Coming to America, Learning from my children, Annie Lennox and more.....

Coming to America

I couldn’t be more excited that I’m flying to America this Friday for the launch of my book “Where The Magic Happens”. I’ve got a 3 week long book tour starting in Annapolis, then Washington DC, New York and San Francisco (and potentially a few other locations too).

If you’ve not pre-ordered your copy - either in Hard Back, Kindle version or Audiobook (read by me), then now would be the perfect time :). It’s got plenty of colour images and the first critics reviews in have been very kind and lovely to read.

The pre-order Amazon link is here:

Some companies have been placing large orders for their teams. Maybe your company would like to do this too?

If you’re in any of those locations between March 24 and April 14, it would be brilliant to connect.

Learning from my children

We sat round the dinner table last night listening to our children sharing what they’d learnt at school.

My oldest daughter talked about gymnastics and dance.

My son talked about science.

It made me think about each child and how they are all uniquely different.

Several days earlier I’d watched for the umpteenth time the humorous and memorable Sir Ken Robinson talk on why schools are killing creativity. His take is that we need to encourage each child to follow their natural skills and talents.

Why is this advice just for our children?

Isn’t it good advice for us all?

As we watched my two daughters dancing their version of the Charleston after dinner, it made me smile seeing them totally in their element.

Here’s the key takeaway

When was the last time you questioned whether you are fully using your natural skills and talents. The things you love doing. Even if its just for 5 minutes a day, finding that thing that lights you up.


This made me smile…Sweet Dreams ..(are made of these)

It’s almost as though Annie Lennox wrote these lyrics for us..

“Sweet dreams are made of these…I travel the world and the seven seas”

Sweet Dreams.jpg

Learning Emotional Resilience

Joe de Sena, Founder of interviewed Caspar for his podcast which went live this week and has already been watched 40,000 times on YouTube.

Here’s what Joe said…

Would you leave everything to sail the world?  Caspar Craven did...twice! In this week's podcast, we discuss how sailing the high seas taught Caspar and his family emotional resilience and how you can learn it too.

Be a better leader

Why do you do it?

Leadership tip of the week - it’s all about finding personal purpose and why its important to help your team find their personal purpose.


Thought for the day

“We thrive when we gaze deeply into the future we can continue to invent in behalf of customers before they ask”

Words that form part of the DNA at Audible (owned by Amazon).



I'll be speaking in these locations. Get in touch if you're around you'd like to meet for a coffee.

March 24th Annapolis, MD - WCC After Dinner Speaker

March 27th - April 13th - Various in the USA for the Book Launch of Where the Magic Happens covering Washington DC, New York and San Francisco

April 14th San Francisco, CA - The Book Passage

April 18th - Keynote in Bristol, UK

April 19th - Keynote in Northampton, UK

May 3rd - Keynote and Workshop in Kent, UK

May 12th - Keynote in Southampton, UK

June 21st - Leadership Masterclass in London, UK

June 30th - Guest Speaker, Plymouth

July 12-13th - Keynote Speaker, Malta


I listened to Caspar yesterday as he outlined his journey around the world by yacht, with his very young family. Everything from the concept, planning and execution.

Wow! His story was inspiring. Delivered with great passion, humility and openness. He captured the imagination of the audience, and translated his journey into a series of credible and recognisable business messages. Absolute pleasure to listen him and to learn from him.

Thank you Caspar.
— Mike Blackburn OBE - Chairman at Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership

Slow Down. What my 5 year-old daughter reminded me about leadership

From Caspar's Chart Table

My 5 year old recently reminded me what leadership is all about.

She had a friend over for a playdate. Her friend was struggling to understand how to play a game (it was Cat Bingo). She stopped what she was doing. She went to understand where he was stuck and to help him.

Isn’t that the key attribute of leaders?

To show empathy.
To understand those around you. 
To help others develop.
Leadership isn’t a title.
It’s something you live by virtue of your actions.

It doesn’t matter if you are 5, 35 or 75.

Here’s the pattern I’ve noticed.

I’ve seen it in the research I’ve read, from brilliant leaders that I’ve spent time with and learnt from, and from my own experiences.

It's that that the single most important characteristic of any leader is empathy. 

Showing real and genuine concern for those in your team, for those around you.

Here's the advice paraphrased from my little one:

Slow down a moment.
Take notice of those around you and what they need.
Show compassion and help them on their journey.

This made me smile

I got to spend time with British acting legend, Joanna Lumley this week. How can you not smile when you are with one of the most inspiring people I know. She was utterly charming, energising and full of interesting questions like “who did I want to play me in the film about our story”. My answer to her amusement was that I think Nichola would quite like Colin Firth.


Be a Better Leader

Leadership tip of the week, my new book, and a lot of snow.


Thought for the Day

I delivered my new Keynote, The Brave You to a brilliant audience in Chelmsford, Essex this week. Here’s one of my thoughts from this:

Brave is when we make decisions and choices in the face of uncertainty. It’s one of the highest skill sets we need today and in the future.

We all have a Brave Part inside each of us - The Brave You.

To find out more about The Brave You and how I believe we can train ourselves to be more Brave, stay tuned.

Upcoming Events

I’ll be speaking in these locations getting ready for the launch of my book Where the Magic Happens which Bloomsbury are publishing.

Get in touch if you’re around and you’d like to meet for a coffee.

March 12-14th London - IOD Open House
March 17th Guildford - WCC After Dinner Speaker
March 24th Annapolis, MD - WCC After Dinner Speaker
March 27th - April 13th - Various in the USA for the Book Launch of Where the Magic Happens
April 14th San Francisco, CA - Book Launch Event
April 18th - Keynote in Bristol, UK
April 19th - Keynote in Northampton, UK
May 3rd - Keynote and Workshop in Kent, UK
May 12th - Keynote in Southampton, UK

Having wasted many valuable hours in different networking events and coaching sessions on a number of occasions, it was most welcome to discover that reverse was true with Caspar. The combination of the simplicity of his system and the experiences he had shared with us gave me the WOW factor and made me discover the BRAVE in me.
— Yusuf Tokgoz - Head of Development at Iceberg Digital

Time to reboot

From Caspar's Chart Table

We’re 50 days into 2018 (at the time of writing). Two weeks ago I noticed that my energy was flagging and I decided to reboot.

I’d been making progress against my 90 day goals and plans for the year, but I wasn’t satisfied. I wanted more and faster progress.

I kicked myself up the backside. I hired my fitness coach, Niki, with the brief that I want more energy and to be able to do more. I took on a business coach to help me work on my next mission and to keep me accountable. I got more rigorous with managing my time.

So what’s message? Well its twofold.

Usually we only stop to take stock of things like this at designated dates, New Years Resolutions, Year ends, quarter ends, birthdays and so on. Why? Why not take stock at any time. There is no right time. If you’re not doing everything you want to be, then when would “now” be a good time to kick up into another gear?

Second. The habits that I used when I hit my reboot button. Coaches, focusing on energy, people who can guide you are things that were fundamental to making our previous plans happen of creating multiple successful businesses and getting my family team ready to sail the world. 

Tip: Look at what you’re doing right now. Does it need to kick up a gear and who is best placed to help you?


What happens if you don’t get enough sleep

A sleep expert explains what happens to your body and brain if you don't get sleep (it’s 4 1/2 minutes well worth watching).

This made me smile

“Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater. If you give her sperm, she'll give you a baby.. If you give her a house, she'll give you a home. If you give her groceries, she'll give you a meal. If you give her a smile, she'll give you her heart. She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her. So, if you give her any crap, be ready to receive a ton of shit!”

- William Golding (and added to by Erick S. Gray)


Be a better leader

My leadership tip of the week on how to get maximum value from each thing that you do (and a dose of nostalgia at the Ministry of Sound)

Tip: What are the opportunities that you are missing that are right in front of you?


Thought for the Day

"The most important lesson life has taught me is, "to be patient and keep picking away at the end target"

- Sir Ranulph Fiennes

It was a pleasure to attend your session yesterday, Caspar - a brilliantly unique look at leadership and one that has certainly added value to my thinking and actions.
— Iqbal Kanji - Driving organisational performance by developing Boards and Directors

Something New and The headline I could never write

From Caspar's Chart Table

One of the hacks I discovered when building my last business was to surround myself with people with energy, purpose and ideas. 

It just rubs off and you lift yourself to higher levels than you were before.

Last time round as I was building a B2B business in the UK, I'd go to B2C Conferences in the States to get fresh ideas and energy. That led to some major breakthroughs to grow that business.

Last week, I went to a 2 day event totally unrelated to what I'm doing.


Fresh ideas, inspiration and I know the people presenting there are playing on a high energy and impact level.

I left there buzzing with even more energy. Perhaps unsurprisingly the last 3 days of the week were exceptional with new opportunities and connections. Amazing things really do flow when you put yourself in the flow of energy and ideas.

