clipper-race-sea-survival-training

OK – so six months ago I left the clipper after week one training not really sure whether I would be seeing it again. Now we are at the start of week two – so the answer must have been unequivocally yes! Six months to prepare for the next gruelling week. Six months to get the kit that I need, to lose weight and to get fit. Who is that athletic looking person eager to start the week? The person standing next to me! I may have lost a few pounds, but nowhere near as many as I would have liked. Paul bought me a contraption to help strengthen my hands (it took four months for my left hand to get back to normal after the first week – I did think that I had permanently lost the feeling in one of my fingers and my thumb) but it is still in the box. My children had bought me some weights for Christmas to help get those inner core muscles up to scratch – they are out of the box, but gathering dust in the sunroom. Where has that time gone? I have been jogging in parts whilst walking the dog in the morning – but the week didn’t start well when I ate mud walking the dog on Monday going through the woods. I must start to learn to stay on my feet when I am on dry land, otherwise I will not stand a chance once I get on the high seas.

The packing didn’t go so well either. The waterproof sleeping bag that I had decided to get many months ago seems to have gone out of production now in preparation for a new model, and all the stockists have sold out. The new one is due to be launched in September – no good at all for the 30th August start date. Old sleeping bag it is then – let’s hope it doesn’t get too wet below stairs this time. Then there is finding the things I bought for the first weeks training – I put them in a really safe place. Quick pit stop in Bury on the way to get a few essential items then! I am really going to have to start listening to Paul – he is always telling me to Plan and Prepare otherwise you will have a Poor Performance (or something like that). Should have done that. Should have had a list of what I needed as well – I could have looked for them more than an hour before I was due to leave. Next time!

I have got a little plan up my sleeve though – when I make some absolutely stupid mistakes and my shipmates are plotting to throw me overboard, I will whip out my Nanaimo Bars I made before leaving home. They are the most delicious chocolate cakes I have tasted – got the recipe from Canada a couple of years ago and so far have not met anyone that doesn’t like them. A bit of bribery and corruption may be the only way I make to the end of the week!

The day started bright and early at Brune Community School in Gosport for the Sea Survival Day. We all congregated in the cafe – twenty or so people, so either one very full boat or maybe split into two. The classroom section of the course was run by Chris Jowett, a retired Royal Navy Survival Instructor. Having had over 25 years in the Navy running courses of this nature, I am quite confident that he knows how to teach people to survive – but not sure if they would let incompetents like me in the Royal Navy so this may test his ability to the limit.

He started by sharing some insights into being sea sick – for the first hour you think you might die, and by the second hour you wish you had. Oh what joys have I signed up to? We talked through all sorts of scenarios, how various bits of equipment works and what you do with it. All very calmly and sensibly on a lovely sunny day in the middle of Gosport. I think it would be somewhat different in the middle of a storm just after your boat had sunk!

After the theory came the practical. We were joined in the pool by Keith, another retired Royal Navy veteran of many years. Not the bit I have been looking forward to – far too much lead in my bottom, but now with two people to rescue me if needed! We had the pool to ourselves for two hours – at least no three year olds to show me up! We started by putting on our life jackets, and practising how to jump overboard. Hold your nose and jump in. This course is easy peasy! Then we had to get out without using the steps. Not so easy after all then. After an inordinate amount of time of heaving and pulling and wiggling all to no avail, Keith came and got hold of the back of my life jacket and pulled me up. What kept him? Could have saved me an awful lot of energy if he could have evaluated that I was never going to make it at the beginning.

Once I was out, we had to jump back in again. Now we had to tow a casualty. I was paired with a girl of just shy of six feet. Her legs wrapped around my middle and we were flying up the pool for the “short tow” and then she moved her feet to under my arms for the “long tow” and we got to the other end in record time. Then I had to pull her back. Several things here were against me. With my legs around her middle she was virtually sitting on my lap. Hey ho – we got to where we needed to go albeit rather slowly. Once my feet were under her armpits it felt as though she could easily be swept away – but I clung on for dear life and we made it.

We then had to do a crocodile tow – six people in a line. Being that I was the only “incapable” in our team, and the others were rather strapping lads, our team won. Woohoo. Although not down to anything that I did, I might add.

We then deployed the life raft – a box that was transposed into a little rubber house for six people. It had steps made of webbing to help get in – some didn’t really need them. I had that feeling of dread when you see how easily some people step up over the top, and how others that look fairly fit and energetic are finding it hard. I think they left me until last because they knew what was going to happen. I jumped in, got to the raft, got my feet on the webbing and didn’t have enough arm length to reach in to pull on the webbing on the inside. “Go up another step”. Got there, and just about managed to grab the webbing on the inside but hauling my butt out of the water and getting my bulk into that little house was not one of the easiest tasks I have ever attempted. I tried for several minutes, before Keith jumped off the side and into the raft and yanked on the back of my life jacket and “helped” me over. “I have seen people give up long before that” he said. Was that a compliment or sympathy? Rolling out the other side was easy – not before everyone gave me a big cheer. Probably because they thought they would never get away that night! Excellent – ticked that box then.

Then we had to do it all again in teams – bugger! We all jumped in together, and predictably I was last getting to the raft, but I think I had already been spotted as the weak link so some strong arms came and heaved me in. Face met knees etc, but at least I was in. Didn’t even wait to see me struggle. Let’s hope I never have to do that for real!

I thought I had been really prepared at the end of the day though – this was a school and may not have had any hair dryers – so brought my own travel hairdryer. After all, I don’t think I was going to get the opportunity again for a few days. Not only were there no hairdryers, there were no plugs either. Apparently school children are not allowed to have dry hair!

We made our way to the clipper office and were allocated a boat. There were two boats, so ten on each. One of the ladies on my boat hadn’t turned up, so there were only nine of us. Me and one other girl – oh the horror on my face when I recognised the name and remembered a facebook status she had put about fitness preparation that scared me to death. I think I might get my ass whooped this week!

Daniel was skipper, and Diane was mate. Both potential race skippers! We were shown around the boat briefly, issued with life jackets and foulies (still needed the “large” – bugger again!) and then sat down to dinner in plastic bowls. What joy! But, as a bonus, we weren’t sailing until the morning so could use the shower (and hairdryer) and toilet in the marina, and go to the pub! Then back to my lower bunk – I had to swap as only the upper ones were left by the time I got to choose and there was no way I would get up there. I had brought a proper pillow this time as well – that little old travel pillow just didn’t cut the mustard last time.

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