Changing Watch

On Boxing Day we are off on the Sydney/Hobart race – one of the world’s most iconic sailing races and will try to update you on that in a few days. But in the meantime I thought you might like to read something I wrote on my way round from Fremantle.

Hope you are all having a great festive season and thanks for all your support – it means a great deal I assure you.

I wrote…..

Do you remember that beanbag I talked about in a previous blog? Well I am back in it once again but this time it is daylight and 7pm and we are beetling along at 12 knots under the code 2 spinnaker and having a bit of fun!

But I thought you might like to hear how I got here from a deep sleep only a few minutes ago – a major feat in its own right and something that happens 5 times a day, 7 days a week whilst at sea. Relentless.

40 minutes ago I was in a deep sleep in my bunk wedged in an upright “V” hard up against the hull side on my left with my mattress on the other side. Standard stuff to stop you falling out of bed especially when we tack! I took the precaution of jamming my lovely soft mid layer jacket under me as I climbed in earlier to provide just a bit of comfort!

I hear a crew mate saying “time to get up” and suddenly my brain kicks into gear. I suddenly realise that I had been dreaming about getting up and already had a bit of a plan in my mind. I mention this because a “plan” is absolutely essential at these times as I have precisely 30 minutes before I have to be up on deck ready to take over from the off-going watch who are all desperate for their bunks.

My first thought is that I need to go to the loo. Now, this might sound quite normal but the loo is 15 feet away and it is a major exercise just to get there when sailing at 45 degrees and you do not want to repeat the process! So, I lie there for a moment or two and refine that dream plan and this is what evolves…..

30 minutes to go….
– Which tack are we on so how do I safely get out of the bunk? (This process is quite different for each tack as the hand holds, foot ledges and floor are in different places for each)
– Where are my crocs? Has someone else used them? Have they been thrown around the boat when tacking? (I really do not want to visit the loo in bare feet!)
– Must take my toothbrush and toothpaste as I can do that at the same time
– Do I have time/need to changes socks/knickers? If so, where did I ‘file’ them? And how do I carry them without getting them wet?
28 minutes to go…..
– Successfully out of the bunk with only one new bruise – I slipped on someone’s sweaty shirt as I found what I thought was a safe foot hold.
– I rescue my socks from under my sleeping bag where I left them two hours ago and they are about 80% dry – result! (This approach seems to work quite well) going to forget the knickers, too tired, they can wait for another day. But I will have a clean shirt.
– I pack up my sleeping bag into its cover as I need to make space for my bunk mate to crash in a few minutes.
– Crocs where I left them thank goodness.
25 minutes to go….
– Damn, someone already in there so I hop around until they get out
– Relief, I step in, wedge myself in a corner and then pull down on the zips to get a modicum of privacy. And now the fun starts.
– Although the off-going watch will have cleaned the loo from top to bottom, we all take great care. Where to put my toothbrush and my lovely clean shirt? I wedge the shirt behind a pipe and put the toothbrush in my mouth.
– The next few steps I shall leave out for the slightly delicate amongst you- just use your imagination and add a layer of Olympic acrobatics with a requirement for some good luck as well!
– A reasonably successful trip although I do have to wipe up toothpaste from the floor as the sink moved for some inexplicable reason as I was cleaning my teeth. Rinsing out your toothbrush in sea water becomes normal after a while.
20 minutes to.go…..
– Come on, think, remember the plan. Oh yes, take my foulie bottoms back to the bunk, got them. Look out crew mates, Robin is coming through! Just like climbing Everest, I’m sure.
18 minutes to go…..
– I stick my head out of the companionway on the way past – what layers do I need people? Cold? Wet? More planning!
– No requirement to change base clothes because I slept in them, however, I find a friendly wall to prop myself up on and with one hand pull on my socks whilst grabbing a safety rail with the other. (Try it sometime). Fortunately the boat stays reasonably upright and I also manage to discard and safely stow the toothbrush/paste and crocs.
– Foulie bottoms eventually put on successfully after having tried to put my foot in the wrong leg several times!
– Next step, sailing boots! Success, they have not gone walkabouts and join the rest of the outfit reasonably easily.
15 minutes to go…..
– What else do I need before retracing my steps back to the galley?
– Sailing knife still to hand? (Must try to get a lanyard organised today)
– Water bottle?
– Cap and sun glasses? (Only ‘lost’ these 4 times so far – they just seem to have a life of their own and disappear!)
12 minutes to go……
– I wedge myself into the saloon bench and someone thrusts tonight’s dinner into my hand, deconstructed cottage pie, a major treat. Some people smoother it with 10 different types of hot chilli sauces – not sure why, it is great as it is. No tea or coffee thank you but a glass of red wine would be good. Run out? Oh well another time.
4 minutes to go….
– Bother (not quite the word I used), nearly late for handover and that is a cardinal sin.
– Foulie top on, life jacket on, damn, too lose have to tighten it up. Try again.
– And finally up I go for another 4 hour watch right on time!
– I turn to my watch leader and ask ’where do you want me?’….