Not only that. Live in your own markets and ideas, the best you'll get is the same as everyone else.

Step outside and you'll find new cool stuff to lift you to higher levels.

The headline I could never write

There are definitely some words a British person couldn’t write about themselves. It’s very humbling when someone else writes them.

Read the Institute of Directors Article: Why 30 Minutes with Caspar Craven could change your life.

This made me smile

Perhaps the most brave and audacious marketing launch ever performed. The sight of Elon Musk’s Tesla floating through space, Space Oddity by David Bowie playing and the nod to HitchHikers guide to the galaxy with Don’t Panic on the dashboard. Don’t miss the humour value of the name too - it was called Falcon Heavy. Try saying the sentence: It's so Falcon Heavy, man. 

Pure genius.

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Be a Better Leader

Thought for the Day

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back-- 

Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. 

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. 

A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. 

Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. 

Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now."

- From the genius pen of Goethe


His ability to catch and keep the audience’s attention throughout the speech was magnificent.

He went far beyond my expectations.
— Vadims Koroļovs - Finance Director at Antalis

When I was 14, I repaired an abandoned fishing dinghy

From Caspar's Chart Table

When I was 14, I repaired an abandoned dinghy and launched my first business catching and selling crabs and lobsters in South Devon.

I'd wake early to listen to the 5:50am Shipping Forecast to know what the weather would be and whether it would be safe to go to sea and put my fishing gear out. The sound of the shipping areas and the forecasts are incredibly evocative. Names like Dover, Wight, Portland and Plymouth became part of my growing up narrative.

It was a moving moment to share the stage last week with the voice of the Shipping Forecast, Zeb Soames where we were both interviewed by Sky Sports Alec Wilkinson in the Legends Theatre at the London Boat Show.

It was also a fascinating behind the scenes insight into how the Forecast is prepared and read out (dead on 9 minutes) and yes his voice sounds just as amazing in real life as it does on the airwaves.

Leadership Tip (and our new kitchen)

My Leadership tip of the week (and our new kitchen) - the video is 1 min 43 seconds long

What is Brave?

Brave is what happens when you truly decide and commit to the future you imagine.  

Brave is when you follow your instinct and step into uncertainty to make it happen. 

It’s there that you discover the magic of the world urging you forwards and putting things in your path that you could never have imagined.

This made me laugh

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4 Habits of Successful People

I enjoyed reading Simon Sinek on Virgins website this week with this:

"Don’t be afraid to ‘try, try and try again’. Successful people see failure as part of the path to success and many of the most successful people have gone bust, then started again.”

The full article is here.

I listened to Caspar yesterday as he outlined his journey around the world by yacht, with his very young family. Everything from the concept, planning and execution.
Wow! His story was inspiring. Delivered with great passion, humility and openness. He captured the imagination of the audience, and translated his journey into a series of credible and recognisable business messages. Absolute pleasure to listen him and to learn from him.
Thank you Caspar.
— Mike Blackburn OBE - Chairman at Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership

Why New Years Resolutions Seldom Stick (and what to do about it)


Around September last year, we were struggling to get our kids to read regularly.

We’d tell them to read every day but without us checking up, the reading was patchy.

We had a simple idea.

It involved creating a process.

We called it Book Corner.

A piece of paper on the wall. All 5 names in the family in a chart with days of the week. Once you’d read for an hour each day you ticked it off. 

The results were tallied and at the end of the week, the person with the most ticks got a small prize.

What happened?

We ended up reading a lot more as a family.

We'd created a process. A ritual. Some measurement.

Why did this work and what does this mean for your New Years Resolutions.

To do something regularly means you need to develop a habit. A set of behaviours.

Once you do something regularly you need less will power. It’s ingrained.

Will power can be a super strong muscle. The thing is it tires quickly. 

That’s why so many new years resolutions don’t get to see the end of January.

You’re all out of will power and the old behaviours kick back in again.

So, here’s the trick.

It worked for us with book corner. We’re doing it again with New Years Resolutions.

My wife and I have agreed the behaviours we want to make sure we sustain this year.

We’ve created the chart in the picture here.

It’s simple. It’s public. It’s accountable. It’s visible on the wall at home.

Will we be perfect and do it all. Probably not. 

Will we do a lot more than if we didn’t have this.

Absolutely. It’s creating a routine, a habit and a conversation around it. 

In your teams. In your work team. In your family team. In any team you work in. What routines, patterns and behaviours do you want to sustain? 

Create a simple process. Don’t overcomplicate it. Make it fun and make it a part of your conversation.

Remember. Whatever result you want to achieve, it’s what you do every single day that will get you there, not what you do once in a while.

Have an awesome day,


EVENT + REACTION = of the many ‘takeaways’ from Caspar’s inspirational and very insightful keynote. Caspar really gives you some practical advice and tools to not only help you build a team, but also help ‘manage the reactions’ of the team to get the best outcomes. The workshop, on the following day, really helped to implement some of Caspar’s theory into practice! Go seeking problems, problems are what you will find...learning to focus on what is right in both business, and life in general, will help you and others accomplish your goals. Thank you very much Caspar...I have a sense your journey has just begun :)
— Austin Nichola - CEO @ Travel Out There, Event Architect and Entrepreneur

What can parenting and adventures teach us about business?

What can parenting and adventures teach us about business?

Tonnes! Things like patience, the ability to praise rather than criticise, making things fun and the need to work together as a team.

Yachting World have released the first in a series of videos I’ve created with my wife Nichola on how to get your kids sailing. 

The context is sailing but these lessons apply to building any team. Make your team feel safe, make it fun and make everyone feel valued if you want to get your team engaged.

We are very pleased we invited Caspar to speak at The Magnetic Latvia Business Forum in Riga.
More than 500 people attended this event and everyone loved him!
He shared 8 lessons he learnt from his 7 year journey to turn an idea into reality and sail around the world.
Keynote was outstanding and workshop very inspiring and useful with a lot to take away.
Team building - motivation - leadership -> He will show you how to make that happen!
He is also very nice person who I would love to meet and speak to again :)
Thank you Caspar and Chris Edmondson and Unique Speaker Bureau UK
— Agnese Žagata - Business conference organiser - Investment and Development Agency of Latvia

What does the future hold?

Latvia Stage.JPG

Personal admission >> I find it challenging to carve out enough time to read everything that I want to stay current. Despite my best intentions to read for an hour a day, I find it pretty hard to do that.

Its well documented that most successful people spend a good proportion of their time reading and learning. I’m determined to learn more - its just there are many distractions. Anyone else relate to that?

One of the hacks I’m very fortunate to have is that because of what I do, I get to listen to and spend time listening to and talking with some inspiring thought leaders.

Take last week. I was in Latvia for 2 days speaking. I shared the stage with James Wallman and Max Borders. Both were talking about the future and shared some insights and trends.

James has written a book Stuffocation and was talking about this and the Experience Economy. His premise is that we’re all stuffocated. We have more stuff than we could ever need - clothes we don't wear, kit we don't use, toys we don't play with. But having everything isn't making us happier. It's bad for the planet. and it's cluttering up our homes. I couldn’t agree more. When we sailed for two years, my favourite Christmas was the one where we only had one present each. The gift was more appreciated and we did what was truly important. We spent more time talking together and enjoying family time rather than being overwhelmed by gifts. 

James shared some interesting things I hadn’t heard of before - Escape Rooms, Secret Cinemas and talked about the rise of festivals and real life experiences. 

Max was equally fascinating and I got to spend the evening with him talking about the future - many hours learning about and debating cryptocurrencies and what's coming next for the world. 

So, here’s my point. In our world where we have so many competing demands on our time and where social media will effortlessly suck hours out of your day without you even noticing, how can you increase your learning? My advice is continually seek out and find smart people at the leading edge of what they are doing. The experience economy rather than the digital economy. Conversations in real world are so much more engaging than digital ones.

My reason for being in Latvia was to deliver my Teamwork Keynote on Day 1 and my Leadership Masterclass on Day 2. The audiences were amazing and we had great energy and engagement in both sessions. 

If your team needs fresh ideas and inspiration heading into 2018, I’d love to share ideas with you.

Have an awesome day



“To go fast, go alone. To go far, go together” just one of many golden nuggets of inspiration from Caspar. His fascinating talk cleverly aligns his brave if not crazy(!) yacht sail around the world with his young family with the rollercoaster of life in the business world. Many, if not all, of Caspar’s learnings are also highly applicable to life in general. A talk not to be missed if you want your listeners to genuinely walk away inspired to not only reflect but to act upon it.
— Michelle Helsby - Head of Partnerships - Liverpool City Region Business Post

I missed the opportunity


I missed the opportunity. Back in the 90’s and early 00’s I spent some 8 years working for big companies. I never really took advantage of the skills development programmes they put in place.

