Actually, today, several layers came off. In this photo of me trimming the spinnaker, you'll note perhaps the striking blue color of my long johns peaking out below my wind breaker pants. Note also the lack of socks, and no boots. As well, no foulies (foul weather gear), neck warmer, gloves or fleece hat! Every mile we sail south, it gets warmer, but it wasn't until today, about 400 miles offshore south of San Fransisco, a little north of the latitude for L.A., when the layers came off in the afternoon for real. The layers will be coming back on this evening. But hopefully, before long, we will be able to stow away the cold weather clothing. We're also peeling away the miles! Despite starting 8 hours and 125 miles behind the pack, today we are in 10th place (of 12 boats) and seem to be overtaking another two boats. See the white speck in this photo below? That's one off our port beam about 3 miles away. We can see another Clipper Race boat about 5 miles off ahead on our port bow. Our aim is to stay west of them and get the new wind that's coming before they do. Fingers crossed!
I have been recruited as "Morale Officer". I believe this harkens back to my crimes against happiness recognized in Leg 5 during the shellback ceremony (I was much too happy). But just because I seem to be able to find enthusiasm in almost any situation arising on the boat doesn't mean I know how to arouse it in others, other than by example perhaps. So, I embrace this opportunity as a way to develop this important team building skill. Fortunately, I have a partner in crime. Her name is Jen. She is South African, raised for a time in Oregon and living in the UK. Her indefatigable bubbly exuberance lends a cheerful air to whatever goes on at any time. Our task is to develop a "Happy Hour" activity each day. Happy hour starts at 11:30 when lunch is served and eaten together on deck. It is a time each day that skipper and both watches can be together and review our accomplishments of the recent 24 hours and plan for what's next. The activity follows "Any other business", often during which time grievances are aired (in the constructive form of helpful reminders for happy group functioning). Despite the lack of toilet seats on board (leave it up or down?), these comments more often than not relate to hygiene in the "head" (replace the toilet paper, pee like a girl, etc.), a fact that has itself become a bit of a joke. Which makes a nice lead in to the activity. We have big shoes to fill. Multi-Legger Tony was the original moral officer, and when he left the boat, it left a huge void. A memorable event, I've been told, involved removing socks and boots for toe wrestling. Today's activity will feature crew mate Elaine, who will lead us in a brief celebration of Star Wars Day. Read this part out loud: MAY THE FOURTH BE WITH YOU. Happy Star Wars Day!
P.S. How many ClipperTelemedies does it take to blow up a Death Star? Answer: One - It was Elaine!
So, this is my last chance to write for a while. I'll try and post in Panama. Unfortunately, I will be unable to post daily messages to mapshare - new Clipper policy :-( I will track our route and post it whenever possible (near shore with cell service). I'll write a couple of the crew diary entries for the Clipper Race website. Maybe I will be able to get the occasional email message out to family that can be posted. I hope you enjoy following the race!
Here are a few snaps of today's events - see the photo gallery for a few more. Posting while still in range of cell service!
Goodbye for now!!
This will be race 10, the first of 2 races in Leg 7. Crew changeover day was April 24. The next day, I went sailing for the day, acting as crew and sailing coach for the guests of our corporate sponsor. It was a great way to re-familiarize myself with the Clipper 70. There was a gentle breeze, so not too strenuous, and quite a lot of fun. It was hilarious to see 2 lightweight young ladies try to "sweat" the mainsail up the mast.
That evening the Leg 7 crew got together for dinner. Already, we are gelling into a hard working and supportive team with lots of fun loving spirit.
I spent the next day with new crew joiners packing dry bags with 2 days worth of food in each. All the labels came off the cans (they get soggy and gooey or fall off the cans which then become unidentifiable). We've written the contents onto the cans with Sharpie marker - sure hope it lasts. We packed 29 bags. More than we will need, I hope!!
Today I helped situate the food bags under the floor boards of the boat. Each bag is numbered and we will use them in sequence. There is a 10- day meal plan rotation planned.
Many other tasks were completed as well, including rig check and maintenance, re-tying new safety lines, checking lifejackets, putting clean mattress covers on, preping sleeping bunks, sail repairs...
I also did a little bit of shopping. I bought a little personal fan with a USB plug. I understand it will be pretty hot as we approach the doldrums and go through the Panama canals and this is a recommended price of kit. We'll see how well it works. I have a low tech back up...
My roommate and soon-to-be watch mate, Jill, and I enjoyed a steak dinner this evening, along with a lovely glass of wine - our last for a good while. Tomorrow we depart!
I have had a wonderful vacation with my mother. She is a tour manager (recently retired) and has visited the beautiful west coast of Canada many times. We took the opportunity of this time between my Clipper races to travel together there. Within 12 hours of arriving home in Toronto from Antigua, I was back on a plane heading to B.C. with Mom. She showed me some of her favourite spots and we explored nooks and crannies she'd never been to. We gravitated to the water everywhere we went. In fact, upon arriving in Victoria after our mad dash out of Vancouver, it was less than one hour before I was back on a boat and we were taking a water tour of the harbour and gorge :-)
I treasure the time we've had together. She tolerated me in my zombie-like state and helped me re-energize in the first days of our time together like only a mother would. As we adventured together by car, and enjoyed lingering during meals and long walks together, we created new memories and reflected together on many old ones.
