Galley Slave

Port of Call – Grenada

We arrived on the ‘Spice Island’ in the dead of night with computer charts that decided to fail as we made our final approaches. Luckily (fastidiously) Will had made some thorough hand written pilotage notes and with a ‘Gross Act of Seamanship’ (to quote Eddie Murray, an old friend and Naval Officer who historically has had a big influence on our sailing odyssey’s), we crept in, following the twenty meter (depth) contour line as it wiggled around the southern edge of the island, using the hand bearing compass, leading lights and lighthouses to keep us safe off the rocks and reefs.


The champagne had been chilling in our ‘fridge’ for several hours in anticipation of our arrival and it was with a great relief and exhaustion that the cork was popped as the anchor went down – we’d survived 14 days at sea with our now slightly ferrel boat children, without any major falling out, illness or injury or anyone jumping ship (there were one or two threats of sending them home to the grandparents on our arrival!).
The champagne slipped down far too easily after a ‘dry’ fortnight at sea and coupled with tiredness made the world quite nicely blurred around the edges…just as well because our notoriously nocturnal middle child was up and adamant she was not going to bed and missing the party, vocally questioning why after recently reaching the ripe old age of eight she too couldn’t have a glass of champagne at 2am! As exhaustion and alcohol threatened to wear our patients far too thin we gave in and gave her a sip…’Yuk!’ (Thank goodness it wasn’t Yum!), that sorted as she still refused to go to bed I put on a film for her on the DVD player and William and I went to bed, leaving her to it – Goodness only knows when she decided to go to sleep!

The first few days were spent recovering between Port Luis marina (complete with swimming pool much to the girls delight) and at anchor off Grand Anse beach – a mile or so long white sandy beach fringed with coconut palms, little beach side bars and hotels, and locals walking the length of the beach selling shells and spices, Grenada’s relaxed ‘sunset strip’ and a welcome stopping point to recharge our batteries within easy reach of St George’s, the main town on the island and beaches and swimming, rowing for the girls.


It’s amazing that with a little down time and civilisation how quickly the hard won ocean miles, sleep deprivation and hardships are cast aside, a distant memory, forgotten…until the next time.

St George’s is a small but busy and bustling colourful town with 19th century colonial architecture and a British history being an ex Crown Colony and member of the Commonwealth . Now independent since the mid 1970’s (the smallest of the independent Caribbean islands at 12 miles wide and 21 miles long) it thankfully retains English as its official language, giving William and I a rest from our terrible linguistic skills which have plagued us ever since we crossed the English Channel six months ago. Although on the street you’d be hard pushed to realise on first hearing that it is in fact English – the speed, dialect and distinctive Caribbean twang need some tuning into. The people are smiley, happy to chat and offer help and advice and greet you with ‘good morning / afternoon, or how are you today?’ wherever you go.
At regular intervals throughout the week, this small island town is invaded by huge cruise ships, the largest of which is like a horizontal tower block and houses 4000 people who descend upon the town and island at large for a ten hour run ashore. On cruise ship days the prices around the market stalls and waterfront seem higher and in fact on one occasion in a little rough and ready cafe we were charged in US Dollars – when we said we only had EC (Eastern Caribbean Dollars) we were told we would be charged as ‘a local’ – which was half what it would have been in US!

It is hot and temperate here – we are in the tropics, and the humidity from the rain forest and heat takes some getting used to. The north east trade winds that blew us here across the Atlantic offer a welcome relief from its intensity, although with them they bring short sharp warm tropical downpours at regular intervals throughout the day, making us time our dinghy rides ashore carefully – often mistiming it and arriving completely drenched. It doesn’t really matter, you dry within minutes once the sun comes out again. This is apparently unusual for this time of year, this is not the rainy season and the rain was meant to have stopped back in November.

After a few days, we relocated the boat to one of the many deep bays on the southern coastline of the island. Perfect for some initial reef snorkelling, dingy sailing, meeting other cruisers and generally chilling out, taking a dip off the back of the boat or a dinghy ride ashore to a beach or little cafe-bar – not so much for the drink but more to get some WiFi!
It was after a reef snorkelling Expedition at one of these bars that we met the Dutch family on board Yacht Tije – their two boys the same age and our two big girls. The kids and parents got on great – obviously the Dutch have fantastic English language skills so there was no problem for the adults (again William and I were embarrassed at our lack of language skills). The children did not have a common language apart from ‘play’ – which worked fine, they were soon communicating well enough and having a hoot, to the extent that we were asked to leave the (slightly too posh for us) bar with its attached pool because the children were being too noisy and disturbing the other customers (with no children)!! We had two or three days together having some light relief from being ‘just us’.
Having heard of a cruisers social get together on the morning radio net (a channel we can tune into on the VHF radio, to see what other cruisers are up to, what’s going on or get help and advice if needed), we decided to join them and celebrated together Grenada’s Independence Day on February 7th.

We went with the crew from Yacht Tije to a nearshore island where an ‘Oil Down’ had been organised. As we approached the shore in the dinghy we could smell the food cooking. The traditional Grenadian island dish – a huge cauldron like pot full of chicken, pork, dumplings, breadfruit, spinach and lots of coconut milk and coconut oil, cooked for hours and hours on a wood fire on the beach – so delicious, even the children asked for second helpings!

A lot of the cruisers we met there live on their boats here all year round, some fly back and forth from the USA, Canada or the UK and a few were doing the island chain like us, but there was a lot of experience and knowledge there and it was good to chat to others to share tips and advice on the best places to visit.

Later that evening we took a bus organised by ‘Shade Man’, a local Grenadian who has become the cruising community’s right hand man with a van, organising trips to grocery stores, marine shops, tours – pretty much whatever is in demand…a for a fee for convenience. The older generation cruising community here do seem to rely on him heavily to make outings ashore easy and stress free and he in turn makes a good living out of the cruisers, so everyone is happy. We got into his crowded van with two of the children on our laps headed for the national stadium, a bumpy, pot holed 30 minute ride through lanes and roads lined with an eclectic ramshackle mixture of small basic shacks, larger smarter looking houses with gardens and little road side stores and bars all jumbled up together, back into St George’s for the annual Independence Day parade along with thirteen other cruisers. Sat up in the gods of the national stadium we were in the minority as white Europeans. All the locals were dressed in the national colours, red, yellow and green along with their wide and easy welcoming smiles that broke into ‘whoop whoops’ of pure delight as the national police band leader broke into moments of moon walking and funky dance moves whilst out on parade in front of the Prime Minister and other dignitaries! Having in a past life spent some time in the Royal Naval Reserves in the UK and and very familiar to being out on parade, I can’t imagine this ever happening at home! Parades at home are serious affairs, and really quite dull…the entertainment being who’s going to feint next! The Grenadian’s sense of fun and light heart is infectious.