When we were growing our ventures and getting ready to go on our adventures, the single biggest thing I did to change everything in our world was to develop a learning habit. It’s a habit that doesn’t go away.

By my calculations over the last 12 months I’ve done 11 days of training courses (in addition to online training courses, 1:1 coaching with three different leaders in their fields and multiple books). It’s Saturday just after 8am and I’m heading into London for a full day of skills training.

The learning never stops. Pen and paper at the ready to learn from people who have skills and knowledge that I want to have too.

I listened to Caspar yesterday as he outlined his journey around the world by yacht, with his very young family. Everything from the concept, planning and execution.

Wow! His story was inspiring.

Delivered with great passion, humility and openness. He captured the imagination of the audience, and translated his journey into a series of credible and recognisable business messages. Absolute pleasure to listen him and to learn from him. Thank you Caspar.
— Mike Blackburn OBE - Chairman at Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership

What's the One Thing?

One Thing.jpg

When my kids are firing questions at me and all speaking at the same time, here's what I say to them.

"I can do one thing well or two things badly. You choose."

We all have so many competing priorities, that we so often fall into the trap of doing lots of things together. I'm a big believer in applying the 80-20 principle wherever I can. The extension of the 80-20 principle is to keep going until you find the one thing that makes more difference than anything else. Once you find that, make that your focus and make sure that is the first thing that you do each day.

So, here's my question to you:

What's the one thing you can do today that will have the single biggest impact on your world and will make everything else easier or unnecessary?

Have an awesome day


PS. Last month I did a podcast with Ben Cattaneo - the Chief Risk Advisor at British Telecom. It was great fun and ran on for a bit. You can listen to the full podcast here.


Responsible or Irresponsible? How to manage risk in life and business.

Responsible or Irresponsible.jpg

As I was scrolling through Facebook last week, an insightful quote jumped off the page and lodged in my mind. It was a Tim Ferriss quote …

“a persons success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he is she is willing to have”

It made me stop and reflect.

Specifically. On one of the areas I have been working on for almost exactly a year now. More specifically. My speaking career.

Since returning from our sailing adventures, I’ve set myself on a mission to inspire people all over the world to be more, do more and achieve more. This has shown up with me speaking to amazing audiences the world over about leadership, teamwork and resilience. Every time I’ve spoken I’ve been very grateful to have wonderful feedback.

For a while though, I’ve had a nagging suspicion that something obvious has been missing. This is where the uncomfortable conversation comes in.

On several occasions, I’ve been put forward for a speaking gig and I’ve not been selected. The reason given was:

“How can we put someone who is so utterly irresponsible on our stage. To put his wife and children in danger. How utterly reckless of him”

I’ve decided to meet the conversation head on. What I’ve noticed is that when I first meet people and tell them our story, there is usually one of two reactions.

You are the best Dad in the world for giving your family such an incredible experience.

You are the most irresponsible person I’ve ever met.

There’s not much else in between. It does tend to polarise views!

So. With this in mind. I’ve created a second topic to speak on. The subject is risk. How we evaluate risk, how we manage risk, how we embrace risk. There are very strong parallels in business and life between what we did and the world we now live in.

I’ll be placing our process, what we did and how we managed risk in a context where people listening can evaluate the risks in their own organisations and teams and how to manage those risk.

I’m excited to be sharing my ideas on this topic. It's a hugely important topic as I believe we as humans can do so much to change how we approach risk. We can't ignore risk - we just have to understand and manage it better. How we manage the change and uncertainty that lies ahead for us will depend so much on how we prepare for it. That involves understanding risk. So, I'm pretty certain that some people will still think I’m irresponsible and at the very least it will give them and others ideas that they can action in their day to day lives.

When I remember...

Caspar on TED Stage.jpg

I was standing on the rugby pitch touchline yesterday with a friend talking about the past week as we watched our sons playing a match.

The week had been successful for both of us. 

We reflected on why.

Very simply, it was when we remember to do the right things, amazing things happen. 

“When I remember….”

Remember to do what exactly?

All the things we’ve learnt over the years.

Important things like remembering to stop and appreciate what is all around us, remembering to think about other people and what is important to them, remembering to exercise, remembering to notice all the things that your partner does, and remembering to look after the people around us.

What caused me to remember….

I walked between meetings in London last week. Specifically between Trafalgar Square and the House of Lords. Walking by the River Thames, I stopped to look up and notice the amazing things of historical and architectural significance that are literally all around us. 

I simply stopped looking at my iPhone and looked up.

It reminded how many amazing things are all around us if we just take a moment to notice them.

I was at the House of Lords at the invite of Lord Stone and Lord Verjee to debate Virtuous Leadership led by a talk by Sri M. For several hours, we debated what virtuous leadership meant. Doing the right thing. Coming from a place of good intent. Being conscious of what we are doing.

It was a powerful reminder of what I believe we all instinctively know is the right thing do do.

When we remember.

None of these were new messages. 

The week before, I was flattered, thrilled and delighted to have been contacted by the TEDx organisers in Chelmsford to deliver a TEDx talk. My idea was “Why appreciation is the essence of humanity”. The key message being to focus on what is right rather than what is wrong and to build up the people around us by telling them what they are doing well and to build on their strengths.

New messages? Not really. It’s all just about remembering to do them.

What else?

I went running and went to Bootcamp.

I remembered to exercise.

What happened? 

I had more energy, felt better and got more done.

What else?

I took the time to notice all the things that my wife Nichola does juggling children, our building project and new ventures.

Rather than the things that she hadn't done.

What happened? 

We were more harmonious. We got more done. As a family we went out and had fun together.

Few people are learning this stuff. We’ve all heard it before. It’s just a case of remembering to do it.

What can you remember to do this week?

What have you done before that led to success in your world however you define it?

What can you remember to do?

Have an awesome week and I'd love to hear what you are going to "remember to do this week". Want to make it more real? Share in the comments below and I'm sure you'll help provide some ideas for others too.....


How's your team working together?

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Your team. Work team. Family Team. Sports Team.

Things ever get a bit tough and crunchy?

Of course they do. We're human. Just the nature of how human dynamics work.

One of the biggest shifts I discovered in building teams and to get people working well together was to use appreciation. Find small details as well as the big things and tell people what they are doing well. Even better do it publicly so others know too. I used to give chocolate bars in my business at the same time as telling people what they are doing well.

We're hard wired to spot things that are wrong. It's harder to train ourselves to focus on what's right and tell people what they are doing well. And to do that consistently.

We all know this right? When was the last time you did it?

My Monday thought for you. Find one person today in a team you work in and just share a specific thing that you saw them do and why you thought that was great. The more specific, the better,

This was one of the cornerstones of how I built my businesses and sailed twice around the world. Over the past few months, I've been working with the excellent team at and have distilled down some pithy to the point lessons on team building.

It's recently gone live here:

If you know anyone who'd benefit from this please share the post.

Have an awesome day


What a great session Caspar – and so well delivered.

You have a superb story to tell and you linked your personal ‘lessons learned’ to business leadership issues very skilfully.

You spoke with real credibility and you spoke to 100+ people in the same way as you would speak to 1 person – I always think that is the ultimate achievement for a presenter.
— Eric Pillinger - TACK International

5 Signs you have a winning team (and what to do about it if you don’t)

Your team. In business, at home, in sport, on an adventure. Does it click and you are flying along. Or does it feel hard, crunchy and that something isn’t working?

Over the past two months, I’ve worked with two very different teams. Both were in challenging, uncertain and changing environments. The setting. A 2,000 mile sail along the rugged and windswept North Pacific coast between San Francisco and British Columbia in Canada.

One crew, the “North” team (for the sail heading North) was a four strong team of men, three of whom who had barely met before. The second crew, the “South” team was my family team - my wife and three young children. We took on the challenge, we were safe, we thrived and the expedition was a success with both teams.

Now that I’ve been back on land for some three weeks, I reflect on what the two teams had in common. Some of the things that stood out to me as the hallmarks of a winning team, a happy team that can take on different challenges and thrive. 

They are the same signs you can spot in a business team. A team that is either thriving and doing well, or a team that needs a little help to get firing on all cylinders. These are some the things leaders at all levels in a business might take note of.

I share some of the things that stood out to me below. How many of these do you notice in your business or a team that matters to you?

1) People care about each other

On our sail North, one of the team had a bug for around 36 hours. Fever, high temperature and low on energy. No-one had to be asked to stand up and take his watch or his cooking and cleaning duties. The team just naturally did it. We all worked together. We look after each other. It’s just the right thing to do for the team. Similarly, Nichola, my wife was seasick for the first day on the South team. I and the children rallied round and looked after her.

At work. One team member has the project from hell and is pulling all hours to get it done. How do the rest of the team respond? Do they all pack up at 5pm and leave one person struggling on their own. Or do they pull together and help out where they can.

The question is whether your team genuinely care about each other and are looking out for them. Feeling cared about is one of the most motivating things a person can experience.

