Crazy Clipper moments - part …….well I've lost count!
We set off from Gosport with the lovely Quentin Dimmer as skipper and the slightly scary Gareth (whom I now love!) with the usual assortment of personalities for a gentle delivery trip to Inverkip for the Scottish boat show.
The weather was fine and we all got along great. There were several people that knew each other already and wanted to sail together. I knew Jen Burgis from L2 and now have met Steve, Helen and Carl who I'll be sharing a house with in Australia. Crazy Colin completed our watch and by coincidence we are all starting at leg 5 so will hook up in Airlie beach.
Fantastic sailing weather along the South Coast and we made good time to Land's End. We saw the biggest pod of dolphins I've ever seen - as far as the eye could see - hundreds of them leaping and frolicking as they swam alongside us. We turned the corner, hoping to out run a low pressure system coming in to the Irish Sea. We didn't make it! Force 8, gusting 9 made for some tricky conditions. Slamming it to short, choppy waves started to turn my stomach despite being dosed up on Stugeron, and I wasn't the only one. I hung on for as long as I could in to the evening watches and my watch were generous enough to say I should go down below. After another hour or so I succumbed with a "Would you mind awfully if I went below for a bit for a lie down?" I didn't return for 10 hours! Being sick while actually lying down in your bunk is not fun. Got to do something about that. By that time I made it back on deck the weather had calmed slightly and I managed a stint on the helm which helped enormously along with a cup of hot soup.
As we reached Scotland the weather broke and we had fabulous sailing conditions again. Downwind sailing up through amazing scenery. We had arrived an entire day early and the marina was not ready for us! As luck would have it, Quentin (7th son of the sea!) grew up about 20 miles up the coast so we sailed on up for a visit to his home village. We tied up to a mooring buoy and Quentin had phoned ahead to his friend, Ian, who runs an canoe adventure business from Lochgoilhead. So quite surreally a Canadian open canoe approached us complete with pirate flag to pick us up and take us a shore for an unexpected beer. We were given a paddle each and off we went! After the joys of a cold beer and a fully functioning flushing toilet we returned on board and made our way back down to Inverkip. Inverkip is the most charming village and marina with picture perfect views out in to the Lochs which we were lucky enough to experience under clear blue skies and warm Scottish sunshine.
A hot shower and a crew meal ensued at the marina bar - I went Scottish with scallops and a main of black pudding, haggis and steak pie (note no veg other than potatoes!) It was delicious. Drinks flowed and much laugher was shared with silly nicknames coming to the fore - mostly for Colin (aka The Rustler), Gareth as Mr Tinder and Sandy our superhero - Navman.
Day 2 in Inverkip - the eponymous deep clean and getting the boat ready for the boat show on the Friday
More drinks in the evening at a local hostelry - The Inverkip Hotel (which I believe was the only pub in the village). Then things got a bit crazy with Gareth watching live from his bunk an internet broadcast on Periscope of Quentin and Anna having a quiet dinner next door in the restaurant. Much giggling and silliness followed with Adrian and his invisible dog topping the lot! I even had my first lock in and we eventually tumbled home in to the freezing night around 1am. God, it was cold on the boat that night! The Northern lights were seen a few miles up the coast from us, we didn't see them but we did had a clear view of a blanket of twinkling stars spread our above us in an inky black night.
Day 3 - A spare day was granted to us as we'd made such a fast passage so a group of us decided to go for a walk to along the coastal path to Gurrock. Just so beautiful. Another fantastic day weather wise, we walked the 5 miles along the coast to Gurrock to have a lovely lunch in the Continental Café (good recommend Quentin). I even got to see Dunoon (somewhere I'd heard a lot about from Karen Watson way back in the day) and it was a stunning as she had described. We then cracked on for the 5 miles back to Inverkip and then, you guessed it back to the Inverkip Hotel for refreshments! Scotland were playing Poland in a European qualifier (they drew but went out because Ireland won) so the bar was pretty full and had a lovely atmosphere, especially when Scotland scored an amazing goal! Haggis, chips and pepper sauce made for a substantial dinner (again absolutely delicious).
Various people arrived to work on the boat show the next day so new and old stories were recounted. A conker match - England verses Scotland - took place in the bar and I think Steve edged it!
I had an early night and made it back to the boat at half past midnight!
A quick whiz round the show in the morning and it was time for my taxi to the airport and my flight home.
What was lovely this week apart from the sailing and the scenery, was the mix of previous Clipper crew and newbies like me. I learnt a lot from the Round the Worlder's and great hints and tips from Gareth about sailing. We talked about not only about incidents and weather conditions along the race but the emotional journey they'd been on to. If I didn't realise it before I now know for certain this race is all about mental strength. I did turn to Jen at one point during the storm (and I know it was because I was feeling ill) and said "Jen, I'm scared about Leg 6, this is nothing. Will I be able to cope?" It was the same feeling I had when I was ill before I had my chemo. I knew what was coming and I had to steal myself to face it. This is a choice, I am going in to this willingly but I am stealing myself for it slightly. I really want it though and as Jen said when we're in the middle of it we will cope because we can and we will overcome it. This is about the ultimate test of survival, physically and emotionally.
My Mum was taken quite ill this week and had one of those phone calls you dread form my Dad to say how ill she'd been and clearly they'd been worried. For the first time I had that moment of, oh crap I'm on a boat in Scotland and I can't get back. She is now fine but it made me realise how much I love both my parents and as time marches on for all of us we need to tell the ones we love just that.
A brief respite at home and back to sea on Monday for Day Skipper Practical - let's crack on.