Home at last

I got the train down to Plymouth after work yesterday, and finally came home to Carina. I had an understated, coming home to what I know, sort of feeling about me. There was no fanfare, no celebratory whooping and hollering. I climbed on board, put down my bags, opened the padlock, filled the kettle and made myself a cup of tea. I sat for a while, just taking in the fact that I was home, and then made a simple pasta dinner, cracked open a bottle of wine and enjoyed a couple of glasses, and slept soundly through the night as the boat rocked in the swell rippling up the estuary from the force sevens out to sea.

DSCI3517Today was unpacking day. Every surface in the saloon and fore cabin was piled high with our belongings. I had to get it all stowed before Julian and the girls arrive tomorrow. Trying to deal with this with the children on board would be Sisyphean. So I began, methodically working my way through it all, trying to remember where things had been stowed last year, and whether a more convenient home can be found for them this year.

We have learned from previous years that there are a lot of items we simply don’t need on board, but despite having brought far less than last year or the year before, I struggled to figure out where to put it all. What did I do two years ago, when I had about a third more stuff?

Somewhere under this mess is Lily's and Katie's bed!

Somewhere under this mess is Lily’s and Katie’s bed!

But I got through it – mostly. There are still things lying around, but I need to wait til morning and look on them with fresh eyes before I can decide where they go. I need to make the girl’s bed up, but that’ll be done by the time they get here tomorrow afternoon. When I spoke to the girls on the phone this evening they were very excited. I imagine there will be whooping and hollering all round when they get here!


Moving…bit by little bit

Little by little we are moving back aboard Carina. You might consider it overly drawn out – akin to a Spaghetti Western;

SWDB_Wallpaper12_Wideor you might consider that we are doing it at our leisure, not making ourselves overly distressed by the whole process. More Easy Rider, if you will.

indexpfI guess just a bit Peter Fonda either way.

My friends coming to visit at Easter gave us the motivation to get the living quarters ship shape, and I moved a few household items on board. Julian’s dad came to visit and we loaded some more things into his car to take back to his house – for storage and for a car boot sale. On Saturday, Julian and the girls took the train up to Leamington Spa, to stay with his mum for a few days, leaving me to get the rest of the house packed up.

How would I describe the house right now? Mmm…it looks like the cupboards spontaneously vomited all their contents onto every surface of the house (except the ceiling). But that’s fine. I have until lunchtime tomorrow to sort it out. That’s when Julian’s arriving with a small removal van to take the furniture, white goods, and a pile of rubbish (or…previously loved) clothes, books, other things that we intend to car boot this coming weekend, weather permitting. The rest of our stuff will stay in the house until Julian returns later in the week to transport it down to the boat.

Those of you who know me will recognise in my tone the setting in of insanity and hysteria, in the face of the mountain of packing I have to do in the next 16 hours. Perhaps, you might suggest, I shouldn’t have wasted three hours on Sunday evening going to the movies to watch Calvary (it was worth every minute); or that I shouldn’t have gone out to the pub after work yesterday to celebrate my birthday (well I did!), or that I shouldn’t be procrastinating here right now (but I am).

By tomorrow evening we will be (mostly) moved out of the house, I will be reunited with my girls at their Grandad’s house, and on Monday (hopefully following a lucrative car boot sale on Sunday) we will return from the midlands and will finally finally be once more home, on Carina.

Now, is it wise to have a glass of wine before I proceed with the packing…

Great Friday

The interior of Carina has been cleaned from top to bottom, clothes and food have been put away, there’s banana bread baking in the oven, and I’m waiting for a phone call from two of my oldest friends to tell me they’re on the train to Plymouth. It’s not a good Friday, it’s a great Friday!

8am this morning...the view from the cockpit.

8am this morning…the view from the cockpit.

Lily and Katie have gone to visit their Grandma for a few days, so Julian and I could pack up the house and get Carina ready for us to move aboard. We borrowed my mother-in-law’s car, loaded about half the stuff we want to bring aboard, and drove down to Plymouth on Wednesday morning. Julian drove back up to his mum’s yesterday, leaving me with a boat to clean and bags and boxes to unpack.

So here I am, 24 hours later, and I haven’t done too badly! After a winter uninhabited, mould was my biggest enemy on Carina. However, compared to the challenge I faced when we first move aboard back in 2012, this was easy. We put moisture traps in all the cabins over winter, and Julian replaced them regularly. They’ve really done the trick, and removing mould from the head-lining didn’t take too long. It simply involved contorting my body into nooks and crannies, reaching farther than I thought I could possibly reach, and trying to avoid banging my head every five minutes. Thank you to my wonderful yoga teacher at Exeter University this year, for bringing me back to my old bendiness again!!

