Level 1 July 2018

Once again a rather late blog write up – it’s been a rather crazy few months with all the UK sailing stuff and see Tim G, you’re not the only wordy one 😉

Soooooooo the day had finally arrived. Level 1 – whoop whoop, finally!!  I’ve been following the 1718 race, but in some ways it still feels unreal…. And it was starting to feel like training was never going to come around!!

Spent Thursday night packing and repacking (get used to it peeps!!) I tried soooooo hard to keep my packing light – and whilst on the clothes front I managed it (2 tops, 2 sailing shorts, 1 pair leggings, fleece, jeans and a few evening tops), the accompanying paraphernalia ate up most of the space. Wet weather gear, deck trainers or my boots?  Travel hair dryer and straighteners?! Decisions decisions…  and yes, I did take both (knowing we’d be moored each night I was gonna make the most of it creature comforts whilst I could!!)

Friday was the usual maniacal trying to get everything wrapped up on time so I could head down to Gosport – finally managed to shut down and was ready to leave at 3. Suggested arrival time was 4.30…. Now, on a “normal” day – home to Gosport “should” take me an hour…  ahem… that means at least double it when it’s sunny and a Friday…  not only did I forget that, I also got stuck due to an accident (thankfully nothing serious, just enough to cause delays).  Managed to pull over to email the office to let them know I was going to be late…

FINALLY arrived rather sheepishly, apologising profusely to our Skipper Roy. Excellent first impressions JoJo, last one to the party!! Dumped bag down and plonked myself next to our First Mate, Mark…   Roy carried on chatting to us all about what the next week had in store…  I happened to glance over at Mark scribbling stuff down and spotted my name with 40’s next to it… hahaha clearly I’m a little sensitive so had to whisper and point out that technically I wasn’t yet in my 40’s!! Think he mumbled “oh god, you’re going to be trouble” And turned his paper over…

Roy wrapped up his chat and then I had to go & find my bunk…   well when I say “find” my bunk…  As I was the last one… all the bunks had been claimed…. So… I had the delights of the “hospital bunk”.  For those of you that have done your Level 1, you’ll know which one I mean… for those of you yet to do it… Hehehe you’ll find out…  make sure you get to start on time to be able to claim a decent bunk!! 😊

Roy told us what time he wanted us up & ready for, and off we all pottered to bed. Possibly the quietest bed prep night, and everyone checking who was setting alarms and for what time – all very polite & civilised… And then… oh dear god… it started….  Dum dum dum…. SNORING….  It was like a blinking chorus, snoring to the sides, snoring to the back…  (kitlist addition: a stack of ear plugs!!) 😉

Day 1 – Saturday

As we had two 1718 leggers with us (safety training refresh before joining the boats in Londonderry) – we spent a lot of the day going over safety aspects on the boat. Literally from top to bottom… in a lot of detail….  We also got introduced to Bob.  Bob was our life sized/weighted dummy that we’d be using for our man overboard practise (MOBs) – I felt sorry for Bob, he was starting to look a little fed up, and is also unresponsive to hugs 😉

We finally got ready to push off at 4 – given none of us had been on the boat before, it was only going to be a mainsail out pootle and MOB practise… but Roy had said that as it was so nice, we were going to moor out that night!! Whoop whoop – although that meant we were also going to have to do anchor watch.  EEEK….

After we managed to get the mainsail up (yes very slowly as a team!!), we pottered about in the Solent looking for the quieter spots. Roy walked us through MOB procedure a few more times for good measure…  and then before you know it, poor Bob had fallen into the water (given it was like a mill pond, I’m wondering if he should be clipped on at all times!!). Luckily the team were on the ball, lifebuoy and flag deployed, spotter spotting, swimmer getting ready in the kit and then the pants of power, ready to step over & get winched down into the water… the co-ordination you have to have as a team, was a real eye opener, as well as only having one lead calling the directions (your natural instinct is to all help & call out stuff… DON’T, it’s the worst thing you can do & just leads to things getting muddled).  Once the swimmer was down, Bob got attached to his line and then it was winching back up onto the boat, again – having one person calling instructions to winch is really really important….  A few of us were man handling a very floppy, wet Bob aboard, whilst the others were helping the swimmer back onto deck…  big grins all round as we realised we’d done it…  and then Mark reminded us that we needed to get the lifebuoy and pole & flag back aboard…   Grabbed the pole, extended it… leant slightly over to hook the pole… and the blinkin bottom of the pole dropped off into the water – yes a pure comedy moment (not the most robust of extending poles – but it would have to be me, on the first attempt that drops the blinkin thing in the water!!)  Not entirely sure how, but Mark managed to grab the flag pole, with the bottom of the pole that had somehow caught itself around it and pulled it back aboard… WHOOP WHOOP!!

