/Thoughts from a boat – Looking back, looking forward • Growing a Pair

Thoughts from a boat – Looking back, looking forward • Growing a Pair

It’s three weeks to the hour that we shut the door on our ‘normal’ life, loaded the taxi with a 100kg of stuff we should have put onto Fat Susan back in August and embarked upon our third trip of a lifetime. I’m currently sat in Susan’s cockpit, drinking coffee and watching the sun come up over the breakwater in Las Palmas Marina, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands. The marina is just starting to come alive, unlike the crew who are all still fast asleep, and it seemed a perfect time to both look back and look forward.

The two week Christmas and New Year break was just brilliant. It was really lovely having Granny and Nanna on board in the Canary Islands and giving them an insight into what we’re trying to achieve. We didn’t manage a great deal of sailing, but Granny got to see the Milky Way, a beautiful sunrise, dolphins and a super cool turtle on the trip from Fuerteventura to Gran Canaria. Nanna got to experience the “joy” of beating into a big swell and the elation of turning tail and using the swell to surf back into the calm harbour waters. Both trips saw the unwelcome return of breakfast.
Our first Christmas on Fat Susan. No Christmas tree but plenty of tinsel and chocolate Angel Delight.
Exploring the island with Nanna

I think that it’s fair to say that the build up to leaving home was much harder than expected, both in terms of the physical effort involved and the emotional upheaval it brought. Floss had to do the lion’s share of the work as I was still holding down a ‘proper’ job, but I still found it tough going. I’ve no idea how she managed to hold it all together, combining house clearance duties with home schooling and still managing to keep hold of her sanity. Clearing the house room by room was a bitter sweet affair. There was the relief of seeing another big bit of furniture heading out of the door, but also the emotions and memories involved in getting rid of the kids’ first ‘proper’ beds, their toys and the things that they hold dear. They’ve both got a box of ‘precious things’ that they couldn’t bear to part with waiting for them in the attic – Evan’s was inevitably much larger than Sam’s – and I’m kind of looking forward to someday opening them up and looking into what must be a time capsule of their first ten years or so of life.
In addition to leaving the house and all of the physical stuff that we used to define ourselves, we also had to say ‘goodbye’ to all of our friends. I’m completely conflicted about how I feel about this. On one hand, I know that they’re all true friends and will be there for us whatever happens whenever we need them. On the other hand, I understand that in ‘choosing’ one thing we’ve had to ‘reject’ another and I worry about how they feel about what we’re doing. We’ve already met two sailing families that I know are going to be life long friends, and I have guilt about that. After 20+ years of friendship, it’s as if we’re having an affair and cheating on everyone back at home, and I’m feeling characteristically tearful just writing about it.
<takes a break from typing to have a proper cry and pull himself together>

Looking forward we’ve got some big boat jobs to get sorted out over the next week or so and then we’ll be looking to the weather and planning the big jump over to the Caribbean. We’ve decided that we’re going to break the journey up by first heading south to the Cape Verde islands where we’ll be able to get a bit of rest, see some sights and re-provision. Then we’ll follow the dolphins west, probably aiming Fat Susan in the direction of St Lucia. This is going to be properly exciting and I think will give us some more credibility in our own minds that one day we can be ‘proper sailors’. I know that we’ve managed to safely get ourselves 2500 miles from Portsmouth already, but I still feel like a complete novice and every time we put the sails up we learn something new about ourselves, about Susan and about the wind and the sea and the tides and the sun and the moon and the meaning of life.
Most experienced crews would give themselves about a month to prepare to cross the Atlantic. We’ve probably got two weeks. There are three reasons for this. Firstly, we’re not very experienced and aren’t constrained by reality. Secondly, we want to be well on our way by the end of January to get the best weather going across and maximise our time in the Caribbean before the hurricanes inconveniently turn up in June. Finally, we’ve secured ourselves some new crew members who still have ‘normal’ lives to go back to and who need to weave the adventure of living with us for a month into the fabric of their work and social lives; they’re on a timetable that we really want to fit in with.
I’m properly excited about the next couple of months, much more so than I was sailing to the Canaries. That didn’t really feel real or realistically achievable, and I think that I had a much more ‘head down, get through the next day’ mentality at the time. I know that the hardest part of any journey is the first step, and we’ve already taken that. Despite the earlier tearful interlude, I’m very much looking forward, not back. It’s going to be hard work, and there will be difficult times, but it’s going to be fab and I can’t wait to get on with it.
Miss our old friends. Love making new friends. Can’t wait to see where 2019 takes us.

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