Banana Bread

Ingredients:

  • 225g plain flour
  • 3 heaped tsp baking powder
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 3 tsp cinnamon or mixed spice
  • 3 large ripe bananas, mashed
  • 75g Vegetable or Sunflower oil (by weight, not volume)
  • 50g Dried fruit or nuts (optional)

Method:

  • Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees Celcius.
  • Mash the peeled bananas with a fork. Mix well with oil and sugar.
  • Add the flour, baking powder and cinnamon, and combine well.
  • Add any additional ingredients.
  • Baked in a greased and lined 2lb loaf tin for 20 minutes, before checking. Cover with foil, if the loaf cake is browning. Bake for another 40 minutes (approximately).
  • Allow to cool a little before slicing. It’s delicious freshly baked but even yummier when it goes gooey the next day!

Soft vegan chocolate brownies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • 1/2 cup flaked almonds
  • 1/3 cup raisens
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C
  2. Put everything but the nuts and fruit in a mixing bowl
  3. Mix thoroughly
  4. Add the nuts and fruit, and mix again.
  5. Pour into a lined tray
  6. Bake for about 35 minutes
  7. Leave it to cool for a bit
  8. Chop it into squares
  9. Eat and enjoy!

Delicous breakfast smoothie

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Core Ingredients:

  • 500ml oat milk
  • 2 scoops pea protein powder
  • 1 frozen banana (pre-peeled and chopped before freezing)
  • 4 tbs rolled oats
  • 1 tsp cinamon
  • 1 tsp cocoa
  • 1 tsp spirulina powder (optional)
  • 2 heaped tbs LSA (ground Linseed, Sesame & Almond)
  • 1 tbs flakseed oil
  • 1 heaped dessertspoon crunchy peanut butter (more like a ping-pong ball size)
  • 1 tbs to 1 dst honey
  • 3 large finger pinches of mixed nuts (i.e.almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, etc.)
  • 1 tbs coffee (fresh roasted coffee beans work fine, through to pre-ground or instant, as available).

As available:

  • 3 broccoli florets (a small fist full)
  • 1 bunch fresh spinach (12 leaves)
  • Chia seeds
  • Curly Kale (a few leaves)
  • 1/2 avocado

Method:

Start off with the oat milk, and then add all the other ingredients.

Liquidise at a medium speed for up to 2 minutes (until all the lumps have been mixed/chopped out).

Enjoy!
(2 large glasses full, about 750ml in total)

Details:

This has become my daily breakfast.  It seems to combine a great variety of things that set me up for the day, most of it is raw too, it’s satisfying, delicious, tasty, and most people comment they didn’t think it would taste this good, from the ingredients going into it!

The above mix makes around 750ml of resulting drink.  It’s enough for me as my complete breakfast plus what would normally be a follow up snack (which is no longer needed).

You can play around with the proportions slightly, to make it sweeter, more like a mocha, more coffee, more vegetable flavour, etc.

Ultimately though, this has served me very well, every day for over 2 months, throughout my insanity beach body 60 day workout challenge.

I’m sure you’ll enjoy it too!

Why I stayed on the boat for 5 months

In follow up to my other post about getting off the boat, I figured on balance I should also indicate why I decided to stay on (when other ’round the world’ crew on all boats had already been getting off sooner):

Euphoric Recall

There is a phrase that’s apparently often used in the AA, that also seems relevant to giving birth.  Euphoric Recall is effectively when your mind forgets all the bad times related to something, and then over exaggerates the positives.

As a result, within a few hours of arriving to our next port (which was generally when the waters would be calm significantly around the coasts, and we were about to be back on land), no matter how much time I’d spent whilst sailing, thinking about leaving the race, when you see land for the first time again in weeks, you can be so incredibly happy to be there, you learn to forget how tough it was getting there.  It was as if I could recall the thought process that I wanted to leave, but couldn’t connect to any of the emotions connected with it, so those thoughts didn’t seem real.

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Determination

I’d set myself a challenge, to sail around the world.

I knew it would be a challenge, I knew it wouldn’t be easy.  I didn’t appreciate how hard it would be (no-one really did), but I wasn’t going to just give up. It’s not something I’d done in the past, and didn’t plan to start now.  Stopping this race early, would possibly be the first time I’d ever quit anything unfinished.

However, Australia was the half way point.  The total ’round the world’ race had 8 ‘legs’.  Sailing around Australia would be going to the end of the fourth leg.  It was also closer to NZ than starting to sail ‘back again’ to the UK.

I knew that I would have covered most of the main sailing conditions by that time (80 foot swells, 120mph winds, heat, doldrums, storms, etc.).

I was still expecting to carry on all the way, despite my regular thought processes to the opposite under many of the sailing conditions.