Mom came to Seattle with me to see me settled in with my new crew. She saw the boat that will be my home for the better part of 2 months and met some of my crewmates.
What a surprise when we got to the hotel to find that the balcony had a view of the Clipper Race boats! I'm getting excited!!
Go ClipperTelemed+! (a.k.a "LGB" for the "little green boat"... Will you be following us on the Race Viewer?)
While my Clipper Race team met the huge challenge of the North Pacific crossing from Qingdao to Seattle, I took on a sailing challenge of a somewhat different nature.
Them - Brrrrrrrr!
Me: note the calm waters and flat horizon :)
My challenge? Advance through a couple of levels of the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) sailing training program from my previous status of Day Skipper to Coastal Yachmaster.
In anticipation, several anxieties surfaced. Could I learn all I needed to know and gain the additional boat handling experience required in the allotted 3 weeks? Would my new knee brace work well on the boat? Would the examiner be tough?
As reassurance, and a source of constant joy, I thought of how lucky I am that my husband wants to do this with me!
It was a very intense 3 weeks. A wonderful way to spend time with hubby, Steve, learning together and advancing our yachting knowledge and skills.
We were wiped at the end of every day. The first
week was a steep learning curve for the theory course, with reading and homework most nights and/or early mornings. Our class was a group of 4, all of whom would be taking the 2-day practical Yachmaster exam 2 weeks hence.
We did manage 2 visits with our friends Sam and Nadia and their family that week. Partly because of that (missed doing some homework exercises those evenings!) and partly because I had to study for an additional practical exam for the following Saturday (VHF radio operator license), I didn't quite pass my chart work paper for the theory course on the first try. Fortunately, the yachtmaster practical exam was delayed 2 days because of weather (no wind!). I say fortunately, because it meant I could study the chart paper theory in more depth and get more efficient with the complicated series of steps required for addressing tidal streams and heights.
My instructor, Pippa, kindly allowed me to re-write the test a couple of hours before the yachtmaster practical exam was to start on Saturday. Happily, the other 2 test papers, also allotted 2 hours each, were no problem (topics: weather and collision regulations, known as "ColRegs"). Though not a requirement to take the yachtmaster practical exam, I was pleased to obtain my Yachmaster theory course completion certificate.
In preparation for the exam we had 2 weeks (10 days) on the water. We (Steve and I, and 2 conspirators, Hugh and Neil) sort of turned the first week, with ace instructor Rich, into a yachting and fine dining tour of Antigua. Don't worry....We found lots of time to practice with close quarters boat handling, mooring, anchoring and MOB drills.
The following week, Pippa was our on board instructor for the exam prep week. Despite the lovely constant warm breeze, it wasn't all sailing. We spent time drilling ColRegs, too, as the standard is 100% for quizzes and application during the practical exam for this critical topic area.
All of the 4 candidates had to adjust their travel plans because of the delay in the practical exam. Except that I couldn't, which meant I had to be assessed first so that I could get off the boat in time to catch my plane the next day. Quite nerve wracking to be the first one assessed, although the others also were given quizzes and chart assignments while my assessment was underway. When it came down to getting out on the water, though, they were my crew and I was the one in the spotlight mainly.
Here's a rundown of my assigned tasks:
Sat eve - Chart task - plot EP on my birthday date near Plymouth, consider tidal stream.
Grilled on the ColRegs - lights, day shapes and sound signals. Q&A re weather. Shown synoptic charts etc. to interpret. Assigned night passage to prepare. Skipper for the night. Get the boat ready (direct the crew) and off the dock and execute night pilotage plan into St John's Harbour (where the cruise ships go). Organized crew to get dinner cooked - we ate while underway. Handed off return pilotage to Steve, who took us into Hermitage Bay and anchored.
Next morning (Sunday) I was skipper again. Planned a crazy route to SAIL off the anchor and SAIL through a TINY safe passage between a submerged rock and a very hard coastal rock cliff place. Continued sailing to try and find a small deep spot (seek 10 m depth contour) in the great big blue (about 2 nm offshore) - found it! None of this with electronic charts. Then motor sail to Jolly Harbour fairway buoy (very light winds). On the way, MOB exercise (the man over board was "Steve", a boat fender with a coiled line attached, so the real Steve couldn't help with the retrieval) - success! And then SAIL into the harbour (through a nearby anchorage) with short tacks through the narrowest part of the channel to the harbour. Stop at a mooring ball in the harbour under SAIL. Then on into the harbour with engine on and then reverse around a hammer head dock and continue reversing down a lane between slots/berths on one side and a wall on the other. Plant the boat on the wall tied on the port side. Carefully gauging wind speed effects and prop walk from the propeller, managed to gently kiss the dock with fenders as we came to a gentle stop on the wall. Fun!
