Jussie sails with Clipper 11-12

Jussie sails with Clipper 11-12
I sailed the last leg (8) in 2012 - USA,Nova Scotia,Ireland,Netherlands & UK. Travelling 4,000 miles, approx 22 days at sea, with 4 races in this leg.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Sailing Memories on the Longest Day in June

Imagine an image that never ends, open waters, rehydrated
food for crew that survive on this for days on end. This is not the never ending story but in fact the longest day in June (on a repeat button). A team of strangers trained to operate a 68 foot yacht, live without glamour or luxuries. A far cry away from any TV, radio, or social networking sites for days, weeks and a crammed solace to eat,live, and sail.Our day consists on a shift pattern of on/off watches, mothering duties (food); engineering (cleaning out bilges,maintenance of yacht); sailing on watch and much needed sleep off watch.

Where could you envisage a day watching the earth's natural habitat of life in real motion time. Seeing sunrise and sunset crossing the Atlantic Ocean. A time to experience all weather elements and nowhere to hide. No
shelter and just to embrace the rain and waves crashing down on our
foulies – the splashes hitting our eyes (the only visible space showing).
Looking out onto the sea, and having the most gorgeous dolphins squeaking
and swimming with us as our yacht pounds through the water. I step forward
to the bow and see the dolphins doing their little 'chase me' dance as
they pop out of the water showing off one by one, then a few together. 

How lucky are we to be in nature's world and not watching a wildlife program on TV. This beats any show, then also to witness whales too – wow! A vision of pure beauty up close and personal. Have no fear, because the sea
around has life and is watching us to! Curious as to what immense form
speeds readily through their territory. 

Even birds fly around and occasionally come on-board to say hello and fly in/around our sails/deck area where we chat and sometimes slurp on a much needed hot tea.

The day is a routine but with variety:- new conversations, wondering what
food we will be eating; by adding water or from tins. Lack of sleep,
trying to get ready/dressed, even going to the toilet is a challenge when
the yacht is on an angle – hold on tight, its a a 45' angle!

Can you hear us laughing echoing out into the wide Ocean hoping for a glimmer of land, but knowing maybe another 8 days yet for such luck. Our sounds like baby
whispers dissolving into the air, hear us then with a flash as the wind
forces us forward...that chapter lost forever (except in our memories).
I for one feel very lucky to be writing this blog on the longest day of
the year, as my life has been extended thanks to a double-lung transplant
in 2006. I appreciate every day, like it's my last and absorb every sight,
sound, smell, image around me. Today is no ordinary day, but one of pure
beauty and challenge as I breathe in fresh sea air. My emotions sometimes
getting the better of me without the crew knowing I am wondering/hoping
that I get to face another day/ live to tell the tale for next year's
longest day of the year.

Live and cherish every day, don't take things for granted, and try and live your dreams. Love those around you and be kind – enjoy, smile, and bring laughter into your life. Today may be the longest day of the year, use it in reaching for your goals/ambitions. Time for me to get back on deck parade a smile to my crew, hope for a good last hour before I settle in another dosage of galley goodness and a few hours sleep, ready to get going and say. YES, I AM still ALIVE for today!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

I'm 6, Alive & Coming Home #clipperrace

Celebrating 6 years since my double lung transplant at sea hoping for champagne, sweet treats & happy weather/winds. Well, one can hope - and not being sea sick again & bunk bound seeing no light at the end of a tunnel. So, that was the delight that faced me....

Leaving Ireland heading for Netherlands about 5-8 days max depending on sea/weather & knowing Leg 8 of this race almost closing. Stocked up this time with drink (juices) & goodies so a happy Jussie in the event foul tasting water & food stashed away as reserves. Nothing can be as bad as the Atlantic - especially reassuring as not like 15 or so days at sea. 

So ...waving cheering smiling at the thousands of people supporting the Clipper yachts as one by one we depart. The Edinburgh inspiring Capital yacht I'm on with a crew wearing tartan kilts and the men with knee high socks too (very appealing and easy on the eyes ;) we shout back all enthused by the rapturous send off. Apparently, the best farewell response in all of the race departures so far (rumoured by most of the crew). It certainly was awe inspiring for me to witness and I was buzzing with excitement! Whoop whoop!

The buzz kinda stopped when watch systems kicked in & time to wear our sailing clothing instead of tartan fashions. Go!!!!!!!! The race HAS started!

