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

Monday, 26 January 2015

leg 7 race 2: panama to jamaica

early in the morning we all got up and got the boat ready to transit the canal. we were going through with invest africa and gb. we were going to be the centre boat, and in charge of steering the massive three way raft through the locks. in between each set of locks we would separate and make our own ways to the next set, where we would raft up again.

it was a long motor to the first lock, and I rigged the gopros: one on the shrouds facing forwards and one on the a-frame at the back facing the rear. they were both set to time lapse, taking a high resolution photograph every 30 or 10 seconds, depending on the setting.

me having just set the gopro on the starboard shrouds

in the first set of locks, behind a tanker

one of the trains that the big ships need to drag them through each lock

invest have split off, gb are just about to

once we got through the first set of locks, it was a long motor through gatun lake, heading for the next set. once we got there, we waited for hours for another pilot. it was going to be really late by the time we got to the atlantic, and the rest of the fleet would have been heading to the start area. this was going to get stressful...

the tracks at each side of the canal, for the trains needed for the big ships
the second set of locks, late that night

it was a long motor to the first lock, and I rigged the gopros: one on the shrouds facing forwards and one on the a-frame at the back facing the rear. they were both set to time lapse, taking a high resolution photograph every 30 or 10 seconds, depending on the setting.

the second set of locks, I wasn't on watch so I slept through it. in the dark it just felt different, and I wasn't as interested, having already gone through the pacific side in the daylight. I still time-lapsed it, but I went to sleep in between :)

when we eventually got through to the atlantic, the rest of the fleet had already started motoring to the start line. another le mans!! us, invest and gb put the hammer down and headed for the start. this was going to be quite a short sprint to jamaica, and we'd decided to specialise the crew for this bit to try and get a better result. as I'd not been on the boat from san francisco, I wasn't driving. only four of the crew, two on each watch, were driving and there was starting to be a bit of bad feeling about it. the only time we'd specialised up til then had been the sydney hobart, we had been a really even boat in that sense.

it turned out everyone had agreed to do this on the way down from san francisco, so I just had to suck it up. driving was something that had taken me a long time to get on with. I was convinced I was a terrible driver and matt had spent a long time telling me otherwise. I had really enjoyed driving in some really heavy conditions on the north pacific and was actually looking forward to driving the bus again. when I found out I wasn't driving, I started to question all sorts of things, including my reasons for getting back on.

a few of the other guys felt this way, although not everyone. most of the crew were happy to effectively just be rail meat for a few days, but I wasn't one of them. this appeared to be non-negotiable until it was brought up at one of the daily meetings and matt agreed to add two extra helms to each watch as the original drivers were getting exhausted. thankfully I was added to the helming roster, but by this time I was feeling quite down about rejoining and wondering if I'd made a bad life decision.

having not driven for almost six weeks, I had gone back to not wanting to drive at all, even though I was now allowed! this made no sense! thinking about it, and talking about it with peter, started to make it a bit clearer. I had felt really settled on the boat before I'd got off and was working as media crew and bosun, and felt pretty relied on. having to let go of that was really difficult - the same way as letting go of the opera house the previous year. I knew they had been fine without me going down the west coast, and was now completely unsure of where I fitted in having returned.

you learn a lot about yourself sailing around the world in a small space with a random group of people. you learn how to deal with all types of folk: the single leggers who you have to train, the multiple leggers in that weird space between doing one leg and doing the whole race, and the round the worlders who, by now, were like family. on our boat everyone was equal and there was no differentiation between folk who had just got on and folk who had been on board for 8 months. now I'd rejoined I didn't know where I fitted in. was I still a round the worlder, or was I a multiple legger? matt reckoned I was still rtw as I hadn't flown home between san francisco and panama. clipper said I wasn't. I had got off, and it was that simple.

this weird limbo made it a difficult race for me. I had gone from being really excited about getting back on, to not knowing where, or even if, I fitted on the boat any more. this race was just about enduring time at sea, hoping I hadn't lost my sea legs and getting to jamaica.

thankfully it only took three days to get to jamaica. we sailed most of the way with one headsail up, which meant a long time on the rail. thinking. this is not a good thing for me. I know this now! I have always had a tendency to overthink things, and worry about what other folk are thinking. are they ok? can I do anything to make it better or easier for them? with nothing much going on evolution wise on the boat, I had a lot of time to think. too much time.

