138. Forget planning early OR twice. “In the nick of time will do nicely.”

You don’t need a long memory to recall a blog entitled “Plan early ….. plan twice.” A week or so should cover it. An even shorter memory will recall how someone was pretty convinced he was answering in the affirmative to “Be in all respects ready ….”

Now is most definitely the time to add that another of my over-used and favoured sayings has always been, ………………….. “in the nick of time will do nicely.”

Like many, I remember when the most complicated aspect of international air travel was on-line check in. Covid has certainly changed all that. For reasons I wont bore you with, but I suspect you can appreciate, flying into a country that only started vaccinating a year ago and who only reintroduced Visa waivers on 10 Feb 2022, requires quite a bit of paperwork. A traveller arriving by air but departing by 70ft yacht adds another dimension.

My final pre-flight check list included passport, tickets, online check in confirmation, official letter from Clipper, two separate letters from the Philippine’s Department of Foreign Affairs and their Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, a copy of my NHS vaccination certificate covering both shots and the booster, proof of registration (via separate on line forms generating a personal QR code) of the Philippine’s “One Health Pass”, proof of having already downloaded the Philippines test and trace app (called Traze) which can only be activated on arrival, and finally, proof of a negative RT-PCR test 48 hours prior to departure by a testing service accredited by both the UK and Philippine’s authorities. And all that was just for the flight. My training notes, some Team-Coordinater-related paperwork and circa 25kg of rather important sailing kit also featured.

A rain soaked, wind-buffeted, one hour, rush-hour drive to Manchester Terminal 3 (from where I had departed two years ago) then followed, via a doorstep goodbye to Mum and a final stop just short of the airport for petrol. As I refilled the car I thought I’d better check the Terminal again ……. did so …….. and there it was …… Terminal ONE!!! Delete “ready in all respects” – insert “in the nick of time will do nicely.” Don’t worry. It WAS to get worse.

March 2020 at Terminal THREE!!!

Moving quickly beyond the final lingering farewells, I find myself at the front of the check in queue. It is exactly 10am. I pass over various documents as requested. I answer a couple of questions. After a while the check-in chap stops and begins to look increasingly troubled. “Don’t worry, Keith,” I say to myself. “They always look worried at some point during check-in. I bet they’re even trained to look worried. Just wait till he checks the 9 year old passport photo against the bearded apparition in front of him,” I thought. Then came the small bombshell. “Your PCR test result has expired. I can’t let you check in.” Did I really just type “small” bombshell?

“You have got to be $#@&ing kidding me” …….was, thankfully, only what I thought. “I beg your pardon?” was, thankfully, what came out of my mouth a split second later. My test result was timed at 1050 on 19th Feb which was, he helpfully pointed out, 47 hours and 10 minutes before I started checking in. But, he rather unhelpfully went on, that is 50 hours and 20 minutes before the scheduled take off. “I therefore cannot check you in for this flight.” (##$%&€£ – feel free to insert your own expletive at this point). Time for a rather quick “Plan B.”

The “published” turnaround time for the sort of test I required was 3 hours. My Wednesday test result had been turned around in 2 hours and 3 minutes. The time was now 1012 and check in was due to close in 1 hour and 58 minutes at 1210. Beginning to look like a requirement for Plans C, D, and E and maybe NOT “in the nick of time” after all.

Cue a rather undignified sprint pushing a loaded airport trolley through the rain to a COVID test site outside the Terminal in the airport train station. Why is it that when you don’t really know where you are going, and you are really pressed for time, the large “COVID testing centre” signs you have been sprinting passed …….. suddenly disappear??? Probably the same reason that the first “official-tabbard-wearing” person you stop to ask for directions turns out to be a window cleaner! And almost certainly why the final doors to the airport railway station are not automatic and have to be simultaneous held open whilst wrestling with a trolley which had, by now, developed a mind of it’s own. Eventually I reach the centre, book in, pay, complete an online registration and have the required PCR test. Tick tock.

The test is timed at 1038.

Check in closes in 1 hour 32 minutes. “How long?” I ask. “Normally 2 hours” she replies. “Plan Z” I begin to think, “What’s the quickest possible turn around,” I ask, briefly explaining my position. “One hour 30 minutes,” she calmly replies. And with that she applies the only solution possible and puts an “urgent” sticker on my test. Tick tock.

The result will be e mailed to me.

When I get back to the check in queue ….. it is HUGE! Good. I need time. I don’t think I’ve ever been in an airport check-in queue before AND wanted it to move so SLOOOOWLY. Where are the family of 8 with 32 pieces of luggage when you really want them??? I’m at the back of the queue and its 1058. Unfortunately, all the check-in gates are now open. Bugger!