2) How does it feel to be part of the team?

On our passage North I had four very strong characters on board. Within a couple of days, you could feel the team had bonded and were working in sync. The energy was infectious. When people’s watches finished, they’d actively want to stay on watch to spend time with the other crew. Other signs were there. Taking a moment to read the log book (the ships document which needs to be updated hourly with position data, weather data and notes about the passage) and you’d see the energy flowing from the words on the page. On the South team, family mealtimes were always fun - lots of conversation and every afternoon, we played board games (all iPads and iPhones were switched off and we enjoyed time together as a family).

Walk into the offices of any business and you can feel it instantly. What’s the energy like? Is it infectious and something you want to be part of or does it feel tired and lacklustre. It’s something you just can’t hide. 

Great teams literally pull you in. I remember back in the late 90’s when I worked at KPMG. I was on a training course in the Welsh countryside. We were split into six teams competing against each other. Our team was just buzzing with energy and were having fun. So much so that one of the instructors actually decided to join the team and work with us. When a team of people create energy like that, it’s palpable.

3) People aren’t afraid to be themselves

The crew were just themselves and played to their strengths. The North team were just who they were. People just spoke their truths and we shared many things between us. As to the South team - well children have no issue in saying exactly what they think - it all just flows out.

Authenticity always has been one of the most powerful ways to communicate your message. Speaking honestly and openly from the heart.

I love the work by Ray Dalio, the driving force behind Bridgewater, the worlds largest hedge fund. He speaks of radical truth, radical honesty and radical transparency. Cutting out all the BS and getting down to the truth of each situation. Link here for his TED Talk on this.

I see in a winning team that people feel liberated to speak their truth and to be who they truly are. Trying to conform or be someone else is just plain exhausting and takes vital energy away from the tasks in hand.

Since coming back, one of the North Team has been helping me with one of my ventures. What I love is the honesty with which he can share things with me. He can speak the core truth of what he thinks and I know beyond any doubt that he is coming from a place of care and compassion. The increase in the levels of self awareness that this generates is remarkable as people say things they might not normally say.

4) Appreciation and Respect

Everyone brings something different to a team. Celebrating and understanding those differences is vital. The “standard boat rules” expect each person to do an equal amount of cooking, cleaning, driving the boat and sailing manoeuvres. 

With the South team, we encouraged the children to contribute what they liked doing best. My son would take a watch and keep look out. My oldest daughter would cook and read stories to the youngest. The little one loved to vacuum the boat and we made a game out of it.

The reality on the North passage is we had two people who loved cooking, one who loved fixing stuff, two who didn't mind the cleaning and quite a few who loved the long watches on deck and sailing manoeuvres. So we flexed. Everyone played to their strengths. Each person appreciated the skills the others brought. There was no “why haven’t you cooked today, its your turn”, it was give and take. Everyone could see that each person was pulling their weight and making things happen.

In a business it’s exactly the same. I always look for the strengths of each person and get them to do more of what they love doing. You need a collection of talents and experience. It’s about cooking up the right balance.

One of the rituals I’ve enjoyed doing both on board a boat,   a business and in my family team is to regularly appreciate and talk about the good things that are happening. On the boat over breakfast every day, I’d hold a skippers briefing. Part of that would be values prizes. I’d share one specific thing that each person had done well over the previous 24 hours. Not everyone gets to see the contribution that each person brings so I see it as part of a leaders role to highlight the contribution that each person makes and to help others appreciate that.

I’ve yet to meet anyone who needs training to tell you what is wrong with a situation. This is about talking about good things. Things that are going well. Building on peoples strengths and building people. 

5) Humour, Celebration and time together

Nothing bonds and cements a team like fun, laughter and enjoyment. The South team despite some seasickness always found things to smile about. The North boys team found “toilet” humour within 24 hours (aided by two block toilets on board).

Back in my corporate days, I remember two different cultures I worked in. One where every week, we’d enjoy spending time in the pub together talking as people. And one where people would leave at the end of the day and wouldn’t socialise. It created a big difference in how much time people relished going to work and spending time as a team.

One of the key things I did in my last business Trovus was to set up a rewards structure for meeting targets. Money would go in the pot for us to celebrate and do things together as a team. One was a weekend for all the team in Amsterdam. Another was the silent disco at Regents Park Zoo. Another was creating graffiti for the office walls. Didn't matter what it was - it was that we celebrated and enjoyed what the team had created and achieved together.

I raced around the world in the year 2000 on the BT Global Challenge - called the Worlds Toughest Yacht Race. I remember a mantra at that time that a fast team is a happy team. The thinking was that if the boat was going fast, then everyone would be happy, and you’d push on to go even faster.

I actually think the polar opposite is true. A happy team is a fast team. Get a team playing to their strengths, doing the things that they love doing, raise the levels of self awareness through truth and honesty, talk about what is right and encourage the team to celebrate together. I think that if your team is buzzing and happy, then you will have a fast team that is a winning team.

What to do if your team isn't in that place? There are many places to start…

  1. Like and Follow my Facebook page where I post regular updates on interesting things I discover and enjoy sharing.
  2. I’ve just launched a course here called SuperTeams> it’s all about how to nurture and build your winning team. You can sign up and take the course immediately - its here.
  3. I work and coach leaders on how to build their winning teams. Contact me if you want to see if we’d be a good fit. 
  4. I deliver Keynote talks on Leadership and Teamwork. My most popular talk is one hour long and is called “Charting Success - 8 Steps to Navigating a Winning Team”. You can book me through my excellent speaking agents - both are brilliant: Dominic at Maria Franzoni and Tiffany or Chris at Unique Speakers Bureau.

Have an awesome day everyone,


Family Sailing - Back to sea - Canada to San Francisco - Part 5 of the Great North Pacific Orca Adventure


As a family team, we’ve always found the first few days back at sea to be the hardest. Adjusting back to the “at sea” environment, changing sleep patterns to fit into a watch system, being back together in a small space and for Nichola handling sea sickness. This time is no different and after almost a year off the water, it’s the same pattern of adjustment. What helps considerably is the relatively benign conditions back at sea allowing us all to settle in the at sea routines without battling big seas and strong winds. 

In my last update, we were making our way West through the Straits of Juan de Fuca heading to the open water of the Pacific before turning left and heading South.

After we left Victoria, I was struck by the stunning scenery - the Olympic mountains on the Southern side of the Straits of Juan de Fuca were simply spectacular. The first time that Aretha has seen snowy capped mountains. The skies behind the mountains making for a good contrast, before the fog descended and shrouded us from sight of any land.

The Olympic Mountains.JPG

After 12 hours of heading West, we finally reached the open sea by late afternoon. Tatoosh Island close to Cape Flattery was left to port and we headed out to sea to get some 40 miles off the coast. The thinking was that in these foggy conditions, we wanted to be in deep water - away from fishing boats and fishing gear. In thick fog, you can spot the fishing boats by keep a very close eye on the radar and the AIS. The fishing gear and markers are much harder to spot so it’s easier to get out of the way.

Nichola and the children were adjusting to sea life by mostly sleeping and I was content with my own thoughts and enjoying the peace and quiet on deck. It’s always a great time for reflection - no devices buzzing away as by now we are out of signal range, no chattering voices. Just the sound of the sea and Aretha gently making her way South. We have the sails up to make the most of the light winds we have and are motor sailing along at 7-8 knots. By nightfall the wind has died and I drop the mainsail easily from the safety of the cockpit and furl the genoa. Columbus joins me on deck and and we spend an hour talking - making plans to go fishing in Devon and talking about the school year up ahead. Columbus sits on deck with his large mug of hot chocolate and we watch the phosphorescence in the wake at the stern of Aretha.

The seas are flat calm - Nichola and Bluebell take the next watch to allow us to get some rest.

By sunrise, the wind is up to 11 knots, sails are up and we are making over 7 knots assisted by current heading South. Bacon and toast for breakfast fills the saloon with the smells and sounds of breakfast.

Today is a special day. Its the solar eclipse - it’s the first total solar eclipse to unfold from coast to coast in the US in nearly a century. Between 10 and 11am, even despite the fog, the sky darkens and you can feel a small temperature drop. I’m on deck and I’m told that off the Oregon coast where we are is the place in the States where you can see the maximum amount of the eclipse. It feels like a special place to be for the planet to share a special moment with you.

As the hours and days roll forward, we settle back into life at sea. Its one of the things I enjoy most in this world. The distraction of devices drop away. We talk more as a family. We share family meals together. Bluebell and Columbus are content playing chess and dominoes together or reading books. All three are writing journals. Willow plays lego. Nichola and I talk and make plans for the future. We laugh, we talk. We play word association games and work our way through the alphabet naming countries and cities beginning with each letter. We play the famous person name game. This is family time as its very best.  We make mental notes to do this more often on land.

