did everything alone on-board, and we just tried not to disturb. Of course, trim used to tempt us, but we were helpless when it comes to Jacek’s ambition (though we admire it). He was always ready to fix something, when there was such a need – even if he was in the centre of the boat or asleep (?!), he heard, or maybe he felt, that something was wrong with the sails and we’re not on a right course. He was born with it, and he and Quick are working together perfectly, he deserves recognitions.

Thank you, Jacek, for the trip and that you brought us home safely.


Aleksandra Warecka