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

Friday, 24 April 2015


so this was it. we got the call to form up and start motoring toward the dartford bridge. it is a long and fairly boring motor up the thames from southend. we had to wait until the thames barrier before we could see any spectator boats. 11 months ago we had left them behind at the barrier, as they were not allowed to pass through it and keep following us. at this point, they had turned and we had all switched the kettle on...

this year, the spectators were not so restrained. one boat came through, and then suddenly they were all there. this was supposed to be our final wee bit of peace before the parade! but it was amazing to see them all. everyone was spotting their friends and family. the mission guys had commandeered a boat for our crew and families to be on, although my lot stuck with the original clipper boat as there were a fair few of them!

my sister, leigh, had sent me a viber message a bit before saying 'at the barrier, can't see the boats, it's a bit choppy' and I had replied 'we're about ten minutes away, waiting for the helicopter. fyi. that's not choppy' :)

and then suddenly, there they were. shouting and waving. I had been worried that I would just cry when I started seeing folk I knew, but it turned out I didn't have to worry. I knew there was a couple of folk waiting for me in st kats as well. annika, who had followed the whole race and whose husband I'd met up with in NY, and sarah, who had so generously organised me a hotel room in albany when I really needed a good night's sleep.

heading back through the thames barrier 11 months later

happy to be home!

and then we could see tower bridge! we were so close. but the tide wasn't quite high enough and we had to wait another few minutes before we could go into the dock. as we were last placed overall (boo!) we were going to be first in. we could hear the speakers from the river as we were being introduced, then suddenly the red bridge lifted and we were heading in.

seeing the maintenance guys and the rest of the clipper team waiting to take our lines was brilliant, even though we'd only seen them a few days before in den helder. within minutes we were alongside and the next boat was coming through the lock and they'd all moved on. interviews were done, photos were taken and we were all looking for faces in the crowd.

I'd spotted sarah as we came through the lock and I could see her again in the crowd near where we'd berthed. I also saw annika, who was standing behind us. I shouted up to her 'apparently the days of the week have names' and made her laugh. a few of the folk around looked at her and she said later that she'd told them proudly 'that's my friend, she's just sailed round the world'.

just off the boat!
taken from the spectator boat

we weren't allowed off the boat until everyone was berthed, but our former crewmates were allowed to join us for the last bit on stage. suddenly all these folk we hadn't seen for a while appeared and stories were told, hugs given and received, and some champagne may have been consumed....

we were called onto the stage in reverse order, so we were first. sometimes it's good being last! once the photos had been taken, that was us. we were released back into society! the race was over. it was an incredible feeling. 

my parents and leigh had booked the same hotel for race finish as they'd had for race start so I knew I had a bed that night, instead of crashing on the boat. as they'd been on the spectator boat, they had gone for some dinner and I'd arranged to meet them in the dickens inn. I set off with sarah and annika, and met up with them and leigh's friends denise and mike, and their wee boy thomas.

a lovely evening in the pub ensued, with all the crews being in their with friends and family. food was had and folk started to drift off. I packed all my stuff up from the boat and took it back to the hotel, as I had decided not to do the delivery back to gosport. my mum was delighted!!

the crew party was good fun. me and leigh went, and it was really busy. I caught up with some more folk and left on a high. we got the train back to scotland on monday morning and that was that. race over!!

leg 8 race 3: den helder to london

frigate is one end of the start line

once we had negotiated the canal and lock, and made it out to sea it was main up and head to the start line. a beautiful sunny day in den helder with loads of folk out on the water to see us off. 

we thought we'd been set up for a great start, but unfortunately that wasn't the case. as the gun went off, we were pointing the wrong way without enough sail up. we'd been waiting to hoist the code 1 but needed to quickly hoist the staysail so we could turn towards the start line! dammit. everyone crossed in front of us with a mix of code 1 and code 2  flying. we managed to turn the boat and get across the line. dropped the staysail and threw the code 1 up. at this point, sophie and the sail repair team had already fixed our code 1 twice after it had exploded. 