Fortunately for all this, we had rather benign weather conditions.
How did my examiner sum it up? "Exemplary performance!" What relief!
A quick photo to mark the occasion before I dashed off to catch my plane...
Congrats to the others, Steve, Dian and Neil, who went on to achieve their Yachmaster Offshore certifications!
Note: While good for long term cruising plans, none of this will be particularly helpful on the ocean yacht racing adventure that resumes in my near future. More to come on that front very soon!
Well, they flew me home business class so I would have room to stretch out my injured leg. And I was wheeled through the airports in a wheelchair. Plus, I got to be pampered in the first class travel lounges in Vietnam and Seoul. Very comfortable travel and much appreciated. To top it off, hubby was at the airport to welcome me home!
It's been nice to be home these past 2 weeks. A bit of pampering the first few days helped me get over jet lag - actually, that took the better part of a week! Midnight snacks were more like lunch, with the 12 hour time difference.
I've kept a low profile so far so I could adjust to being home and focus on my knee rehab, which has been keeping me busy, as well as coordinate things with insurance companies, etc.
My amazing doctor lined up a consultation with the experts at Athlete's Care for the day after I arrived home. That doctor then referred me to a physiotherapist and a brace specialist. I diligently implemented all PT recommendations and have begun a rigorous home rehab program. I'm in the gym most days and have started Aquafit classes as well. Also, I saw an orthopaedic specialist at Mt. Sinai Hospital this week.
The outcome? Though the ACL (the anterior something-or-other ligament) is completely ruptured, I am strengthening the surrounding muscles and moving around quite well already. The specialist has agreed that I can return to the Clipper Race for Leg 7 as planned! I will be wearing a brace as a precaution.
So, spirits lifted and plans in motion, it was time to get out and have some fun. My yacht club runs sailboat races in the winter - in the indoor pool! To get my sailing fix, I grabbed our family's remote control sailboat and headed off to the club where I met up with Sharkie comrades Andrew and Daina - I sometimes race with them on their Shark in Toronto Harbour. Andrew showed me the ropes with the RC and he quite handily won the first heat before we lost control of the rudder and had to withdraw from the competition. Oh well. I got the hang of it during practice time and am determined to give racing it a try once we sort out the problem. I went to the hobby store today and bought a new servo, so repairs are underway. The agonies of boat ownership!
Have you been following the Race? The course from DaNang to Qingdao has been brutal. I can only imagine that the issues with equipment and the extreme weather challenges have left the crew battered and weary. I can't honestly say I wish I was there. I am with them in spirit though, and eagerly await news of their safe arrival in port. Thankfully, weather in these final days of the race has become more favourable and they should have a bit easier time of it.
Thanks for following, and for your good wishes. Stay tuned as the sailing adventure continues during my upcoming yachtmaster training in Antigua in April, then more ocean racing in Leg 7 of the Clipper Race (May-June).
What a way to end the trip! Yes, it's official - I'm off the boat. The medical assessment showed torn ligaments in the knee. I need to return to Canada for as assessment and rehab. The insurance company arranged for me to fly home late Monday evening.
So on Monday, I took advantage of the hotel's morning spa discount and booked a massage and facial - 2 hours of pampering. I still can't get over the great value of services in Vietnam. Everything is quite affordable!
Then, Judith and I headed to the beach. We were awed by the luxury of the Novotel sister site "Premier Villas". We lazed on the beach chairs and sipped our favourite summer libations. The steamed mussels were devine!
It was a good thing we ate mid afternoon... After showers in the over-the-top luxurious change rooms, we headed to the nearby resort for the Clipper prize giving gala. Perhaps you saw the You Tube video in the previous post?
In all the excitement and media attention, it seemed to take forever for people to get seated and for the speeches etc to start, and finish, before the food could be served.
The floor show was amazing! Different dance and music performances of many different genres.
I was glad to have the chance to say goodbye to my teammates, but very sad to leave them. It was good to learn that there will be a couple others joining the boat for the next race. It will be tough and the extra manpower will be welcome.
Stay tuned for more sailing adventure news from Antigua in April (I will hopefully be taking on the challenge of yachtmaster training and the certification exam) and fingers crossed I can join the ClipperTelemed+ team for Leg 7 as planned in May-June.
...thanks again for the donations coming in! It means a lot.
FYI, here is a you tube video about the Clipper experience in Vietnam. CLIPPER RACE CREW DISCOVER DA NANG VIETNAM http://youtu.be/fbQ-_fwrl-k
Having spent Saturday resting, writing and reflecting, we were ready for action on Sunday. Judith and I elected to hire a private guide and driver to take us to My Son UNESCO heritage site and Hoi An, ancient sea port and active merchant district.
