Postcards to home

A fascinating insight of a man sharing his expoits and experiences with his family whilst sailing around the world.

[The "postcards" were actually emails but it doesn't sound quite so romantic]

Duncan CameronPosition:47 23.1N 008 54.8 W, in the Bay of Biscay I swear, no man on this earth has experienced a better or more loving send off on any adventure, or indeed such support in getting to that point - thank you from the very centre of my soul.






Duncan CameronThe last 20 months have been an adventure in itself - the time in A&E was a privelege, the weeks of sail training essential, the days in Liverpool utter paradise.

You are a great Bunch to belong to. Good luck in your own adventures this year.



Duncan CameronThe race: I think we had a good start, we had a lucky jump from 6th to 3rd place when Glasgow collided with Qingdao at the 2nd mark and we kept this place until we hit a wind hole somewhere in the Western Approaches, where at a standstill, we fell back to 8th place. Since the gun (or barrage, thanks to the Royal Artillery) the wind has been hard on our nose and we are now sitting 5th, with 520 nm to Cascais.

We've been visted by 5 large families of common dolphin and porpoises, I reckon about 70 to 80 - a real blessing, various shearwaters and 5 housemartins on their way south.

It is humbling to think that we might meet them again in South Africa in November. I can't think of many things that are as enjoyable as ocean racing, although I supose this is only day 4. To add to my joys tonight I am on mother watch and have the probability of 8 hours uninterrupted sleep. Normally it's just 3 hours on watch and 3 hours off watch.

Position: Sat.1st Oct 2005: 29*42'N 017*10'W

Just off West Africa, bound for Brazil !!

Well, we got to Cascais in a none too creditable 6th place, but nevertheless were given a rapturous welcome by RKJ and the 5 crews infront of us. Our 3 days there was pressured but the evenings were times to remember, if only we could. I spent days 2&3 bent over a sewing m/c repairing & re-infocing our 3 spinnakers (see photos on the Race site Gallery).

We managed to usurp a nearby marqee for the operation, and generally gave the many passers-by the false impression that I knew what I was doing.

Duncan Cameron Race Start off Cascais was a thrill for me as I was asked to helm it,and we crossed the line 2nd and then had the best day's sail I've ever had. Day 2 was even better, but very different indeed.

We severely wrapped our medium weight spinnaker around the inner forestay in two places, it was utterley stuck.I was already harnessed-up anyway, so I volunteered to go aloft(92') and try to manually unwrap the top tangle.

Sea state was lumpy with large swell and the wind a steady 7/8, going up was not easy; at the top I unshackled the halliard, then transferred myself across to the inner forestay to do the business; bla bla bla, at the end of 2.5hrs it was finally lowered to the deck and, miraculously, it was unscathed.

The next day, yesterday, I had to go to the masthead another 3 times, I was totally knackered,but luckily today somebody else was wearing the harness.

Duncan CameronThe sea (27*) is a blue I've not seen before, the dolphin more numerous & sociable,and the weather definitely more tropical; it is more easier now to grasp the the fact that we're travelling just about as far as it's posible to go.

She is a beautiful planet and this just has to be the best way to see it. last night there landed a flyingfish on my hand, and later a squid was picked up by Lizzie mistaking it for a discarded piece of rope; nice! (it was a dark night)

The watch routine is absurdly tireing, the work very sweaty and some of the food is rapidly turning me into a vegetarian,but on the whole, life is very good, as it is with you, I hope. 

Thanks for listening! Well, the Doldrums are over,well&truely;gone are the days of listlessly slap-flapping about in unavoidable sunshine(serious heat) with seawater temp.@ 33.5*C;you could almost cook vegetables in it,if only we had some.

Fresh fruit ran out4 days ago and British squash 3days ago, now we only have(as the alternative to watermakerH2O )some Portuguese stuff that looks like Swarfega so we haven't dared try it yet. Moaning,you say? I haven't started yet.

The only relief from this Black Hole of Calcutta syndrome is the chance arrival of a Tropical Squall. For 20mins you see it coming, oh yes; you can see the rain, expect the cool, get out the showergel, but christ, when they strike it's like Armageddon. It's instantaneous, not a moment longer.

The rain (& hail mixed) hits you like millions of 1.75mm airgun pellets. You can't see the top spreader on the mast; the sea suface boils with it. The Dorrado fish, in the 5 mins before this epic moment, all start to leap 2'-3' out of the water in anticipation. The burning Sun just vanishes, the wind,from nowhere, jumps to 30kts,you are now,(T+15secs), stuggling to control the boat. Then it happens...

Thor must have a wierd sense of humour...crack-boom -sizzle-shityourself... He hurls down bolt after bolt, no he doesn't, it's as if He has thrown His whole arsenal around you all at once.And guess what you look at next? The Mast; that92' long peice of vertical carbonfibre&metal; you look wildly about for something a)taller,B)more conductive(than C.fibre!),and c)nearby; Nothing; infact you can't see more than 25yds from the boat anyway.

Next can the designers be so stupid? Surely plastic is good enough these days to cope with the 32tonnes of pressure that the standing rigging(100% stainless steel)puts on it? You drop some of the sails,put in the reefs available, and all with the starboardside 2' under the speeding Oggin.

Oh wow! you've controlled the boat, nobody's dead yet, the galley crew maybe pretty pissed off, true, but everybodyelse has been lucky, so you laugh and hug the person next to you- happily for me it happend to be Sarah Warburton in the Snakepit!

We laughed and laughed, somebody got out the shampoo & showergel and we had an impromptu bubble party of the sort the Island of Ibetha would have been proud to host. Next we entered the South East Trades, Heavenly sailing, next stop, The Equator... with love, Duncan.