*See Video of funky parade dance moves on our Twitter feed @kidsincockpit *

Independence Day, National Stadium.

The rain forest is the first thing the girls noticed when they woke on our first morning here in Grenada – ‘wow it’s so green!’. Coming from the lush green of the English West-country they suddenly realised how much they had missed the vegetation. They had gotten used to the brown, dusty, arid desert of the Canaries and Sao Vicent in the Cape Verde over the past couple of months, but immediately announced they preferred this!
Top of their list was visiting one of the islands many waterfalls in the rain forest. There are obviously tours for all the attractions on the island which makes life simple, but we are on a very tight budget and whenever we can, we opt for the local bus to get us around the islands. They are usually, cheap, efficient, allows us a flavour of local life and gives more of a sense of adventure having to work it out for ourselves. This is how our waterfall trip started, on a number one bus from Prickly Bay back round to ‘Town’ – St George’s, however on route the ever entrepreneurial Grenadian bus driver cut us deal for him to be our driver for the day.
So abandoning his bus route, our first stop was a street side van selling huge and delicious ‘Roti’- ever partial to trying the local street food, we happily bought enough to feed at least two families and started munching away in the back of the van on mildly spiced chicken and potato, yellow from the spice in colour and wrapped in a thin tortilla like bread. We then bumped along in the rickety old minibus out of St George’s and into the rain forest which starts immediately as the ‘Town’ ends – as does the increase in gradient, we drove up at a 45 degree angle through the rain forest, passing fewer and fewer shack-like houses, on potholed roads for probably about 40 minutes before we reached the drop off point for the Seven Sisters Waterfall. With the promise that our newly acquired driver would wait for us (busses whilst travelling up here had been few and far between and it was a long, long walk home again) and reassured by the fact that we hadn’t paid him a single Eastern Caribbean Dollar yet, we picked up the roughly cut bamboo sticks left there for the purpose of borrowing for the hike to the waterfalls and set off…with a ten year old, eight year old and four year old and actually no idea how far away the waterfall was. It turned out that we needed to hike (no not walk, it was definitely a hike!) downhill at about another 45 degree angle, through thick and humid rain forest, with a well worn but muddy and slippery path beneath our feet clad in Crocs – not the ideal hiking shoe and not for the first time on this trip, I longed for my stout, well worn hiking boots left in the garden shed at home!

If I ignored the heat and didn’t look up, the terrain could almost pass as the Tamar Valley aka Home and my usual stomping and trail running ground – it was as muddy, and rocky and steep and had a sense of familiarity about it. Likewise could be said about forty minutes later, once we’d reached the river bed – the geology of the river and the large, well rounded boulders in it made me think of Dartmoor, back home with the powerful River Dart and in particular Spichwick, part of the Dart river on the Moor where I grew up as a child… But then you look up, and nothing is familiar and you remember that you are in a jungle rainforest far away from home. Grace the ten year old had been scampering ahead like a mountain goat, very shore on her feet all the way down to the river bed, often disappearing out of sight, waiting for us and scampering on again. After we’d been hiking up stream of the river for ten minutes or so we spotted her ahead waiting for us with the biggest, most excited grin on her face – she’d found the waterfall! As we rounded the corner, a double waterfall, one above the other came into view, with a deep fresh water pool beneath each one. We traversed the river, hopping from water rounded rock to water rounded rock, climbed up and were confronted with a noisy 15 meter drop, beautiful, rain forest waterfall!

The children were so excited, they got into their swimmers and were straight in the water – fresh water swimming for the first time since leaving home. The current that the waterfall created in the pool was ferocious – none of us could actually make it right underneath the fall and we either had to swim with Nancy on our back or pushing her ahead of us – she was missing the extra buoyancy of salt water sea swimming! But it was so refreshing after our long and slippery decent, well worth the effort.

My mind was turning to the long, slow uphill struggle that it would be to get the girls up to where we’d left the bus, but I’d come prepared with some candy lollipops and a packed of Polo’s! As the girls were changing after our prolonged dip in the deep pool, I was filling them with sugar treats that usually they wouldn’t be allowed ( or not in such quantity) – and they milked me for all I was worth! I didn’t actually see the ten year old or the four year old on the uphill hike – they disappeared as soon as we’d traversed across the river and were gone, William following on behind them, catching a glimpse before they rounded the next corner and Connie and I holding hands, Bringing up the rear singing Row, row, row your boat endlessly, stomping to the rhythm – the sugar had backfired on her and she got her sugar crash about half way up the hill!! It was with huge relief that we spotted our bus and driver waiting for us as promised and with gratitude and exhaustion that we lazed in the back of his bus, not having to worry about how we were getting home – and gave a lift back down the hill to another cruising family that we’d met on the hike. We retired back to Moonlighting, satisfied with our days endeavours, and slept soundly after our physical exertions of the day.

Communication with the ‘real’ world

It strikes me that communication is vastly different from twelve years ago when we last did a big off shore trip. When we left the UK then, the world felt bigger. We were waved off by my parents in law who were stood on the roof of their south east cornwall, sea side home with a flash light, signalling to us until we were out of sight as we embarked on our big adventure, newly married. We were out of sight, we’d left our home port of Plymouth and were headed across the channel to France – eventually making it all the way to New Zealand. In those days, mobile phones were just talk and text. Using your mobile phone abroad was extortionate, even in Europe, so we didn’t. We had an email system on the boat which enabled us to send basic text only emails from anywhere, so that’s what we did. We sent ‘Sea Logs’ home telling friends and family what we’d been up to, and waited for people to respond – it was such a highlight to receive messages back, it really made our day.

These days there is of course still email (we do have a satellite phone email capability aboard, but this is strictly for weather routing, emergency contact and the odd email to patents to say we’re OK when we’re doing an ocean passage), but there is also social media – Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Blogging and goodness knows what else. And they’re all accessible from your mobile phone, which isn’t really a phone anymore but a mini computer that can magically get you onto the Internet to use this social media or search the web from pretty much anywhere in the world – it’s insane, and it’s a huge pressure. We must all be contactable at all times and posting on social media immediately an event occurs. And of course our phones work in Europe off the same contract as at home, so it doesn’t cost us anymore to use them there than it did at home – we cannot escape the technology!
As a result, that precious message doesn’t have quite the same impact anymore – there is no build up and anticipation or waiting – it’s instant.

