Lucy's Rainbow Warrior diary (cont.)

Background - 6 November, 2002
Tuesday, 22nd October

Lucy on board the Rainbow Warrior

Hello and Welcome to the Greenpeace Guaranteed Weight loss Program! The only equipment you will need is:

A 555 tonne ship.

Some big waves

It's Easy!

Step One: Position yourself on the ship.

Step Two : Position the ship on the waves.

Step Three: Attempt to eat something, anything.

Step Four: Need I go further?

Neptune clearly got out of bed on the wrong side this morning. The sea has been rocking and rolling all day. As I'm typing this, my chair is sliding from one side of the room to the other and then back again. At good moments, the keyboard slides in harmony and at bad moments I fall off the chair. Almost everything around me seems to be in constant motion. Tomato ketchup bottles, jars of jam and packets of ginger nuts slide in union around their rack in the Mess. The books on the bookshelf flip from leaning-left to leaning-right as if undecided about which is their best side. People lurch with flailing arms around the alleyways, attempting to get their feet to make contact with the floor - now it's there beneath you, now it's not. We look like a troupe of blind drunk penguins on their first day at ballet school. Everything is an effort and even the simplest tasks turn into stumbling, staggering, messy nightmares, as Henri found out when she tried to transport her pudding down the corridor a minute ago. It didn't go well.

We dropped anchor at St Bride's Bay at about 7pm, but the engines have just started up and apparently we are on the move again. There is a Gale Force 9 forecast for tonight and we have little shelter where we are at the moment. "Nowhere to hide", as Marijke puts it. Hopefully there will be a more sheltered bay somewhere nearby, where we can spend the night.

I'm sliding around like a banana skin on ice, so I'm going to give up typing now and do the thing that I'm best at: get horizontal in my bed. Even that's not as easy as it sounds, because you still get bounced around with the whim of the waves. Oh well. They say that worse things happen at sea.

4:32am Sleepless and shaken-up, I lie in my bunk, still trying to counter wave-power with will-power and get to sleep. I know I must have slept a bit because my mind is tumbling with fragments of weird dreams, but it feels like it can only have been for a few seconds. We are being juggled by the sea: tossed helplessly around our bunks over and over and over. Its noisy - the waves are erupting against the side of the ship and then drenching the deck with a blow, and everything in the cabin seems to be clattering around, as possessions get thrown to the ground and then roll around for the rest of the night, with a predictable, monotonous clash, clash, clash. Weirdly, I am sure that I can hear the sound of someone clipping their toenails in our cabin. With a really loud toenail clipper, or perhaps just really tough nails. I am obviously going mad. I need some Sleeeeepppp...

Wednesday, 23rd October

It can't be 7:30. This has to be a sick and terrible joke. But the Knock comes and the usual (but today slightly less chirpy) "Good Morning Ladies, Its 7.30" rings through the cabin. "Uurghhhhyrrrrr", I reply, unconvincingly. "Ladies?" "UURGHHHYRRRR."

I feel like someone has put me through a tumble drier and then koshed me round the head with a monster frozen tuna. I am incoherent and mumbling.

Luckily my day's work is not too strenuous: I am given the job of sorting out the huge stash of environmental videos that have been on board since the beginning of time. The last time this was done was 1992 and there are over 200 tapes to go through, many of which are unlabelled. It turns out to be pretty fascinating since amongst them are some old Greenpeace films from the 70s, which show some of the earliest antics of the Greenpeace founding fathers. These people are talked about in hushed, awed tones these days, as legends and stories about them pass through generations of greenpeacers into Greenpeace mythology. Interesting, then, that the video evidence shows that, at least some of them were clearly mad as cheese. In the 1977 film "Voyage to Save the Whales" (recommended viewing for everyone) there is fantastic footage of early inflatable training, with men in wetsuits inexplicably back-flipping themselves vigorously off speeding zodiacs. There are also incredible images of the first ever Greenpeace encounter with whalers the expedition against Russian whaling in 1975, when the Russians sent a harpoon right over the heads of the protesters in a Zodiac. The Greenpeace anti-whaling message was the same as it is these days, but they were a bit more polite back then: "Excuse me, but would you please stop killing the whales?" said the voice over the megaphone.

