written on 29th January 2014
One of the great pleasures of cruising this summer was observing Lily’s and Katie’s relationship, and their individual personalities, evolve. Last year, when we sailed along the Devon and Cornish coasts and to the Isles of Scilly and Ireland, I was often frustrated by my inability to helm. While the girls seemed to enjoy sailing, they generally wanted to do it from the comfort of my lap. So unless they were sleeping, I was stuck sitting on my bottom in the cockpit, with my arms around them. This frustration was compounded by Katie’s tendency to suffer from sea sickness. After the first couple of episodes of finding myself sitting vomit-covered under a miserable toddler, I was constantly on high alert, watching for the signs of sea sickness and heading them off before the erupted.
What a difference a year has made. Lily has made her first tentative steps into the world of independent reading and writing, and Katie’s imagination and facility for story telling have meant that I now get to spend quite a lot of time at the helm!
When our laptop met its untimely end I wondered how we would keep the girls occupied at those times when we needed to get stuff done. They’ve never watched much TV, but the laptop had always been handy when, late in the afternoon when everyone’s a little tired and dinner needed to be cooked, or when Julian and I were alone with them and critical boat maintenance or preparation needed to be done, we could put on a DVD or a show on CBeebies, and the girls could be kept entertained while we got things done. But with no recourse to the laptop the girls were transformed.
They began to play elaborate games of dress-up, inspired by their favourite movies. With eye-patches and bandanas, they were pirates; with capes and towels draped around their shoulders they were Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria; and with the same capes and an endless costume changes of hats and gloves they became Puss in Boots and Kitty Soft Paws. They developed story lines that involved their teddies and other toys and they transformed each cabin of Carina. And when we went sailing, the games continued. At first I was concerned about Katie’s sea sickness, but not once this summer did she show any symptoms. They would spend hours in the aft cabin, on our bed, playing out their scenarios, completely disinterested in what was going on up on deck, or along the French coastline, too involved in their own imaginary world.
They also spent long periods of time drawing and colouring, either at the table or in the aft cabin. Lily took great joy and pride in writing. One day, after we had been underway for almost an hour, and all had been quiet below deck, Lily appeared on the companionway steps holding a letter she had written to our friend John. We were astounded. We had no idea she knew what a letter was, or that she knew how to write like this. Ok, so lots of her letters were backwards, and her spelling was atrocious, but, without any help from Lily, Julian and I quickly deciphered her letter, telling John that we were having a good time and that we had been to the beach.
I won’t say that all was rosy. They had their moments when they tormented each other ferociously, or clung to me like limpets. But to see them generally so transformed, so independent, and having so much imaginative fun together, was wonderful.
Each afternoon, as we dropped anchor or jumped onto a pontoon, I knew I faced an almighty mess when I went below deck. Cushions, toys, gloves, scarves, strewn all over, a scene of mini-mayhem awaited me. But mostly I didn’t begrudge the mess because Lily and Katie were happy, and tidying the mess was a small price to pay for the hours I got to stand at the helm.