Saturday, 13 July 2013

Knots, sails and super yachts......

Greetings It has been an incredible week. I have completed my first weeks Clipper training, phew. 

I was nervous and excited by the prospect of going to sea and commencing Clipper training.

A last minute dash to the 'chandlery' aka boat shop, for all things boat related. Some sailing gloves to protect my nursing hands. After the kind assistance of the gentlemen in the chandlery I was well equipped, including the gift of a piece of rope to practice my knots; I was yet to realise how valuable this would be. 

As you journey with me you I welcome you to join in 'sailing language learning,' our first class 'sailing 101' commencing today. I will try to explain new words as We go so our understanding can grow togetjer. If you're stuck and not in possession of the essential 'Clipper training manual', I suggest looking on the wibberly wobberly web so you can really enjoy the stories.

The moment I was slightly apprehendive about  arrived all too soon, tying knots!!! Trying (but I fear failing) to look cool, calm and collected we were put through our paces; after some patient and consistent coaching from my skipper and fellow crew some who could tie some of the knots in seconds! Well we were grouped in watches, (a sailing term for the team responsible for 'watching' for other ships, the weather, water and navigating.)

In the early rounds of our 'knot off's' a new trend catching clipper training by storm, who can knot quickest! Knotting under pressure and, leisure knotting are very different scenarios. As a novice knotter I was becoming comfortable with the leisurely knotting, but once the pressure was on all knotting capacity left me. I had a fleeting thought I am joining a yacht racing team and had a suspicion that my race skipper was not going to appreciate my leisurely sail knot ability as it dosnt really mark the standard of a winning team. 

Not to be daunted on my journey to achieve something remarkable I mustered all my knotting abilities and was gently shown the 'bow line' I thought I had just tied was no more than a wiggled up piece of rope......

The 'bow line' one of the many knots that are absolutely essential for safe sailing, it's used to attach the lines (the ropes that hold the sails on the boat and are adjusted to enable the most effective performance of the sails.)

The crucial quality knotting ability became all too clear on about day 3, when our headsail - the smaller sail in front of the mast started flapping wildly in the wind as the lines had become disconnected. The sails are heavy and take a group of people to move them and hoist them and have heavy metal rings that the lines are attached to, as the sail is flailing, it is the moment you open your ears and listen carefully to the I at ructions your skipper is calling out to keep the boat and crew safe, a risky moment which would be worse in rough seas. 

We were reminded of the importance of the 'check and chuck' checking the knots on the lines pre hoisting the sail and check the knots and chuck them over the side to prevent them catching when being hoisted.

As the week progressed many of the crew in our moments of steady sailing could be seen grabbing a length of rope and diligently practising a range of essential knots. 

The knots session and flappy sail was not the first or only moment where I wondered if I could reach the high standards that were being expected from professional skippers who were used to working on super yachts. 

Super yachts are not just yachts that people think are super, they are an elite class of their own that are kept in a near perfect state that are maintained daily with a lot of scrubbing, buffing and shining. When you see a gloriously shiny yacht in a picture its likely to be a super yacht, lovingly cared for by a dedicated crew. I was jokingly advised when we were cleaning the boat needed to 'not hospital clean, but super yacht clean'. This is the constant standard expected! 

Sailing action, me guiding the crew to put up the spinnaker pole. 

If you would like to see my knots and learning progressing then follow me on twitter @akabundlesofjoy

Sunday, 9 June 2013

The Red Sea!

So the next morning, bright early and excited. We said sad goodbyes to some of the incredible people we had enjoyed the past 48hrs with and walk up the jetty, knowing we would be returning and climbing aboard more boats quite soon. 

It was obvious when we had arrived at our destination as all we could see stretching before us was a sea of scarlet, other crew members clad in their Henri Lloyd crew jackets snaking their way into the Venue, a slightly nervous excitement and great anticipation bubbling from everyone. 

Our crew photos were completed and we too received the coveteted scarlett jacket that would soon become a key piece of kit for every occasion. 

We sneakily peaked into the auditorium and were surprised at the shire size, soon to be full of hundreds of people chatteting and awaiting to hear which skipper would be leading them in the adventure of a lifetime around the world. 

Some essential back ground and up-dates shared and a superbly inspiring talk from Sir Robin Knox-Johnson and the announcements begun. As each were read our there were slight breath holding moments until our names had safely been spoken aloud and allocated to a skipper and crew. 

Look at the bottom left corner! Yes -that's me. 

Then after all names were safely allocated to a skipper we broke out into crews to meet one another and discuss tax tics - a top secret meeting ;) suddenly the reality of the race took on a whole new meaning. How do we go from a group on mainly novice sailors who ate strangers to a winning crew? 

