My week in the media spotlight!

Back on January 17th the Irish Examiner, a nationwide newspaper, published an article I wrote about life aboard Carina in their Saturday weekend magazine. The response was phenomenal and, as well as attracting many new followers to my blog, it also attracted the attention of some Irish broadcasters. I was contacted by RTE television and by Today FM, both nationwide broadcasters, with interview requests. I arranged for the interviews to take place while I was home in March. This past week has been a whirlwind of travelling and media interviews. And it’s been incredible.

With Anton Savage on Today FM

With Anton Savage on Today FM

On Tuesday morning I went to Dublin and was interviewed by Anton Savage on Today FM. Everyone was so kind and friendly, and the man himself proved just as handsome and suave as my female friends all claimed! The interview was a lot of fun. His best question was probably ‘Your kids aren’t feral, are they?’!! You can listen to that interview here

On Thursday I was down in Cork for two interviews. The first was on 96FM, a local Cork radio station, where I was interviewed on The Opinion Line with PJ Coogan as part of a programme about people who decide to transform their lives in some crazy way. There was me, an accountant turned musician, a housewife turned milliner, and others. You can listen to that interview here.

With Daithi and Maura on RTE's Today Show

With Daithi and Maura on RTE’s Today Show

And on Thursday afternoon I was in RTE’s Cork studio, for a TV interview on the Today Show with Daithi O’Se and Maura Derrane. It was my first time on TV and I had a great time. Everyone was so generous and wonderful to us. They asked if Lily and Katie would come on the show too, and the team put the girls so much at their ease that, by the time they sat on the studio sofa, they looked like they were in Granny’s living room. Afterwards, while I was changing back into my civvies to brave the wind and rain outside the studio, Maura took the girls away and made them up plates of carrot cake and biscotti for the journey home. You can watch our TV debut here. If you don’t want to watch the whole show, skip to 57.35 minutes to watch us.

The response to all this media coverage has been phenomenal. I’ve had so many messages via the blog, Twitter and Facebook, wishing us well. Everyone has been so generous. A lot of people have taken the time to send me messages, and I promise I will respond to everyone over the next few days.

Now it’s back to earth with a bang. Lily and Katie are running around Mammy’s garden, in their pajamas and covered in turf mould! Clothes need to be washed, shopping needs to be done, and I’m getting ready for a grown-up ‘sleep over’ with my two oldest friends tonight!

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My top destinations

by Julian

It is the end of the year and since we started out in 2012 we have covered 3000 miles in Carina. I have already reviewed when things go wrong, so for balance I thought I would highlight some of the best places we have been to. I have chosen one destination in each country we have visited, though there are many other fabulous places in all five countries.

Tresco – Isles of Scilly, Cornwall, England

TrescoCollageWe moored on either side of Tresco. In New Grimsby Sound on passage to Ireland and in Old Grimsby Sound on the way back. I’ve heard people be a bit sniffy about Tresco because the south end of the island is so well tended. But in fact this is one of the most stunning things about it. It is an island of two extremely different halves. Of course the views everywhere are incredible. When the sun is out the beaches have the feel of a south pacific island. The moorings are a bit pricey but it is possible to anchor. We thoroughly enjoyed our time there. See the blog posts: Hungry sailors in Tresco and Falmouth to the Isles of Scilly.

Muros – Ria de Muros, Galicia, Spain

MurosCollageThe town is absolutely lovely with its old narrow streets overlooking a nice bay. The marina is pricey, but probably the best I have ever stayed in, with the office, lounge and laundry all set in an old converted cottage. It has a great family feel about it. If you love fish Muros is certainly a top destination too and we were there for the fabulous Virgin del Carmen fiesta with its waterborne parade. Despite the comments in the pilot guide about anchoring difficulties plenty of yachts anchored in the bay with no major issues. However, our best time was away from the town, when we anchored off a beach around the corner. I could walk into Muros and we could swim or row to the beach to play for the afternoon. We even collected delicious mussels at low water, whilst some locals were picking the razor clams. See the blog posts: Ria de Muros – a little bit of heaven, Fiesta de Virgin del Carmen and Beach Interlude.

