Imposter Syndrome

You may well have experienced this. We both certainly have. You’re in a situation where others think you’re confident and skilled to do the job in hand and you’re being looked at as the expert, but actually what’s going on in your head is the exact opposite.”I’m going to get found out here. Others have loads more experience and knowledge than I do. I truly hope no one asks me any difficult questions because I’m feeling completely out of my depth.”

Chris Lake, a Unique Solutions client and more importantly a lovely bright entertaining chap who works as Head of Professional Development for the NHS Leadership Academy has written a blog about this in relation to leadership.
It’s a feeling I’ve most definitely had in relation to work occasionally and when I read Chris’s blog, I though bang on. I’ve had that!

I mention this as we have successfully arrived in Santa Cruz, Tenerife after pretty much 5 days solid at sea. We’ve been here for a few days but have been drawing breath, hence the radio silence. All around are boats preparing to cross to the Caribbean. I do feel a bit like an imposter.

Grace stands out as being quite different from many of the boats here and draws attention because of that. (Much prettier too in my opinion!) She looks like the kind of boat that will cross an ocean and be sailed by competent knowledgable people who have oodles of experience to draw on. Ocean experience on this boat…. None.

We do now have 5 solid consecutive days at sea in our experience locker after our passage from Lagos. Think it was about 670 miles. At night doing 3 hours on, 3 hours off was at times pretty exhausting but we’ve always said, in no way feel sorry for us as this sailing jaunt is all of our own making. We had the amazing super moon that lit the sky from sun down to sun up. Stunning.

Having poled out twin headsails worked brilliantly for the downwind sailing conditions. It was a bit rolly but apart from a bit of motoring out from Lagos, we sailed all the way. That’s what we signed up for. Oh, until the end of the trip when the engine wouldn’t start again and we had to get towed in the last ¼ mile into the marina. Pesky starter motor. Thought we’d sorted that but obviously not. Grrrr. The boat that towed us in was driven by a lovely mad Spanish lady with two guys in support who did the donkey work with the lines and fenders. We’ve been to see her today and shared a coffee and an hour in her company. I hardly ever drink coffee so consequently am now quite wired. I may be writing complete gobbledegook here.

We’re relaxing into life though and very nice it is too.. Lots of walking around town finding out where things are. Chandlery. Supermarket. Post office. Cafes with good wifi. Nearest beach etc. We’re gonna be here for a couple of weeks. Our friend Julian arrives today so looking forward to seeing him and tapping into his woodworking prowess. We have squeaks when sailing along which will mostly likely drive us mad on an Atlantic crossing so we’d like to be squeak-less.

And there’s some great walking and climbing here on the island so once a few jobs are ticked we plan a couple of days exploring. Should be fun.

Next destination. Well not totally decided. Barbados or possibly Antigua. Departing west is a couple of weeks away and who knows what may happen between now and then.



Many things just work. The pencil….. you may have to sharpen it occasionally but it’s a bloody brilliant thing and works superbly well. I like pencils. Okay it’s very simple object, like a single cell organism in comparison to the highly enhanced life form of the iridium sat phone.

Dave has devoted several hours over the past couple of days trying to get this allegedly straightforward yet technologically advanced bit of kit set up so it talks to the phone and iPad and will allow us to download weather files and weather routing data from a company called Predictwind. All stuff that Joshua Slocam or Robin Knox Johnson had no need to concern themselves with back in their day. Their technical gremlins were more straightforward I’d imagine. A compass doesn’t need  a password, a log in, an app, a satellite fix or a 12 volt power socket.

When we’re at sea on passage and out of wifi and 3G range, the sat phone will provide us with a link to land and all you good people out there. Good news is the contract we have allows us to both receive and send text messages for free. Not long messages just 160 characters. But a simple and quick way to keep in touch. We have some inclusive voice minutes each month tied up in the contract so we will be able to chat if we need to. And we can receive calls too but the caller pays and it’s pricy. Emergency contact only really. In order to text us, you’ll need to know our sat phone number. I don’t really want to write it here but drop us an email or leave a message on this blog and we’ll get it to you.

The reason for the technology push is we plan to head off from Lagos tomorrow to the Canaries. It should be about 5 days at sea. The information that Predictwind provides is quite stunning. You click on your start and finish points on an electronic chart, a bit like google maps. Then enter your proposed departure time and the speed of your boat and hey presto, up come four different suggested routes based on four different weather models. We plan to sail somewhere in the middle of the four routes.

Grace is in pretty good shape. We rigged twin headsails today as we’re expecting lots of down wind sailing. Water tanks are full, food cupboards are stocked, batteries are charged, book shelves reinvigorated  with new reading matter and charts have arrived.  Need a good nights sleep now.

