145,009 Steps

Tuesday last week:

After climbing the last set of stairs, I finally wobbled into the office.

I was exhausted. I’d only been walking 15 minutes and only come across 1 flight of stairs but wow, I was not feeling good.

Closer to the waves

Nearly all photos courtesy of Evoke Adventure – thanks Erin!

So it’s turns out that Kayakers are like swans.


“Aaaaah look at them going along gracefully” you think; “that must be a great upper body workout”. Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.
At the end of May, I spent two days discovering with Evoke Adventures that kayaking is not an upper body workout. It is a whole body workout but with upside of being incredibly fun!

(This September, I’ll be joining Evoke Adventures on a kayaking expedition around Menorca. There will be 5 of us: our leader, Erin, plus 4 ladies. We’ll be spending 11 days going around the island, so to get us ready for this, a bit of training didn’t seem unreasonable)

The weekend kicked off with me meeting my fellow team mate Lesley purely by chance. After an 8 hour train ride to Truro, I found myself waiting for the next train nearby another woman similarly dressed to me. Large rucksack, sleeping bag, outdoor gear…Yep, this was Lesley. She too was doing the training this weekend and we chatted with anticipation on the way to Falmouth. What would the weekend hold?
The next morning, I wandered down to Gyllyngvase beach to answer this question, ready to meet Lesley and our expedition leader Erin, the creator of this whole thing. We met at a lovely beach cafe where over a coffee, Erin shared what our plan was for the weekend. Turns out we were going to be spending the day kayaking to a camp, our kit in the kayaks and then onwards the next day. Luckily I’d been to Tesco that morning to pick up snacks as I hadn’t quite clocked that this would be on the cards. The part of the Menorca adventure that most appealed to me was the concept of kayaking from camp to camp, so why I hadn’t anticipated we’d do this in training (therefore the requirement for food!) I’m not quite sure.
Anyway, plan laid out, we hopped into Erin’s van topped with 3 rather large kayaks and 15 minutes later pulled up at a beach. First, the kayaks came down from the roof followed by operation dry-bag where we had to separate all of our kit out into little dry bags that could then be tessellated within the boat. Erin gave us each a life jacket, cagoule and splash guard too, so once we’d wrestled our hatch covers on, we donned our attractive outfits and we were off. We were off!


“Errrr…so what do I do now in this thing?!”

I’ve spent a lot of time in very skinny boats so being in a kayak didn’t feel totally foreign to me, but blimey, it is seriously hard work. Balance is needed like a single scull rowing boat, every muscle is used like a single, but unlike a rowing in a single, you’re doing that all for a lot, lot longer. After learning some turning skills (“making a wider rainbow arc with our paddle, “edging” and using your legs” she says, testing herself), we were then off down the coast. It was amazing seeing the coast from such a different angle and the wildlife that went with it, but at times I found myself struggling to keep up, an unnerving “aaaaaaah I can’t control this boat I’m going to be washed out to seaaaaaa” feeling accompanying my paddling at times. After being shown how to adjust the skegg (the fin) of the boat, I managed not to be washed out to sea and caught up with other two. Confidence building, the return journey along the coast was then mission as we were against the wind, so we tackled it in bursts done using the gear “paddle like f…” with intermittent rests. Knackering.

“Yeah, I’m fine, I’ve totally got this” *Nervous laughter*

The rest of the day involved more paddling, lunch on a beach and even fishing. Fishing became a little more important when we discovered the village shop we’d hoped to stock up at was shut. Hmmmmm..better fish harder. As I’m somewhat low on patience, I left the fishing to Erin & Lesley. Nothing was caught so instead, we paddled up the Helford River to our campsite to set up camp with the intention of returning to a pub we’d passed earlier.


It was at this point in the weekend that I seemed to lose the ability to get in or out of kayaks successfully. Up until this point, it has been fine, but for some reason, getting my legs in without falling in became a real challenge. The best of these was when we’d finally tracked down food at the pub and we had to leave to paddle back to camp. Despite the water being shallow, I managed to soak all of my lower body and my forearms. The resulting paddle back was a bit soggy to say the least.
On reaching camp, we discovered that we’d be sharing the night with a couple of families that had moored their yachts there. Rather than chat, I retreated to my tent only to realise that I’d forgotten my trusty sailing combo of talcum powder & cosy socks to address my damp feet. As I result, I didn’t get the best night sleep. It’s been a long time since I’ve camped so every noise woke me up, by it was lovely to be outside.

Our camp for the night
Our trio of Kayaks


The next morning, we packed up our camp and finally cooked the sausages Erin had bought with her for the BBQ that Lesley & I failed to prepare for. Cooked breakfast done (aka sausage a la fork) and then off we went again. This time, I managed to get into my kayak without falling in – miracle!

A rare occasion when I’d managed to get into a kayak without falling in

The second day saw us paddling up the river to explore, discovering boat yards and mudflats as the tide went out. It was amazing how quickly the mudflats appeared, reducing our route back to a channel marked out by buoys to avoid being marooned. The mudflats really blended in with the water making them hard to spot.


Once that was done, it was off to play in waves and wind vs tide meant that we had them, white caps and all. As waves go, they were really nothing major, but being so close to the water, I was definitely a little bit nervous about this. I still didn’t feel totally control.


Erin sent us out to practice some more turning techniques, this time using the wind (who knew the direction you padded in made such a difference) in different waves.

We were set a challenge of going out to a buoy, turning around it and coming back. I darted out to said buoy and back as speedily as I could, back to shelter. Lesley, in the meantime, went for bigger game and further out. I stayed tucked away in the sheltered area. Baby steps, baby steps…
Out in the waves, you experience the same slamming upwind sensation as on Clipper yacht, except everything is magnified though being closer to the water. You also have to paddle like hell (at least I did!) to stay in control. Once I’d got used to it, it was really was rather fun. Apparently these were the biggest waves we’d come across. If we came across larger waves in Menorca, we wouldn’t be going out in them.
Waves done, it was finally the time for the bit I was least looking forward to: capsize practice. Wetsuit on and kayaks emptied, I let Lesley go first as my instincts were screaming at me to stay in the boat. Yes, this definitely was not my bravest weekend.
After Lesley had been dunked and rescued by Erin (demonstration purposes only!) it was finally my turn. 1, 2, 3….and in!