……and here I am back on my bean bag!

But what is this? A sail change? No peace for the wicked

11 thoughts on “Changing Watch

  1. Robin,Your blogs are fantastic and I admire you finding the motivation to write them in your circumstances. We are so proud of all of you on Hotel Planner for the trophies you won on The Sydney-Hobart race.The confidence engendered in your skipper and crew should make the next leg of the race even more fun. You are now in a unique team and so well earned by your hard work and daring. Thank you for keeping us involved. X Paul and Margaret.


  2. Hi Robin, My goodness, that was nasty but good experience dealing with MOB. I can say that as it was such a wonderful outcome. Well done to all Hotel Planner crew. Happy Birthday, and Happy New Year. Love Pauline xx

    Sent from my iPad



  3. A good finish into the Hobart after picking off one boat after an awesome overboard incident. Well done to skipper and all crewmembers.


  4. Hi Rob-well that was Christmas-Surely the most fantastical ever- just risen and opened your blog- you’re getting damn close to the finish- so checking the Met- graphics – It shows you’re enjoying a following wind – guess the the boat is charging down towards Hoby – spinicker out and looking proud- But notice that close to port though wind direction dead opposite ! – It looks like you can now change course a smidge to starboard and straight don’t the throat to the finish- What a roller coaster your having – Merry Christmas to you all on HP – buckets of love Stella & Mikal x


  5. Happy belated Christmas wishes. Absolutely incredible Robin. Very proud of you. Thinking of you often. Always look forward to reading your blog. With all your difficulties, I do hope you are enjoying yourself. Love from us both.


  6. OMG Robin, your description of getting to the loo and back is awesome! I just get out of bed, 10 strides on a flat floor, and I’m there! Your description is hilarious, but I don’t think you would describe it as such right now! It’s Christmas morning here and we both wish you a very happy Christmas. And to Mary too. We’ll drink to your Health and Safety…..
    Keith and Jacqui


    1. A happy New Year to you Robin. Your experiences so far have left me with only one thought. Thank goodness I am on terra firma!,I can feel queezy in the bath! Good luck on your next long and gruelling section. Margaret Thomas


  7. Merry Christmas Robin. We’ve all been enjoying your blog and the details of your great adventure. All the details really help paint a picture of what you are doing. I’m still thinking about your night on the beanbag. I’m sure all the work and bruises are worth it every time you get up on deck and feel the magic of being under sail.

    I’m in London now with Alyosh and Liza and waiting for Joanna and the teenagers to arrive. It’s Christmas morning here and Alyosha is building a Lego set while Liza and I cuddle up and watch the Polar Express.

    I’m so proud of you for pushing yourself to the limit with this amazing adventure. Much love at Christmas.



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