A week of ‘should have beens’

Firstly, I want to announce the winner of my quiz. The lucky winner gained a score of 22/30 and will receive a book about the maritime origins of everyday expressions, which is currently wending it’s way to them on the Isle of Wight. Congratulations Lenka!

In many ways it feels very apt that Lenka should win the quiz as I went to visit her on the Isle of Wight straight from my initial Clipper application interview in Gosport in September 2017. We sat up till very late drinking too much wine and binge watching previous editions of the race on DVD, because Lenka also shares my passion for boats and the sea, having been a member of Ocean Youth Club (as it was called) back in the day. We were both enthralled by the exhilarating footage of huge seas and exposure to storms at night. Lenka mused that were she not a mum, then she too would like to sign up to the race, but then both agreed she is blessed to share her life with her special daughter. So happy reading Lenka and thank you to all of you who took the trouble to submit your quiz answers.

This week has been an especially difficult one emotionally for me as every day of my diary has had an entry for a Clipper race-related commitment at Seattle’s Bell Harbour marina; be it a refresher sail, crew registration, onboard crew brief with my team mates and Skipper and today…Well today, I would have hugged my husband for the last time from the pontoon that Punta del Este was moored to and stepped aboard at 11am in order to be ready for slipping the mooring lines for a ceremony at noon and parade of sail. This is a marker at the start of each race, which I have avidly watched via Facebook live for all the previous legs. Dave and I were going to take off our wedding rings and replace them with symbolic silicone ones (so that I reduced my chances of a nasty injury whilst using the winches over the coming months!). He’d also written me a song in honour of this moment called ‘Sailing Free’. So today, instead of stepping aboard Punta del Este and separating for 3.5 months in Seattle, we are very much together reflecting on a few ‘should have beens’ at home. We decided to mark this day by Dave performing his song on camera. I hope you enjoy the song (it has a catchy chorus to sing-a-long with).

My husband performing this song he’d written to mark the eve of my part in the Clipper race 2019-20. Performed at home in Bristol, England, on the day and hour we were meant to be saying our last goodbye to each other on a pontoon in Seattle before I embarked Punta del Este for Legs 7 & 8 of the race.

Even if I can’t physically be on the ocean tonight, I shall be imaginatively transported there. It’s canny timing (again) that at 6pm GMT tonight, Sarah Outen is giving a free online talk about her experience of 500 days alone ocean rowing. Given that Sarah’s books about her cycling, kayaking and rowing adventures inspired me to re-apply to Clipper in 2017, I can’t help but think it is very apt she’s giving this lecture tonight; marking what would have been my first night on the Pacific ocean aboard Punta del Este. So if you’d like to hear her talk too, then you can watch it here.

Tomorrow is a new day and also a new chapter in the Changing Tack adventure story. Until the close of today I have been living my life in lockdown in full knowledge of many ‘should haves’, but as of tomorrow, there are none. My diary is empty for the rest of 2020, because I was to be offshore. Off air. Beyond reach. Jumping off into a huge unknown, trusting that it would all be OK and things would work out one way or another. I had no plans beyond returning from the race safe and sound in around 60 days time into the embrace of my husband. So it’ll be quite a relief tomorrow to finally wake up to a new chapter where my life at home under lockdown finally matches what the experience of crewing in the race would have demanded; to just try to go with the flow in the face of great unknowns, make the most of each moment for what it is or brings and know that there will be great challenges ahead, but also beautiful moments too. I think that’s what life in lockdown asks of us all too.

If you’ve been reading my blog, thank you for being part of the journey and contributing to the story as it unfolded. Remember that whatever circumstances you find yourself in right now, an adventure awaits. Take care. Stay safe. Be strong.

I received this beautiful pin badge through the post yesterday from a good friend and work colleague who wanted to remind me that although “the world and their plans have been utterly turned on their head, I’m sending you this to remind you that good times are ahead…It’s a reminder that the world will continue after this pandemic and who knows where you’ll be and what you will do. Life is for living.”

And the winner is…

Thank you to all of you who submitted mascot name suggestions via this blog, Facebook or by email. In particular I have loved reading the explanations given for the name suggestions; there were some lovely sentiments. But ultimately, there needs to be an overall winner, as my mascot needs naming. So, the winner is…

Sir Robin Yarnspun (or, Robin Yarnspun for short)!

