Oz and more adventure (part 2)

Well as most of you know, the reason I came over to Australia was because the Clipper fleet were doing a stopover here, and honestly it was just too good an opportunity to miss.

It was fantastic to see my boat Bermuda and crew and crew supporters (both ours and crew on other boats), some I haven’t seen since Cape Town, others not since training in Gosport. I really enjoyed catching up with all and swapping stories.

And I really enjoyed helping with the deep clean (which wasn’t nearly as bad as usual, though the crew did have a clean mid leg, when the whole boat was enveloped by smoke and debris from the bush fires).
Then there was the shopping, well I helped with the non food items anyway. The Coral Cove Marina office kindly loaned two of us a Toyota Pick up and waved us in the general direction of the out of town shops we needed. Yet another shopping experience on yet another continent. I hate shopping!

And then some sail repair, or I should say sail preparation for the repair… I can’t use a sewing machine, that’s left to Phil and Heather, but I do enjoy doing the other bits. It’s amazing to see the Spinnakers spread out (the Code 2 this time had a big L shaped tear in it), they are enormous.
It’s always a tense time when dropping them, especially if the wind is increasing. We mostly do “letterbox” drops, which means feeding the foot between the boom and the mainsail and then frantically feeding it down the companionway hatch as fast as we can. Then there’s the job of “wooling” (tying it up and regular intervals with wool in preparation for the next hoist) and repacking it. It takes up the whole of belowdecks….from the sail locker, through the galley/saloon and through the “ghetto” (bunk area) right back to the nav station. But I digress…

Then there was time off exploring, I went on a crocodile tour (courtesy of Clipper) and it was a real eye opener. We saw crocs in the wild and we had the most knowledgeable (and funny) tour guide. He was a mine of information about everything, how the aboriginals used the plants for fishing to the current state of the ecology. So, so interesting, he also provided a beautiful barbecue lunch, and we also got to use a genuine Oz “dunny”. It wasn’t until afterwards he made some idle comments about the vast amount of poisonous snakes that live around and behind it.
Australia seems to be full of oversize “critters” that are out to bite, sting, maim or kill you.

But then it wasn’t the critters that I should have been afraid of! More the human critters!

I hired a jet ski along with another crew member, and taking turns in driving, we went over to Paradise Cove, and it truly is Paradise. It used to be owned by the Russian mafia, but that was a while ago and it’s now in private hands and the jet ski company can visit there four times a week.

It was my turn to drive on the way back and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I found it similar to riding a quad bike (but without the mud) and was quite happily hammering along until we were called to stop – two of our group were struggling to keep up.

I signalled, slowed and stopped… only to hear a scream and an awful tearing sound as the jet ski behind us hit us side on at full speed and we were both fired up into the air…
Floating about amongst the debris I did a mental body scan and all seemed fine, although I think my passenger was in shock. I must admit I was laughing, I was so surprised that we were both unscathed. The jet ski wasn’t so lucky.

Anyhow, the offending girl was taken away, I was brought another jet ski, and we went on to have more fun, though thankfully not quite as much excitement.

As I write this the fleet have done a parade of sail but sadly have had to return to port for another 48 hours before they can race up to China. There’s been some malfunction in the watermakers on three of the boats and the parts just didn’t arrive in time.

Delays aren’t good when you’re all primed to race and all you really want to do is get going, I really feel for all of them.
I’ll be watching and following as usual on the race viewer..
Good Luck All, but especially Bermuda!

Before the crash. This dismount was voluntary.

More Adventures (part 1)

Well here I am, sat in the very tiny airport in the most stunning of locations.

Hamilton Island.  Which was a bit of a mistake really, I didn’t plan to come here…the easiest route to Airlie Beach and home again incorporates Prosperpine Airport, in the mainland. But I’d booked this before I realised it meant an hours ferry ride each way.    

Actually that turned out to be such a bonus, a birds eye view of the Whitsundays as we flew into land, and then a sunny cruise through the islands to our final destination of Airlie.

What’s not to like?

I do enjoy travelling on my own, but I must admit I do often get it wrong, much too often I’m daydreaming and not concentrating.

So I’ve just started the return journey back to sunny Newcastle and already I’ve gone astray.   I hopped off the small passenger ferry on the wrong side of the island and it sailed off (with my luggage) without me.