Our guide, Quan, from DaNang, was knowledgeable and answered all our questions. He has a masters degree in history from the university in DaNang and is passionate about his city and the region. He is proud of the great strides in economic development and lifestyle that DaNang has seen, and at the same time fears for its future. There are still strong cultural divisions between north and south. While the government is "communist", it is run by a powerful elite and there is much corruption. From the north, drugs are infiltrating the city of DaNang changing the social landscape. Still, DaNang, population 1.1 million, is a safe city with much to explore as a visitor.
Quang, our driver, negotiated traffic expertly, manning the horn conservatively. It was surprising never-the-less to find ourselves weaving from lane to lane. While traffic flows in both directions on most streets and lanes are marked, they are mostly disregarded. Cars and motorbikes push their way in and out of traffic in a constant flowing dance of vehicles. Despite the apparent traffic chaos, I've not seen a accident. Somehow it works. Still, it's alarming to see very young children squeezed between parents on a scooter that's weaving its way through traffic - a common site. The population of Vietnam is young, more than half under 30 and most families with 3-4 children (fewer in the cities, more in the rural areas). There is a wide variety of education opportunities for citizens, and typically a bank loan is needed for college or university. IT is the main field of study. Apparently, Vietnamese are crazy for technology.
Judith and I went back in time to My Son - site of ancient Hindi temples built by the Champa people (originally from Burma) in the years 600-1200 and then forgotten. They were discovered and unburied by the French in the 1800's. Now there are very few Champa people living in Vietnam - mainly in the south in 2 small communities. They are taught in the Champa language and are distrustful of Vietnamese, their historic conquerers. One community continues its Hindi traditions and the other is Islamic. Most of the rest of the country is secular, though traditions around remembrance of ancestors persist. Families generally live as multigenerational units, to support healthy aging, as the public health system is very basic, requiring fees for most services. We learned many more interesting facts about the UNESCO site and Vietnam, which I won't bore you with here.
In the afternoon we had a lunch on Hoi An and were given a tour of some of the buildings of particular historic significance. We visited the home of a family that had inhabited the abode for 7 generations. Being central on the coastal of Vietnam, Hoi An was an important nautical trading post for all of Asia and Europe at one time. Separated by the covered "Japanese" Bridge, there had been a Japanese merchant community on one side of the river and a Chinese community on the other. When navigation up the Han River became too difficult for the ever larger merchant ships, the port lost its favour as a preferred port. Never-the-less, in continues to thrive as a shopping destination.
We visited a beautiful Buddhist "meeting hall", which happened to be very busy as it was the day of the first full moon in the Chinese New Year - an important day of prayer. Our guide was not impressed by the show of devotion, viewing it as a money grab by the temple (patrons pay for intense sticks, candles, prayers on heir behalf and predictions of he future).
Many top notch tailors can be found who will kit you out in a complete wardrobe in no time. Just get measured and wait for it to be delivered to your hotel in a day or two! We saw beautiful fashions and gorgeous silk fabrics on display. The ancient city is strung everywhere with lanterns - apparently an enchanting site in the evenings. Alas, Judith and I had to return with our guides to DaNang before dinner hour. But Hoi An is a place I would like to visit again.
That evening, Judith and I elected to stay in, both suffering signs of Traveller's Tummy - we suspect an earlier lunch at the hotel. Thus we missed the crew dinner (offered for free to Clipper crew by a restaurant on the beach).
They call DaNang the "Fantastic City." On the heels of their New Years celebrations, they put on a great welcoming show for us that hasn't stopped. There are huge signs up everywhere welcoming the Clipper Race to DaNang, there is a sculpture of the DaNang sponsored boat in the riverfront walk area, people in stores and restaurants see our Clipper crew shirts and inquire about what boat we are on and our standing on the race... The standard of service everywhere is great. Doors held open, greetings with friendly smiles, always working hard to make sure the service experience is top notch. Judith and I elected to share a room at the Novotel near the boat for at least the first few nights while deep cleaning of the boat was going on. At $140US per night it was great value on every level. While many Clipper crew stayed at the hotel, at least for a few nights, many others found fantastic deals nearby, both hotels and hostels. Our room overlooked the Han River, with the striking Dragon Bridge in the distance.
There was a great show of lights each night, with fire from the dragon's mouth weekend evenings at 9pm! Tail end of the Dragon bridge taken from taxi window...Taxis are so inexpensive!
We were pointed to restaurants of every type offering a range of traditional local Vietnamese foods, and struggled to pay more than $5 for a delicious meal! And it seems that, almost without exception, the food is always great. Unfortunately, I did succumb to tummy upset after eating less-than-fresh grilled squid at the hotel. But, keeping to its high service standards, the hotel bent over backwards to get me feeling better, sending up ginger tea, water and bananas, and striking the meal from the bill without question.
Here are some foodie highlights:
Pork ribs first night, room service. Also rice paper rolls and a noodle stir fry dish. A far cry from the boat food we tolerated in the final weeks of racing. There was much focused attention on the marvellous flavours and very little talking. Judith and I were embarrassed to think of how the moans and groans of appreciation might be misinterpreted if overheard by neighbouring hotel guests!