it looked like the code 2 gang had made a mistake as we flew up the outside of the fleet. they'd managed to get tangled up in each other and we were clear! so from an awful start we ended up working our way through the fleet. we were sitting in 4th, looking to overtake the 3rd placed boat when our code 1 gave way for what would be the final time. 

all the repairs seemed to give way at once as the wind built, but luckily the entire crew were on deck. we split into teams: a couple of folk to go and push the code 2 up through the hatch, a group to retrieve the body of the code 1 out of the water, a couple of folk to gently pull the tape and retrieve the head from the top of the rig while someone else eased the halyard. we got the code 2 up on deck and the bag attached, pulled out the three ends and started running them while the code 1 was unceremoniously stuffed down the hatch to be dealt with later. sheets were re-run, halyard and tack attached, then within 8 minutes the code 2 was up and being trimmed. 

during all this, matt had calmly helmed. we had enough experience now to not need telling what had to be done. shortly after the code 2 was up, rich gould from invest africa radioed through to give matt his congratulations on a speedy recovery. matt admitted that he hadn't done anything, just driven! 

the code 1 was just rammed into its bag and stuffed back in its bunk. we weren't going to be needing it again after all... and we'd only lost 1 or 2 places! awesome.

our good fortune was not to last however. somehow we'd managed to miss a mark of the course, so we had to return to it, losing valuable distance to the rest of the fleet. bloody typical. even in the last race, we were having no luck.

the final race to southend only took a day and a half, with the last bit being a short course between two marks so we did get to see the rest of the fleet as they passed us going in the opposite direction. eventually we got the call to finish and everyone headed to the line at southend pier. 

there were mixed emotions as we crossed the line. anger at losing out on the final race. an overwhelming feeling of sadness that our year had just come to an end. there was celebrating and hugs, but there was also a quiet mood among the round the worlders and multiple leggers. at one point matt asked if anyone wanted to steal the boat and do it all again. 

out of the gloom in southend, we appear! and finish the race!!

happy to be nearly home :D

we put the boat to bed for the final time in the race and started slowly motoring around to wait for 7am so we could form up and parade into london. everyone was thinking about how they would deal with the homecoming. I was worried I'd be a total mess and just cry openly!

but first of all, sleep! and a bit of overnight motoring and banter. the last time the fleet would be this close but still at sea.

den helder stopover

when we got to den helder, we rafted up with invest africa to go through the lock into the marina. it was pretty late when we berthed up, but there were still a few folk there to meet us off the other boats. it's always nice when that happens, which is actually most of our arrivals. a lady with lights in her hair took us up to the clipper dome, where we were presented with raw mackerel and jagermeister. and clogs. I opted out of all of them - the clogs that were left were absolutely massive! 

there was a chip van there and a little bar as well, so we got stuck into those. we were quite hungry even though we'd had tea, and the beer was very welcome. meeting up with folk off some of the other boats was good, as always, but I was knackered so I opted for an early night when the bar ran out of beer. we had a corporate day sail in the morning, and I wasn't on it so I had to be off the boat by 0730 and I *really* wanted a shower!!

thankfully, with my early night decision I managed a shower and got back to the boat to hang my towels up and tidy my bunk before grabbing my laptop and clearing off for the day. there wasn't a great deal to do around the marina itself, so me and richard went for breakfast - running into the entire clipper staff in the restaurant - then for a walk round town. it didn't take long. den helder is very small, but in a very pretty area. 

den helder, and specifically willemsoord where we were based, was predominantly a naval base. it seemed to have closed down some years before and the marina has undergone, and is still undergoing, a rejuvenation. some of the old military buildings are now bars and restaurants, where we spent a lot of time and money, and a large part is given over to a naval museum.

we decided to divide the crew by watch and work two days each. port watch did the corporate day sail and the following day did half of the deep clean. then we did the other half of the deep clean and some maintenance over two days. this worked pretty well, as it meant we weren't tripping over each other doing the cleaning and all getting some time off. a lot of the guys went to amsterdam, either for a day or both days. I stayed in den helder and just chilled out. 

