"I'll hae nae hauf-way hoose but aye be whaur extremes meet..." Hugh McDiarmid

Sunday, 28 July 2013

change of hull

so, yesterday we got an email from clipper. with a final list of the hull numbers matching to the crew who will sail on her. six of the hulls remain unchanged, but six have been moved around. guess what? we have been changed. no longer CV30, now CV23.

CV30 has (I think) not even arrived in the UK yet, so I'm relieved that my hull actually exists. better than that, I've actually sailed on her. this was the 70 we did our level 3 on a few weeks ago.

it's good, I guess, that she exists so we can work on her - there is a bit to do after doing all those training courses! I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this hull change. I feel like I'd settled with CV30 and her lateness - a joke on our level 3 was that we may do leg 1 on a 68 - and to be moved around now is a bit unsettling this close to the race. to be fair to clipper, I think at one point they did mention that our hull numbers were not fixed, although it would be interesting to see how many folk actually picked up on this.

I'm not entirely sure of the logic either. we don't have a sponsor yet, so why move us so far up the hull numbers? other folk have sponsors and no hulls. so to my mind it would make sense to wrap their hulls in the branding now. apparently not. pete stirling, on CV31 (unchanged), was announced yesterday as the skipper of the Jamaican entry, yet his hull is still not here.

eric and matt (my skipper, for those new to the blog) have been bumped up to CV21 and 23 respectively, even though we are (for the moment anyway) without sponsors.

in other news, I am joining CV23 on the 12th of august for pre-race preparation and then the delivery voyage to london. this time in a month we will be in the race village at st katharine's dock near tower bridge. five weeks tonight we'll be at the party before the off tomorrow at noon!!!!

either way. CV23 will be fighting fit and we will all be full of fire having got her how we want her :D

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

level 3 training

I can't quite believe that only a couple of weeks ago we were finishing our level 3 training with clipper. level 2 was really good after I'd settled, so I wondered how level 3 would go. the folk on the facebook group have been putting really helpful posts up about what to expect, so I had been warned it would be more intense than level 2.

after a night in the b&b, I turned up to the training office around 0830 on friday. for the first time, we hadn't been sent full joining instructions telling us our skipper and boat allocation - that was happening when we turned up. 

we weren't sure who was going to be on a 70, as there are only three in training use at the moment. luckily we got a 70 for the whole week, but one of the boats had to swap half way between a 68 and a 70, so we were pretty fortunate. 

our boat was split between two skippers, matt and chris. each of them had ten of their own crew, so splitting into watches was nice and easy :) they spent the week bickering like an old married couple and we all had great fun watching. they are both a bit of a nightmare to wake up for watch though...

the layout of the 70s is very different to the 68s. the engine and generator are in their own wee room, and you can get into it and almost stand up! a vast improvement :) however, the engine room is in the centre of the boat, between the two main accommodation areas... noisy!

the galley is pretty good too - right in the middle of the boat at the foot of the companionway steps, with saloon seating on each side of it. very sociable :) unfortunately, you keep banging your head on the cupboards when washing up and when the boat heels you can't always open the oven... oh well!

the sails are all stored in the dedicated sail locker in the bow area of the boat. there are four bunks in here as well, but I don't think we'll be using them that much. it's nice that they are not stored in the sleeping area any more! no more being woken up by headsail changes ;)

the deck layout is good too. there are twin wheels and no snakepit. instead of there being one tiny pit area miles away from the helm, everyone is much closer together so it's not all left to one or two folk.

the business end. winches and pedestal grinders (bunks below...)
unfortunately, I didn't take many photos. I know. not like me. and I can't get my hands on anyone else's... fail.

anyway, when we turned up to the boat to drop our bags off, first things first: kit allocation! off we went to a temporary shop further into the marina where the clipper kit manager and henri lloyd folk were handing out our goretex foulies, rockport trainers and soft shell jackets (RTW and leg 1 only). it was a bit like christmas, except I was thinking 'how the hell am I going to get this lot back to scotland'...

back to the boat with all our shiny new kit. we were faced with all our stuff sitting on the dockside and matt telling us to look at it, as this was 22 folk's worth of stuff for a WEEK. wow. there was tons. I was a bit stunned to be honest.

eventually, everyone arrived and got their kit and we loaded the boat up. we were hot bunking all week - where you are paired with someone on the opposite watch to share one bunk with - and other bunks were storage only. I imagine it will be like this on the race, so good practice right from the start.

we left gosport marina early afternoon to do race starts with the other boats. then we would leave on a short race. at least, that was the idea before the wind died.... clipper had a photographer on blackadder, a clipper 60 which was acting as the committee boat for the start, so he got some good pictures I reckon :)

once we'd left portsmouth, we settled into the watch system. it's amazing how quickly you adapt into it and it becomes normal! eating happens at watch changeover, you don't really see the opposite watch except for dinnertime when some whole boat training happens. this tended to be safety drills - man overboard, fire and flood, with some engineering stuff thrown in as well. all brilliantly delivered by chris and matt (still bickering) then generally put into practice when we were asleep. or in the dark. or ideally, both.