the last bit of the race into jamaica itself was really slow. the wind died - obviously - and it took us ages to go the last hundred miles. we were so relieved to get there! after all the thinking, I was glad to get there. and with my crew. they were still my crew! I was so happy to have finally got over the worry of rejoining. and I was looking forward to a whole week in jamaica, with very little to do for the boat. and the next stop would be new york, where my mum, dad and sister would be visiting :D

Sunday, 25 January 2015

panama stopover

so me and julie arrived in panama a couple of days before the first boats arrived. we checked into the new hotel, which was pretty nice although a bit lacking in the understanding of a vegan diet.....

there was a little bit more information about transit times as well, so I could plan getting my gear off garmin before mission arrived. in fact, I got all my stuff off garmin and got my washing done in the hotel before mission appeared!

we had a few days sightseeing to do in panama before julie left and I rejoined my boat, so we set about finding places to go. julie went out on her own one day as I had a stinking cold and was looking after the laundry...

she had found a place called the gamboa rainforest resort, which did all sorts of short tours from the hotel into the surrounding rainforest and out into gatun lake, in the middle of the canal. we signed up to a few and spent a lovely day up there. we climbed a tower into the roof of the rainforest and went out on a boat into the lake, and its surrounding areas. we saw monkeys and crocodiles. it was really cool.

view from the top of the tree tower

view from the top of the tree tower. this is the end of the first set of locks just heading into gatun lake


looking for wildlife in gatun lake

the monkeys are addicted to sugar....not good

baby crocodiles. apparently crocodiles are terrible mothers

that is a lot of containers...

presumably a structural reason for this

the traffic in the canal is pretty heavy. they are in the process of upgrading to super panamax so the biggest ships in the world can transit. apparently the locks synchronise for efficiency, going one way in the morning and the opposite in the afternoon. 

anyway, back to the sailing! mission and invest were the last two boats to motor in to panama, the day before julie left to go back to oman. at least she got to meet everybody! we were hanging around the coffee shop waiting when we saw them. we headed down to the pontoon to wait with the clipper staff. 

none of them had seen me standing there, and I walked right out to the end of the pontoon as they backed into their spot. sophie was the first to spot me, and I just heard her shout 'there's claire!' and suddenly everyone on the boat was looking at me. I'll be honest, I welled up a little bit cos I'd missed them all so much in the last four weeks and I was about to rejoin them!

minutes later I was surrounded on the pontoon by my crew and getting a big hug off matt. it was going to be a very short stay for mission, with a corporate event in the evening for the great britain campaign. us, invest and gb were going to be the last boats to transit the canal the day before race restart on the atlantic side. 

julie left the next afternoon and I helped out on the corporate evening. it was actually really good with free drinks and food (not much that I could eat) and we showed the guests round the boat for hours. we had an early morning the next day for our triple transit...

leg 7 race 1: san francisco to panama

as I watched helplessly on the race tracker, I got used to being in san francisco. the night the race left, my mate robin was on tour with ellie goulding so me and aly went to hang out with him. we watched the gig, then hung out on the tour bus and drank beer. I drank beer, aly drank wine - she is much classier than me. we talked about what we were going to do to get fixed. she was planning to head back to switzerland for treatment and I was waiting to find out what the insurance had planned for me. I wanted to stay in san francisco, as patrick already had a plan to get me fixed in four weeks and I was starting to like the city.

the hotel was pretty nice. nothing fancy, but my own bed and bathroom which was luxury after 7 months on the boat. I was settling into my rehab program as well, doing my exercises while watching tv and uploading all the boat photos onto the web. I was also starting to think about life after clipper, and what I would do for work when the race finished.

I met up with gillian for dinner one evening before she flew home to the uk. obviously I didn't have that many shore clothes with me, not expecting to be spending a month on land at any point in the year. she looked me up and down in that very gillian way, and told me I had to buy some clothes. nothing fancy, just some jeans and tops from old navy. she was quite definite. so I went shopping. by now I'd lost a ton of weight. when I started the race I was a healthy 65kg and a size uk 12. when I went into old navy, I was 50kg and a us 2 (uk 6). I did manage to put a bit back on in the month, eating in burger bars and making my own food in the hotel room helped!