At 1200 precisely I am at the front of the queue. Still no test results. “How long have I got?” “10 minutes,” is the reply …. “but,” he adds looking at the remaining queue, it might be as “late as 1220 or 1225.” 1210 (normal closure time) comes ….. and goes. No test results. By 1215 I can see the end of the queue. Up steps a party of 6 “twenty-somethings” travelling together on the same booking. Stacks of luggage and, God bless ’em, 2 of them still haven’t got their paperwork out of their carry on luggage. You couldn’t make this up. And I’m not!

I am standing to one side, phone in one hand, paperwork in the other, watching the queue get smaller. “Ping” goes my phone at 1216. IT IS NOT MY RESULTS!!!

My results, timed at 1218, arrive by e mail at 1219. Test to result in 1 hour and 40 minutes. Let’s hear it for “urgent stickers” and long check in queues. In the nick of time will do very nicely indeed. All checked in by 1225 and a mad dash through security and a further sprint through all the Duty Free shops accompanied by broadcasts announcing the final FINAL CALL for my flight.

Oh and after all that …….. the result………was negative…… boarding was actually delayed …….. and we were 1 hour and 6 minutes LATE taking off!!!!!

Tonight, just over 24 hours after a safe and relatively uneventful arrival at my “Government approved” quarantine hotel, you might wonder if actually crossing the North Pacific can be anymore stressful than getting to Subic! I’m fairly confident it will be.

For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see


For UNICEF UK please see


Please take a look. Thank you.

137. ”Be in all respects ready for sea by ……..”

I first wrote those words in a Captain’s Night Order book in the summer of 1988. 18 years later, almost to the day, I wrote the same words for the last time. Now I review those words from something of a different perspective. I asked myself ”Am I ready” way back in blog 90 written the night before sailing from Punta del Este. That was deliberately light-hearted. I updated this with a slightly more serious blog on the morning of sailing – blog 91: Leg 2 (Race 3) starts TODAY! the following day. A similar question was on my mind in blog 98 on 17 Nov 2019, on the day of our sailing from Cape Town. Tonight, on the eve of departure for the Philippines, the answer to the ”am I ready” question must be something of a “qualified yes.”

I’m certainly ready for departing the UK. My day started with a ”final to-do list” of 15 items. When you consider it included rigging outside lights, checking the winter feed on the beehives and moving a Grandfather clock, you will realise it wasn’t ”all Clipper.” I thought one of the decisions on which I had most control in the final days before departure would be when to stop shaving and get the annoyingly-itchy bit out of the way. I made a pact with myself that the razor would be put away when I was 80% certain I was actually going. In the end the decision was nowhere near that ”scientific” – I simply ran out of shaving cream about 2 weeks ago! The ”to-do list” grew to 23 items as today progressed but it is now …… clear.

We had a very good UNICEF team zoom call at lunchtime today spanning time zones from San Francisco (early morning) to the Philippines (mid evening). Ian and Dan have been working very hard on engines, generator and a multitude of yacht systems. The yacht has been deep cleaned and passed a structural survey – more surveys to come. Our main sail is back on and most/all of the running rigging has been checked. Ian and Dan are afloat on Thursday and Friday with the other skippers and AQPs for their training. We also continued our discussions about strategy, tactics, weather, routines etc but you’re going to have to wait for some of those details. Still plenty to do and I guess I will only be ”ready in all respects” after Level 4/refresher training and we all have a Crew Assessment to pass. More on that (again) if future blogs. As I reflected today, I haven’t tied a knot in 2 years, or at least not a knot that the skipper would recognise!!!!

For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see

https://justgiving.com/teams/keithsclipperadventure (hopefully this link has now been re-instated – fingers crossed)

and for UNICEF UK see:


Please take a look. Thank you.

136. Oooops – a blog 135 postscript

Thank you to those who spotted my inadvertent use of ”Apr” rather than ”Feb” when listing my abbreviated programme yesterday. Now suitably corrected/republished. Just to be crystal clear – forget the date, forget the month ……. I fly on Monday.

It’s very easy to lose track of days and months in the “sail-eat-sleep-repeat” routine of a long ocean crossing. I appear to be so ”in the zone“ that I started early yesterday. Just imagine how confusing I’m going to find the International Date Line 😜😜😜

Time Zones around the International Date Line!