Spread across the world we headed off for dinner and more bonding, making the most of the precious time we had. 

Later meeting up with Julie and Romanda -the other winners, we shared a feeling of being a little daunted by the transition of possible winner to key crew member within less than 24hrs. 

But I know as late that evening we fell into bed, wee were contented to be on the journey of achieving something remarkable.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Contented soul

Sorry for not blogging for a few days I've been busy moving house - exciting new home in the mix of this incredible year! 

Back to all things adventurous. Today one of the other 'winners' Julie has commenced upon Level 1 training, a slightly nervous moment as she has not sailed apart from on our selection weekend, but with her willing attitude, teachable nature and love of people and life, she'll do just grand. I'll let you know how things progress.

Last time I wrote we had used the luxury (compared to the boat) washing facilities and were off to our cosy bunks, tucked in warm and tight, gently relaxing rocked by the boat into a -"All hands on deck" that's us, as crew we are the multiple hands and now have to muster (gather) on deck in full foul weather gear. Once we had found our way onto deck, in various states of dress under our foulies, we gingerly made our way back to bed, not knowing if another call would come....

The dawn broke and with it some fabulous sailing winds - to my, and others utter delight good-bye gales; hello helming. 

After a healthy breakfast came the time to get ready to sail. With our excellent skipper Jim and his patient and encouraging crew briefing us, we were then out into the open seas! Ok, it was the wild waters between Gosport and the Isle of white, but was like a huge ocean for those with their first time at sea. With a boat of mainly novices it presented the right level of challenge  and great learning water. 

We were an excitable crew just thrilled to be on the water and have the opportunity to sail on a Clipper 68, a racing yacht that had circumnavigated the globe. 
As our skipper and his mates were asking for volunteers for different jobs hands flew in to the air with a silent 'ooo pick me urge coming from within'. 

Soon we had settled into the various roles reassured we were all going to have a go at each aspect of sailing on board. From the grinding that makes your arms burn and core muscles feel like they might fail you to, to sweating the main sail and the focused calm of helming (steering) the boat. This is where we all were learning a new language and techniques to keep us safe and sail well. In time this will be the bedrock of all our sailing safety and speed. 

With the winds blowing and the boat sailing and often 'heeling' or leaning over as diagram below. 

As we go on this adventure I hope we can learn together more of sailing terms and knowledge, so I can sail and you can become the best 'arm chair' sailors ;) 

So when you see images like this...

The crew are not just having a little sit down and rest, but actively working to balance the boat and make it more efficient at moving through the water. 

So our boat was heeling and the 'lunch team' were rightly feeling a little nervous about preparing sandwich's for us all at a challenging angle! 

Not for the first time our Clipper, Goretex and Henri Lloyd hosts displayed understanding and what I could  only describe as 'a desire for the finest' modelling honouring others and the desire to see people perform to their best and to give challenge to stretch one another where needed, but not make the task too big at the beginning of the learning journey. 

The boat was anchored in a relatively sheltered bay, and we enjoyed a well earned re-fuel. 

I am guessing that others had been like me earlier in the morning thinking they were gasping for a drink, but the shire pleasure of sailing and its limited time took over the thirst, not wanting to miss a moment on the water; where my soul felt content. 

We practised tacking and jibes and each of us helmed and the afternoon flew by and we were, slightly reluctantly heading to shore. A days sailing with an excellent crew of enthusiastic, encouraging people. 

As shore got closer the reality of competing returned, that the crew we had worked so closely with we're once again competitors worthy of winning the Clipper Race legs on offer. 

Interviews came next! Initially we thought we would be asked questions, but then we heard we were being given the opportunity to sure why we wanted to win and sail in the Clipper race. 

Many of us, not wanting the sailing to end busied ourselves with packing up the boat, our tired bodies, but beaming faces telling the story. Others were heading up the jetty to make their 'pitch and plea' for the opportunity of a life time to achieve something remarkable. With nerves mounting and shaky disco legs taking on a mind of their own I approached the interview panel. 

There I was trying to do my best to keep calm and take a deep breath and eloquently share the reasons I would ' LOVE' to sail in the Clipper 13-14 round the world yacht race. I started well thanking Henri Lloyd, Goretex and Clipper for such an opportunity and then ..... best intentions failed as the burning desire to live out a childhood dream and life to the full, inspired by so many children and families I have worked with over the years, that such a feat would not be possible for them. 

It felt as if my words came tumbling out, jumbled and then a little tearful; I thought this wasn't what I planned. The tidy neat smiling presentation evaporated and my heart desires were revealed to the dozen people around the table. I paused for a moment as my time neared to an end. And thanked them quietly again. 