(Instructions, Anthony loading the winch with safety turns and Roy – our patient Skipper & George)

Did a few more MOBs and then it was time to find out spot for the night…   walked through what we needed to do, especially with the anchor…   no the boats do NOT have an electric windlass, and YES you need a blinkin big/long anchor to be able to moor a 68ft boat!!  Again, proper team effort getting the anchor laid out…. And down…  😉  Mother watch (the guys cooking) had been excused and were busily prepping dinner for the night…

When Roy was happy that the anchor had bitten, he explained about how to take marks & bearings… and how to use the handheld compass (whilst a few of us knew how to use it, quite a few didn’t). Dinner was served al fresco – with the sun going down…  I will never ever get tired of sunsets on the water!!  After dinner Roy divvied up our watches – George & I got the 2-3am watch.  Eurghhh….  Bedtime….  The snoring chorus commenced, and I couldn’t sleep till gone midnight…

Got woken up by Jules at 2am… sleepily rubbed eyes, got lifejacket on…  brewed a cuppa for George & me, did the hand over… and then headed onto deck… just.. WOW!!  Amazingly clear night… in between checking the bearings, doing the log – George & I sat there chatting quietly, looking at stars… coming up with new constellation names (Paul Daniels & Debbie McGee seemed to the be best we came up with and set me off giggling like a big kid) I then got rather excited when I realised the red dot under the moon, was Mars!!  😊 3am came around rather quickly, and it was time to wake the next watch up (with kettle on ready for their brew) and hop into my bunk… funnily enough I crashed rather quickly despite the snoring….

(Sunset views, Nav station checks & the teeny tiny dot under the moon – is Mars!!)

Before you knew it, I was being woken awake for brekkie at 5 – as we were moored it was a 6am push off. Eurghhhhhhh…

Day 2 – Sunday

After we all ate brekkie, and I’d had my third cup of coffee – we all congregated on deck… Roy gave us a brief of what we’d be doing that day. Main was going up (obvs), but we would also be getting the Staysail up too (there’s 3 sails on the boat when you’re not going downwind – Main, Staysail and Yankee!!).  He spent a lot of time talking through what would be required and explained that we were going to be doing the evolutions in our watches (for those of you who are sailors – an evolution, is just the manoeuvre!!)   Today was all about getting the Staysail up, sailing and practising tacking.  Mark had the joyous (dubious) task, of overseeing us bunch of reprobates getting the staysail up and helping us through the evolutions as we were practising tacking.  Mark was fantastic, helping everyone out and ensuring everyone was clear on what they needed to do & when – not only were we rotating the watch doing the evolution, but we were also switching round our roles during the evolutions…  hands up, I seem to have a complete mental block with the foreguy bit of the evolution (again, for the sailors – you’d know it as a preventer!! It won’t ever prevent an accidental gybe, but it will lessen the risk of it happening, hence not calling it a preventer – confusing if you sail already, but kinda makes sense when you think about it).