But then that turned out to be a bonus too!    A friendly minibus driver took pity on me and he even gave me a tour of the island before dropping me here, at the airport, just in time to meet my luggage.   It’s so green, so colourful, so beautiful and I wouldn’t have seen any of it, never mind had a young, good looking personal guide, if I hadn’t made a mistake.

Mistakes are part of life, isn’t there a saying? “Someone who has never made a mistake hasn’t made anything”

Well god knows, I’ve made plenty.   And I still do, and sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t.

And it’s all an experience, it’s all an adventure. I just love adventure.

More on this trip from my next airport 😄

Leaving Airlie Beach for Hamilton Airport

I Want To Break Free

Its been a funny week. A busy week, a sociable week, an emotional week. And a FUN weekend.

And yes I went sailing! Today. On my birthday too, how good is that? We had a sailing virgin with us, Dianne. Though I must admit this morning I had serious doubts that she was even going to make it back to the Yacht Club, never mind onto the boat. That was my fault apparently.

It was the Yacht Club Christmas party last night, we started on the fizz and somehow forgot to switch onto the coke (liquid variety, not the sniffy nose stuff…I honestly wouldn’t know about that!) We seemed to win a couple of bottles too… or someone did. Anyhow we helped drink them. I’ve got to say we were on sparkling form. We maybe didn’t do too well at the musical chairs, but I think we wowed everyone with our karaoke duet.

A beautiful winters day

I remember walking home…well back to Slightly Scary Di’s where we were staying. I remember Di playing on the zipwire in the park. I remember being very impressed. She only fell off once.

So this morning. Dave and Di were both absolutely fine (neither had drunk as much as we had), I was a lot better than I deserved to be, and poor Dianne was very ill.

Luckily we didn’t have to be on the boat until 11, so after copious coffee and croissants and bacon (thanks Di) Dianne rallied and we went on to have a lovely sail in the sunshine which she seemed to really enjoy…and the sicky bucket went unused.

So that was yacht racing, last Wednesday was horse racing, and that too was very sociable. I was rather emotional as the third race was named in memory of my husband Chris, a mares hurdle race, how he would have loved that! Thirty friends came to support me, we had a lovely lunch and once costs were deducted we’ve raised £679 for Tynedale Hospice at Home. Not a huge amount, but then I think £50 per ticket was enough to charge. The directors of the Racecourse kindly donated entries, race cards, and the Tynedale suite for us all. Maybe we can make it an annual event? We’ll see.

And the blog title?

Well that’s what Dianne and I “sang” last night…(sorry Queen)

Giving it our all

Sailing. Not Sailing

Ok, not a sailing blog. I arrived home 5 days ago with lots of work to do and a Cape Town lurgy which obviously had ran out of victims in Cape Town and decided to hitch a ride to Northumberland, so give me a chance!

But since I’ve returned I’ve talked sailing (boring anyone who will listen), I’ve watched sailing (all the latest clipper videos, many times, especially the ones with me in them), I’ve spent time with sailing friends and I’m following sailing…well my boat Bermuda and team, but also the other friends and the other yachts in the race…

And I’m dreaming of sailing…but some dreams are a bit odd and some are a bit personal, so if you don’t mind I’ll keep them to myself.

And it’s pants. This being at home thing. I’m here and I’m not there. I’m not sailing. Following the race is addictive and it is also a form of mental torture.

Yes, it’s fabulous to see my family, and they were pleased to see me, (well ok, maybe not Adam, though to be fair backing my car into his pick up wasn’t the best start…though why did he have to park it so close behind me?) And it was fabulous to catch up with friends, and yes, even to get back to work on the farm.

Also it was fabulous, at long last, to climb on my horse Jimbop, and go for a gallop on the fell, both of us high as kites (why do I now picture the code 2 when I mention that word?) both of us out of control, both of us just loving flying at speed over the heather and the ditches with absolutely no cares.

Indescribable.

But it’s still not sailing. I wake up in the night groping for my life jacket and eager to start my watch. Then I realise I don’t have to get up, I’m in my own bed and theoretically I can sleep the sleep of a normal person.

The bed is stable, it doesn’t bounce, it’s very level, it doesn’t throw me from side to side, it has a top quality super comfortable memory foam mattress, it has the best 600 thread count Egyptian cotton bed linen, it has a super lightweight and warm goose down quilt, it has super soft silk pillowcases, it’s big enough I can stretch out starfish style, hey, why would I want to be anywhere else?

