Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Clipper Race Sailing day 10

With so much of the same, the blogs are short, but today's crew blog is interesting at least:

We are now over a week out from Brisbane, and are nearing the 1500 mile mark, but the racing is still happening at very close quarters. Last night SwitzerlandGREAT Britain and Old Pulteney kindly kept us company before Mother Nature provided the entertainment, in the form of an epic electrical storm.
For over two hours, sheet lightening exploded to our starboard bow like a laser show. The only downside was that we were going to have to sail through the ensuing storm. There was a an eerie 'calm before the storm', as we bobbed about watching the pyrotechnics and the brooding band of thick black sky, waiting for the wind to pick up. One by one, the lights from boats ahead disappeared into the dark. The worst of the storm passed to our starboard side, but we still had to dance our way through some feisty wind and
horizontal, sheeting rain for about 45 minutes (the shower was much needed - had we not been at a near horizontal angle, I would have been tempted to dash below deck and grab some shampoo). Things were made even more lively by a large cargo ship that wanted to cross our path - so we were not only racing through the storm, but also out of the way of a marine juggernaut!
By sunrise, relative calm was restored; a consistent 20 knots of wind and fairly flat sea are allowing us to make good progress as we head along the Papua New Guinea coast.
If an army marches on its stomach, then as we crew,we should be well set for the rest of the day thanks to chocolate cake with custard at lunch time - a welcome
treat from today's 'mothers' Derek and Suzy - thanks guys - even if it wasn't the ice cream sundaes we've been craving in the scorching tropical heat.
The other theme of the day is 'logs' - not the nautical charting variety (or the toilet humour type) but big, floating, chunks of wood which we have seen on a disturbingly regular basis floating past us. Apparently a collision with a big log is best avoided, so we have set up 'log watch' to avoid any disasters.
Right Here, Right Now. Somewhere in the Solomon Sea. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Clipper Race sailing Day 9

Today I thought that I would include a harrowing tale from the good ship Great Britain's Cap't.;

OK, now for those reading at home, brace yourselves but rest assured that by the end of my story all on board are ok and so is the good ship GREAT Britain!
My word of the day for today has absolutely no competition; it just has to be Tornado!
So this would have been a blog about the continuing frustration of wind holes, squalls and sailing to windward against large amounts of current, but today was destined to be something different.
We had been passing by/through a number of squalls during the morning and going through the usual routine of reefing in and reefing out, headsails up and headsails down and all was going well and we were making progress towards our destination.
I was down below and on deck they were starting to put a reef in the mainsail in anticipation of another squall which was fast approaching when I heard a word on board that I had never heard before in 30 years of sailing.
That word was Tornado, and then within a split second we went from about 5 knots of wind to about 100! We were knocked down to 90 degrees, absolutely flat on the water, I was thrown into the engine room and pelted by screw drivers, sockets and pieces of pump the contents of the galley sinks and cupboards were scattered randomly around the saloon and on deck it soon became clear that it was a bit of a mess!
We were probably pinned to the water for about 30 seconds as the Tornado passed and then the boat righted it itself and the wind went back to 5 knots.
A quick head count ensured that all were still safely on board and as we watched the twister first move away from us and then start to circle back at us, we quickly dropped all sail to deck in case it decided to have another pass.
Thankfully this precaution was not necessary and the twister moved off away from us and then started to dissipate, phew!
So the clean-up began. As a precaution we carried out a
rig check to make sure all was in good order and no damage had been caused, during which we noticed that a couple of sliders on the mainsail required attention. So we left the mainsail down and hoisted just the headsails whilst we replaced the webbing on the sliders and now the sliders are repaired the mainsail has just been re-hoisted and we are back on our way.
As I said at the start, most importantly, all crew are un-harmed and the good ship GREAT Britain has come out with nothing but a few minor grazes, so all in all I consider us very lucky and we are back racing. I suspect however our position will have suffered considerably by two hours of bobbing and drifting with what really is rather a strong current, but ho hum, this is ocean racing and we have to be able to deal with anything!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Clipper Race day 8

Experiences from a racing boat in the tropics;

Crew Blog 
Things that you don't realize about ocean racing, until you go ocean racing:
1) Clean clothes and washing really don't matter. I currently sit here in a pair of shorts I've worn for ten days, a Henri Lloyd long sleeve "white" shirt that has been on for seven and no pants as this morning they reached their limit of sweat saturation from us still being in the windless zone near the Equator. The last shower I had was seven days ago, but I have been maintaining the baby wipe showers to take the edge off.In normal company, on land, near "normal people", I would be classed as a tramp. I'd be told to take a shower and sort my act out. On the boat, no one has commented anything, in fact I'm positively clean in comparison to some of the other crew. Tomorrow I'll put on a clean shirt and that's my last.2) Food becomes the most precious commodity in the world. We need to eat over 5000 calories a day with the physical exercise. As this is a new venture for myself, the mental strain is also demanding a calorie intake.  When the tuck box comes out, the crew gather around it like pre-historic dwellers feasting off the hunt that has returned. People squat to eat rather than sit, and grunt rather than converse.