Last Thursday night @ 1:30 UTC, we crossed the Equator; another first for all of us.

King Neptune's Court was in full Session during the evening,which was fine old time, then 6.5hrs later the GPS showed:00*00', and Joff read a touching 'prayer' to Neptune.We gave libations from the fruits of our lands, i)USA:a bottle of Budweiser,and ii)UK:a can of cider;(generous,we thought, considering that we're a dry ship!)We all signed the base of our beautiful Statue of Liberty and launched her; then,in a more private moment,I gave over the badge of the Nova Scotia Provincial Flag given to me at the 1995 Clan Gathering by a Canadian called Mary from Marbou,who knows Cameron House,which my Greatgrandfather left for the sea at the age of 14 to find work in the last days of sail, along the Eastern Seaboard; I think!

Next event was in the graveyard watch on Friday night; I was on deck when our forestay broke-it just snapped in two- 1.5" thick stainless steel bolt severed-I sounded the alarm for All Hands'(a surreal moment if ever).To our skipper's credit, we had the Yankee 1 down, a matching fitting stripped off the lazy diagonal shroud, in place, and the Yankee 3 up(a much smaller sail), all within 2.5hrs.A big problem for us, speedwise, but so far, 3 days later, we're still in 4th place and keeping Durban and Singapore at bay-we've got just 205nm to go-but we should get some redress fron the Race Committee.

The crew ghetto is getting pretty minging now and we're all longing for a shower and a Posh Pooh- roll on Brazil- just after midnight tonight, we hope.

What's their beer like?


29th Oct,@ 27*54.793'W by 21*46.29'S

Along the winding&colourful road of my life(OK, you had better switch the computer off now) it has seldom escaped my notice that I don't always make a wonderful impression on passers-by; generally their reactions follow a pattern:a quizzical frown,a backwards step,exasperation and then sometimes, abuse; it's a long-established routine.

Until Brazil,that is...Last week, in Salvador, the equatorial Sun was singeing the last few hairs on my head, when I spotted a hat-shop.My crewmates advised that the Indiana Jones one was most appropriate, and after a visit to a real cobbler's(he was making new shoes out of old car tyres)(oh yes, and selling shoes individually!!?)to get straps fitted(chapeau nauticalization)carried on visiting the beautiful quarter of Pelourhino- increadible poverty existing in crumbling majestic colonialism-dozens&dozens of locals came up to me insisting that I was an actor,(not begging, at all) and bacame even more convinced when I 'pretended' not to understand Portuguese.The cd shop even gave me 2Reals cash back BEFORE they then handed me my correct change!when I asked why, they just pointed at my hat and gave me knowing nodds;that's unheard-of here.

Moral:if you go through Life generally annoying people, wear as much disguise as you can.

love Duncan.

29*51.78'S by 31*1.278'E (Durban, SA.)

OK, who knows how high a PODIUM is?Are they big enough to fit 15 people on each level at once?If you jump up & down in an overexcited manner do they cave in?Do they set a precident that ultimately leads to unneccessary stress?Well, tomorrow we on NYC are going to find out because...we...finished..... the race from Brazil and were only 12hrs behind .A.Clipper into Durban,and that was after a pretty bad run of luck for us. That's SECOND, incase I didn't make myself clear!I think this could be a long e-mail, sorry.

Halfway across the S.Atlantic skipper Joff decided to hang a right and head south to reach stronger
winds-a risky gamble,especially as no weather info we had received so far was any more accurate than the average self-assessment tax return. but it qickly paid off and our spirits rose. With the stronger winds came wetter foredeck work. I started wearing my one-peice dry suit and instantly
fell inlove with it, stateing that it was worth it's weight in gold,but then realised that actually it was more expensive than that. Sailing into strong headwinds is a really uncomfortable ride,especially after weeks of smoothe spinnaker work,the bumps and slams are deafening;they're also bloody dangerous.

Right,picture me, if you will, having a wash in the portside heads whilst on port tack in a blow. NYC is therefore leaning over to starboard, steeply; I am holding on with a soapy lefthanded deathgrip whilst shaving with my right. NYC slammed, pitched and banged and my irongrip slipped.I flew backwards without touching anything and continued through the fully zipped heavy blue polythene door, bursting
through it with a crash,like a motorbike stuntman through a paper-covered hoop, and continued across the companionway, still not having come into contact with anything substantial, and finally strikeing the very solid metal steps with my coccyx. It snapped; I screamed; those crew present
burst into laughter.

HeyHo! However, to more happier things..a swallow settled on the boat, absolutely exhausted. This happened a couple of hundred nm beyond S.Africa for it. After half an hour it moved up to sit on the head of our furry mascot 'Tigger' who's strapped to the instrument rail right by the helm.
He stayed right there for the rest of the morning just 18" from the person helming. The bad viz cleared and he was off again., hopefully back up North East to the big continent he'd just flivven by.

We rounded the Cape of Good Hope on Rememberance Day(coincidentally,and ironically, the
same day that I got kicked out of Dartmouth RN College back in 1975), in fairly light winds and headed for Cape Algulhas, the most southerly point of this enormous landmass we call Africa,Europe &Asia, and then more northerly. The first 250nm has beautiful with rolling mountains beyond.

