06a. It’s a small small world

This is not the post I was planning next but had to give an update. Yesterday we went to lunch at a friend of a friend. We were invited by Rene who will be one of my companions (of whom more later when we have the route and timings) and she invited both of us to a girls’ weekend because one of her friends is Donna Von Tunk. If you’re a Clipper follower you’ll know her, if not then she is another of the circumnavigators for the  2019/ 2020 race! The link to her details on the Clipper website is below (and I hope it works!).


So of the 600 or so people who’ll be off next summer for the boat trip of a lifetime, I now three!



06. We Are Sailing, We Are Sailing

Before you read further, be warned that if you want a blow-by-blow account of the yacht race, this is not the Blog you are looking for. There are plenty of others, just go into search and you’ll find them.

If you were planning to go around the world with 21 complete strangers (40% of whom have never sailed before, don’t forget), in a 70 foot yacht with only 16 berths to it, what preparations would you make? Train, obviously. For a total of four weeks. Mostly a week at a time. You need to have insurance and next-of-kin before they’ll let you on the boat.

You can train in Gosport or Sydney. Thankfully (NOT a foregone conclusion) MBB decided to stay in the UK for this part of the adventure.

As MBB have had two weeks training so far, here’s a summary of their progress.

Yes, a bit of rope. With no knots. I could add pictures of knots but there are plenty on the net. However, it is a vital piece of kit for practicing with. On the theory side, there is a training manual of more than 80 pages. Week One is crewing skills, which means you become RYA Competent Crew and Week Two is Offshore Sailing and Life on-Board. For these two weeks you have wet cards (not necessarily the correct technical term) around your neck for quick reference.

After Week One you get a stamp in your logbook to confirm you’ve successfully completed what’s needed (getting on and off the boat, knowing what to do if someone goes overboard, tying lots of knots, knowing what various bits of the boat are called and getting on well enough with your crewmates that you all come back in one piece). There is not a full crew so you do get a berth each night, and are able to go to the marina for a shower as there is no night sailing. Here’s George’s boat and team.

Week Two starts in a swimming pool practicing man overboard (the first week involves a mannequin). Then off you go into the wide blue yonder (or the Solent, whichever is nearer). You sleep on the boat so have the experience of not showering every day. I hope they remembered their wet wipes and good deodorant. George went as far as Plymouth and saw dolphins but John didn’t have that excitement. They both sailed in October when the weather was getting rough, so didn’t go as far as they wanted.

Here are the certificates they received, to be stuck into logbooks (different from the ones that are stamped, I’ve been told?)

The training stops for the winter so Week Three will be in February / March. In the meantime homework will be lots of knot tying and reading of the manual and no doubt this book:

Next time: boring stuff to think about before leaving your home for almost a year.

05. The Bare necessities

So what else do I need? Before we get to that, let’s look at the other two teams.

A) The Beasts

Post 5 Dogs

“As long as we’ve got food we’re OK”. And maybe the odd cuddle. Anyone will do.

Polly? She goes out and catches her own. I was about to put up the latest of her catches but didn’t want to put you off your food. Actually, she could catch for the whole family. Here is Grace eating the tail of a squirrel (grey) that Polly caught and presented to the pups earlier this year.

Post 5 Grace with squirrel tail


The easy option. Be where you’re told to be at the right time. Check passports are valid. Don’t think these are!

Post 5 passports

Buy lots of sailing gear. Go on Training Week (TW) One. Buy a little more. Go on TW Two. Realise there’s still stuff left at the Musto shop and buy some more. You think I’m joking? If you came to our house the first thing you’d think is that you’d accidentally strolled into the Musto showroom. Thankfully we now have a break until February when TW Three starts.

Get fit. I don’t know what George is doing but John has doubled his daily swimming and is attending twice-weekly classes at his local physio place. They will need a degree of fat to carry them through I suspect, but they’ll also need a good core strength to last the year. Will the clobber he’s already bought still fit or will he need to go on another spending spree?