My family had also gone out of their way to help me (when I nearly flew back from Rio to resolve the issues with my previous hotel’s new managers, and leave the race), so I was now doing this for them too, not just for me.

The people

Despite the very small number of exceptions, the vast majority of the people on board were really incredible people.

The Clipper Race attracted successful people from around the world, many of whom were leaders in their respective industries (you generally have to be pretty successful to afford the initial costs, as well as the time off work to complete the relevant parts of the challenge).

I would have conversations throughout the day and night about all manner of things.  We were that ‘close’ (in the physical sense of the word) that surface topics were often omitted, and most of the conversations were deep and meaningful.  I’ve always enjoyed finding out about people, what makes them who they are, what experiences have led them to this moment.

I watched real experts doing so many things, such as our on board MacGyver (Ship’s Engineer) who could fashion together virtually any repair from the numerous items and tools he had to hand, rethinking challenges and finding other solutions.  We had multiple crew conversant in countless languages. We had doctors, paramedics, nurses, IT programmers, property developers, marketing geniuses, health & safety experts, coaches, public servants, you name it!

There was always something to learn from someone on board.

The knowledge and experience

Obviously I’m not talking about the London Hackney Carriage taxi licence training, but the actual sailing knowledge gained as a direct result (and only a real direct result) of sailing.

Some more random things became common, like learning it is okay to wash up everything in fresh cold sea water (hot or even fresh water is too much of a luxury, and washing up liquid often wasn’t used).

Similarly leaning how to shower once every 8 days, in about 3 litres of tepid water if you’re lucky (and use only baby wipes the rest of the time).

How to balance yourself over a loo, while the boat is at 30 degrees, tipping up to 20 degrees randomly in any other direction at the same time (it’s like being in a portaloo with a canvass door, on the back of a truck, whilst the truck is driving over a muddy hilly festival site).

Making fresh bread every day, and for the latter part of the race particularly, eating pretty well too.

The scenery

Pretty much 5 hours out of port, all you can see is water for most of the journey.  You’re surrounded by water.  Your world is a 70 foot racing yacht, with a physical awareness a little beyond that with the waves about to hit you from the various angles.

Your visual reference does go beyond the surrounding waves, to the cloud formations (weirdly, because of the lack of rain caused by ground features, it doesn’t really rain all that much, although you do need to keep an eye out for sudden storms on the radar!)

But as the watch pattern is a 24/7 switching of shifts, every two days, you will see at least one sunrise and at least one sunset.  There aren’t many times of my life I’ve been that closely linked to watching them each day.

Luminescent plankton though, is incredible.  Watching the water light up from the movement of your boat, and even better, watching torpedoes of light, darting through the water on either side of the boat, on a starlit night, while the dolphins once again swim with us for 10 minutes or so.

Switching off from the rest of the world

There’s no TV on board, no internet, not really telephones (apart from emergency satellite phones).  Email was a new luxury at £1.50 per plain text email to send or to receive.

We generally had no idea what was going on with the rest of the world in terms of politics, TV shows, celebrities, etc.  Occasionally news would filter through from people’s private email, but in general, all we really knew about was what was happening on our small boat, what the weather may be doing around our planned route, and where the other boats were in relation to us.  That was our world.

I’d gone from managing 5 businesses side-by-side, including a luxury boutique hotel for 3 years immediately prior to the race.  My average working weeks were no less than 100 hours a week.  Getting on the boat did mean my hours on call were still about the same, but I was no effectively on a sabbatical from my previous work.  My plan was to ‘retire’ by this point, but it was certainly a weird way to start my retirement.

However, I did quite quickly realise, working that hard for that long, I’m not going to retire.  I was taking a sabbatical of sorts, but weirdly couldn’t wait to get back to doing other things, developing new ideas, and getting various things done.

In summary.

There were many incredible experiences on board.  It was certainly memorable, and I doubt I’ll ever forget so much of what I learned and what was ingrained into me from constant repetition.

Even though I made the decision to get off in Australia, and not get back on again, it was amazing,

Why I only sailed half way around the world

Many of my friends were aware that I’d signed up to sail around the world with Clipper Ventures Plc.  However, after around 20,000 miles, and around 5 months on the water in a stripped out 70 foot racing yacht, I decided to leave the yacht in Brisbane, Australia (effectively half way through the ‘race’).

My reasons were many, although those who knew my experiences whilst on the boat questioned more why I stayed on as long as I did!

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My existing Visa for New Zealand.

In March 2013, I was granted a rare 12 month unlimited ‘working holiday’ visa for NZ.  This effectively meant, that I had 12 months from the date of arrival (which I had to arrive by 15th March 2014), to live, work, and holiday in New Zealand.  I wouldn’t need to have a sponsored employer, I didn’t need to work Mon-Fri 9-5, I could effectively do what I wanted to do, how I wanted to do it, and all very legally.  This was age capped at 35 years old, so as it was issued 2 weeks before my 36th birthday, there was no way I could get this type of visa again.