We stay inside the 200M depth contour; at that point the water is rushing by South at 6-7kts and is the most notoriously violent sea area on the Planet.We are apprehensive;onwards northerly;the scenery changes to much higher moutains which drop directly into the sea with absolutely no havens
for ships or boats to run in to. This is Africa's 'Wild Coast'and it was to test us over the next 5 days,noteably on our last night out at sea when a sudden 40kt wind caught us with our anchor down to stop adverse drift due to a no wind situation;chaos. Earlier that day in a particularly beautiful stretch of coast with grass-covered huge mountains(the Drakensberg, I think)as the backdrop,and no sign of any civilization and a force8 blowing on a bright sunny day, I am on the helm when I see an
explosion in the water 3/4nm ahead. I fix my eyes on the area; 2mins later it happens again, but this time I see why.An enormous Humpback Whale rises to 1/2 its body length out of the sea, as if in slow motion; it rolls delicately and deliberately lands(or should that be 'seas'?)with an almighty splash, presumeably to impress a mate.We are now nearer to it.We see its white barnackled lower jaw; and, like a Posieden missile, launches itself up to the heavens. The process is called 'breaching',and we see perhaps a dozen breaches.His jaw becomes progressively thus with age,so I guess he was a pretty senior individual. Quite simply, it was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen; and seen while a brilliant morning's sail was in my hands.

Then came Black Monday.At 10:00am Port watch accidentally Chinese Gybed NYC whilst flying our medium weight spinnaker-it was scary;the bottom spreaders were in the water(ie. the deck was instantly vertical), the crew were strapped-on with water up to our chests;NYC stalled and stayed there for an extremely long 25 seconds.Eventually she came up but the spinnaker didn't;it was trapped under the keel and was already ripped from head to clew. Within an hour we were flying the heavyweight spn.instead, which was fine until midday when another broach wrapped it very severely in two places around the forestay;(we'd lost our spn.anti-wrap overboard the day before during our
1st broach). We could not let this be desroyed aswell. Joff asked me to go to masthead to physically unwind it by hand whilst lowering myself down the forestay(again, like the 2nd day out from Cascais).After 3hrs of 'All Hands' we managed to lower it unscathed. A miracle.After that it was
'poled-out headsails'or nothing. There's lots more I want to say but I've gone on too much already and it's late, and I must get sleep intime for our treck up the Podium tomorrow. I don't suppose it will make any BBC news but it's a big story here in Durban! With love, Duncan.

Africa has been an immense experience- managed to stock up on enough red meat,red wine and laughter. Held spellbound by views of KwaZulu,and the generousity of new friends here. NYC is off to the start now, and so back to the cold,wet and bumpy zone;we're all hiding our apprehension of the Southern Ocean,but are more confident than before.Thankyou for all the messages, it's comforting to think that people are following our efforts, and wonderful to here all the gossip too.(There's a postal address for Freo that Clipper can give out). JMB's 'and it's straight on til Christmas' sums it all up, and it sounds like it's already 'Deep & Crisp & Even' in Britain, so may you have a Good One.Love, Duncan.

 News from 38*51'S by 48*10'E

Startdate: Dec 2nd 2005, entering the bottom latitude of the Indian Ocean, tomorrow we drop through 40*South and begin to experience the Roaring Forties,where we hope to be lifted from our lowly 9th posn.

Some of the huge swell we've had over the last 4 days has suggested big weather further south; at times there were two directions of it about 120* apart- it was rather like the rolling hills of Wiltshire moving into the shorter wavelength Chilterns, but no collision, the two systems moved THROUGH each other and NYC glid gracefully over the lot (usually without broaching!)

Virtually no birdlife since Durbs, until this morning when we woke to a Wandering Alb. soaring in unison with a Storm Petrel(the smallest of birds). In tribute to them Michael Fort has just put on my favourite air guitar track 'Freebird', at earbleeding volume.

Let me mention about Michael-he is a near clone of Nick Prince(but not as good looking, Nick), and, since joining us in Durban, has brought serious amounts of laughter to us. I'm not sure why he is here nor is he, sailing isn't something he's very keen on, maybe it just seemed like a goods idea at the time; amongst other things, the prospect of having to use the heads is filling him with horror- his solution is to limit his visits to once every 3days which would reduce his total to only 7 before Fremantle. It's a flawed system he instigated during his part A training along the South Coast last year, all was well until Salcombe Harbour- the incident became known to the surviving crew as the 'Salcombe Mud Slide'.  

We've had some pretty awesome sailing this week, surfing along at 15kts often (but we're still stuck in 9th posn.) Tuesday was eventful; whilst we were hoisting our heavyweight spinnaker, always a tense evolution; a huge whale surfaced 35' on our port bow, and then dived immediately, coming back up 100yds on our starboard side and blowing to 6 or 7 Meters. The ID is a little shaky, but...its shear size, its dorsal curve&shape,the height of its blow and..its..colour..BLUE, distinctly blue. I'm fairly sure we had a close encounter with a Blue Whale, something I had hardly dared hope for. Sod's Law dictated that it occured during the spin. hoist, but some of us looked anyway!   

It also was Tuesday that our watermaker broke its unserviceable pump; that gave us a seriuos problem, having some 4000nm to go; Jersey Clipper had the fleet spare and rendezvous' to our rescue. We lost 17nm waiting for them but it was our only choice. The transfer at night, and whilst under sail, was far more dangerous than I'd expected, but was successful; but to prove the point, Jenn's leg got caught up in the heaving line as the two yachts were separating, and was nano-secs away from being dragged overboard, but all ended well.

The complexion of the crew has improved drastically for this leg, laughter abounds, and each of the new leggers has brought an element of delight onboard- I guess that means us RTW's have become stale and need freshening up (in several ways!)I think I'll go and wash now (1st since SA), Duncan. 

Over 40*South-sunny,14kts Northerly, lovely day.

