Life As A Walrus.

Today is Sunday 27 March (or at least it was when Keith wrote this).. its a week since we sailed from Subic Bay. Those of you who are following progress on the Race Tracker will know that we got off to a pretty good start. With over 6000 miles to race its slightly demoralising to talk about distances to Seattle but we are pleased with our progress so far. (As of April 6 Unicef are sailing hard to the scoring gate).

Conditions have been tough with strong head winds meaning we have spent most of the time since March 23 slamming into the waves with the boat at a 45 degree angle. Its been stiflingly hot below deck. Someone described it like being in an earthquake and a tsunami inside a sauna. Getting ANYTHING done at a 45 degree angle is difficult. Everything is much harder and takes at least twice as long. And when I say everything I mean EVERYTHING from moving around to dressing and from cooking to washing. And the less said about going to the heads (toilets) at 45 degrees the better…….

….. there are 10 bunks on each side of a clipper 70 yacht. On UNICEF the bunks are named after sea creatures. I think the idea originated with my predecessor as Team Coordinator as something that might appeal to visiting children. In any case I saw no reason to alter this when I took over, so the names have stuck.

The skipper and AQP get their own bunks and do not share. The skipper is on the starboard side furthest aft and the AQP port aft. The bunks above the skippers and AQPs are full of stores/spares/spare lifejackets. The front two bunks on either side forward of the mast are also used to store food and equipment.

To save you doing the maths that leaves 6 bunks on either side of the boat for crew. 4 bunks either side on the outside of the port and starboard passgeways leading aft from the galley and 2 bunks on the inside on each side immediately aft of the engine/generator room. These inside bunks are known locally as the ”coffin bunks” as they have reduced headroom and no ’cave lockers’- cubby holes in the side of the boat to store kit. The top coffin bunks on either side are normally kept free to facilitate the 2 crew on Mother Watch getting an undisturbed nights sleep on completion of their duties.So on UNICEF the starboard side bunks are named Bass, Salmon, Ray and Tuna, with the starboard lower coffin bunk called Clown. on the port side its Ocra, Whale,Dolphin and Shark and the lower coffin bunk is called Walrus. For the duration of the crossing of the North Pacific I am living the life of a Walrus. In addition to no cave lockers there is very limited storage space underneath the Walrus coffin bunk as I sleep on top of the boats batteries. The bunk is about one and a half ’Keith’s body’ wide and to get a sense of the headroom imagine you are in bed on your back – put your elbow on your tummy and extend your arm,fist clenched, upwards. That’s it for headroom.

Thankfully there is extra space at the foot end of my bunk helped in part by a number of bungy cords I have rigged underneath the bunk above me from which I can hang my carefully packed and organised kit in dry bags attached by carabiners. My lifejacket with safety tethers attached lives in a pocket at the foot end of my bunk with my sea boots nearby. I have 1 dry bag containing all my base layers and mid layer clothing plus hats etc for weeks 1 & 2 and a second dry bag containing the same for weeks 3 & 4. Another dry bag is spare for my dirty laundry. My top layer (fleeces etc) are in a bag that doubles as a pillow and my wind proof jackets hang on their own. My Musto foul weather clothing- sallopettes and a smock- hang on a numbered peg in the wet locker immediately next to the ladder up to the upper deck.

I have separate bags for my wash kit, diabetic paraphernalia, and my ’electrics’ required for my phone, my battery pack, my head torch and my portable fan- a lifesaver in temperatures above 30 degrees. The fan is lashed to the bottom of the bunk above me and my head torch is looped through one of my bungy cords. The bunk can be adjusted to stop me falling out in the middle of the night when we alter course and go from being healed over 45 degrees in one direction to 45 degrees in the other. For limited privacy each bunk has a Lee cloth- a piece of blue canvas that you tie up behind you when you get into your bunk…..inside your sleeping bag if cold but outside if not. I have yet to be inside my bag on this Leg. And if that all appears pretty straightforward then imagine finding what you are looking for at 02.40 in the morning ahead of the 03.00 watch change under red lighting in a pitching rolling slamming yacht. All good fun and would knew the domestic life of a Walrus could be so much fun 🙂

101. A Message From Mary

This leg from South Africa to Freemantle is thrown up many challenges for the crew on Unicef and their supporters – all of which they are dealing with brilliantly as they come along whether it be a medical evacuation or a variety of more minor medical issue, light wings , violent storms & sail mending in a confined space oh and at an angle. Let alone their youngest crew member(18) having to put up with the music choice of a crew most very much not his age. Still it seems he is starting a music education programme of his own.

At the moment they are sailing hard towards Australia but as Ian (Skipper) puts it in his blog today ‘the distance between Perth and Sydney is currently shorter than our distance to Freemantle… ‘ so they need to sail a continent! Quickly we  hope.

However its great to see they have support from so many people – the video below was sent via Keith’s daughter Heather. The crew have all seen it and with a big thanks to Heather and Mary it was a great boost to morale. Lets hope the cooking on board goes from strength to strength – and Keith shares his new found skill when he gets home.