Today was also incredibly hot, everyone was tired from a broken night’s sleep…   in hindsight, I don’t think everyone was aware of their own bodies and how much more water/snacks you need to have when doing physical activity, especially in the heat.  Whilst I found it tough, I saw it as blinkin’ good practise for our race – my legs are going to be hot at times, I’m going to be tired from broken sleep and I need to be able to push myself through it.  I definitely would have struggled a lot more if I hadn’t of done the Caribbean racing this year though!!  😊

Today was also the day that I realised that I’m a bit of a heads militant!!   Seemed a few people didn’t know how to use the heads…. Feedback to the rest of the crew as to 1. How to use the heads and 2. To always use the nappy bags!! No-one wants to go to the heads & find used tissues on the floor after the bins fallen over, or dirty water sloshing on the floor – having experienced the fallout of shared water, and D&V doing the rounds on a boat, I’m possibly a little cautious over that kinda stuff!!  Sorry guys…   😉


Day 3 – Monday

Eat.Sleep.Sail.Repeat!! Skills, drills and a lot more practising of tacking – thankfully we had a bit more wind today, with gusts up to 15kts, so we also had to get used to being clipped on & navigating round the boat.  Was really good to be doing this, there’s a knack with the clips, moving about, unclipping and makes you think much more about how you move around the boat (fair few comedy moments with clipping on tangles/moving over/under/bums in faces) When you have someone’s bum in your face, all you can do is laugh!! 😊

Today was also the first day we had the Main, Staysail AND Yankee up – lots more work, more things to think about. Brain was definitely getting rather full trying to remember everything – thank god for our wet notes!!

We had to get back at a sensible time cos we had a trip to the Musto Lightshop that evening to get fitted for our kit. Unfortunately, due to a rather awkwardly moored maaaahoooosive dredger, we had to moor by the fuel dock…  Roy did an awesome job getting the boat in & moored safely (after a few attempts) – if I can moor a boat that size, as calmly as he did, like he did that day, I’ll be a very happy sailor girl!!

Roy & Mark were going to escort us across to Pompei to the Musto shop – but we were all rather nice, and said that we knew where we were going…   Think we all knew that they needed a few hours peace and quiet.  A reminder from Roy that we should be back on board by 11 and off we trotted…

So, for anyone who has yet to do the Musto fitting – rest assured, you won’t be getting a sales pitch!! Instead you have a lovely chat with Justyn (the Musto Clipper manager), and a few of the Musto staff – a little bit about Musto, the actual technical equipment and specifically what and why our kit had been selected…   And then you get to try on all of the kit, ask questions about what additional kit you may want…  I’m a bit of a Musto girly anyway (well, when I say a bit, I mean like A LOT 😉) It was great chatting to the guys about the technical aspects and being able to give feedback on some things. My only niggle, is the MPX range doesn’t come in Male/Female fit – annoyingly I’m not quite a small, but the medium – well safe to say I looked like I have a Kim Kardashian butt (amusement from a few with me trying to twerk in it)!! But, all good… and my dread of the yellow kit, making me looked horrendous & washed out…  was unfounded!! Hehehe…

After we all put our kit sizes in, we headed over to the pub for a few cheeky sundowners – Anthony trying to mimic the English accent was rather amusing…   and he still can’t say bitter without sounding like a South African 😉  Minor rebellion as we didn’t get back to the boat till 11.15 – we blamed the ferry link!!


(Level 1 Post Musto Beerage)

Day 4 – Tuesday


We were joined by Peter, a previous round the world skipper and today was definitely a wind JoJo up day (thanks Rich!!) 😊 Childishness, giggles and lots of inappropriate comments…   Just goes to show, how after only a few days at sea, as a group you gel, and we’d got comfortable enough with each other to have proper banter!!  Loved it…  It’s the people that make or break it, a definite top crew!!

Moved onto Gybes today – much like the first day of tacking, we only had the Staysail up (thankfully!!) and spent the day practising our Gybe evolutions, all taking turns on the helm. One thing I did learn though was about riding turns.  On what I’d call a “normal” sized boat – ie between 26-40ft, if you get a riding turn on the winch, you can usually grind it out.  When I got a riding turn on the winch, I checked with Mark if I could grind it out – he explained that on the bigger boats, usually you can’t if its more than one down from the top (sometimes two depending on where it is, and the load on it)  Talked a little bit about alternatives for getting it out.  Like using a rolling hitch to take the tension off of the rope, so you can then release & get the riding turn out – fascinating stuff, and a pretty good knot to remember methinks!!

