What a week again !! Easter Friday was my birthday… 51 years young and you will never guess what happened. Darren only blinking well got down on one knee over a bottle of Bollinger buried in the veg patch 🙂 I said YES. Now, not only have I got to learn to sail to a safe and competent level, go to work, raise £40K for charity and prepare for a year away from home, I now have a wedding to plan too. I am not complaining, but for goodness sake! 🙂 There is only so much planning this brain can manage. I think that we will wait until I get home next July for the big day, a wedding and a welcome home party combined, sounds like a plan to me. So that brings me back to sailing. Sunday morning I set off from Manchester on the Megabus. Cheap as chips and direct to Portsmouth, well direct via Stoke, Oxford, Bristol and Southampton, 8 hours on a Megabus is not something to be undertaken lightly. Cramped and freezing cold due to overactive aircon, but thankfully with WIFI so I binge watched 5 episodes of In The Line Of Duty – time actually flew by. Heading to the loo on the bus was nothing compared to hitting the heads on a Clipper 70. I eventually arrived in Portsmouth and took the Gosport ferry to my Airbnb for the night. We started next morning at 8.30 am so an Airbnb at the end of Weevil Lane was perfect. Day 1 consisted of a full session in the classroom doing Advanced Sea Safety and Survival. Lots of pictures of demasted boats, tales of people going overboard, hydrostatic shock and secondary drowning. It wasn’t a day for the faint hearted.
Main lessons learnt
STAY ON THE DAMN BOAT
IF IT’S BROKEN FIX IT
IF IT’S NOT BROKEN MAINTAIN IT
Then we were off to our boats for the remainder of the week. My team boat was CV20 with Jim Bennett as our Skipper and Mike Brien as our Mate. Both incredible, Jim is the most laid back guy you will ever meet and Mike was fantastic. He was one of the circumnavigators from the crew of GARMIN in the 17-18 race and had so much to share. It was fantastic to hear first hand about pitfalls and useful tips for life on board. His knowledge about how the 70s actually perform was invaluable.
After the obligatory chat around the circle each introducing ourselves to the gang it was a quick whizz downstairs to snag a bunk. Jim smoothed the way by splitting us Port and Starboard and we all scurried down below to stake our claim. I was on Starboard side with Francesca, Ronald, Chris, Patrick and Simon and on Port were Sara, Steve, Steven, Tony and Jeremy. An evening safety brief and it was off to The Castle for some of the gang, I was tired and with a busy day ahead hit my bunk. By the sounds of it that was a smooth move as next morning Sara was in the salon in her sleeping bag. Tony’s snoring is the stuff of legends 🙂 Fortunately for me I was asleep before the cacophony began….. Poor Sara had not a wink.
The day looked good for sailing a good breeze with some pretty sharp gusts forecast but nothing that our 70 Foot Clipper couldn’t take in its stride. Mike ran through the deck set up and the set up for a spinnaker hoist, so that later in the day we would be prepared for our first hoist. Everyone took their posts for a silky smooth departure from Gosport and we were off. Jim, so salty, really knows his stuff and is unflappable and we glided out into the solent for our first sail hoist as a team. A volunteer was requested and before I knew it I was leading the hoist and thank goodness, it went without a hitch, the ‘VMT Hoist TMV Tidy’ had stayed in my brain from level 2 but I did use my wet notes to make sure nothing was forgotten. Engine off and we were sailing……. IT FELT AMAZING to be back on the water, a great crew and a huge smile on my face.
Now let me introduce you to ‘It’s NOT FLAT Eric‘ he is my mascot, sailing companion and fundraising sidekick, you can call him Eric for short. He was originally the star of Levis’ Stay-Press Denim advertising campaign in the 1990’s, he was know as Flat Eric in those days (Flat Eric, Copyright, Quentin Dupieux AKA Mr Oizo.) Together Eric and I are going to travel 40000 miles across oceans, keeping each other company and we have two, no three main objectives.
1 Have a great time, make new friends and have the adventure of a lifetime.
2 Raise money and awareness for East Cheshire Hospice @Home.
3 Prove to the bonkers ‘Flat Earthers’ that the world is in fact NOT FLAT and it is a globe. We will prove this by sailing around it and seeing it with our very own eyes, admittedly Eric’s eyes are plastic but he trusts me so he will be relying on my word for it.