Despite having just watched Lesley fall in and be rescued, the shock of being in the water still managed to wipe my brain clean of what to do. Luckily, Lesley rescued me beautifully and I was soon back in the kayak. I then rescued Lesley (eventually). Erin then revealed that we needed to learn how to get back in the boat by ourselves.


By ourselves?!

Getting back into a kayak by yourself is definitely not graceful. First, you have to get your belly on the stern, pull yourself up and then somehow move into a straddling position so that you’re sitting up, legs either side of the boat. From here, shimmying occurs. Shimmy shimmy shimmy aaaaaand somehow legs move from either side of the boat and into the cockpit of the kayak.


Belly flop, fine. Straddle-shimmy, fine.

Legs into boat: not fine.


Could I get my legs in? Could I hell. Every time, I fell back in.
4 attempts, 5 attempts: I still fell back in.


will get back into you boat!

After taking these incredibly glamorous photos, Erin finally took pity on me and said I could give up and swim/walk back to shore. I quickly realised, however, that that would mean swimming through seaweed. Now Seaweed is fine when I’m in a boat, but I was not going to swim through it unless I absolutely had to. I was damned well going to get back into that boat!
One more attempt and finally, I got into the boat

CHAMPIOOOOOON! Probably one of the happiest split seconds of my life

Cue proud celebratory paddle/relief-that-I-didn’t-have-to-swim-through-seaweed paddle. I was so proud.

Mia 1 / Seaweed 0. 

After all the swimming, the trip ended with us drying off in some toilets and then returning back to our original cafe for a hot drink and some sugar.

I was so tired: tired from the paddling, tired from the mental exertion of learning something new and exhausted from the capsize drills. I hadn’t quite anticipated how strenuous kayaking would be which means I definitely need to keep up the training pre-September! Despite the exhaustion, it was a brilliant few days. Erin & Lesley had been great company and there’s something about travelling under your own steam that made it feel like so much longer than weekend. Still, it was with relief that I finally hit the pillow of my Sleeper-train bed for the journey home. I now feel so much more prepared to take on the Menorca expedition in September. Perhaps I can nail looking a bit more Swan-like then?


New Adventures…

It’s now the time when Facebook likes to remind me that a year ago, I’d hit land for the first time. This time last year I was a) ridiculously smelly b) rather tanned c) a very long way from the UK.  

This time last year…
How am I ever going to top that?!

Well, a year on and my life has changed a fair bit. Not in obvious ways, but subtly. 

I now prioritise my time over anything else and I am looking to use it to the max – I’ve gone down to 4 days a week to achieve this. I have already packed my #FriYays spending times with friends and family, but I have an urge for challenge, for adventure, stoked by rather than fulfilled by the Clipper race. 

Now, we need to keep this within reason – the Clipper race has meant I’m somewhat lower on cash than I was before. So this year, I’m focusing on 2 smaller challenges;

  • 100km non-stop walking 30 hrs
  • Circumnavigating Menorca via Sea Kayak.

Nothing like 12,000 miles sailing on a 70ft yacht, but equally crazy in their own way. 

So this weekend is my first training session for Kayaking, something I’ve never done before with people I’ve never met before with training a damned long way away (it was an 8hr train journey yesterday). I have a bag packed with outdoor gear and am not sure quite where I’m going today. The parallels with Clipper training are already emerging!

Step 1 is complete (making it to Falmouth). Let’s see how the rest of this weekend goes learning a new watery skill.