it was really nice just to relax and hang out, go online and talk to family and friends on the phone. everyone seems to be feeling that we are so nearly there. in new york, we did still have an ocean to cross. now it's just a short hop to london followed by a final parade of sail up the thames. I'm so looking forward to seeing everybody again, and going home. I'm back to scotland on monday with my parents and leigh, and I can't wait to sleep in my own bed again. I need to get in touch with one of the local papers again as they want to speak to me, and organise an interview with the lovely carol from dumfries and galloway life magazine. 

it's going to be really strange to get back into normal life, although it wasn't that long ago that I was living a 'normal' life in san francisco! but this time it will be permanent. but first we have to cross to london and parade up the thames. that's going to be emotional…

wish me luck!!

leg 8 race 2: derry to den helder

leaving derry was incredibly emotional. the people of derry had been absolutely marvellous to us all week. they were so excited to have us there and made us so welcome. the (bonkers!) mayor, brenda, came and had her photo taken with all the crews, with her trademark double thumbs up! we slipped one at a time, hoisted our mains and formed up with derry~londonderry~doire at the front. we paraded up the river to the peace bridge, before turning sharply (we had to hold on!!) and passing the crowds extremely close to the river wall, past the pontoon and up past the tall ships and up to the estuary end of the river. derry did another lap of honour and the crowd went wild for them. 

once we'd completed the sail past, we formed up into our usual line and started motoring out of the river. there were loads of folk on the bridge again (thankfully no police this time…) and quite a few yachts and other boats following us out. it's a long motor through lough foyle out to the sea, and we had company the whole way which was really cool. we got out to the start area and there were even more folk there, sitting on the beach and on the headland. the red arrows were doing a display before we left - a wise idea not to have twelve extremely distracted crews trying to race while watching an airshow - but we like to think they came for us :)

the red arrows were amazing. we formed up in a line across the bay so the media guys could get some good photos. which they managed! we had a dead nice day, with clear blue skies and a lot of sun. then it was the ten minute warning, so banners and battle flags down, headsail and staysail up. we'd originally gone with the yankee 1, but on the way out the river the wind was building, so we'd changed to the yankee 2. we had a good start again, although we had a very near miss with DLL who crossed us on starboard. it looked like we would have cleared them, but matt always says 'you have to be in it to win it' and didn't want to crash in front of so many folk, so bore away and went behind them.

on this race, I had decided I wanted to try the watch leader programme. sophie was promoted to watch leader, and I was her assistant. a first for both of us!

everyone else had stuck with the yankee 1, but it didn't seem to have improved their speed too much, and everyone stayed together as we left the coast of northern ireland behind and headed for the west coast of scotland. I have never sailed up the west coast, and I have to say I am planning to do more of it. it is stunningly beautiful, even though we were going outside the islands, and I'd love to sail in closer quarters to them. which I am going to do :)

sophie had some issues with the starboard helm one day, but it clunked clear and we thought it was fine. a watch or two later, a loud bang woke us up. we got up on deck to discover the starboard helm was not working at all. matt and derek were down in the las having a look. one of the huge blocks had cracked and chunk had fallen off, and the frame of the block had exploded out. so now we only had one working helm. derek managed to split his head open getting out of the laz as well. what is it with him and his head?!?!?

we had more mixed fortunes going up the west coast, getting stuck in a wind hole then narrowly escaping it. the same wind hole got invest africa, qingdao and jamaica massively stuck and we watched the scheds as those guys got farther and farther behind. we know that feeling… the front runners were only around 15 miles in front and we were determined to catch them up. we managed a wee bit overnight by going a bit further offshore to get the wind, then lost it again just off lewis by staying offshore and the rest of the fleet got more wind inshore. after a few days we were at the butt of lewis and turning the corner, heading for cape wrath.

we knew we had a limited window of opportunity for the tides in the pentland firth. the tides there are among the strongest in the british isles, and the last time I crossed it (on a ferry) I spent the whole trip clinging onto a toilet, being extremely ill… our watch came on deck for 0600 as we approached the firth. the tidal gate was going to open around 0900 so we pressed on. we could see hoy and the rest of the orkneys on our left, and headed into the firth. 