In Larkin’s pub, at home in Edenderry over New Year, I suggested to my friends Iseult and Angela that they come stay on the boat sometime in April. I’ve known these two chicas since we were all four, when we all started school in September 1977. About a decade ago we started having annual weekends away, but it hasn’t happened for a few years. So I’m very excited to get three whole days with them, to introduce them to my new home, and show them some of the wonderful sights around Plymouth. Having visitors always provides the impetus to get my home clean and tidy, so Carina’s looking especially shiny this morning!

So now I’m just waiting for a phone call to say their plane from Ireland has arrived and they’re on the train to Plymouth. Then I’ll go meet them for a weekend of good food, good wine and, most importantly, good conversation.


I ♥ Carina

‘Mummy, I miss Carina. I love Carina. I want to hug her’.

When you’re three, everything’s a big deal. Everything joyful and hopeful is expressed with so much enthusiasm, with so much emphasis and meaning, that a failure on the part of anyone else to respond to such over-exuberance can lead to abject misery. Katie’s love for Carina is infectious. It has to be. If the rest of us fail to get carried away on her waves of enthusiasm then we risk tears, wailing, weeping and gnashing of teeth.

DSCI0006Lily, Katie and I hadn’t been to visit Carina since October. Julian’s worked aboard many weekends over winter and spring and on those nights when he’s away, Katie often looks up at me with big sad eyes when I put her to bed and asks, ‘Mummy, when can we go to Carina? I miss her sooo much’. ‘Soon’, I promise her. ‘Soon’.

So, with great excitement we all packed into Grandad’s car on Friday afternoon for the drive down to Plymouth. Katie’s excitement was infectious, as she told us how she planned to hug Carina, lie on her bed in the forecabin, lie on my bed in the (as she calls it) ‘half’cabin, and play in the cockpit.

When we got to the marina she bounced around with excitement, leading Lily and Julian to the pontoon, and trying to remember which boat was Carina. We found Carina in her usual spot, and Katie as always, hugged the anchor before being helped on board. She was so happy to be back on board, poking around, investigating all the nooks and crannies, exclaiming every few minutes ‘I remember this’. She and Lily ‘cleaned’ the deck, fighting over who should have the dust-pan and brush. They both squealed with delight when they saw a group of mullet swimming close to the boat. We went over to the beach were the girls ran free, collecting shells and climbing on the rocks, while Julian picked sea beet for me to cook later on.

It felt so good to be home at last. Carina is pretty empty at the moment, but during this week and next we will gradually empty the house and move our belongings aboard. That little taster of Carina on Friday has filled the girls with even more excitement and now Katie wants to know ‘when when when will we go back to Carina’.

I’ve never been one to fetishise my commodities, but Carina is a little more than that. She is our home, and I’m happy to encourage the children’s love for her. Because if they love her, they will respect her and take care of her, so she can be our home for many years to come.

Boat Baby

Between the first and second stages of giving birth, the labouring woman often experiences nausea, delirium and panic. This is the transition phase, from steady but increasingly frequent and increasingly intense contractions, to the movement of the baby down the euphemistically-named ‘birth canal’. The textbooks tell you that this transition phase can last anywhere between 15 minutes and a few hours.

AGeddesI experienced something akin to this as I flew home from New York last week, and for a few days after. I had all the symptoms of the transition phase of labour – nausea, delirium, panic. Maybe it was just jetlag, but for three days I felt slightly ill, and I woke each night in blind panic, drenched in sweat, thrown awake by sleep apnoea, which only occurs when I’m feeling anxious.

I had trepidation about taking the girls out of school, despite my life-long commitment to and belief in home education. I panicked about moving aboard Carina, despite having done it twice before. I was terrified about leaving work, despite choosing a short-term contract with just this goal in mind.

Apologies for the hackneyed analogy, but I was a woman in labour, in transition to stage two of the process of birthing a new way of being (new for me, that is…I’m aware I’m reinventing the wheel here). I’m pleased to say I’ve made it through to stage two.

The girls have been out of school for less than a week, but already we have developed a tentative learning routine (I like routine…I love routine!). This week they are also taking swimming lessons each morning and we are having little adventures each afternoon.

Now that I am home from New York my work schedule has altered. For the remainder of my contract I must mark essays, exams and other assessments. So now I work to a different beat, fitting my plastic work schedule around my family, rather than the other way around. It feels good. Julian is on the boat this week – fixing, replacing, servicing, and I am clearing, culling, packing (or supposed to be – to be honest I’ve yet to do much of that). Moving day draws ever closer, the days are warming up, the sun is shining, and this Mama is ready to set sail.