Enough of the foodie experience... Thanks for reading!
The first 2 days in port were spent by the crew doing what is called "Deep Clean". While we tried to take advantage of our extra days post race sailing into port to get some of the jobs done, the bulk of the work needed to be completed dockside. Everyone's gear is off the boat, making the work much easier.
Floor boards are lifted, bilges are emptied and scrubbed, "caves" (cubbie holes) are emptied, cleaned and restocked, foulies were rinsed with fresh water and hung to dry, lines rinsed and hung, day bags in which food was stored were cleaned and hung to dry, sails laid out, inspected and repaired as needed, the rig climbed and inspected, rig and other equipment given maintenance work. An so on and so on.
We will receive a loaner Code 3 spinnaker, until such time as we receive a new one, perhaps in Seattle. Not sure of the exact stats, but I heard there were 22 spinnaker incidents this race, with many requiring extensive repairs or replacing.
Our boat needed a repair to the pulpit (the brace on the bow to which life lines are attached) - I believe this damage happened in relation to the Kitemare episode. When I met Sir Robin in he elevator at the hotel (such a gentleman!), he inquired as to which boat I am on, and then referenced the bow pulpit repair, saying, "I shall have a word with your skipper about that!"
I wonder how many points we will lose based on the damage we sustained. And how other boats fared on the points front. The race committee will apply the formula to the lists of damages and make an announcement before long. Unfortunately, I was not able to help out with much of the deep clean. I spent the entire first day at a medical clinic getting my knee assessed. Terrible to think I may not be able to rejoin the boat due to the knee injury! ...Stay tuned.
P.S. Thanks to Judith for the photos.
This race was supposed to be 4,200 miles of sailing over about 30 days. We were expected to have more than the 2 days we experienced bobbing about in the doldrums, plus some softer breeze else times. It wasn't like that!
It turns out that with the recent New Years celebrations in DaNang and bureaucracy around the welcoming ceremonies, it was apparently impossible for the Clipper boats to arrive earlier than the 17th. So the race course was extended and the race wrap-up altered such that we all arrived on the 17th during daylight hours. We sailed about a week longer than it would have taken us to race the original 4200 mile race course.
Even after the race was "called" and we were instructed to head directly for DaNang, we still had to endure an additional two days bashing into confused sea state day and night. We finally arrived at the mouth of the Han River in DaNang at about 8am on the 17th after lots of tacking upwind. We had to hurry up and wait for our turn for the berthing. As we achieved 7th place in the race, we were to be berthed at 3am after the previous six boats were berthed, starting at 9am, taking 1 hour per boat.
Bobbing about, we put the boat to bed as far as possible, leaving the staysail on deck in case of power (engine) emergency.
At about 1:30pm, a pilot boat came alongside anda Viennese pilot stepped aboard to show us the way in using the unmarked dredged channel prepared especially for the Clipper boats.
As we came alongside the wall, a troupe of Vietnamese drummers welcomed us in. Kind of exciting to see and hear all the energized human activity after a month of isolation at sea!
Sarah from the Clipper office arrived with announcements and instructions for the crew followed by a cooler full of beers and sodas.Our first taste of alcohol in a month!
Our passports were sent to the immigration authorities and we were each issued shore passes which are mandatory for crew entering and exiting the boat dock side area.
Shore passes in hand, we were marched, led by beautifully adorned Vietnamese hostesses, to a stage for team photographs and brief speeches in English and Vietnamese. People from the crowd came up and had the photos taken with the team - hilarious! Of course Matt sprayed the obligatory champagne over all of us and I seem to get the brunt of it, standing next to him.
Check out this video of our DaNang welcome! https://youtu.be/EEyNWfSNrkg. CLIPPER RACE REACHES DA NANG VIETNAM
About 10 days into the race, I lost my footing below deck when the boat suddenly lurched and I popped out my right knee. I popped it back in again right away. But the damage was done. Since then, it's been a slow process of rehabilitation. Strict bedrest for 48 hours. Icing, elevation, ibuprofen... I was in a splint for about 10 days. Out of the splint for stretching 2-3 times per day. Always in the splint for moving about. No splint at night. I joined my watch on deck gradually as able. There were mini milestones each day. Reducing pain meds, getting on deck, doing various useful tasks on deck, grinding the Yankee sheet in, graduating to a soft athletic knee support, getting back to helming, setting the cunningham sail control at the mast, walking about the deck to do a thorough deck check on a gentle day of sailing.
Moving about the boat with a bum knee has been a challenge. Especially when on anything more than a slight tilt. Fortunately, much of the time we have not been close hauled, so not too much tilting. Strangely, I think I'm recovering well due in part to the fact that I am moving about on a boat. I must always very careful and mindful of body positioning. There is also movement all the time - the floor and walls are in constant motion, challenging the knee slightly to strengthen and be stable at all times. Even when lying down, the rocking of the boat jostles the knee in a kind of gentle massage.