I had a brief heartstopping moment when the insurance emailed me to say they'd be flying me back to oman. I had left there and forgotten to change my address with the insurance when the race started. not only did I not have residency in oman any more, but I didn't have medical insurance! I told the insurance if they were flying me anywhere I'd rather it was the UK but that I'd prefer to stay in the states as my physio had a plan that we were already following. I pointed out that moving me and starting treatment all over again would delay me rejoining the race and would potentially cost them more money in the long run, as I had insured 50% of my berth fee.

after a worrying 24 hours, they emailed back to say they'd looked at my case and agreed with me. I was staying in the hotel for a month and getting physio with patrick for that time. they would fly me straight to panama when he'd signed me as fit to sail and rejoin there. PHEW!!!!

my mate sherry in london is american, and she'd put me in touch with one of her college friends before I found out I was staying in san francisco. I'd met him once at a barbecue in london, but hadn't seen him since then. he works for skywalker sound which is amazing! I'd organised a day while the boats were still in town, hired a car and taken jay and tim from maintenance up to the ranch. it's not a public tour and we had a great day. we got shown round the studios, control room and rack rooms. we had dinner on site in the cafeteria, and had a tour of the main house where george lucas keeps his library and a lot of mementoes from his films. we saw a lot of original star wars and indiana jones stuff, like the bullwhip and the light sabre handles. it was epic.

unfortunately the day that he was supposed to be giving us the tour of the ranch, brian's ceiling at home fell in. the damage to his house was extensive so him and his family were living in a hotel apartment across the bay from me. on a sunday I would catch the ferry across to them, we would play with the kids and have dinner, then he would drive me back to my hotel. it was really lovely to have a regular thing going on, and I'm so grateful to brian, jenn and the girls for looking after me.

for the first week I didn't really leave the hotel as it was still very painful to walk about for any length of time. I was staying in a hotel one block away from macy's so it was really central, which was great. at this point it was taking me almost half an hour to walk to the physio. I mastered the public transit system pretty quickly and took the bus out to safeway, where I bought some food then emptied my minibar and replaced it with my stuff ;)

the second and third weeks I could get around a lot easier. it was only taking 15-20 minutes to walk to the physio and things felt a lot more relaxed. I was settling into living in san francisco! I had met up with ursula a few times, and we'd gone for dinner at the cliff house one evening. the staff there were very accommodating with my vegan requests and the chef turned the sides into a delicious main meal for me. yum!

while I was on land I'd been in touch with a lot of folk from oman and the uk. my old housemate in muscat, julie, had some holiday to take and flew out to see me in san francisco in the last week I was there. I only had physio two or three times while she was here, and we did a lot of walking. we did a tour of the amazing graffiti in the city. there was so much art, but these are two of my favourites...

the amazing women's building. covered on two sides in the most incredible graffiti

go on. call me a geek. pi on the pavement, spelled out with its own value. epic

annika had also told me about 826 valencia, which is san francisco's only independent pirate supply store and writing project. I had visited it earlier in my time there, but took julie along to check it out as well :) they had some great stuff, very funny. but I loved their signs the most. 

you just can't beat this for a welcome sign :)

now that I was back up to walking around 8-9 miles a day without any problem, it was time for the main event. we'd bought week long tourist passes which included 3 attractions. and one of them was alcatraz. we called and booked the ferry - it gets really busy - and headed over the next morning. alcatraz was amazing. it has such a rich history and the guided audio tour is really worth it. all sorts of random little facts, like the wardens families used to live on the island and the kids would get the ferry to and from school, and play in the prison grounds. mental.

leaving the ferry terminal

first view of alcatraz from the ferry. we'd sailed past it on the way in :)

the ferry trip was pretty short, but it was really busy. you have a timed ferry on the way there and then you can spend as much time as you like on the island before catching any one back. after a certain time the queues to get back are massive, but we weren't in any rush. it was nice to be on holiday :)

the warning sign telling you to keep clear of the island

the ferry terminal on the island

the graffiti from when alcatraz was occupied is still all over the place

the lighthouse is still reasonably intact, unlike a lot of the other buildings

the officer's club, at the top of the first ramp coming up from the ferry

inside the officer's club

the morgue

communal showering

cell block

the library area

the keys are dropped in on this pulley system. one of the breakouts used this

the amazing view of san francisco from the prison

one of the audio tracks has an inmate telling you about new year's eve. and how they could hear the parties going on in the city, but were stuck in the prison. there was no glass in the windows on the outside of the cell house building, so it was extremely cold in the winter. also the inmates could hear a lot of the outside world.