We are mostly motor sailing for the next two days, dodging the occasional fishing boat, spotting dolphins and a variety of birds circling Aretha. We’re fairly sure some of them are Albatrosses. One small brown bird hitched a ride for a short while perched on Aretha’s dinghy hanging on the davits at the stern.

It’s lovely to see the children clicking back to sailing routines. All three are happy steering Aretha, Columbus works the sails with me, Bluebell writing log entries and keeping Aretha shipshape. It’s as though we were never away. We run our daily values prizes and focus on what each person is doing well and how they are contributing to the team.

I’m re-reading favourite business books and re-asking myself questions like “what are the things I do extraordinarily well” and making sure that the things I am choosing to do now fit in this category and that things that I do but that I don’t do very well find another home. Good business books and the lessons they contain are worth their weight in gold - sometimes they just need to be brought front of mind again as with many things going on, good practices can easily fall by the wayside.

As Aretha easily rattles off the miles and we approach the Oregon/ California border, the wind is starting to build and the fog diminishes. Cape Mendocino ahead of us promises to have the strongest winds. The weather files show some 40-50 knots and big seas. I’m grateful we are heading downwind rather than the wind on the bows. In sailing terms this is the difference between flat decks and life at 30 degrees heeled over. It’s also a lot drier. If we’d had this heading North, it would have taken us a long time to bash to windward (reminiscent of the 5,000 mile passage from Panama to San Francisco).

By late evening on the 23rd August, the wind is now over 40 knots and as the big waves lift Aretha’s stern up, we hurtle down the face of the waves at over 14 knots like a big surfboard. With the right sails up, Aretha is perfectly balanced. Two reefs in the mainsail, a small amount of genoa and the staysail.  The seas though are short and steep and in contrast to what we are normally used to sailing trade wind routes. The short seas causes the occasional wave to break over the stern of the boat. It’s dramatic stuff with the waves frothing on the stern.

Aretha at Sea.jpeg

We spot another Yacht, Yacht Cayuse on the AIS (the digital tracking that all larger boats and some sailing boats carry). We call them up on the VHF and swap notes on weather conditions, routing, forecasts and destinations. Sailors are always a friendly bunch and they are no exception. As always as sea, we keep a careful eye on the AIS, radar and visually on deck for other shipping and obstacles. We spot several tankers and container ships and call them up for a chat if they are within 10 miles of us. 

The wind continues to build and we drop the mainsail and the staysail leaving just a small amount of genoa poled out. We are less balanced now and Aretha rolls on each wave. It’s uncomfortable and sleeping is almost impossible. All three children are now sleeping in Aretha’s aft cabin where there is least movement.

The fast rolling conditions are offset by the magic in the skies. For the first time since we set off we have beautifully clear night skies and the stars and moon are silvery lights above us. Nichola’s newly acquired sea legs have left her now and she is feeling a little green again. 

By dawn on our final day at sea, we are now less than 100 miles from San Francisco. It’s noticeably cold on deck and I’m grateful for the warm foul weather gear we carry on board. The wind is now softening and the swells are easing off. We hoist more sail and Aretha responds by settling much more comfortably into the motion of the ocean. She’s back in her groove after a bumpy 24 hours. 

I run the generator to give us hot water for showers and get a cooked breakfast underway. Over family breakfast I give out values prizes for the way the children have handled themselves over the past 4 days. We have some necklace pendants I bought way back in Cape Town which I use as prizes - Columbus gets the Love one, Bluebell, Abundance and Willow gets Joy. They have easily and happily settled back into life at sea and have thrived back in this environment.

The approaches to San Francisco are wide and we have to carefully navigate the shipping lanes making sure to cross them at right angles. The skies are clear and give us more opportunities to spot the whales and dolphins that frequent these waters. 

By late afternoon we are closing on the Golden Gate bridge. It’s the ebb tide and the current is flowing hard out of the Bay. The sails by now are carefully stowed and we are motoring the final few miles. With camera in hand I start to take a few photos of the crew. Rememberingthat we have a 12 year old on board, I chastise myself for even beginning to take a photo when we have a selfie expert on board complete with selfie stick. The pic below therefore courtesy of Bluebell. A good note to remember the talents contained in any team and of course that the Captain needs to be focused on the boat and safety.

By 1900 we are safely tied up in our marina berth and take time to celebrate another achievement as a family. It’s been a short but testing passage and we have worked well as a team and have thrived in each others company. As the Captain I can relax - it’s been an intense six weeks and as two different teams since leaving here back in July it’s been packed full of adventures and experiences. It’s time now for back to school, building businesses, inspiring others to be Brave and to planning our next adventures.

In my next blog, I’ll be writing and reflecting on what I’ve learnt over these six weeks with very different teams and what shareable lessons there are.

As a final note, I’m also excited to announce that our book, Where the Magic Happens is now available for pre-order on Amazon [link here]. This tells our story of how we went from the seed of an idea to literally changing everything in our lives and enabling us to live adventures like these.

Have an awesome day everyone,

Caspar and all on board Team Aretha.


There’s always an element of pressure when it’s you that has introduced the keynote speaker for an important event. Unsurprisingly though, Caspar did not let me down. Having known Caspar professionally for at least 10 years , I felt proud to see how he has used his wealth of business experience and his phenomenal experience of circumnavigating the world with his young family in a 53 foot yacht!

What I found especially powerful was the balance between inspiration and practical points to takeaway. Caspar has cleverly crafted his talk to equate his and his family’s experiences and challenges, the highs and the lows, to a business context. Irrespective of profession, sector and experience, everyone in the room could relate Caspar’s talk to their own situation. From my own perspective I already subscribe to the critical importance of values, culture and behaviour and Caspar reinforced these messages powerfully and with humour and humility.
— Louise Gulliver Managing Director Institute of Directors

Sailing in fog....Captains Log - 22nd August 2017 - The Great North Pacific Orca Adventure - Part 4.

Kids on board.JPG

I think the technical term is a pea souper. The fog surrounding Aretha is so thick you can barely see 30 metres ahead of you. The salty air and the moisture fills your nose as you strain your eyes scanning all around. Back on land, you just make sure you are wrapped up warm and wait for the fog to lift. It’s another matter entirely when  you are on a small sailing boat and you are in one of the busiest shipping lanes on the West coast of America with huge 6 knot currents barrelling through here.

Its intense. My senses are dialled up to the maximum. Eyes and ears straining for the signs of cargo ships, fishing boats, fishing buoys, thick floating trees of kelp, submerged logs, rocks and local wildlife like Orca’s. I’m helped by the extensive electronics on board to identify what’s around us. They are devices to support instinct and good decision making and not a substitute. I have the foghorn on deck ready to sound to make other vessels aware of our presence.

It’s without doubt one of the times at sea when I’m at my most alert and the adrenaline is running. You are aware of everything around you - the slightest noise or sight or inclination warrants attention. The dangers of running into another vessel or a rock don’t bear thinking about. 

We are in the Straits of Juan de Fuca. It’s the 14 mile wide waterway that separates Canada and America in the North Pacific Ocean. International trade flows in and out of Seattle and Vancouver in these waters. When we arrived here some two weeks earlier we were a four strong team of highly experienced sailors. A fresh team that came together in San Francisco and bonded to form a cohesive, safe and playful team for the 1,000 mile passage North along the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington before making landfall in Victoria in British Columbia.

This time round I have a very different team. There are five very different experienced sailors on board. It is of course the original crew of Team Aretha - my wife Nichola and my three children, Bluebell, 12, Columbus, 10 and Willow, 5. It’s the first time they’ve been on an ocean passage for over a year now and we need time to blow out the land cobwebs and get used to being at sea again. Nichola in particular needs to rediscover her sea legs too as the ocean swells have welcomed her back to sea with a dose of seasickness. 

For now, I’m single handing Aretha whilst my team rest and acclimatise. The intensity of being permanently switched on is in sharp contrast to the relaxing that the past two weeks in Canada.

After the high in my last blog of joining the Symphony Splash in Victoria and a few days in the Gulf Islands, my first crew of Jani, Pete and Ellis headed home leaving an empty Aretha. It wouldn’t stay quiet for long. Nichola and the children together with my sister Jess were all flying into Vancouver to enjoy time around the stunningly beautiful and remote islands of British Columbia.

I’d last seen Nichola and the children some three weeks earlier. I’d departed from the UK to spend two weeks getting Aretha, our Oyster 53 sailing yacht prepared and ready for sea. That was followed by a week at sea with the boys crew heading North. Although Aretha had been keeping my hands full, I’d forgotten how quiet life is without three excitable children around all the time.

Nichola and the children hadn't sailed Aretha for close on a year now and the excitement levels were off the charts to be coming back “home” to Aretha. I set off to meet them as they arrived off the plane. I’ve always loved that line in the film Love Actually where if you want to see Love, go and spend a little time in the arrivals lounge in an airport to see the emotions of loved ones meeting again. I couldn’t be more excited to be seeing them again.