In April 2014, I heard about Clipper, and was intending to sign up for 3 ‘legs’ which would enable me to finish at the hotel, have some time to re-arrange things, do some sailing, and then arrive in NZ before my visa redemption period expired.

I was sold on the Round the World experience, and with the race starting literally the Sunday after my hotel lease expired on the Saturday, it seemed too good to miss.  I thought I wouldn’t get the chance to sail around the world like this again, and I’d be disappointed not to sign up all the way, so figured I’d re-apply for a more regular work visa for NZ after my return.

However, I realised while sailing, NZ was more important to me with a freedom visa, than having to apply for a full time job with someone else remotely, etc.

My long term dream had been to get back to NZ.  I didn’t want to miss out.

The cost – it was cheaper to get off the boat

I had already paid £43,100 for the journey (regardless of if I completed the experience or not), plus £2,100 for the compulsory insurance, plus extra staff to cover my shifts while doing the 22 days of intensive training prior to the race, plus new clothing and sailing kit required in addition, etc.

Whilst sailing, even though we officially had food on the boat even while in port, this didn’t happen in reality.  Things also wear out, new things were purchased to make the journey a little more comfortable, etc.

So on average, I was spending around £300-£400 per stopover, even while still living on the boat to reduce my costs.  Getting off half way around, would mean missing out on about another 10 stopovers, so likely another £4,000 saving by getting off.

While I was sailing, I was still managing some existing businesses and property rentals in the UK.  By getting off at the beginning of January, and returning to the UK for a few weeks, would enable me to carry out some of the work I’d otherwise pay other people to do, thereby earning/saving myself about £4,000 more than I would if I stayed on the boat, plus I could still get to NZ.

While I was on the boat, I was ripped off my the new managers of the hotel I’d been developing for the past 3 years.

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Six weeks into the journey, I received an email from my previous landlords (the first one sent to me since leaving), confirming that despite leaving contact details of traders I was happy to pay for, to paint the outside of the hotel, I’d need to pay £14,000 in additional repairs to the hotel (including for things like broken floor tiles that were broken before I moved in, etc..).

I very nearly flew back from Rio, Brazil, to resolve this.  Thankfully, my immediate family stepped in, and reduced the costs of the actual ‘repairs’ to less than £4,000.

Similarly, the new managers of the hotel, who had also agreed in person on the day I left, to buy over £13,500 of second hand equipment in the hotel (such as all the towels and bedding, coffee machines, additional kitchen equipment, etc. at very reasonable rates, along with many things I was giving them for free to help maintain the higher standards and ease of business) then decided to tell me they had changed their mind, and refused to pay even a fair price for it, nor even giving money for renting it all over the last 6 weeks.  Resulting in a final balance of around £5,000 paid, instead of the £13,500 agreed.  This was not on a ‘try before you buy’ option, they’d already tried it all during the free training I’d been providing them with over the previous months.  They had agreed to buy it all.

When my family very kindly went to pick up lots of it up (of the things they refused to buy).  They hadn’t even bothered washing many of the sheets in preparation, as they were still using them up to that day!

Ultimately, I was around £60,000 worse off by getting on the boat with Clipper.

By getting off in Australia, would stop that total getting any higher, and would give me the chance to earn some more money to help offset some of the costs.

I learnt what I wanted to learn, and achieved much of what I wanted to achieve.

Prior to Clipper, I had no experience of sailing, at all.  I’d never even set foot on a sailing boat.

After 20,000 miles, twice across the Atlantic, once across the Southern Ocean, and three times across the Bass Straight (north of Tasmania), in up to 80 knots winds gusting 120 knots, in up to 80 foot swells.. I felt like I’d effectively experienced what I wanted to experience.  Carrying on for 6 more months would pretty much just be more of the same, sometimes colder, perhaps with bigger waves, but nothing exactly new.

I’d already signed up for additional responsibilities on board, so was now the sail repairer (responsible for sail repairs if needed, and various restitching/whipping of ropes and anti-friction sheaths, although thankfully due to a great skipper, we didn’t need to make any significant repairs to the sails throughout my time on board), the media manager (responsible for sending back a daily text blog, daily photo, and weekly edited video), and from leg 4, head victualler too (responsible for the planning, purchasing, distribution, and meals for all the crew on board within a budget of just £3.50 per day per person). I was also one of the key helms again (particularly in the first races, and then during the latter part of the race after some time away mid-legs) so when the conditions were more tough, or the race physically closer, I was one of the crew assigned to steer it through.