the recreation area, with the cell house building

the massive cell house


view of the cell house from the recreation area. mmm concrete...

cell interior
the schoolhouse

apart from doing a lot of walking and sightseeing, I was still going to the physio. it was getting close to the race end by this point and I was anxious that patrick would sign me as fit to sail. when he assessed me he was pleased at my recovery, but he felt that if I stayed another month - the time it would take for the fleet to get from panama to new york - I would be 100% fit. I was massively upset about this and pushed hard for him to sign me as fit. after a long chat about it, and me promising to do exercises on the boat (haha) he agreed. he said I was around 85-90% fit but wrote on the report that he felt I would be ok to rejoin the race.


unfortunately the insurance company weren't satisfied with his report and I had to speak to one of their medical staff to make sure I was really ok. they asked me questions like, could I dress myself. all of these I could answer yes to, so finally the insurance signed me off and agreed to fly me to panama.

what I didn't realise about flying to panama on the insurance is that they would fly me business class - for only the second time in my life. julie was also coming to panama with me, and we'd booked into the hotel that all the clipper folk were staying in. we still weren't sure when boats would be arriving and leaving, as there was quite a tight schedule for the transit through the canal itself.

I'd emailed matt once during the leg to tell him I was getting on ok and that I was hoping to rejoin in panama, but nothing definite. I'd also emailed kate saying basically the same thing. I didn't tell them I would be waiting on the pontoon in panama when they arrived.

now I was really excited. I was definitely getting back on the boat!!!!

but first I had to fly to panama. it was not without its own stresses. the airline wouldn't allow me to check in on a single ticket, but bless the insurance company they were amazing. they booked me a return, then once I'd flown they cancelled the return leg. ingenious!!

just like that, I was in panama. with julie, in another hotel, with a couple of days before the first boats came in. holiday #2 :D

san francisco stopover

once the deep clean of the boat was done, I went to the doctor. I had spoken to gillian, the race manager, and she'd put me in touch with the insurance company. they emailed me with details of where to go and when. I got in a taxi early one morning and went to a medical centre, where a doctor checked me over. 'what is this scar?' was the question. on my left hip I have a massive scar from where I'd had my open reductions to fix my missing hip socket. I told her that I'd had CDH and she wanted to do X-rays to make sure the problem wasn't structural.

I had a panic. that hadn't actually occurred to me at all. what if it wasn't just muscular as I'd assumed. would this be the end of my race? a nervous hour or so as the plates were emailed and checked over. eventually she said she was happy it was just muscular and prescribed physio. I went to make an appointment and was told my insurance wouldn't cover it. I called them and they said they had to review the doctor's report to make sure they agreed with it.

we only had a week in san francisco and I didn't want to waste any of it waiting, and I said that to them. I knew I needed to get into physio as quickly as possible to get this fixed so I could leave. the next day I had an email with an appointment at a different physio. I turned up to be told I had the wrong time. by this time I was a bit stressed, and quite short with the lovely receptionist. he checked with the owner, as my physio wasn't even in yet, and the owner said he'd see me instead. he didn't normally take on new clients but as I wasn't going to be there long, he said he would make an exception.

when he checked me over, I couldn't even lift my left leg off the bed when I lay on my front. this was not good. it took a bit of time to work out what it was, but eventually patrick found the spot. at this point I accidentally kicked him quite hard. he was pleased he'd found it, but it was bad news for me. I'd done my piriformus, which is a tiny little muscle right in your hip. it wraps around and is a stabiliser. it could potentially take quite a while to fix. he said he'd try to sort it as quickly as he could and immediately started mobilising it. the sessions I had with patrick went: manipulation, stretches, massage, exercises and tens (nerve stimulation).

while this was going on, lorna and david were still here. I had a lovely day off with them and louisa. I hadn't seen them since race start and was amazed at how much weezy had grown while I'd been away!