3) Sleeping at an angle, in hot or cold, or in extremely loud situations is easy. The only worry we have on board is to make the boat move in the direction the skipper wants it. We pull on 3 lines per sail and steer, job done. All this though is exhausting with shifts over a 24 hour period being up to 14 hours. As soon as you hit the pillow, your mind shuts off and the zeds quickly come.  It's only when you wake do you hear the galley stereo, the people chatting and the winches being worked above your head that you realize if you were looking for a spot to sleep, this would not be one.
4) The ocean is a beautiful place. Like a fire you can watch it for hours.  The endless shapes and periods of waves transfix you into a daze. The sky at night is either blacker than black, bright with the moon, or a picture of a million stars all laid out for your private viewing. You feel it's just for you and you just take it all in.
5) You don't actually know people that well. We are all crammed on this boat with little room to spread out.  We chat and joke, but very rarely do we ask about people’s backgrounds, family, friends etc. There are many stories of funny moments and jokes to be told, but we mainly have banter about the crew and the skipper over open hearted chats about loved ones, maybe that's just my boisterous Starboard Watch though,  which is more lads on tour than the tea and cakes of Port watch!
6) You have to go through a lot of bad moments on board to be rewarded with one amazing one. You are often cold, wet, hungry, tired etc. Lumping sails around, getting told off by the skipper, but then, from no-where, the sun will set beautifully, a pod of dolphins will come and the boat will sing and proceed through the sea like it's on rails.
It's a special place out here, that until you have been, you don't really understand. A mix of danger and fear, backed up by stupidity makes you push the boat and the crew to the limit. The reward is out there, but who knows what it will actually be. A moment, a podium, a friend for life - who knows.
This is the emotional roller coaster of the Clipper Race and I'm enjoying every minute of it.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Clipper Race day 7

Heather E-Mailed us yesterday asking for a dry suit for the northern Pacific run.  And she said she is very happy.

Here's are 2 amusing blogs about life aboard the boats;

With such a short stopover in Brisbane and such a long leg to prepare for, I knew there might be a few provisioning issues which are now starting to materialize.  Firstly there was margarine-gate.  A gross over order of margarine has been enthusiastically stowed by the crew in Brisbane in what we discovered to be a haphazard variety of places.  This margarine has a melting point of around 92 degrees and we first noticed the signs that this had been reached when dribbles of yellow liquid started to run out of one of the stowage cupboards in the top of the galley. 

On further inspection a capsized tub had leaked its entire contents into the locker.  “There's more!”  Came a distraught cry from a crew member peering into the locker where the crew laptop was stored.  Like a good Hitchcock movie, by the afternoon every nook and cranny of the boat was oozing yellow gooey liquid.  Complete disaster!  Especially when we used up the last of the washing up liquid trying to combat the yellow grease.  The entire front line crew, wearing Rambo-style kitchen roll bandannas to soak up the sweat were sliding around the boat, covered head to toe in margarine.  “Don't worry”, I reassured them “after the battle is won there will be plenty of Huggies baby wipes for you all to degrease with”.  Victualler#1: “umm, about the huggies...
Blog # 2

Typically on a racing yacht, the conversation of degrees is in reference to physical position of corresponding points of latitude and longitude. But as our degrees of latitude increase and we head towards the Equator, our minds cannot get off of the degrees of heat we have been and will be suffering.

Imagine waking up in a pool of your own sweat.  Now multiply that by four times daily.  Oh yeah, and no cold shower to wake up and refresh.  Morning, midday, evening, it doesn't matter, below deck is an absolute sauna... and not in a relaxing way whatsoever.  While training during the UK winter months,  retreating down below for a cup of tea was a saving grace, but here in the tropics, approaching the doldrums, the least amount of time you spend below... the better.
We've managed to rig a wind scoop in the fore-peak, allowing a steady flow of air to rush down below, and now the former no-go-zone of the boat has become the top sleeping commodity.  Yesterday during our dog watch, we had a proper slumber party in the sail locker with all four bunks unoccupied and essentially dead bodies sprawled across the sails.

We heard from the skippers' blogs that Qingdao reported 32 degrees Celsius below deck at 0400 hours.  There was a conversation about us not having a thermometer, and it probably being a good thing not knowing exactly how hot it is; we can feel it.  Jo has installed small USB plug fans in a majority of the bunks, and I have no shame in clutching it to my chest as I fall asleep.