…But I’d also like to offer a Runner Up prize for El cazador de sueños (Dreamcatcher) as I LOVE the sentiment that sums up my own motivations for being in this edition of the Clipper race, but I fear I could never do the name justice in my pronunciation of it 😉

Ultimately, why I chose Sir Robin Yarnspun over all the other great name suggestions was because it pays homage to two important influences in my life; Sir Robin (obviously) and my mother. Whilst the former is a household name in sailing circles, my mother is also well known (“notorious” some might say), in spinning and weaving circles.

My mum, one of life’s characters and survivors, has struggled her whole life with crushed dreams because of a tragic car accident when my siblings and I were babies and toddlers. Whilst she defied all medical expectations by gradually getting herself out of intensive care, a neck brace and wheelchair, into a swimming pool, onto a bike and most importantly, back behind a car’s steering wheel, it’s all been catching up with her very quickly these last few years and these days she’s almost house-bound and certainly unable to walk very far, increasingly limited by the use of her right side only. She has bravely accepted she has to move into more functional, adaptable accommodation, but it’s emotionally difficult for someone who’s spirited, independent and lived the last 35 years looking at Kinder Scout within a tight community in the Peak District where I grew up and she still lives.

I am painfully aware that as my world is about to broaden exponentially as I slip the lines for horizons new and loose sight of the shore, my mum’s world is very quickly shrinking and she’ll shortly be loosing sight of the moorland she loves so much. Where my ‘move’ is by choice, her move is unwelcome, but borne out of necessity. I feel for her immensely. It is heartbreaking in so many ways that I feel unable to talk much to her about the Clipper race as it feels indulgent in the face of her own enormous day-to-day challenges. She is brave and has way more grit and determination than I ever will.

My husband took this photo at Easter this year when we were supporting mum to try out her newly-purchased walking aid. Little did we know at the time that it would be the last time my mum felt able to walk through the farmyard next door to her house. These days she can barely make it to the bottom of the garden.

My mum is only in her mid 60s, but the legacy of a horrific car accident a lifetime earlier is taking a huge toll. I marvel on her behalf at all my fellow crew aboard the Clipper yachts in their 60s and 70s and hope they acknowledge to themselves that they are so blessed to be physically able to undertake such a remarkable feat. It saddens me greatly that mum will not be coming to race start as she feels unable to deal with the travel logistics and crowds and that she’ll never know what life will be like for me below decks, nor how alien and small the deck of a Clipper 70 feels to a novice sailor like myself.

But despite all this, my mum is an accomplished craftswomen of all things to do with yarn. She is yarnspun at heart. My mascot is yarnspun. I like to think she’d approve of the woolly homage! Over the years she has carded and spun it from fleeces donated by local farmers, dyed it using natural dyes she creates from plants and vegetables, woven it, knitted it, crochet it and championed it with her weekly “stitch and bitch” (as she calls it), which is a gathering of crafty women in her home once-a-week.

This summer I took a road trip back to beloved Scotland with my husband and our tent and we ended up on Iona and Mull. On a gloomy, stormy day we found ourselves at the Ardalanish Isle of Mull Weavers and I was completely blown away by the fact that the woman who runs it knows my mum and spoke so highly of her. She said: “there isn’t a person in the weavers guild who doesn’t know your mother and she has taught me many things.” We both shared anecdotes about mum and spilt many tears over the fact that mum has recently had to sell off all her beloved spinning wheels and looms.

Me with Monika, a New Zealander, who has made a life for herself on the Isle of Mull keeping the spirit and craft of weaving alive at Ardalanish. She credits my mum for her role in her own weaving journey.

So thank you Rosie Turner for coming up with a name for my mascot that keeps the spirit of my mother’s talents alive, whilst also acknowledging a childhood hero whose biographies have inspired my own dreams and led me to play my own small part in this edition of the Clipper round-the-world yacht race. Lastly, but not least, thank you to Tricia Jenkins for her own unflagging support from afar. You shall both receive a lino-cut print in the post (made by another very talented craftswoman I admire) and I hope it’ll arrive auspiciously just in time for the official race start on the 1st September… Here’s to Sir Robin Yarnspun! x