Friday 25th Mother-watch

Today brought my first Mother-watch of the race. Everyone on board takes it in turns to be “mother”. One person from each watch spends all day doing the cooking and cleaning for everyone on board.  The upside of this is that you get a full nights sleep either before or after your mother-watch and the downside is that you are basically everyone's slave for a day!  Having said that it's one of the most important roles on the boat and one of the areas where a little extra effort makes a huge amount of difference – both on the cooking and the cleaning front.  A freshly baked cake or loaf of bread can really lift the spirits and extra effort to scrub grubby or slippery floorboards never goes unnoticed and appreciated. With 18 people living together on a 68 foot yacht not much goes unnoticed!

So when you're on 'mother' duties you're up at about 6.45 to get breakfast ready for 7.30am for the watch that are just getting up to start at 8am, which then melts into breakfast for the watch coming off at 8am.  Well that's the theory anyway. In actual fact because we're sailing in quite light conditions at the moment and going in a straight line, there's not a huge amount to do so breakfast is a scramble for everyone all at once!

Breakfast consists of either cereal or porridge and sometimes some tinned fruit gets thrown into the mix or if you're really lucky the mother watch from the day before might have baked fresh bread, which is then served with either jam, marmite, chocolate spread or peanut butter – but definitely not normal butter as we don't have any on board.  We don't have a fridge so there's no fresh milk, butter, cheese or meat – so anything that comes out of a jar, tin, box or packet that keeps is all we have to work with!

Once the never ending round of teas, coffees and bowls of various things have subsided and the old watch have finished cleaning their teeth in the galley before hitting their bunks, you then launch into getting lunch prepared.  Before you do that however you have to find your ingredients!  All the food is stashed in various places all over the boat and the key to it's location is held in the “Victualling” Orange folder – the contents of which were masterminded and drawn up by Ali Driver – or Albert as she's now been nicknamed.  So once you find your relevant day in the folder – 2.5 in my case (for week 2, day 5) you then have a key which tells you where your “Day bag” and any additional tins are stashed! It's a bit like a treasure hunt – only not quite so much fun!! 
Lunch today is soup made up of soup stock, tinned veg and if you're lucky, any other bits of fresh veg that need using up before they go off – and sarnies – using the bread baked by the 'mothers' yesterday.  Straight after lunch it's on with the cleaning  - both heads (loos), the whole galley area, and then every white surface throughout the whole boat needs to be wiped with anti-bacterial spray and rinsed well with hot, soapy water.  Once done I had spotted some boxes of scone mix, so set about making a batch for afternoon tea and while they cooked, got the floor boards up from the galley area and gave them a good scrub as they were fast taking on the grip properties of an ice-rink!  All this was done with the help of my glamorous co-mother – Arthur – who was very content to open, tins, do teas and coffees, and cut up all the waste plastic so it could be stowed compactly into our large empty juice bottles that were now resurrected as plastic recycling holders!
Once we had given the troops tea and scones (which went down very well indeed) and once I'd got over the disappointment of being too slow to get on deck to actually sample the fruits of my labour :-(  we then launched straight into dinner.  So you see it's a bit of a gruelling shift – which is then made worse when dinner is almost entirely contained in tins, (tinned veg, tinned pies) and none of your tin openers work and when you finally break into the darn things the one oven that cooks things vaguely evenly stops working because half the innards of the pies have spilled onto the back gas burner and clogged it up!
Arthur and I escaped fairly well at the end of a 14 hour day where we hardly stopped for breath at all.  The troops were satisfied, the boat was clean (well for about an hour at any rate) and we'd escaped the clutches of the galley in fairly moderate conditions with only minimal damage. We'd only been hurled across the galley a few times, Arthur had a minor scald from lunchtime when the soup pan launched itself across the hob as we hit a wave and hurled hot soup down the back of his leg, and the oven door had only flung open once, hurling the just-baked scones across the luckily freshly scrubbed floor boards! So on the whole a pretty productive and immensely satisfying, if somewhat exhausting day!