16 december

So. It is 1952 hours. We are tucked up on Dhanu. This is what I can see. Alfi chewing on the grater. Olive wearing a t-towel like a cloak looking at her reflection in the cooker announcing she is a princess. A solitary and deflated hello kitty armband on the floor. An assortment of figurines and toys scattered here and there. Now, Alfi is standing under the table fiddling with bottles of booze stored in the shelves known as ‘the booze cupboard’. Olive is now standing on the grab bag in an attempt to climb the mast. (The grab bag is a solid object which looks like a giant pill bottle. It contains all things necessary for survival, sat phone, flares, GPS, VHF radio, epirb etc). To the girls it is just a brilliant prop. Olive has descended the mast and is now playing cooking with Daddy with an array of items that have been converted into a kitchen. I think they are cooking green beans and gruffalo sauce for upsy daisy’s party.

The wind is blowing hard from the north. Persistently. There has been no respite in this wind. It howls. The boat is bobbing about on her lines as she is pulled and pushed by the wind. The sky is clear. Orion is up. The moon is gone.

All of the above is happening on La Graciosa, Canary Islands. It is a staggering fact that tonight is our eighth Tuesday night on this sandy spec of an isle. The first 4 weeks we chose to be here. As for the remaining, well our intention was to leave yet there has not been the opportunity as we have been beset with more lows, heavy wind and/or wind simply blowing in the wrong direction. It hasn’t really mattered as everyday there have been beach walks, treasure to find, snails to upend (in Olive’s case), sand to eat (in Alfi’s case) and more recently, volcanoes to climb in search of the Gruffalo. He has not yet been found but the search continues…meanwhile Olive has learnt that volcanoes spit fire. Alfi has learnt to crawl, cruise and pull herself up to standing and astounded us all by climbing the four companionway steps a few days ago. Unaided. Undeterred. Full of confidence and ramrod straight. She is not yet walking but climbing like a monkey…of course the fact that she can now of her own accord, exit the boat is terrifying! Time to disable the steps.

We have led a wonderfully relaxed and simple life here, but we are desperate to move on. If for no other reason than to get warm. It is chilly. The northerly wind brings a nip and tucks us in to the harbour. We are literally pinned here. Waiting. The sea beyond the breakwater has not been free of white caps for days now. We’ve had a consistent blow of 20+ knots. (force 5-6+) It is not wise to leave port in such conditions. Yet we are very keen to get back to sea. To be sailing, advancing and adventuring once again. To be discovering new places. We wait itching our feet.

What have we been doing? Not much and yet I seem to be busy all the time. It is true that we spend a good portion of our day getting chores done. And whilst I vowed never to blog about such mundane realities, the washing up, washing nappies, washing clothes – are tasks which absorb much of my time. Sadly these things don’t get done unless we do them. Where once there were machines, now there are our hands. I am no longer alienated from the dirt our life creates nor from the processes involved to get us clean! It requires physical effort! And thought as to9 how to best remove dirt. Which is not always rewarded…though I am finding bleach helps…but for how long I can cheat stains in this way before our clothes fall apart remains to be seen.

The facilities in which to do these chores are basic. There has been no hot water or electricity the whole time we have been here. There is water to the pontoon at least. It tastes disgusting and it is not advisable to drink the stuff so we cart home bottled water along with two kids and and whatever else. There are showers but they are too long a walk away to beat a hosepipe on the pontoon (at least when the weather was warmer). With winter upon us showering anywhere is cold cold cold! But I have got surprisingly used to it. The upside to daily chores is that they all occur on the pontoon amidst the spectacular view of Lanzarote’s 1000 foot cliffs. It could be worse. With chores done, our minds turn to food…do we need to go ashore to get any? If so, shall we row or walk? Such has been our life, laddened with these complex decisions…

It has also been a very social place. We have struck upon some wonderful people. These (and others) are not the retired doughy folk of Lagos. Oh no thankfully not. These are interesting, fun loving, young at heart, self sufficient folk. From some you see freedom oozing from their pores. They cross oceans like others take buses. We’ve been inside some great boats and one in particular that gave me a glimpse of a future life. Oh for a few more feet…one day…maybe. In meeting these inspiring individuals, I realise that if you are here, in the Canaries and actually, specifically, La Graciosa, you are as unique as the setting. There is no run of the mill here. There are no reluctant wives trying to avoid ocean going life. No passengers. This is the end of the line. The jump point. You have to have something about you, one way or another, to be here.

La Graciosa has provided us the perfect space to rest and reflect. My world has been reduced to this small corner of the planet. At times, I go no further than the pontoon. It is strange to think of all that water we sailed over to get here and now, we are stopped in this ‘last outpost of Europe’. Waiting. Talk has turned to the Atlantic. I am told repeatedly that we have done the hard bit and that the rest should be a breeze. Fingers crossed.

Whilst waiting, I am enjoying my kids. Well, mostly. They also drive me absolutely nuts and test my patience to the maximum. I guess two under three is a challenge wherever. But with absolutely no respite, no break, no nursery to fling them in, no grandparent or aunty to visit, it is at times very testing indeed. What we would give for just a day off! But this is the life we chose so we must make sure that the highs outweigh the lows. It sounds obvious but I am actually ensuring to play with my kids as opposed to simply enabling their day, their bodily functions, their appetites. It is all too easy to leave the fun to others (daddy) whilst sacrificing it on the alter of martyrdom whilst another nappy is scrubbed clean. Ridiculous. Though I have found it all too easy to get absorbed exclusively in the the enabling at the cost of nearly forgetting how to just be with them and have fun. ‘Before’ I could blame a lack of time or work or whatever but here I really have no excuses. So where possible, I stop and have a laugh with them and not care about the mess. Because I know as sure as eggs are eggs, Olive & Alfi will be 15 before I know it giving me ‘whatever’.

And so we wait. Not long I hope. As for Christmas; well I know it is Christmas technically speaking. But I don’t feel it. I don’t see it. I am not missing it one bit. This not bah humbug rather that I have only ever felt Christmas to be something that starts the second I enter my family home. To not only not be there, but to be surrounded by sandiness and lava rocks and swirling seas just makes Christmas a remote reality that I can’t sense. There is one set of municipal Christmas lights here…other than that you would hardly know it is happening. It is bliss! But what about the kids I hear you cry??? Pah! They are young enough to miss a Christmas and were it not for all the grandmas on the pontoon who keep bringing advent calenders and sweeties and good cheer for the little people, they would be none the wiser. I suspect, if we are lucky enough, we will be at sea on the day which will make it perhaps the most amazing Christmas ever. A very kind English lady today gave me a jar of home made (ie, on board her boat) mincemeat so perhaps we will try and make some mince pies to celebrate in our watery world. Wherever we are, we will think of you and carols and stuffing and quality street and rubbish tv and (if you are lucky), fabulous food and save all that up for our next landed Christmas. As for you – enjoy it hohoho and have a marvellously christmassy christmas.

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