Yesterday, however was very,very different:grey,35kts and gusting 60kts during previous night.Spume flying horizontally,blown off the wavetops and just not coming down again.As far as the eyes can see it's grey, angry mountains on the move;force 8-9 seems like an average day here.The birds were loving it, the helm was struggling with it,NYC was straining with it, the Mothers were swearing at it and the crew were in awe of it.

I had spent the last 20hrs sewing up torn sails,some was self inflicted when we dragged the Yankee 2 past the mast.Joe and I worked in relay ,sew/sleep/sew/sleep etc.The helming was phisical and tough on the rest of the crew, they were keen for us to finish the repairs. When I got out on deck the seas were ginormous. Main &Yankee 1 were flying, NNYC was flying with speeds of 24kts, my best was 22.5kts. When she planed it was faster and more fun than a speedboat ride.The bow wave became spray and went skywards,the power immense,the acceleration was like a 35tonne motorbike.

A glance at the helm's face told the whole story;no words can come close, no photo depict.The grey comes in a thousand shades; Albert Ross is loving it;a smallish fine grey&white bird darts about by itself;the Sooty Albert s and Giant Petrels follow us all day.Just when you think it can't get any better.. a dozen Commersons Dolphin(black&white)arrive in excited fashon,darting over the crests,out of the steep rises,alongside NYC and congregate under her bow,playing a very high-speed game of Chicken with our hull.

The Sun clears away the grey; the waves are huge with translucent turquoise tops, the rogue waves exasperate us. Then the climax to the whole show, and it happens maybe a dozen times;the wave approaches on our port quarter it rises carrying us with it. As we near the crest it turns turquoise, it's still maybe 12' above us and very close, two of the dolphin are swimming (or is it flying) in it, looking down at us!Ecstacy. 

A 'one thousand pound day'? Easily! and it's only 1pm, lunch is ready, I relinquish the helm but don't go down. I gaze aft. The Southern Ocean Might, of which I was/am scared,is more beautiful than any vista I've witnessed on land. One hour later the spin. boom track breaks, the boom crashes,ripping the Main, poled-outY1 collapses,speed dies;ecstacy over. We spend until Sundown rigging a rope replacement.Finally, at 8pm, we get the boom flying again, but hear that our competitors have sped away. 

excuses excuses from:36*06'S by 105*50'E, and still 3days to go!

I NEED to explain WHY we are languishing in an unimpressive 7th place (our worst so far) in the last stages of Leg3.

On board NYC we've had some serious breakages which have cost us dearly; i)our watermaker on day3;(17nm and our Southerly advantage), ii)our Main track exploded and so now is lashed into one fixed place;(the main becomes far less versatile), iii)similarly our Spinnaker track and one Pole;(we no longer had our top gear until a temporary jury rig was devised out of rope), iv)two days ago our second Pole 's beak was pulledout,leaving our Heavyweight Spin. horizontal in a 40kt wind, it shredded itself into many separate pieces,but we have them all;

We've cobbled together the two Poles so now have one 'working', but as my role is the Mast & Pole climber, I'm not impressed!(no heavyweight Spin in the Southern Ocean is tiresome, to say the least,plus much time in Freo will be required for the repairs).

Each incident happened during darkness which adds greatly to any crisis, and each has had a serious effect on our progress; it's doubtful that we can hold off Cardiff Clipper who are only 56nm behind. But,on the good side,the seas have been awesome(swell estimated to be in excess of 100'), the winds impressive though not yet scarey(with rhe exception if the watermaker,the wind has caused all this damage), and the wildlife spellbinding; moral is high though but,oh boy,are we ready for our first Beer Downunder.

Excuses over! Dunc.  

Well, we finished the race up from Oz a while ago now, in the Sunda Straights between Java & Sumatra in the dead of night without either Race Committee or spectators; there was just a wonderful silence, but only 4 miles away was the awesome void of Krakatoa; silence, that is, until we actually crossed the arbitrarily chosen line, when corks were popped (miraculously, on this dry ship) and favourite tracks were played at volumes dangerous in these geologically sensitive latitudes.

The course had been shortened by 700nm (luckily while we were in 3rd place!) because of the real risk of piracy, and also in an attempt to satisfy the schedules of the Singaporean sponsors (different type of piracy). So there we waited (partied) for 4hrs for Victoria, Liverpool and Singers to finish, then we motored up to Singapore as a posse (although we felt like an even bigger target for them). Lucky we did, as we each had engine failure at times, dirty fuel, and so a system of towing each other evolved.

The race had ended up being quite slow, but for us was still well exciting as some lengthy close-quarter boat v. boat racing kept us on our toes. For 2days we were battling like this with Victoria Clipper, and at one point, to break the tension, they fired oranges at us from 70yds using a giant catapult; when they hit us they'd give a great cheer, it was like a one sided Trafalgar out there!

The stopover was impressive; the sponsors, Keppel and Sentosa Cove, were generous, and nothing happened without a Govt. minister or Ambassador being present. The people of Singapore are so polite! They all smile and laugh as a constant mood, and there isn't a fat person amongst them-I guess that's pot-noodles for you.

A few days before we left, Lucy came by on her way to NZ, toting a rucksack half full of birthday goodies for me. (many thanks for them, and to the courier, and good luck in your journey too, Lucy).

We began the race up to China after a nauseating few hours of creating plenty of photo opportunities for the helicopters around Sentosa & Keppel Marina, but with a complete lack of the lovely smiling people of the city-very different from the fabulous start at Fremantle. We were glad that they'd been so generous with the beer, earlier.

