Letter from SalvadorTime is a funny thing. It keeps disappearing. I have already been on land for 19 days enjoying the novelty of the simple luxuries of life; a dry, unmoving bed that I can starfish in and a bathroom with toilet and a shower. It’s great, but it only feels like a few short days before the restart will be back round again!
It is so strange to be living on land again - quite a different world from the confines of the boat and the huge expanse of water which is my usual view. Since my arrival, I have enjoyed a couple of days off with my parents on a nearby island where you could hear little except the crashing surf on the beach, or on the next beach along, "The Boom Boom Beach" where people were enjoying a slightly more nocturnal lifestyle. Since my parents returned to Scotland though, I have been working with the shore crew in preparation for the next leg. Even though the work-list of tasks on the boat appeared relatively short, it is a ‘how long is a piece of string’ scenario. With boats, there is always something you can do.
Last week the Pindar team and I made a visit to the North Sail loft here in Salvador to have a look at my damaged mainsail. It has definitely taken a battering so far. There are lots areas of damage but one of the repairs needed could pose a problem. The damage happened way back before Cape Horn. I was taking in a reef and the boat was knocked flat on its side in a squall. I repaired the damage by sticking four patches on the sail – two on each side- and then hand stitching over that. The seas were huge and I was perched precariously on the very end of the boom with the sail lowered trying to make a repair that would last the rest of the leg.
For now I have left my mainsail problems in the hands of the experts with just one request – please get us to America!
It hasn’t all been work on the boat this week. I have also been sampling the various delights of Brazil. Myself and the rest of the shore crew took a well-earned break for a night out on Tuesday. Tuesday nights are the biggest nights out here in Brazil so we headed off to the heart of Salvador’s ancient centre, Pelourinho, to experience this for ourselves
There are endless amounts of narrow cobbled streets making up the oldest area of the city, and people spilling out into the streets from the endless bars and restaurants all enjoying the local festivities. Tuesday night is music night. Everywhere you turn, different places are competing for audio domination. Each plaza is crammed packed full of locals and tourists watching a variety of musical acts and street entertainment. A display of African foot fighting seemed to be one of the most popular attractions. It’s part dance and part combat, and with the constant drumbeat in the background, it was impossible not to take an interest.
On every street corner, there were also women dressed up in full traditional dress, selling traditional, local food. The dresses are very carefully crafted and look absolutely amazing. After some good food and wonderful entertainment, we all headed back to the hotel. We did manage though to all come back with one of the lucky bracelets that are offered to you absolutely everywhere you go in Salvador. The person that ties it onto your wrist asks you to make a wish for every knot they tie. Then you have to keep the bracelet on until it falls off naturally, at which point your wishes will come true! No prizes for guessing what my wishes were!
I am also taking the opportunity this stopover to spend a little time with the other skippers. I managed to meet Bernard Stamm for lunch last week and it was a real chance to catch up. Bernard is the ultimate professional. He built his boat himself two years before the start of this race and has crossed the line first on every leg so far. We were talking about what will happen when the race finishes in May – how strange it will be that all the people we have become so close to will all go off and do different things.
In one respect, I will be really sad to finish as this race has been my life for the last seven and a half months, but on the other hand it is the ultimate achievement. I think I am the only skipper who already has sponsors on board for my next project. I count my blessings. I know I’m really lucky - my sponsors have made it possible for me to do something I love for a living and fulfil one of my dreams.
I am also really glad I’ve been able to share my experience with the many thousands of children who have been following my progress on the HSBC Global Education Challenge. Their emails and jokes have really given myself and the others skippers a lift when the going is rough.