Heaven forgive us if the mobile network or wifi is a bit patchy and we actually have to make a phone call home – they all want to Skype or Face Time and to actually see each other. Often the conversation goes ‘press your video button so we can see you’ or ‘oh, you’ve frozen’ or ‘we can see you, can you see us?’. It can be frustrating.
Although I will admit, I do like WhatsApp – it has been brilliant for keeping in touch with girlfriends back home – it makes me feel like we’re not so far away. And it’s nice for the children to occasionally send and receive messages to and from their friends. It was recently my eight year olds birthday and for her to receive audio messages from her cousins and her best friend was really special – we all welled up listening to Mikayla, her bestie, sing her happy birthday!

But now we are outside of the EU – all of a sudden our phones are extortionate to use and we have to keep them on airplane mode so they won’t roam and generate a huge bill. So no more mobile data, no more instant messaging, no more googling from the boat, no more phones ‘binging’ with the latest message that’s popped through, no more checking your phone just in case you missed the ‘bing’! Now it’s more like old times, we are a little out of touch, we feel remoter, partly due to being geographically further away and partly because we have stepped out of that social network loop.
And you know…I really quite like it.

So now we can only use the internet if we have gone ashore and hooked up to wifi at a cafe or somewhere else where there is public, free wifi. Communication has become an event again – it is exciting to see what emails are waiting for us, who has posted pictures on Instagram and who’s Tweeting about what. I do miss WhatsApp, I miss my girlfriends and being up to date on what’s going on in their lives and the easy banter back and forth that WhatsApp facilitates – but I catch up with that ashore. The blog can be tricky, I can write off line of course, but to post it and to organise the photos I need good wifi.

The Cape Verde was our first destination outside of the EU and the wifi was not great – I spent a whole morning in a cafe trying to update the blog. But, I think maybe it’s better to schedule that admin time, rather than doing bits and bobs here and there and feeling guilty for being on the Internet when we should be out exploring and having fun or paying attention to what the children are trying to tell us.
Its going to be similar when we reach the Caribbean – we won’t be instantly contactable but I’m hoping the wifi will be faster when we do decide to check in on the mobile, social world, but…

On the whole I prefer I think, being a little less contactable. Leave me a message, I’ll get back to you when I pick it up, when we’ve finished having fun – rather than my phone pinging and binging and instantly disrupting the fun…

All at Sea – Night Time

2160 ish miles and roughly 14 days at sea to go before we reach Granada…
Three hours on, three hours off, night watch. My night watch hours are midnight till 3am and 6am till 9am. I really struggle getting up for the 6am watch.

Night Time Off Watch – Sleep
Off watch I try to sleep – I go to bed early at sea, by 9pm or earlier. Our usually luxurious (for a boat) king sized bed has been altered for sea. The matrices unzipped and a board secured the length of the bed between them to stop me rolling and sliding the whole width of the bed with every wave that passes beneath the boat. Still, sleeping on passage the first couple of nights I do not find easy. The berth is still quite wide, so I pack it out with pillows – one at my back, one cuddling into my stomach. Even packed out like this I still roll and slide a bit with every wave and have to sleep curled up in the foetal position with knees and feet wedged against the Lee boards either side of me, or the recovery position to try to anchor myself. The boat rolls from side to side and sometimes up and down too with a horrible corkscrew motion – my legs leave the bed at regular intervals as we come down off a wave, jolting me out of my light sleep or preventing me dropping off. Sleep disappointingly does not come in a big three hour chunk, it come in fleeting stops and starts and less so when I get annoyed that I can’t drop off. Eventually I’m so cross that I can’t sleep that I’m wishing my precious ‘off watch’ away, too stubborn to just get up, and longing for William to come and give me a shake for my turn to sit in the dark cockpit, looking out for ships – it is a relief when he does – although I am always surprised when he shakes me, maybe I did drop off after all…give it a couple of days of this tedious non sleeping and I know I’ll be so tired I’ll sleep like a baby.

On Night Watch.
It might be hideous o’clock, but this is my Me Time. I do not have to be that chameleonic character of the wakeful hours. William wakes me and hands me a cup of caffeinated earl grey tea (rationed strictly to night watch – it’s running out!) in my travel mug – my drink and cup of choice at midnight when I need a little help to wake up. This is our routine, when I wake Will in three hours time I’ll hand him a cup of coffee in a robust china mug – his drink and cup of choice. It’s not every boat though that has to warn it’s on coming watch of the dangers of My Little Pony’s scattered on the floor just where we step out of bed – the four year old has no concept of ‘Stowing for Sea’!
I sit and sip my tea, plugged into one of the many, many podcasts I downloaded before we set sail on this passage. I love a podcast to wake up to on night watch – my iPad is at its storage capacity with podcasts galore. I have various BBC ones; Desert Island Discs, Women’s Hour and Late Night Women’s Hour, The Documentary, Friday Night Comedy, Clair Baldings Ramblings, Comedy of the Week and some others; Boat radio, On the Wind Sailing and my laugh out loud guilty pleasure podcast – Scummy Mummy’s (they’re pretty potty mouthed, but hilarious). If anyone can recommend any other podcasts please do let me know – I’m addicted from midnight till 3am!
After tea and a podcast or two I’m awake enough to try and do a bit of writing – most of the blog has been written between 12-3am. During the day time the ‘Cockpit Kids’ are too demanding of time and attention to bother trying to write a single whole sentence without several interruptions – but in the dark, my time is my own.
When I’ve come to a natural pause in the writing (one finger iPad typing!) I try to do some yoga. Usually ashore I’d swim and jog two or three times a week – but that has been hard recently. I wasn’t comfortable enough in the Cape Verde to go running alone and I feel very sedentary and sluggish right now, and after the rogue wildlife incident (aka massive shark – see previous blog post ‘Close Encounters of the Animal Kind’) swimming hasn’t been quite so appealing – so some boat yoga it is. It’s Really quite a challenge at sea – I only attempt the seated poses, anything else would be asking for injury, and even then I can’t stop myself chuckling at the ridiculousness of doing this on a boat rocking violently from side to side! – whoever invented the ‘Full Boat Pose’ clearly had never set foot on any such vessel – I find myself perched on my behind, legs raised up strait in front of me (or attempting to) sliding from one side if the saloon floor to the other and back again and I find myself idly wondering if Davina Macall would be interested in making a boat fitness video?
I might plug into our ancient iPod and listen to some tunes from a previous life – but I have to be in the right mood for this, listening to music seems to throw me back in time and I end up thinking a lot about my late sister…I often avoid music because of this, but alone in the dark at sea is a safe place for me to indulge in some home styled music therapy.


I save reading whatever book I’ve got on go the till my 6am morning watch – it’s hell getting up at that time but after the first hour it’s light enough to read and then the kids will be up wanting breakfast before I wake William at 9am and then I crawl back into bed for another hour or two before the day really starts.