Culatra – Algarve, Portugal

CultraCollagePeople just anchor here and stay for the whole summer and I can see why. What a fantastic place. Away from the traffic children can run around in relative safety, they cannot go far because it is a small island. Many people just seem to hang around barbequing fish that have been collected by the fleet of small, often single person boats. There is also the community of catamarans in the lagoon, some of which are permanent inhabitants. Ferries to Olhao and Faro mean that you can get everything you might need, but it is fun to just stay on the island and meet the people, including sailors from all over Europe. See the blog posts: Have you heard the one about the Inuit family, Old cats and Arviat on the Algarve.

L’Aber Wrac’h – Brittany, France

LaberwracCollageI just love the many faces of L’Aber Wrac’h. You can moor upriver at Paluden, away from the bustling marina of La Palue, or hang out and meet the many interesting sailors (and rowers), from all over the world, passing through on their adventures. There are beautiful walks in the woods, the hills and along the beaches, with their cockle picking opportunities. Nice towns you can walk to (or catch the bus), and of course the chance to sample the delicious food of Brittany. But probably the most spectacular thing is the entrance itself with impressive granite rocks and a giant imposing lighthouse in the backdrop (Possibly the tallest in the world). It is a great staging post for an adventure. See the blog post: Brittany.

Derrynane – County Kerry, Ireland

filename-derrynane-harbourDerrynane has a tight entrance, only to be attempted in good weather, but once in you are safe at anchor, in a beautiful cove. If the weather turns bad you’ll have to stay there and wait it out though. The sort of place where you can swim from the boat to the beach, explore all around the fantastic dunes and rocks, finding a variety of interesting places to play and chill out. It has a great pub too. What more do you want? See the blog post: Dolphins divers and Derrynane.

Conclusion

Well that’s it for now, except to say that I would feel bad without at least a mention of some other places which could have made this list.

Falmouth, Fowey, Penzance, The Yealm and Mevagissey – England.

Horseshoe Harbour – Sherkin Island, Glandore, Crookhaven and Lawrence Cove – Bere Island – Ireland.

Camaret sur Mer – France.

Porto – Portugal.

Ria de Viveiro, La Coruña, Rianxo, Bayona (all of Galicia really) – Spain.

3000 miles but not all plain sailing

by Julian

Over the last three years, we have sailed 3000 miles in Carina. Almost all of this has been just the four of us. It is the end of the year, so time for reflection and where better to start than with the things that went wrong.
JulianSailingWhen we set out, our open water sailing experience was about 1600 miles for me and 600 miles for Martina. But this is meaningless. Martina’s 600 miles were 50% as crew and 50% as a passenger. She had completed her RYA yachtmaster theory and her RYA dayskipper practical, but she wasn’t even close to sailing a boat independently. I had lots of experience sailing small boats inland, I had completed my RYA coastal skipper practical course but not attempted the exam, and I had skippered a yacht a couple of times but  always with someone more experienced on board. So we were bound to make some mistakes when we set out.

WHERE IT ALL WENT WRONG!

1. Don’t assume there isn’t a gas rig there

Our first major crossing to Ireland two years ago involved a black night with very thick fog. We were still many miles off the Irish coast when we started to hear a strange signal. What was it? I woke Martina and we both went up on deck. It wasn’t a ship. There was nothing marked on the paper chart and we were just about to check the electronic chart plotter when a voice came over the radio “This is the stand-off boat for the Head of Kinsale gas rig. Your present course will take you into a restricted area. Please alter course.” A quick zoom in on the chart plotter revealed that we were a mile away from the restricted area. We altered course and ten minutes later the thick fog lifted to reveal two giant gas rigs lit up like Christmas trees. In fact they reminded me of the flying saucer in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

2. My ‘Open Water 2 : Adrift’ moment

We had just put the sails on Carina for the first time and were out for our first ever sail when we anchored in a cove near Torquay. We were sitting happily in the cockpit when Lily decided to throw the winch handle overboard. I am a strong swimmer and have some experience as a diver. We were in a sheltered cove, near a beach and the water was about 5 metres deep. I reckoned I stood a chance of retrieving the winch handle, so I jumped in. The water was too murky to find it. I then realised that, unlike the charter yachts I’d been on previously, I couldn’t get back on board Carina! Of course at that time I hadn’t yet made my rope ladder and the dinghy was deflated and stowed on deck. After several attempts and great difficulty I eventually managed to pull myself on board with the help of a rope chucked over the side, but I know I looked pretty stupid.