the tide immediately started to slow us down, only 3 or 4 knots at first, but eventually as much as 6 knots against us. there was a lot of wind, and a healthy sea state, and at one point I was still getting 10 knot surfs, with 6 knots of negative tide! it was pretty epic helming on the low side, and I actually had a huge grin on my face as we blasted through. I did nearly run over a puffin and a guillemot though. sorry wildlife! I've never seen a puffin that close before, and I saw the whites of its eyes as it tried to frantically swim out of the way of the guardrail of the boat! richard then told me about a guillemot which had been fishing, and popped up out of the water just as I bore down on top of it. he reckons he could see the panic in its eyes as it struggled to decide whether to fly or sink. 

at the eastern end of the firth, there is a tiny island on the northern side. it has a massive shipwreck on it, and the most amazing eddies going on around it. they were only around half a mile long, but the sea went from almost flat, to churning for half a mile, back to almost flat on the other side. the weirdest bit was being able to see all three stages from the boat before we went through them!

once we were through the pentland firth and into the north sea, the oil rigs started. there are quite a few up there, and they all seem to have a guard boat hanging around to make sure no ships try to crash into them. we had a good run south through the rigs, and then into the two TSS areas which we had to cross at right angles before getting to den helder. we lost a lot of time and miles going down the east coast. invest africa. qingdao and jamaica had caught us up by this time and we were fighting to stay in 9th place. another wind hole meant that we slipped to 12th. the course was shortened, and we managed to sneak in front of invest africa to take 11th place. 

it was getting dark as we approached den helder, and we could see the funfair in operation as we motored in towards the lock. we were ready for a beer now!

finally into den helder!

derry stopover

arriving into derry in last place was quite muted for us. everyone else was busy when we arrived, but brenda (the lady mayor of derry) was there to welcome us in. she said she could sleep now we were all safe in the marina :) we had a beer then got stuck in to the deep clean, which we planned to get done the first day. also, we got the rig and safety checks done as well. this was quite a satisfying achievement and meant that we had quite a bit of time off in derry. we had done the maintenance on the way in, when we had calm weather and on the motor up the lough and river heading into derry.

arriving in derry with brenda the mayor!

first beer in a couple of weeks :)

we had no corporate sails to do in derry, just an afternoon and evening of boat tours and a 'meet the crew' session as part of the river festival. me and kate volunteered for the 'meet the crew' but unfortunately very few folk turned up and we ended up just chatting to the RNLI NI guy and some of the festival staff instead. they were asking loads of questions so it's probably just as well there were no punters after all!

the mission guys took us out for an amazing dinner in a great wee restaurant they knew. unfortunately we managed to leave paddy behind - cue a lot of unnecessary jokes about marines never leaving a man behind... he did manage to get a taxi and rejoin us some time later!

sophie managed to fix thor in one day, with the help of stephen. this meant they got an extra day off! once the sewing machine was fixed, it turned out to be a fairly easy fix - way easier than some of the sail repairs she's carried out over the past ten months!

the high point of derry for me was my brother, david, turning up for a day. it was prize giving in the guildhall when he turned up outside. I smuggled him in (sorry clipper) and he had a beer, then went to his b&b to drop his bag and check in. then he came back and we went to the pub and had a couple of drinks before going to bed. we met up in the morning after breakfast and I showed him round the boat. he'd never seen the boats in real life before, and couldn't look up the mast without holding onto something! he was surprised at how basic the yachts are, as leigh had been in london before we left, and seemed quite impressed that I'd lived on board for the best part of a year. 

demonstrating where I spend most of my time
nav station selfie!

david finally seeing the boat!! he couldn't really look up though...

he took loads of photos for the kids, and to prove that he'd been on the boat, then sadly had to leave after dinner to get a flight back to scotland. it was so lovely to see him, the first time in almost a year. 