one off-watch we were woken by chris yelling 'fire fire fire. fire in the galley' and I went from spark out to upright in less than 10 seconds. tell chris you'd go out the hatch in the nav station and he'd let you out the companionway steps :) otherwise he'd tell you that you were injured and you had to lie down. or, like one of our watch, you didn't wake up in time and you also became a casualty. no names, kc... ;)

we did loads of drills on watch with matt. I could tell you about them, but I'd have to kill you. however, when the team chris spies came out on the last day, they were pretty noised up :D

everyone had to be watch leader over the week. this meant leading the drills, or delegating if you preferred, and leading headsail changes and stuff. I was quite terrified of it, as it's not really my style to be giving out orders (ask anyone) but I actually quite enjoyed it in the finish up. weirdly. I also discovered I really like helming when the boat is at unnatural angles. I'm waiting for andrew to email me a picture of this, but I have added his video to my youtube channel :)

chronologically, the whole week seemed to just merge into one big mishmash of watches and meals! I'm afraid my recollection has been so bad that it's proved a need to write this thing offline during the race then upload it in stopovers!

but now, I guess, we are all on our way to being trained ocean racers. what a terrifying prospect! I can't wait much longer for this race to start....

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

level 2 training

well. I finished level 2 training on sunday afternoon. since then I've been resting and recovering down in dorset at david and lorna's b&b. it's been really lovely and peaceful, hanging out with them and my crazy goddaughter :)

so, the bus trip from dumfries to gosport went ok. megabus have 'updated' their sleeper stock and now it's not as good as it was. before, it was like a proper tour bus with duvets and bunks and curtains and privacy. now it's just pipecots effectively, with no duvets no curtains and absolutely no privacy. shame.

once I got to london, I had a few hours to kill before the portsmouth bus so I met up with timmy and we wandered round town for a bit until he had to go to work at the tower. 

while waiting for the bus, I was sat in a coffee shop chatting with jim, a sound designer and composer I'd worked with on the gathering show some years ago. he was after video footage from all over the world for his struileag project. I mentioned that I was sailing around the world for almost a year and could maybe help him out. this is going to be a really exciting wee project for me to be involved in, and we are trying to get stuff filmed in each port and also some sea footage. I reckon I can help him out on that one ;)

eventually get to gosport, dump off the toolkit supplies for matt, and get to the b&b. a much needed shower later and there's a knock at the door - helen from my team has arrived to share my twin room. we go out for tea with some of her friends who have all just finished level 1 that afternoon, and have a really good night. we leave the b&b before breakfast is served the next morning and head to the marina to join our boat - me, nico and helen are on the same one - and drop off some stuff that I won't need for the course.

get to the office. meet david, our skipper, sign the sheet and get our token for the marina facilities. off down to the boat to pick a bunk and meet everyone else. there are ten of us training this week on qingdao, plus skipper david and ash, our first mate. most of the ten are straight off level 1 training which I find a bit daunting. it's been almost 11 months since my level 1 and suddenly I'm very conscious that it's been a while.

me and ali :)
so we're all sitting in the saloon chatting amongst ourselves, waiting for the stragglers to arrive, when I hear another scottish accent. ali grew up in troon, but was born in the old cresswell hospital. same as me! we immediately get on and start teaching the rest of the crew (1 italian, 3 aussies, 1 dutch, 1 singaporean and 2 english - 1 who grew up in HK) as many scottish wurds as possible :D

skipper david had split the jobs up and everything was on a laminated sheet in the saloon. each day there would be one navigator, one engineer, two deckhands and one 'chosen one' from each of the two watches. the mother watch was split so we did a single meal instead of a full day, and the breakfast mothers then became the chosen ones - who ended up in the pants of power (sit harness) for man overboard (mob) drills with piers, our lifesize dummy.

saturday was day sailing as we had sea survival on sunday. it was pretty windy with a steady force 8 gusting to 9 and ended up being more about staying on the boat, keeping warm and not being seasick than learning anything new! by the end of that first day I was feeling really unsure about the whole thing. everyone else seemed to know what they were doing and didn't need told. I felt like I was missing any explanation that was going on and couldn't really join in. suffice to say I wasn't feeling too positive when I went to bed...

sunday was sea survival. we had to be at the college pool by 8.15 for an 8.30am start. we left nice and early and stopped at the co-op to pick up dinner as there was nothing nearby and very little time once we were on the course. the first bit of the day was classroom based, going through the theory of it and listening to keith tell us a few stories. he'd been in the RN for a very long time and had trained most of the clipper crew so had a lot to tell. he encouraged us to graze through the lectures just in case we finished late. I managed four wholemeal pitta breads, two tubs of hummus and two bananas in the morning :)

after the lunch break we went into the pool. nothing is guaranteed to make folk get on more than jumping into a pool with a fully inflated lifejacket on and swimming about on your back. we learned loads and keith managed to make it seem fun, even though it was quite sobering thinking that these are the skills we would need should anything so serious happen to our yachts that we needed to abandon to liferafts.