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

Departure date looms


Granny and Lily reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

With just over a week until my contract at Exeter ends, our departure date looms large. It’s hard to believe it’s coming around so soon. We still have lots to do. We’re awaiting the arrival of a stanchion to replace a broken one, and once that’s done we want to put safety netting all around the boat. I have drawn up a provisioning list to buy all the staples we’ll need for the trip, and now need to find the time to make a few trips to the supermarket to do the shopping. This past weekend Julian bought the charts and pilot books for Ireland, and while the girls and I were in London he had an opportunity to services the winches, install a gas alarm, and do various other fiddley but essential jobs above and below deck.

But I have too much going on at work at the moment, due to my impending departure date, that it’s hard to get my head around the fact that we’re setting out to sail to Ireland in about 10 days time. It may not seem like much, but for novices such as ourselves to be travelling across the sea in our home, it’s quite a big deal. So why am I not overwhelmed by excitement and panic and all the things I should be overwhelmed by? I don’t think Julian and I have even talked about our sailing plans in the past two weeks. How odd. So many other things to talk about, with regard to work and earning money and other stuff, that it seems we’ve forgotten all about the sailing! We’ll have to have a good chin-wag about it tomorrow….can’t do it tonight, as I’m about to go to the pub with my work colleagues!



All aboard

We’ve done it! We’re officially live-aboards. It was a hectic few days, and stressful to boot. I managed to de-stress prior to the move by going to beautiful Dartmoor with my fellow human geographers from Exeter University for a two-day ‘research retreat’. We had one sunny day followed by a wet and windy day. Went for a gorgeous walk the first evening, hopping across stepping stones to get across the river and at one point startling two red deer who turned and bounded across the moor. I got less work done than I had intended and came home feeling relaxed but knowing I had far too much work to do and a house move on top of it.

Thursday dawned wet and miserable. Julian’s dad was down to help us out and he drove Julian to Newton Abbot at 7.30am to collect a van. Back at the flat I continued packing and when Julian got back we loaded the van while his dad kept the girls entertained. I then took them to playgroup and by the time we got back Julian was already on his way to the midlands with a van full of furniture to put into temporary storage at his parents’ houses (wow…that makes them sound posh…I mean two parents, one house each). My father-in-law hung around long enough for me to finish packing the car then he rushed off to meet Julian, and the girls and I drove the 12 miles from Dawlish to Torquay.

It rained and rained. There wasn’t much I could do in the rain, except tranfer essentials – food mainly – from the car to the boat and then snuggle up for the afternoon and evening with hearty food and a Noddy DVD! Not my choice, obviously! Meanwhile, Julian offloaded everything, turned around and drove back to Torquay, arriving shortly before 1am. Then up the next morning to return the van to the hire company. Now it was his turn to take care of the girls for the day, while I returned to Dawlish to clean the house.

Kim and Aggie would be proud. I vacuumed and cleaned the carpet, scrubbed the kitchen from top to bottom, cleaned and cleared and polished and dusted til you could eat your dinner off any surface. And I did it in Melanie Griffith in ‘Working Girl’ style – too hot to do it any other way!! I hope the neighbours weren’t looking in the windows.

So we’re here and you know what? It’s lovely. Partly it’s the sense of accomplishment that we’ve got this far, and partly because we’ve been having such a nice time since we moved aboard. Julian and the girls have been fishing each evening – just for fun – and catching the tiniest fish imaginable. The girls gaze at them in the bucket and demand that he catch more more more. Yesterday morning I tried baking on board for the first time. I decided to do something easy, and made gingerbread men, but only made half the amount I usually make. They worked out alright, although I need to get used to the temperatures and cooking times of this particular oven. Later the girls decorated them, and Katie bit the heads off half of them in the process!

Yesterday morning Julian was once again up at the crack of dawn to take a car load of excess stuff to a car boot sale in Newton Abbot. He came home with £130 profit! Meanwhile, once we’d finished baking, the girls and I took a picnic to the beach and Julian met us there with pockets of cash!! We built sand castles and got soaking wet and just had some good old seaside fun!

I’ve had the stress of so much work hanging over my head and I lay awake last night wondering what I should do. Somewhere in the middle of the night I decided to drop that chapter I’ve been writing. I haven’t had time to get much writing done, with so much essay and exam marking to do, and I was panicking and getting annoyed with myself and everyone else. I feel bad about dropping it, but the relief and the weight lifted off my shoulders has transformed me today. I’ve never done something like this before and I think you should stick to things, but for just this once it feels gooood!!

Time I got to bed. I’ll sleep better tonight.