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Also, as one of the taller, generally fitter, stronger crew members (even at a reduced fitness through the seasickness), I was also up at the mast a lot, expected on the main winches and grinders during higher race conditions (i.e. race starts), involved in moving the sails around more often than some of the other crew, etc.

If something needed doing, this was a race, so I would focus on trying to be the first to help as soon as a request was made (which was the opposite to some other’s thoughts I discovered, who’s thoughts seemed more along the lines of ‘has anyone else got there yet, if not, I’ll go’).

I wasn’t an expert, and certainly wouldn’t be better than many of the other crew with their previous sailing experience, no matter how much more I did on board. But my skipper did very kindly hold me in high regard of his crew.  I was always ready to listen, did whatever I could to improve, and worked hard wherever possible.

My learning curve had been steep.

However, I realised that doing this for the rest of the circumnavigation (round the world, rather than just half way around the world), wasn’t really going to teach me significantly more than I’d already experienced.  Yes, I could certainly be better at sail trimming, more experienced on the helm, etc.  But how would this help me longer term?  Would it really make that much difference to my life?

My learning curve had been steep to start, but was now levelling out.  Doubling my time on board would not double my performance.

My health would also be worse, financially I’d be worse off too, I also wouldn’t have been following my very long term dream of getting to NZ.  But I would have been able to say ‘I sailed all the way round the world’.

Just to be able to say that, wasn’t enough for me to carry on.

I was still getting sea sick after 5 months

Prior to signing up to sail around the world, I’d never been on sailing boat before.  In the past, I’d had no problems with motion sickness in cars, coaches, planes, or ferries.  But, for most of the journey around to the other side of the world, I’d be at varying levels of sea sickness while sailing with Clipper.

This wasn’t helped by cross contamination of my food with my intolerances, the efforts of particular crew members to bring me down, etc.  But even with all this going on, I still only missed 2 hours of one of my watch patterns throughout the races, coming out of Albany, Western Australia.  And also needed to take 90 minutes below deck whilst suffering from cold shock during the early race start coming out of Brest in France.

Many people apparently get through sea sickness in 24 hours.  Occasionally it can take 48 hours.  In rare occasions is can take up to 2 weeks on the water.  In exceptional cases it can take 3 months.  However, I am apparently one of those very few unlucky people who just never quite got my sea legs.

50% of my time on board, I felt at less than 50% of my land fitness.  Even at the best times (apart from the rare doldrums of absolute calm for 2 days), I wouldn’t get much above 75% of my land fitness.

Fortunately I didn’t experience the thought of preferring to die than stay on the boat (as I did during my training in the English Channel), but I would throw up pretty often.

Through extensive practise, I learnt various triggers that pushed me over the edge of sickness to non-‘recovery’ (where I’d need at least 2 sleep cycles to get back above 35% again), so things like trying to avoid the navigation station / media computers for more than 20 minutes in rough conditions, no more than 2 minutes in the sail locker much of the race, not putting my head directly down in the bilges for more than 15 seconds, etc.

Things like getting my back and head ‘horizontal’ (or at least parallel to the deck) helped stop the downward spiral of sickness.  Trying to fix on the horizon, as with being on the helm in most conditions, etc.

However, with regular cross contamination of my food (I’m intolerant to meat, fish, eggs, and poultry, which tend to make me ill for 2-5 days if I have food that contains those ingredients), at some stages of the race, I would also have to miss at least 2 main meals every 3 days because they’d forgotten again to make my vegetarian option, and there was then no time or space for me to be able to make it myself.

I lost 7kg in the first 2 months of sailing.  There was also one particular crew member who’s focus was to make my life on board as hard as possible.

Similarly, there was another crew member, who was the epitome of greed and selfishness in so many ways.  Her idea of a good conversation was taking you to the side, to tell you how she’d heard someone say something to someone else two weeks earlier, and how this should make you feel bad.

I eventually had enough of always hearing her negativity, that I set myself a challenge, to only ask her ‘how she was’ next, after she asked me about about how I was doing first, this didn’t happen, so I expanded it to hearing her asking someone else too (it was a small boat so you could generally hear everything anyway).. after this didn’t happen for a while, I expanded my rules again, to ask her when I heard her say anything positive about anyone at all (which I already knew she hadn’t done since my target started)!  I wasn’t closed off to speaking with her, and would still have a conversation of sorts.  But even with all these options, it took her 10 days to say anything that wasn’t self-serving.

There was also a campaign of hatred against me from one of the other crew

As I discovered in Sydney, after discussing my planned exit with one of the main crew, I was informed that one person in particular who’d been making my interactions with her very challenging at the best of times, hadn’t just been making my life hell directly (including the snide comments she’d make about me to others when she knew I could hear, etc.), but she had apparently been “spearheading a vendetta against me”, since before the race had even started.

