off on a New Adventure

The time has come to leave Mars and go it alone. I’m sad to leave a great company and some fabulous people but I am as excited as Torrin is with a pot of glitter. Take a look…….

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New Crew

This is Torrin, she’s now 2.  Amazing how life changing Clipper can be!


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Jingle Bells 2012

It’s Boxing Day 2012, quite different from Boxing Day 2011!  I am sitting on a sofa with a log burning stove, a glass of wine and have had the luxury of the company of friends and family for the last few days.  There is plenty of hot water for a shower, a comfortable double bed, a fridge full of fresh food and a toilet that doesn’t move.  And yet……..

Living on a race yacht for a year had its own values – freedom, independence and knowledge.  A world where you decide your own fate and health and safety rules do not apply.  A world where skill and experience are respected rather than money or appearance, where the most battered boat may still gain the highest respect due to the number of sea miles she has done and the knowledge and willingness of her crew, At sea, age is generally a bonus and what counts is lives (seas) experiences and not a shiny coat or a new pair of khaki trousers!   

Life at sea and lack of space necessitates sparse living and a focus for only what is needed.  A new filter on Christmas day so much more welcome than a Rudolph jumper.  The lack of clutter is quite liberating as is the way that children are different at sea.  We met a family on the way to Singapore, they expected much more of their children – to be able to look after themselves and keep safe, be strong when the going got tough and to make their own entertainment without electronic gadgets or plastic toys.  Also, an ability from the children to talk and engage with anyone as a result of them making the most of the land based opportunity to socialise.

There is no sense of class or wealth at sea, of possessions, clothing or appearance.  The Ocean is master and subsequently we quickly return to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, much else is forgotten.  On land it is hard to imagine being truly free of the influence of others and society yet in the oceans the only influence is the weather and the waves.  Simple living, unfettered by politics, social trends, employers or other people’s lives had such an appeal. 

So, guess what, it is definitely back to sea for me.  Two races planned for the first half of 2013 and hopefully another big challenge for 2014.  But, I’ll stick to Christmas Day on land as I’m thoroughly enjoying my wood burning stove, great company and glass of wine 😉

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Missing The Sea

A friend of mine sent me this.  Two and a half months back and I’m longing to be back at sea…..


Leave the lawnmower running in the lounge to fill the room with a lovely diesel smell whilst you try to sleep on the couch. 

Remove the labels from the cans in the kitchen and once a day, eat cold, whatever can you pick up first.

Once a week choose an electrical appliance to strip and re-assemble with a torch in your mouth while lying on your stomach on the kitchen table.

Remove the bulbs from the light fittings and use only torches with weak batteries.

Fit a small fluorescent lamp under the coffee table; lay on the floor with your head under the table to read your favourite book over and over.

During thunderstorms, run through the kitchen, sweep all the pots and pans on the floor, run around the garden shouting “man overboard”, check fences for broken strands and bail the fishpond with a coffee cup.

When making a cake/bread, prop up the oven on one side while it bakes, then spread the icing really thick to try to level it off.

You’d think I was mad to want to go back!

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The Debacle that Was Race Finish

It’s taken me a while to be calm enough to write this so I appologise to those of you that have been hanging on…..

Well I’m sure a number of you who followed the race on race viewer wondered what on earth was happening in the last 24 hours. It’s fair to say that so did we! After having completed 40,000 miles at sea and a year away we were all looking forward to celebrating crossing the finish line. It should have been one of the highlights of our race and a cause for huge celebration. Instead we slipped over an arbitary line with no one there to help celebrate and half the crew in bed!

Clipper decided to create an ‘elastic course’ for our finish to ensure that we arrived in perfect time for the media. So, we sailed round and round in the Solent for hours. Not a great customer experience! Our progress from Den Helder was good given the winds and we were due to arrive too early for the media that had been set up, so rather than let us finish and anchor off shore, we were to continue sailing for an unconfirmed period of time over an undefined course. Every so often the course would be extended and we would never know how long in time we were to continue sailing round in circles for. As time wore on and there was no clarity the crew became more and more frustrated and more and more despondent. We’d seen the white cliffs of Dover for the first time and it really felt like we were home. Then we saw the Isle of Wight now that definitely was home as that was where we had started. It would have been so fitting to have just raced across the line there (and we were in 2nd place for the first time ever!) then moored up to make a show for the media the following day. But it was not to be. As we continued to sail on this extended ‘elastic course’ the wind died and left us all trying to eek the most from our boats having sailed away again from the Isle of Wight.