After leading the fleet for a heady couple of hours from the line, we've fallen back to 8th place, but only 8nm from the leaders (Day4). This part of the South China Sea has been shocking; there has been a complete absence of all birdlife; there's been a film of rubbish on the surface, inc. whole trees and assorted building timber, a profusion of fluorescent light tubes, tuppaware, paint pots and a flip-flop; and in the words of Y'ung Albert's Ma &Pa..."the waves, they was fiddlin an' fact, n'owt to laff at all"; but, by far the worst was polystyrene; whoever invented that stuff should have been shot. For two whole days there was a piece of it EVERY 50 metres, and in EVERY direction-yes, I counted. I detest the way we so energetically rape and defile this Planet.

Last night we had to make a 10nm detour because of a huge drift net. It had yellow strobe lights every mile as it wickedly swept its death across vast tracts of somebody else's element. The total absence of the expressively happy and beautiful bird life, a sure sign that something is wrong. This morning we got an email from Danny, skipper of Qingdao, they had a dead whale trapped alongside, with its proud flukes stuck between their keel and the rudder skeg. Danny noted it as freshly dead, and suspected it had suffocated somewhere along that massive net.

We race on, winds on the nose, maybe a third of the crew suffering in the usual way for the first few days of a race. NYC is going well, as a crew we're working better, less tension and a good routine established, though apprehensive of the plummeting temps, but it's good to see Polaris again.

Love, Duncan.

Hi Guys,

Well, we had major probs with the safety of NYC and her keel, and just when we were on a roll, i.e. doing really well.

We were 2nd and catching WA with still over 1000nm to go. Fantastic seas and pretty wild helming, and then we reported the damage; 7 other boats had the same, although Glasgow nearly sank with hers.

The race was abandoned and we all ran for safety in the Philippines, and are now at a place called Subic. We are overawed by the level of luxury here; the yacht club must have been built for the President, it's incredibly plush, FAR better than Qingdao in China was expected to be, and of course it's winter up there, whereas here it's still very equatorial. The food and beer is ridiculously cheap, and because this episode is a massive problem for Clipper, we may have to spend a considerable time in this Paradise. It's tough; but I guess we'd better grit our teeth and get on with how best to enjoy it!

As yet, there are no Clipper reps out here, and Knox-Johnston has to work out a recovery plan. Presumably we will be still going on to Victoria BC, but nothing at all is certain at this moment. That must be very disconcerting for Granny and also Robin & Georgina, they've all bought their tickets already; we should know something of plans by next Monday, but it's all very much up in the air today.

The Adventure continues to gather pace! The next few days are set aside for maintenance up until 2pm, then we've scheduled events like water polo, and inter-boat go-carting competitions. There's a track opposite the yacht club. These foreigners really know how to live properly! Then on Friday some of us are renting some apartments for a while, 30mins away on the beach in some kind of a resort. Sorry if I'm gloating, but we're all a bit shocked by the turn of events.

Back at Singapore, I met up with Lucy who had kindly brought over some fantastic birthday cards, thank you very much for them....Don't let them make a Macdonalds out of the library next door!

All my love, Dad/Duncan.

May I try and recap the events of the last 10days now that we finally have some concrete facts to go on.

On Feb 4th, normally such a good day in the year, when we were still some miles to the South of Taiwan, Glasgow Clipper reported that she was at risk of sinking if any of her three bilge pumps failed; they were running 24/7. She was taking in water at an alarming rate but the pumps had stabilised things for the moment. They had detected movement in the keel. Not good. They decided to retire from the Race and head for The Philippines.

Clipper directed the rest of us to inspect our own keels, and we found that there were problems with 6 other Clippers, including New York. The sea state was profoundly choppy and we'd taken a bit of a pounding for 2days solid. Joff immediately reduced sail. The consensus was to abandon the Race and head for safety, Singapore and Qingdao escorting Glasgow very slowly.

We arrived at Subic Bay, Luzon, on the 5th, 10days ago. The yacht club here has a wonderfully high standard of luxury, much more than we're used to, so there have been no complaints from us, and a good time's been had by all. And anyway, it's freezing cold in China right now. However... it is a massive problem for the Company; surveyors are crawling all over; Dubois, the Designer is too, and so is Lee, the Double Happiness builder from Shanghai, and of course Clipper. Between them they have to take each boat out of the water, de-mast them, cut holes in the deck and raise the engine to get at the keel bolts; replace them and beef up the hull to hold the 10 tonne keel on without it moving, even a little. Not the easiest of tasks. Then rebuild the damage, drop the engine back in, re-step the mast and rigging, and re-launch.

10 boats, all needing redesign : 
Filipino work rates : 
Race schedule delayed by about 2months : 
150 bored sailors : 
New weather patterns : 
Dwindling crew numbers : 

Fam & friends arriving in strange parts of the World with no apparent reason.

So...Half the crew have gone home to their various parts of the Globe, and the other half have spread out over the Region in search of Paradise.

At first glance these appear to be very beautiful islands (all 7,100 of them!!) Tomorrow, John and I catch a series of buses to Manila, then on South, a ferry ride, and our first destination, Puerta Galeras, where there's a dive centre and a wonderful combination of beaches and bars; accommodation, they say, is around 2-300pesos/night;that's less than a fiver! I like this warmer climate way of life!

After a while we bus it again down South, another ferry ride, and our next destination, Baracay; a 7km island built by God, entirely with me in mind. I know that there'll be a little hut there ready for me, with two rooms, a veranda, and possibly a maid. I think it will be painted blue, and have a fridge. I'm not fussy about the view, but I guess the sea won't be far away.

Alexander Selkirk springs to mind, but without the shipwreck bit.

Was it three years he managed to stay there?