3. Headlands on a lee shore

It took me two years of sailing Carina and three similar situations, for me to learn a valuable lesson about rounding headlands. If you are sailing close hauled, never assume the tack you are on will get you around a headland. First, the wind is blowing you onto shore. Second, no matter how insignificant the headland, there will often be a change in wind direction, usually strengthening as well, along with worsening sea conditions. Effectively sailing single handed in 2012, with Martina taking care of the kids (one reason why I probably hadn’t attempted to change tack), I was thankfully able to react before things got out of hand. Heart in mouth I usually don’t bother to tell anyone, I’m sure I’d only worry them. Now I know why my dad was never happy sailing like that!

4. Slipping the anchor

Twice this year we have slipped the anchor. The first time was near Truro, Cornwall, England. For various reasons, I didn’t have enough chain out. The wind got up and steadily built to a fierce onshore near gale. The bay shallowed gently and we were about to go aground. Martina tried to turn the engine on and the throttle didn’t work. We went aground. I quickly got into the dinghy and motored out to throw in an extra anchor upwind of Carina. The extra anchor held us and as the rising tide re-floated us I had time to look at the engine. Somehow the throttle cable had popped out of the new control lever we had only just had fitted by Dicky B Marine in Plymouth. This was only the second day of using it since it was fitted. Luckily it didn’t cost us our boat or our lives.

The second time was in Ria de Arousa, Spain. This time a less dangerous but equally strong offshore breeze got up, and the next thing I knew we were bumping up to a large buoy of one of the mussel rafts (the raft itself was thankfully on the beach). A little epoxy filler was needed and I pulled up the greenest stretch of anchor chain I have ever seen.

5. We’re not where we thought we were!

We had already successfully sailed through the Chenal du Four in Brittany once, so maybe I was a bit too casual on the return trip north last year. I completely misidentified a mark. We don’t have a chart plotter in the cockpit so it is necessary to pop down to the chart table to see the electronic chart. Thankfully things looked wrong enough that I did just that. We were out at sea but had I not altered course things could have been messy as rocks were not far from the surface. On another occasion I entered the Ria de Arousa through the wrong channel. Not that this wasn’t possible, given the relatively good conditions of the day, it was just not what I had planned. I could see the marks and they looked fine but the rocks looked awfully close together. I popped down and had a look at the plotter. We were fine but I was sure my passage plan of the morning didn’t look quite like this. It wasn’t until after the sail I realised what had happened.

6. When the wind blows

In 2013, my friend John joined us for a trip to France. He had been on boats before but had never done any sea sailing. Heading from Fowey to Roscoff the forecast gave west-southwest to southwesterly winds which would give us at least 50 degrees sailing off the wind. Force 4 to 5, occasional showers (some thundery) didn’t sound too bad. At 12 tonnes, Carina is a heavy boat for her 36ft, and she doesn’t have a large sail area. Nevertheless, given the crew and the night crossing, I put a reef in the mainsail and reefed in some of the headsail, reducing their area, and we travelled along a little slower than we could have done. Then I spotted the thunderstorm. I thought it would miss us but it didn’t. I should have reacted in precaution but I didn’t and the storm hit us relatively quickly. The next 30 minutes were accompanied by force 7 to 8 winds, with two gusts just tipping over to force 9. This was made even more spectacular by the continual lightning flashing all around, the earsplitting thunder and the violent horizontal hailstorm making it nearly impossible to see anything. Somehow we got through it without anything breaking (apart from the toilet seat). What a ride for a first time sailor! I can only say John proved himself to be a pretty tough cookie. He didn’t abandon us the moment we got to France and he proved very useful on the helm for someone with so little experience.