Postscript – We’ve arrived in Grenada after 14.5 days at sea! What a relief…

All at Sea – The Galley

The Galley.
Cooking at sea should be an Olympic sport – it’s very skilled, even for the simplest of meals! The constant rocking from side to side often means you are wedging and bracing yourself against the motion of the boat before you even start trying to juggle kettles, frying pans and handle pans of boiling water at precarious angles. The cooker is gimballed which means the top in theory should stay horizontal despite the angle of the boat and items on top should stay where you leave them – in practice at sea this doesn’t always happen! You cannot leave ingredients on the worktop even for a second, it will fly across to other side of the boat with the roll of the next wave, ending up in a sticky, broken mess.

We don’t have a strict Galley duty – whoever is up will prepare a meal – sometimes that’s Grace rather than an adult, she’s well practised at safely using the gas cooker and is happy to prepare things like scrambled egg and toast or egg and soldiers or noodles for herself and her sisters independently – (after writing this, the said competent ten year old left a jug of uncooked scrambled egg on the galley work top unattended, it of cause went flying and made a huge sticky mess everywhere – perhaps a little more supervision is necessary!!) There is a well stocked and accessible to children snack cupboard which they graze from during the day and nets hanging full of fruit that has been bought under ripe that will hopefully last the first half of this passage.
We have a small fridge on board and no freezer – so the meat we bought in Cape Verde was frozen to hopefully defrost gradually over the first week, we have salad too in the fridge which won’t last long out here in the warm temperatures – so that’s lunch everyday until it’s gone. We are very hopeful to catch some fish but have a very poor track record so far this trip – I though we’d be eating way more fresh fish and not buying so much meat this year but we just don’t seem to be able to catch anything significant.
Under the floorboards in the bilge of the boat is stacked can upon can and packet upon packet of canned, jarred and dried food – our supply’s for when the fresh stuff runs out. There is everything from tinned fruit and veg, to tinned meat and fish. I know at some point on this passage I am going to have to get quite creative with what I can produce from bilge pot luck! We have a small mountain of flour on board – if nothing else once the fresh oranges, apples, papaya and bananas have been consumed by my three little fruit locusts probably by day five, I know they will eat freshly baked bread, pancakes and the tinned peaches every day without complaint till we get there! I’ll deal with the vitamin deficiency on the other side!

Whoop for Wahoo!Thirteen days at sea and Six days into the fresh food having run out, everyone was getting a little sick of tinned bilge surprise and a little grumpy with it. So it was excellent timing that Will managed to land his first Wahoo of the trip. As the reel on the back of the boat started paying out rapidly the girls all yelled for their Dad, ‘fish,fish,fish!!!’ I motored the boat in astern to try and slow us down. William took the rod out of its holder and stated to play the fish, reeling it in gradually. It was strong and a real fighter, this fish did not want to be our dinner. The rod bent as the fish ducked and dived trying to shake itself off the hook. As it was reeled in closer to the surface we could start to see a glimpse of its beautiful colours – greens, blues and yellows. It thrashed from side to side, taking the odd surprising dive down trying desperately to get free, having realised its mistake in taking the lure far too late. As it broke the surface on the end of the line the girls were all yelling ‘don’t loose it daddy!!’ – no pressure! And finally it was aboard, still thrashing about and being pinned down by William. It’s always a little sad I think and the fish dies and those beautiful bright vivid colours fade and take on a much lesser hue.The girls all sat and watched, transfixed as William started to gut it and cut its head off and chop it into steaks – not at all squeamish, just accepting that is was part of having fish for supper. They were pretty annoyed when the head was chucked overboard before they felt they’d had enough time to examine it and they were surprised at the size and quantity of the gizzards having only seen much smaller fish gutted before. They were very surprised when a whole flying fish emerged when the head was cut off and even asked if we could eat that too! – curious not squeamish. It was simply pan fried and served with rice, a squeeze of lemon and a shake of soy sauce and it was delicious – a green salad and a glass of white wine would have been really nice, but the salad ran out long ago and we don’t drink when at sea so that will have to wait till were shore side! That wahoo gave us 18 good fat steaks and will feed us until we reach our landfall. We only fish when we have run out of other fresh food and we don’t fish again until that one has been eaten, that’s our general rule. It was worth the wait – everyone devoured it and there was a celebration that we weren’t having tinned hot dogs for supper!

All at Sea – an Ocean Passage

I don’t particularly enjoy ocean sailing, more I endure it. That’s perhaps too strong – I feel a bit indifferent about it, it’s just something I have to get through. It is both an endurance and a sanity test. It’s the sleep deprivation from keeping night watch that gets to me – I am horrible without enough sleep!


For days, weeks, You’re surrounded by the vast grey blue ocean as far as the eye can see in every direction, a following wind with luck and a sea which varies significantly in size and moodiness from day to day, hour by hour. Sometimes she is kind and the boat dances along the waves happily, sometimes not so much but you endure everything she has to throw at you – what choice do you have? You can’t go back, it’s just as far and the winds against you making it a million times harder. Sometimes there is no wind at all – the doldrums, and this is the real test of patients and sanity. We are too many hundreds of miles from land for the engine…we just sit and wait it out.
This time, there has been huge rafts of oceanic weed, frequent enough to make it impossible to fish…the flying fish leap from the water and glide out of the Moonlighting’s way, occasionally tropic birds with their elegant elongated pointed tails and boobie birds with their colourful feet pay us a visit, and dive bomb the flying fish as if to mock us and our fishing ineptitude…

 

 

 

The ocean should be seen as something to explore not fear – but that is a challenging mindset to achieve. Crossing an ocean is such a huge effort. It’s not just the lack of sleep, it’s the physicality of the sail changes, it’s the constant awareness of the wind and how the boat is reacting to it and it’s the squalls. Add three children into this mix and it can be truly exhausting. We’re in the trade wind latitudes – there are meant to be perfect fluffy white puffs of cloud backed by a beautiful blue sky to indicate this, but there’s been none of that so far – just a muggy light grey almost total cloud covering by day. Every so often a squall rolls in. You can see it coming from quite a distance, a huge black menacing cloud that has vertical streaks reaching from it, down to the ocean…rain – a squall brings a lot of strong, unpredictable wind and a short sharp blast of warm, tropical torrential rain. At night it is really quite ominous, the already dark night sky gradually becomes totally black as the squall rolls in creeping up on you slowly from astern. When it catches up with you it’s like someone has turned off the light, even though it was already dark – the stars are clicked off and then the wind and rain starts, causing havoc with the sails and making it difficult to follow you’re course – you just have to go with it, maybe reduce the amount of sail you have up but ultimately it will give up toying with you, and roll ahead searching out its next victim. There is a lull in the wind behind it until everything settles again and suddenly the stars are switched back on. The Dementors of the sea – I wonder if JK Rowling got her idea for Dementors from a night time tropical squall…?