There was much chat between the skippers about when they thought the race would be called and great frustration amongst every crew yet Clipper would not end it. Instead we continued to do the best we could with no wind and home in sight. The nail in the coffin for our boat was making a tactical decision based on wind and tide then the race being called before the tide turned – how can you make tactical decisions when a course is not clear or a time is not given? Hence we came 9th.

The actual finish was of no consequence to us as we had all lost the desire to celebrate and mark the occasion. We drifted across the line with only those on watch on deck and the rest sleeping below wishing it was all over. We then had to get up and look joyous when we crossed the manufactured finish line with the media some hours later.

A debarcle that was not a worthy end to our year!

I will write another entry on reflections once I am calm again!!!

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Bouncy, bouncy, splishy, splashy, and sicky, sicky for some as we left the shores of Den Helder for our last race to Southampton with 2 reefs in the main and the Yankee 2 flying. Since then we’ve had glorious downwind sailing under lightweight spinnaker. Everyone is enjoying the calm seas and pleasant weather for our last race. It’s a mixture of sunshine and showers in a moderate temperature as we sail through an occluded front and then a trough before our final high to race finish. The gentle weather has brought with it the most amazing cloud formations, rainbows, sky colour and our last few spectacular sunsets and sunrises. I got up this morning at 2am to a beautiful clear starry night with the Milky Way streaking the sky. What a way to finish the race! It’s all the good stuff packed into one short race (even some dolphins playing along the bow yesterday). The one thing that is slightly different about this race though is that it’s along the shores of the area we all trained in, so not only are we inshore (a first) and familiar with the on-shore geography, we are also familiar with the coastline (nasty wind farms around Kent and Essex!, the white cliffs of Dover etc, etc) and the waters. Everyone is in good spirits. The crew are buoyant and excited about the finish. Everyone is in a good mood and humour is high. It’s a tough race for our skipper though. With no first mate, a lot of shipping and a tightly packed bunch of boats, sleep is not an option so Piers has taken to cat napping between advising on trim and checking nav. The race is the most exciting yet. We have sailed all the way so far with almost every boat in sight and with the podium positions changing with every tidal turn, current, little breeze or skipper snooze. We’ve gone from 3rd to 9th to 5th to 3rd to 1st (it’s a new experience for us to look behind and see the entire fleet bearing down on us under spinnaker) and are currently 2nd. At around 3.30am this morning we crossed the second gate of the race in first position, we sauntered past Geraldton (who were in the lead) and Singapore just 10 minutes before the gate to take first place. We all have our fingers crossed now that the wind dies and the race is called at that gate as we will then have our first podium finish. So it’s 6.50am, I’m off to bed until mid day when I hope we will be leading the pack in glorious sunshine.

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I’m currently eating breakfast in a 1970’s style hotel in Den Helder. Last nights dinner was chips with curry sauce and fish, some very strange beer and a terrible white wine. Breakfast this morning is fairly similar but surprisingly the coffee is good. Outside it is wet and windy, just to prepare us for getting back to the UK. I’m off to my last ever crew briefing then to the boat to do a bit of boat stuff and sort out my bunk (currently it’s covered in kit and a new pair of wooden cloggs – a present from the DLL sponsor) before race start tomorrow. Lots of people have asked me how I’m feeling as the race draws to an end and I start to make preparations for returning to the normal world; the answer is I’m not sure! There will be things I definitely don’t miss (less to do with sailing and more to do with the Clipper organisation and skippers) and things I am beginning to get nostalgic about already, only time will tell what the impact is really.

