Before I left for our journey I was sure that by the time I came home I would know more about sailing. I had not realised all the other things that I would also learn.
1. How to gut a fish
This is not something I ever wanted to know how to do. Neil has been fishing a few times while we’ve been sailing. He bought lots of lures, lines and other fishing paraphernalia. He caught 2 fish: a tuna and a mahi mahi. He decided as he had done all the work doing the catching I should do all the gutting and filleting. This was definitely just an excuse! The first time he read out instructions from a fishing book while I cut the fish up and removed the guts. It was not pleasant! Luckily I hurt my ribs on the Atlantic crossing so had a great excuse to get out of ever doing this again. But it was amazing to eat fresh fish that we had just caught. Fried with some butter and lemon. Yum.
2. How to make hummus
Due to Conall’s love of hummus I have tried to make this 3 times now as he didn’t like any of the hummus we found. Thanks to a recipe from a friend I believe I was mostly successful – despite Conall not liking the final results. Read all about my hummus challenges here.
3. How to bake bread
We can usually find a small supermarket to pick up necessities like bread, but sometimes when we are at anchor it’s too inconvenient. Neil had made sure that we’d bought plenty of flour so we could make bread whenever we weren’t able to buy it. However, my first 2 tries turned out very dense. We tried to eat it but gave up. After this I tried another ‘no knead’ recipe given to me by another boat friend. Unfortunately the recipe was in ‘cups’ instead of grams so I guessed (incorrectly) what a cup was. This meant I added too much salt (not ideal) then with the added drama of the boat rocking and dropping the rising dough behind the oven, this attempt was also not entirely successful. Fourth try was much better, however I have no plans to do this regularly as making bread takes ages!!!
4. Changing a ‘joker valve’ in the boat toilet
This is a valve that stops waste from returning back to the toilet and staying in the tank. Neil made me fix it. It is disgusting and I don’t want to talk anymore about it.
5. Changing the oil in the engine and transmission
Who even knew this had to be changed? I just thought oil was topped up. Before our Gibraltar to Lanzarote crossing Neil insisted the oil in the engine needed replaced. I got the tool bag (I can now name almost all the tools) and then made lots of mess changing oil. Apparently engines also need filters – so I know how to change these too. Though last time I did, the engine stopped working. Lucking Neil managed to find a part to sort it all out.
6. How to make Minecraft multiplayer
Boat kids all seem to love Minecraft. Conall and Finlay were re-introduced to this by a friend they met in Sardinia. This is a game that involves building a world with blocks, as well as a variety of other things, on their tablets. If there is Wifi then everyone’s tablets can connect and all the kids can play in the same world. The boys have had a great time building houses and hideouts, but not such a great time for me when they are complaining about no Wifi. The boys also want to tell me everything there is to know about Minecraft. I’m trying to listen carefully and not tune out.
7. How to do just about everything while the boat is moving
There is always work to be done. The usual housework, boat repairs, unfurling the sails and tidying up the lines (ropes). Usually I can hold off on doing most housework until we get to our destination. Though this wasn’t possible on our ocean crossing, where all housework had to be done as quickly as possible so I could get back outside to the cockpit. It is always wise to hold on to the boat with one hand. I do remember one very choppy day being very proud I had managed to walk through the boat and climb into bed without falling over.
8. How to drive a dinghy
This may be the thing I am the happiest to have learned. If we are in a marina then a dinghy isn’t required; we can just simply walk off the boat. If anchoring out then the dinghy is needed to get to the beach, the shops, the laundry – basically if you at all want to leave the boat. I did try paddle boarding with the boys once, but my slow movement out to sea instead of towards to beach scared Finlay just a little.
For the first half of the year away I just relied on Neil to drive me and the boys anywhere, but this started to make me feel a bit trapped. Neil would also need to stop working to take us anywhere, which made it inconvenient for everyone. My first solo dinghy ride did not go too well, however. I’d dropped laundry off at the laundrette earlier and needed to go back to get it. I managed to get the engine started – it can be quite difficult as you have to pull a cord out quickly to get the engine on, while trying not to elbow anyone else in the face (sorry Finlay!). Off I went! Halfway to the dinghy dock the engine cut out. With my superior (not) knowledge I concluded I had ran out of petrol as Neil had thought we had just enough for the journey. A kind English couple who were driving just behind me on their dinghy helped me out by towing me to the fuel dock. Which had just closed. The woman quickly jumped off her dinghy to convince them to switch the machines back on to fill up the tank. We tried to start the engine again, it didn’t start!. And discovered this was because I had left the choke out and flooded the engine – the actual reason it cut out. They towed me to the dinghy dock and recommended I wait for it to dry out. They said if I needed help they were in the pub, but as I was going for the laundry anyway I thought this would work out, Unfortunately I had to wait 45 minutes for the laundry (would have been time better spent in the pub) and then returned to the dinghy. It was going to get dark soon and I was very late. Argh! The engine wouldn’t start again. I thought ‘Hey, I can row’, but I discovered very quickly I cannot row. I tried the engine again. I must of looked suitably helpless as a marina employee came over to help. We discovered the kill switch was off. This is a switch attached to a cord you put round your leg so if you fall into the water the engine cuts out. After several attempts he got the engine started and I made the slow journey back to the boat. Definitely time for a drink!
However, this didn’t put me off (well, maybe a little – until I’d had my drink). The boys were very encouraging on my next trip out – even reminding me to put the choke back in. I think I mostly have the hang of it, and am enjoying the freedom it gives me and the boys.
9. How to say ‘Thank you’ in 6 more languages
Italian – grazie, Croatian – hvala, Montenegrin – also hvala, Greek – efharisto (ευχαριστώ), Spanish – gracias and French – merci. I had hoped I would be able to spend more time teaching the boys (and myself) the languages of the places we visited. Unfortunately, schooling has been a bit harder than I thought and we have spent more time doing English and Maths. With a mixture of science, art, and history – I think visiting the occasional Forts and Ruins counts as history lessons, right?
I have enjoyed learning so many new things (though some more than others), spending time with my family and gaining sailing experience. I feel extremely lucky to have had the opportunity.