And so it begins…

Almost exactly year after crew-allocation, I officially “signed on” and became part of the Visit Seattle crew for Legs 7&8. This was a very dramatic occasion. I walked through the pouring rain (sans umbrella) to the race offie, entered the door and…was duly logged onto a laptop. Done. 

Back to holidaying in the rain it was then…

So official few duties have begun. First of all, there were welcome drinks pit on by Clipper to introduce us to the rest and meet the rest of our Leggers. Having eaten our way around the world over the last 7 months, we actually already know each other pretty well so drinks were good fun. What Clipper did reveal though is that we will likely only be anchoring in Panama (something about the Marina not being completed?). This has big consequences:

  1. We will be at sea potentially non-stop for up to 50 DAYS 
  2. Everyone & everything will smell worse than I originally anticipated.
  3. I won’t be able to buy a Panama hat (although I’m still secretly hoping that there will be a Panama-hat boat in the same vein as the mythical ice-cream boat crews encountered during training.)

Anyway, back to playing crew.

The day after crew-changeover day finally involved some Visit Seattle duties. This meant cracking out the “school uniform” (aka bright green crew kit) and meeting at a rather posh hotel to then be processed onto stage in front of 800-odd people. This was the Visit Seattle conference and involved a public celebration of love between Clipper & Seattle. What was amazing was the model of our boat that Clipper gave to the city: I want one! After this, it was straight to the boat for a brief introduction to sailing via a spinnaker photo shoot; less than an hour on the water so we could have our photo taken. Although this was short, I felt somewhat overwhelmed on the boat. It feels like a long, long time since I last sailed. The day was completed by a delicious meal put on by our sponsors for us where some of my crew mates fully established that I am a total lightweight. 

The final crew-related activity was today: crew briefing. Before this, I was feeling somewhat apprehensive about joining the boat, but finding out more about our route and our watches have reassured me greatly.

I’ve said that this experience is now “real” at various different points, but it’s only now that I’ve discovered that “real” is a continuum. It’s going to be a long leg where I’m going to feel truly awful and truly amazing in (hopefully) equal measure. But after a crazy week in a new place with new people, I’m finally feeling more excited than nervous. I’d hoped to write lots more, but it’s now quite late and tomorrow is the big one: I set sail with 19 other people a yacht race to Panama. That statement doesn’t sound it, but I’m edging ever closer to “real”.

On stage in front of a few people
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An unexpected holiday 

The plan with Seattle was to arrive in the 21st, help with boat stuff as the crew would get in on the 20th then set sail to Panama on the 28th.

This hasn’t quite turned out to be the case. 

Visit Seattle visited Seattle on the 17th of April, meaning most of the boat maintenance etc had been done before I arrived. Yes, sail days had been set up and there were crew meals to go to, but as a new letter (aka crap sailor), I wasn’t needed on the boat. My time was my own! What does this mean? It means here I am, nearly a week later writing a blog at the top of the Space Needle (as you do) as I have been action-packed ever since.

Prize giving

I arrived in Seattle in Thursday 21st, just in time for the Prize giving later on in the day. I was VERY keen to go to this as they were going to show the supporters video (hurrah!). Following a lengthy email chain with Clipper and a stake-out in the Race office, Vernon who is doing Legs 7&8 too, his partner Sarah & I managed to get tickets . It was then to the Seattle Aquarium: an excellent place for the giving of prizes. Slowly but surely, we saw everyone from Visit Seattle again. It was brilliant to see everyone and also the friends & family that have been following the adventure. After all, I’ve probably spoken more to the shore support over the year than the crew! They then played a rather epic video of the crew on Leg 6 and also the supporters video (hurrah!) that they then left on loop for the rest of the evening (hurrah!) so VS love was shared throughout the night. In the meantime, I was reunited with Emily and we went to explore the aquarium. Highlight: sea otters doing their sea-otter-lying-on-backs-looking-cute thing. I took lots of photos. None of them do the cuteness of the chilling sea otters justice. 


Exploring

After prize giving, the rest of the week was spent exploring. When I say exploring, I really mean moving from cafe to restaurant to bar. Friday was spent…I can’t quite remember what, but we were all together at a restaurant for Tino’s birthday in the evening. Then on Saturday, Jon, Nikolas, Jesse & I formed a crack high-speed walking team to complete the Seattle Urban Trek, aka walking 7 miles and play school games at various stations. We then explored the underground city of Seattle followed by some coffee tasting at Starbucks Roastery. 

