86. Rhubarb Rhubarb Rhubarb

Remember me telling you about our garden produce in Post 85? Here’s the meal we had on April 2nd: rhubarb and ginger cocktail (R&G gin, lemon juice, R&G jam, shake with ice and decorate with a tiny stick of rhubarb), mackerel with rhubarb, then rhubarb and marmalade sponge pudding. Interestingly the original cocktail used marmalade instead of rhubarb and ginger jam so continuity across the meal.

Making the rhubarb and ginger sour

Going back to the original purpose of this blog for a moment. On April 1st, with no joking, Clipper published an updated schedule. The plan is to re-start the race from Subic Bay on 21st February 2021, with Leg 6 resuming and taking in Sanya (arrival on 25-26 February), Zhuhai (arriving 5-6 March) then Qingdao (arriving 19-21 March). This will be the new end of Leg 6 (instead of finishing at Zhuhai). Leg 7 will then be to Seattle (arriving 19-24 April) and Panama (27 May to 1 June). Leg 8 includes Bermuda (arrival 15-17 June) and Derry-Londonderry (8-12 July) then finishes in London on 24th July 2021. Those of you with long memories (or plans to travel to this stop) will notice that we have lost New York (very careless) and will finish roughly two weeks before (but one year after) the intended finish date of 8th August (2020). Obviously this is all subject to change but that’s the route and timing for now. I’m not making any plans until nearer the time.

And drinking it

Day 16. Saturday 4th April. Finally finished all our unpacking. Still to go round the house and replace all the blown light-bulbs. They seem to delight in keeping the light-bulb manufacturers in business. I have four boxes of spares: small bayonet, large bayonet, small screw and large screw. I still seem to always be missing the one that JD wants when we need a replacement. Made the marmalade sour on which the above cocktail was based, with plum and clementine gin. Having sorted all our spirit bottles, from absinthe to whisky (Scotch), I’ve decided to make this a cocktail blog for the time being. If I become increasingly incomprehensible you’ll understand I’m sure. I’m ignoring shots as they don’t last long enough. Looking back, I see that without realising it, this has been an underlying theme for some time.

Marmalade sour

Before I get onto the alcohol recipes, the bird life here is expanding, even if I cannot take photos. A long-tailed tit tried to fly through the (closed) window, offering a good view of its undercarriage. JD saw a charm of goldfinch (I think that’s the correct collective noun) in the orchard. As usual, we have constant buzzards mewling and being mobbed by the rooks. In addition, we are beginning to embrace modern technology, with JD resuming his physio with his personal trainer via the computer. He says it’s much better than being in a class and it saves about an hour travel time. Good job I “mended” the internet last week.

Absinthe to whisky (Scotch)

As well as unpacking, I’ve audited the kitchen under-sink cupboard and the freezer (after defrosting). I went onto the local council website and discovered that the recycling centres are closed, so reminded myself what I could recycle at the kerbside (not that we have kerbs in the wilderness). I told you this blog would become boring.

So, to the first bottle in our store: absinthe. You only use drops in most recipes so yes, thanks Chris, it is still the same bottle for my birthday xx (I forget the exact number) years ago! I did make Midori and absinthe sorbet not long after receiving the bottle, it didn’t freeze and tasted aniseedy and melony at the same time. Not bad but maybe not to be put on the favourites list.

For those of you who have never heard of it, absinthe can be a vivid green spirit classically made with wormwood. As with so many spirits, it started life as a medicinal product, curing malaria. It tastes of aniseed and when water is added goes cloudy. Its main association (to my mind) is with Toulouse-Lautrec, with his hollow walking stick full of absinthe, and the Belle Epoque in France in the late 1800’s. You prepared it for drinking with a special absinthe spoon, on which you placed a sugar cube and let water drip through into the glass of absinthe. According to an exhibition at The Tate, it was apparently known as “the Queen of poisons” and the name comes from Greek meaning undrinkable. https://www.tate.org.uk/tate-etc/issue-5-autumn-2005/drink-fuelled-nations-art

Are your salivary glands watering? It could be up to 80% alcohol, definitely lethal, and was said to cause hallucinations due to the presence of thujone, a chemical in wormwood (or maybe the alcohol content alone?). It had such a bad reputation that it was made illegal. I’m happy to say that mine is clear (no contaminants) and a mere 53%. If you want to try some, look here: https://www.thewhiskyexchange.com/c/358/absinthe

