Seven years ago…

Today seems like an appropriate day to write this post. On this day seven years ago, Carina became ours. We had spent the summer searching for a suitable boat and had given up hope of finding our new home that year. In mid-September, we moved from Cambridge to Devon and, the night before we made the move, I found Carina online. Not only did she look great but, miraculously, she was only an hour from the Devon town we were moving to the next day. We made an appointment to see her that weekend and immediately fell in love with her. Things moved swiftly and, on that chilly morning of November the 2nd, we transferred the money from our bank account, drove down to Plymouth to sign the papers and Carina was ours.

What an amazing seven years it’s been. She’s been our mode of transportation to amazing places, our school, our office. But more than anything, she’s been our home. The posts in this blog tell the story of the places we’ve been, the things we’ve seen and the adventures we’ve had. Katie was a plump little one-and-a-half-year-old when we first moved aboard Carina, and now she’s a lanky eight-year-old who, as I write, is making me pancakes for breakfast. Carina is the only home that Katie can remember.

Three and a half years ago we found ourselves in the Rio Guadiana. We liked the place and thought we’d stay for a week or ten days. Those of you who read this blog regularly will know it didn’t quite turn out like that. We fell in love with the place and three and half years later we are still here and our love for the place has matured and deepened.

And so, this summer, we made a decision that has been brewing for some time. We decided to move ashore. A few reasons underlie our decision. The main reason is that Carina is now too small for us. Julian has felt uncomfortable aboard for some time. Given that he’s 6’2”, big and broad, there are no comfortable spaces for him as he squeezes around the saloon table, crouches down to get to our bed in the aft cabin, and sits on saloon sofas that are too small for him. The girls are growing too, and taking after their dad when it comes to height. Before long I’ll be looking up at all three of them.

As I’ve written in posts before, like many live aboard families, our financial situation is such that we’ve had to work our way to this lifestyle. For the first few years, I worked winters and we cruised summers. After a few months of living on the Rio Guadiana, when Lily and Katie had already been in school in Sanlúcar for four months, we had our first winter where we didn’t earn any money. So, when spring rolled around, we knew that if we wanted to stay longer we needed to make some money.

What started out as occasional work teaching English and doing academic editing, has grown and grown until it is now full-time work for me and almost half-time work for Julian. I now have three very satisfying jobs – as an English teacher, an academic editor and a researcher and marketer for an online company. The diversity of the jobs keeps me on my toes and, currently, there’s no risk I’ll get bored any time soon. Julian’s English teaching hours are also growing and he works now and again for an old local man who needs someone younger, more agile and with better eyesight to help him refurbish his boat.

My online work means that I need my own space to work – an office where I can work undisturbed and the space around to spread out my work materials – my notebooks, my calendars, my lists. My online and editing work often requires me to work early in the morning or late at night, so my live aboard options – taking myself ashore to the library or a bar – were becoming increasingly untenable, not to mention frustrating on those days when I arrived in Alcoutim to discover there was a public holiday and the library was closed, or when I sat in my favourite bar in Sanlúcar and spend the morning talking to all the people who dropped by my table to say hello. I’m pathologically social, so finding a way to separate work time from socialising time became critical.

House-sitting for our friends over the summer opened my eyes to something else, which was the thing that finally convinced me to move ashore. It wasn’t the space of living in a house that seduced me. It was the time. The speed at which I could do things in a house suddenly made me realise how much time living aboard Carina was taking. It wasn’t just the time taken to bring the girls to and from school by dinghy. That was lovely, the early morning river, the time to chat as we rowed home from school. There was all the other motoring or rowing up and down the river – to get to English lessons, to get to a place where I could do my online work, to get to the youth hostel to do laundry, to go shopping. Each trip ashore took time and planning, Julian and I coordinating laundry trips with collecting the girls from school; coordinating English teaching with the girls’ after school activities. But apart from the dinghy rides to and from the villages multiple times a day there was the time it took to do everything onboard Carina. Cooking, washing dishes, boiling the kettle, showering, getting dressed, tidying up. Everything takes so much more time aboard a small boat than in a house.

None of that mattered when we were cruising and had time on our hands. In fact, there was a great joy and freedom in that slowing down, which I now miss. But now we have children with busy social lives – after school activities and friends with whom they want to run around the village – and we are busy parents with a lot of working hours, each one of those minutes is precious. Living in a house during the summer I was shocked to discover how quickly I could do laundry, take a shower, get dressed, and how much time that opened up in my day. What a revelation. I realised I had lost the time to enjoy the boat, to sit out on deck reading a book, to take in the sunset while sipping a glass of wine. Life had become rush rush rush.

One way we could deal with that would be to give it all up. Take the girls out of school, give up the teaching, embrace the cruising life once more and set sail. But that wouldn’t solve the space problem and it would create a whole new problem. You see, some time over the past year or two, Sanlúcar became home. All too often in the past I have left places I love before I was ready to leave – Sue-machi in Japan and Arviat in Nunavut – and I don’t want to do the same to this place.


So, we made what was, for me and for the girls at least, the sad decision to leave our home and make a new home in the village. There have been tears. There was the day in late August when Lily, Katie and I went down to Carina for a couple of hours to do some packing, but completely failed. First Lily started to cry, and then all three of us were crying and hugging each other and the idea of packing up our home was too distressing. We just sat there feeling miserable and reminiscing about the good times we’d had on board. A couple of weeks later I cleared Carina out on my own, business-like and not allowing myself to get emotional.