In one sense, the pace of life here on Mindoro is beautifully slow, cars are few and far between, and transport, if required, is by motorised tricycles, which don't cope well with the potholes; or jeepneys, converted US Army jeeps into very colourful long wheelbased charabangs. They provide 'comfortable' seating for 12 passengers, although John and I came back from Sabang sharing one with 21 folk on the inside with an unknown number on the roof. In another sense, the pace of life is FAR TOO HECTIC...

Firstly : Last week there was a military coup in Manila; it failed, which means, of course, that there'll have to be another one soon.

Secondly : On Wednesday evening we had an Earthquake here, measuring 2 on the Richter Scale, which shook us for 45seconds and produced large waves all day yesterday.

Thirdly : This morning there was a National People's Army ambush of a Police convoy just one mile outside our village. There is only one road on this island, along the coast, and the jungle-covered huge mountains start on the inside of this road. The terrorists, or NPA Freedom Fighters, came out off the mountains, had a gunfight with the soldiers, killing 3 of them, then disappeared back up into the hills again.

Stunningly, no one here seems in the least bit bothered.

A little less hecticity would be nice!

The main consequence for us is that John was, eventually, stopped on his way to do the shopping in Puerto Galera, so now we will just have to eat out for a while. Oddly enough, he didn't immediately suspect that the reason a 'welsh' dresser was placed in the middle of the road at the edge of the village, was that it signified a road block and that a dangerous battle was raging just a mile away. It was, perhaps, a wee bit more naive, just a quarter of a mile further on, to ignore the sound of machineguns around the corner, and see it as a sign to, maybe, GO HOME. However, he walked on, eventually fleeing on the back of a speeding tricycle.

Meanwhile, I was paying a visit to our neighbour, a Dane who runs a Safe House for abused street children. Amid all the sprawling and immense poverty of these beautiful islands, this was a Jewel in the Jungle. More on this, for sure, on another occasion.

With love to anybody who is still bothering to read this!


Starting with being told to go off for an indefinite period and holiday in these extraordinary Islands, it has, all along, been a most wonderful experience. Nobody told us how kind and polite the Philippine people are, we just discovered it, every time we met yet another happy, smiling, good-looking soul. 

When John and I left Subic Bay, just prior to all ten boats being lifted for the keel repairs, we had no idea of the level of adventure lying before us. The heavy socialising of the first few weeks, along with the week of...coup, quake and fatal terrorist ambush, soon gave way to more interesting times; we'd got to grips with the economics of the area so that I wasn't ripped off continually, (although I think I have bought out the local supply of cloth bracelets) and I made a discovery in our village, Aninuan... 

There, there is a collection of brightly coloured, grass and Palm buildings set back a bit into the jungle. One day I entered and worked my way up to the office in the centre. For the next 2hrs I was enthralled to listen and learn about the story of 'The Stairway Institute'. In a nutshell, it is a charity devoted to the rescue, rehab and education of street children from Manila who have suffered sexual abuse, and may also have TB. 

I spoke with the principal, a Dane called Lars, and we agreed how beneficial to the children it would be if a program of sailing education was introduced into the curriculum. 

So, after several weeks of talking we have something to report... 

I have undertaken, upon returning to UK, to raise funds to train up two members of staff to Instructor level, and construct two craft, in order that there will be a serious, ongoing sailing capability at Stairway. 

In addition, and in the same way, there will be a bursary in place at the Puerto Galera Yacht Club, to enable one disadvantaged child from the town, (and there are many), to be schooled in the discipline of sailing, including initial lessons and 51 weeks of sailing one of the YC's Mirror dinghies. If the pupil is keen to pursue the pastime, continued support would be maintained.

I am terribly excited about both these projects but, NO, I won't be asking for help this time!! Over the last 2 months since the Race to China was abandoned, I have clung to the motto 'Keep the Adventure Going', and, if I'm honest, I suppose this is one way that for me the Adventure will continue beyond this year. 

Last Friday John's family arrived in White Beach, so Nicki and I moved out to Sabang, which is the centre of the diving activity on Mindoro, and we both have got our diving 'careers' off to a spectacular start. The coral, the wrecks and the extraordinary fish have been stunning to see and be with, and for some reason the restaurants are superb here too; but we have to leave and rejoin our boats soon. Leaving is going to be difficult; we are meant to be there during tomorrow (Monday), but we're both feeling a tad maverick, and have decided to climb Mount Pinotubo first, which will put off our return until Thursday evening. Hey ho! 

Again, thanks for listening; the Race to China restarts next Saturday, so it's back to the grind then, but it will be wonderful to meet up with all the crew once more, I'm sure they will each have some stories to tell. 

With much love, Duncan.

Nomorecold, nomorewet, nomoremisery...

Canada the Beautiful is REAL!

Qingdao to Victoria BC is just over 5,500nm and seems a very long way when the temperature of the water drops 20 degrees overnight, your boots and gloves fail to dryout between watches, and you're told that the victualler had problems in China finding recogniseable food stuffs.(None of us ever want to see another 'Straw mushroom' as long as we live).Even the most enthusiastic of us lost it when, (after belatedly deciding that Snickers were worth eating,I suppose, even if it was just because of the chocolate coating), both the Snickers and the white sugar supplies petered out before halfway.

However, you soon forget the bad bits, when you tie up, a beer is thrust in to your hands, post too, and you are ushered over to a tent where 'Thrifty Foods' have BBQ'd the most beautiful red meat, wild salmon and Buffalo saussages for us. You eat and drink and eat some more. You slap eachother on the back and say "well,how was it for you? aren't we all such a bunch of heroes? Tough? Yeah but what a laugh!" You lie, you say to the family followers and volunteers serving,"it was great, we loved it, character-building experiences, close teamwork.. etc.etc...) well, if it's not lies, then it is certainly heavily censored from the true thoughts that were in each of us for the most part of the last four weeks.