Looking awesome “trekking”

Sunday was spent mostly getting really wet as I didn’t realise you could borrow umbrellas at our hotel, so Emily I wandered around working the “drowned rat” look. First of all was a breakfast hunt: one of the challenges of not staying in an apartment. Fruit was required as I realised I’d been living pretty much on bread & chowder alone, so granola was assessed (verdict: poor). We then wandered and went for cheesecake en-masse at the Cheesecake Factory (yes! THESE THINGS EXIST!). After all that cake, it was time for a nap. I’ve been trying to pack in as much sleep as possible this week in anticipation of very little of it from tomorrow onwards. 

Monday we did some sailing (another post entirely) and then Tuesday was spent being shown some more of the city by my friend Luke’s girlfriend Katrina: this is where I discovered, amongst other things, that Seattle is a place where there really are trolls under bridges. It was then to the Seattle Mariners baseball game to see Huw throw the ceremonial first pitch. This was quite surreal: all the stereotypes I had in my ahead of what a baseball game is like were fulfilled. I didn’t realise though that baseball is rounders! Really, really long rounders.

Clipper on tour at the baseball. Surreal.
 

So now it’s Wednesday, and tomorrow I set sail. No more comfy beds, no more showers, no more wifi (we’ve all been wifi-hopping in the absence of phone data). It’s all about errands today and of course, the Space needle. Seattle has been amazing; relaxed and amazing and it’s definitely somewhere I’ll come back to someday. 

66 hours in LA

WordPress has failed me. After spending my flight writing a lovely post on my time in LA, it’s only gone and deleted it. Take 2:

For the start of this trip, I had 66 hours in Los Angeles to visit my friend Sam who has lived there for some years now. Same continent, so practically just around the corner from Seattle.

Unfortunately, the majority of my time in LA was spent asleep: 39 hours in fact. After arriving at 5.30pm on Monday, convinced that I could overcome this jet lag thing, I fell asleep at 9.30pm. I next woke up at 7.40pm on TUESDAY when I realised it was dark and I was horrendously late for dinner. Queue rapid getting-reading, cursing myself and generally being calamitous in a barely conscious state. Sam thought I’d been run over. But I did make it to dinner.

Dinner. Lunch. Dinner: these few days proved to be mostly an education in food – excellent considering this is possibly my favourite thing in life. 

Monday I was awake just long enough to make a VERY exciting discovery: that the PizzaHut unlimited ice cream machines of old are not dead! They live on! And in a place where you can get multiple different flavours with as many different toppings as you like. I thought I had died and gone to heaven when Sam showed me this place. Ice cream heaven.

Tuesday I was awake long enough only for one meal, but this was a delicious education in all things meat & miscellaneous for Sam’s birthday. I can now say I’ve tried bone marrow. And it was remarkably good!

Wednesday I was awake long enough for two whole meals and a trip to the Getty gallery. For lunch, we swapped poor salad in Biggleswade for posh sushi in Beverley Hills (I love that I just got to write that – sorry/not sorry Team Jordans!) followed by a couple of hours in the gallery. This is where the picture with this post was taken – I couldn’t get enough of the views from there. It was then time for Santa Monica beach, pier and seafood. $10 converted into quarters meant a lot of arcade games during this stint. 

Thursday I was awake long enough to be driven to the airport, discover that my favourite sweets are everywhere in the US (yes!) then get on a plane and fly to Seattle. After such a great time, I didn’t really want to go.  Sunshine, seafood & glamour or 3 months at sea? 

3 months at sea it is!

How to follow Mia

Throughout this race I will update this blog as often as possible. But rumour has it that the Internet signal isn’t so good in the middle of the ocean, so for between ports, key links & dates to follow the race are below:

 

 

Key dates:

 

11 hours done

It’s all about “firsts” now, the first of the firsts being my first long haul flight. Take one energetic Mia, place in metal tube with limited wriggle room for 10-11 hours and here are the results:

1 hour in, 9.5 to go

There’s something about getting on a plane that sends me to sleep, today being no exception. I was gone before we even took off. It was easy as this plane is particularly pleasant: shiny & new, sat at the front (Hello legroom!), no small children and I’m not sandwiched in my seat. I’ve already woken up though because I am hungry. Hungry for the wafers I know are in my bag. All that pacing at the airport means I need refuelling. Wafers! Waffffffeeeeeerrrrrs! Nom nom nom…

3 hours in

I’ve been fed, watched 1 film, watched people wander around the plane, watched people get prosecco, played solitaire, played in the dark with an interactive globe that maps this flight, started watching another film. I still have over 7 hours left. 7 hours. 😳

3.5 hours in

We’re passing over Greenland but I can’t look out of the window due to a) Being in an aisle seat  b) Fancy frosted/tinted the Windows. WHY?! It’s early evening in the UK, it’s morning in the US. Sunshine people, we need sunshine!

