So – I was accepted for the trip!  Big Surprise.  Big shock for Paul.  He thought they would take one look at me and say “No thank you”.  Brownie points for him for “allowing” me to go, but no problems as they wouldn’t want me.  Didn’t quite work out that way.  We too-ed and fro-ed for a month or so, and then he told me I had to go for it.  I will then!

As usual, the packing wasn’t started until the day of departure – even though over a week ago I had vowed that the packing for this trip was not going to be left until the last minute. I had bought a few odd things that were suggested – nothing near as much as I could have. There is still a chance that I wouldn’t be able to live on a boat or they decide that don’t want me on their boat, and then I would have bought sailing stuff for nothing.

So, armed with my merino wool leggings and knickers, a head torch, a pair of Wellington boots, waterproof gloves and socks, and a variety of other stuff I already had, I tried to get it all in a rucksack. This was now half an hour after I needed to leave. And it didn’t all go in. It didn’t seem that much when it was laid on the bed! It all had to go in a waterproof bag before going into the rucksack. I tried putting the waterproof bag in first and then filling it. But that left room down the sides. So I tried shoving a pair of shoes in the holes. I did wonder if I should leave my hairdryer at home, but then thought I ought to take it. If I could dry my hair half way up the Himalayas, I ought to be able to do it on a boat.

I cut down a few jumpers, and then closed the catches. Only to realise my boots and sleeping bag were still on the floor. The sleeping bag that should be waterproof, but is the one I already had and made of down. The worst material apparently to get wet. I will buy a new one if I get through the next week. I put the boots in a dry bag and clipped them onto the outside of the rucksack, as I did the sleeping bag. I then had another back pack with the computer, kindle and camera equipment in. Not sure where all that lot is going to go on a very small boat!

After three trips to the car, it all went in. I decided to take another pair of walking boots, and another bag, which would be left in the boot of the car unless needed. I don’t think we are going to be going far this week – although we were told to bring our passport. I set off for the trip to Gosport about an hour after I had planned – that was the hour for any hold ups so just hope that there aren’t any. Had a quick look at the emails before I left, and saw that the volcano in Iceland seems to be on the verge of erupting. Oh dear!

It was a fairly uneventful drive down, although the traffic was horrendous once I came off the motorway. Got there with ten minutes to spare – excellent timing! I parked the car and went into the reception without the luggage – thought I would just see where to go before loading myself up and carrying that amount of luggage potentially the wrong way. I was the last to arrive – and everyone else had very sensible sized luggage. Oh well! There were showers in the Clipper building that we would be able to use – and they had hairdryers in – so that is one thing I can take out and leave in the boot. I loaded the rucksack on my back with all its swinging attachments, and then the back pack. Anyone would think I was going for a month. By the time I had got back, the skipper Cliff and the mate Darren had arrived to take everyone to the boat. So I then waddled down the jetty until we came to a lovely pink boat that was to be my home for the next week. Just the small problem of getting from the jetty to the boat and up the steps with all that weight on my back. I’m not proud – I decanted the luggage and gave it to Rob, the mate’s mate, to put on board for me. I reckon they thought they had a good one here!

We left the luggage on deck whilst we went below. We were made a cup of coffee, seated in a very comfortable lounge area (we are talking tent comfortable not five star comfortable by the way) and then had to go and choose our bunks. There were ten of us – seven ladies and three gentlemen. Talk about cramped quarters – and the luggage had to go in little holes around the bunk. Think I might pack a little differently next time. We all made introductions – and it seems I am not the oldest. Well, I don’t think I am. Probably the most unfittest and fattest though! One gentleman is from East Coast USA, one gentleman from Moscow and one lady from San Francisco. Two are from Southern Ireland, one “itinerant” mostly from New Zealand, and the rest from the UK. A very mixed bunch. And apart from a few with a little experience in sailing, most complete novices. Probably why there are two mates with the skipper on this trip!

We had a fairly extensive overview of the ship, with all elements of safety features explained. Very thorough. Apparently there are pages and pages of rules that states how much you should know before setting out on the water. I know that there are quite a few safety features on these ships – very comforting. Then we had dinner – in bowls on our laps. Not my usual standard of dinner out – but very tasty. Roast pork, apple sauce, veg and mashed potatoes. Not what I expected at all. Very easy to eat when the boat is still in port – not so sure what it is going to be like on the Southern Ocean!

By the time we finished dinner it was 10pm – most of the others went to the pub. Way past my bedtime – so sleeping bag on the bunk and pyjamas for me! We need to be up and ready for 7.15am in the morning – wonder how I will sleep in this little metal tube crammed with people. Bit like sleeping in a refugee camp I think! My rucksack would not fit in the little holes in the walls meant for the luggage so had to have it on the end of my bunk. Good job I’m not six feet tall. I could just about stretch out still. Not sure what the Russian is going to do with his wheely suitcase and coat hangers I noticed he had brought!