Being ThereOcean Racingon board

pot head

Screen Shot 2015-02-14 at 9.38.55 AMWe may sound like a bit of a broken record, but once again, Sam Greenfield is raising the bar on Volvo Ocean Race media from aboard the DFRT.  Why?  Because he’s making us laugh.  Here’s Sam’s ‘washing up cooking pots for mom’ report, and we encourage all of you – especially the young’uns, to read Sam’s “Advice to future OBRs” report here.

Dear Mom,

Do you remember how getting me to wash the dishes after meals never came easy? Sorry about that. I know, it never ‘just happened’ like you see in the movies, or plainly through the windows of the neighbors’ houses. I don’t know why it was always such a battle, or why the Fields next door were such better behaved kids, but I hope you never saw it as a reflection of your parenting skills. You were great and I was just a bit of a little sh*t when it came to household chores, all of my college roommates will back this up. But people change, and because you are the best mom I know today’s blog is dedicated to you.

Hey Mom! Guess what the Volvo Ocean Race taught me how to do!

Here’s the setting:  The sun has just gone down and it’s blowing 25 knots and we’re on a screaming reach, sailing about as fast as the wind. The boat is heeled over 30 degrees and sheets of water are getting picked up by the bow and flying clear over the satellite tower.

We’re settled into living on a soaking wet rock-climbing wall set on the back of what feels like an elephant jumping over hedgerows.

Are most days anything like this? No. But a little dramatic effect never hurt.

I’m warm and dry and standing in the hatchway watching waves plaster the guys, and I’m wondering how the hell can I get one of them to wash this pot for me.

It usually takes about 30 seconds to strike that thought from my head and haul my ass into gear.

My mission is to bring our prized, French, stainless steel pressure cooker from the galley all the way to the low side at the very back of the boat with a sponge, some dish soap, wash her, and return her safely so I can start cooking the next hot meal.

It’s a perilous journey that would ideally require four hands, but thanks to you, Mom –really- I only have two.

Part 1. Preparation

There’s an unspoken rule about washing the pot off the stern of the boat: If you drop her you might as well jump in after her. Seriously, Mom, the crew would murder me. There’s no replacement. The only option is straight into the ocean.

Stop thinking that. There’s always at least a couple other Volvo Ocean 65s nearby and I’m determined to make sure that one of the boats chasing our wake would be able to pick me up and bring me to safer harbors in the event of such misfortune.

So, my dish-washing ritual begins with a rummage for five essential items, night or day:

1. My pocket EPIRB – which notifies the coast guard and race control if activated in the water.

2. My pocket AIS Tracker, which when activated allows any boat in a 10-mile radius to see me on their navigation screen

3. My strobe light – Brighter than Jesus with a jetpack, it’s a waterproof beacon that pulses and is visible up to a distance of 5 miles

4. My Musto HPX bottoms and top

5. My PDF/Harness (if it’s night time and really shitty). Just for you.

Now, Mom, I’m completely waterproof and I have more advanced electronics stuffed into my pant pocket than the Apollo lander needed to make it home from the moon.

It’s time for…

Part II. The Perilous Journey

I put my hood on before I grab the pot. It’s pretty heavy to hold in one hand. Or maybe I’m not very strong. Probably that. So I go to the hatch and wait for a wave to break over the deck.

Because just as the plane that crashes into the house in The World According to Garp was a 100 year boon, each wave is typically a 60 second boon.

I hold the pot in my downwind hand so that the other can anchor onto the tops of winch drums and handles and I swing and hop back through the cockpit over the jib sheet and over the mainsheet to the radar tower while trying to stay out of the way of the main trimmer and grinder.

Remember, 30 degrees heel on a leaping elephant and it’s a massive drop to the bottom, where Pascal fractured a few of his vertebra on the first leg to Cape Town.

I try not to think about that either.

From the tower I scooch –yes scooch like a puppy dog – down to the leeward rail on my ass, because at this point I can see the water screaming out the back and I can’t drop the pot.

Regardless of what you think, compared to this pot, I have no value.

30-seconds later I’m hanging over the stern in a fetal crouch,praying to god that the metal lifelines weren’t made in… forget that thought.

You know, I try not to think about falling in, because the boat would be miles away before they could even turn around. So instead I usually just talk nonsense and go, ‘woowhoo’, cause the truth is it’s really damn fun once you’re down there.

Now you’d think that the pot would get ripped right out of your hand when dipped into the water, but when the boat is traveling over 10 knots it just sort of bounces across the surface like a skipped stone.

So I drag, scrub and repeat and pray while all the screaming forces of Neptune do the same to me.

By the time I make it back to the main cabin, my foul weather gear is soaked from tip to toe. The pot is clean. And so am I.  Sort of.

That’s when I often think, “maybe doing the dishes when I was a kid wasn’t as big a deal as I made it out to be…gee, I wish I hadn’t made it so hard for mom.”

So dear Mom: Happy Valentines Day from Lat. 18.650N Long 136.397E.  I don’t think the card is going to make it.

But as soon as I get back to the States, I’m coming straight to yours and I hope you leave the dishes out for me.  I promise not to drop any.

Happy Valentines Day.

Love,

Sam

P.S. I have no idea what I’d do if I dropped the pot and we were in last place, so I try not to think about that. xo