This older women in her 50’s, had such low self-esteem that she deny any wrong-doing in absolutely anything she did (no matter how obvious it was that it was her sole responsibility).  She’d do everything she could to position herself as the Queen Bee, mainly by bringing down those around her who may have been higher (regardless of their experience or appropriate status on board, because she instinctively knew better apparently).  By standing on the necks of those who’d caress her ego, positioning themselves beneath her.

She was a very strong presence, someone you didn’t want to cross or get towards the wrong side of, overly vocal, and with a bark that would echo throughout the yacht day and night.

Fortunately, she did eventually ease her presence progressively as the races progressed, and when in port, she mixed with the other crew less and less.  But she didn’t really let up with me.

Apparently, during the race preparation weeks, because of what I’d been fortunate to work towards and achieve in my life so far, she’d taken it upon herself to pronounce me as a liar and a two-faced fraud.  I had been working towards my ‘early retirement at around 35’ for some 18 years. Averaging 100-120 hours a week for many of those years.  Being very careful with my money, investing frugally, gaining as many skills and experiences as I could to get myself to NZ, etc. so I had been very busy.  I’d also made a decision not to have kids, not watch much TV, and had not been in a significant relationships for much of that time, thus giving me more time in each day.

However, according to her, there was no way one person could possibly have done even some of what I’d achieved in my life at my age (I’m not wealthy, but I can now support myself financially at this stage of my life if I live carefully, so effectively I considered myself semi-retired).

As a result, anything I did to try and help someone, was me being two-faced.
So using the stills or video camera for my work as media manager, meant that I was being lazy when there were other things to do (i.e. when conditions were worse, even if three people were sat still watching, if I was trying to take pictures of other people working, this was wrong, and I should be the one pulling the sail instead, which I would have been doing 5 seconds later anyway).

She physically gained energy and joy from making me feel like absolute crap.  Every day she’d use a new technique, and every day she wouldn’t give up until she broke through. I watched from outside myself on one occasion, when I feeling unusually stronger that day, that she began her onslaught of insults, jibes, remarks and undoings.  I blocked them for quite a while but she was relentless, and carried on attacking by whatever means she felt the most cutting, until she broke me.  Once this was finally achieved, I actually watched her jiggle with excitement that she’d won once again.

As head victualler for the first two months of the trip, she had decided that my egg free vegetarian diet (actual food intolerance) was an inconvenience, and was too much to cater for.  She also stated repeatedly that she couldn’t be bothered in using the correct chopping boards for meat, fish, and vegetarian food, because it was too much trouble (making me repeatedly ill from cross-contamination) and would encourage other crew not to bother either.  It was all just in my mind anyway, as she was an expert in preparing for 20 people daily on a boat, because she’d raised two kids in a house with a family of four.

While sailing, when the repeating thought patterns of whatever she’d just said and done again became too much once again, I’d take to meditating, or doing press-ups any time of the day or night.

Other people assumed that when I was meditating, i was at my most peaceful, but the reverse was true, this was when I was at the most stress, and couldn’t release this without verbalising my negativity which I was very much against doing for crew morale (however, visualising breathing it out whilst meditating was one of the most effective to release this tension without upsetting the other crew).

Similarly, if her energy had caused me greater anger that I couldn’t simply breath out, I would jump to do rapid press-ups instead as a release.  This happened so often (at least daily), that 20 press-ups on a slanted boat, whilst the boat was rocking side to side and front to back, became easy!
Again, the other crew put this down to my attempts at maintaining a higher level of physical fitness, but again, for the most part, it was a way to help release the stress and anger I felt, without vocalising it as poison with the other crew.

I was trapped on a boat with this woman for nearly 5 months. Months on from leaving that boat, just seeing a glimpse of her in a photo without prior warning, I’d find it very difficult not to feel physically sick.

Yes, there were still a lot of unresolved issues with her.

I lost my smile

Despite many of the other crew commenting on my continued smile regardless of the conditions, (one crew member even felt this was another reason I was a liar.. because he didn’t think someone could be that happy for that long), to me I felt incredibly unhappy.

I made very conscious efforts to make the vast majority of all my communications with the other crew as positive, supportive, etc.  And would always try to have a large welcoming smile for any other crew member I’d interact with.

Despite being in my mid 30’s, prior to the race, strangers would consistently age me as in my mid 20’s.  But after a few months on the water, people would guess my age at my mid-30’s.  I’d effectively aged 10 years in just a few months on the water!

What was the shocker for me, was when walking down a back-street in Sydney, and I caught sight of my reflection.