we had such a good stopover in derry. the mission guys were there and they helped us out in the touch rugby tournament that ollie from GB had organised. we played the boat teams and some local ones as well, but they then bowed out at the semi final stage so it was all boat teams. some of them played for us, which was great. without them, karen, rob and chris I think we would have struggled. although sophie scored a few tries and paddy tackled a load of folk to the ground. I took out a smurf when we played DLL, but he elbowed me in the ribs as we rolled over each other and hit the ground. that hurt. in fact it still does (writing in den helder…) and I think I'll maybe have a wee trip to a&e when I get back to dumfries!

please note I am the only one hydrating. shocking really....

the rugby was really good. we'd had a few pints by the time we started playing, but it was touch rugby at that point. so it's not contact, just grabbing the tag from someone stops play. between games we had another pint or so, and it became less like touch rugby and more like full on rugby union, with body tackles and everything going on. we won our group, and went on to play old pulteney in the semi final. we beat them, and went on to meet psp in the final. it was a real physical match, with one of the psp guys bleeding on his shirt and arguing when the referee said we'd won, as tries scored by girls were worth 2 points. one of the rules said that each team had to have two girls on the pitch at all times so me, sophie and karen (from mission) worked pretty hard! rob and chris scored most of the tries, but we all did quite a bit of running and there were some sore legs the next day! we are so unused to running now :(

all too soon, it was the end of the week and we were getting ready to leave to go round scotland. another step closer to home...

leg 8 race 1: new york to derry

leaving new york was hard. my parents and leigh were there, and not leaving until the following day. we'd got up early and had breakfast in our regular diner down the street, before heading to the marina at battery park. I got the last of my stuff loaded onto the boat, sorted out and packed away, then headed back to the folks to hang out a little bit more. there were quite a few friends and family there to see us off. 

we slipped the marina out into the hudson river and hoisted our main sails. unfortunately by this point, the family had to leave as they were off to see 'matilda' on broadway. leigh had seen it twice in stratforduponavon, once from the radio racks and once from out front. she told mum about it and she'd been desperate to see it for ages. I knew they were going to try and get tickets, so I didn't expect them to still be there. happily they managed to get tickets, and mum and dad both loved it. mum was expecting to, but I think dad was a bit surprised how much he enjoyed it. I think it's my favourite show that I've worked on over the years, so I wasn't surprised at all :)

fleet parading out of NY

exiting past the statue of liberty on our way back home!

once we finished the parade and headed out of the river, we had dinner and got ready for the le mans start. we flew the yankee 1 initially, and waited for the mandatory ten minutes before hoisting the kite. the entire fleet did the exact same thing, and that night when we came up on deck for watch we could see every boat in the fleet around us. most of the fleet run with their steaming lights on with a kite up, and we could see nav and steaming lights with ghostly kites all around us. it looked incredible, and seemed like candles everywhere. 

folk started to gybe off shortly afterwards to try and get an advantage. we were level with derry and old pulteney for a long time, before the fleet separated out. we managed to get all the way up to first place, before hitting a fog bank and watching as the rest of the fleet gybed off to avoid us, and the wind hole. we dropped steadily to eleventh. we worked really hard and crept back up to sixth.

life continues outside the boat bubble, and during this race one of our new crew, jack, got news from home that his baby was going to be a boy! we celebrated with him and took this photo for our crew blog!

jack gets exciting news mid atlantic :D

there are two ice marks on this course, which mark the northern limits of the race track. these marks can be moved by the race office in case of growler sightings. this is exactly what happened, with GB and DLL reporting growlers south of the line. luckily we'd stayed reasonably far south so didn't have to gybe to maintain course. we were optimistic that this would mean the fleet would suffer, but sadly that wasn't the case. between the ice marks, we maintained an ice watch with someone standing by the shrouds scanning the surface of the water looking for any strange blocks of ice hanging around. thankfully we didn't see any and made it past the ice marks unscathed.

we had some kite issues on this leg, which we haven't suffered from for a very long time. first of all, thor (our code 3 heavyweight kite) fell overboard while we were prepping it for a hoist, ,and ended up acting like a huge drogue in the water. it took us a while to drag it over the pushpit and back into the boat. in this time, it had burst a massive hole in itself. it then sustained some more damage while being dragged inboard. poor sophie had a big old repair on her hands! we were still having some sewing machine issues, so we decided to leave the repair until derry. we figured it would take two days.