100. Getting to Freemantle – the long way

‘Here we go again’ from Cape Town has proved to interesting to say the least. As most of you will know UNICEF had to divert after a few days sailing towards Freemantle and head for Durban. Unfortunately one of the crew developed suspected appendicitis. He has now be landed in Durban and is receiving appropriate hospital treatment. Another crew member had a bad fall- losing a couple of teeth into the ocean- he has also left the boat in Durban.

The boat has refuelled, victualled and is heading in the right direction.  The following is Keiths post from the boat on Race 4- Day5.(Some of its contents have been over taken by time and events but the thought  on support and family remain the same)

‘Here we go ….back to South Africa’

We really are one big UNICEF team family. Race crew afloat, those crew members who have already finished their Clipper Race adventure and those waiting expectantly for their adventure to begin. Our extended UNICEF team family includes ALL our families, friends and supporters, some who provide fantastic personal support including victualling and even helping out with sail repair during stopovers, and those whose support is geographically distant but just as strong and just as welcome. Today, some family plans are on hold as the UNICEF family team afloat does what it is really good at and looks after one of its own in need of help and support.

We are sailing back towards South Africa- in the general direction of Durban. a prudent measure to seek timely medical support for crew member Andrew Toms,  the details of his condition having been released by a  Clipper Race press release earlier today’. Andrew is comfortable and resting. Our onboard medical team of Skipper Ian, Holly, Anthonie and John are giving Andrew excellent care, ably supported by long range advice from PRAXES. We are in good shape and hope to rejoin the race to Australia just as soon as we can. But Andrew needs us to sail as safely, accurately and as fast as we always do, only this time not quite in the direction we had intended. But the family comes first. The Race will still be there when we turn around. We will be back’

Keith expresses so well how valuable all the support for the boat and everyone concerned with the boat is.

Now the boat is heading to Australia in the Southern Ocean. The  skipper’s blog  reports ‘ the forecast has  50knots in it , so we know the gusts will be significantly stronger and the sea state will build up quickly … Bring on the cold, the wet, the grey, the wet and the ice squalls. Ohh did I mention the wet!’

So getting to Australia will be a challenge with an expected twelve day heavy weather epic.

Here We go



99. Here they go AGAIN

Of all the iconic places in the world it’s hard to think of a more recognisable one to sail in and out of than Cape Table. Table mountain is magnificent.


The clipper boats have been the focus of so much activity for the last few days. The crews are busy making sails right, vitaling, cleaning, maintenance and so many jobs big and small all of equal importance to get the boats ready to set sail again.

There’s  been some time to relax and enjoy the friendships and fun surrounding this clipper adventure

Then – so quickly as UNICEF arrived in one evening they slipped their lines and glided away in bright sunshine.IMG-20191113-WA0004

The parade of sail is a fine sight then the boats practise their ‘man over board’ drill and get themselves set for the start. Watching on the break water with others we watch them go far into the distance. Wondering just which way Australia is- there is such a mixture of emotions.



95. Here’s one for the ladies

When I arrived at the dock at the exact time the Unicef boat was backing in after its amazing  journey,  it was a great feeling.  Relief, excitement and joy to see everyone safe and sound. The official clipper folks greet them – give them beer and instructions on the legalities of immigration etc,etc. And we all wait and wait for what seems ages but is not really till the crew come up from the pontoon.

Then it’s a great wave of SMELL.

Everyone is thrilled, delighted, proud and it’s hugs alround. A fabulous moment with the smell temporarily and rightly forgotten.

Fast forward a couple of showers and time to find a good barber. Keith’s clothes and personal hygiene are now restored to  normal. Time to address The Beard.


After two and a half weeks at sea it needed attention! Lots of attention. The lady Barber went to work

Waxed, trimmed the works. Keiths first experience of waxing – I wonder if it will be his last- you will have to ask him. The result was


In time for prize giving

With Keith and the boats 2nd prize trophy and his personal 2nd place pennant….. and a trimmed beard.


Waxing must be worth a charity donation!

For Diabetes UK and National Autistic Society see:

for UNICEF UK see:

Please take a look. Thank You.




92. The race has begun

Hello everyone who is following Keiths blog. My name is Ruth – Keith’s  wife of 4months and partner of many years.

I don’t have the words to do justice to today…….

We have all said farewell to those we love and it’s easy …. it’s easy enough – we expect to see them soon. Like us all I have done it a hundred times.

Today was different.

Keith was excited to begin his race to South Africa. Watching the big blue UNICEF boat slip her lines and gently glide into the Southern Ocean was so emotional. The band played- each of the eleven  boats was given a great farewell in Spanish and English. Every three minutes one boat was waved away on its own unique adventure. The crowds waved and cheered. Every supporter also has their  own story to tell.

I must admit I shed a tear, breathe a very deep breathe, watched till I could see the boats no longer – retired to the yatch club and drank a bottle of their best wine…..

I WIlL send pictures later

Love to all Keith’s followers