"You know how to wake up the other watch, just unplug the fans," Jo commented, as John sprung out of bed asking what was going on within two minutes of us briefly unplugging the port side fans to plug in the electric bilge pump.

When you are living in the deepest depths of Hades, high tempers come with high temperatures.  Luckily our crew has tried our best to maintain our cool as we know that crossing the doldrums with hot temps and little to no wind will be a true test of our will and team spirit.

I would write more, but I think you get the point.  Now I need to get on deck quickly before I melt even further from the heat radiating off this computer screen.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Clipper race Heather introduction

Because some of you have never met Heather, I decided to introduce her to you.  She began her sailing debut at the age of 12 days, with a late autumn Columbus Day sail with her parents and 2 of her life aunts on the Hudson river, north of NYC.  Summers were always sailing, although she learned all of her skill through osmosis, as I cannot remember her helping all that much.

She spent many summers with us and our friends sailing up and down Long Island Sound and the east coast. So after getting her masters degree from Columbia, she decided that before embarking on a career, she would continue with the sailing career which she loves and which had supported her through and after grad school. One summer day in 2012, the Clipper race fleet stopped in NYC, I happened to be in NYC that day and wandered down to the docks and talked to them and mention this to Heather, she contacted them and got the bug to join the 2013-14 race. So she scrimped and saved (this race is expensive) and joined the ranks in Brisbane Australia, where her portion of the race, and probably a new life, began.

You can follow the trials and tribulation through this site.  If you want to see what the experience would be like, see my clipped together video on YouTube:    Http://

Clipper Race day 6

Sailing day 6, 7th place with 3109 mile to go: Saturday today so I’m adding a crew member blog on life aboard the Henri Lloyd.

"Cooking in the oven" 
The temperature below deck has been increasing for days, and with each day I was dreading my upcoming mother duty. It was getting so hot below that even sitting on deck in the direct blazing sunlight was a relief from the sauna below. When you are on mother duty, you physically are cooking alongside the food. If the mothers start with any clothes on, pretty much all end up nearly nude by the end of the day and completely drenched in sweat. My mother partner and I looked like we had just run a marathon at the end of our day, dripping sweat, shirtless and damn exhausted. But the one thing that kept us going all day was that we knew on mother duty, we were allowed a proper shower... something that was absolutely necessary by the end of our day. Morgen made the mistake of taking a shower before our job was completely done. After showering on the stern with our solar showers, he came back to realize that we still had to move sails in the forepeak to unearth our powdered milk supply. Within minutes, he was drenched in sweat again. I waited until I was absolutely done with my job, but it was hell getting to that point. I decided to make coconut almond muffins, which were great in theory, but I always forget how much effort it is to cook anything in our oven. The burners run against the back of the oven, with no fan to move the heat around. So essentially everything towards the back burns while the front barely cooks. Thus leaving me to sit in front of the oven for an hour flipping and rotating two racks of muffins every fifteen minutes, opening up the gates of hell to pour out even more heat as I struggle to juggle flimsy silicon muffin trays. But boy did that shower feel good once I finally got around to it. Luckily we were on a proper tack for me to shower down below. The reason why the tack matters is that on a port tack the water (and very likely you yourself) will fall onto the curtain and run into the saloon area. I opted out of the solar shower on the stern simply because I wanted, and needed, to strip nude and have a full rinse off. For the past week, we have been sitting in salty water and clothes, which our bums are not appreciating. I'd tell to you what happens when your bum lives in salt water, but maybe that's better left for another post or really not described at all.
Meg Riley, Round the world crew member

Clipper race day 5

Sailing day five, Seventh place 22 miles behind: Seems the heat and squalls of the Solomon sea are taking their toll with lots of mental mistakes. Lots of wind and rain so life down below is hot and humid as they still can't open any ports. It does provide the opportunity to get a quick shower in the rain, which they say is welcome after five days. Imagine working in those suits when it’s over 100 degrees outside and then have to go below and survive in 100 degrees and 100% humidity. As one person said, " modesty is not allowed." Capt. quote of the day:
” As we are now in pirate Stealth Mode we have turned off our AIS (Automatic Identification System) and an approaching cargo ship used some very colorful language while trying to avoid our extremely erratic course. It seemed the captain knows my mother as he kept referring to her animatedly. What a small world.”

Clipper race day 4

Sailing day 4,  No blog from the Cap't today, probably because he made a tactical error and went from 1st to 6th place, so I'll tell you about the race instead. 