The day started at 5am with a taxi to Swartz Bay to get a ferry to Vancouver. These inter island ferries are a slick operation as they deftly pick their way through the islands to get to the ferry terminal at Tsawwassen. It’s well organised and efficient - great breakfast and wifi with the most stunning scenery of islands literally hundreds of metres away from you and the strong possibility of seeing Orca’s.

I had a few hours before they arrived and headed for the Vancouver waterfront - buses and trains popped me out by Canada Place where I walked the waterfront and explored marina possibilities for bringing Aretha into at a later date. Like everything else I’d experienced in Canada, it was clean, well organised and with super friendly and helpful people wherever you go. You can understand why lots of people I know hanker to come and live in Canada.

One of the most distinctive things you see in all the ports out here are the seaplanes. I’ve never seen so many of them in my life. The waterfront in Vancouver is no exception and there were lines of them neatly organised ready for the short hops to the surrounding islands. You become tuned into the roar of the propellers as they take off and land - especially as many of the larger anchorages have “runways” very close to where you are moored.

I got to the airport an hour early and enjoyed sitting in arrivals and watching the emotions whilst waiting. Flights were all running on time and when Nichola and the children came through the gate it was our wonderful family moment to all reconnect with 16 conversations all happening at the same time.

We headed back to Aretha via the same route of trains, buses and ferries and at Tsawwassen we met my sister Jess who had flown in the night before and who’d be sailing the British Columbia islands with us for the next 10 days. We had plenty of adventures ahead of us.

We arrived back on Aretha late afternoon. The children were besides themselves with excitement climbing all over Aretha, in and out of the hatches, on the mast and into the boom, and rediscovering their treasures and toys in their cabins. Nichola’s words were simple and to the point “I feel like I’m home again”.

The previous day I’d reconnected with some friends we’d last seen in Grenada - Leo and Karin on their Oyster 62, Bubbles and we’d arranged they’d come over for evening drinks. The perfect way for Nichola and Jess to kick off their holiday - drinks on deck with great conversations on our different sailing adventures since we’d last seen them. The setting sun in front of the Empress hotel in the centre of downtown Victoria watching seaplanes landing provided the ideal backdrop.

With limited time and so much to do and experience we wasted little time heading out the following morning. We slipped lines from the marina and motored out past the colourful ferries that dance every day choreographed to music - as Willow calls them - the dancing boats. We kept strictly to the port side of the channel - the seaplanes regularly landing and taking off are the reminder why!

Flat seas, sunshine and Orca’s were waiting for us as we rounded the harbour wall and we set a course for Poets Cove on Pender Island. It doesn’t get much better than this - especially when you want to re-introduce the family to sailing and plan more adventures for the future. The Orcas have three modes we spotted, the first being the blow holes, the second being the fins, straight in the air moving at speed and the third the spectacular leaps out of the water. Just stunning.

Sailing these waters takes very careful navigation. Hazards abound and you are regularly reminded of these as you have the VHF on Channel 16 in the background with boats needing assistance. Strong currents flow between the islands - get it right and you are speeding along at 11 knots. Get it wrong and you are grinding it out doing 4 knots. 

The tides races between the islands are powerful - with no wind and still waters they are so distinctive. You can see the turbulence on the water as you approach them and as you enter the rough areas, you can feel Aretha being thrown to port and starboard as she gets bounced around. 

These are waterways you only sail by day. By night you won’t be able to spot the deadheads. The submerged logs floating vertically that you really don’t want to run into or the large clumps of kelp that float between the islands. 

We spent two nights at Poets Cove and connected with long lost family whilst here. My Dad’s older brother Wilf emigrated to Canada when we was just 17 and who I was now meeting for the first time with his wife Lin. Together with his daughter Celene who I’d met in the UK some 20 plus years earlier and her lovely family could not have been more welcoming and we made plans to visit them again and spend the day with them. I knew this adventure would a journey of building different teams and experiencing a raft of different adventures. I didn’t know it would a journey of family discovering and learning more about my past and forebears. A true unexpected highlight and we’re all looking forward to coming back here and reconnecting again. 

We moved to Port Browning and anchored in the most idyllic setting away from other yachts. From here, we could lie on deck at night and watch the stars complete with shooting stars and clear skies. By day we explored by dinghy motoring the channel between North and South Pender Island. We saw a family of otters, countless birds as we spotted Eagles and explored Medicine Beach - an archaeological site dating back some 5,000 years. We collected drift wood and with Jess to supervise, the children made carvings and pained Aretha boat signs for us to keep on board. Port Browning also provided a pool for the kids to play in and the opportunity to meet Wilf and the family again. We swam in a fresh water lake and were made to feel very welcome at Wilf’s home where he showed us his workshop where he makes clocks.

The days flew by. We visited Prevost Island and Ganges Harbour on Saltspring Island. We barely scratched the surface of what there is here and have been planning future trips. Our minds were now starting to turn to our trip and to preparing both the team and Aretha for a fast 5 day sail South with strong winds expected on the way. Safety is always my number one priority on board. Our rig checks - with Nichola going up the mast identified a problem. One of our spreaders needed repairing as the pin securing it was coming out and bent. The spreaders are the part of the rigging that come out at right angles to the mast and hold the rigging wires in place. If a spreader fails, the rigging will fail and the mast is likely to come down. This is stuff to take seriously. With a rough 1,000 mile passage ahead of us, whilst we could have made a fix, we wanted an expert to do the work. Better to have found this now that 1,000 miles out at sea!

We headed ashore for wifi to research where we could find a rigger. Nichola researched local riggers online. I contacted David who we’d met in Victoria at the Symphony Splash and who was previously commodore of the Royal Victoria Yacht Club. Within an hour, David had replied and Nichola had done her research. All roads were leading to Brent at Blackline Marine in Sidney - a 2 hour sail away. I contacted Brent who responded immediately and starting working out how to fit us us. We headed off shortly and by the end of the day, we were in the first Van Isle Marina and Brent’s rigger had fixed the problem. Canadian efficiency and customer service as its very finest. What could have been a big issue quickly resolved. 

Our time was now running short. Two days back in Victoria for some day preparation, provisioning, a little sight seeing and we are ready to head back to sea again. Our final evening was a wonderfully civilised affair. Kathryn (from Symphony Splash) and her husband Read invited us over for drinks and supper with David and Marianne. We sat on their balcony looking out over the Gulf Islands in the most perfect setting with red wine, a beautifully cooked rack of beef and flowing conversations. It left us all with strong reminders of the warmth and generosity of the people we’ve all met in this scenic paradise. 

We slipped lines the following morning, waved goodbye to Jess and headed out into the Straits of Juan de Fuca, ready for the sail South. The next part of the adventure was just about to begin. I have my usual Aretha team of Nichola and our 3 young children - now aged just 12, 10 and 5. We have a lot of sailing ahead of us and we need to be in the zone to be safe and happy. This next passage is no walk in the park.

Team Aretha sailing the Straits of Juan de Fuca, Out.

Aretha Sunset.JPG
Your talk really was superb and I have never heard so much positive feedback from our teachers regarding a presentation.

One of the secretaries said she wished you could ring her once a week just to re-iterate your positive messages!!
— Stefan Anderson, Principal at Tring Park School for the Performing Arts

Captains Log - 8th August 2017 - The Great North Pacific Orca Adventure - Part 3.


1430 Local time, 48 44 North 123 13 West

The only sounds are the waves lapping against the side of the hull and occasional distant hum of an outboard motor. The hatches are open and the lightest of breezes fills Aretha with the scent of the nearby pine trees. Jani and Pete are both on deck reading whilst I sit at the saloon table writing.

We are at anchor in the most peaceful idyllic bay. It’s called Poets Cove nestled in between North and South Pender Island in British Columbia. We arrived here 24 hours ago and after nine days of intensity in many forms, its truly relaxing to be stopped in one place.

We have learnt much as a team over that time and have created many memories. Tomorrow I will sadly wave goodbye to my current crew and in the evening couldn’t be more excited to welcome my family crew back onto Team Aretha. More of that shortly.

In my last blog, we were off the Oregon Coast and motoring North. Bouncy Tigger Ellis was threatening to scale the mast, our tough Hungarian was treating us to the finest tuna dishes and our Wayward Seaman Pete was entertaining us with his dry sense of humour.

The final four days of the passage were filled with laughter. There was much to laugh about. 

Some of it was aimed at the blocked heads (the sailing word for toilets). Not just one head, but two heads. The looming prospect of the bucket and chuck it system provided sufficient motivation for three of the crew to get their hands dirty. Firstly bailing out very full and stinky heads and then dismantling and blowing through pipes to clear it. This sailing stuff - its all glamour and gin and tonics on deck right? Who mentioned this pipe clearing nonsense. Special resilience award to Jani who went beyond the call of duty to clear the pipes.