From the late 1990’s, I have a self-development process of only ever seeing the last reflection of myself as a smiling person.  Therefore, whenever I’d see a reflection in a shop window, a mirror in a corridor, etc. I’d ensure that the last visual reference of myself was with a natural smile.

Walking down this street in Sydney, I saw some windows that would clearly have a reflection, so I imagined myself with a big smile spread across my face, as I had done so many times before.  It felt like a smile, and I knew what I was expecting to see.  However, on reaching that window, the face that bounced back at me, wasn’t smiling, but very serious.
I stopped in the street.  I tried harder to think of happier thoughts.  I looked again, nothing had really changed.

It took 2 minutes, to get even a glimmer of a sustained smile in my reflection, with efforts that would have normally resulted in a huge beaming face unable to contain my happiness in its confines.

I knew at that moment, this race had to stop for me.

In summary.

It’s very weird seeing the various updates from the other crew as they continue on their journey towards race finish.

I did have some incredible moments on board, but I’ve also been able to achieve a huge amount since getting off the boat.   There are of course many times I would have liked to have finished the trip, but I am very glad to be off.

Given the chance to change that period of my life, would I have done it again?
No.

Would I recommend other people do it with Clipper?
No.

Do I regret doing it?
I would have regretted not doing it, but I don’t regret doing it.
I am however disappointed with how much money the experience cost me, both directly and indirectly.

I am now in NZ, and I’m trying to make the most from the experiences gained.

I also aim to find some way to make that experience pay me the £60,000 back it cost me (i.e. by working on super yachts, using the experience as part of my book, TV show, etc.)

So watch this space!

Energy Meal

Serves 3-4 adults

This was a random recipe thrown together today .. it’s colourful, a rich sorce of various proteins, few carbs, lots of goodness, and the person who ate it with me commented that she actually felt energised after eating eat (rather than sluggish as she normally feels after eating a big meal!), hence the name.

Ingredients:

  • 2 heaped tsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbs toasted sesame seed oil
  • 1 tsp rapeseed oil
  • 1 large onion, finely sliced
  • 1 red pepper, topped and chopped
  • 1/4 cauliflower, finely sliced
  • 3 medium mushrooms, finely sliced
  • 1 tin kidney beans, drained and washed
  • 10 sugar snap peas, topped, tailed, and chopped
  • 1 small tin of sweetcorn, drained
  • 1 packet of dragon, yellow bean and cashew nut sauce
  • small handful pine nuts
  • 1/2 handful soya nuts
  • 2 heaped tbs hemp seeds
  • 600g Merchant Gourmet ‘mixed grains’

Method:

  1. Fry off the onions in the oil until golden  (in a large wok)
  2. Add the mushrooms, and fry for a couple of minuets
  3. Add the kidney beans, cauliflower, mushrooms and red pepper, and fry for a couple more minutes
  4. Add the yellow sauce & soy sayce
  5. Add the peas, sweetcorn, nuts and seeds, and mix well
  6. Fry for another couple of minutes, whilst cooking the ‘mixed grains’ seperately
  7. Add the pre-cooked mixed grains, and mix well again.
  8. Continue to heat and stir for another couple of minutes.
  9. Serve and Enjoy!

Butterbeer for adults .. the way I think it should taste

Butter BeerAfter a recent trip to ‘the making of Harry Potter’ at the Leavesden studios, I’ve been trying to track down a recipe that tastes the same (if not better) than the one on sale, and also one that tasted like I thought it would from the books!

(The recipes I found with variations of ‘rum essence’ really don’t work well, and some of the more complex versions just get way too involved!)

This one’s simple though, and it works like a dream!

Ingredients:

(serves two, 10 fl oz cups/glasses)

  • 2 teaspoons real butter
  • 2 big tablespoons toffee or butterscotch sauce (the ice-cream topping stuff)
  • Two big squirts of whipped cream  (I have a commercial aerosol whipper, but the ‘squirty-cream’ type one should work fine too)
  • 25ml  Baileys (optional, for adults only)
  • About 15 fl oz Cream Soda  (i.e. 2/3 of each serving cup)

Method:

  1. Put the butter and fudge sauce in a microwave dish, and microwave for about 30-40 seconds to melt and heat (mixing half way through, to help save the butter bubbling).
  2. Whisk thoroughly with a fork.
  3. Add the single measure of Baileys (optional), and then the two big squirts of whipped cream.
  4. Blend well with the fork (until it’s a consistent colour, it’ll look a delicious butterscotch colour)
  5. Carefully add the measures of cream soda to the cream mix  (it’ll froth up a bit).
  6. Then carefully pour into your serving glasses, and drink immediately.
  7. Don’t down it too quickly though!

This gives you a slightly warm, slightly warming, frothy, sweet, and delicious drink which tastes like you think it should after reading it in the books.

If all beer tasted like this, I would have started drinking years ago!