C) The Landlubbers

In an earlier post I said this was the soft option. Well in one way it is but it’s not the easy option. We don’t yet know the exact route except there will be three Chinese ports (more on these later). We don’t know the timing. Without these I cannot book any travel or hotels. There will probably be internal flights in China if I’m to do all three ports. I can’t ask any of my companions to commit without this information (I know they’re good friends but…). On some legs I may find I don’t have time to get back to the UK before the next stop (or I get back long enough to turn around for the next flight). The odds on the Clippers arriving on the same day are probably minimal so I need to plan to arrive for the first possible date to wave them in. The leaving date is usually set so I’ll know when to wave them out (just like the UK and Brexit! Or not).

So far my planning consists of finding the guide and phrase books in the attic that could be relevant. The first leg to South America could be Portuguese or Spanish, neither of which I speak except to read a menu. So there’s two languages I need to make a start on, Mandarin and one of the South American ones. Maybe I make sure the relevant companion speaks the relevant language?

Post 5 guide books

Next, luggage. As we don’t know the destinations or timings I don’t know what clothes to pack. I’ll probably also be asked to bring stuff out by the intrepid travellers. So, I need hold bag(s) plus a carry on. I went shopping to my nearest discount store the other day and found this:

Post 5 clipper bag

Big enough to get a pair of shoes and wash bag in plus spare knickers. Ever since I spent the first three days in Jordan borrowing John’s clothes because my bag had gone walkabout, I make sure I’ve got enough with me to survive long enough to get to the shops. When I got the bag above to the checkout, look at the name!

Post 5 Clipper tag

Meant to be.

To summarise, I’ll need:



A smattering of the language,

Clothing etc,

Touristy stuff to do whilst MBB are cleaning then re-equipping their boats,

A hotel with two or three rooms for maybe a fortnight (no doubt George would like to stay in the same FIVE STAR HOTEL), and

My Companion.

Next time, back to MBB and their training.


04. What’s It All about (Alfie)?

Well that was a boring post. I’ll try to get more shots into all my others.

I realise I’ve not yet told you anything about the Clipper Race. Here’s a potted history with some photos we took of the last race return.

post 4 GB

in 1969 (Sir) Robin Knox-Johnston became the first person to sail single-handed non-stop around the world. He decided that anyone should be able to circumnavigate the globe and in  October 1996 the first Clipper race started. It involved eight 60-foot boats, left from Plymouth and visited Madeira, Fort Lauderdale, the Panama Canal, the Galapagos Islands, Hawaii, Yokohama, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Seychelles, Durban, Cape Town, Salvador in Brazil, the Azores and back to Plymouth.

post 4 another line up

The first  four races (1996/97, 1998/99, 2000/01 and 2002/03) had these boats and left from Plymouth, Portsmouth and Liverpool. In 2005/06 ten 68 footers were available and the next four races left from Liverpool, Hull and Southampton. From 2013/14 there were twelve 70-footers and so far these have left from London (St Katherine’s Dock) and Liverpool.

There have been a total of 50 ports visited over the years in 27 countries. Around 40% of the participants had never sailed before joining Clipper.

In 2017/18, there were 712 crew (198 female and 514 male) aged 18 to 76 years. George and John fit nicely into this age bracket!

post 4 little nipper

There were 41 nationalities with the biggest contingent being British (361) followed by the US (60 people) and Australia (48). Ten nations had one representative.

post 4 qingdao

There were 337 declared livelihoods, with 83 from building and engineering, 53 medical and care and 39 scientists / technical people.

post 4 heeling

The main website is clipperroundtheworld.com and during the race there will be a race viewer which is updated hourly to show where the boats are.

Oh, and the picture at the top of this post? Adie (the punk) with her brother Alfie!

03. Should I Stay or Should I Go?

It may look as though I’ve decided but there’s lots to think about.

A) If I stay:


  1. I’ll not finish collecting the first 1000 Penguins (as above). I’m only 14 short.
  2. Who will I get to look after the Home Team? I can’t put the poor beasts into kennels for all that time or keep getting them out then returning them a few days / weeks later.
  3. I’ll miss my newspapers: currently when away (for a short time) I have a pal get them for me then I gorge on them on my return.
  4. I get through a book a week or so. Can I carry that many around with me?
  5. As well as my Penguins I’ve a 1000-piece jigsaw to finish. That number seems to crop up in my life! It was a birthday present (in January), a photo of a fox in a bluebell wood with most of the bluebells out of focus (i.e. a mass of indistinguishable blue).
  6. What about my piano lessons? I started two years ago and can just about remember where middle C is.
  7. What about my Pilates Class?
  8. Can I exist without knitting for all that time? I’m not obsessive but I do like to have something on the go.
  9. Will I get decent milk to have in my Earl Grey (sorry those of you who have it black or with lemon).
  10. Who’ll read the meters, order the oil, pay the bills etc?