This Atlantic Ocean passage is making me think a year off is not enough, although this does not mean that I want to be out here doing this for any longer right now. A year to complete an Atlantic circle seems disproportionate to the amount of time we have to spend at sea. We’re sailing slowly to the Caribbean, averaging about 6 miles an hour. This ‘speed’ means there is no jet lag on arrival, for every fifteen degrees we sail west our clock goes back by one hour, when we arrive we will be four hours behind the UK.
It’ll all be worth it when we get to the Caribbean – this is what we’ve been telling the children for the past six months (well, years actually)…it’s taken six months since leaving our home port to get there, and we will spent about three or four months there before we have to cross the Atlantic again to come home. I am desperately trying to stay focused on the three months or so we will have there, but five days into our outward bound Atlantic passage my head keeps skipping ahead to the time when we will have to do this again – homeward bound. I’ve even found myself daydreaming about when we do this again in the future… I’m sure William and I will at some point, retirement is likely to be spent afloat and I look forward to being able to explore in slower time, without having the pressure of having to be back within a year for jobs and school. But, I must make myself focus on getting everything out of the here and now. The Caribbean is what this whole trip has been about for years in the making. The warm water, tropical climate, underwater life, snorkelling – This is it…but I need to remain psychologically strong on the ocean passages, it’s easy with the exhaustion to feel a bit low and let your mind wander to places you’d rather it didn’t. Look forward to the Caribbean and don’t look past it…

This is an Expedition, it’s meant to be a challenge, it’s about removing yourself from your comfort zone and rising to that challenge.
If it were easy everyone would do it, and if we wanted easy we would have flown to the Caribbean and chartered a boat for a two week holiday like proper grown ups do – we’re not proper grown ups! Us sailors appear to be hard wired slightly differently…

Bucket bath
Alone time – Lashed to the mast!

 

 

 

 

The kids thankfully really don’t seem to mind an ocean passage. Their world shrinks to the size of the 40ft boat and they largely get on with entertaining themselves with relatively minimal input from their sleep deprived parents. They listen to lots of audio books, watch movies, do some art, puzzles, board games, make dens, play tea party’s with the dolls, spend hours happily making up worlds with the little people and plastic animals and cuddly toys on board, do some school work. They’ll sit in the cockpit and just get hypnotised by the ocean or watch the dolphin show and laugh at the flying fish…Oh yes, and get annoyed with the proximity of each other and fight, shout, scream and slam doors – pretty normal really.

Toys Everywhere!

For me, the lush reward of the ocean crossing is the richness and sensory overload of landfall, after the relative simple isolation and monotony of the sea. Exploring a new island, culture, history, food, people and language after an ocean passage is what it’s all about. I’m at heart a traveller or an adventurer and I choose sailing as my mode of transport. This is an experience that cannot be replicated by any other vehicle. There is something very humbling, gratifying and satisfactory seeing your landfall emerge on the horizon after two weeks or more at sea, knowing that you’ve got there under your own steam – nobody’s done that for you. There’s an excitement that ripples through the boat when the grey speck in the distance is first spotted – ‘Land Ahoy!’, the grey speck gradually looms into a shape you recognise as you approach your long awaited destination. And way before you’re ready to drop anchor you can smell the approaching land, just like you can smell the salt of the sea when you’re going to the sea side, except land is sweet, warm, earthy and slightly like…compost.

‘Helping’ to fly the Cruising Shute
Jobs aboard – Teak oiling the wood

We’ve taken this year out to give our children the opportunity to grow, learn and explore in the outdoor environment. I think this should be a right of passage for all children. It is important to me that my children see some of the world they are going to inherit. I don’t want this to sound pretentious – Of course they won’t realise any of this until the year is done and dusted and they’re a lot older, at the moment they’re happy with a year off school! But, when they’re older and are able to reflect back on this time, I hope they will be able to see how taking this time as family to explore the globe a little has influenced their choices in life. They are the decision makers of the future – hopefully we as their parents will succeed in giving them the skills to make a difference in life and society, to rise to the challenge and to grow up being the best version of themselves they can possibly be be. Ultimately, I’d like them to just do what makes them happy.
Live each day as if it is your last……Live each day as if it will last forever.

Port of Call – Cape Verde; Bus Ride

Yesterday one of the young men who hang about the entrance to the marina took our laundry home to his mother where it was hand washed, dried and beautifully pressed and returned to the marina (a little late and we did wonder if we’d lost all our clothes but he came though eventually!), all for 1500 Escudos, I’m sure we could have beaten him further down on the price, but we didn’t think it was excessive for us and we were as happy to be able to give him some work as he was to receive it.
In a new Port of Call we opt for the local bus to give us flavour of what this place is really like. As we leave the marina there are the usual small group of young men standing around asking if we have any work for them – we don’t unfortunately, I would like to be able to say yes.

We are directed on foot from Mindelo marina to the fish market and told that the local busses stop behind there. Along the short quarter of a mile waterfront walk, we pass local beggars -dirty and shabbily clad, some with physical disability and drop a small Escudos coin into their hand. The minute you do so, other hands immediately appear – some just as needy, some clearly not so destitute. I draw the line at giving a coin to a teenage boy dressed in Nike trainers eating an ice cream – if he were really hungry enough to beg I don’t think the first thing he’d go and buy is an ice cream, he’s clearly just a chancer hoping these visitors will give, give, give, regardless.


The buildings along the front here are a mixture of homes and shop fronts – there is a very small supermarket just outside of the marina but as we make steady slow progress further down the rough, potholed road other shops become more apparent. Often just the doorway of a building has been lined with shelves and stacked with all manner of dried sacks and tinned food, beyond this open doorway residential accommodation can be glimpsed. Through another doorway there appears to be an old fashioned barber and I can briefly glimpse someone sat having a wet shave, brush foaming up his chin. Further still down the road the potholes get worse and we eventually come upon and area so bad that it has started to be resurfaced – there are half a dozen men working with a steamroller resurfacing the road and dozens more standing around watching – nothing better to do, they have no employment and this is an unusual and entertaining way to pass the time.

 As we round the corner a market square opens up with all manner of things being sold, from fruit and veg in huge baskets, to fish and spices and clothes and bits of old bikes. There are chicken legs being barbecued that smell so good and ladies wandering around with big plastic boxes often balanced on their heads filled with local street food – samosa looking in appearance – the filling is pot luck, could be fish, could be chicken, could be veg – all equally as delicious, filling and cheap, the girls chase the lady down and go back for more. The Cape Verde street food is a big hit with us Davies’s!
Surrounding the market square are dozens of colourful minibuses, all with their destinations painted on the side, all with roof racks and all rather beaten up. Today we are trying to get to the north side of the island, just to see something other than Mindelo but with no clear plan in mind – we will get on the bus and see where we end up, a Davies magical mystery tour.