We headed over to Cowes for the night and whilst I’d been looking forward to a proper decent shower/hair dryer/straighteners – Roy had said that those of us who were up for a big of monkey mast action, could do it once we moored up for the night…   well, I’d already mentally set that as one of my goals for the week but really didn’t expect us to be able to do it on Level 1, meh who needs to dry/straighten hair?!?   Roy sat and walked those of us who were up for it through the process, equipment and technique…

Mark was going up first, partly to show us but mainly to do a proper rig check. He made it look easy!!  First up was our millennial – Anthony, proper monkey, straight up whilst Rich & I were taking him up on the coffee grinder… FAAAAAARK – hard work!! I was up next… talk about bricking it.  BUT, if I wanna do Bow, I need to be able to go up the mast and I know I need to push myself well outside of my comfort zone…    One of the hardest things, was figuring out how to stay stable as you go up… almost like abseiling, you lean back and use your feet (need more practise on the mast clambering!!) Absolutely amazing views…  coming back down grinning like a kid…  granted my legs weren’t really working when I touched back down, and I most definitely couldn’t talk – adrenaline and dry pappy mouth…  Really proud of myself for mastering the fear…    Everyone that went up was bloody amazing!!

(Mark showing us hows it done, our Millenial: Anthony, obligatory leg/mast shot and me remembering to half smile up the 86ft mast!!)

FINALLY got to the shower – a 3 minute rinse was enough, John, George & I wanted to catch the last half of the game… John wanted chips, so of course had to introduce him to the British tradition of post Sunday racing cheesy chips.  He was somewhat suspicious at first, seemed to get a taste of them rather quickly though… 😉  Rather nail biting game…  penalties… much groaning…  and then ALOT of cheering… we actually won a game on friggin penalties…  what an awesome end to the day!!

(Who needs GHDs?! 😉 and Pints, Footy & nail varnish – can’t let ALL standards slip)

Day 5 – Wednesday

Eat.Sleep.Sail.Repeat!! Spotting a theme people?  Hehe, get used to it!! 😊 However, somehow it was already the final day of sailing… BOO!!

George & I were on Mother Watch today – pahahahahaha 😉 Let’s just say, I may have got a little stressed… Really made me appreciate the importance of sticking to the menu plans – we ended up having to wing it a bit… (coconut milk makes a good substitute for milk!!)   Must remember #dontsweatthesmallstuff.  Everyone was fed…  lunch was interesting…  but George & I had a rather amusing time (mostly at my singing, dancing & him trying to teach me to floss!!)

(George making the brews, and us making lunch)

When we got up on deck, same as our second day of tacking, we got to play with all three sails – Main, Staysail & Yankee, but tacking and gybes today. More helming…  Think for most of us, things were slotting into place…  Worked on communications back to the helm too – another thing I need to get better at.  Both on a Clipper boat & DJ – Robert & Neil are forever reminding me to communicate on how the kite is… ironic isn’t it, I’m not known for being the quiet one… and I’m usually the first one to pipe up on things!! 😊

When we docked, Peter asked who would be leading the main drop – whilst looking at me…. Hands up I balked n was like nope can’t do it… and then, remembered…. I needed to push myself….  Mumbled a f it, and said I’d do it….  As I stood there, and I was asked what I needed to do… I remembered my wet notes…  Ahhhh VMT!!  Was really cool realising that I was remembering stuff, and what was needed to be done… clearly I was a little slow on calling it, BUT… main thing is… I did it… I remembered…    All finally managed to get the boat to bed… and then our final team meal at Emmas…   Surprisingly, a rather sensible night with no dancing…. 😊

Unfortunately we forgot to take Bob for the midnight walk… 😉

Day 6 – Thursday

After all the Eat.Sleep.Sail.Repeat stuff, the only thing left to do was the dreaded deep clean…. In the roasting heat… eurghh….

Quite a few hours later, one cleaned Clipper CV2 boat (it takes A LOT longer than you think it will!!) – Roy, Mark & Peter started running through the team to complete assessments. Amazing how being hot & sticky makes you a little dumb…  😊

BUT…. Good news… we all passed!!  Whoop whoop – Level 2 here we come!!

And cos I clearly hadn’t had enough of being on a boat for a week, time to bomb home for a speedy turn around to head back down for Round the Island Race…