Clipper preparations – from excitement to trepidation

A few weeks ago, if you’d asked me who ‘Clipper’ were, I would have said they make cigarette lighters, now it seems there’s been not much else going on in my mind but yacht racing preparations.  I’m already trying to plan menus for the crew, clothing, maintenance, …  and so far, I’ve only set foot on a boat for about 10 minutes whilst down in Gosport getting measured up for the crew clothing (the ‘oil skins’ as they can be known).

In all that time, the overriding emotion has been excitement.  For my family and close friends however, they seem to have been making up the other concerns of fear, nervousness, and trepidation (particularly when watching YouTube clips of 20 meter high waves crashing across the boat like a cork caught in the rapids, which up until today has just been making me even more excited).

Today however, my DVD box set series of the Clipper 11/12 race called ‘Against the Tide 2’ arrived, and I’ve been watching the first three episodes.

I do appreciate that the show is a highlight of the most exciting parts of the race (11 months of the race, across 10 boats, is reduced to just 6 hours of footage in total), so the examples used of a skipper getting a broken nose from a 12 stone pendulum of a crew member flailing around on a single rope just above the deck, doesn’t happen on a daily basis.. however, for the first time, my ongoing excitement has been more normalised into a feeling of “what have I got myself into!?”.

The reality check has been useful though, at least I have now slightly better realised that this will be a massive undertaking.  I look forward to the crew allocation day tomorrow.. meeting a lot of the rest of my crew for the first time!

Retiring at 36 … really?

I’ve been very fortunate that through a lot of hard work over the years, I’ve been able to have had many opportunities.

For my 13th Birthday (literally the day of my birthday) my older sister gave me her paper-round to start that day (the legal age I was able to start work).

Prior to that (before I even remember starting school), my ‘pocket money’ was only given to me when I’d properly tidied my bedroom, and cleaned a share of the bathroom.  So you could say that from an early age, I was given a strong work ethic.

At University I had a part time complimentary therapy clinic (and in addition to my full time Engineering degree, I was also a barman, student warden, and ran a few clubs and societies).

On leaving Uni I worked as a door-to-door salesman for a few months, had a challenging office job (in that it wasn’t challenging intellectually!) .. and then started setting up my first Limited Company in June 2000.

I’d already heard that in general, only one in five businesses succeed beyond the first few years, so I set up multiple variations of businesses, running them alongside each other, hoping that at least one would succeed longer term.

Then as some businesses didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, I’d phase them out and develop alternative ones.  And as new opportunities became available, I’d take them on too.

The longer term plan (from a comparatively early age), was to ‘retire’ at 35 years old (in 2012), with the equivalent of a million pound in the bank, so I wouldn’t have to ‘work’ again.  And then, I could move to NZ, and enjoy the incredible outdoor lifestyle whilst still young and fit enough to maximize my time there.

However, in December 2009, the opportunity became available to take on a luxury boutique hotel the following summer of 2010, on a minimum 3 year lease (taking me to the end of August 2013, so a year behind my planned schedule).  But it seemed too good an opportunity not to miss.

This hotel has been going pretty well (although not quite as well as I’d hoped, because of the naivety of many locals perpetuating historical myths about the hotel). And although I haven’t quite reached the million in the bank, through the acquisition of some property, share options, and savings, I’ll have enough to support myself for the coming years (i.e. enough to cover my living costs whilst living in my own property, with the option to ‘work’ if I want to buy something a little more expensive, as and when).

I can then focus on the dreams I want to, when I want to.

However, I’ve now had it confirmed that literally the day after my hotel lease expires (the final definitive date of my hotel lease), I begin the first actual race day of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race!

So how did I do it?

  • My typical working week is at least 100 hours plus (often more).
  • On average, I manage about a half day off every couple of weeks (and even then I’m still on call)
  • I don’t tend to sleep too much (i.e. 6.5 hours a night seem to work perfectly when I’m busy)
  • I work hard, I’m not afraid to turn my hands to doing whatever needs doing (whether that’s unblocking toilets, fixing websites, dealing with challenging customers, etc.)
  • I work ‘smart’ (although this has been a long and slow process, learning just what is smart working and what’s less effective).  – In the main part for me, it’s about employing the right staff / sub-contractors, to do whatever their job is well, so I can leave them to it without question or concern, with trust, (and provide them with all the training they might need to carry on learning as they go along).
  • I also try to rethink through virtually every process and system I’m involved with, to maximise its efficiency and performance.  Also helping ensure consistency for my businesses customers (whoever they are).
  • There are countless books on the subject, and too many apt quotes to describe what I do.  For each person though, you need to work out what works for you, and go with that.
  • As my sister once said “he had to work really hard to be consistently that lucky” ..  to me, that about sums it up.