because of my hip injury, I wasn't able to do the rig check so gaurav had to do it. he was well pleased, as he was getting off in san francisco and took loads of photos of himself up the rig! poser.... ;)

my final physio appointment with patrick was the day before we sailed for panama. I turned up, still in pain but coping with the medication, and he did his assessment. unfortunately for me, he decided I wasn't fit enough to rejoin the boat and so that was that. he didn't sign me as fit to sail and I was devastated. I went back to the hotel I'd stayed in with kate the night before. she asked how it had gone and I burst into tears and told her I wasn't coming with her. she burst into tears as well. what was I going to do?

on the way from the physio to the hotel, I'd called gillian - even though it was only around 0730. she's just brilliant. she said she'd meet me at the race office in around half an hour. when she arrived, I was sat on a box outside the portacabin with my ipod in. she dropped her bag and took me for coffee. we sat on a bench overlooking the pontoons and the boats, and talked about my options.

I was gutted not to be signed off, and asked her if I could sail anyway. gillian has been the race manager for a few races and has pretty much seen it all. she was in the royal navy for years and is the most sensible person I've ever met. she gave it to me straight: either get off in san francisco, get physio and rejoin in panama and finish the race, or get back on in san francisco, get off in panama and have my race end there even more injured than I currently was.

she doesn't, as my mum loves to say, fire and hit the wall. even though I was really upset I knew she was right. it's not easy for me to accept decisions like that, but gillian was really calm about it and even gave me a hug. she said she knew it was hard, but that matt must realise that there was a chance I wouldn't be sailing. I didn't want to tell him. I'd had a really positive debrief from matt in san francisco and really didn't want to let him down, and I felt not sailing was letting him down.

I sloped off to the boat, not talking to anybody I saw on the way there. I didn't want matt hearing it from anyone else. when I got to the boat, matt was on deck. I climbed (painfully) up onto the boat, and gave him the news. he had no idea I might not be sailing. I felt sick. I thought I was going to cry, right there on the boat, but managed (just) to hold it together. immediately I started thinking about stuff that was going to have to be covered. poor orla got an hour long immersive session on doing media. I had always done the transmission and editing, so she took notes while I gave instructions and tips.

meanwhile, the insurance were trying to sort me out with a hotel as the boat left in less than 24 hours. I packed up my stuff, taking only what I needed onshore with me. scotty on garmin very kindly looked after the rest of my kit so I could get it in panama, as we were very short on space on board mission.

slowly, the rest of my crew found out I wasn't sailing. it was really emotional telling them. it turned out there were another two round the worlders from other boats getting off injured in san francisco. aly from switzerland who'd sailed with us from singapore to china had torn one of her abdominal muscles, and ursula from PSP had severe problems with her wrists and needed a rest.

I'd decided to slip our lines the next morning when they left for the race start. it was actually physically painful watching my home sail away from me, with all my friends on board. we stared at each other for ages while she slipped the berth. gillian and justin, the race director, had very kindly said I could go with them to the race start at the golden gate yacht club. so we jumped into a taxi and headed up there.

after andrew's man overboard incident, all the boats had to do an mob drill before race start. it was really weird watching from land as they completed the parade of sail and got ready for the start. and then, that was that. they raced out under the golden gate bridge and were gone. it was a really disjointed feeling as me and aly watched them disappear from the yacht club. the insurance had got me a hotel but all my stuff was just dumped in the office after getting off the boat.

I headed back to the race office to collect my bags and went to the hotel. I didn't know how long I'd be there or when I'd rejoin the race. I wasn't thinking about not rejoining. that wasn't an option. I guess I'd be glued to the race tracker like everyone else for a while...

leg 6: qingdao to san francisco

after staying in a hotel for a week (LUXURY!!) it was back to the boat at the very last minute for race start. being the organised type, I'd packed my small accessible bags and my day bag, and stowed my big bag the night before. it was just as bonkers leaving qingdao as it was arriving, but with the added excitement of one of the skippers passing out at the leaving ceremony...

