Today is the longest day (21st June). It’s my favourite day of the year so I wasn’t best pleased when I woke this morning at 5.30am to thick clinging fog with water dripping from everything. We have been expecting the effect of tropical storm Chris for a couple of days now so our storm sails have been serviced and we are like coiled springs ready to reef or change sails at any moment. So far, so good though, the sea is calm and we are trucking along under the Yankee 1 with a full main in 21 knots of apparent breeze. [so that was this morning and it’s now into the wee small hours of the following day, Chris has now reached hurricane status but is most likely going to miss us – yeah]. The weather gods must have been smiling on us as at around 9am (when I returned to the deck from having bilged out the small swimming pool that is under my bunk – caused by some leak in our fresh water system!) the sun was shining in a cloudless sky. We have spent the rest of the day sailing in perfect winds, going in the right direction, in glorious sunshine. Our day was made even better by the beautiful sunset at 9.15pm and the joy of it still being daylight when we came off watch at 10pm. It’s now 3.15am in the morning of the following day, we are being treated to a clear starry night. The Milkyway is the only cloud in the sky surrounded by millions of stars. Fingers crossed for a beautiful sunrise just before we go to bed (not until I’ve emptied the swimming pool again though!). As Terry Wogan would say, ‘the nights are drawing in now so make the most of it.’
It’s definitely time to finish. Although I do have times that make me smile every day, I am very ready to get back to ‘normal’ life. It’s less about flushing toilets and readily available glasses of wine than you might think. But more about a number of other things:- being in control of what happens to me i.e. when it is wet and windy I can choose to stay indoors, I do not need to be at the mercy of the weather. Not having to get up at 2am to ‘go to work’ for 4 hours. The luxury of walking from bed to toilet in the middle of the night without a gymnastics routine over/round/under/clinging onto things/other people and being able to do it in whatever attire (or not!) I choose. On the subject of going to the loo – being able to go at a moments notice (unless stuck in a traffic jam on the M6!) and only having to lift a skirt or drop some trousers, not take 10 full minutes removing layer upon layer of cold, wet clothes. Also the delight of a toilet that is completely flat, not at 35 degrees. [I’ve just re-read this, there’s a lot about toilets isn’t there!]. Oh the pleasure of time to myself, not worrying about who can see my wobbly bits as I’m getting changed, who will be in the way when I want to get into the kitchen, that when I want to sit and read, no one will talk to me. The joy of knowing that the tin opener/toilet cleaner/sharp knife/electrical tape/gaffer tape etc will still be where I left it and it will not involve a 20 minute hunt for them and if it did I will not be getting soaking wet from water pouring through a hatch or clinging on for dear life as I look. Oh the joy of turning on a light to find the thing that I’ve lost in the dark and not having to worry about waking anyone up. Knowing that there will not be 5 or 6 different opinions on the best time or way to make soup/clean the toilet (toilets again!)/store the food etc. being able to pick and choose who I spend time with and choose not to spend time with others. Southampton and the 22nd of July cannot come quick enough. Family, Friends, Greenery, Driving and even work are all things I’m looking forward to. I am lucky, I love working for Mars and have learnt to appreciate even more over this year how great a business it is, how much I love my line of work and what great people I work with. It’s been eye opening racing alongside people from all walks of life and I’m happy to say that the people I work with at Mars are really the cream of the crop. I’ve also realised that I am an average sailor. I cannot help but bench mark myself against Rich/Triinnggg/Daisy; he started sailing the same as me, from a base of zero and in this year he has become watch leader. He has picked everything up so quickly and not only sails from a technical perspective but from intuition now as well. I am no where near as good and without a gargantuan effort, I never will be, so if I’m honest I’m a bit bored now because I’ve stopped putting in the effort and am satisfied with average (I know that I will have sailed more miles than most other people who own boats etc and yes, compared to Jo Bloggs who potters around once a month on nice sunny days in the summer I may have a bit more knowledge and skill but my bench mark here is high and I’m nowhere near). That’s one of the reasons I am so keen to get back to work. I am looking forward to adding real value again (something that is so important to me, feeling that in some small way, I do something that makes a difference for people) and to doing what I do best every day, also, working with great people as opposed to my days now which consist of hoping for sunshine and wildlife to ease the boredom (I’ve just re-read this and it sounds a bit doom and gloom aboard for me, don’t worry I still laugh every day and am positive and optimistic most of the time, after all there are some people here to have great fun with). If the race had ended in Panama it would have been lovely having survived the Pacific then having had a bit of sunny downwind sailing to ensure that I was re-energised about sailing again and not ready never to set foot aboard a boat again. Of course there have been many highlights and some real benefits to this year. The simplicity of eat, sleep, sail has for the most part been a pleasure and made for a very easy life with very few decisions or complexities. I’ve visited many places in the world in the last year and am looking forward to going back to some of them. I’ve learnt a lot more about how strong my values are and how I react when they are constantly challenged. I’ve discovered how different people can be, and how, when people have similar values amazing friendships are created. I’ve realised how much I know about some stuff (leadership/management/motivation – again, a bit of benchmarking went on here!) and how little I know about other stuff (wind angles/engineering). I am sure there will be lots more when I have a chance to step back from it all and get everything in perspective but right now I am looking forward very much to getting home. Not long now – woo hoo.
