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For the first time in three race starts I was on the boat rather than waving them off from the pontoon.  That felt right.

It was touch and go right up to a couple of days before departure.  I already had my consultant and physio sign off the forms to say I was good to go before I left for Derry.  That just left the Clipper insurance and the Race Director.  I had the underwriters email shortly after landing – just the one obstacle to go.  I had heard that someone else with a shoulder injury was made to pull a boat in by the bow line with his bad arm.  As I would not have been able to do that before, I was going to put in a very good argument as to why I couldn’t do it now.  Then I heard that the Race Director had left to go back home.  Ha ha I thought, that was easy.  Then I had the email to say that the Deputy Race Director wanted to see me at 10.00 am the following morning on the boat.  Oh dear!

I duly arrived, and found there was a small contingent of fellow crew members and Wendo ready to give any support necessary.  The first test was not too bad – I had to put on my foul weather smock and life jacket.  The smock is rather difficult to put on with two good arms, and I saw Emily hold her head her in hands as everyone struggles with that one.  But I did it, and the life jacket was comparatively easy.  Then I had to prove I could get in and out of my bunk, and tie up the lee cloth.  Easy peasy.  I had to hold on to a hand rail as if we were heeling at 45 degrees, and pull myself up.  All sensible tests, and achievable.  Then came the sticky one. I had to get on and off the boat without steps.  Everyone fell about laughing on deck, saying that would be a first.  But, he wouldn’t take no for an answer, and continued to show me how to do it.  I think, by luck, the tide was in the right direction, and the boat was not far from the pontoon.  The bow line was tight that gave me a step up and down, and miraculously I did it first time.  I then earned myself the nickname “Andy” from Little Britain.  David said that when none of them were looking I would be up the mast.  Ha!
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But, those tests done, I got the green light to go.  David had a tear in his eye.  Then told me I was on his watch, and he has had the best watch ever.  And I wasn’t to stuff it up!!  I will do my best not to.

So, gear on the boat and head in sailing mode again.  Seems very strange. Derry had been a fantastic stopover – somewhere that I had only heard about for all the wrong reasons from my younger days, but was an amazing city.  I caught up with a couple of travel agent friends, both old and new, and toured some of the beautiful countryside.  As well, of course, of victualling for the boat.  But Val had done a good job in my absence, and had most of the lists sorted by the time they arrived in, so it was only the food to buy.

Each boat was sponsored by a business in Derry, and ours was RoCo – a hairdresser and coffee shop.  They provided a fantastic array of sandwiches and pastries for our race day lunch and the following day’s breakfast.  The restaurant next door, Timber Quay, provided lasagna and vegetarian curry for dinner, so we were well provided for.

The morning of departure came, and I was actually a little emotional – and apprehensive.  I didn’t want to be a nuisance on the boat, but was really not sure how much I would be able to do.  The people of Derry gave us a memorable departure.  They were stacked along the marina two or three deep, cheering and clapping.
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So out into the big blue sea we go again!
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Bridget only has basic email facilities on the boat. Editing and the choice of images on this blog is entirely by Paul Keevil!
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