I stepped away in silence, and felt like I had blown it and started berating myself for not prepping more, becoming emotional and it felt like I had blown such an incredible opportunity. 

So then it was time to prep for dinner. With the winners still unknown, but having a feeling my name was not amongst the top three, I understood a perspective check. Knowing I wanted to encourage others for being successful that who won did not reflect on my value or capabilities; amidst this process I came back the the phrase 'life is sweet'. I had just made it to the final out of over 600 people, had an incredible days sailing with a great bunch of people and had the opportunity to meet business that held respect of people highly in their values structure. All great things, so life is still sweet. 

Now so nervous that breathing alone was becoming a challenge and the tension of not wanting to miss a celebratory dinner of a brilliant few days. 

I felt like I had lost all conversation. A lovely dinner was had by all and the moment we all had been waiting for arrived. 

The announcements; some fun prizes for such a fab team, who had laughed and learnt and returned safely to shore together. 

Then Leg 3 - South Africa to Australia; the wonderful Julie Cully. Applause, mini speeches and delight - a superb winner, with a smashing sense or humour and natural care for others. 

Leg 4 Australia with a Sydney stopover. Grace Freret - that was my name they called; overwhelmed and humbled, tearful and ecstatic, I stood to be congratulated , it feeling like a dream like I was looking on to it happening to someone else. Then my turn to talk and my mini pep talked I had prepped for myself - I shared, that 'life is still sweet'. 

Then for the final leg Australia to China - Romanda, a surprise to us all. The lovely lady with the award winning smile, zest for life and kind heart. 

The excitement overflowed, and pang that we could not take our amazing crew of the part few days with us. 

Then the information that the announcement was top secret until Monday - over 48hrs away! The phone calls full of news to selected family members and the journey if the news beginning to slowly sink in ...... The dream coming true; I would be sailing Clipper Leg 4. 

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Camping on water

We were briefed on our tasks for the rest of the day; we were to go victualling, for those of you who like me, and I guess a few others- here's a new word for the day. 

victualling  present participle of vict·ual (Verb)

  1. Provide with food or other stores.
  2. Obtain or lay in food or other stores.

So our teams were given instructions, a budget and an observer. The twist being the meal were shopping for, would not being the one we prepared. 

Off into Gosport we dashed, with a time limit and determination. As a team we went for easy, no fuss brekkie. 

Back at the boat within time we started cooking and all took mini starring roles in 'Kitchen Cam' a one off episode of cooking dockside on an old school clipper 68. 

Living on a boat is a bit like camping, basic and wonderful in an ever evolving balancing routine. 

After a dinner served on time - high 5 to the team! We indulged in some sumptuous bake well tart and after dinner games. A hilarious mixture of dance moves and animal impressions. 

And off to our cosy bunks for the night, or so we thought until the what may become a very familiar call, 'all hands on deck' sleep interrupted and into our wet weather gear we climbed  and headed for the deck and the blustery night air. 

Before our first night on a clipper boat. With the glorious thought of a whole days sailing ahead. 

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

the spark moment...

The idea of taking to the open seas with a crew is exhilarating, on my own - simply petrifying. Here is where it all began. Years ago I read Claire Francis' book 'Come hell or high water' it sparked a desire to sail the world. I thought I want to do that; but Not on my own. That was over 2 decades ago. It was just a dream, then this year I saw a competition, and thought 'what have I got to loose' not considering that I might win. That's where the 'I'll throw in an application' came from. But then I was lovingly hounded for a day and I am thrilled I was - they were trying to pin me down to tell me I WAS A FINALIST!!!!! I know writing in caps is a bit like you're shouting, but I was - I had to keep checking my e-mails, it didn't sink in. I'd never entered a competition before. 

After a nervous start and winds gusting in the channel of force 7ish, they were a bit gale force - little gusty I was thinking. There were nervous - moments and the awkward 'disco legs', why at those crucial moments in life do my legs take on a life of their own, jiggling, wiggling and generally being a little inconvenient.

Well enough of wiggling legs, we were grouped into competition legs and were introduced to our lovely hosts from Gore-tex Experience Tours and Henri Lloyd.......

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Bursting to write...

So here I am sharing the story of this incredible year with you. I have thrown caution to the wind and after 'throwing' an application in with a 'I've got nothing to loose' thought I won a place on the Clipper 13-14 round the world yacht race. This has been a childhood dream ~to sail the world, and now its beginning to come true. Here I will share the story you're welcome on this wild journey with me, you can be in the comfort of your warm lounge chair, and still taste in the adventure.