There is plenty of time for rehab activities. I take at least an hour off each watch to add ice or heat, and stretch out the joint. But it really comes down to the team. With good humour and encouraging words, they tolerated my entrenchment on the galley bench in the early days of recovery. They have picked up the slack, doing extra duties that I can't manage, above and below decks, without complaint. Despite demanding work, they are attentive and constantly warning me not to overuse my knee. One crew member kindly traded bunks with me, so that I wouldn't have a precarious climb in and out of bed at each watch changeover. Another leant or gave things from her personal stock of supplies - hot water bottle, cloth athletic knee support, deep heat rub, that were not in the medical supplies kit. I
try to contribute and give back in whatever ways I can. We have opened up "Salon Ellwood". Services include neck massage, hair detangling and French braiding. I trade jobs I can do, like cleaning the heads or doing log entries, for jobs I can't, like emptying the bilge in the stern of the boat. Those of you who know me well might think of me as over-the-top independent and self reliant - to a fault. Here, I am chided for not asking for help. It's hard for me to ask for help, but I am learning from the receiving end the truth in the saying, "a friend in need is a friend indeed". The friendship and generous support I have received through this experience is so appreciated!
Thank you fabulous ClipperTelemed+ team for reminding me of the importance and value of interdependence.
With 3 1/2 days to go, and some easier sailing conditions settling in, it seems the crew has gotten past the grumbling about the race extension and have settled into a resigned complacency. As we are sailing upwind in gentle breezes, there is down time on deck. We are catching up on our rest, and enjoying some relaxation. The sailing books are coming out: sail trim basics, knots and splicing, the psychology of sailing. Knot tying demonstration and practice is a fun way to pass the time.
Photo: Engineer Justin, assisted by Alex, fixing a leaking head.
Although we spend half our time on watch, half off watch, I'm learning that long distance ocean racing is more about managing living on board than about managing the sailing. They say that if you look after the boat, the boat with will look after you. There is a lot of looking after the boat to do. The heavy lifting seems to fall to the worlders, since they have developed more detailed knowledge of the inner workings of the boat, and have been assigned roles with lots of responsibility, such as "boat engineer" and "bossun" and "rigger".
Hardly a day goes by when engineer Justin isn't addressing some mechanical problem arising. Water maker is malfunctioning. Head (toilet) is blocked. Sink is clogged. "Black water" (sewage) tank isn't clearing (plug your nose!). Bilges inexplicably overly full. On and on. I want to learn more about boat systems since I want to do lots of cruising in the future and want to be able to address mechanical issues as they arise. So, the other day I offered to play the role of assistant engineer. The problem was that the generator water intake wasn't flowing and the generator kept shutting itself off. Usually this is a sign that the impeller needed replacing. So, out came the manuals and the box with replacement parts. Indeed, once we managed to get at the compartment with the impeller, we saw that most of the phalanges had become worn or had broken off. So we picked out a few bits of the impeller and then replaced the impeller and put it all back together again. After about 2 hours, fingers crossed, we restarted the generator. Moments later it shut off again. Despite multiple attempts, it was no go. By the way, there were no actual instructions about how to replace an impeller in the manual, as this is a job for a trained professional. Having each seen the job done before, we were fairly certain we had done it correctly. Hmmm... What else could be the problem? Eventually we found a giant air bubble in the water intake system, but we didn't know how to address it. Besides, our watch was off and Justin needed a much deserved break. The problem was passed along to the support engineer on the other watch, Sean. Eventually, after about 2 1/2 days, between Skipper Matt, Justin and Sean, and the Clipper Race maintenance team (via email), every approach was attempted that could be thought of. Still no success. The problem seems to be with the water pump and we do not have the resources on board to fix that. It will have to wait until we get back to port.
Meanwhile, how to keep the batteries charged? We have to run the engine in neutral at 1200 RPMs 6 hours on 6 hours off. As compared to about 16 hours per day in total for the generator. The engine approach to battery charging uses about 5 times as much fuel than using the generator. Justin is monitoring fuel consumption carefully to ensure we will have enough fuel to maneuver into port. Hopefully the wind won't shut off requiring us to motor a great distance at the end of this race as has happened in the past.
Thank you, Justin, for your commitment and extra efforts to make the boat run smoothly!
They guaranteed all boats will arrive into port during daylight on the 17th. So this is the last Thursday of this race. Each of us is noting the particular chores we will no longer be require to do after today. Bilges, heads, etc. Nice!
As crew mate Ryan said, this makes a much better story than "We came in 6th".