We sit on the bus and wait. There is no schedule, the driver will go when the bus is full. More and more people get on the minibus, their belongings are taken off them – big bags of groceries, a large box full of fish and are put up on the roof rack and covered with some netting. They chat amiably to each other and sometimes shout out the window to others passing. They all seem to know each other, maybe they take this bus home from the market in town each day, I get the feeling the five of us might be taking up some regulars seats – I put Nancy on my lap as I have seen other parents do with their young children and she carries on munching on her street food, unfazed – a pale red haired, sheltered European four year old, in a minibus packed full of locals, we feel a little conspicuous. I’m sure there are only seats for twelve but when the driver eventually pulls away I count nineteen people. There are no seat belts and apparently no speed limit either as we rattle out of town, the bus grinding and reggae style music blaring. I’m amazed that nothing is lost in transit from the roof rack. A short distance from the market, the ‘city’ rapidly becomes more and more ramshackle and quickly turns Into shantytown. After rattling along a rough cobbled road through the mountains for about forty minutes, occasionally stopping for an individual to get out a random, isolated hut half way up the hill, we arrive at a little village – Salamansa.

There are Small, block built, one roomed abodes with corrugated roofs (some without). People are queuing at a stand pipe in the centre of the village, waiting to fill their plastic cans full of water for the day – there is no running water out here, I don’t know about electricity. Outside most houses their is a washing line full of clothes blowing in the wind and I think back to our laundry that had been done yesterday, suddenly feeling like a wealthy white person on a sight seeing tour…I want to take photos but I don’t want to appear rude, it is enough to just experience this.
Without warning (at least not in a language we can understand) the minibus grinds to a halt in a back street and we are asked to get out. In a heartbeat filled firstly with anxiety and then relief we realise why our bus had been grinding so much – we have a flat tyre..and the driver has asked a favour of a friend who suddenly appears with his pick up truck and ushers us into the back. We pay the bus driver 300 Escudos (€3) and It’s now just us in an open topped pick up hurtling along the coastal road at break neck speed till we get at a beach at the northernmost tip of the island – the girls love it, big grins and the wind in their hair!

We get out gratefully (for a number of reasons!) and wonder how on earth we are going to get back from here? We needn’t have worried, the local minibuses seem to come and go all the time, there is a little settlement here as well as the beach. The beach is nothing to write home about, there are impressive Atlantic waves rolling in but the beach has beer bottles tops and glass everywhere, and stray dogs nosing at the bag full of our snacks for the day out. We spotted a Portuguese Man of War Jellyfish in the water and after an hour we hopped onto another local bus saying ‘Mindelo’ to the driver and hoping we would be going back in the right direction. The driver stops in Salamansa again on the way home and beeps his horn outside a house, an upstairs window is thrown open and an exchange takes place – the driver explains to us in pigeon English (which is by far superior to our African /Portuguese) that we are waiting for the occupant of the house to finish his meal before we carry on! This is fine by us, we sit and wait and watch the world go by. It is time for the local children to go home from school – they are clad in flip flops but their blue school blouses and shits are clean and pressed, they are immaculate and point and laugh a little at us in the minibus.
We get back to the marina without further ado…exhausted from our adventure…relived that it all worked out and excited to see more. There is a casual, cheap, rough and ready bar at the marina. It is full of mainly white Europeans travelling on their yachts who have stepped ashore for a beer or to use the bar wifi…it now all feels quite ostentatious after what we’ve seen today…

Close Encounters of the Animal Kind.

 

*Warning! At no times were any children harmed during the making of this blog post…Not to be tried at home…*

There have been dolphins galore on most of our sea passages. Funny and acrobatic, desperately showing off, eyeing us up and trying to make friends. There have been flying fish, gracefully gliding along the surface of the water, shimmering silver, sometimes landing on our deck and ending up in the frying pan. There have been squid, stranded on our deck after a wave sloshes over the bows – again destined for our frying pan. There have been sea birds, Storm Petrol’s in particular, tiny wings flapping fast, days and days from land – what are they doing way out here? And there have been Jellyfish – the girls know to stay clear of the purple Portuguese Man of War…

And then, there was other wildlife of a more dangerous kind…

We are in Sao Vicente, Cape Verde. We got off the local bus at Baia de Sao Pedro, a small ramshackle village with rough sandy roads full of wooden and block built lean to huts and one very conspicuous Eco Hotel. It boarders a mile long, sweeping sandy beach – from a distance, picture postcard golden with turquoise blue sea and sky. Close up it is obvious this is not a beach manicured for the tourist industry. It is a working beach, full of open fishing boats, nets out drying, rubber tyres, and other rubbish – we don’t let the girls take their sandals off for fear that they will cut their feet on the broken glass and bottle tops everywhere. There are several groups of young men dotted about – fishermen, all chatting, tending to nets and launching and recovering small open fishing boats. Other than the locals, we are the only people on the beach.

The kids were happily playing in the sea with their Father, just out of their depth, goggles on searching for shells on the bottom of the sea bed. I was sat ashore, just above the tide line, partly guarding our bag – it’s extremely poor here and we thought if we were all in the water our bag would be easy pickings. And partly happily clicking away on the camera – the children in the water, an open boat being transported on the back of a truck far too short for the job, the local fishermen sorting out their nets and William emerging from the water with a handful of shells he’s just dived down a little further out to collect for the girls.

I’m still clicking, the camera trained on him as he turns and we both glimpse something…a shadow in the water about 20m away from the girls. Initially it looked like a small patch of reef or rock, which was strange as none had been seen while selecting this sandy patch of beach and seabed when we arrived earlier. Then the reef was seen to be moving toward the shore, a couple of heart beats passed as the moving reef or shadow was scrutinised and we tried to decide what we were looking at. Then, very clearly breaking the surface, a dorsal fin and a big, big tail…Will is still five meters from the waters edge as he starts running toward the water and commands the girls to ‘Get Out Of The Water NOW!’. For once there is no arguing or whining about wanting to stay in longer…there is something in the tone of their fathers voice…Grace and Nancy jump out immediately, but Connie stumbles and is pulled back a little by the small surf…Will grabs her wrist and pulls her out. And the fishermen on the beach are all stood up pointing and shouting – this isn’t a regular occurrence.
With a swish, side to side of the large, elongated, powerful tail our shadow twists around through 180 degrees, turns and is under the water again, leisurely making its way back out into deeper water… And I am still clicking, and shaking and the children are fine, thankfully – did that really just happen? That was very, very close. They moan that it’s gone and they want to go back in the water – NO CHANCE! William and I are the generation that grew up with Jaws, the movie – and have been scarred by the, ‘de-num’, ‘de-num’, ‘de-num’…They have not, and don’t know the dangers, as remote as they are statistically. They are the generation that have grown up with Steve Backshall’s children’s BBC programme Shark Bites – a great documentary style kids show that aims to dispel the bad name that sharks have…which is all well and good until you have a close encounter…

See the shadow in the water between Will and Grace?