Positively dinky bag packed for Kayaking

The Cold Person’s Kit List for Legs 7&8

The Clipper Race made me realise that I’m DEFINITELY one of those people who feels the cold. It also made me realise that there is a wide spectrum of temperature tolerance between crew: whilst I was in full foulies, sometimes my friend Emily would be in a frickin’ bikini! (A different way to deal with rain I suppose).
Below is what I took sailing that covers Leg 7&8 – a real hot leg and a chilly leg. I’ve also put together a week-by-week packing list depending on the temperature of the leg, so if you’re doing just a hot leg or just a cold leg, you can adjust your kit quantities as required.
  • 2 X merino t shirts
  • 2 X merino long sleeve tops
  • 2 X merino wool leggings
  • 1 X medium fleece: not too massive as this has got to fit under your midlayers & foulies.
  • 1 X Henri Lloyd midlayer jacket (aka “Duvet suit”: the BEST piece of kit I invested in!)
  • 1 X Henri Lloyd midlayer salopette: ditto the above
  • 1 x black/dark outdoor trousers: for leaving port photos, mild days.
  • 1 x shorts: for hot days. Underwear alone is not appropriate ever.
  • 1 X Lightweight Musto Gilet: for those sunny days with a bit of a nippy breeze.
  • 2 X Sealskin socks: ideally longer ones. The longer they are, the further up your leg the water has to get before it floods them!
  • 1 x Pair of Sailing boots: Dubarry ones seem to be pretty good. Don’t buy Musto HPX – mine leaked very early into the race.
  • 1 X Sailing shoes: either leather deck shoes or “Old lady walking sandals”. I went for Teva sandals which were great for the heat and also for anything more adventurous on land.
  • 1 x Foulies: Clipper provide these on your Level 4.
  • Lots x Pants: enough for 1 pair per week on the boat plus some for shore of course. Yes, 1 pair per week. Standards really slip.
  • 4 x Sports bras: not crazy supportive anti-bounce ones though – even if you’re larger up top. They’re very restrictive and you want something you can live in for a week at a time. Get these in advance and wear them in.
  • Tooth brush
  • Tooth brush protector
  • Tooth paste
  • Exfoliating face wipes: I learnt via trial & error that the exfoliating bit is very important to get the salt & suncream out.
  • Anti-spot moisturiser: again, another thing needed to combat the effects of suncream + salt. The race does not treat your pores kindly. I used Burt’s Bees Anti-Blemish moisturiser. The salicylic acid in it seemed to work a treat.
  •  Talcum powder: this is an absolute essential! Brilliant for getting that last bit of dampness off you when you’ve had wet feet or have been sweating.
  • Sudocream: another essential to combine with Talcum powder in the fight against nappy rash. 
  • Wet Wipes: your only form of shower. I used these huge thick ones from EQUIP which were awesome.
  • Roll-On deodorant: do not take spray as this will gas everyone out on the boat. It’s also a fire hazard.
  • Small hairbrush: tangle teezer good as effective & compact.
  • Hair bands
  • Exfoliating body cloth/exfoliating mitt: great for getting rid of salt & grime if you shower on deck during hot legs. Even better for that first shower in port.
  • Panty liners x 1000: the secret to being able to wear just 1 pair of pants per week.
  • Shampoo & conditioner: You may not get to use them on colder legs, but they’re the first thing you’ll want when you land in port.
  • Contact lenses: I usually wear glasses, but found these were a real pain on training – they quickly get smeary on deck. For the race, I went for contacts that I could wear for a week at a time. I think they’re called Acuvue Oasis. These worked brilliantly. It means you can generally wait for calmer weather to change them rather than trying to change them every day.
  • 2 x bottles Contact lens solution: this was plenty for 12 weeks away from home for weekly contact lenses.
  • Glasses
  • Merino wool buff: dries fast, doesn’t smell, stops foulies from making your face disgusting.
  • Waterproof woolly hat
  • Hat clip: to keep your woolly hat on your head. I lost 2 hats by not using this.
  • 2 x UV-protective sunglasses: you can get some really good cheap ones in Sainsbury’s.
  • 2 x Head torches: go cheap. Both of mine eventually died, but my expensive one died before my cheap one did.
  • Big dry -bag for travelling: I bought this one from Lomo which did the job. It MUST be waterproof though to survive on the boat.
  • Waterproof rucksack for travelling: Because your big bag won’t be enough. Also needs to be waterproof to survive on the boat. Again, I went to Lomo for this.
  • Lots of little dry bags: think mine were around 6l for each week. Ideally with a window so you see what’s in them.
  • Quick-drying Micro-fibre towel
  • Sleeping bag: I used a Gauss one, but fisherman’s sleeping bags are pretty much the same, less bulky & cheaper.
  • Pillow: I got a Gauss waterproof pillow and it was incredible. You’re potentially going to be sleeping in your bunk for 4 weeks straight so make sure you get a good pillow. A little luxury I couldn’t have lived without.
  •  Sailing knife
  • Sailing gloves: I didn’t wear mine often in the end, but they were good for trimming the kite. Again, Lomo is great for cheap & effective versions.
  • Rehydration salts: essential for dealing with heat & sea sickness.
  • Water bottle: get one that can be hung up with a karabiner. I used a Camelbak Chute 750ml bottle which was great.
Aka: things that definitely make life on the boat easier!
  • Elasticated Bed Sheet: makes sharing a bunk slightly more pleasant. We ended up buying a job-load of these and shared them out amongst the crew across legs.
  • Long Bungee: to go by your bunk and hang stuff on
  • Small Karabiner clips: to go in your kit to hang on the bungee.
  • Pair of Crocs: great for going to the loo or moving about below decks as they’re so easy to put on. Some wore these on deck too.
  • Small bottle of mouth wash: great for when you simply can’t face brushing your teeth in rough weather.
Optional Extras for dealing with the heat
  • 2 x Wide-brimmed hats: one for you, one as a sacrifice to the sea. The most likely thing you own to go overboard.
  • 2 x pair of shorts
  • 2 x Bikini sets: great to swim in, but also great to sleep in as they dry so quickly. Make sure you’re happy for them to be chucked afterwards though.
  • USB Fan: lots of people on our boat curled up clutching one of these when trying to sleep in the heat.
  • USB Battery Pack: to power said USB fan and also charge your phone/tablet.
  • Plant spritzer: nice to spritz water on your face
Optional Extras for dealing with cold
  • A small Hot Water bottle (used in July on leg 8! SO COLD)
  • Heat holder socks (they warm your feet back up quickly in your sleeping bag)
Stuff I took and didn’t use
  • Merino pants: oh god, please don’t buy these, the slightest bit of sweat or dampness and these are a nightmare for nappy rash! I used synthetic pants in the end which were so much more comfortable.
  • Synthetic Tshirts/Gym tops:  in contrast to the pants, these are terrible for sweatiness and heat rash in the heat vs Merino tops. Trying to pry a sweaty synthetic top off your hot sweaty body? I don’t ever want to re-live that experience.
I didn’t have a clue how to pack for the race until I arrived in Seattle for Leg 7. There, I was shown the dark art of dry bag organisation. After all, up until this point, I’d only ever spent a max. of 1 week at sea.
I stored all of my kit in individual dry bags from Lomo, a dry bag packed with clothing for each week. I also didn’t buy anything white as everything gets dirty pretty quickly. Toiletries & electronics I kept in separate dry bags. Things I needed quickly (eg head torch, hats, buffs & midlayers) I clipped onto a bungee by my bunk using karabiners.
Bag for CHILLY week (Eg. Week 1 of Leg 7, most of Leg 8 or autumn/spring training in the UK):
  • 1 x Pants & Bra: sounds grim but get used to it!
  • 1x Merino Tshirt
  • 1x Long sleeved merino top
  • 1x Long sleeved merino leggings
  • 1x Fleece
  • 1x Midlayer Henri Lloyd salopettes
  • 1x Midlayer Henri Llloyd jacket
Bag for TRANSITION WEEK CHILLY NIGHTS – WARM DAYS (Eg. 2nd week of Leg 7 or 1st week of Leg 8 or Summer training )
  • 1 x Pants & Bra
  • 1x Merino Tshirt
  • 1x Long sleeved merino top
  • 1x Long sleeved merino leggings
  • 1x Midlayer Henri Lloyd salopettes
  • 1x Midlayer Henri Llloyd jacket
  • 1 X shorts
Bag for HOT HOT HOT Week (Eg. Week 2/3 of Leg 7 onwards)
  • 1 x Pants & Bra
  • 1 x shorts
  • 1 x Bikini
  •  1 x Merino Tshirt: I only packed 1 as I wore my bikini top/sports bra most of the time rather than a tshirt.

Where everything is on this blog

6 months on from the end of the race, and now everything Clipper is everything “Clipper 17-18”. That’s it, the 15-16 Race is old hat, we’re no longer “crew”. The race is now well and truly over. *Sniff*

Oh well. I’ll get over it (she says, crying quietly to herself). But in the meantime, if you do happen to be a lucky 17-18 crew member and are looking for some information, hopefully this blog can help you out. 

To make things easy, all the links you could possibly need to find things on this blog can be found HERE. You know, things like Crew allocation day, training levels and what to expect on Legs 7&8. 

Also coming soon will be a Leg 7&8 Kit list for later letters. 