Putting all that aside, I have a great app on my phone called Mixology so I consulted that for absinthe recipes. I chose ones where we have all the ingredients and shortlisted 14. NO, I’m not going to try them all. Well, not all at once. I then reduced the list further to those that used a reasonable amount of absinthe, not just a couple of drops. I dismissed two due to their names: Death in the Afternoon (although champagne and absinthe doesn’t sound too bad) and Corpse Reviver (gin, lemon juice, Cointreau, vermouth and absinthe). Not suitable under present circumstances. The names in general tell you something about absinthe: TNT, Hiroshima, Earthquake, Monkey Gland, Flying Fortress, Peep Show. I’ve decided to try two, purely because I like the innocuous-sounding names: Maiden’s Dream and Rimbaud’s Left Hand. No, checking the cupboard, Rimbaud will have to wait another day as I’m out of pineapple juice.

What, you want to know what it’s like before you rush out (or to the computer) to buy your own bottle? Tune in next time.

Proof that we also eat: rhubarb sponge

33. The Bermuda Triangle?

We now know the last three ports of call. If you’ve been following the Clipper website you’ll already be aware of them, but just in case there are other things going on in your life, here they are.

The “South East Asia” stop is now confirmed as Subic Bay, The Philippines. Not an area I know anything about so some basic research tells me that it was a former US Naval base but is now a holiday destination. (I’m sure for some people that “but” is unnecessary). The temperature is likely to be in the low 30’s during the day when we’re there in late February, cooling to 20’s at night with a 1% chance of rain. Won’t be needing my flannelette nightie or Pac-A-Mac then! It specialises in beaches, good for the Clipper boats if they run aground. The fleet are due to arrive 25th-26th February and leave on 28th so a whistle-stop only. Not even worth unpacking the bikini.

What I’m usually wearing on holiday!

The “China” part of leg 5/6 thus starts with arrival in Sanya February 10th-15th, moving onto Subic Bay on 21st February, a quick beer there then off to Zhuhai for arrival around 2nd-3rd March, a crew change for those who are not doing leg 6 and departure on 9th March to George’s “home” port of Qingdao. They should arrive there around 17-19th March and depart for Seattle on 26th March.

Onto the final leg, leaving Panama around 5th June next year. Due to the way the Panama Canal scheduling works this date is vague. I suppose it’s possible I may not even see them transit. Once all the fleet is through the Canal, the last section of Leg 7 will start. They race to New York / New Jersey, planning to arrive around 16th-19th June. As this is the end of Leg 7 there’s a crew change-over and they set off on 27th June for Bermuda.

Couldn’t find Bermuda shorts!

The arrival window at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club is 1st-2nd July, leaving on the 9th so not much time there to relax. Bermuda is an archipelago of seven coral islands with around 170 other rocks and islands that are important enough to have been named. Possibly because ships have hit them? The large islands are connected by bridges. It is nowhere near other islands I’ve been to, if you look it up on a map all you’ll see is sea.

From there we’re on our way home. Foyle Marina at Derry-Londonderry around 23rd -27th July. Actually, that gives me some time to spend in Bermuda if I feel the need to stay in one place for a week or more. Bring out the bikini.

Or maybe not!

Once we’ve left Ireland on 2nd August it’s back to St Katherine’s Dock in London for 8th August, unless they sneak in a late stop. Then we pick up our normal lives?

Next time: probably disappointing for the sailors, back to my plans. Unless something more exciting occurs beforehand.

30. Four wee wheels and a handle

To misquote a film! I know, all my preparation seems to involve buying bags of varying sizes. I’ve realised that as I won’t have Sherpa John to carry them I need things I can manage myself. As well as the Clipper bag featured in post 5, I’ve got one that will go in the hold. Here the dogs are modelling it (to give a sense of scale). It’s of a type I vowed never to have, with four wheels, so it glides alongside when you’re walking. It is very light and I’ve tried it for real so I’m converted. I’ll need careful planning on what to take as I have my suspicions that I’ll be getting wish lists from MBB.

Can we come too?