But the sense of achievement is fairly powerful; you do feel good. Good is what I felt until a cleanshaven Martin came up to me(a very uncleanshaven, dirty, smelly and tired me) and he asked in a loud voice for all the quayside to hear..." Have you a copy of Big Issue, please?" Eating and drinking was more important than showering for some of us.

Probably what helped this massaging of our opinions was the last 15 hours of the race. We were deep in fog some 180nm out and not too sure where either Glasgow or Qingdao were ahead of us. Joff merged the two watches into a different schedule of one hour on then one hour off, because an intense period of headsail changes was about to begin. That was at suppertime. During the night we hanked on and hoisted every headsail that we have,plus genoa staysail and one spinnaker. There was no time to flake and bag them up in the usual way, they were just stuffed through the main hatch on top of the previous ones. An unholy mess for sure.

At dawn we still had very good winds, but no vis,(the fog has been prolilic in this huge Ocean, and too dense for our radar). We knew that the other two weren't far away, and then it lifted... Glasgow were only 150yds on our portside, and Qindao a few miles ahead; and that after 5,500nm, it was extaordinary.

There then started a period of racing style that's normally seen 'round the cans', and as we entered the Fuca Straights with just 55nm to go Glasgow and us were dodgeing eachother like a couple of dinghies on a reservoir. We were knackered, but the excitement was intense, and the finish tangeable. As we approached Race Rocks Lighthouse we had lost 1/4nm to GC and so Joff decided to 'Thread the Needle'; we kept our heavyweight kite up and headed between the lighthouse and the land; a channel 100yds wide with a 32tonne, 3M draft boat travelling at 14knots with a tired crew and a spinnaker in a wind. But we'd made it! Joff needed new underwear, but we'd made it. GC were now 1/2nm astern, QC only 1nm ahead, and Victoria BC now clearly in view.

At that moment, a huge Bald Eagle left his tree on the island and flew out towards us,wheeled around and headed back to his tree; a fine salute, I thought, from a New Continent. (And perhaps a sign that I have to accept my new 'condition'!)

Quite a few times during the crossing we were visited by stranded land birds; one, a swallow, sat on the wheel like a budgie in a cage, then he fluttered up to my arm and settled on my right wrist for about 10mins. Another sat on my head for over an hour. Both times it was during heavy weather at night and when I was helming. I think we must look a bit bird-like when we are wearing our florescent hoods with a peak'

As we entered the harbour there was a line of yellow bouys telling boats to keep right and aircraft to keep left! Float planes are a beautiful feature of the centre of Victoria, so is the fact that everyone's pleased to see eachother, and cars want to give way to people. I guess it's the space... Canada Rocks...If I cant live here then I'll have to settle for being buried here.


The North Pacific has certainly been an experience; the shear cold took us by surprise, the high proportion of time with winds above 35kts also did, and with them comes the obligatory wet. All those aspects took some enduring; there were times that really tested us; but there was a feature which compensated. We were back in an Ocean again, dreaming of food, but back in an Ocean again.

There was life, there was cleanliness, there was swell and Albatross again. There wasn't, as in the Yellow and South China Seas, stagnation, rubbish, static fishing nets many miles long, unlit traffic, muddy water, insincere winds etc. The transformation was 'a breath of fresh air'.

That lasted for the 5,600nm to Victoria, where we enjoyed a wonderful welcome from both city and people. The food I'd been dreaming of was a menu comprising: Gravlax/Sancerre, Buffalo Steak/Pomerol, Vanilla Ice-cream/Maple Syrup and Coffee/Tallisker. Dreaming is very important when you're cold and wet; in fact I'd secured a date with Nickie on Qingdao purely on the
strength of this menu. When I explained this to one of the voluntary helpers in Victoria, the very next day when I was up in Sydney at the sail loft, a package arrives onboard NYC for me containing the food elements required; and all FOC. That's what I call a warm welcome. We had such a good time and Canada is so welcoming, that if I can't move and live there then I'll gladly settle for being buried there.

We left a week ago, sailing right past, in fact through, the Race Rocks Lighthouse rocks which lie in front of the house of Ann Isaac, a cousin (x4-2r) who'd given me such a terrific Sunday lunch three days earlier. The Race start was just outside the western end of the Juan De Fuca Straights,
and from there we led the fleet down the US coast, past Cape Disappointment (Capt.Cook, again!), and on down (in 6th place) to where we are now, 35nm west of San Fransisco. It is frustrating to be seeing the qrange lights of such a World city but not go ashore and taste its delights.

We've seen some new sights along the way; two families of Orca, one just 40yds from NYC; three huge Fin Whale, and a breaching Grey Whale; but perhaps the most staggering was on Saturday when all the dolphin in the World came and visited us at once; there were so many of them we no longer measure dolphin numerically, but by the acre! I tell you, there were 12 acres of them! All at once; all leaping around us, the noise was immense, the energy unimagineable. Most were Pacific White-Sided Dolphin, maybe 10% were Northeern Rightwhale Dolphin. Both species spend a lot of their time in the air! It was quite beautiful.