It is only today, after 14 days of being on board, that I really notice the strangeness of living within such a small space. The ship is 55.2 metres by 8.54 metres, and I haven't stepped outside that small area for 336 hours. It hadn't bothered me at all until now, but suddenly I feel a bit trapped, like my wings have been clipped. I think I've got space-sick. That's the thing about living on a ship: in some ways it is ultimate freedom because you can travel the four corners of the globe, but on a day-to-day basis your world becomes more limited. Onboard there has to be a strict routine to life, and because you are at the mercy of the weather you are powerless to really control your environment. No matter how many blankets and chocolate hobnobs you take to bed with you, if the ship is under assault from a storm there is nothing but nothing you can do to make yourself comfortable. Sometimes you just want to wrangle with the wind and shout "Stop! Enough! You re doing it Wrong!", as if the weather was a bad driver sitting in the front seat of your car, swerving drunkenly through the fog. And then the skies clear and the grey thundering waves melt into gentle green-blue bumps and you wonder what you were making such a fuss about.

Thursday, 24th October

Today is my last day as a Rainbow Warrior deckhand, so its with great delight that I learn that my task for today is Scrubbing the Decks. This, surely, is the ultimate in authentic deckhandness. The pinnacle of deckhandicity. Definitive deckhandism. I know now that I can go home happy, secure in the knowledge that I somehow "made it" as a deckhand, despite the fact that I remain completely useless at knots, have failed to chip a single speck of rust during the whole of my stay and am still not entirely sure what a grease nipple is. Or entirely sure that I want to know.

Lucy.Scrubbing the decks basically involves me breaking my spine scrubbing hard with a brush whilst someone behind me showers my back with very cold water. Meredith did warn me that I would be getting wet during the scrubbing, but I didn't actually anticipate being blasted with a high power freezing cold water jet. I had been whinging about longing for a power-shower for ages…I guess it just proves that you have to be careful what you wish for. After four hours of soggy scrubbing, the decks are gleaming and sparkling in the sunlight. The ship looks all new and shiny, and so do I. It's probably the cleanest I have been all fortnight.

Between 8 and 12, I go on Watch with the Captain, Derek. There is always someone on Watch during the night-time, whether the ship is in port or is sailing, and there are 3 different shifts: 8-12, 12-4 and 4-8. Your task while on watch is basically to make sure that the ship doesn't catch fire, sink or bump into any other ships. Every hour you do a round to check out all the nooks and crannies of the ship and make sure that there are no signs of flames or excess water, that nothing is rolling around where it shouldn't be and that the freezers are still freezing. The rest of the time you stand in the bridge looking out to sea for signs of small boats or buoys that have not been picked up by the radar.

Derek teaches me how to plot our course on the map and read the radar. We are gliding slowly through the darkness down the Bristol channel, and on either side of us are the bright lights of the coastline as we pass Swansea, Ilfracombe and Port Talbot. Derek explains how to recognise the signature lights of a lighthouse (the light flashes different numbers of times) and to work out which one it is on the map. He tells me about the different lights used on fishing boats to indicate whether they are trawling or longlining, and about the rules of the sea when it comes to crossing paths. We listen to the shipping forecast on the radio and for the first time in my life it becomes interesting. The monotonous, hypnotic words which usually seem so remote to my cosy land-locked existence suddenly spring to life and become something immensely relevant. There are no gales forecast for tonight, but there are severe storms predicted for the south of England at the weekend. I'm secretly quite glad that I will have both feet firmly on land by then.

Sunset.Sitting quietly on the bridge, gazing out over the treacle-black sea and watching the flimsy clouds sashaying across the bloated moon is an inspiring end to my short sojourn at sea. Tomorrow morning at 7am we will dock in Cardiff and I will sadly say my farewells to the great crew, the gorgeous electricians, the brilliant volunteers, the enigmatic dolphins and the greased, painted, scrubbed and polished Rainbow Warrior. She's been the perfect hostess.

Read more updates from the Rainbow Warrior on the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society website.