Now that we know the main stops, I can sort out my jabs. I’ve gone onto the WHO website and looked at the Immunization Chart. To summarize, I will need yellow fever (with certificate), Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Typhoid. I am advised to have Hepatitis B, Rabies, TB (tuberculosis), TBE (tick-borne encephalitis), JE (Japanese encephalitis) and Cholera. I’d best start now. There is one problem that you may have seen in the news recently, anyone over 60 (which I have to admit to being) has a greater risk of suffering nasty side effects with the yellow fever jab. A pal of ours has gone deaf and there was a recent death in the news. Maybe I’ll stay home after all. Oh, but we’ve got house-sitters coming in a month or so. Back to the travel clinic.

As for visas, I need them for the USA and China, possibly Panama, although I hear that the China visa has a time limit so I may have to leave that till later. In addition Australia may ask for a health check and proof of funds. They haven’t in the past so I should be OK. John did get a speeding fine out there some years ago which followed him back home, but we paid it so should be allowed back in!

Need to avoid this!

The languages are now known, I think. Spanish for Uruguay (which I’m learning how to spell) and Mandarin for China. The only hesitation is the first stop before Punta del Este. If it’s in Spain then great but if Brazil then I’ll need to add Portuguese. This does, of course, assume I have time to learn the languages as well as everything else I’m doing (mostly knitting hats).

I’ve started to look at the stopovers to see what sort of weather we can expect and what clothes to take. I rather wish I hadn’t. Ignoring the bit after Panama, which is yet to be confirmed, I’ve created the following table (at the bottom of this post). This is pretty simple but scary. If I don’t manage to get home between legs, then I’m going to need clothes that will be comfortable at 15 C up to 32 C during the day and down to 2 C at night. I think I’ll just copy John and George’s kit and have lots of layers. At least I won’t need ball gowns. I’ll put clothes on hold for another day.

As mentioned in post 3, I have a roll up keyboard which I can take with me. I found it the other day and unrolled it, only to find that half the keys were not doing anything. I’ve bought another as it was about two years old and I couldn’t find a warranty (nor for the new one).

What’s left? Oh yes, flights and hotels. The good news is that the official travel supplier to Clipper is also willing to help the supporters. I’ll be in touch with them next week about how to get from one place to another and which hotels to stay in. You never know, they may even be able to send bags of warm clothing to the right place so I don’t have to cart it around!

One last point for you all to note. Next Tuesday morning the Clipper website will be open to those supporters who wish to escort the Leaving Parade from a boat in the Thames at Tower Bridge down to the Thames Barrier. I wonder if it will be like Glastonbury and crash or be full within minutes? Most annoying is that I’ll not be home then so can’t sit on my computer pressing buttons. If I miss out I’ll just have to wave from the shore. This does have the advantage of seeing them slipping lines from the marina. Decisions decisions. I’m sure we’ll be having a farewell party in London before we go, but here’s the link if you want to see if you can get on a boat: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/clipper-2019-20-race-official-race-start-spectator-boat-tickets-tickets-63050263034

PlaceTimeTemp (day/night)
Punta del Este14 – 23 October22 / 13
Cape Town7 – 17 November23 / 13
Fremantle9 – 22 December25 / 15
Whitsundays9 – 18 January29 / 25
China (all)10 Feb – 26 March26-12 / 20-2 (yes, 2!)
Seattle19 April – 2 May15 / 6
Panama27 May – 5 June32 / 24

25. And The Boys Watch The Girls

Because of course everyone can go on Clipper! Although on this header more people seem to be watching their phones. Some of you will have already found out what happened on Crew Allocation Day, May 11th. If you watched it live you can probably miss out this post. For those of you waiting for this update, I’m sorry you’ve had to bite your nails for a week. The next post will tell you what else we’ve been up to.

Back to May 11th. We arrived in Portsmouth the night before to meet up with George, who had been on his Day Skipper course. The next morning we joined the queue to get into the venue.

Outside the Guildhall

We found out that it was the biggest crew allocation to date, with over 400 crew in attendance and 300 watching live. There are five weeks of Level 4 training, starting in June, with 535 crew booked and about 140 yet to book. Sir Robin warned that anyone NOT completing Level 4 will NOT sail in Clipper. In addition there were over 150 of us supporters in the room. We had a reminder of the race rules and features (see Post 18 if you want to remind yourself). During the night hours, the racing is according to IRPCS, the International Rules for Prevention of Collisions at Sea. Race specific course instructions will be sent to the crew about five days before each race.

