I’ve been back several days now, but haven’t really felt like posting anything until now.
The news of the tragic death of Sarah Young, who was swept overboard from the Ichorcoal yacht broke while we were travelling home from Gosport, the day after training finished. It made for a somewhat sombre journey home. Another of the Clipper family gone. It brought home to me how essential all those safety talks and drills we’d undertaken all week really were. A few days earlier we’d been practising man overboard recoveries and giggling at fellow crew in the immersion suit, yet through all the fun and laugher, the absolute seriousness of what we were doing was always brought home to us. My thoughts are with Sarah’s family, friends and crew. The whole Clipper family is devastated, even those of us who had never met Sarah.
So, who wants to know what *really* happened during my first weeks training?
I arrived in Gosport just before 5pm & paid my £10 deposit for my fob to access the marina facilities. There were quite a few of us, our names were called out according to which boat we would be on and it wasn’t long before we were lumping our bags along the pontoon to our boat home for the week – A Clipper 68 yacht that has been round the world a few times and has the attractive name of CV3.
The first night mostly consisted of getting to know our Skipper, First Mate and fellow crew members. Followed by getting to know how our new home worked, everything from choosing a bunk, finding out how it worked, what to do in the event of a fire and learning how the heads (toilet) worked. (With helpful instructive directions taped to the wall such as “at sea in rough weather – pump as you dump”!)
After ascertaining what you can and can’t use the heads for while in port, learning where toilet paper goes (in the bin) and lots of talks of a safety nature, seemingly designed solely to put the fear of God into even the most atheist sailor, we sat down to a dinner of sausage, mash, peas and onion gravy lovingly prepared by Carol, our First Mate. Interestingly enough, served in what can only be described as a plastic mixing bowl. After cleaning up, there was just time for a quick drink in the local pub before bedding down for the first night in our bunks.
Our luxurious sleeping quarters!
Surprisingly the bunks are actually quite comfortable, especially when you’re exhausted! Its also surprising how quickly you become used to sharing your sleeping area with 8 other people. One of which happens to be in the bunk above. (Tip – when in the lower bunk, don’t just sit up in bed when you want to turn over – you will head butt the person above in the back!)
The black bags on the floor are the sails – we have to walk over them. If you look carefully, through the door to the rope locker – you can see ‘Bob’ the man overboard dummy. (Slightly disconcerting when someone says “throw Bob overboard” when your youngest son is also called Bob!)
Things I learnt on the first day –
- Gas can be bailed out in a bucket!
- Put your sleeping bag out on your bunk before going to the pub – Velcro and zips get noisier in direct proportion to how quiet you’re trying to be!
Saturday dawned to the news that we would be staying in port due to the weather. That’s not to say that a day of rest was planned!
My day started by having to provide bacon sandwiches for 11 of us by 7.30am ably assisted by fellow crew member Vincent. After breakfast came cleaning of the boat, fitting and servicing of life jackets, learning all the parts of the boat and what they do.
The next 2 days passed in a storm bound blur of sweating sail bags up the mast as practise, learning how to use winches properly, coil ropes, rescue a dummy from a pontoon and lots more besides.
All interspersed with “Top tips by Carol” (coming to all major bookstores soon….)
Things I learnt on days 2 & 3 –
- Everything on the boat is really heavy and really hard work – even using the loo requires hard work pumping
- Thumbs are way more important than little fingers, so if you’re going to risk losing something – make it a little finger not a thumb – yes really!
- Sails are bloody heavy
- Clipper Yachts do not have roller furling sails (I may suggest this as an improvement!)
- If anyone thought I signed up for Clipper to avoid doing cleaning, it seems I failed dismally – the boat is cleaned every day.
As if losing an hour’s sleep on Saturday night wasn’t bad enough – Sunday night brought Storm Katie with it. With Storm Force 10 winds and a requirement to wear lifejackets on the pontoon. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a storm so loud – between the wind screaming, the furious rocking of the boat, the fenders between the boat and the pontoon squeaking and me swearing about the noise, I don’t think anyone got a lot of sleep that night.