One month later

So it’s been just over a month since the mighty Visit Seattle arrived into London. Yep, 4 weeks in the real world, back on land. As you might expect, it’s been a period of adjustment: the joy of being back with my family and friends, the sadness that my Clipper experience is over. 18 months of build up and adventure: over…*sniff*…
Since racing, I’ve managed to cling on to some tan, although every day I’m a little bit closer to returning to my “Siberian glow” look. Arriving back at work, everyone said I looked “well”: that’s the beauty of not working for 4 months! There’s a lot to be said for it.
One of the things I’ve found most difficult to adjust to is the lack of my Clipper family in my daily life. For nearly 4 months straight, I was never really apart from some people. Yes, there are people-moments I won’t miss. But on the whole, it’s weird without my Clipper-buddies. I’ve been lucky enough to see a few of them in the month since, but it felt like it had been a long time since I’d seen them. With them, I can let go and be my true-crazy self so it’s great to be reunited. WOOOOOOOO!
Unsurprisingly, there are lots of things I miss from the race and some things not so much. What I really miss is experiencing days in their entirety, witnessing sunrises and sunsets. In an office, on land, I miss the cycle of the sun. I’m inside all day and when outside, there are trees and buildings blocking my horizon. Naughty trees. Gone is the endless blue and the many types of moon, but gone too are the 1.30am wake-ups to go on deck at 2am. What a shame.  I am also definitely not missing wearing a life jacket and tether for all my waking hours. Nor am I missing having to hang on when trying to go to the loo. Simple pleasures and all that.
Returning to work has been a shock: my perspective on things are really quite different. After months of laughter, singing and dancing to keep us going, I find work so, so serious. I really have to resist opportunities for mischief (to be fair, I had this problem before) and the new problem of not laughing at impromptu innuendo. My daily life is not quite as fun as it was, but I suppose it’s hard to beat an Ocean yacht race! I’m also now finding it hard to maintain the mental clarity I had during the race. I’m not meditating for hours at a time anymore by looking to out to sea. Already, I can feel myself forgetting the adventure. Talking about it helps, and on the first few nights after work, I hurriedly finished my race blogs. “What was the best bit?”, “What was the worst bit?”, “Were you scared?”: I give a different answer to everyone. It was such a varied experience. I also had flash backs the other day as I finally unpacked my kit (well, most of it). School uniform – I won’t be wearing that again. A gilet reminding me of the weather before it got super hot. A hot water bottle reminding me of my icy icy feet.
Bizarrely, there have been times when I think I’m still on the boat. For example:
  • 3 days off the boat, I woke up in the middle of the night, flung my “sleeping bag” (bedding) off me and stuffed it into the “cubby hole” (gap in a chest of drawers) next to my bed. I have absolutely no recollection of doing this.
  • The first time I heard a plane flying overhead, I automatically assumed that it was thunder. Thunder! Aaaaaah! Oh…no…planes…
  • Seeing someone wash their hands, I immediately thought they had burnt themselves (why else would you wash them? Get the antibac gel out!). No, turns out washing hands is perfectly normal in the real world whereas on the boat, that would have meant something a little more serious.
  • Anytime I have to move stuff with other people, I automatically want to call “2, 6 heave!” Rather than “on 3”. Got to get back into rowing lingo now rather than sailing.
  •  This one is a bit odd, but babies in prams; I kind of get what they are going through. Tucked in, being shaken about and rocked in a noisy environment – a Clipper Bunk is pretty much the same.
  • Anytime I’ve got cold, I crack out the midlayers as I would on the boat. This is a habit I am never going to lose, my duvet suit is just so good. After all the heat, 22c inside is freezing!
When on the boat, I didn’t think that I’d been changed by this experience. I didn’t experience any “epiphanies” of awareness, but now I realise I was wrong. I’ve come away from the race more confident, more sure of what I value and believe is best. I’m a better version of myself now, less afraid of what others think, more sure of what I think. And I’m probably even more bouncy, now totally freed by having the space to bounce and be silly at home. 
“Would you do it again?” has been the most commonly asked question of me. I adored the Clipper Race and at the same time was ready to leave the boat. If I was in the same shoes back in 2014, I would not hesitate to make the decision to apply to the race. It’s been the best decision of my life. And yet, at the same time I was ready for it to end, the time length being just right for me. What this experience has made me realise is that I’m hungry for more adventures, that there are so many alternative ways to live my life that I’d have never believed were possible before.
I want to keep sailing in my life, but the Clipper Race on Visit Seattle was a unique experience. I couldn’t do it again because the people would be different, it would always be a comparison to my first race. What will my next adventure be instead? Who knows. But whatever they may be, I know I’m onto bigger and better things.

Race Finish: a pretty amazing day

Ever since I signed up to this race, I knew that arriving into London would be pretty epic.

So many times I’d imagined sailing through Tower Bridge, but the experience proved to be far better than anything I could conjure up in my head.

In my usual style, I was asleep during the pre-amble of arriving into London, but today was my final mother duty, so at around 7.30am, I was woken up to prepare brunch: a gourmet selection of cheese, cheese, meat, more cheese, fresh bread and crackers. Yum. As we prepared the meat & cheese feast, spectator boats appeared filled to bursting with supporters. On the boats it was easy to spot Visit Seattle supporters – just look for the green! Possibly the one advantage of our crazy leprechaun school uniform. And so the waving began.

At every arrival and every departure, we’d been practicing our finest waves. Now was the final time, the final time to feel famous on our little green boat parading up and down the Thames. The bank was lined with crowds as we approached Tower Bridge. Through Tower Bridge we then went waving, people stationed all over the bridge too. We continued waving as we returned through Tower Bridge (a pretty awesome experience) and then readied ourselves for the entry to St Katherine’s docks.

Generally, it was pretty difficult to make out who was on the bank; we just waved manically to make sure we covered all bases. Then I spotted a group of people, one of whom from a distance looked remarkably like my tall, pale, lanky, brother (love you Ry :D). Hang on…that was my brother! There were my friends and family all together holding a big brown sign with my name on it, jumping up at down. Queue my excitement going up a couple of gears. We then entered the lock to Taylor Swift, spotting more friends in the crowd as we motored in. A year after our team song was chosen from our Level 4 training, this was the final time we’d get to “Shake it off” on CV23 *sniff*.  Better make it a good dance then.