135. Plan early ….. Plan twice!

A lot has happened since I last wrote. So much so, that I’m going to try and avoid boring you with any of it. OK. In reality that means I’ll try and avoid boring you with most of it.

Today is Thursday 17 February and in 4 days, subject to successful download of two separate Pilipino apps 72 hours before departure and, more significantly, a negative PCR test 48 hours before flying, I will be departing for the Philippines in preparation for the restart of Leg 6 across the North Pacific to Seattle. 4 more days.

Plan early…… Plan twice has always been a favourite saying of mine. I normally say it to myself whenever I am applying that extra pressure to myself in pushing any sort of deadline to its limits. It’s really an excuse for laziness. I deploy it alongside “anyone can make decisions, the art is knowing when to make them“, “No plan survives contact with the enemy/reality“, and “a plan is only a basis for change anyway!” I’ve used them all, especially in relation to Clipper in the days since I tempted fate in my previous blog.

The latest change to the Clipper programme blew in yesterday afternoon on the back of Storm Dudley. Incidentally, am I alone in thinking “Dudley” is far too cuddly-a-name for a storm?? If you are in the UK and storm-bound this weekend check out blogs 22, 23, 31, 129 and 133 (amongst other) for storms!

I digress. Yesterday’s Clipper e-mail announced a further 7 day delay to Level 4/refresher training and the cancellation of the short Subic-to-Subic point-scoring race (the first race of Leg 6) whilst maintaining a 20th March departure date for crossing the North Pacific. This is, in effect, an additional week of fleet prep as a result of a delay in Clipper HQ receiving the necessary paperwork to get the full maintenance and Race Staff into Subic and a shipment delay of some fleet spares. There are a number of implications here that I will return to later in this blog but one immediate impact is that refresher training will now start on 7 March and it is therefore possible for Race Crew to delay arrival in the Philippines.

With Clipper-mandated self quarantine in force for 3 days prior to refresher training (4-7 Mar) it is now possible for crew to delay arrival in the Philippines until 4 Mar. Not surprisingly various Clipper-related-team-WhatsApp groups were very active from about 5pm yesterday, around the time this latest news broke. I cannot speak for everyone, let alone my fellow UNICEF team mates, but I am aware of one colleague, due to fly out from Manchester with me on Monday to compete in the three remaining legs – and therefore not return to the UK until the end of July – who has already moved out of her flat to stay with a friend in the NW prior to our flight. For my own part I have spent the last few days “putting my affairs in order” for a Monday departure> I spent last night balancing costs of changing flights and flight availability (already done this once since Jan), rearranging pre-flight PCR testing (already booked – probably easy to change), changing quarantine hotel booking (actually its only booked at the moment until original start of refresher training – 28 Feb – because it’s cheap and I wanted to see exactly how cheap before any further booking!) and the prospect of being allowed to get stuck into boat preps between 28 Feb and 4 Mar against increased time at home. I’d be lying if Storm Dudley followed by Storm Eunice versus shorts, t- shirt, 25 degrees C, 5mph winds, 76% humidity and a few days beside a pool (no matter how cheap!) were not also factors thrown into the mix last night. Oh ……… and I discussed it with Ruth. Net result ……….. I’m still departing on Monday. Some of my team mates have yet to declare their intentions and some have already expressed an intent to delay.

Short version of MY programme is therefore:

21 Feb Depart UK

22 Feb Arrive Philippines

22-28 Feb Degree of self quarantine in Subic Bay

28-4 Mar Boat preps (see boat preps prior to Fleet departure from Portsmouth covered in blog 86: Time Travel —- or rather TIME to wind back the clock, while I TRAVEL))

4-7 Mar Mandated Clipper pre-Level 4 quartantine period. Negative PCR terst to progress to

7-13 Mar Level 4/Refresher training (see blog 81: Race 2 Day 3 latest ,.,,,, 4,800 nautical miles still left to Race, sio let’s wind tghe clock back a bit.)

14-19 Mar N Pacific preps

20 Mar Race Start – North Pacific. Then as per the published Race Schedule.

As a team, UNICEF have held two Zoom meetings since I last wrote. We have another programmed for 1200UTC on Sunday. Ian, our skipper, and Dan, our “new” AQP, are already in the Philippines and initial reports about the state of our boat are good. Dan, one of our original Round-The-Worlders has been promoted to be our Additional Qualified Person (AQP) and Mike Miller (our original AQP and a Round-The-Worlder from the 2017-2018 edition of the Race) is now the skipper of Sanya. With Sanya only 7 points ahead of us in the Race it should bring an extra good-humoured spice to team rivalry.