We are in the Cape Verde. They have Tiger sharks and Bull sharks here amongst others. This one was easily the size of the Basking sharks we get off the coast of Cornwall, it must have been 12ft plus – When looking at the photos later and Googling sharks in this area we are reminded that Tiger and Bull sharks must not be underestimated. This one was easily twice the length and width of William, I know because I have it on camera. In the photo where he is emerging out of the sea, shells in hand, you can see the shadow in the water behind him and Grace in the water in the corner of the picture. A few clicks later you see the dorsal fin and the tail. This is a breeding ground for whales and turtles – we saw a couple of large turtles swimming not far out a little later, maybe this was what the shark was searching for, but best not to take that for granted, as soon as the girls left the water the shark apparently lost interest and left. It’s a shame that our first encounter with turtles got rather over shadowed by our near miss with a frankly massive shark – I don’t think I’m being dramatic calling it that…that’s what it felt and looked like.

Obviously the pictures don’t do this beast justice!

We’ve spent so much time in European waters happily jumping off the boat for a swim…this was a reality check, we are in tropical waters now and the sea life is different and we need to be more careful with our precious cargo. We were more than a little freaked out but tried not to show the children – we don’t want our children to inherit their parents generations unfounded movie generated paranoia about sharks, but equally we need them to recognise that wildlife can be dangerous and that we are just visitors in the animals environment……not the easiest thing to explain to our three water babies.

Port of Call – Mindelo, Sao Vicente, Cape Verde (first impressions)

It took us six days and nights from the Canary Islands to arrive at Mindelo, Sao Vicente, and Cape Verde’s second largest city. The 900 mile passage was fast and uneventful (thankfully), although exhausting – the rolling of the boat coupled with our three hours on, three hours off watch system left us with a large sleep deficit! We were treated to acrobatic dolphin displays, flying fish, spectacular sun and moon rises and increasingly warmer weather. We left an autumnal feeling Canaries and arrived in the tropics – hot, hot sunshine and a breakfast of unfortunate flying fish and squid that had landed on our deck during the night – waste not, want not!

 

Our first impressions of these cultural mix of African / Portuguese islands are favourable. The architecture leads you to believe that we have landed in a bygone colonial era, with colourful buildings, fancy facades and balconies everywhere and the occasional cobbled waterfront street – but all rather shabby and run down. I fact the attractive old Portuguese customs house on the waterfront in Mindelo (Porto Grande, the old colonial name) is modelled on Lisbon’s famous Torre de Belem. The shoe shining guys on the street corners add to the feeling that we may have gone back in time. Judging by the amount of red Western Sahara dust that covers our once white boat, I imagine the shoe shine guys do rather well for themselves!

The outlook beyond the ‘city’ (I use this term loosely, it is very small! The population of the whole island is 76,000 ) of Mindelo is of dry brown hills – distinctly lacking in both natural water and vegetation. There are several more islands other than Sao Vicente but they are difficult to pick out through the warm foggy haze in our anchorage.

The underlying shabbiness of the Mindelo architecture is reflected in other areas of life here too. The people historically have been very poor, on the first day here we were approached by several beggars and there are stray dogs everywhere. There are parts of the city that the guide books advise you not to go to (isn’t that the same for all city’s?) and our pilot book for the anchorage strongly recommends you don’t leave your boat unattended at night. There are police walking the streets and security guards everywhere – in the banks, the supermarket and even the marina, they are distinctive in their navy blue uniforms, but the place does not feel threatening. The dingy dock in the marina is a safe place to leave your dinghy if you are going ashore, but you have to pay for a ticket for the security guard to let you in and out of the marina. There are small groups of people gathered in the streets chatting or selling big baskets of sweets or bananas – with the amount of security around it does make you wonder if incomes need supplementing…although, there is now a university here and around a third of the population are under 30 years old so maybe things are changing.

The bay where we are anchored is full of European crushing yachts, some like us are clearly waiting for their opportunity to sail the Atlantic to the Caribbean. Others are so fouled that they have obviously been here for a long, long time are going nowhere fast. William and I sailed here 12 years ago, and then on arrival we were immediately approached by ‘boat boys’ who were friendly and asking what we needed and how could they help?(for a fee of course). There has been none of that this time and I wonder if the albeit very basic new marina has made the boat boys redundant? We have still seen small, rusty and run down local open boats whizzing about the anchorage, but they seem to be going out to the big cargo ships rather than to the yachts. Another prominent feature of the anchorage are the amount of big hulking shipwrecks, left or rot where they’ve run aground or sank. They’re mainly small cargo ships or passenger ferries and give the anchorage an eery feel. One wreck close to where we have anchored proudly displays three vertical black balls – the international sign for vessel aground -, given that the ship lies on her side and is 7/8 submerged the “total balls up” signal is an understatement to say the least!

A Total Balls Up

 

The Cape Verde islands are only a couple of hundred miles off the coast of Senegal, Africa and for the first time on this voyage we are very much in the cultural minority amongst the largely black population here. When we went ashore yesterday, my white children with their blond and red hair were very obviously not from around here! And after their very sheltered upbringing in Cornwall, UK they were inevitably curious about skin colour and curly hair! It is very good to be exposing them to some cultural diversity finally on this trip!

Canary Islands – Decisions, Decisions…

We are adrift on our timings by a few weeks, why? Decisions, Indecision, finances and international postal delays in a nutshell.

We left the UK in August 2017 and took four leisurely months to sail down the western seaboard of Europe to the Canary Islands via Porto Santo. This is a stark contrast to the last time William am I pushed off with the aim of seeing how far we could get on our old boat twelve years ago. Then, we left in early November and arrived in the Canaries three weeks later, skipping most of Europe because the weather was so marginal that time of the year, and arrived on New Year’s Day in Barbados. Crazy fast sailing!
On the whole, I have so far preferred lingering in Europe which the more traditional August leaving time has allowed – in one or two places I’d have liked to have stayed longer, one or two places I’d have liked to have left quicker!
We planned on a year out, quietly aiming for an Atlantic circuit (from Europe to the Caribbean and back again in one season). We always said that we could sail as far as the Canaries and see how we got along as a family cruising, knowing it was still relatively easy to get home again from there and we’d only sail on if everybody was happy aboard. The Canaries was our decision crunch point. If we carried on to the Caribbean we were committing not only to an awful lot of sailing, but to an awful lot of ocean sailing – no land in sight for weeks on end and three young, active children to keep entertained! We’d all have to cross the Atlantic twice (because we intend to go home again!) and financially it would cost us more given that European grocery prices are cheaper than the Caribbean.