an exciting point was reached as well. when we crossed 43degrees 80.890minutes west, we became circumnavigators! that is the line of longitude of a buoy outside rio de janeiro, and means that we have now crossed every line of longitude on the globe! obviously I missed a little bit between san francisco and panama, but I'm not counting that :) our next point is crossing our outgoing track, which won't happen until we cross the finish line at southend pier on saturday 12th july. the final point is reaching our home port, which is london. that will happen a few hours after crossing our outgoing track. 


wind hole after wind hole followed, affecting most of the fleet. derry~londonderry~doire managed to get across the weather system and blasted towards their home port in first place. how exciting!! we sent them a supportive email from the back of the fleet telling them we were rooting for them. we got a lovely response from them, and were then thrilled when they won. it was a tight finish with garmin and GB pushing right until the end. 

while in the windhole, we did a rig check. it's usual to try and get one in if possible on a race. during this check, I discovered that one of our top spreaders had been caught on a halyard and been pulled up loads. I emailed greg and he advised that we try and balance it so it was flat. he also wanted quite detailed checks done on the spreader and mast at that point. so up I went. I initially tried to hammer it down, which is usually possible. but it had been deflected so much we had to winch it down. we ran a line down to a winch via a heavy duty deck block and the guys ground it down while I watched it flatten. once that was done, I did the checks greg wanted and emailed him the results. it looked to me that there was no structural damage, as there is a lot of flexibility in the aluminium rig - one of the reasons we had one!

flattening off the bent spreader
hammering not working....

the race office called the finish early, so we had a long motor to do before we reached lough foyle. we spent the time doing our entire maintenance list! we left the deep clean until derry, as we wanted to do a fresh water clean of the bilges and sole boards. the last few cleans we've done at sea which is great, as we've had time off in port, but we need to start thinking about handing the boat back… 

as we motored through the lough and into the river, sophie's dad phoned to say he was on the foyle bridge waiting for us. unfortunately, he didn't realise that he would draw attention to himself. several locals stopped to ask him if he was ok, along with the police, and not thinking about jumping! whoops...

an unusual view of the boat! thanks sophie's dad!!

the 3 fearless females in derry :D

new york stopover

after arriving into new jersey at the same time as my folks, we finished the deep clean and did the rig and safety checks. we were finished by dinnertime and went to the bar. mum, dad and leigh had got to the hotel and were heading to the marina to meet me. I was a bit over excited while waiting for them!

doing the rig check

finally they arrived!!! I got my stuff together, and we headed back to the hotel to check in properly. after some confusion over the rooms (it wouldn't be my family if there wasn't…) we went out for dinner. I was starving by then, and so were they - the jet lag was starting to kick in at that point. I had to work the next day, doing maintenance and a kite shoot. then we moved the boat across from new jersey to north cove marina near battery park. given that they'd flown across the atlantic to see me, I thought they were very understanding :)

hello parents!! what's going on over there, dad?!
me and savvs :)
I had the next day off, and leigh was desperate to do some outlet shopping. we got the bus back to new jersey and went to the big mall there. mum and dad went their own way, me and leigh hit the sports shops. she had a list of stuff she wanted to get and had saved a load of money. we were quite reserved. did a bit of shopping, had some dinner, did some more shopping then got the bus back into town. we had some tea, then went to macy's where I met up with savvs and karl, who had flown in that day for the tony awards. I hadn't seen savvs since I'd left the opera house at the start of june, and it was really cool to see them both! 

after macy's, me and leigh headed up to the apple store near central park so she could get a new ipod. it's one of the original stores, and it's underground. the only bit above ground is a glass cube. it's very cool. we managed to get to bloomingdales as well so she could get dinner bags for some of her friends. we only just made it before closing, the plus side being we got a bit of extra discount and we didn't take very long. the apple store is 24 hours, which I find amazing. I asked the guy who served us how busy it is in the middle of the night and he told us it is always pretty packed. it seemed mental to me! so after a fairly late night, I had to get to the boat in the morning for pre-race prep. 