Conclusion

It’s not all plain sailing. However, incidents are getting fewer. I don’t sail close to lee shores unless I am coming into port and absolutely have to (generally the engine will be running even if still under sail). I check every inch of the passage on the most up to date detailed chart I possess and always work on the assumption that there is going to be something unexpected out there, I just don’t know about it yet. Starting out as relative amateurs we have sailed 3000 miles aboard Carina and, whilst neither of us are great sailors, we are getting a lot better. One thing for certain is that things do go wrong. We just have to work at reducing the risks and making sure we know how to deal with problems when they occur.

2012 Highlights

We’ve almost reached the end of another year, and some of us may already be regretting giving ourselves over to mince pies and mulled wine so early in the Christmas season. It’s a time of year to reflect on what’s past and to look forward to the future. I’ve picked out ten of my highlights of the year – in vague chronological order:

1. Lily’s Birthday, Dawlish

March 27th on the beach at Dawlish

March 27th on the beach at Dawlish

Lily’s third birthday was celebrated on the beach at Dawlish. I took the day off work, packed a picnic lunch and our swimwear, and we spent the day playing, building sandcastles, splashing in the waves, and generally having big big fun. What could be better than a day on the beach with my two favourite people?

Strolling in Lanzarote

Strolling in Lanzarote

2. Easter in Lanzarote

We spent Easter in Lanzarote with Julian’s mum and my mum. What a week. Sun, sea, swimming pools. Two grandmothers to spoil the girls, leaving Julian and I free to go SCUBA diving for the first time in almost five years. What bliss to be under water again.

Moving Day

Moving Day

3. Moving Day

On the 9th of May we said goodbye to dry land and moved aboard Carina. Land-lubbers no more. Only thirteen months since that fateful Good Friday in 2011 when we decided to give it a shot, and here we were living on our own boat. I was filled with excitement, pride and joy on what we had achieved and what we hoped to achieve.

In lieu of a Falmouth photo I give you twenty toes

In lieu of a Falmouth photo I give you twenty toes

4. Cosmopolitan Falmouth

For five days we berthed at Falmouth Yacht Haven. The place was a United Nations of bohemian self-sufficient live-aboards in fantastically equipped home-made or altered sailing boats. Each day we met interesting neighbours from Germany, Italy, Canada, Ireland, the US, newly sailed in from Ireland, Bermuda, the Mediterranean. Lone sea-farers, couples with young children, boat-loads of friends. What a treat.

View from the highest point of Tresco

View from the highest point of Tresco

5. Tresco – twice

We visited the Isles of Scilly twice this year, mooring either side of the delightful island of Tresco. Azure seas, golden sandy beaches and bizarre rock formations formed our backdrop and our playground. We swam, we explored, we played, we ate good food, we met Dick Strawbridge! I can’t sing the praises of the Isles of Scilly highly enough.

The Bull and the Heifer near the mouth of Bantry Bay

The Bull and the Heifer

6. The Cork and Kerry coastline

West Cork and South Kerry have been a part of me for as long as I remember. Holidays with family and friends bring back so many good memories. But I never saw them from this angle before. Wow. The cliffs and islands as one turns into Glandore/Union Hall, and again at Baltimore; majestic Mizen Head; delightful Crookhaven; The Cow and The Bull and The Heifer. This awesome coastline lifted my spirits and filled my heart with wonder.

bolt7. BOLT!!!!

On a warm summer’s evening in August, Julian and I went to the pub in Baltimore, leaving the girls aboard Carina with their granny. Shortly before 9.45pm, the revelers out on the street packed into the pub. About 200 people were squashed together, standing on tables and chairs, all eyes on the small television mounted on the wall near the bar. We screamed, we yelled, we clapped each other on the back. We hugged complete strangers. And for 9.63 seconds we all belonged to each other and a lanky cheeky Jamaican belonged to us all. I’m welling up just remembering it.