At 5am yesterday there was a sudden and brief becalming that was accompanied by torrential rain and then a dramatic wind shift happened accompanied by a huge spike in wind speed. Fortunately for me, this did not happen on my watch. I found myself bracing against the aisle-side frame of the bunk as the boat "crash gybed" so as not to tumble out when the tilt of the boat heeled the opposite way for which my bunk angle was set. A crash gybe is when the boat unexpectedly turns its stern through an arch passing the direction from which the wind is coming and then the wind flows across the opposite side of the boat. But the sails don't travel across to the other side of the boat like they are supposed to, because that takes time to set up and many hands to implement, especially with a spinnaker. At this point, the spinnaker (Code 3 - our smallest and heaviest weight) got wrapped and wrapped and wrapped some more around the forestays (up which we hoist the "white" sails (Yankee and Staysail) for sailing upwind. By the time skipper Matt arrived on deck from a deep slumber, the situation was beyond saving. It was all hands on deck to try and manage the situation. Portions of the sail were billowing and pulling the boat this way and that while other parts were tethered by being twisted around. Several attempts were made by brave crew (our strong and mighty Worlder men) to be hoisted up to either facilitate dropping the sail or just tether it to a forestay. The best that could be accomplished in the rocking sea state and strong winds (about 25 knots plus gusts) was to tether it at several additional points with sail ties to get it more under control and enable safe sailing with mainsail only to calmer waters. There was one major billowing piece in play. This took hours. Meanwhile it was mother watch for me. Meal plans and timing were out the window. There was constant call for nutritious and energy filled snacks, but little time for consumption. For much of the day, cereal, granola bars and lots and lots of water bottle refills was about all I could get into people. And lots of instant coffee. Icing bruised and banged limbs was also on the task list. I also managed to keep the hourly boat log updated as everyone else was on deck. Eventually the bacon and cheese frittata was consumed as each person was able to grab a short break. Plan #946 was to go off the race course and head around the top of the Philippines and seek shelter on the lee side. People following on Race Viewer must have been puzzled about what was going on. In calmer waters, several more hours were spent attempting to get the sail down. We ended up with all halyards wrapped in the sail with no further ability to hoist crew up the mast or forestay. Daylight was waning. With help and direction from crew mate Caz, standing in for Justin who was needed on deck, a much appreciated chicken and veggie-mite risotto was prepared and hungrily consumed, again, gradually through the evening as people were able to grab a quick break. Plus fruit salad and hand-whipped chocolate mousse! Plan #1278 was to find better shelter in a harbour, anchor and resume sail rescue efforts.
I had been reading about piloting and navigation in the region, so Matt turned to me to dig up info about nearby anchorages. We settled on Salomogue Harbour, Philippines, about 2 hours sailing south. I put together a pilotage plan, especially important since we would be arriving In the dark of night in unfamiliar and not well charted waters. I was stationed in the navigation station, responding to Matt's queries about distance and bearings to various points on the nautical chart.
Keeping at least 2 miles off shore, when the red flashing harbour light was on our port bow at 90 degrees, we then turned on the engine, lowered the mainsail, engaged the engine (at which point I marked the spot as a weigh point in the navigation software and made note of time and location in the log), then turned due east to head for and pass between two buoys set at the entrance of the small harbour to keep us off the reefs. Crew were stationed on deck as lookout and the search light was plugged in and brought on deck. In 14 meters of calm water, we dropped anchor at close to midnight. No simple task. It took almost all hands on deck to wrestle it out from under the floor boards in the sail locker and pass it hand over hand over the side. No electric anchoring winch on this race boat! So far, apart from very brief catnaps for a lucky few, there had been no sleep for the already tired crew since 5am. But we pressed on with our work. More coffee, "biscuits" and candy was served up. With the main sail down, we once again had a halyard available for hoisting people up the mast. Matt climbed the mast to unfasten the forestay so that the crew could carefully lower it to the deck. As "mother" and with a minor knee injury to attend to, I was sent below for a few hours of blissful sleep. Unfortunately, Matt couldn't unfasten the inner forestay. Other crew were sent up, and ultimately the head was cut away from the sail (and, sadly, lost overboard). About 7 hours after laying anchor, the job was done.
I was roused just after sunrise, and stationed once again in the Nav station. It felt symbolic that, 28 hours after the mishap, I was able to turn to a new fresh page in the log book at 00:15 hours UTC (Universal Time, um, Clock?), 09:15 local time, and enter "returned to 'resume race' weigh point, raising sails".
Today marks 16 days since leaving Airlie Beach. About the halfway mark. Fresh food supplies are near an end. Spoiled cabbages and carrots have been thrown overboard. The urgency of using remaining fresh veggies has resulted in some creative and often delicious meals. Yesterday Sean made 4 kinds of pizza! Apples and oranges are getting low and some are starting to spoil. There's still meat In the freezer, but I don't know how many more days worth. Soon it'll be canned everything. I already feel like I've had more than enough baked beans from a can - they seem to accompany at least one meal most days.
The wind has softened and the angle changed in favour of putting up the spinnaker. Now there is more to do on deck. First of all, the helmer must keep the boat at the best angle to the wind and respond to changes in wind strength and wave motion that can move the boat off course.
Aside from careful helming, there is constant trimming of the spinnaker by a team of 3:
1) trimmer - weather permitting, sits on a bean bag so as not to strain the neck while starring up at the edge of the sail watching for excessive "curl" that signifies need for trimming.