‘I’ve hit a whale’. Well actually it was more ‘Oh shit, what was that?’ Last night on our 10am – 2pm watch, I’d just taken the helm in thick fog (We are crossing the Grand Banks, where Perfect Storm was filmed!) when I hit something squidgy. The poor fellow must have taken quite a blow as 40 tonnes of the Purple Beastie bumping into you cannot be pleasant. I suspect it is the whale equivalent to being run over by a bus. It was a bit of a shock as the bow hit him and then he slid down the side of the boat. All in all it was quite a strange evening. The thick, damp fog clung to everything. We could hear a fog horn in the distance and hear some chattering around us. Strangely, no source could be found for the chattering – no birds or dolphins in sight but a definite constant clicking going on. Scarlet joined in the noise and much to our surprise whatever was out there (birds, ghost dolphins?) responded. I’m on mother today, writing this at 30 degrees and trying not to slip off the seat as I write. I have clean hair and am just about to go and get on with lunch. It’s still foggy upstairs and has been trying to snow so I’m glad I’m down below. So far this race has been quite full on, especially for the new leggers. We left Halifax being first over the line, but not for long as Goldcoast took us at the first mark. After the mark it was spinnakers up and a lovely downwind run for a couple of hours. It was an amazing sight to be at the head of the pack and see the others behind, all with their spinnakers up. Once we dropped the spinnakers for white sails it was upwind racing all the way. We had up to 30 knots of apparent wind, Yankee 3 and 2 reefs in the main although the sea state wasn’t too lumpy. It was a bit of a baptism of fire for the leggers who had joined in New York. The race to Halifax had been downwind all the way, dry, sunny, calm and short. This was a bit of a change and it certainly took its toll on them. We were still in the 3 watch system which left us a bit short handed. Mainly round the worlders trying to sail, cook, clean and bilge with only 3 of us left standing on a watch was quite a challenge. Standby watch became an ‘on-deck’ watch as well so we were spending 8 hours on deck in the cold in between running down to do the bilges, make lunch, check the engine etc. Thankfully we have now reverted back to the 2 watch system and the weather has abated slightly. Most leggers are now feeling back to normal and are enjoying it much more. The other disadvantage with the 3 watch system was that no one really owned the galley or the cleaning for the day so it all got a bit slap dash and frustrating. There was no set meal time and cooking lunch 3 times created chaos along with not being able to start a job and complete it (you’d never guess that I was a completer finisher!). For example, Keith would start lunch and serve half the crew then I’d come into the galley when he went on deck and take over serving twice more then clearing up, I’d then do a bit of prep for dinner then someone else would take over and so on – not ideal, and a top tip – a baked bean pan heated and cooled 3 times does not make for easy cleaning! It is great to be on the way home. I’m looking forward to getting to Derry and seeing Daddykins although I could happily have spent longer in Halifax; it is beautiful, green, scenic, peaceful and a world away from the hustle and bustle of New York, definitely somewhere I’d like to go back to. Off to make lunch now, more in a bit.
4th place and an amazing finish. I came on deck about an hour before we crossed the line to find Singapore right next to us. It is so incredible to think that after 500 miles of racing that we should be so close. To make matters even more tense the fog descended and we were left trying to second guess when they were going to tack. To cross the line we had to tack over then tack back but if course we wanted to do it in such a way that we gained the advantage. Eventually the fog lifted and we could see not only Singapore but New York and Geraldton on our starboard side. This has been the best race finish. It was so exciting to battle it out for 4th place. We finished 30 seconds ahead of Singapore who were only a few seconds ahead of Geraldton. A great finish to a lovely dry downwind short race. The next one across the Atlantic will be a bit if a shock to some if our leggers who have enjoyed the luxury of sunshine and calm but I’m sure once they are used to crashing waves, a lean of 35 degrees and bouncing bunks, they’ll love it!
Last night we all attended the prize giving at the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron. People there took great delight in our team kilts which went down a storm when we took to the dancefloor for The Proclaimers ‘500 Miles’. Justin (the assistant race director) has specifically requested that we remain polite, respectful and not too outrageously drunk as it was a Royal Yacht Squadron, I’m not sure what he would have made of us encouraging the Commodore onto the dancefloor then unbuttoning his shirt and taking off his tie – he didn’t seem to mind though! It would have been unkind not to share our kilts with the rest of Halifax so we headed into town, more dancing and more live music. The hen do we bumped into got a bit more than they bargained for when the bride became surrounded by 8 kilted men! So a great race, a very exciting finish and a good night out. Just warming up for Derry!
Phew, all photos updated at last. Hopefully I’ll be more organised from here on in. I’ve even done all my washing today!
We made it in 5th place. Not quite the podium position we had hoped for but still better than we’ve ever done before. On arrival we were greeted by our new skipper Piers. He’s clearly out to win us some podium places and has already cleared the boat of excess weight, instigated a new watch system and got us prepared to hot bunk!!! Not long left now so we may as well throw the kitchen sink at it.
New York is quite a shock to the senses after weeks at sea. We’ve gone from sunshine, sea, peace and quiet to bright lights, hooting horns, sirens, thousands of people, pollution and everything moving at 100mph. I always knew I wasn’t that much of a big city girl but this has definitely confirmed that (I’m also not a fan of the tax that is added to every bill when you get to the till and the Service charge that is expected!). However, since I’m here I might as well make the most of it so I’ve been up the Empire State building (disappointingly King Kong was not at the top!), seen ‘Rock of Ages’ on Broadway, taken a New York cab and the Subway, visited Tiffany’s, taken part in a 6k race round Central Park to celebrate the Queens Jubilee, shared some wine with friends whilst watching New York pass by at night from the revolving bar at the top of the Marriott hotel , sailed under Saltire spinnaker past the Statue of Liberty, watched a Baseball game and had a glass of wine in Grand Central Station. Phew!