View of Sherkin Island from Lott's Wife

View of Sherkin Island from Lott’s Wife

8. Horseshoe Bay, Sherkin Island

On a warm September day, Julian rowed the girls and I from our anchorage in Horseshoe Bay to a small deserted stony beach. The only access to the beach was by boat and ours was the only boat in the bay. The girls played, I read a book, we collected rocks. In late afternoon, Julian re-joined us, and I left him with the girls while I rowed back to Carina, made dinner and transported it in pots and pans back to the beach. It was one of those perfect sunshiny days that stay with you forever.

Certainly no Royal Navy photos...anyone going shopping?

Certainly no Royal Navy photos…anyone going shopping?

9. Royal Navy

Let me first say I’m a pacifist, and no fan of the military. In early summer, as we were departing Plymouth, a Royal Navy frigate overtook us with all hands on deck standing to attention. It was a magnificent sight. But when they saw our little girls waving at them, the entire crew – I don’t know – 100 sailors – all waved back. I was touched. As we sailed back into Plymouth in late September, three Royal Navy high speed inflatables overtook us. All the sailors waved at us. But the crew of one inflatable diverted from their course, and sped in circles around Carina to the delight of both the girls and us. Simple, thoughtful gestures that made our children happy.

Lily and friend at Hallowe'en

Lily and friend at Hallowe’en

10. Hatton Country World

My final highlight of the year was a trip to Hatton Country World in Warwickshire with Lily, Katie and my father-in-law, Barry. What a great place. The very best soft play in the whole world – for adults and children; goats, sheep, pigs, guinea pigs, reindeer, a donkey all to feed and stroke, and more indoor and outdoor activities for children than your mind could comprehend. My only complaint – one day was not enough. We might have to go back again over Christmas.

Wishing you all a peaceful and merry Christmas, and best wishes for a 2013 filled with joy, love and – what else? – adventure xxx

Mobius Horatio (Moby) Mouse ?-2012

The death occurred, earlier this week, of Moby Mouse. He died as he lived – eating other people’s food, bacon rind to be exact. Moby came from humble origins in a launderette near Cork City and never dreamed of the seafaring life he would ultimately lead. He bid farewell to his mother and 53 siblings one warm September afternoon, his knapsack on his back, and set sail for a life of adventure and gluttony. For a small mouse he travelled a long way, eating his way through fruit, vegetables, flour, soup mix, and a cushion, to name just a few. Midway through his sailing career he took a middle name, Horatio, in honour of his sea-faring hero, Admiral Nelson. He dreamed of sailing to the site of the Battle of Trafalgar, and that dream will now be carried in the hearts of the crew of Carina of Devon. He is mourned by his mother and 53 siblings, but not by the crew of Carina or the owner of the Crosshaven launderette.

Has autumn arrived?

There was a new chill in the air this morning, that feeling of the start of a new season. I put on a pair of jeans, something I haven’t worn in months. When I woke up I wanted to stay under the covers, but then, when I got out of bed there was that unmistakable change in the air, the feeling of a new season.

We hadn’t planned to still be in Ireland, but we are. We departed Sherkin Island a week ago and sailed to Union Hall, where we anchored with a plan to set sail for the Isles of Scilly as soon as we had favourable weather. We had a pleasant couple of days, spending time with my aunt and uncle in Roscarbery, and taking advantage of the ongoing good weather to go to the beach. On Thursday I heard of the death of the father of one of my oldest and dearest friends, and so on Friday I took a bus from west Cork to Waterford for the funeral. I arrived back in Roscarbery late on Friday night, stayed with my aunt and uncle, and didn’t get back to the boat until the middle of Saturday morning. On Sunday we sailed east to Kinsale with the intention of sailing for the Isles of Scilly on Monday morning.

Departing Kinsale on Monday morning, we set a course for the UK. The wind was stronger than forecast and there were big seas. For two hours we battled uncomfortably and then decided to give up. Who knew how long before the wind would change to a more favourable direction, so we altered course for Crosshaven in Cork. So here we are, relaxing, planning what to do next. We’re thinking about sailing up into Cork city tomorrow, which would be a novel experience! And perhaps we’ll try to reach the UK again in a few days time.