The race skippers have completed eight weeks of training with another 14-15 weeks to do. We were introduced to them, here’s before they sat down and obscured the details. We have AQPs (additional qualified person, in effect a First Mate) for the first time but we didn’t get their specific details. You can find them on the Clipper website, https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/meet-the-clipper-201920-race-aqps

Skippers

Four yachts have already been rebranded: Unicef, Sanya, Zhuhai and Qingdao. At the meeting we found out that both Seattle and Punta del Este will be host ports and boat entries. Only another five to go! I’ve not got any pictures of them but I’m sure you’ll have had enough by the end of the race. We also had a LOT of information on safety. Crew will be clipped on if the speed is over 15 knots, at night time and if the Skipper says so. Both tethered and untethered Man Over Board (MOB) will happen before each race and the Skipper will have to email HQ that this has been done.

We then heard a bit about Brand Ambassadors, essentially crew who volunteer to represent a particular brand associated with Clipper. Team partners have not all been confirmed (see Post 14 for the different types of partners and Post 23 for announced ones) but they should all be announced in the next few weeks. After this each crew will know their team colours and identity and be issued with kit. Cape Town and The Whitsundays (in Australia) were announced as host ports in addition to Seattle and Punte del Este. We still don’t know a couple, see the updated table below:

LegRace numberLeavePortArriveDestination
0 (Prep)16th Aug
1a11st SeptSt Katherine’s Dock London??????
1b2??????14-16 OctPunta del Este
Uruguay
2323rd OctPunta del Este7-11 NovCape Town
3417th NovCape Town9-14 DecFremantle
4522nd DecFremantle9-12 JanWhitsundays
5a618th JanWhitsundays10-15 FebSanya
5b721st FebSanya25-26 FebSE Asia
5c828th FebSE Asia2-3 MarchZhuhai
6a99th MarZhuhai17-19 MarchQingdao
6b1026th MarQingdao19-24 AprilSeattle
7a112nd MaySeattle27 May -1 JunePanama
7b125th JunePanamaMid JuneEast USA
8a13/14Late JuneEast USAMid JulyN Europe
8b14 or 15?Late JulyN EuropeEarly AugSt Katherine’s Dock London

As you can see, the very first race destination isn’t known and once past the Panama Canal we’re off into the unknown. The Race will actually start on 2nd September from Southend Pier. I’ll update when I can. We then had information on stopovers (see Post 22); we’ll know more eight then four weeks before each one. I hope to get myself organised before that though. We heard that there is a travel company who will be announced in the next few weeks, mainly for crew who are only on one or two legs and so need to arrive in the right place at the right time, but I’m sure we can piggy-back on this. Unicef updated us that each yacht will have a fund-raising co-ordinator for the first time. This is not an extra person but one of the crew. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that every crew member is going to be wearing a number of hats, especially the circumnavigators.

The next section addressed communications. Race crew news will be via email to the crew. The website will carry information as will Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. I’m going to have to get into this century and join all these. There will be on-board reporters (a crew member) and Youtube stuff, with Skipper daily blogs and crew will also be encouraged to blog. If you sign up on the Clipper website you should received updates in your inbox. However, don’t forget that they will be far from civilisation, so “daily” may not actually mean what we think it means. A RIB will go out to each boat at the end of each race to interview crew members and there will be local press interviews.

Smile and wave!

After all this and greater details of the race than I’ve given in the table above, we had what we’d all come for, the crew allocation (from midday, so we had about three hours of anticipation). To prolong the agony, each Skipper stood up in turn and announced HALF of his crew, so if you were in the first half you could relax. I didn’t have a bird’s-eye-view so not good photos, but here are our two teams.

George 4th out of the sorting hat!

Team Chris was first to speak so George didn’t have long to wait. Chris Brooks is Skippering the Qingdao boat: George needs to start learning his Mandarin. (Louise, you volunteered Neil to accompany me on this leg so we can test his Mandarin, you thought you were joking!). The AQP is Rhiannon Massey.

John had to wait a bit longer.

The eleventh Skipper to stand up was Ian Wiggin but luckily John was also in the first tranche. This is the Unicef boat, so John is already ahead of the game in terms of fundraising. His AQP is Mike Miller, who went round the world in the last race. For completeness here are the other two halves of our crews.

Rest of Team Chris (Qingdao)
Rest of Team Ian (Unicef)

After this we had lunch then split into teams for the afternoon. I’ll tell you more about these two boats and the host port Qingdao next time, as well as what we learnt in the afternoon session for supporters. You may be getting one of these posts a day for the next week.