2) two grinders - these follow the directions of the trimmer... "Grind!"..."Hold!"... Endlessly.
So here is the team:
Other crew go about their boat maintenance duties. As they say, if you take care of the boat, the boat will take care of you.
When I'm on a racing sailboat, I expect it to heel (lean over) on certain points of sail. Going up wind, sailing as near into the wind as we can, the boat heels. It's expected, and you accommodate. You change the positioning of your body with respect to various sail controls you must use, and sail on. But I'm used to day racing. Once done racing, it's back to shore and terra firma. When I've lived aboard a boat while cruising, we often picked our routes to avoid the heeling kind of sailing. When at anchor, the boat gently rocks - for me, a very comfortable feeling. Ocean racing, crew spend as much time not racing as in racing mode. And you can't pick your route to avoid the tilted sort of sailing. This race is called Clipper Race Around the World because it mainly follows the old clipper trade route, with its favourable trade winds pushing the boats along flat and downwind. These boats are designed to go best downwind. They are slow and clumsy upwind. But, global weather patterns seem to be changing and recent versions of the Race have seen the boats tackle a lot more upwind sailing. The challenge for crew is that the sparse living space below decks is not really designed for living on a tilt. Except for the oven/stove, which is gimballed so that it tilts on one plane such that its surface is close to level with the horizon ahead of the boat. The angle of the bunks can be adjusted, even while you lie in them. This is important because the angle of heel can change throughout the off watch period depending on changeable wind conditions or tacking angle. In addition, there is a lee cloth that can be tied tautly along the open edge of the bunk, so you don't fall out with a sudden change in tilting angle. These features make the bunk often the safest place to be when off watch, I think. It feels to me a bit like being cradled once I'm in it, the motion of the boat rocking me to sleep. Getting into the bunk is a huge challenge. Mine is the upper bunk on my left side. Left foot on stowage ledge under bottom left bunk. Right hand high on opposite wall. Left arm reaching for my top left bunk. Right foot on edge of upper right bunk. Left foot on edge of lower left bunk. Right foot on pipes above upper right bunk near porthole. Butt on my bunk. Left foot joins right foot on opposite wall. Adjust tilt of bunk. Time lying down with motion of the boat. Get lee cloth up quickly. Like getting into the bunk, when living on an angle, everything takes 10 times longer. You can't simply stroll down the hallway to the freezer to get the chicken for dinner preparations. There are grab bars everywhere. On a tilt, we swing like monkeys through trees, from one grab bar to another, just not as gracefully, often bracing feet against walls or shelving. The floor is in constant motion. There are ropes strung across key passage ways for grabbing onto. A clever bloke on our boat fashioned a lattice made of spectra, a hugely strong form of line (ropes on boats are called lines), along the side of the ladder that leads from the deck to below decks (companion way) for additional support climbing and descending the ladder.
If the hot sauce bottles, popular for dressing up the meals, were simply set on the counter, they would topple off in a great clatter. So they are lain down, their bottoms braced against the counter's 3- inch lip - another safety feature. They seem to be more standing than lying. The foul weather gear hanging in the locker swings out into the passage way. They drape and sway eerily in the low level red lights used below decks at night, leggings and sleeves seem to be reaching for you as you pass by. "Excuse me, pardon me," we say for a laugh. Going fast upwind is wet work topside. It means all hatches must be closed. Near the equator, that makes it like a sauna below decks. It's a constant battle against dehydration as we are drenched in sweat, even as we sleep. If we sleep. Going into this, I knew these sorts of things would be among the challenges of this Race. I'm loving the sailing and racing aspects. The challenging living aspects weave our small group into a tight community, very dependent upon one another for accomplishing even the smallest of tasks. "Sorry - as you're there just now, could you please pass me the X so I can Y?" Substitute hand pump and empty bilges, sponge and clean heads, etc. Manners go far. Each person fulfills his or her assigned role to the best of their abilities, and then goes further to bring their personal strengths to team functioning. Extending a caring touch, lifting heavy objects, being vigilant about boat operations or safety aspects, plastering a smile on in the face of challenge... With the effort that comes with living on an angle, on top of the demands of sailing and racing, naturally fatigue and exhaustion sets in for some, frustration and impatience live near the surface for others. So this Race is in part about finding the strength within you to meet the living challenges each day brings and the tolerance and support for self and others when we are not at our best. On my off watch hours, I often have in mind the many people I have met over the years of my career in rehabilitation who must find the strength and patience to live with a disability in a world that for them must be at least a little like living on an angle. They must find a way of living in a community that is not designed for their abilities. I can step off the boat at the end of the Race into what is for me and people like me a much easier world. Let's all use our manners and bring our tolerance to the fore. And support work to make our world a more safe, accommodating and welcoming place for people living with disabilities. Thanks for reading, and especially thanks to those who have given donations. Links can be found on my blog webpage.