the three of them had signed up for a package booklet thing which gave them 72 hours of sightseeing bus transport along with vouchers for entry to particular sights. they did liberty and ellis islands - the day we were on the kite shoot, they'd seen us sailing with the photo kite up - and the empire state building, and top of the rock at the rockefeller building. the bus tour took them all over manhattan which they really enjoyed. it made me working on the boat less of a problem as they had stuff to do and places to go, so weren't too bored.

the last time I'd been in new york was when I'd been doing a residency in DC for the RSC with the canterbury tales. at the time I hadn't particularly enjoyed it, and didn't really like the city that much. maybe I'd just had enough of america, as I'd spent a month in DC already. I did get to see wicked on that trip though, which was awesome. I'd hoped to see neil patrick harris in hedwig and the angry inch, and alan cumming in cabaret this time, but just didn't have enough time after we were pretty late arriving. gutted!! depending on what I'm doing work wise after the race, I might try to get back to new york for a few days in early august to see them :)

it was so nice to have them come and visit me in new york. it was the first time any of them had been in america, and leigh managed really well making sure everyone knew where they were going when I was working on the boat. unfortunately for me, the assumption was that I would know where I was going when I was with them…no pressure then! thankfully, I have an american sim card for my mobile so had data, thus google maps ;)

we ate really well the few days we were there. we found a diner along the street from the hotel, which was very close to macy's. when I asked about milk in the french toast mix, the waitress said that it was pre-made, but that they made their pancake batter with water and not milk. I don't think she was really prepared for how happy I looked! I had pancakes two mornings that week. epic!!

mark, now colreg compliant
in NY, one of my mates from PSP had been signed off so was missing the race to derry. he turned up one day sporting crutches. me, jay and greg corrected his lack of colreg compliance with some tape and he was good to go :)

unfortunately we only had a few days before I had to leave again. I think mum was relieved to see I was doing a lot better after all my physio in san francisco, and that I'd put some of the weight I'd lost back on eating burgers! I was really super skinny when I got off the boat in san francisco, but thankfully I didn't put tons back on and am still quite trim :)

it was hard to leave them, but easier knowing I'd be seeing them a few short weeks later in london at homecoming...

leg 7 race 3: jamaica to new york

well, after a relaxing stopover in jamaica, it's out to the start for the race up to new york. we'd been told we couldn't go too close (within 12nm) of cuba on the way up the coast. first of all we all had a photo taken with the lighthouse. ours was timed to perfection ;)

MP get busted stealing the lighthouse at race start...

so we were prepared for the race to take around 7-9 days, giving me a couple of days in NY before my family arrived. as always though, the weather gods decided otherwise, and it took us much longer with us eventually docking as my family were landing!

initially we kept up with the front of the pack, which was great. all that rest in jamaica had worked! unfortunately the weather is not our friend, and we were getting stuck in a patch of low wind along with a couple of other boats. 

as usual, low wind results in hilarity on our boat. frustration first, then general daftness. some of the girls decided to get their guns out and pose for photos. kate decided I wasn't allowed to join in as I would have won hands down :D

for some reason I wasn't allowed to compete in this....

the three boats that had peeled off decided to head off to try and get some wind and that was basically the last we saw of the fleet. we stayed stuck in the low wind, and eventually the race office were forced to call the back markers otherwise we would not have reached NY in time for our corporate commitments.

the clipper race is all about the corporate commitment. obviously for people to sponsor a boat, they expect stuff in return. unfortunately with yacht racing, timing is not everything! so once again, we had to motor sail to reach the stopover in time. we ended up doing quite a bit of sailing as there was wind. now! bloody weather...

after me, kate and sophie's 'mission possible' article, we'd had a request from the office for some action photos of the three of us. this almost always ends in unusable photos as none of us are able to take it seriously....

trying to focus on the photo in hand
failing to focus...

