Our maritime adventure is over for this year. Last Thursday we packed our bags, locked up Carina and said goodbye to her until spring. Well…almost. She’s currently berthed on a pontoon at Teignmouth in south Devon, waiting for her winter mooring to become available, which could be any time in the next few days. She’ll get some much needed care and attention over the winter months to get her ready for next spring and, hopefully, our permanent move aboard. We, in the meantime, are staying with Julian’s mum in Leamington Spa, about as far as one can be from the sea in the UK. In fact, around the corner from my mother-in-law’s house there is an oak tree with a plaque proclaiming it to mark the exact middle of the country. We are in a state of limbo, awaiting the take-off of our winter plans. Hopefully, within the next few weeks we will have settled down to some job or other, and can then proceed with preparing Carina for warmer, bluer, deeper waters in 2013.
We have learned so much in the past six months. What a steep learning curve it has been, and we still have a long way to go. Perhaps the most important thing we have learned is that we love this lifestyle, we love living aboard our boat. And it has been a tough summer for that kind of love. The wettest summer on record in the UK and Ireland. When we planned this summer adventure along the south of England and across to Ireland, I had imagined endless days of sunshine, long lazy days on the beach, eating our meals in the cockpit under the warm summer sun. I worried about not having enough sun screen for the girls and for the state of my own fair skin. I need not have worried. I imagined doing most of my own laundry, handwashing our shorts and t-shirts and hanging them out to dry in Carina’s rigging. Alas, none of this was to be. We had the occasional warm (or even, dare I say it, hot) day, when we dashed to the nearest beach. But the rain fell far more often than the sun shone. The boat was constantly damp and mildewed, and I had to resort to almost always using expensive launderette facilities (and bringing Moby aboard in the course of one such trip). On those rare warm, dry days we raced to open all the hatches and lockers, and air the bedding, in a futile attempt to dry Carina out (she sounds like a bit of an alcoholic!). There were times when high wind and driving rain prevented us from leaving the boat for days on end, and we struggled to keep the children occupied and entertained. If it was winter, or if we had embarked on a long trans-oceanic passage, we would be prepared for such things, but we had not expected such endless wet, windy and cold weather during the British and Irish summer.
But despite all of this – or perhaps because of it – we have discovered that we love our life afloat; we love Carina; and we enjoy each other’s company in confined spaces for extended periods of time (I hesitate to use the word ‘love’ for this experience, but being together all day every day has certainly been no endurance trial!).
And so, it is with somewhat heavy hearts that we have moved back ashore for winter. But this was always our plan, and we are filled with excitement for what is to come. We have learned a lot, and can now begin to put it into practice. We have both compiled lists of things we need to procure – mine concern improved food storage and waste disposal and educational entertainment for the girls; Julian’s concern the engine and sails and renewable energy sources. We have learned lessons through our own trial and error, and also from talking to other people and learning how more experienced sailors and live-aboards do things more cannily than we do.
We have learned how to deal with Katie’s tendancy to sea sickness and over the summer months we have gradually reduced the number of times she has been ill. I don’t think her tolerance for pitching and rolling has increased, but rather our skills at preventing the sickness from happening and spotting the signs early on have improved. We’ve learned the best sleeping arrangements for the girls under various sailing conditions; we’ve learned how to cook and bake our favourite foods with just a few minor adjustments to take account of our lack of worktop and cooking space. And we’ve learned to sail. Perhaps not very well, but we are more confident of our abilities having covered 1000 nautical miles in all sorts of weather conditions, and having developed our skills at mooring, anchoring and berthing.
We have so much still to learn and discover, and are already hatching plans for next year and a much more extensive adventure. My blog will continue throughout the winter as I look forward and look back.