PSP had arrived the day before, and were being given 48 hours grace to do their deep clean, maintenance and try to rest before leaving to catch us up across the north pacific. so only 11 of us left to motor towards the le mans start area.
derry trying to avoid us. me filming by the running backstay

the biggest change for us on board mission was going back to full mother watch!!! for the first time since we arrived in sydney, we were doing a full mother watch. we did the sydney-hobart on short mother as the race was only 3 days, and from hobart to qingdao we'd only had 12 people which isn't enough for full mother. on this leg we were up to 14, and those 2 made the difference!

food on this leg was particularly tight, as we had less than the original amount of crew, so the budget had been cut. the regulars on board were happy to see so many sea sick leggers, as it meant we could have seconds! selfish but true. they were only sick for a few days, and it was a long, hungry leg for us.

a few days out past japan, we managed to hank a dirty great mooring line that another (much bigger) boat had lost. it wrapped around the keel and with some persuasion by manoeuvring we managed to get rid of it.

manky big rope we hooked...

it was a cold one as well which didn't help. in fact it was so cold, that we had four folk go down with cold shock. thankfully we had an emergency medic on board who got them off deck, into sleeping bags and decided to close the accommodation hatches and open the engine room doors to warm them up. unfortunately matt was the first to succumb, but he wouldn't do what he was told and came back up on deck. this just made it worse and eventually he was made to go to bed and warm up.

derek, who was helming in the heavy weather, also went down meaning that sophie had to go and take over while he was heated up. unfortunately she'd been on the bow with me and kate, and all we were told was that she had to drive, not that derek was sick. we'd been taking the headsail down and were keeping ourselves warm that way. eventually we got the sail down and found out what had been happening. james, our medic, made sure that we were given hot drinks to keep warm. after the cold shock incident, we split our small watches into two groups of three folk, doing half an hour on deck at a time then swapping. we also put in the storm boards at the top of the hatch, which we hadn't even done in the southern ocean!

snow in the north pacific....weird...
code 2 going up. perfect hoist in a sausage!

the biggest surprise we had was when it snowed. for two days almost. mental. you just don't expect it at sea. gaurav, who is from india, had never seen snow before!

we did have some great kite sailing though. and some extremely fast white sail reaching! I managed 25knots at one point. there may have been screaming.... we also had some massive waves, and did a lot of reefing. the storm jib also made quite a lot of appearances!

don't look behind you but there's a massive wave coming

the mighty stephen dand reefing

ah the storm jib!

on this leg every boat had a sea scout volunteer on board. we had beanie, whose real name was james but we already had james the medic, so he was renamed :)  about a week out of san francisco, we started servicing the winches. everyone had been very careful about not losing bits over the side, but unfortunately beanie dropped a tiny wee bit of plastic on the last winch. he immediately looked up at me, in an extremely guilty fashion and I knew he'd dropped something... it was just a question of how important it was. turns out it was the feeder from the top section. annoying but not as bad as it could have been. his punishment was to whittle one out of wood, using another feeder as a template. it didn't take him too long and it worked really well! we used it for a couple of legs before it was eventually replaced.

he was also a pretty unshakeable driver in the heavy conditions. beanie, stephen and me were one half of our watch during the cold spell. one night we were doing our half hour stint when beanie was overpowered and the boat rounded up, and we broached. he managed (somehow!) to regain control before we went in the water but everyone got a bit of a fright. stephen fell off the side deck into the nav station hatch but was ok. beanie was slightly reticent about helming after that, but he got back to it the next morning and was absolutely fine.

during our split shift watches, we rotated on each watch so we weren't always with the same folk. one night when derek (our watch leader) was on his mother sleep, I was on with sophie. we'd just finished our half hour and stephen with his two guys were coming on deck to swap. sophie was driving and handed over to stephen. I was making my way slowly forward to the hatch, looking forward to the heat and a brew, when I heard sophie screaming. not just screaming, but absolutely terrified screaming. it's making my blood run cold writing about it months later, and I hope to never hear that sound again.

we'd been hit on the high side by a massive wave, after one of the yankee sheets had snapped. peter was lying against the guard rails with his lifejacket inflated but ok. stephen was shouting 'sophie! sophie!' but I couldn't see her. I unclipped my safety line and ran back through the cockpit to the helm, scared about what I was going to find. I didn't know if sophie would be lying on the after deck with a broken leg, or worse. as I passed the front of the helm, I could see her clinging onto the guard rails on the outside of the boat. she was tethered on with the spectra helming strop and screaming. I clipped on to the nearest strong point and grabbed her left hand. then I dropped her hand, because I was double gloved. so I put my sealskinz mitten in my mouth, pulled it off, spat it out and grabbed her again with my neoprene glove. this time I didn't let go.