The schoolboy humour continued. When our Media Industry Captain went for a shower, the rest of the crew thought it would be funny to switch the water pumps off and throw buckets of cold water in through the deck hatch. I have no idea what the Scottish expletives meant but I don’t think he was very happy! Three crew on the other hand were laughing so hard they only partially videoed the naked Scotsman fully lathered up. 

You get the picture. It’s been a proper boys sailing trip.

The days and nights cantered through. Stunning orange and purple sunrises and sunsets. Calm seas with barely a whisper of wind as Aretha motored steadily Northwards. The fog around San Francisco gave way to sunshine as we stayed some 20 miles off the coast. The weather gods continued to smile us on giving us unusually benign conditions.

The fishing fleets after Halibut, Red Snapper, Cod and Salmon along this coast were out in full. Easier to spot by night being lit up like Christmas trees as very few fishing vessels out here carry AIS to emit a digital signal letting you know of their presence. I’m sorry to say that we did actually snag two different sets of fishing gear with our propeller by night. The tell tale was the clonk of the floats which I could feel under my bunk in the stern quarters. Thankfully both were dealt with by stopping the engine and going into reverse and the rope cutter by the propeller did its job.

Many deep and engaging conversations flowed on deck - by day under the sun and by night under the starry skies of the North Pacific.

This trip was called the North Pacific Orca Adventure for a specific reason and expectations for Orca’s were high. So much so that what we know now as Dall’s Porpoises (with a distinct white underbelly) were called out as Orca’s. Admiral Pete scoffed. They’re not Orca’s. They’re dolphins.

One day later our patience was rewarded. As three huge fins came cutting towards us at high speed, the shout from on deck was clear “Whales”. Admiral Pete left us in doubt “now that’s an Orca”. Huge. Powerful. Fast. Coming clear of the water and letting us know who was the boss. Wow. Just wow. They weren’t so keen on posing for the camera’s so here’s to the next crew getting better snaps of them.

In the early hours of the sixth day, the flashing lights off Cape Flattery were spotted. Two flashes every twenty seconds. Unmistakeable. The current helped accelerate us towards the headland giving us at around 8 knots over the ground. The chart plotter was now filling with commercial vessels and the upcoming Traffic Separation Scheme as vessels coming into Vancouver and Seattle and then heading out around the world ply this channel. It also happens to be the location for one of the US Navy’s largest shipyards.

We entered the Straits of Juan de Fuca around 3am and as the light started to rise after 6am the sides of the channel were shrouded in fog. We still had some 60 miles to go to reach Victoria and for the first 5 hours with current against us, we were barely making 4 knots. When the current turned, 4 knots turned into 9 knots. As the sun burnt through the fog, the spectacular treelined coasts became visible and the rising sense of excitement and anticipation across the crew was palpable. 

For the final 10 miles, we were treated to more Orca’s and we think humpbacked whales too. This place is a nature lovers paradise.

The breeze picked up and with sails up we closed the final miles to Victoria at 10 knots in flat water. 

Sails down. Mooring lines and fenders out.  

A buzzing sound reminded us of what we had read in the Pilot books. The harbour as well being the shipping entrance is also the runway for the seaplanes that regularly take off and land here. This is a new experience watching the air as well as the sea. We debate who has right of way and then get over the side out of the way whilst one lands right in front of us. Best not to argue with a plane!

We clear into Customs Canadian style. That’s self service. Pull up to the customs dock. Call on the telephone. Give them your details. You get a clearance number and you’re in. That’s it. Canadian efficiency. Love it. Huge contrast to flying into San Francisco last time and spending 3-4 hours waiting to pass through customs.

We refuelled and then briefly docked on the fishing dock before a celebratory beer and heading into town.

As luck would have it, the following day, the Sunday was one of the biggest events of the year in Victoria, the Symphony Splash. A live orchestra playing from a barge moored in the inner harbour and watched by some 40,000 people and live streamed over the web and on TV. Our timing could not have been better.

We wandered to the inner harbour and inquired as to the chances of a berth. It wasn't looking likely. Someone however was smiling on us that day and we were offered a berth right next to the stage. We couldn’t believe our luck. Without wasting a minute we ferried back to Aretha in the small harbour ferries that look like something out of Disney and guided Aretha into the tiniest of spots. Our neighbours told us they have been waiting to get a berth here for the last 20 years during the Symphony Splash. 

The next 24 hours flew by - drinks, food, a polish up for us and Aretha and flying Aretha’s dress flags. We met so many welcoming people who exuded warmth and generosity to include us. The CEO of the Symphony looked after us and I got the pleasure of going back stage to meet the Conductor, Christian Kluxen and the 8 year old Chinese child prodigy, Felipe Jiang who played piano. The setting was spectacular - a water based amphitheatre with people lining the walls and the water filled with kayaks and paddle boarders all nudging close to the action.

As we shared glasses of wine on deck with our neighbours and enjoyed the music and fireworks to the 1812 overture, andthe bagpipers playing Amazing Grace, the memory of broken boat parts and ocean sailing felt a million miles away.

Ellis finally got to scale the mast (it was too rolling at sea) and watched the last 30 minutes from the first spreaders and captured the beauty of the moment on camera.

My team on Aretha for the first part of the Great North Pacific Orca adventure has been absolutely first class. The way the whole team has come together with humour, with energy and pride has been the strongest memory.

This team now head home - Ellis had a call to return to business at short notice yesterday and Pete and Jani fly home tomorrow. 

My next team - my wife Nichola, Bluebell (12), Columbus (10) and Willow (5) fly into Vancouver tomorrow with my younger sister Jess. I couldn’t be more excited as I’ve not seen them for three weeks. It will be a very different team and we have many more adventures ahead of us.

Team Aretha in British Columbia, Out.

Captains Log - 3rd August 2017 - The Great North Pacific Orca Adventure

1115 Local time, 44 29 North 124 33 West

Four men are sitting in the cockpit. One man declares if he catches another fish he will be completely unbearable. Another man dryly comments that he already is unbearable. The undulating seas off the Oregon coast are filled with laughter from all four.

What happens when you take four men with vastly different backgrounds and experiences and form a team to tackle one of the reputed toughest stretches of offshore sailing. Four men who are largely new to each other as a team.

This is an expedition that will take the freshly minted team North from San Francisco, sailing underneath the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, turning right and then heading North along the California and Oregon coast before turning right at Cape Flattery and heading to Canadian Waters around British Columbia and Vancouver Island. This is an expedition of some 1,000 miles and 10 days at sea

The team is thus:

Jani - a tough resourceful Hungarian man with a kind thoughtful nature and an easy sense of humour. He also happens to be a brilliant chef and a brilliant engineer.

Pete - a man with the driest sense of humour and a twinkle in his eye as he pulls your leg. Resolute, stoic, resourceful and who also happens to be a vastly experienced sailor who has spent his whole working life on the sea as a high ranking US Naval officer.

Ellis. Think Tigger. Then 10 x it. Enough energy, enthusiasm and humour to make anyone smile. A captain of the media industry who has spent a lifetime working the rich, famous, glamorous and influential.

And your writer, the Captain on Team Aretha, For this expedition heading North to some of the most stunning cruising grounds in the world, I’m privileged to be joined by this team of wonderfully diverse people.

For two weeks before the team arrive, I have been head down on maintenance work to get Aretha ready for this expedition. It has been a year since she has been sailed on a testing passage and much needs to be done to ready her. Whilst I am head down in work on Aretha, my wife Nichola is working equally hard arranging life raft servicing, identifying customs clearance procedures and satellite communications whilst we are at sea.

Jani and Ellis arrive 36 hours before departure and after a meal and a good nights sleep join me in the final preparations. Engine and generator servicing, filling propane gas bottles and other boat maintenance jobs fill the day. Pete arrives in the afternoon and the team all meet for the first time. 

We head out for supper at the local Italian and to allow the team to get to know each other. I am the common link. Jani I have sailed with for the past 15 years. He has met Pete and Ellis just once before. Pete was on his own yacht, Wayward Wind when he sailed the World ARC at the same time as me and has not met Ellis before. Ellis and I met only recently and is planned his own family sailing adventures.

We hit our bunks early - we have a big day tomorrow and want to be well rested and ready to go. 

We all wake early and make use of the hot showers and final bits of work using wifi and the few remaining boat jobs. Jani cooks an omelette and over breakfast I introduce the team to the concept of our values and hand out the first values prizes and begin our daily questions routine. Ellis kicks us off with the question: “What am I grateful for”. The answers flow easily and thoughtfully.

We have final safety briefings at 0900 and by 0935 we slip lines and are waved off by my good friend Neil who has lovingly looked after Aretha every week we have been in San Francisco and who was here to take our lines when we arrived last year.