After mooring up, we had a few hours to wait before we could get off the boat as the rest of the crews had to arrive in before prize giving would begin. These few hours were mostly spent trying to wave at friends and family crowded on the bank combined with Champagne and…cigars?! Yes, only on Visit Seattle would Champagne and cigars appear. Clipper also wisely placated us by providing Pizza too, otherwise there was no way we were going to stay on those boats. Now it was time to find family in the crowd and finally, I could pick out my boyfriend Steve. After over 3 months of being apart, he was the person I missed the most. Yes, that was him, but I couldn’t talk to him, the distance between the boat and bank being just that bit too far. Luckily for me, it was only just over an hour or so before we processed up on stage. Before going up, we Leg 8 crew were joined by crew from previous legs, a huge number of the Visit Seattle family reunited to dance up to the stage together to our team song before our 8th position was celebrated. This was when we discovered that not only had we scored 8th place (pretty big improvement from the 11th place for the majority of the race) but that we’d also won the overall Stormhoek Social Spirit Award! This was the real achievement, what we’d really wanted to win. So much joy, so much excitement.

After our final famous moments on stage, we were released to meet our loved ones. That was pretty emotional. It was wonderful to discover how many people had made the effort to come out and see the finish, the only challenge being having the time to catch up with them all. Once we’d all caught up, people made their moves, myself, Steve, Kyrsten and Amy being left to enjoy the Stormhoek party laid on for Visit Seattle & supporters. It was then onto the final crew party for Emily and I for one last dance, our last time being “Ocean Racers” surrounded by fellow Clipper-people before we returned to the real world. Dancing, more Stormhoek wine, dancing…end.

The Clipper Race finish: the best day of my life…so far!


Leg 8: Homeward Bound

The final race from Den Helder to Southend went by in a blur.

Gone were the jokes about 5 more days: this race was going to be just 36 hours long, the shortest of the entire Clipper Race. To ensure we rested before the crazy day that would be London-arrival, the race start was planned for Thursday afternoon so that we’d finish at around 4pm on Friday; plenty of time for a sleep. The forecast was for some serious upwind sailing, so out it was with the Stugeron again. Preparing for race start this time, however, was a doddle as Emily and I had been sleeping on the boat during the stopover. No manic taxi rides carting our stuff around, we just woke up, hunted breakfast (croissants, of course) and then at 12pm we were off through the locks. Time to do that Parade of Sail malarky. As we had plenty of people on deck and the stugeron was kicking in, I took the parade of sail as an opportunity for a nap. This means I missed the military boats guiding us, missed the final views of Den Helder and probably other stuff too. Reflecting on these blogs, I seem to have slept through quite a bit of the exciting stuff on this race actually…

Parading from Den Helder with us in the front celebrating our win

Any way, after parading up and down for a while/napping, our race start from Den Helder was as per that in Derry: first across the line. Alas, there were no cannons this time, but once we’d crossed the line, we jostled with other boats for position, even having to ask for “water” at one point to ensure that we weren’t grounded.

All go at the start of the final race

Before the race began, we all agreed that we’d adopt a serious racing attitude and make sure that we were on the high side whenever possible. At its most extreme, this resulted in people “sleeping on the rail”, aka sleeping on deck rather than in their bunk, legs over the edge on the high side. A less extreme approach was to sleep in your bunk if it was on the high side (score!), but lie in your kit rather than getting tucked up so that you could move if needed. This seemed to be a pretty sensible approach apart from the tacking: on the Friday of this race alone there was significantly more tacking than the rest of my race put together! Every 5 minutes it seemed we were tacking, making our dedicated rail-sitting somewhat challenging. It went something like this:

Helm: “Ready to tack.”

Everyone tries to gracefully get themselves off/ falls off from the high side into the cockpit with varying levels of success.

Each person goes to a station, one person on each of the staysail winches, yankee winches, running back stays and 4 people on the grinders as we have the majority of the crew on deck. Queue much crew-tessellation as we all try to do a job.

Boat tacks. Go team.

Tack complete, everyone scrambles up to the new high side and tries to wedge themselves in for another 5 minutes before the next tack.

Tack tack tack. So much tacking.

In combination with the tacking, a key feature of this race was that we were playing with the big boys: LMAX and Derry. These were the two premier boats, battling it out for first position in the overall race. Somehow, we managed to sandwich ourselves between them, Derry actually covering our moves at one point with LMAX chasing us behind. This didn’t feel real: surely we were actually at the back somewhere and this was some sort of portal that was letting us watch the 2 top crews battle it out. Surely?!

The proximity to Derry and LMAX made the atmosphere on board tense, everyone constantly looking out for where they were and asking how we could adjust our tactics to make up more speed. As this race was so short, the distances between boats were tiny: Derry just meters ahead. Relief was felt when LMAX managed to break their Yankee sail somehow, opening up a more authoritative gap between us and them. Derry, on the otherhand, were so close we could taste first position. So. Close.

To keep our mind off the tense situation, most of us were on deck on the high side (whichever that chose to be during those 5 minutes) watching either British coastline or Derry. With the sun beginning to set, Vernon rightly pointed out in no other situation would you be happy to watch boats for hours at a time. On the race, it was all you needed for entertainment. Well, perhaps a few more things entertained us than just that…

Other entertaining things seen on this race were:

  • The colour of the water: a pale green/turquoise, the first time I had seen it that colour during the entire race. Contrasted against an almost violet sky, it was really quite unusual. I’ll miss the endless skies and seas.
  • Gas rigs lit up like mini-blackpool towers in the distance
  • The many, many wind turbines aligned in perfect rows
  • Tripod Martians from War of the Worlds guarding Kent, more commonly known as WW2 outposts.

By now late at night, we finished the race at Southend in 2nd place, a mere 29 SECONDS behind Derry. 29 seconds! We had been a boatlength behind them for a while but were unable to catch up. I was pretty chuffed though: second place meant that I would now have a complete set of tiny flags to celebrate my race. 1st, 2nd, 3rd plus Social Spirit: BAM!

Hanging out on the high side for race finish
Approaching the finish line. LOOK HOW CLOSE WE ARE!

With such close racing between ourselves and Derry, both crews exchanged 3 cheers after crossing the finish line. This and the preceding race were so different to the other races in that the crews were so close. Turns out seeing other boats is the motivation we need to perform well.