still trying hard. much to cameraman tristan's frustration not really managing!

nope! we just can't be serious!
try a different angle

the final photo. the result of some vague threatening by tristan...

the advantage of motoring of course is that we are really good at knocking over a maintenance list and a deep clean at sea. the disadvantage of motorsailing is that none of that happens. ah well. it was all worth it to see NY appear on the horizon and get bigger. and then? the statue of liberty! 

how many crew can you fit on the bow of a 70? quite a few, it turns out...

hello manhattan!
the bow girls :)

ah, he's a handsome chap isn't he :)

Sunday, 19 April 2015

jamaica stopover

once we got into jamaica, life was quite simple. we did our checks and maintenance, a bit of a clean then had a few days off. once again, it was just me and kate staying on the boat - everyone else headed off to shared houses or nice resorts. the marina was pretty nice, but outside the marina it was a bit of a different story. there weren't really any proper roads. we had been warned not to go to the cash point alone, or into town after dark alone. it didn't sound like a lot of fun. thankfully a few folk were either staying nearby or on the boats, so there were always folk in the bar or by the pool. there was a nice little beach a short walk away, but still in the marina so that was cool.

food wise I struggled a bit in jamaica. I ate a lot of chips and toast, and not a lot else. they did quite a good rice and peas (black beans) which was good but not particularly interesting. I heard about a vegetarian restaurant a bit of a walk away and decided to head out there one afternoon.

it was a bit of a trek, through town and along the coast. beyond the other restaurants and bars folk had mentioned. but eventually I found it. the guy who owned it was very excited to meet another vegan! he'd been vegan for 30 years or more and was more than happy to make me whatever I wanted. I opted for whatever he recommended and he headed off to the kitchen with a big smile on his face. the view from my table was beautiful, looking out over the bay on the other side of the marina.

the view from the one and only vegetarian restaurant in jamaica

the kitchen, seats and local dude who just hung out the whole time

coconut water doesn't come much fresher than this :)

the place itself was basically just a shack on the beach, but he made great food and I was hungry! when he asked me if I wanted a coconut water to drink, I replied yes please! not expecting him to just climb the nearest tree and chop down a coconut for me. after he lopped the top off, he stuck a straw in it and handed it over. it doesn't get much fresher than that!

the rest of the stopover was just lounging around in the saloon waiting for the rain to stop in the morning, then lounging around on deck in the afternoon once it was dry. there was a bit of helping out the maintenance boys but not too much :)

greg was wanting to tune the rig in jamaica, and decided what we needed to do was jack the mast up. this is a fairly exciting thing to do, as it involves slacking off both the shrouds, forestay and backstay, then literally lifting the mast out of its socket in the compartment forward of the galley. there is a lot of weight and pressure involved, but greg let me do it anyway under his supervision. awesome.

once we'd got the mast up, he tensioned the shrouds properly. he'd been waiting to do it for a while and hadn't been that happy with the tension before. one of our D shrouds had been a bit saggy on the way up to jamaica so he was rectifying that. since our forestay had been reiamgined in hong kong, nothing had been quite right.

after the extra tension had been applied, we both went back below deck to lower the mast back into position. the mast sits on spacer plates and I was putting them back in. to do this you have to be in the forward head, under the sink. interesting times... greg got quite nervous about me putting my hands somewhere stupid (under the mast) but once the plates were positioned, he eased the mast back onto them. once it had been dropped, it was back up on deck to apply the last bit of tension to the shrouds.

eventually we had to leave jamaica and head to new york. exciting for me as that's where my parents and leigh were going to meet me! as usual on leaving day, everything goes a bit mental and stuff is loaded onto boats right up until we slip lines. greg left us to look after his rigging gear, and asked us to cover it so it didn't get too wet before it was loaded onto a boat. we stuck a bin liner over a large suitcase, and his rigging bag. I decided this combo looked a bit too much like a toilet so we took some photos of greg...

there is a story behind this, I promise you

made better with the addition of a random men's magazine we found on the boat...

after this, we slipped and headed out to the le mans start line. not too long before I'd see my family!!