she'd been sitting next to the helm as the sheet snapped and the boat heeled the wrong way. the wave had picked her up and flung her backwards over the guard rails. thankfully she was still clipped on with the helming strop so wasn't going anywhere, but we still had to get her back into the boat. shortly after I'd got a hold of her, I realised I couldn't pull her in myself. seconds later, matt appeared behind the helm and grabbed her other arm. between us we managed to pull her back inboard. my heart was racing at the thought of what had just happened. by this time, the other watch were on deck and the clew had pulled off the yankee 3 with the flogging. a team were mobilised to go to the foredeck. normally we'd be at the front of that team, but I had to look after sophie. all my years of lifeguard and first aid training kicked in at this point, and I wasn't letting go of her. we sat for a while in front of the helm, squished into a tiny space hugging each other. she was calming down and I didn't want her to get too cold, even though she was in a drysuit.

once the yankee 3 team had gone up to the foredeck, we moved slowly through the cockpit, making sure we were both clipped on and moving together. I got her to the hatch and down the stairs, then I put the kettle on and made hot chocolate. I reckoned she needed the sugar! she was really shaken up, but sophie doesn't stay that way for long :)  immediately she was like 'we need to get on deck and help out' and I was like 'oh no. not you' and kept her downstairs. eventually everything started to calm down. sophie finished her hot chocolate and I put her to bed, having got her out of her wet foulies and drysuit. matt and james the medic came down and checked on her, and I stuck the kettle on to make everyone coffee or tea or hot chocolate.

we had just found out about andrew taylor from derry that night. he had gone overboard while not clipped on and had been lost for 90 minutes. out of sight of the boat. I can't imagine what was going through the crew's minds for that length of time. oneDLL had assisted in the search, and thankfully he was brought on board hypothermic but OK after an hour and a half.

it wasn't all terror and screaming on the north pacific leg though. about halfway, the clipper office got in touch with me and asked if they could have some photos of sophie, kate and me, along with answers to some interview questions. they were going to run a piece on the three of us, as we'd lost so many crew and round the worlders. we decided to get some interesting photos, so proceeded to pile out onto the bowsprit, and orla took the photos. not sure what matt would have said if he'd come on deck to find 75% of his round the world crew on the bowsprit! we worked out that if we'd fallen off, between us he'd have lost his chief of staff, sail maker, bosun, media person, watch leader and assistant watch leader!

setting up for our 'fearless females' shoot
fearless females
don't tell matt.... 
slightly less terrifying photo for clipper ;)

the injury that I'd had on leg 5 with my back/hip had started to be a problem after around 3 weeks on this leg. it was so bad that I couldn't stand up, sit down or lie down without crying. after some experimentation, james found the right combination of painkillers that meant I could at least sleep. I was still going on deck throughout this, but it was incredibly uncomfortable. I wasn't much use in sail changes but I could still drive, although for much shorter periods of time. I was miserable. and to make it worse, james started to beat me at backgammon....

as we sailed under the golden gate bridge (the finish line) with our code 2 up, we were joined by a spectator boat full of people. they got pretty close, and there was a bit of pressure to get the drop just right with our new audience. thankfully we had a textbook drop and the kite came down beautifully. unfortunately, when we started the engine it caught fire, as one of the big pipes had split. some of the boys were doing a temporary fix while we were trying to wool the kite and it got a bit cramped downstairs for a while. 

matt decided to sail in as close as we could get and keep the engine for berthing while the boys got it fixed. this meant it took us a bit longer to get to the marina. we were aiming for the yacht club right next to the baseball ground and there was a game on. it was quite an amazing view from the boat!

why hello, san francisco! nice to see you :)

much as I hoped my back would just get better, like it had before, it didn't. by the time we arrived in san francisco, I was dragging my left leg behind me and couldn't get on or off the boat using the mooring lines. it was clear I was going to have to go and see a doctor when we berthed. 

my old flatmate from university lorna, her husband david (who I'd sailed with on the tall ships) and their daughter (my fairy goddaughter!) were waiting on the pontoon for me which was amazing. lorna is a paramedic. she took one look at me and told me I had to go to a doctor. and it was non-negotiable.

but we had sailed across the north pacific!!