We were so happy coming over the finish line. To celebrate, on went the celebration playlist prepared shortly before the finish and out came the disco bulb for the motor up to our anchor point where we would set off again at 4.30am in the morning. The only shame was that most of the speakers on board had died by this point, so disco-celebrations were short. We also needed to get the boat prepped for going into our anchor point in Southend: head sails and main down, anchor dropped for the night. It was then to the bunk for a quick nap before waking up at 1.30am to do some casual anchor-watching at 2am. My final 1.30am wakeup – HURRAH!

The half hour of anchor watching quickly went by doing some exercise (I was hoping better late than never) then faffing around (maybe accidentally napping too) for a bit before waking up the next watch. They had had a couple of hours sleep so we got a couple of hours sleep before the 4.30am motor. The next day was going to be BIG.

Leg 8, Week 3: Just 5 days

After 10 days of mostly drinking and eating in Derry, I had mixed feelings about getting back into the boat. Being in the UK, it had almost felt like we were at home and I was prematurely crashing despite there being still a few more weeks to go! As a result, I missed out on the final Derry festivities but the next day made up for it: huge crowds turned up in Derry to see us off, lining the banks as we processed up and down the Foyle. Even as we travelled up the river to race start, boats were alongside us, shouting at us and celebrating all of the way. This was great for us: an excellent opportunity to practice our waves pre-London. The bank was so close at points we could hear messages from the crowds, all of us shouting “Thank you Derry!” in response. Derry has to be the friendliest place I’ve visited to date.

So this was it. The penultimate race to the Netherlands before this adventure was over.

We were warned at crew briefing in the Guildhall that this race was likely to be rough and that the real challenge would be dealing with the tides at Pentland Firth. Time it wrong and it would act like a gate, shutting you in whilst the other boats ahead sailed on. As this race was due to be short (6 days max), an mistakes were going to cost us dearly. Clearly it was going to be exciting!

For the first time, we had a proper race start, aka not a Le Mans start at sea. The boats came perilously close together as they all weaved back and forth between each other, waiting to cross the start line at Greenhouses. It felt like we were getting very close with there being just 12 boats; what the Sydney Hobart race start was like I can’t imagine! Either side of the estuary, there were crowds to see us off. Cannons at the start sent a shiver down my spine as they reminded me of the rowing bumps races I was missing this year. 4 minutes, 1 minute and so on. The cannons made me nervous, although I needn’t have worried: this race wouldn’t involve anywhere near as much physical pain as a rowing race.

Here we go! Race Start
Us somewhere around Race Start looking pretty cool

The next 2 days then passed in a sleepy Stugeron-fuelled haze as I struggled to remain awake on any watch despite being within sight of nearly all of the other boats. Despite not having been sea-sick since Seattle, I still made sure to take the pills at the beginning of a race just incase an unusual swell set me off. At first, we had the Spinnaker up and it was what felt like constant gybing. For the first time, I actually got to helm during a couple of gybes – even though it was just a few, I briefly felt like a pro.

For the first time in the whole race, we were constantly in close proximity to the other boats. This gave us a chance to check out their Spinnakers and it was stunning to see how the other crews’ kites had fared. Verdict: dreadfully. There were awkward shaped spinnakers galore across the fleet with many a repair making them look like patchwork quilts. Our kites, on the other hand, were mint in comparison. This may have helped what was to come…
Somehow, we seemed to do pretty well this race. Racing to the top of Scotland in the dark, we could see 8 sets of lights behind us as we polled a nice, consistent 4th. Otherwise, it was foggy so even though boats were very near by we couldn’t see them, they’d just loom out of the fog every now and then. This meant that despite the close racing, we didn’t always feel it, the fog concealing the true proximity of the other boats.

When it wasn’t foggy, we definitely did feel the proximity to the other boats, Visit Seattle coming rather close to a few of the other crews on more than one occassion. My favourite was a rather interesting moment with Unicef whilst I was on the helm. All around me, everyone was exclaiming at how close Unicef was as we made a bit to cut infront of them. Would we make it? Would we make it!? I went for”eyes in the boat” approach. We made it. I didn’t even see them.
The second close call whilst I was on watch was with LMAX in the Pentland Firth. This was particularly satisfying as we flew in front of them, giving them a cheery wave as we went by. Yes, US in front of LMAX. HAHA! Oh How novel.

The highlight of this race and possibly of my entire race was going through the Pentland Firth. This was only the second time in my life I had been in/near to Scotland and as per the first visit, the weather was stunning. With clear blue skies, the view of the Orkney Isles was stunning, the visibility so good that we could see the abandoned crofters huts along their edge. A clear, chilly, summers day. Such good weather and views means I can never, ever go back to Scotland. It’ll have no choice but to rain on me then.
Passing through the Pentland Firth was when we managed to sneak into first place on this race, passing PSP, Danang, Derry and Clipper Telemed through some lucky tack timing. At one point, PSP, Danang and Derry were all travelling along in a lovely little line, one behind the other, nicely primed for us to overtake. I went to sleep with them on our starboard side: when I woke up, they were gone.

Our birdy friend & I

After this sneaky maneuver, it was then a case of hanging onto the lead to Den Helder: a drag race down the North Sea. En route, we were interrupted by a small sea bird trying to land on the boat. Eventually, the bird was successful at landing, repositioning itself every time we tacked. Shortly afterwards, rather lost pigeon tried to the same. Pigeons clearly aren’t made to land on boats, nor are they made to fly over the sea. I can only imagine that things didn’t end well for our poor pigeon friend. When not being entertained by birds (it’s the little things), once again, we resumed asking Amancio how far we had to go to the finish, conscious that the competition was barely 10 miles behind us. There must have been disbelief across the fleet when they realised we were in the lead and probably more disbelief that PSP were the boat chasing us – the two crews that earlier in the race had been consistently last!

Coming down the North Sea, passing the many, many gas rigs lit up like Blackpool tower, I finally woke up good and proper having ditched the sea sickness tablets. The conditions were nothing like that predicted, they weren’t needed. The final 24 hours were then very tense as we anticipated light winds with PSP just 6 miles behind us. Would we be able to hang onto first?!

One of the many rigs encountered in the North Sea, sinister in the distance



We couldn’t believe it. Somehow we’d won a race, and what made it all the better was that we won into Den Helder, Jan’s home port. Visiting Facebook after the race, it was clear that our Shore Support had been following our every move.  After crossing the finish line, we turned back to cheer in PSP as they also crossed, it being somewhat early in the morning. Never have 2 crews been quite so happy! It was then out with the prosecco, out with the disco ball! Time for some #danceifyouwanttogofaster. First into Den Helder!