on monday we day sailed again, just to make sure that we were all happy with our level 1 revision. on tuesday we left gosport marina and set off out with the plan of anchoring overnight somewhere. we did a lot of headsail and staysail work, helming and general boat stuff all day while heading out past the needles down towards the dorset coast. as we approached the bay where we were planning to anchor, we saw a hercules. it passed overhead a few times, then dropped some folk in parachutes. then did it again, and again, and again. I was one of the navigators that day, and was listening to the maritime broadcast in the evening when we realised that there was a voluntary exclusion zone while the army were doing parachute drops and we were right in the middle of the coordinates they provided. whoops.

we did two hour anchor watches tuesday night, then I was one of the breakfast mothers wednesday morning. we left studland bay just after breakfast and headed off towards portland. david was planning to keep us out and night sail which is great practice for level 3. we also stayed out thursday night, and did normal four hour watches through the night. it had been good for me to get into the watch system on tuesday as I started to get more involved and comfortable with the sailing, so there were no complaints when we stayed out for another night. in fact, one of the most common complaints after level 3 is that it's too big a jump from level 2. on level 3 you go out and stay out for the whole course, immediately getting into the watch system, sailing day and night for 6 days. most folk don't stay out as long as we did on level 2 so we are feeling pretty ready for level 3 right now :)

on the wednesday we had our first heads problem. I had just used the toilet and, while it had flushed, it had not cleared the water from the bowl. had I blocked it? I didn't think so... after a while I realised that it wasn't going to clear itself and I didn't know how to do it. so I went to get ash, who patiently stood (outside) the head giving me instructions on how to clear it. during our dismantling and investigating of the head, I discovered the valve which directs the toilet waste to either the sea or the black water tanks had been set to the tanks. I changed it to sea and the head pumped clear. phew. unfortunately I had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time - the black water tank had been full! I put the head back together and pumped it all clean while ash pumped the black water tanks empty. I wondered if this would make the starboard tack easier, as the boat had always felt a bit more lethargic on this tack before... ;)

by friday morning we were all pretty happy with sailing the boat, and we'd been doing a bit of spinnaker work. the 68s normally have symmetric kites but as the 70s have a bowsprit and asymmetric kites, some of the 68s have been adapted to include the bowsprit. this allows us to train with the a-kites on level 2. in the evening we berthed at the marina at portland in dorset. showers, beer and crisps were had and plans were hatched. two other level 2 boats were in and there was some friendly rivalry going on.

DLL and singapore - our rivals :)
saturday morning we got up and the three boats headed out together into the bay to do some competitive stuff. we raised the mainsail, did a le mans start, put a reef in the main and shook it back out against each other. we drew the line at competitive flaking and headed off to get the kite up and sail back to gosport.

we had a great run back to the needles, where david decided we would go the south side of the isle of wight to give us clear water to play with the kite some more. 

once we'd rounded st catherine's point and sailed north a bit, ash threw piers overboard and it was another mob drill. unfortunately, the wind immediately went from 18 to 30 knots just as piers hit the water and we had the kite up. we did a letterbox drop - between the boom and mainsail, then straight down the companionway watch and into the saloon. when there is an mob, certain things have to happen. the boat has to heave to, the engine has to be switched on and the headsails dropped very quickly. the gas supply to the galley is also shut off with the valves in one of the cupboards. 

during this mob drill, andrew got a proper soaking but piers was safely recovered. due to the deteriorating wind conditions we got further than normal away from him but didn't think anything of it. once everything was back to normal, david asked me to go below and stick the gas back on and light the oven as tea was cooking. I eventually managed it - me and the gas oven don't really get on - and came back up. shortly after, there was a really horrible smell. everyone thought it was tea, but david went to check. when he came back up he told me that I'd melted one of the plastic plates which had been in the oven. it turned out the gammon for tea had been cooked already and was just hiding out in the gas oven... whoops.

prepare to be boarded..?
then we noticed the UK border agency hanging around and david thought they may board us. it turned out that a member of the public had phoned the coastguard and said they had seen two swimmers in the water and a rib deployed from a second vessel in our area. it may have been the mob drill, but the coastguard and border agency were checking the area. we didn't think it was us, as we were pretty far offshore, so the border agency cleared off further into the bay and we headed for gosport.

that night several beers and more crisps were consumed and showers were had by most of the crew. we opted for a half hour lie-in on sunday before the deep clean and debrief by skipper david. he said that I constantly undermine myself and I am too hard on myself. sound familiar? I guess I'll just have to try a bit harder...

anyway, level 3 starts on friday. it's allocation on arrival so I have no idea which boat, what skipper and who I will be sailing with. could be interesting!