I finished my duties at 6pm and went to sleep about 8-8.30pm - normal sleeping time now for me (since the 6am  - 6pm watch introduced) requiring a 5.20 am wake up every day for breakfast & time to get dressed accordingly with life jacket + harness. Eek ooooh dear, feeling sick I rushed to get on deck without my foulie jacket & surprised by many as so early. Best wear my jacket as its cold I was told.....no chance if I go back below deck I knew I would be throwing up. My jacket was given to me & I sat in the cock pit taking off my life jacket, jacket on, life jacket back on.....harness...moving to low side and YES being sick overboard! so, best I get back below on my bunk lie vertical and wait for the feeling to pass. 

Roll on 48 hours later, throwing up over myself, in the bucket by my bunk, infront of  Piers (skipper). Making horrible reaching noises trying to empty my guts when there is nothing inside & bile/foam inside. Perhaps I was a rabies case foaming at the mouth....lol....not how I intended my 6 years and I'm alive transplant anniversary was supposed to pan out. At my lowest , asking now for plans to get me off the yacht, so near to Netherlands, yet any longer for me simply agony. 

I really don't know how I master through, like other people with sea sickness. For those not having or knowing how it feels. Slight extreme, but imagine your guts being twisted & spun like in a washing machine. Your head like helicopter blades going at 100 miles per hour. Desperate to go to the toilet - but your body paralysed and too weak to move. Trying to take sips of water and knowing another washing machine motion & reach for the bucket shortly after. 
My love of food - now the thought of hatred to eat.

Ok, you get the picture, and having experienced this already across the Atlantic Ocean.... It's true to say I'd had enough! GAME is OVER. The worry also missing taking my medications & throwing them back up. The immuno suppressants needed to protect my lungs - now further weakened as no protection around them. Susceptible to infections....

BUT....I did it....I managed to drag myself out of the lower hospital bunk and have some crew sing 'Happy Birthday' (lungs) and I managed a smile :) Jussie was turning that corner, a few more days to Holland and I WAS going to make it!!! Other crew saying 'Happy Anniversary'. Yay.... I can do this.

The next few days, I bounced back again - started to try and eat. It is difficult surprisingly - but, eventually the appetite does return and then like some more!!

Well hellooooo Netherlands and am I glad to be here. My time here has been fantastic seeing:- Amsterdam, Volendam, Alkmaar and Den Helder where staying. I spent time with Joachim who I met at the World Transplant Games (Sweden '11) - which was great. And I also met some other transplantees  joining for a corporate sail the following day.
The hospitality, food, ambience has been fantastic!

Believe it or not - I have done no media as such here, just a photo shoot with the transplantees which no doubt will be used for some article (s). Actually nice to have more time for me, rest & exploration of holland. I have bought plenty food & Dutch cheese to take home :)

Well, I leave tomorrow and arrive back to Southampton on Sunday. I am ready to come home after 2 months away challenging myself and beating odds that almost ended my venture. Just a few more days to go. I guess I feel slightly anxious as know the weather/sea will be bad again for a short time. I don't want to be sea sick on the returns - but, it seems I struggle when it is like this. The only part of the race I've been well was the actual first part from New York to Halifax (calm seas and blissful sunshine). Well if I am, I will get through it as I always seem to do & regardless I'm coming home...so, that is MY light at the end of the tunnel.

I still have many more blogs to write up, obviously this last part of race....maybe a reflective/overview of the whole race, copy & paste blogs I wrote up on the Clipper website and a blog I wrote re: when it was the longest day (June or July I can't remember now)..lol, for some other website.

For now, I am sitting in a Dutch cafe with a cappuccino and slowly consuming a fresh cream cake with a banana flavour iced coating. For any weight I've lost, I've gained back on land very quickly ;) I am looking forward to the foods I eat and enjoy (that of a healthier one). Consume more fresh foods, salads, fruits, jacket potatoes...fish etc. I am done with overdoses of carbs, bread, tinned, space food, cakes & junk food throughout my 7 weeks. However, I wish I could say I was done with crisps...pah ;)

I do also still have to resume training for the British Transplant Games 4 weeks upon returning & rehearsing for a magic performance doing at the TX Games as well. I need rest, but that will be in another month. And next week, I'm back at hospital for a major check up of my lungs, heart, kidneys etc and I really hope all is well after my time away & how/what I've pushed/put my body through.

Hmmm....cake plate is now almost empty & one more cappuccino slurp left. Right folks best I stop writing and enjoy my last rest, packing, meal out & setting sail in the morning. 