  1. I could redecorate as I wish.
  2. I could redesign the garden. I’ve always fancied “rooms” like you see in the magazines.
  3. The beasts would be happy and well fed.
  4. My exercise (physical and mental) routine would be maintained.

B) If I go:

  1. See John and George every month or so rather than after almost a year (would I recognise them? Will they recognise me?).
  2. Meet new people.
  3. See new places.
  4. Enjoy some time away with friends who I don’t normally spend time with.
  5. I could download the newspaper on my iPad (which I currently don’t have, add to shopping list).
  6. If I do three pieces of jigsaw a day it’ll be finished in time.
  7. I could keep piano / Pilates going when I am home and practice when away (I have a lovely little fold up keyboard, not brilliant but good enough).
  8. If we get a house / beast sitter, they can sort out meters, oil etc. Most bills are or could be direct debit.


I guess I’ll regret not going.



02. Dramatis personae

The characters most likely to feature in this blog.

A) The Home Team (AKA The Beasts)

Polly. Originally a rescue cat called Peggy, she became Polly when we found out she had the habit of sitting on your shoulder.   For this narrative she will become Blind Captain Catt as she has only one eye now (tumour removed late 2017).

Polly post 2

Greta. Our old Welsh Springer Spaniel, half blind and deaf except when it comes to chasing birds or squirrels or anything that moves. In her role of guarding the house she barks whenever she thinks she has heard something (anything). Incessantly.

Greta post 2

Adie. Our younger Welshie, became a mother early in 2018, happy to see the back of her puppies a few months later. Lives for human company. If I am out, she will wait outside the house for me (old joke, how do you know if it’s raining? The dog is wet).

Adie post 2

B) The Away Team (AKA MY Brave Boys, MBB or My Foolhardy Boys, MFB depending on what they’ve done)

George. As already written, first one in the family to sign up. Here he is at the end of the 2017/18 Clipper race.

George post 2

John. The next one to sign up. Always ready for anything as you can see, modelling the fashion for sailors in the 1950s.

John post 2

C) Sam and support team (AKA Her Companions)

Wow, Just realised we’re no longer Under Milkwood but I am now The Doctor! I’m sure a Sonic Screwdriver will  come in use on this trip. Here I am also supporting Clipper return. My hair is not normally that colour, blame it on the sun we’ve had in summer 2018.

Sam post 2

My Companions are in the process of being chosen and will appear at the appropriate times.

And the youngsters at the top of this post? Future Clipper crew? John’s grandchildren in Spain, posing with the three of us last Easter.





01. To begin at the beginning

If you can’t hear Richard Burton in your head, stop reading now and go and listen to Under Milkwood before reading on. Nothing to do with my blog but his voice is amazing.

This isn’t the usual “I went to sea” story. I haven’t and won’t. Instead it’s the stirring tale of one woman who followed her two men (husband John and son George) around the world as they sailed in Clipper yachts. By plane and five star hotel! Yes, the Soft Option.

So how did it start?

George is a fairly  keen sailor and signed up for Clipper 2019/20 in 2017 after seeing them leave Liverpool.  He’s in his mid-20s and has no responsibilities so he can just take off (as he did when at university, to go to Afghanistan with the Royal Engineers).

In July 2018 John and I went to see the Clipper 2017/18 race come back to Liverpool (photo at top). John got so excited he signed up. Not, as I thought, for a leg, but the whole thing. He is not in his mid-20s and has a few responsibilities but he recently retired and obviously is not going to stay home and plant plants in his BRAND NEW greenhouse.

greenhouse post 1

I have a gammy leg so wouldn’t get through the first week, but I have tried to get other family members interested: it would be fun to have one on each boat! No luck, “not the right year for me” and “I’ve a new girlfriend” being two reasons. So, only two Circumnavigators in this family.