Our extended stay in the Canaries was a necessary frustration. We had big decisions to make here. William had been offered some sailing work. He did do some, and could have had work for potentially the whole winter… We needed to decided if we wanted to stay here for the winter with the offer of work and then sail home again slowly spending some more time winding our way back up through Europe. Or, sail on, knowing financially it would be tough but would more thoroughly satisfy the adventurers within.
We’ve spent years engineering this one year out. It’s been on our ‘to do’ list ever since we returned last time, pregnant and waiting for the imminent arrival of our first child and financially broke. Five years ago we managed to buy the house we are calling our long term family home in the Cornish village we love and have been raising our children in. Since then we have been working relentlessly hard to convert that old Cornish cottage into our vision of our longer term family home – an essential part of being able to take this year out to go sailing as a family was to have the house finished and rented out. Two years ago we found the right cruising boat for us and our budget and as well as the house, Will has added the boat to his fixer upper list and has been working on both ever since (and still is with the boat, it seems the jobs list doesn’t get any smaller once cruising!…) One year ago William got his sabbatical from work approved (mine was unfortunately declined, so I resigned in time to set sail) and our sailing desires suddenly seemed to take shape. This past year we have been working incredibly hard to finally finish the house (I never did get to take a bath in that new bathroom!) and garden, thin out our possessions, store other items and finally find the right tenants (with the help of an excellent friend and letting agent and chief encourager of all things slightly barmy and adventurous!) and leave for our year ‘off’…
And why this year? Because it is the last year of our eldest daughters primary school education and we don’t want to take her out once she starts secondary school – it’s now or never…
When we look back on how long it has taken us to engineer this year out and the sheer hard work physically and mentally to make it happen, we soon realised we didn’t want to waste it with William going to work in a foreign country and the girls and I left behind on the boat. It’s about spending time together as a family without the pressures of work, school, clubs and schedules. No, we are not well off, but neither are we poor, and yes it is helpful to pick up a bit of work here and there on route, but not to the extent that it jeopardises our precious and hard won time together (being together 24/7 and 365 days can be hard work – but that is part of it too).

When we arrived in the Canaries we didn’t have a working auto helm – an essential piece of kit if we were to sail any further. So, we needed to fix the electric auto helm regardless of our decision, and to make sailing onwards a viable option we wanted to find and purchase a wind vane self steering system to augment the auto helm, at great expense even second hand – eating significantly into our cruising kitty. We justified buying one because without it we couldn’t sail on with confidence, and the chances are William and I will take off sailing again at some point in the future when the kids have grown up, so it’s an investment!

The Canaries are pretty straight forward cruising grounds, just a four or five day passage from mainland Europe, off the coast of north west Africa. Which is why it’s full of Northern European sailors of a certain age, escaping the harsh winters of home for a more temperate climate. The five weeks we ended up spending in the Canaries felt a little bit like we’d arrived in gods waiting room for cruisers about thirty years too early! Maybe we’ll be back in the future and enjoy the gentle warm wind sailing between the islands, but right now it felt a bit tame – we wanted to go further afield and get adventuring again.
We ordered, received and fit the new wind vane, William went off to work for a bit, then we squeezed in Christmas and Atlantic crossing food provisioning during those five weeks. The wait reignited our adventurous fire and it felt positive to realise we didn’t want to spend our one year off in one place – we were on a journey and wanted to keep travelling, to see new places and experience new landfalls.
We had originally hoped to be in the Caribbean by now, instead we are in the Cape Verde. We were at sea for New Year’s Eve and my birthday. Life doesn’t always go according to plan and can change for reasons beyond your control (especially if you’re wanting for TNT to deliver a parcel outside of mainland Europe!) This is why we are behind our ideal schedule but it doesn’t really matter, well adjust our plans slightly to suit, and I guess is a good life lesson for both us and the children.
After a period of indecision, we are now firmly back on track and committed to the remaining time we have bought for ourselves before reality bites back next summer!

*Photos will be added when we have a better wifi connection!*

‘Twas The Night Before Christmas…

It’s Christmas here in the Canaries and our thoughts are naturally turning to home with more than a little nostalgia. We are missing the children’s school carol service and the Christmas jumper competition, carol singers, Christmas Eve drinks in the pub, going to see father and mother Christmas at Cotehele, our local National Trust property and of course getting together with the extended family and old friends. The children do miss their crazy much loved cousins who they have a fairly wild relationship with! Although we do not live near each other, they see them regularly throughout the year and especially at Christmas time.
Talk of snow, Christmas trees with twinkling lights and the rounds of mince pie and mulled wine evenings at friends houses in our small Cornish village is making us a little homesick.

Although, our scaled down Christmas this year is something of a relief too. Often at home Christmas adds an extra pressure – the cost, the expectations, the socialising. We enter January exhausted and usually sick from all those winter bugs we’ve shared and wondering how long it will be before were financially on an even keel again.
The girls know that this year Father Christmas will just be bringing some little surprises because of course landing in his sea sledge would be far to hazardous if it was overloaded! Despite this they are still super excited and persuaded William to buy a tiny, tiny Christmas tree which has been lashed securely inside the boat and they’ve spent a happy afternoon merrily making Pom pom’s in place of babuls. At the marina we have been staying in recently, there is a Christmas tree covered in beach balls and sun hats, a Father Christmas statue wearing sunglasses and a Christmas post box for the children to post their letters to Father Christmas. There is talk of Father Christmas arriving by dinghy to the marina a little closer to the big day…


The warm, temperate climate here doesn’t really lend itself to feeling very traditionally Christmassy. It’s quite easy to forget – or at least it would be without the children who have made a count down calendar just to make sure we don’t!

 

 

We are in full summer mode – shorts, t-shirts, sunblock and regular dips in the sea off the back of the boat, which is gently swinging at anchor, to cool off. 

The Whittington’s

The best Christmas present was running Into some very old friends who happen to be out here for a week of sun before Christmas – it was pure chance we were still here, we were meant to be long gone by now and had become a little despondent with our lack of progress, but spending the last week before Christmas largely in the company of the Whittington’s has cheered us all up no end…

We are now on route from Lanzarote to Gran Canaria, hopefully to make landfall tomorrow – the day before Christmas Eve. It will be refreshing to be somewhere new, we’re all ready for a change…

Postscript: We have arrived in Gran Canaria, it’s Christmas Eve and everyone is very exited to see what Father Christmas brings us tonight! Merry Christmas everyone!