How running out of coffee, made me attempt to sail around the world

Picture the scene if you will, the background can highlight how the little things can make the massive differences!..

I currently own/manage a small boutique hotel (along with a few other businesses) .. I’ve also been planning for years, to bring these all to a close soon when I ‘retire’ from regular work at the end of my current hotel contract.

Part of the hotel is that we offer a range of all 16 Nespresso coffees to our guests.  For whatever reason I forgot to add my own favourite variety to the most recent order.  The minimum order is 200 capsules (typically every few weeks), so it wasn’t worth doing another order just for the one extra coffee type (and being Nespresso, there are only a few places to actually buy it in person, ie near Harrods).

So last Sunday evening (13th April), we had a rare case of having an empty hotel, while I was on shift..  So I decided .. it was a nice day .. why not get the train into London to buy more coffee .. and then have a bit of a wander around whilst up there. (I do appreciate the rail fare was more than postage of the coffee order).

20 minutes later I was on the train, including a travel card to ensure I could make it to Harrods before they shut (a rare thing for me, I tend to prefer walking across the surface of London, as I’ve been doing for the past few years)..  And then on the underground system this woman catches my eye:

IMG_1135

This image flashes me back 20 years, to a presentation of a friend of my C.O. (while I was in the ATC), from a lovely woman called Cherry (I think).

With no previous professional sailing experience, she skippered a yacht full of other amateur sailors, across the Atlantic (or so I can vaguely remember)..

Even without recalling too many of the finer details, it sounded like an incredible journey .. something to aspire to in years to come, but finding that place in the recesses of my mind along with the other countless thoughts and ideas I collate over the years.

So Monday morning, and after a great night’s sleep, I booted up the laptop and completed the online application.

The website showed the event starting in August 2013, and finishing the following June, so with my timing of the hotel, and my NZ BUNAC work exchange Visa expiring in mid March 2014, I applied for legs 3,4,5 of the 8 legs around the world.  This would take me out on the water from South Africa, to Western Australia, Eastern Australia, and finish in China, from October 2013 to February 2014 (seemingly nicely placed with my hotel lease contract finishing on the 31st August 2013).

Buy that same afternoon I had a call back from a guy called David, at ‘Clipper Ventures’ .. asking if I could I make it to an interview that Friday from 10am-2pm.  Normally this wouldn’t be a problem (I normally have staff working all day on Fridays at the hotel, but one staff member was on holiday for the mornings)..  I had three rooms in, but I should be able to get them paid up early, and head down after breakfast.

So Friday morning, I head down to Gosport, and see this lovely 70′ yacht in the Marina.

Clipper Yacht 2013/14
Clipper Yacht 2013/14

I watch and listen to a great presentation, apparently trying to put you off, but making those of us present to want it even more.

Then it’s mentioned.. the race starts the last weekend in August (not early August as I’d expected)..  I look again at the ‘Round the World’ map, taking in the incredible journey that may be available to me … if I can do three legs, why not do all eight? .. The ‘last weekend’ in August is Saturday 31st August, and Sunday the 1st September .. could they mean that one?

Yes, apparently the race actually begins on the 1st September, possibly from London.  The timing couldn’t be more perfect.

I have a great interview, my diverse range of experiences and skills seemed to be well matched to the challenge  (40,000 miles, with up to 50 strangers (around 20 at any time), in a confined space, on a race through all weathers to the finish, and massively hard work)..

So stuff the holiday after the hotel : I’m going on a boat race!

The best Hot Chocolate

Today, I was fortunate to try out what has to be the best hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted!  (although be warned.. the measure below is for two people, not one.  As much as you might like to try and drink all of it, you will feel ill if you do!)

Ingredients:

  • 450ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 100ml whipping cream (whipped)
  • 120g milk chocolate, finely grated / chopped / blitzed (in a food processor)
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • dark chocolate drops

Method:

  • Gently heat about a 1/3 of the milk (150ml) in a pan, but do not boil
  • add the blitzed/finely grated milk chocolate, and whisk well but slowly until dissolved into the milk
  • add the cinnamon and salt, and then gently the remaining part of the milk, whilst still gently heating and whisking carefully
  • about 30 seconds before serving, add a little of the whipped cream, and whisk into the pan (still not letting the milk come to the boil)
  • carefully pour the mixture into your two large mugs (for two people, not one!)
  • top with a good squirt of freshly whipped cream
  • top that with a sprinkling of dark chocolate drops
  • You can then even sprinkle a little icing sugar / cocoa on top of that, for decorate purposes should you really want to!
  • Drink slowly .. it’ll be very rich, very sweet, very morish, and very sickly if you have too much! (the contrast of the hot chocolate milk and cold whipped cream is particularly nice though).