Look at that white boat go!
Disco balls & Prosecco

24 hours of being 28

Today it’s my birthday, and as it’s going to be a fairly unusual one, I thought I’d try and capture what daily life entails on Visit Seattle. I find that off the boat, I quickly become blasé about life on the boat, but I’m sure re-reading this in the future, it will look anything but normal. So, 24 hours on Visit Seattle. Here we go:

2nd July 2016

0000: Birthday begins with Emily singing “Happy birthday” to me from companionway as she is Mother. Damp, wet and cold but Woooooo!

0030: Do some exercises to warm up whilst sitting on the floor of cockpit (aka move my arms a bit). Floor quickly becomes a wall as we heel over so instead I stand on what was before an obstacle, leaning back now and then to stay upright when the boat really tips. Better clip on twice for luck. Short tether will stop me from falling from my chilly perch.

0045: We’re flying a kite but the wind has shifted so we’re now broaching. We ease the main out to help us bear away to stop this so a call is made for the preventers to be eased too. Clip, clip, crawl and I’ve moved 2 meters from the back of the cockpit to the front to sort out one of the preventers (lines that prevent the boom from swinging across and wiping us out should we accidentally gybe). Kneeling is required because the boat is still at a stupid angle. I listen out for calls from Amancio who is re-running the preventer on the foredeck: “grind”, “ease”. I wrap the other end of the line around a winch, put the handle in to grind, then have to use my body weight at this angle to turn handle.

0100: Remain perched by the preventer winch in case it needs to be adjusted again. My body is bent over my legs to stop the rain and spray getting into my hood. I can see the clock in the galley from here; nearly time to wake the next watch.

0120: As closest to the galley, I go down to wake the next watch. The first challenge is clipping and climbing over several taught lines to get to the hatch, then unclipping over said lines. Eventually, I end up pivoting on my belly on the companionway ledge to reach stupidly-placed my clip. Oooo my abs!

0125: If I’m going to wake the next watch up, it’s foulies off so that I don’t drip water everywhere. First, off comes the life jacket. Then, off with the woolly hat and undo all the various tabs and straps sealing me into my foulies at the wrists, waist and ankles. That done, it’s off with the foulie smock (always a challenge) followed by salopettes. God these foulies stink. I’m left in my duvet-like midlayers but I’m still bloody freezing. My hands are like ice.

0130: Off I go down each corridor to wake the off-watch. My chosen method is to call their name, say “Good morning” in an enthusiastic manner then put the red light on to get them up. They’re pretty dead to the world at this time of the morning.

0135: Back into galley to put the kettle on. This is pretty quick for once as the generator is on so I can use the electric kettle. I prepare 4 teas and 2 coffees for the next watch. As they slowly emerge into the galley, I let them know it’s cold (not that it’s not obvious of course). Get lots of “Happy birthdays” in return.

0150: The next watch head up on deck, then the rest of my watch come down sodden from the last 4 hours. I nip to the heads whilst it’s free at this point to get out of the galley as everyone else needs the space to get out of their foulies. I then retrieve my huge sleeping bag from its cubby hole at the end of my bunk and wrestle with it to get it flat. I then hoist the bunk up to a more accurate angle to stop me from falling out.

0155: Retrieve iPad from charging in the galley so I can write this blog.

0200: Right, mid-layers and base layers off. I hang them up on a bungee with karibiner clips by my bunk so they fit behind the door nicely. I climb up into my bunk ninja-stylee and try to get into my sleeping bag liner plus sleeping bag. Yes, I’m that cold. Now, to hot water bottle or not to hot water bottle?

0205: Success! I’m in and snug. No hot water bottle though. Time for a quick blog a la bunk.

Tippity tap…

0220: Blog done, ear plugs in from my keeping place in my bra (got to remember these details). Sleep!


0515: I’m woken by a shake on the arm. Wow I was asleep. The red light has gone on in the corridor and I snuggle down and begin a 60 second countdown; just one more minute. I reach 0 then start again. Then I realise I must get up, so it’s time to shuffle out of my cosy sleeping arrangement and rummage in my centre cave locker to find my extra-warm merino bottoms. I think I’ll need them; it sounds absolutely horrible outside, the sound of rain lashing above me. Merino leggings on, I then pummel my sleeping bag with my feet to the end of the bunk and kick it into the end cave locker. I’ve only recently discovered it’s much easier to get it in there that way rather than rolling it up.

0520: Leggings on, I partially swing myself out of my bunk and try to reach my seal-skin socks that are sitting on the generator pipe, but the bunk is hitched up too high. I can’t reach them so Ros kindly passes them to me as she goes by. Socks go on to seal in the leggings and stop me from getting wet feet from the floor. I then climb down and put on the long sleeved merino top over the short sleeved one I’ve slept in to stay warm.

0525: I retrieve my midlayer salopettes from behind the bulkhead door where they are hanging, pop them on and seal the leg tabs before putting on my rather damp boots. It’s then off to the heads before anymore layers go on, a mere 3 steps away. Zip, curtain closed!

0530: Another 3 steps from the heads and I’m in the galley, standing on the starboard side by the wet locker where our foulies are stored. We still have some fresh bread left from yesterday that Rachel baked as a treat, so rather than crazy sweet cereal, it’s lovely soft wholemeal bread with a thick dollop of peanut butter on top for breakfast; probably my healthiest breakfast to date on this boat. Be gone foul Cheerios…at least until tomorrow.

0540: A few steps back to my bunk and now the midlayer jacket goes on over my salopettes, only after tying my hair in a low ponytail and putting on my buff though to make sure I’m sealed in again the horrible weather I can hear. I contemplate adding another layer after being cold in the night but decide against it.

0550: It’s all back and forth, back and forth getting ready for deck. To the wet locker: I retrieve my foulie salopettes to keep me dry on deck. Off come the boots again, on go the salopettes over my midlayers and then back on with the boots, my foulies sealed over the top with tabs. I then wrestle myself into my foulie smock. Woolly hat is put on too, then hood up to allow my life jacket to go on. I then seal myself right in, doing up all of the neck and mouth flaps so that you can only see my eyes. Raaaaaaah…bring on that weather!

