London Delivery: the long way home

Beautiful image above courtesy of Shaun Roster

Last week, it’s took me 4 days and 7 different modes of transport to get myself home. To be fair, it was 287 miles (as the crow flies). I did also get to take in the Isles of Scilly, various stations, Gosport and Old father Thames along the way.

Monday: St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly, to Gosport via Lands end, Exeter, Salisbury & Portsmouth. 

Small plane. Massive excitement.
Small plane. Massive excitement.

A pretty exciting beginning to this trip. After a weekend in the Isles of Scilly, I crammed myself into a tiny plane along with 4 other tourists to get back to the mainline. Although only 11 minutes long, the flight was very exciting: you could see through the front of the plane and I was chuffed to fly over the FastNet yacht race too. Only catch was realising that Cornwall is actually really rather far away.

I’d naively assumed that south coast of the UK, everything is really close to each other. There’s a reason I didn’t continue geography past 14.
Turns out Gosport is a long way from Lands End.

With our flight landing at 2pm, there was no way I was goin to get to Hosport for the 5pm delivery arrival time. And rightly so, there was no way my boyfriend should have to make a 3 hour diversion to take me there. Cue a long train journey from Exeter to Porstmouth via salisbury. The result was a somewhat later arrival into Gosport culminating in the galley seats as a bunk for me as all the proper bunks were full. Cue hot bunking for the rest of the week.

Tuesday: Gosport to somewhere in the English Channel.
Farewell Gosport my old friend. After 6 months of visiting the place, this may be the last time I see GosVegas.

All 12 yachts set sail at 10am to deliver the boats to London. Settled conditions and some warm-up Mexican waves sailing out of Portsmouth made for some rather pleasant sailing.

Lined up for out mexican wave
Form an orderly que…most of the time

In contrast to level 4, we weren’t racing this week, we were merely “delivering”. This meant a pretty straightforward sail around the south coast, punctuated with some comedy media moments.

Whilst the rest of the crew race the world, I’ll be looking after media on shore (follow us @VisitSeattleRTW). This will become a distinctly off-shore role during Legs 7&8, however, so it was time for Ana (our crew media champion) and I to get some practice in with the shiny new cameras we have to record the race.

A very camera shy crew meant we media team mostly ended up interviewing ourselves. Despite this, we got some great little interviews. Saturday Kitchen Live is also going to be given a run for their money with “The Sunshine cafe with Mia & Leo”, created whilst on mother duty cooking pasta. This was followed by Sail Storytime with Karri. Think we were all perhaps a little over-tired.

Wednesday: somewhere in English Channel to Margate.
Day 3 brought a lot of time on engine and a lot of time at anchor. After sailing through the night, we arrived outside Margate where we anchored for to wait for the other yachts to arrive.

This gave us all some time to use. Cue lots of rope work, prepping new ropes to be rigged etc. Having hot bunked, I seemed to miss a fair chunk of this having not been woken up in my port side stealth-bunk. I did make myself useful though by cracking out the media kit and buffing up on interview techniques. Ana and I even got a crew blog done. Wonderful.

Thursday: Margate to Buckinghamshire via St Katherine’s docks, London.
A long, slow, engine-tastic day but what a place to sail into!
More media action was had on this day as we motored up the Thames in convoy, a beautiful procession of Clipper yachts. As we approached the city, we were informed that the crew had to all be matching. Frantic kit finding began as we all searched for matching items. Matching kit also meant the perfect excuse for crew hairstyles and crew facepaints done with style by Emily. This was enhanced further by diamantes for team media (critical piece of sailing kit).

Just a casual one of us by the O2

When we finally entered St Katherine’s docks, it all became rather real. All of the yachts lined up in their finery, ready for the open week to come. Alas, it was only half an hour on deck before I had to scoot off for the final part of my journey: the train back to MK. My boyfriend was delighted to find me in the same clothes I had last seen him in, but all in all, a cracking way to get home.

It was great to get the chance to sail our boat into London with more of the mighty Visit Seattle crew. The next time I sail on CV23 (our yacht) now will be in April. It’ll be an even longer journey home then: 12,000 miles from Seattle rather than 287 from the Scillys.

This just got real

Today, I’ve been in London seeing friends around what I’m now calling “Clipperland”.

St Katherine’s docks is awash with Clipper signs, carnival dancers and tourists and this is all now getting rather real.

Arriving into London on Thursday night I think made most of us on Visit Seattle realise that our adventure is imminent. It’s not just walking past posters anymore. It’s not just the interview, the training or the preparation anymore. Standing on a 70ft Yacht in St Katherine’s Docks, Clipper flags all around; that’s when I realised that this is it. I’m actually a crew member on a yacht that is going to sail around the world.

All around the docks are signs providing information on each of the teams. You can’t really see it, but MY NAME is on THAT SIGN by that TINY/MASSIVE YACHT! (depending on how you look at it) !

My name on an official Clipper sign! Oh Yeah!

9 months ago, the thought of signing up for this hadn’t even entered my mind.

How did I end up doing this again?!

Its not just about the posters anymore . But they are still pretty exciting…

Level 4: Dance if you want to go faster

It had been a couple of months since my Level 3 course, so it was with excitement and nerves that I approached the final level of training before the race. Level 4 was going to be about staying at sea for a week and racing. The last time I was out for a while on the boat was Level 2: an adventure, but I came back somewhat lighter due to sea sickness. Would I get sick again? How bad was I going to smell? And more importantly, how was I supposed to sail let alone race the boat?!

