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

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Horseshoe Bay, Sherkin Island

About a week ago, in Baltimore, I concluded my last post hoping that we could find a nice beach to play on. And what a place we found. We motored the couple of miles across to the south side of Sherkin Island and anchored in the picturesque Horseshoe Bay. What a delight. Barely bigger than my mother’s garden in Ballygibbon, the bay was sheltered and quiet, and we had it all to ourselves. It was a glorious day and, after a quick lunch, Julian rowed the girls and I across to the little beach on the eastern shore of the bay. It was a fabulous beach, made up of large flat smooth stones that have fallen from steep cliffs over the centuries and been rubbed smooth by the sea. The beach was a sun trap and a perfect playground for Lily and Katie. While they amused themselves paddling in the water, exploring the beach and the rock pools, and having a tea party with the rocks, I read my book and relaxed in the sun. (I should mention that my long suffering husband was back on the boat fixing the broken toilet).

The little stony beach in Horseshoe Bay

Late in the afternoon Julian rowed over to the beach, and while he played with the girls and went for a swim, I rowed back to the boat to make dinner, bringing a picnic dinner back to the beach half an hour later. We had so much fun in the sun that afternoon and evening. The water was calm and clear and perfect for swimming. Don’t tell our parents, but I swam immediately after dinner, and when I eventually rowed the girls back to the boat, Julian decided to swim (maybe he doesn’t trust my rowing?).

Horseshoe Bay

Days like these have been few and far between this summer, but thankfully they’ve been more frequent these past few weeks.

Schull to Long Island

Cottages on Long Island

Beach days have been few and far between this summer, so when they come we have to make the most of them. On Saturday morning, Julian and the girls had lots of beach fun on a tiny beach beside the harbour in Schull. On Sunday morning I discovered a wonderful farmer’s market where I stocked up on local produce – Gubbeen cheese, ham and bacon; fresh fish off the boat; and fruit and vegetables from a market gardener whose van was bursting at the seams with the best of the season. We’ve been eating like kings ever since!

My family and our boat

Due south of Schull Point is Long Island. On Sunday afternoon we made the short trip across to an anchorage on the north side of the island, and took the dinghy to shore to a deserted pebble beach (now that schools have re-opened for the autumn term, all beaches are deserted!). What a find. The smooth pebbles were comfortable underfoot and the beach was a treasure trove of natural and man-made detritus. The latter was somewhat depressing, and the girls are well versed regarding all the plastics that can kill their favourite sea creatures. There were lots of plastics to see on this beach. However, I was also curious as to why there were so many bras and knickers lying around – Julian said he’d leave me if I checked to see if any were my size (sometimes one can take beachcombing a little too far). The natural detritus was equally exciting. Like all children, mine love looking for and collecting shells, and this beach was covered with huge shells of all sorts of sea creature, including crabs and lobsters. We haven’t found shells this large on our travels before, and the girls used a giant crab shell to scoop up water to pour over themselves and their unsuspecting (and not very impressed) parents.

Yesterday morning dawned still and warm and after breakfast we had a slow but delightful sail in amongst the islands that lie between Long Island Bay and Roaringwater Bay, accompanied by the, now almost ever present, dolphins, cormorants, gannets and fulmars. A mist descended as we neared Sherkin Island, but we were soon in Baltimore, a much quieter and more peaceful place than it was on the bank holiday weekend! We returned here to fill up with water, re-fuel and wash the boat. While Julian got on with those chores, Lily, Katie and I walked to Lott’s Wife, the beacon at the entrance to the harbour, picking a large bag of blackberries along the way. Up at Lott’s Wife, we sat in the mist, surrounded by a herd of young heifers and bullocks. One brown and white bullock was particularly curious and Lily made friends with him. I was so pleased to see this – little Lily and a big bullock face to face having a chat with one another! There was a time, only a few months ago, when she was scared of even the tiniest dog.

Today is promising to be another fine day, so we’re making our way back around to the other side of Sherkin to go ashore on a sandy beach we spotted yesterday.

 

 

Wonderful West Cork, continued

We departed Glandore last Thursday and made the short passage along the coast to Castletownshend. It was a rough sail, with winds gusting to force 7 and high choppy waves making for an uncomfortable trip. It didn’t last long, however, as the passage from Glandore to Castletownshend is a mere six miles. The ruggedness of the Cork coast grows more spectacular as one travels west and our eyes were filled with jagged cliffs and dragon’s tooth rocks rising out of the sea.

Passage to Castletownhend

Anchoring at Castletownshend proved a little tricky, but we managed it eventually, and then rowed ashore. We explored the lovely church on the hill and then met my aunt Liz and uncle Dave at Mary Ann’s pub for a couple of drinks and a good catch-up. I’ve spent many a pleasant holiday in and around Castletownshend and it was wonderful to be back.

The next morning we continued west to Baltimore. The waves were still big and the wind was strong but, perhaps due to a more positive frame of mind, it was a thoroughly enjoyable and thrilling roller coaster ride! The Stags rose spectacularly out of the sea, and as we passed the aspect changed to reveal a turquoise sea breaking in huge snow white waves along the ragged rocks.

Sunset at Baltimore

Julian and I had been to Baltimore six years ago when we sailed for a day with a lovely local man, Con Minahan of Baltimore Yacht Charters. We had such fond memories and were excited to return to this beautiful part of the country. The first night we anchored but, because Lily was coming home in the company of my Mammy, we moved on to the pontoon the next morning.

It was a bank holiday weekend, and Baltimore was heaving. Yachts were rafted four deep along the pontoon, and the town itself was so busy to be almost uncomfortable. The first night we were second boat out of four, rafted on the pontoon, and the second day the inside boat moved off and we were now on the inside. This had both pros and cons. For my mother, it made the crossing on to Carina less nerve wracking than having to climb over other boats. However, it also meant we had the crews of three other boats crossing us almost continuously, some of them lacking the manners to cross on the foredeck, which was annoying. I had never appreciated this little piece of sailing etiquette until people were pounding across the cockpit of Carina while I was trying to dress or relax in what should be the privacy of my own boat. A singsong that continued until 4am and kept both Katie and I awake truly set my teeth on edge.

 

A picnic at Lot’s Wife

On Sunday morning we packed a picnic and walked to Lot’s Wife, the day marker, marking the entrance to the bay. There we enjoyed the scenery and Julian and I told the girls about how we had spent a pleasant afternoon there six years ago, watching a basking shark feeding in the water below. That night Julian and I went to the pub to watch the men’s 100m final, and I was blown away by the atmosphere. Here we were, in a little village in the south west of Ireland, the pub packed, and everyone cheering and roaring in celebration of a  young man from Jamaica, as if he belonged to us all. And I thought how in homes and pubs and public places all across the world people were doing likewise, willing Usain Bolt on – a true citizen of the world.

The girls and I left Baltimore on Monday morning for a little holiday in Edenderry with Mammy. Julian has remained in Baltimore, making repairs, hanging out with my Nana and various aunts and cousins who, as I came to Edenderry, were making their way to west Cork for a holiday. The girls and I are returning home to Carina today. She’s still in Baltimore, but over the next few days we intend to continue our journey west, exploring more of this beautiful coastline, and enjoying the friendly hospitality of the people we meet along the way.