Two days ago we 'set a new record' for the fleet.We suddenly saw Durban shoot away from us, and suspected that NYC had picked up some debris on her bottom. I had brought my wetsuit from Liverpool, so it was down to me to go in. There was a large amount of weed (Joff reckoned 'half a sodding pinetree'!) stuck around her keel bulb, propeller skeg and the main baring on the rudder. That was the task, and in 2lm of pretty cold water; I managed to look down for almost a second, then thought better of it. Completed, I then showered (it does happen sometimes!) and then Glen asked me to stand in for him and climb to masthead and re-fix the windex. So, within an hour and
a half I'd been working at both extremes of our much-loved home!

It's 4 in the morning , and I think I should be on deck... Duncan.

When I first discovered that the Clipper RTW Race was not making the passage around Cape Horn, I was disappointed. The Panama Canal seemed too easy an option; an unadventurous and bland place for the unadventurous and bland. How stupidly wrong could I have been?

The building of this spectacular structure over 100 years ago claimed the lives of 30,000 workers; it's staggering design has commanded the state of world shipping ever since; as the huge Panama giants glide bye flanked by banks of jungle they take a well deserved rest from their battles with the Oceans, and us too, in our own little way. The power and the purpose of this fantastic Waterway is impressive and the whole experience was awesome.

We went up through the 3 locks to the lake rafted together with Glasgow and Qingdao, our pilot told us to moor up between L2 and L3 to wait our turn. No problem. NYC was the middle boat, and we picked up one of the large buoys at our bow. He then instructed us to put a line onto a second buoy 100M off our portside. The only way was for a swimmer to take the heavy hauser to the 5' high buoy. Again, not a massive problem, nor was the rotting Pelican waiting for Glen and I on top, although ultimately we did fail to secure it at the first(30min) attempt.

We were called back to NYC, we assumed for a rest... What WAS a problem was that the pilot's next words came as a bit of a shock..."I didn't want you to stay in the water any longer because of the risk of alligator attack" !!!... ******* alligators!! ... and then he went on..."and we don't really require a second line" !! What was he thinking of, to send us out there ?

We finished the Transit by dusk, a sudden event at this latitude, having shared the Gatun Lock with a huge Panamax just 50' behind us and about 200' above us. I think that some of Tom's brill photos are already on the two websites;

We made for the new Shelter Bay Marina, which is carved out of both the National Forest(Jungle) and an old US Navy base, and we waited for the rest of the fleet to arrive. A friend I'd met in Panama City drove across the entire country and wished me a wonderful farewell; I find some peoples' generosity of spirit quite overwhelming, and just sometimes they are like a blessing.

Today we began racing for Jamaica and currently we are 10th out of 10; but, all in all, a fantastic last five days!


Since returning home a few days ago I have learned that several of the e-mails I have sent since Jamaica have been lost, presumably somewhere between NYC and the Iridium satellites...apologies.

I will now, from WW, despatch the last e-mail I'd try to send from the Western Approaches. With it is a photo taken by my cousin Alice a minute or two after I'd met up with my family and friends. Hamish is on my right and Alistair & Elizabeth are to my left-- unequivocally the happiest moment imaginable; more precious than the Sun is huge. I'd shocked them a tad by arriving behind them unnoticed, via the Lifeboat (I will explain when we meet---plus, don't forget the roast dinner cry from the North Pacific?!) Emma said that it was a suitably maverick finish to a consistently maverick

I thank you for the support you proffered, whether or not you are still listening! There have been tricky times, for sure, and to know that somebody was following events was a fantastic help.

The last two short races up to Liverpool saw NYC secure a 5th and then a 2nd position which nudged us up into 3rd place overall---not bad for the SAGA Clipper!

All in all, a wonderful time of varied adventures which hopefully will have their effect on my future years; Wildlife way beyond our expectations, but an abiding feeling of a troubled but, oh so beautiful a Planet.

Duncan/Dunc/Dad xxx

Knotting the Circle...

If... you try, and try and try, and the luck goes with you, and the Skipper makes some very good calls, and for once nothing breaks, and the wind changes in your favour and you hope beyond hope that it has not been quite so straight forward for the others-and they weren't...YOU, sometimes, WIN!!!

From Ambrose Light at the mouth of the Hudson to Lizard Point; The Pond, The Atlantic Ocean no less...New York Clipper raced for 15 days, neck and neck, the lead swapping with alternate radio scheds; and, in the end, we managed to hold a 15min advantage across the line...and WIN it! You might guess that we are all just a wee bit pleased and proud of the result! Podium Top spot!
Add to that the impressive Jersey hospitality in Orquiel castle, (and the free beers), and the joy of Mum and Emma witnessing the whole thing, and you have a flavour of this last, wonderful stop-over.

The circumnav. (to date...37,506 nautical miles) was completed off the Scillies last Thursday, and the crescendo to this Thumpingly Good Year started to roll. This is the most beautiful Planet, and it has been a colossal privilege for us to see Her in this way. We must take extreme Action today to ensure that we keep Her that way.

Many people have helped me in so many ways since Jan2004, towards this fundamentally selfish experience this year...thank you, from very deep within. Please, when we meet, don't let me talk about the trip as much as I used to before the race started!

Duncan CameronIt's glorious sunshine here in Jersey today, and we slip in 6hrs to begin the last two short races up to Liverpool; and whilst most of us will miss the Oceans and the razzmatazz, there is a general feeling that it is High Time that we all got on with real life again; although that could be a first for one or two of us.

The prospect of hugging friends and family once more, the joys of listening to their Adventures, the 'smiles' from Puppy, will all be wonderful; but above all, the moments of reunion at Albert Dock with Hamish, and Alistair and Elizabeth will be, by far, the most precious of my life.

I'll sign off now, and with huge acknowledgement of the support I've been shown, and the patience for my e-mails, I wish everyone well and good luck in the quest to Keep our Adventures Going.


an mh-p website