It is a bright morning. The California sunshine is warming the blue skies and we motor out of the marina. Just past the marinas in Sausalito, we hoist the full main and unfurl half the genoa. We can see the breeze line ahead of and we head towards the City, with Alcatraz Island to our port side. The Golden Gate Bridge comes into sight marking the start of our entry into the Pacific ocean. We sail to the City side of the Bay and tack giving us a clear run under the bridge under sail. With iPhones and Facebook Live capturing the moment, Jani steers us under the bridge and out to sea. We are officially at sea and it has begun.

Our expectations for seeing wildlife are high. Reports over the past few days from local friends have told us about the many whales around here. For the first hour. Nothing.

Ellis spots something on the water. Our eyes all swivel to where he is pointed. It takes a while to focus on where he is looking. It’s seaweed. Pete casually comments “ you can look at the seaweed over there if you like, but I’m going to watch the whales jumping over here”.

For the next 6 hours until the light starts to fade we are treated to the most spectacular displays as these huge giants of whales play around us. Some ambling on the surface within 50 metres, some leaping clear of the water, some with the classic shot of their tails pointed towards the skies. It is breathtaking and we can barely leave the decks. They are interspersed with their smaller friends, dolphins and sea lions.

The weather forecast for the passage is the best it can be. This section of coast normally has 30-40 knot winds tearing down from the North making for tough upwind sailing. Our passage looks to have either very light winds or Southerly winds with light downwind sailing. The first evening is damp as the heavy fog that San Francisco is famous for shrouds Aretha and reduces visibility to some 100 metres at best. We have our lights on, radar watch and a constant look out on deck. We are running a watch system of 3 hours on, 6 hours off for the crew with me being available whenever needed.

The first night at sea is a calm one as we motor sail North and by morning time, the smell of fresh coffee and a cooked breakfast by Jani gives us the best start to the day.

The next four days all blur together woven together by an array of highlights and the masculine camaraderie of a fresh team bonding together. Some highlights in no particular order….

  • Jani and Ellis catching a huge blue fin tuna. Estimated at some 18 pounds, Ellis was reluctant to bring it in initially as he thought it was a shark. Once we established it wasn't going to eat, us, we landed it and within minutes the testosterone levels went through the roof as we carved and ate fresh sashimi on deck. Later in the day, Jani and Ellis engaged in healthy competition to see who could make the finest fresh tuna dishes. Pete and I were the undisputed winners benefiting from the taste and flavour explosions created by our wizards in the galley. By Day 4, we’d add to the fish tally with a 3 pound Oregon salmon. Sashimi followed as before and I think I have the cooking honourslater today for this king of fish.
  • Enjoying the wildlife and seeing huge albatrosses soaring low over the water and around Aretha.
  • The wind and sea has been remarkably kind to us and we have had extremely benign conditions and have been steadily motoring our way North and expect to round Cape Flattery in two days time.

The undisputed highlight though has been the camaraderie and banter between these remarkable individuals. There are no ego’s on display - simply stories, shared experiences and laughter. The bonds that have been created in such a short space of time have created an environment where we are all sharing stories, challenges and opportunities for the future - helping and supporting each other. The daily questions written by my daughter Bluebell feature morning and evening - last nights one of “How have I invested in my future today” opening up many avenues of conversation.

We have much ahead of us still and the next instalment will no doubt be rich with tales as Ellis is keen to scale the mast in the rolling 6 foot swells. Video and photos will capture the moments.

Being a boat, we aren't without our boat issues. We snagged some fishing gear this morning on our propeller and thankfully managed to clear it without having to dive under the boat. Our inverter (which turns power from the batteries into your usual household power to charge iPhones and iPads) has stopped working. When I shared the news with the crew, Petes dryness brought humour to the situation …”Well Captain Cook and Columbus didn't have an inverter and it worked out ok for them”!

From a happy freshly minted team onboard Team Aretha, Out.

Welcome to The Great North Pacific Orca Adventure - July & August 2017

37 52 North. 122 29 West

It's time to build to build a new team and head off on a fresh ocean adventure.

Imagine a perfect Californian afternoon. Blue skies, steady breeze keeping the temperature down and Spanish music playing as I’m sitting in the Seahorse restaurant catching up on emails on their wifi network.

I’m 2 minutes away from the KKMI boatyard where Aretha, our 53 Yacht has been out of the water for the past 6 days. The boatyard has been my home in that time. Living 10 feet in the air and climbing up a ladder to get to and from home is a reminder of the different places we’ve been hauled out of the water - Portugal, Fiji and South Africa. There has been a steady cross wind blowing and although Aretha looks steady in the supports holding her up, she still wobbles in the wind. Its been very peaceful staying here - just the odd Mosquito for company in the evening (at least until I re-discovered our stack of anti-mossie kit on board).

It’s been a year since I’ve sailed Aretha and she has been in need of some TLC to bring her back to ocean ready state. We have some expedition ahead of us for the next month and she needs to be in fine form. The plan is an estimated 2,000 mile round trip sailing to British Columbia and back for the month of August. British Columbia an area that I’ve heard a lot about and is meant to be stunningly beautiful. Sailing through the San Juan islands, Orca’s, Eagle and snowy capped mountains as a backdrop. A common thread I’ve heard is that I won’t want to sail back down afterwards!

I have a brand new team to build for the sail North which will almost certainly provide the toughest challenge for us. We don't have long to gel together as a team before we hit the rough stuff so we'll be straight into how do we work best together. We have three strong and very different personalities. First up is Jani - not only is he great company and a brilliant sailor. He also happens to be a fantastic engineer and an amazing chef. Next up is my good friend Pete - he has more sea miles than anyone else I know from his time in the US Navy and we’ll be in his back yard as we sail up past Newport, Oregon. Pete was the Captain on Wayward Wind, one of the boats we sailed on the World ARC with and I’m looking forward to my first time actually sailing with him. Last and by no means least is Ellis - a man on his own mission to sail the worlds oceans with his family and an experienced sailor with an unquenchable energy and enthusiasm. 

The passage North from San Francisco has the potential to provide a baptism of headwinds and heavy seas making for a wet passage. It will be a wake-up call for all of us. Looking at the forecasts, it looks as though the weather gods may be smiling on us for the first few days and providing some benign conditions as we all find our sea legs and Aretha gets into the rhythm of the oceans again.

The plan is for the four of us to sail North, round Cape Flattery and then head downwind into the Straits of Juan De Fuca making our first stop at Victoria. From there, we’ll head out and spend a few days exploring the islands and the beautiful anchorages.

My second crew will then join me up there as my first crew fly back for family commitments in Europe and the States. My second crew will be my family. Nichola, Bluebell, Columbus and Willow. It’ll be the first time back sailing on Aretha for a little while - Bluebell last sailed into St Lucia, Nichola and Willow flew back from Panama whilst Columbus sailed Aretha all the way to San Francisco with me. We will also be joined by my youngest sister Jess for her first time sailing on Aretha too. 

As a family, we’ll explore the islands around Vancouver Island and get a small taster for the future. We haven’t a huge amount of time until we turn Aretha around and we’ll canter downwind back down the coast to San Francisco. It should be a lot faster going South than North. 

I’ve been onboard now for 8 days and have been working through a substantial list of never ending boat jobs - a small sample of what it takes to get an Ocean going yacht ready….

- Liferaft sent away for serving - Check.

- Hauled out and anti-fouled - Check

- Change the anodes - Check

- Change the cutlass bearing on the prop shaft - Check

- Fit a new forward head - Check

- Fit new windlass switches - Check

- Service lifejackets - Check

- Service winches - Check

- Service safety equipment - Check

- Inspect diesel tanks (and using Captain Stefan’s new Diesel Dipp System) - Check

- Top up the batteries - Check

- Flares and Fire Extinguishers - Check.

- Steering all working - Check

- Nav systems and Autopilot all working - Check.

Sailors are always an extremely helpful group of people and I’m super grateful for all the help I’ve had the past week from my good friends Neil and Rob. They have made my life a lot easier with the knowledge and expertise turning half day jobs into hour long jobs.

Rig checks, Engine and Generator Service to be done after we back in the water. Fixing up Satcoms and emails to be done too. Test sail planned to make sure all sails are working. We had a full service on the sails when we arrived here last year so fingers crossed all are good.

It’s not a comprehensive list but you get the idea. On the plus side, I’ve had no child distractions so I’ve been able to press on at good speed. Heaven knows how we used to do all this with three small children around us all the time. Just emptying the lockers for spares and tools creates enough chaos without a pile of lego and three kids thrown into the mix.

I think we are looking in reasonable shape. Can’t wait to welcome my fresh team into town this weekend, to slip lines and head out under the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, turn right and head North on our expedition. We’ll have to get our values prizes going again and inducting our new crew into the Team Aretha way of doing things.

Have an awesome day everyone,

From an excited Team Aretha in San Francisco, Out.