This week was the last Level 4 training course and the first time that all 12 Clipper Yachts were out racing. We were a select group on Team Huw: just a casual 11 crew. Turns out that’s the perfect number for a very fun week!

Being super-keen, Emily & I arrived at 7am on the first day. There was much excitement getting our shiny new red waterproofs and it was great seeing so many people from previous courses in the que all ready for the final week of training. No more practice kit for us. We were proper Clipper Crew now – allowed to wear red.

Rocking the red foulies

The first couple of days involved getting into the watch systems, a race start and sea sickness. We were split into 2 watches, each watch on deck for 4 hours then asleep for 4 hours. Our skipper Huw was not so lucky. Just as it will be in the race, Huw was the only pro sailor on board on this course. This meant he he had to catch sleep when he could, face-planted on a giant beanbag below decks when not having to deal with us lot. In the meantime, my watch (the mighty Starboard watch) became a mostly nocturnal crew.

The mighty starboard watch working hard. Selfies don't take themselves.
The mighty starboard watch working hard. Watch selfies don’t take themselves you know!

8pm – midnight was our favourite shift. 4am – 8am not so much. Upsides of this were cracking sunsets, sunrises and one glorious night where we could see the milky way, shooting stars, phosphorescent algae AND dolphins all in the space of half an hour. We would then have to wake up the Port watch for their night shift. I have never had to wake up so many sound-asleep people before as I did in this week. Quite a lot of shaking was required. I felt really bad.

Our 12noon – 4pm shift mostly involved dancing, speaking in stupid accents and occasionally playing with face paints as we always seemed to be in the French Doldrums on our watch. No wind, no sailing.
Things got a little more exciting when we went off-watch at midnight one night as the wind was rising. As Port watch came on deck, the conditions deteriorated, meaning those of us below decks got very little sleep for the next 4 hours as we worried what was going on above. Cue the vang getting broken but the whole crew now appreciating that you can’t pull the boat out of the water using it, however hard you try.

Flaking a sail – we did occassionally do something in the day!

Unlike Levels 2 & 3, I actually did a mother-watch this week. Somehow, I’d managed to escape it until now! Amancio, our crew victualler, had prepared an excellent menu: I ate better during this course than I do normally! Luckily for me, the boat wasn’t at a 45 degree angle whilst I was trying to cook nor was I feeling sea sick. The first couple of days were pretty rough so most of the crew were ill.

One of the best parts of the week was racing alongside 12 other boats after a “Le Mans” start. This is when all the boats line up side by side at sea, the crews staying at the back of their boats. When he start gun goes, everyone runs forward to raise sails and pick up speed before the other boats do. Has to be said we weren’t the best at this. The adrenaline was high, the enthusiasm was high – it was just a shame we didn’t really know what we were doing…

Life at 45 degrees

It was a real learning experience this week as we were mostly left to ourselves to sail the boat as Huw sorted out the rest of the fleet below decks as the “lead skipper” (I like to think we were trusted to do so). This didn’t make for a particularly impressive race performance, but we did manage to adapt to the conditions and probably had way more fun than the winning boat. Everything in moderation right?

The whole crew sleeping in moderation. We had this skill sorted.

After spending most of the week racing or at anchor at night, our final day was spent on “skills and drills”. Much hilarity ensued as Emily & Karri were launched off in the dinghy in search of the ice cream boat (alas it was broken), we transferred miscellaneous food items to other boats, had a casual trip up the mast and challenged another crew to a on-water dance off. Cue most of Team Huw (now known as Visit Seattle) lining up on the side of the boat dancing to Taylor Swift “Shake it Off” with a pre-rehearsed routine. Oh yes. A strong performance.
Leo has made a brilliant video capturing the week including some of this fine dancing:

After a 2 month long gap between courses, it’s now only just under a week before I’ll be back on CV23 to sail from Gosport into St Katherine’s docks, London. This will be a different experience again as we’ll have double the number of people. After that, it’s the final week before Team Visit Seattle sail off to start the race. In a way, I almost don’t want the race to start: it’s been so fun getting to know everyone on the crew, and with a large chunk of them off sailing, it’s not going to be quite the same back here in the lovely England. No more sailing here for a while: it’s back to the computer screen to track the crews and back to rowing to get my boating fix.

Hello “Visit Seattle”

For a whole 3 days, Team Huw (my team) was the only Clipper boat in the fleet without a sponsor. Sponsorless. Lonely/too cool for a sponsor. All by ourselves.

Team Max had been announced (PSP logistics). Team Olivier had been announced (LMax). Where was our sponsor? Speculation suggested we could be Henri Lloyd (free gear? Yes please!). I was up for us clubbing together and sponsoring our boat CV23 ourselves.

Luckily, CV23 will not have to have Team Huw faces emblazoned on it as yesterday, it was announced Team Huw = Visit Seattle!  As my part of the race starts from Seattle I’m pretty excited about this.

We’ll be sailing in green around the world as it’s the “Emerald City”. I sense a Wizard of Oz theme could come into it somewhere.

The details are now all in place: I’ll be sailing 12,000 miles from Seattle to London via Panama, New York, Northern Ireland & the Netherlands on Visit Seattle.

Our boat will be in St Katherine’s dock to see from 22nd august, hopefully in all it’s shiny green glory. It’s now just 18 days until the race begins before the long 8 month wait.