Work and play



Praia da Luz

Miv came to stay for three nights. It was lovely to see him and enjoy his company. There was some work and some play to be done. The Unique Solutions office has moved from Derbyshire to Miv’s house in South Wales. Catching up on what’s working, what’s not, current clients, new opportunities and day to day business requirements took some time. But we also found time to hire bikes and head off along the tracks along the coast for an explore.

We got to Praia da Luz,  then watched the surfers from a cafe while eating lunch at a  beachside cafe. Top Sunday.

Today has been a productive day in preparation for heading off to the Canaries. A bit of heads down and ‘get stuff done day’ until the unscheduled entertainment started.

There are many boats here preparing for a similar trip to ours. About 2.30pm we were putting some eyelets into a lee cloth on the pontoon when there was a bit of a commotion behind us. Two guys on the front of a boat  were staring into the water, obviously having dropped something into the deep.  Next thing we witness is a bloke stripping. Not to his underpants but stark bollock naked. He prepares to jump in, decides that’s probably not a good idea then walks back and forward up the pontoon a few times. Some conversations take place and the crew reassemble together in the cockpit. None of them appeared interested or concerned that their friend had been strutting his stuff in full view of folk passing by for a few minutes in his altogether. And he was in no rush to find any clothes.

I did (cheekily maybe?) thank them for the entertainment this evening. What goes through someone’s  head to think the only way to solve the problem of dropping something into the water to get naked… INSTANTLY!  And if you do need to go in the water, it’s okay to keep your pants on. The associated boat isn’t carrying a British or Portuguese flag. Perhaps you’d like to guess the nationality of the crew.

Our sat phone sim card arrived from the States today. Dave is trying to get it sorted. It’s not just a plug and play thing. Anyone got a spare 17 year old techo whizz kid out there?





We do loads of reading on the boat. I thought the kindle / iPad option would be the way forward but the good old fashioned paperback is best because you can trade them. Apart from news and as we’re both news fiends, the tablet / phone option comes into its own here.

During this week’s reading two names have stuck in my mind. Newt Gringrich whose name has popped up in the US election propaganda and a lady called Binky Urban who has a credit in one of the books I’ve just read. If you have a name like Newt or Binky does that colour how other’s perceive or interact with you? When I was about ten at school, there was a girl in my class called Sarah Major. She was adamant that if she had a kid, she was going to call it Barnaby Frog. At the time it seemed outlandish and well, just mad to me. However in 2017 it sounds pretty run of the mill! When I next have wifi I will google Barnaby Frog and see what transpires. Perhaps there is a Barnaby Frog somewhere out there. Funny how I don’t remember any useful physics or historical dates …..just Barnaby Frog.

When we first bought Grace, she wasn’t a Grace. She was a St Wilfrid. St Wilfrid was an early Christian saint from Northumberland who headed off on lots of pilgrimages enjoying a party along the way. Because of the parties he then had to go on a pilgrimage to ask for forgiveness. Sounds like he existed in a relatively persistent cycle of behaviour but had a nice time along the way! Good on you St Wilf.

I liked the Northumberland connection with it being my home county but having a boat named after a Christian saint didn’t fit for us. There is a bit of nautical folk-law that renaming your boat is unlucky. When I delved into this a bit further, the name of the boat would traditionally have been carved into the bottom of the boat. Any renaming involved chiselling and sanding to remove the old name then more wood routed out to carve the new name. Hence less wood gives you a less structurally sound boat and perhaps a more vulnerable / unlucky one too.

Our biggest quandary about renaming the boat was what to call her. Boats are usually female and we wanted something that reflected the boat’s character and kept the Northumberland link. We take little credit for the name Grace of Longstone. It was all my dad’s work. Grace Darling was a young Northumbrian lighthouse keepers daughter who participated in a rescue of several crew after their boat ran ashore on the Farne Islands in 1838. She rowed out with her father from Longstone Lighthouse in a storm after first spotting the floundering vessel. Grace subsequently became a bit a of a local heroine and is still remembered today.

So that’s the backstory to the name of our boat. We think she’s pretty graceful and the name sits well with her.

Yesterday we left behind the Atlantic Portuguese coast and headed along the Southern Algarve coast and are now in Lagos as our chum Miv is coming to visit for a few days. We’ve been around Lisbon and Cascais for over a week, enjoying the city and to Dave’s delight we found some climbing too. The engine has been serviced with filter and oil changes, the gear shift cable has been replaced and the outboard has been overhauled too amongst other boat jobs. Our friend Danny gave us some help with the self steering. Still some work to do to get the thing set up properly but definite progress. We need it to be in fine fettle for when we head to the Canaries. Hand steering for 5 days is not a prospect to cherish.