We finished the last race in 9th so there is a good chance that this race can only provide a better result. Overall we will finish 10th for the whole race and yet again our final race is looking like it’s head to wind. If there is one thing I could wish for to have different it would have been to have Flav as our skipper from the start and I think we would have stood a better chance. However, as I mentioned in one of my earlier blogs, it’s the sailing round the world that counts and not the race results and although that may sound glib, I do genuinely mean it.

Finally, in contrast to my dinner last night, I had one of the best and most enjoyable meals ever in ‘Bridges’ restaurant in Amsterdam. In a complete contrast to most of my walk to dinner (the over 18 route!) the meal and service were outstanding – Fins and Vins – Yummy.

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We are currently hurtling (well plodding at 5 knots) under spinnaker down the East coast of Scotland. We’re level with Edinburgh and all wishing we could call in to say hello. Our send off from Derry/Londonderry was the most amazing yet, people lined the waterside for miles in the spitting rain to send us on our way. There must have been hundreds and hundreds of supporters waving and cheering as we paraded up and down towards the Peace Bridge before setting off. We had the most amazing welcome in Legenderry, the friendliness and interest was second to none, we couldn’t have asked for more. People on boats, people on the quayside, people in flat windows, people on visiting warships, it was just incredible. Quite different from our support in China where, I wonder how much of it was genuine interest!

It’s been a great race so far (not least because, having been given antibiotics for my chest infection, I am now feeling much better). We have been chasing the leading pack all the way and are only 13 miles behind the leaders. For me this has been an amazing race. I have always wanted to sail the Western Isles and round the North coast of Scotland and here I am (ok so doing it cruising style, stopping to enjoy the beaches and coves, visit the distilleries and eat lots of seafood may still be on the list but this is a close second). As we sailed passed Lewis (much longer than I thought it was and much further north!) the other evening we had the pleasure of waving to Yorkshire as they tacked behind us and then DLL. It was quite something to have both of them so close and in such a short space of time. That put us into 4th for a bit but DLL took a brave move to follow the coastline into the Pentland Firth which gave them better speed than us and put us back in 5th place. We have been playing cat and mouse with them round the oil rigs of the North Sea ever since.

As I write it’s 2255 and still light outside. I love the longest day of the year (21st June when we were once again in the Atlantic) but this year is likely to be the only year where, after the 21st June the days have continued to get longer for us. We’ve continued to head north, 59 degrees north to be precise, the most northerly any boat has been in the Clipper Round The World Race before, as we rounded the tip of Scotland. In fact, the most northerly I have ever been! It was the most spectacular sailing coming round the north of Scotland. Up to that point we had been beating upwind yet again (more seasickness for some :-() but as we skirted the spectacular coast of the Orkneys we hoisted our heavy weight spinnaker and began enjoying the beauty and peacefulness of downwind sailing. A fitting way to pass the giant cliffs and hundreds of seabirds up there. I even saw a Puffin fishing, a personal highlight for me as I’ve done a bit of Puffin following round the UK but with no joy (only cuddly toy versions so far!) until now. It makes me laugh to see their wings flapping ten-to-the-dozen to keep their little fat bodies in the air. I’ve also had fun listening to the shipping forecasts delivered in a lovely lilting Scottish accent. All in all, the Scottish coastline has definitely been one of my biggest highlights.

