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

Sunday, 25 January 2015

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

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