We have moved into a lovely house, high up in the village, with a view over the roof of the church and the old windmills. We have two bedrooms, two (two!!) bathrooms, an office, a spacious living room, a kitchen with an open fire, and big back yard. We have lovely neighbours and Lily’s and Katie’s friends knock on the door every morning and they all walk to school together.


Meanwhile, Carina sits on a mooring a few hundred metres downriver. I haven’t been back to see her since we moved off. I want to visit her, but I’ve had back problems (brought on by the move) and have been unable to do so. As soon as my back improves I want to row down to visit her, maybe spend a night onboard, take time to appreciate her as she looked when we first bought her. Soon we will put her up for sale. Who knows, she might sell in days (as happened when we bought her) or she might take months or even years to sell. For as long as we have her here we can visit her, go for trips on her. But that’s not the same. We are no longer liveaboards. That phase of our lives is over and now we have moved on to something else. The girls have been confused by their mixed emotions – sadness at leaving Carina and excitement about moving into a house. I’ve tried to explain that that’s how things are, that mix of emotions is often how we experience change in our lives.


Maybe we’ll live aboard another boat someday but, for now, we have become landlubbers once again.


21 thoughts on “Seven years ago…

  1. Well done guys, you found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. There are a few nicer spots on the planet but not many nicer people to be found then where you have made your home. Really chuffed it worked out for you.

    • Thanks so much. We haven’t quite settled in to life on land yet, but we’re getting there. I’m longing to get out on Carina for a weekend, but I’ve been hampered by sciatica which means I can’t even walk down to the dock, let along get into a dinghy. I can only watch the river from afar!!

  2. Lovely 😊 Wishing you all health & happiness as you embark on the next part of your journey through life … ..
    Aunty Liz xxxxxx

  3. Hi, we met you a couple of years ago, we were on Yacht Rivalady (Ian and Jackie) and spent about a month anchored in the Guadiana (I sprained my ankle in the bar!). We have continued to follow your blog and wish you much happiness in your new life ashore. We have very fond memories of our time in the Guadiana and the community, it’s a very special place. Best wishes, Ian and Jackie x⛵️

    • Hi Ian and Jackie. Of course I remember you and Rivalady. Life ashore is taking some getting used to. I especially miss the coziness of Carina on a cold winter night and early morning mists on the river. However, life ashore has it’s advantages too, and slowly we are turning the house into our home.

  4. Martina, your post has brought tears to my eyes! I know how much you all love Carina and how much you will miss her. However, life changes and moves on and you are still in beautiful Sanlucar and the girls are happy in school and with their friends. I can’t wait to visit you in your new abode! xxxxxx

    • Our story aboard Carina may have come to an end, but I hope Carina’s story will go on. We’re all missing her these days and think we might need to take her out for a sail again soon xxxx

  5. As your journey ends mine is just beginning as three weeks ago I be one the proud owner of Midgiwee a Mk 1 Conway and been on board ever since not looking back. Last weekend I relocated her to Southsea Marina learned very quickly that in a tight birth with 39foot between two rows and a 30knot wind hitting beam on when trying to get into a birth is not as easy as a little westerly 21. Already considering a bow thruster eek.

    Living aboard has already made me more relaxed and my pace slowed down she is a beautiful boat yes needing work but I am looking forward to doing that.

    I have really enjoyed reading your posts and the comments and wish you well on your new journey

    Lots of love to you all

    • Hi Damon,
      That’s great news. Congratulations!! I wondered if you’d had any luck, as you seemed close to buying a Westerly the last time we spoke. That’s great news. I hope she brings you as much joy and pleasure as Carina brought to us xx

  6. Onward and upward ! Our thoughts and best wishes for the evolution of your momentous move go with you . Once you develop gills all we be easy . Dee and I also facing a big change . Tonight we in the Pyrenees concluding the sale of our mountain bolt hole . Yes , after 20 years we selling our little piece of Paradise ; the first home we bought together is soon to belong to others . Tonight we celebrate with our Catalan friends and neighbours in the time honoured fashion . No more tears. Tomorrow is another day . I thought leaving Plymouth and selling Solace was the worst thing that ever happened but I was wrong . This tiny Village and the people in it will always occupy a big part of our Souls .Love to you all Rex and Dee Lerego ( Europeans in limbo) xxx

    • Hello!!! Great to hear from you, and thank you for your lovely good wishes. Well, if you’re Europeans in limbo, why don’t you go to where all other Europeans in limbo go – come here to the Rio Guadiana!! There are worse places you could go to start the next leg of your adventure in life! xxx

      • What a great idea ! Perhaps we will come and find you in 2019. Dee hits 60 at Christmas so we planning an extended adventure, if we have any funds left over after our Queen Mary 2 Cruise we will be there. At present working on our Portugeeseness…. perhaps a chance of new passports ? Almost as good as being Irish.

      • Alentejo, ahora que tiene buen sentido!
        Estuvimos en Andalucía recientemente, si hubieses sabido sobre la oferta del Alentejo, hubiéramos luchado los 400 kilómetros extra y te hubiéramos encontrado !!
        xxx Rex y Dee See you next time

    • Hi Sarah,
      It’s certainly been a different autumn, living in a house rather than aboard Carina. I do miss cozy nights in the saloon. But life in the village has its advantages, and the view from up here on the hill is incredible! xxx

  7. Glad to hear that you’ve come to a decision that seems best for all of you – you had so many adventures as owners of Carina 🙂 What a special childhood you have given (and are still giving!) the girls – best wishes to you all xoox

    • Hi Martha, I haven’t forgotten you, I promise. I really am going to sit down one of these days and write that catch-up email! At least now you know one of the big reasons why I’ve been slow to reply! Love to all xxxx

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