Where am I?
I didn’t ever see myself as a person who would write a blog, but when we decided to completely change our normal life, leaving friends and family behind to sail for a year, it seemed time.
Now there is only 5 weeks to go until we set off from Venice, Italy before sailing the Mediterranean and joining the ARC from the Canaries to St Lucia. Our 45 foot Jeanneau Sun Odyssey is going to be the family home for a year, for me, my husband and our 2 boys.
Ever since we started planning I knew there would be a lot to do. However, experiencing it is completely different. Any working parent knows that a full time job with 2 kids is hard enough, but now I’m also preparing my business for my sabbatical, clearing, decorating and organising the house and trying to learn how to sail.
Firstly, preparing the house has taken up so much more time than I thought. Where did all the toys come from? Does anyone need that much lego? And do I really need to keep all those gym shoes the boys have outgrown? Plus we’ve been painting all the walls, replacing carpets and furniture so we can rent out our home while we’re away. It’s tough fitting all that in around school runs, birthday parties and saying goodbye to friends before we leave.
Then, I don’t think I ever understood how complicated sailing is. I need to understand concepts I hadn’t even considered before, such as how the weather works, and how to navigate safely. Who knew magnetic north and true north were different? I do now. Nevermind the metal on the boat itself affects the compass readings. Luckily, Neil understands this stuff well, so I’m confident we’ll know what we’re doing.
And now as we’re nearing the launch date, I find myself thinking back to how on earth did we get here.
How it started.
Sailing was never something I was interested in. My only experience with boats was ferries from Dover to France as a child, and being seasick did not make being on the water something I ever wanted to do. I met my husband 16 years ago and had no idea he was interested in sailing either. However, in about 2004 he read Ellen MacArthur’s ‘Taking on the World’ and he was reminded about how he enjoyed sailing when he was younger. He decided to buy a yacht!!! I did not think this was a good idea.
His friend from school was also interested in sailing, so they bought an Oyster 26 together and sailed around the Forth on the weekends.
Since I got seasick I was not keen to join in and mostly stayed away having nice cups of tea inside a warm house. However, I did manage to come out a couple of times despite the seasickness. One day trip with just the two of us, however, led to an unfortunate incident that almost put me off sailing for good. We’d decided to go for a sail one afternoon. The sun was shining, I was warm (very important!), and everything was calm. I began to think sailing wasn’t so bad. Later on the weather began to turn, dark clouds appeared and the wind picked up. When you are on land the changes in weather don’t seem to happen so fast. Neil decided to bring down the sails and left me in charge of the tiller.
I think it was perfectly reasonable that I would have no idea which way the wind was coming from, and which way the boat should face to allow Neil to bring down the sails, and which way I should move the tiller to make this happen. Neil did not agree. He was almost hit by the boom and dropped into the Forth.
We made our way back to the mooring and I did not sail again for years afterward.
Neil did plenty of day sails, racing and coastal cruising but he knew someday he would want to do more. He had always wanted to sail around the world (probably when he retired) and occasionally talked about it. I usually responded in my head with “Sure, whatever”. But, about 4 years ago, we were both working really hard, missing time with the boys, and the idea just didn’t seem so crazy anymore.
We both work full-time running businesses. Neil runs his own IT company and I own a Specsavers store. Working full time while dealing with two high spirited boys can leave you feeling quite tired at the end of the day, and it makes it difficult to give your family the best of your time. Coming home at the end of the day, making dinner, squeezing in homework, classes, clubs. How great would it be to actually have time to enjoy each other’s company in a great adventure? It would be great to show them a life that does not revolve around toys, TV and computers, and to actually build better relationships between us all.
I remember quite clearly the moment I decided that we would do this. Neil was working on his laptop on the sofa (as he always is) and he said again “Let’s leave everything and sail around the world?”. He expected the same answer as I always gave but this time I thought for a minute then just said ‘Yes!’. He was a bit surprised and I’m sure thought I was joking. Once you have the idea the difficult part is trying to figure out if it is actually possible. Can I get over the seasickness? How can we afford it? Can we take the kids out of school?
Am I crazy? My parents think DEFINITELY.
Before the serious detailed planning on how this was going to work started I had to consider if I would actually be able to get over the seasickness, and also would I enjoy it? Neil had arranged a sail from Edinburgh to Inverness with some friends in July 2015. Myself and the boys met them there, then the four of us took the boat down the Caledonian Canal. This involved going through the canal locks over 5 days, and through Loch Ness, although we weren’t sailing and motored the whole way. I’m not sure why, but I really enjoyed jumping on and off the boat, holding the lines as we went through the locks. I did not enjoy sleeping in a small yacht with 1 cabin and 4 people. Or the weather.
So that went ok, but sailing is not quite the same as motoring along a canal. The next year we tried a child free holiday in Croatia with my sister and her husband on a sailing flotilla holiday. This involves hiring a yacht, and sailing with a group of yachts. I did get a bit seasick but I found if I did as little as possible inside the yacht then I was ok. Constant eating also helped. I enjoyed the sun, the sea and the lovely relaxing days sailing around the coast of Croatia.
Final trial a year later, a sailing holiday in Corfu with the boys, my sister and her son who was 3. This was not as relaxing but seeing the boys learning how to tie knots and having so much fun on the beach just turned the plan into my dream too.
There is so many things to consider so the plan is constantly evolving. For the past four years it has been slowly changing from a crazy vague idea to an actual definite plan. We had initially wanted to sail all the way around the world, which would take us about 2 years. This would mean rushing, which wasn’t ideal for a family adventure. Plan 2 – take 2 years to sail to New Zealand. This sounded much easier – we could relax – take time and enjoying spending time together.
So it’s now 2018. Last year my work agreed to give me a 1 year Sabbatical, making things financially easier and more secure, so a 1 year plan was finally decided upon. The escape is happening. We will sail the Mediterranean, then join the ARC in The Canary Islands in Nov 2018 and head for St Lucia. From there we will sail around the Caribbean.
It’s quite hard to tell if I am excited about it yet, it still doesn’t seem quite real, although as we are getting more organised I’m starting to feel it. This is mixed in with moments of terror and large amounts of stress and panic. However, I’m pretty sure I’m holding it together. The safety, first aid and sailing courses are definitely helping. We are almost there – what could possibly go wrong?