It would be unfair of me not to share the latest tit bits of boat gossip with you all as I know that, much as you are following the race, you are also following the people so here goes: Jussie has celebrated her 6 year anniversary of her double lung transplant. Goldilocks has made a new addition to the crew by bringing along his very own ‘Purple Beastie’ (a lovely purple dragon that his gran gave him in Derry. The dragon is now sitting in the nav station with Derek the tea monkey whilst Hector resides looking out from the bottom of the companion way.) Keith has become cheery and we are all wondering what can possibly be wrong with him. Scarlet is very excited at the prospect of a visit to Amsterdam. He and Shaggy have booked a town house for a few days and are threatening to assist Georg in his search for a girlfriend!!! Webbo is working out a plan for how to take us all home as he claims he will miss us all (I’m sure his family will miss sail repair a bit less!) Baz and Trinngg are considering how they can maintain their 20 minute chats (who would have thought a watch-leader handover could take so long?) 3 times a day from a distance. Bernie will be glad to be rid of all of us and our ailments, as she has become our surrogate mother whenever we are hurt or feeling ill and she’s run out of space in her ‘the crew have done something stupid to themselves’ book. Paul has started planning his Clipper lunches on land and I’m sure has selected the wine already. Martyn is making the most of his last few days at sea and contemplating who he can climb the Old Man of Hoy with as his next adventure. Karen will be delighted not to have to make pizza for the entire crew ever again and is looking forward to getting over her cold. And as for me, I look forward to, the not too distant future, when I will never again have to stick my head in a bilge at 2am at an angle of 35 degrees and pull out 15 buckets of water from under my bunk! Of course I will miss all the great things, the fresh air all day, every day, the scenery, the crew, the wildlife and the feeling of adventure. I’m also looking forward to seeing how I’ve changed and what lessons I’ve learnt which I’m sure will only become apparent when I get home.

The Clipper Round the World Race, which stretches over 40,000 nautical miles – the world’s longest sailing race, is almost over. We have had wind speeds from 0 to 55 knots, wave heights from 0 to 12 meters (probably even more), boat speed from 0 to 26 knots, we have covered anything from 4 to 80 miles in 6 hours. During our voyage we have visited all continents (except Antarctica), been to 11 countries (Netherlands still to go) and we have even been able to lift the Purple Beastie 20 meters above sea level as we went through the Panama canal. So with the adventure drawing to a close I’m sure I’ll do a lot more reflecting and bore you with my findings over the next few blogs!

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We have had the most amazing welcome in Northern Ireland.  The people could not have been more friendly and helpful.  They have done so much for us and organised so much around our race it is amazing.  Tonight we are off to the first of 2 live concerts in the park before we sail again on Saturday.  Daddykibs made it out to visit and we have had a lovely time catching up.  It’s been lovely to see him and to be looked after (Thanks for dinner and the cinema tickets).

I eventually gave in and went to the doctor as I couldn’t stop coughing and have been told that I have a chest infection and that I’ve strained my intercorstal muscles with all the coughing so I’ve got antibiotics and pain killers, hopefully I’ll be on the mend soon.

Being back in the UK has given us all a bit of an opportunity to start arranging things for getting home.  I’ve changed back all my foreign currency, got contact lenses from the optician, unblocked my stopped credit card (thanks M&S!), phoned the dentist etc so life is beginning to pick up again for after the race.  I’m not quite sure what it will be like when we do eventually finish but I am looking forwards to finding out.  Got to run as I’m late (again!) to meet Daddykins for breakfast.

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So near, yet so far…

Well our race to Derry is drawing to a close. We have 2 days left to run and are in 5th place, pushing for 4th. It’s been a tough race. Upwind all the way so we’ve been at a 35 degree angle for 2 weeks now and it gets a bit wearing after a while. In the last few days we’ve seen winds of up to 36 apparent across the deck, and although not the strongest winds or the biggest sea state that we’ve experienced, in the last stages of the race when we are all tired, it makes for very hard going. Life outside at the moment is grey, damp, cold and windy. Below deck is not much different as the boat is quite wet. My foulies are wet and cold when I put them on and I’m not getting enough sleep due to a horrible cold that has me coughing every time I lie down. Roll on the shores of Derry, a warm bed, a pint and perhaps some good old fish and chips. It will be odd to be sailing into a country where the local language is English, the currency sterling, the local delicacy stew and potatoes. So near yet so far for us as we will shortly leave there to sail away again to Den Helder before coming back to the UK and our finish in Southampton. I am aware that I sound a bit doom and gloom but I have most definitely had enough. It is time to get off and get back to work, friends, family dry land home comforts, greenery etc. I am sure once I’m over the cold and have had a few days rest in Derry that I’ll be looking forward to the last 2 short races but right now there is nothing I’d like more than to curl up in a big comfy bed and go to sleep with no pressure of having to get up and do anything. Fingers crossed for 4th place.

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