4 hours in

People have brought duvets with them on this flight. DUVETS! I’m resorting to chair dancing instead. I’m just gonna shake shake shake…for the remaining 6.5 hours

4 hours and 5 minutes in

Just discovered that Taylor Swift is the only song I have on my iPad. Massive fail.

Time to buff-up on my Clipper notes instead. It’s only been 7 months. Oh, maybe not. It’s now really, really dark in here. It would appear we’re being forced to go to sleep.

I am going to revel in the daylight in LA after so many premature hours of darkness.

Lots of hours in, lots to go

Unusually for me, I haven’t fallen into a deep sleep yet on this flight despite the forced-darkness, just some light dozing. Time to change my tactics. I’m now convincing myself that it’s 2pm again (so LA time). All clocks have been changed and my loudest, most energetic music is being played. Cue more chair/foot dancing. This also means I’m now hungry again despite 7 hours of being a inert blob. Should have bought more wafers. 

Under 2 hours to go

Finished dancing so back to my in-flight screen to be educated about Killer Whales. Over dramatic voiceover helps reinforce my fear of the sea (or more accurately, what’s in it. My work colleagues have thoroughly traumatised me with stories). Lesson learnt today: killer whales are everywhere, so don’t fall in the sea and act like seal/narwhal/tasty-marine-snack.

43 minutes to go

Now feeling perky fuelled by mysterious cheese sandwich, daylight and finally, if I hover above my seat, a glimpse out of the windows. There’s a whole different continent down there! Should have picked a window seat, I’m definitely missing out here. I keep thinking it’ll be OK as I’ll be able to look on the way back but I keep forgetting that there is no flight back: it’s going to be a rather different perspective. I’m definitely in holiday mode. Anyway, a mere 36 minutes left now and I’m not feeling too rough yet. Boom.

28 minutes to go

The Captain has just announced that it’s 25c in LA. It was 13c when I left home. Oh yes.


Over 24 hours later
Accidentally slept through my ENTIRE first day in LA. Went to sleep at 9.30pm, woke up at 7.40pm. Oooops!

No longer counting

Soooo..

I’m sitting in Gatwick airport looking pretty damned cool. I’ve got “my first waterproof rucksack”, sailing boots and a very-practical fleece on, my final Costa flat white by my side (oh I’m going to miss these). My bags have been packed, my fingers crossed that everything is in them and good byes said to my lovely family, friends and Steve.

Turns out most things I own are either black, pink or purple. Makes it easier to disguise my alcoholic packing-aid

This is it: I’m on my own and at the grand age of 27 I am FINALLY LEAVING EUROPE! *Applause please* Oh and I’m finally off to join this boat race malarkey. Yes, the one I’ve been relentlessly talking about for over a year now. Turns out its real after all.

After a somewhat frantic last week at work, this weekend has been spent feeling a little overwhelmed, a little nervous and quite excited when Visit Seattle’s arrival was live on Periscope. As anticipated, it would appear Leg 6 of the race (crossing the North Pacific) was an epic challenge so I’m very glad that I’m joining after this leg rather than before. 

What has been quite amazing though is the sheer amount of support for the crew demonstrated by the friends & family of Visit Seattle. On day 3 of the last leg, we set the challenge of getting 100 messages of support for VS and we totally smashed our target. This means I’ve spent A LOT of the last few weeks on iMovie, sacrificing my sight and hand dexterity to craft a special video. I can’t wait for the crew to see the results in Seattle now.

So, the plan for this week:

  1. LA for a few days to see whether my friend Sam does actually live there or has been making it up all these years.
  2. Fly up to Seattle on Thursday, say “hi!” to a few people I haven’t seen since August
  3. Do some boat things. Relearn to sail in a day. Important things like that.
  4. 28th April: set sail for Panama!

Before all of that, I have to try out a long-haul flight for the first time. This is currently an exciting prospect but might not be 4 hours from now. 

Sorry Sam, I am going to be so, so groggy.