Lots of love & I'm 6 with my lungs....I just hope I get more multiples of 6 still xx and I hope my donor is proud of me xx

Friday, 6 July 2012

Atlantic Ocean blog #Clipperrace History made + 6years celebration

Tears running down my face as I step onto LondonDerry's  pontoon in Ireland. I've done it! About 15-16 days crossing the Atlantic Ocean, an achievement that over a week into the venture -  I was unsure I could actually complete. History made, as the 1st double-lung transplantee in the world to have sailed the Atlantic Ocean.

Cameras and all the media in my face  filming my watery eyes,  when all I wanted was me time alone to cry by myself and enjoy a bottle of Pepsi given to us in a complimentary goodie bag given (for every crew member by Sainsbury) and to savor the taste of fizzy pop.

So many memories:-  highlights, highs, lows..... Where to start? What to say first? Maybe, this blog will be jumping about as I try to recall excerpts from my memory on this voyage of challenges.

I guess, part of the clipper venture is not just the sailing, but the mental aspect cooped up like hens in a cage & if you don't get on with someone - you still have to live and breathe in that tiny space. Learn to deal with it and carry on in a harmonious environment for the sake of the crew. It's true to say, you see different sides to people's personalities when stressed, hungry, or even sleep deprived. Also, all the crew were fabulous and understanding to my condition and my struggles became evident after departing from Nova Scotia.

The first part of the race from New York to Nova Scotia as I've said in a previous blog, was sun and calm seas. Now this was not to be the same course on the books. The few days starting across the Atlantic were of sea sickness and about 3 days of no eating. Then that awful feeling of trying to throw up and as no food/fluids consumed, the constant reaching and stomach pains. A worry that my immuno suppressants were not staying down and some dosages being missed. So, early into the journey and I was already unwell. I did turn that corner and began the strenuous watch systems again and throughout the night too. Initially all seemed ok, then I realised on top of being sleep deprived, my body was really starting to struggle and I felt as every shift/day passed I was getting weaker and weaker. One night watch sitting in the cold, my lungs felt tight and hurt, and my bones were literally shaking with cold. I knew this was no good for me and would see me get very unwell with chest infections/further lung complications and I was so upset and tearful with no one seeing. I knew then that I was going to keep struggling and be unable to keep this up. I emailed my parents saying, 'this is killing me' and thought game over and I would need fly home to recuperate/recover.
I did confide in someone, who said I should speak to our skipper. An alternative shift was created just for me to work from 6am-12noon on the first watch and then 12-6 pm on the second watch with breaks in between. Hurray! What a god send. Time to let my body repair and sleep. I tried to explain to Piers (our skipper) that if my body can't repair, I cannot function/improve. No night watch systems, and a chance to try and sleep through the night.

Being questioned onboard by Della filming for the Clipper series and media upon arrival...I was asked if everyone was supportive, I said yes. Sadly, that wasn't true - only one person confronted me with their opinion who basically said I had no right to be on the boat and other stuff. Again, this experience challenges you mentally how to deal with issues like this, confront and talk about them. I went back on deck and was so hurt cried my eyes out. Then put my smiley face back on and carried on. Everyone IS entitled to their opinion, that is fair to say. My opinion is that I have every right to be onboard regardless of how much I can do with any strengths/weaknesses. Also, knowing this person is older than me and has lived life - an opportunity I know will never happen. My lungs are rejecting and every day for me is a bonus, and I DESERVE the chance to achieve whatever I can whilst I can. Rant over, sorry. However, I have learnt one other person feels the same way too. So, in life not every one will get you/understand you/situation/health etc and that is another challenge to deal with and carry on.

Onwards and upwards, days and days of sea and nothing but waves, reefs in/out, sails up/down. Sitting on the high side, days withs lots of chatter and laughter. Then times getting soaked on shift as waves crash over, little or no conversation just wishing the shift to be over or consume lunch/dinner and sleep. Moments eating whatever you can - time has no function and days get lost. Eating biscuits at 9.30am or 4am, crisps, sweets at any hour - overdosing on sugary boosts to keep you going. Excitement when dolphins swim by and chase with us as we pound through the water. Or, the occasional whale spotting! Nature at its best and raw habitat, stunning and awe inspiring. Even seeing birds sweep across the waves like surfing and chasing the ocean at a speed only one can imagine. Beauty. Life. It's happening right in front of my eyes and that feeling of deja voux as it repeats itself again and again.