Not every Cliperee across the Fleet has been able to return to the Race. Reasons are wide and varied and completely understandable given the events of the last 2 years. 55 of the crew joining the Fleet in the next few days are new to this edition of the Race. All of them have completed Level 1 to 3 training in Clipper 68 yachts (more light-reading – see blogs 9, 26-29, 31, 33, 57 and 60 to catch up with my training experiences) but none of them have yet to complete Level 4 training in a 70ft yacht. This is therefore a must before any further racing.

Four new joiners will be joining the UNICEF team and its been great to meet Sue, John, Jonathan and Alex on line recently. Our only “surviving” Round The Worlders are the skipper (phew!), Dan (as our AQP), our sail-repair-Ninja – Holly Williams ( and additionally our medical expert responsible for running repairs on Leg 3 hand injuries and immediate care of all our other sick and wounded), our ace-blogger-and media expert (award winning I can hear him injecting) – Danny Lee, and our dedicated medical-supplies-guru and my Graham-Norton-look-a-like Leg 3-Mother-Watch-buddy – John Dawson. I think I am the only remaining 4-legger. Oh and I’m the new Team Coordinator (TC). More of that in a future blog.

We are currently at 12 crew plus skipper and AQP for the North Pacific. Two watch of 6. Take one out of each watch as Mother Watch and that’s two watch of 5. Then overlay a bit of sea sickness. And potential injury. Leg 2: plenty of sea sickness (and bags of credit for Jerry and Chris keeping on coming back for more on deck – generally accompanied by a bucket) plus 2 sets of broken ribs. Leg 3: two hand injuries, one case of appendicitis, one broken jaw/5 missing teeth, and one set of fractured ribs accompanied by a punctured lung. AND In my view, belief and experience, WE are a pretty safe yacht. This is tough, dangerous and hugely physically, emotionally and psychologically challenging. A sail change in the conditions we experienced in the South Atlantic will require 1 on the helm, 3 on the foredeck and two in the cockpit. When we letter-box-drop any of the spinnakers it must be immediately taken below and re-packed in the confines of the port passageway (where at least half of the off-watch will be trying to sleep), and this is also a reasonably manpower intensive evolution, at least if it is to be done in a speedy yet comprehensive manner. Muck this up and we just make more trouble when we inevitably get around to re-hoisting. All good fun.

Crossing the North Pacific, where we can realistically expect to have to ride up to three storm systems, this all becomes an added challenge (he typed with a degree of British understatement!). Consequently we, as a team, are already talking about how we might have to adapt our routines to take all this into account. Boat preps are, self evidentially, essential ahead of the North Pacific. But the understandable cancellation of the short Subic to Subic race reduces the time we have to practice any revised routines prior to race start on the 20th Mar.

So how am I feeling? In brief, very excited and seriously up for this. Raring to go and keen to get stuck in. I tried to explain the other day that I feel in a “better place mentally” than I did this time 2 years ago. Not sure I can put my finger on “why” given the considerable uncertainty that still stands between tonight and 20th Mar, never mind what comes after that. I still don’t have return flights booked from Seattle but I’m sure all that detail will fall into place in due course. I have started thinking about my next challenge (as per the closing paras of blog 131) and I’m delighted to have found someone who is keen to complete that challenge with me. I wouldn’t completely rule out a return to Clipper and some of the legs I haven’t done this time around……. but first ……… lets FINANALLY FINISH THIS EDITION!

I’ll blog again on Sunday night prior to departure, as I have done before in blogs 90 and 91 pre-Leg 2 and 98 pre Leg 3. Thereafter my next blog post will come from Subic Bay in the Philippines’ (and regular readers will know what happen last time I was in Subic- see blog 122: I see No Ships.

For new readers, and regular readers who have forgotten, you can check out the different yachts competing at blog 74: The 2019-2020 Race Line Up and Starting Stats, the way the Race is scored at blog 76: How The Clipper Race is Scored and how you can follow the Race across the North Pacific as it unfolds at blog 75: The Race Viewer – and a health warning. This can be addictive. And its still not too late to sign up to be a Race Supporter (its free!) – see blog 68: It’s Time, almost for me, but definitely for You.

There is lots of additional material on the official website at http://www.clipperroundtheworld.com including a specific team UNICEF page via the Race Teams drop down menu. Plenty to read if you are in the UK and battening down the hatches ahead of Storm Eunice. Me – I’m off to shift all that not-yet-packed sailing gear off the bed so I can get to sleep!

For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see:


For UNICEF UK see:


Please take a look. Thank You.