Twelve identical 70' cutter rigged sloops are racing around the world, each with an experienced Cap't. The crews are people like you and me, some never having been on a boat before but who just wanted to experience something awesome in their life. So they pay for the privilege of getting to live with 20 others 24/7, in cramped quarters, in a stripped out racing boat on 4 hr shifts with mother duties (cooking and cleaning for the crew) thrown in at 24 hour shifts on a rotational basis. Oh yes, the bathroom is only separated by a curtain (with no showers) and all this is done on a 30 degree angle. Crew sign up for 1 leg or 2 or 3 or the complete round the world experience so the crews keep changing. The race has 8 major legs, with 15 individual races, points earned from 12 to 1 depend who is first across the line at each race. Total points earned at the end in London is the overall winner. Heather is signed up for 2 of the legs which takes her from Australia, to Singapore, to Quindao China, and ending across the Pacific (winter) in San Francisco sometime in early April. Not all fun and games as in the Southern Ocean they hit storm winds of 130 MPH with 40 foot seas and today they entered the Solomon Sea which is notorious for piracy, so they are practicing their boarding procedures. Want to follow the race???

Clipper race day 3

Sailing day 3. Thought you might enjoy the daily Cap'ts blog. Temps in the 90's.

Sailing with a kite up is so much more fun than reaching along under Yankee. The trade winds were meant to be followed, not crossed. The crew on deck are happy (let's not talk about the sweaty bodies down below) and we are rotating positions around giving them a chance at helming and trimming downwind under kite. We are making the most of the current conditions as within the next 24 hours we will likely be becalmed on an oily flat sea and searing heat. Our only chance of respite is if there is significant squall activity to give us some cooling cloud cover, although that comes with its own set of challenges. What the whole team is most happy about is to be racing again. Australia and our misfortunes there have been left in our wake and we are looking forward to new horizons. Soon we will be rounding the tip of Papua New Guinea and into waters none of us, myself included, have yet sailed.

Clipper race day 2

Day 2 out of Brisbane and just past the Great Barrier reef, unfortunately at night. Temps are getting warmer, 86 right now, and hotter down below as the hatches are closed due to heavy seas. No showers until they slow down in the doldrums, Heather must be in seventh heaven. Picture is prepping the boat in Brisbane.

Clipper race on Henri Lloyd day 1 from Brisbane

I have decided that since its winter that I would start to include in my blog, the daily life adventures of my daughter and crew aboard the Henri Lloyd, who are racing around (some partially) the world on a racing yacht.

Officially day 1 of the race and they are all on their way to Singapore which is 4365 miles away from Brisbane Australia, where this leg and her beginning started. Nothing to fear except searing heat of the tropics, pirates and Mal de Mar ( or as I call it, Chumming).  They call it the green monster.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Still holding on

The snows of early January, along with sub-freezing temps, have now been followed with above normal temps.  So yesterday with the thermometer at 60 degrees, I lifted the cover of the last remaining hive to check on the bees.  I could not see any bees, nor was there any warmth coming from the hive, so I had resigned myself that, again, I had lost my hives.  Four years in a row.  But this was different as the last three years the bee just flew away on a warm day in January.  Now, I supposed they had frozen to death.  I thought that I had prepared for the winter.  Should I have lifted off the top box? as there seemed to be no activity in it for some reason, who knows.

But today with the temps in the upper 40's, I visited the hive to lift it up and check for all the dead bees on the floor board and much to my surprise, the front of the entrance was littered with dead bodies thrown out from spring cleaning and many bees circling the hive.  hurah, I may make it yet this year with my rag-tag bunch.  Keep your fingers crossed.

On another exciting note, my daughter flew to Brisbane to began a 12,000 mile yacht race from Australia
to Singapore to Quindau China and then to San Francisco.  She started off Sunday, and at present is in 1st place. The first leg being 30 days at sea.   Later

Monday, January 6, 2014

Wierd weather

We had 6" of snow over the weekend and today its raining with 50 degrees.  Tonight its suppose to drop 40+ degrees and will freeze everything solid.  Nothing like home tho where its 30+ below zero, they can have it.  That's why I left 45 years ago.  Makes for good ice fishing tho.

Checked on the bees.  I found a few dead bodies outside the entrance, so it looks like they are doing some housekeeping with the above normal temps, that's a good sign, I hope.  Not much else going on because of the heavy rains.   Later

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year 2014

Today is cold, cold, cold. with snow on the way.  No videos of bees circling the hive on this day, as were from past years.  The bees ate most of the sugar syrup I gave them and now seem to be bundled up with for a long winters nap.

Have been wondering about the bees disappearances.  Could it be from the artificially inseminated queens that are causing this?  The only hive that I have left is a mix of feral bees I caught this spring, which I left all the queens in tact when I mix them in together.  Still not sure how many queens are in there as I refrained from opening the hive last fall.  All the previous hives I had installed new queens and they all flew away in the Jan. thaws.   Later