But I do. I crave to back on Bermuda, unwashed, in a cramped bunk, attempting to sleep fully clothed for a short three hours offwatch, in my damp sleeping bag while hanging on to the cave locker for dear life. And to make matters worse they’re in the Southern Ocean, I KNOW how bad it will be on board, I KNOW the sort of challenges they’re facing.

I received an email sent by satellite comms from a crew member last night and he confirmed it….just how bad it is! The new crew are all seasick, one watch of the three watches are ALL down! For the rest of them this will make a hard life so much harder. Not only are they having to work extra watches, both above and below deck, but they will be having to care for the sick crew and clean up after them. All this means even less sleep than normal, it also means that there are probably no bunks in which to sleep in anyway – they will be full of seasick people!

I know it, it’s the same on every race start. But it will be even worse this time, the southern ocean means even bigger seas, with no respite whatsoever.

And yet…I still feel I’m missing out…

Please donate here

Official clipper video of Race 3 featuring us on Bermuda and also yacht Punta del Este

What’s Love (really) got to do with it?

First time I’ve flown Emirates. They seem to have thought of everything, from blankets and cushions to an entertainment screen that can show a large variety of films and tv episodes on demand. All drink and food are included in the ticket price too.

Sadly I can’t say I’m interested in any of this at the moment. Often, on the boat in the middle of an ocean I would dream of this very thing… having time to read, a glass or two of wine, and real food. Well, when I say real food, it’s a bit better than boat food anyway, though the man sitting next to me seems to like it, he’s just finishing off my leftovers.
I have a window seat and I can watch Africa rolling by below, how cool should that be?
But frustratingly, it’s just not happening for me.

Why? I don’t know. Often on night watch I would look forward longingly to this very day, the travel home with no demands whatsoever on my time.
Now I’m not so sure. My head is all over the place.
Suddenly the thought of living alone just doesn’t appeal. My once preciously guarded freedom and independence doesn’t fill me with joy. I feel empty.
I always knew leaving the boat (for boat read crew) would be emotional, after all that’s been my life for every second of the last three months. But I didn’t think it would be like this. Perhaps I’ve become institutionalised? I don’t know. It’s certainly possible.
Maybe after a week or two back home I’ll revert back and defend my single lifestyle. I hope so. After all I have a precious treasure trove of close friends, and I never have to be alone when I don’t want to be.

But what if I still feel the same?
Ok, I know, I’m really overthinking things now. But just say what if I decide I want something more? Someone to share my life… and me theirs? Is it such a big ask? Though it’s no secret that I did try that once, shortly after Chris died, and it was a disaster that literally very nearly finished me off.

But surely there must be some good men out there? Or are all the good ones taken?
I’m more savvy and much stronger nowadays, I’ve had to be, I’ve learned the hard way how cruel life can be.
So…if I decide I might actually want another chance of a “normal” relationship… how do I go about it?

Internet dating? Although I have friends who have undoubtably found the love of their life through these sites, I’m not sure I can be bothered with “kissing frogs”…I’ve heard the horror stories too…

Ok let’s put this down to a temporary blip due to tiredness and extreme overthinking.
I promise my next blog will be about the important stuff again – SAILING.
Ooh look, another glass of wine.
I do like Emirates.

Please donate here

Bermuda crew in Cape Town ❤️

Where did that go?

Well. What can I say?

In my memories on Facebook a post popped up yesterday showing my acceptance letter as a future crew member for the Clipper Round The World Yacht Race. I was so excited and had absolutely no idea what I was letting myself in for. Well now I know.

A full year later and I have competed in three ocean races, sailing on a 70ft yacht from London to Cape Town, stopping off at Portugal and Uruguay on the way. The training was intense, and over and above the Clipper race training I have, in my own time, taken and passed my Day Skipper certificate along with numerous other day training certification. So after over 12,000 logged nautical miles do I know how to sail?

Sort of, I understand navigation, tides, safety, the use of different sails, my winch technique is pretty good, I know when and where and how to drop anchor, I know my knots, I know my collision regulations, lateral marks, buoys etc. Trimming an asymmetric spinnaker is now second nature, I can alter the trim on the white sails to suit the wind direction. I can tack, gybe, put reefs in and out of the mainsail. I can helm in reasonably settled weather and seas. I can make a distress call, launch a life raft, do first aid.