Capturing every moment before my eyes, like a camera...click... click. I have taken many photos and something to organise when back in the UK and put some on here too! Savouring every breathe, deep breaths in and smiling :)

On one occasion, Doris (Lesley) was on the helm, and the yacht came to an almighty halt for precisely 1 second. Doris hit a whale, or the whale swam passed us at the bow as untimely and unlucky. Woooooo surreal and shaky experience, still intact the wind in the sails moving us through the sea. 

So, what about the food - you may query? Well, fresh meals and fruit/vegetables are for the taking until supplies run out. Then tinned food, noodle sachets, and space food  (boil hot water into food and leave for few minutes) and then options such as:- lasagne, chicken teraki, sweet & sour pork, sweet & sour chicken, and so on. Generally, not too bad - but, it gets to a point whereby burgers, steak, chips, bacon, fresh veggies/salad, and all other delights become far fetched imaginations and cravings that are still like weeks away. My body was craving real food, but, consumption is that mostly of carbs, bread made daily,cakes/crisps/biscuits and sweets. For some reason leaving Halifax (Nova Scotia), the water tanks filled had a heavy influence of chlorophyll added - the taste making me sick and reaching every time. I asked my parents for any bottles of water as a slight taste before departure (I noticed this twang). These few bottles became my lifeline crossing the Atlantic and tiny sips rationed as best as I could. I was dehydrated at times and didn't drink enough - only when the water cooler tank was turned on and fresh water was being filtered. Eventually, lemon and ginger tea was my only option for little sips somewhat disguising that awful taste. Other crew members also felt the same, but managed to drink it. I guess my body is very sensitive and it just said, NO! Sometimes, when we were having tinned fruit as dessert, it was like I was begging for any syrup juice left (even if 1/4 cup) to try and rehydrate my body!

I also started to become very homesick. I'm so glad I set up satellite email and was also able to have updates done for me on Facebook + Twitter. Thank you to all those who tweeted/replied and messaged me back whether emails or via Facebook . My PA's ...hahaha..(one of my brothers, Gavin and friend, Andy - have been superstars in orchestrating the delivery of these. In my low times, these gave me strength to continue and I am extremely grateful :) 

So, as you can see the Atlantic became a struggle for me with good and bad days, determination to keep going and hope and pray for land soon. It wasn't happening fast enough...and I really had to dig deep. It was hard for most of the other crew too at times and pulling together as best as possible is necessary. We even went through a storm, an experience that filled me with fear and relief when it was over. The last couple days were of rain and stormy seas until land came in view. WOW! LAND! Smiles all around, joy, amazement that we - I had done it...........and as we pulled up onto the pontoon I became overwhelmed, and that is when the tears started. I stepped off the yacht and burst into tears. Cameras, filming, media...all a buzz among my teary face and stuttered words of OMG I've done it.

Justine Laymond has sailed across the Atlantic Ocean...anyone contacting the Guinness Book of Records please for me! Giving up almost an option - became NOT an option!

I have spent some time now in LondonDerry and a day in Belfast, making many new friends also from this Clipper trip. More media buzz from Irish TV, radio, Scottish newspapers, CNN news, ITV news, and apparently newspapers back home - that I didn't even know had been done. I am trying to get as many links from whatever articles possible and will publish once home on my blog or as and when I can. Amazement from recognition again being out and about having people approach me like in Nova Scotia. Also, for other crew on Clipper yachts talking to me, and for me saying oh I'm Justine......"we all know who you are" was the regular reply.

One day was spent doing a corporate sail this week in Ireland with breathing support groups, (British Lung Foundation and Breathe Easy) and the NHS UK Blood and Transplant Group, and a couple people also joined with lung conditions. It was a great day out and more photos done and further media articles to follow up (again to which I have asked for any links). I also met another lady who had a double lung and heart transplant of almost 8 years, needless to say we got on very well! It was an inspiring day for me too, and I have been asked to visit and do a talk for these groups sometime. 

My blog is jumping from topic to topic as I remember things, but time to call it a night, as I'm departing again to sail to Netherlands 5-8 days at sea. I hope it goes well and I'm not sea sick or feeling unwell. I have had early nights most nights and socialized to a minimum to get much needed rest still for the next voyage. 

We depart 7th July, and on Monday 9th July at sea, it will be my 6th double lung transplant anniversary. Thanks to my donor letting me breathe and relish every new day. Breathing for you, I hope you are proud of me. 

Lotsa love everyone xx