0600: Up the steps and up on deck. It’s not quite as bad as I thought up here: not absolutely horrible as anticipated, but only moderately horrible. Maybe I didn’t need quite so many layers. I undo the piece of my smock that goes over my mouth so I can breathe. The other watch are all still on deck as they’ve been asked to remain to help us gybe. The wind is pretty strong which could make it tricky: the more people on deck, the more people to (hopefully!) make it go smoothly.

0605 – 0700: Gybing. I first go to the starboard side of the boat to help bring the new spinnaker sheet across to be run for the other gybe, handing it to Ana at the stern and then back across the pit it goes to the primary winch. Huw then tells me to go to the port stern winch to ease off the preventer and then bring on the running back stay as the gybe goes on to support the mast. Huw is always on deck for changes such as this. I ease the preventer as before. Then I pull the running back stay line by hand around the winch to move it the 6 or so meters from its current position at the shrouds to further back on the boat. To do this, I’m also supposed to free the tricing line that keeps the back stay at the shrouds but I forget to undo the coil of rope – I always do this. The line gets stuck as the pulley system it runs through isn’t at the right angle. Huw kicks it, it runs, I continue pulling, sat wedged between the spinnaker sheet and those grinding on the pedestal. Gybe done, I help attach the wrap net at the gate. Off go the other watch for a sleep, our watch settling in for the next 6 hours.

0700: I settle in the cockpit by the grinders ready to grind or trim where needed. I love grinding (purely in a sailing context). Aaaaaand chat…

0715: I’m about to take over trimming the kite from Chris when Amancio calls me to helm next. Apparently I’ll be OK in this weather as I’m strong (HA!). Time for a bit more helming practice it is in strong winds then *gulp*. I navigate my way across the deck back to the helm, then clip onto the high side next to Amancio. He tells me what we need to do: 50-60 degrees on the compass, 120 apparent wind angle, juggle the waves. I step behind him in the helming cage, take the wheel and he shuffles out. I’m in control.

0715-0745: I’m on the helm  for 30 minutes trying to keep the spinnaker flying downwind in the swell with the wind coming at an angle of 120 degrees. My shoulder muscles kill after half an hour from combating the waves to keep us on course. Jesse stands with me at the helm to make sure I’m doing it all OK. I manage to pretty much keep on course but it’s taking all of my concentration. Focus…


0745: Hand over to Dana on the helm as Amancio did to me. Phew, time to give the arms a break for a bit. I sit infront of the helm and gaze out over the starboard side of the deck at the sea. Grey, grey, drizzly grey. It’s like being back in the UK!

0745-0800: Nod off on deck whilst sitting. So much activity after all (not every day is like this). Whoops.


0800: Chris asks if anyone wants coffee. COFFFFFEEEEEEEEE! Milk with a sugar to wake me up please. Now where was I…

0810: Coffee arrives, passed along the deck from person to person in the little blue plastic cups we have on the boat, cracked on the inside from 1000s of hot drinks and so offering you a little taste of everything they’ve contained before. Sugar was definitely the right move. Yum yum yum.

So after 8.15, I totally failed at blogging due to getting caught up in the excitement of birthday. It’s now all blurred into one, but roughly, here’s what went on:  

  • I’m still sitting by the helm chatting to Dana and Jesse occasionally when Amancio appears at the galley hatch with what looks like a water balloon. What is that? Whatever it is, apparently he’s aiming for me but he misses and it slides off the boat. It was a water balloon!
  • 2 more water balloons are hurled by Amancio at me. This time I’m ready *assumes ninja pose infront of the helm*. The first one lands at my feet. The second one lands near Jesse and Dana behind me but we’re not sure where. Perhaps it’s in Dana’s hood for later?
  • Emily cracks out the glittery tattoos that Dionne gave me. Unfortunately, they’re not terribly effective at adhering to faces, so people sit around with jay clothes held to their faces for 20 minutes or more. Is it a tattoo, is it a horrific injury to the face?
  • Dana finds the eye patches her Mum gave her. OH YES!
  • Add eye patch to my sailing kit. Commence birthday pirate photo shoot! Lets see if any of these are posted by Clipper – I’d love it if they were.
Serious sailing with an eye patch. And not actually steering. Just posing. Arrrrrr.
  • Emily has come out on deck in the rain following her mother-duty sleep. Emily definitely doesn’t like rain. Rain is bad. Her foulies are not her friend in this situation.
  • Sometime around 1100, I go downstairs for the first time this watch to discover balloons and “happy birthday” banners adorning the galley. Brilliant!
  • 1200 and it’s luuuuuunch cooked by Jon as Lucy. Quesadillas, nom nom nom. So many wrap-based meals on this boat.
  • After lunch, the other watch go upstairs whilst we eat ours, but they then come back downstairs to sing happy birthday to me. It’s then cake, and not just any cake : an amazing multicoloured cake made by Ana with candles and sparkling candles. Yaaaay!
  • I’m given multiple cards from the crew, my New York apartment buddies, Emily and then also my very own packs of Oreos from Emily. Even the ‘Double Stuf’ ones. Very lucky Mia!
Birthday love!
  • 3 pieces of cake later (well, it is my birthday) and it’s definitely time for bed
  • I open and read my cards from home, attempt to hang them above my bunk and fail. Write a birthday email to Steve to let him know how my day has gone. There I discover emails also from both sets of grandparents and Sarah. Very, very lucky Mia!
My first piece of cake. Or perhaps my third judging by this expression.

1300: Sleepy time

Sometime in my off-watch: Restless sleep. Too hot and can smell burger cooking. Mmmm Burger…must be nearly time to get up. Write blog for a little bit then…

1715: Ergh. “Good morning” means I should get up. Just a bit more blog…

1800-2200: Similar to my earlier watch but involves some birthday bilge cleaning to spice things up. Woooo bilges! Chris very kindly did my antibac duties on the previous watch. I then have to tend to media duties, aka writing a birthday blog and uploading photos from the last few days to Clipper. This involves me going down to the Nav station at the back of the boat and squeezing in behind whoever is on the Nav PC to work on the Media PC. Out comes the memory card from the camera, on go the photos to the PC. I then select the best to upload to the Clipper server, switch over the Internet from email to media and tadaaaaa off they go. I send a couple from my birthday pirate shoot. It’s worth a try.  Right, time for my final stint on deck for the day.

2200: The watch is over and the bed time ritual starts all over again! Foulies off…