And I’ve found I can keep my head, and my balance, during the worst of storms and throughout extremely challenging situations. I can draw on my reserves and keep reasonably cheerful even when I’m seriously cold wet and exhausted and I think I absolutely have no more to give.

Below decks I can cook on an angle while the boat is lurching every which way, I can fall asleep in any narrow uncomfortable bunk, preventing myself from being thrown out by clutching the cave locker, I can go weeks without washing or changing my underwear. I can clean bilges, pump grey tanks, do engine checks, fill in the hourly logs…

All this can be learnt, but there is absolutely no substitute for experience, and as with horse riding (my other passion) I suspect it takes more than one lifetime to make a good sailor. As a late starter I find this frustrating, but then I have to remember how far I’ve come in one short, action packed year. And if I can do it, then anyone can.

So, yes, it’s difficult, challenging but so worth it. The highs outnumber the lows, the friends I have gained are friends for life, we have shared so much we are forever linked.

And it’s not over yet, I’m flying home to the UK in an hour or two but I rejoin Bermuda and her crew in Seattle in a few months time for the final two legs and five races. I can’t wait.

Please donate here

Sailing into Cape Town

WTF?

How did this happen? Tell me, I have no idea. What the hell was I doing in the middle of an ocean as crew on a race boat? Absolutely NO WAY. This is not me, this is not what I do.

I’m a peasant. A landlubber who loves the hills and her horses and her farm. In the last 28 days I pondered over this many times. Am I trying to prove something? To whom? Myself? Others?

Yes I am very committed to raising money in Chris’s memory for Tynedale Hospice at Home… but I didn’t need to do an extreme sport for that… I could have baked cakes or something.

I knew it would be difficult, I thought I was prepared for that, we all did. But it was so much more difficult than I could ever imagine. The lack of sleep, the constant salt water sores, the constant damp in our clothes, in our sleeping bags, and our skin just peeling away on our hands and feet. Exhaustion, dramatic weight loss – we are so, so different from when we set off from London on September 1st.

And moving around the boat? Well below deck we have a knotted rope from one side of the galley to the other, it is in fact mountain climbing on an unpredictable bouncing mountain. Sometimes the very thought is so exhausting it is difficult to attempt. Oh. And don’t mention the heads! That’s toilets to us landlubbers. How the hell? The boat is heeling over at a ridiculous angle so the toilet is now on the wall? No flush either, just the unpredictability of a hand pump…sometimes it goes, and sometimes it doesn’t. And sometimes everything that’s stuck in the pipes decides it’s going to rise like Vesuvius and come gurgling back at you. In torrents.

Accidents. Well yes, we had so many, but thankfully no one overboard and no broken bones (though other boats did). I’m currently sporting a lovely burn down the side of my face where I fell in the sail locker, the two black eyes and split lip I had when I fell onto the pedestal grinder have now cleared up. I was one of the lucky ones. We had knockdowns, quite a few, when the boat was overpowered and heeled over out of control. Hurricanes, squalls, hailstones, it went suddenly from being ridiculously hot to very cold and we were so wet we could not warm up again.

But then there’s the other stuff…the unbelievable fabulous sunrises and sunsets, the camaraderie amongst our crew, long nights on watch marking time by watching the international space station pass over every 20 minutes.

Stopping the boat in the doldrums so we could all jump off for the most welcome swim ever, and it was so warm! sighting two whales on the other side (photos to follow sometime!) as we did so.

Crossing the equator. I feel the need for a tattoo to mark the occasion- strange as I have hated them before now. The sailing… I’m now an addict, even more than before.

I can only compare it to riding a cross country round at speed. It must be the adrenalin rush.

So I’m in South America, Uruguay, a place I had never ever considered before. It’s an adventure, though albeit a difficult one. What now? I ought to be satisfied with what I’ve done, it’s such an achievement, but I signed up for more and I’m not one for quitting.

I wholeheartedly intend to continue and do Leg 2 to Cape Town though it scares the hell out of me now that I know what I know. Ignorance is bliss as they say. Having said that there are other issues at play which I really don’t want to mention as yet, so I’m watching and waiting and I will publish the full unabridged story if and when I can.

Special mention to my most fabulous friends…you know who you are…for such tremendous support, I couldn’t do this without your backup…I’m not that strong! Love you❤️ And the fruit pastilles xx

Arriving in Uruguay