Sunday 1 March – eve of departure

It is now the eve of our Atlantic departure. We leave tomorrow. For sure. It, is happening. I can’t believe it. The mood is quietly relaxed whilst resonating a mild sense of shock. Silly really as we have not stopped getting stuff done over the last week. Seemingly endless lists shortened as tasks get done. Millions of trips to town, to the laundrette, the market, the hardware shop, now complete. Chores nearly finished on the boat. Stuff being packed away. And yet I still can’t fathom that I, we, are about to set sail across the Atlantic until 2000 miles are behind us. We are right now on the cusp of (probably) the hardest thing that we’ve done to date. We know it will be tough. We’ve stopped saying we want to ‘enjoy’ not ‘endure’. We know that’s unrealistic. But I also know we will deal with whatever is thrown. The best we can hope for are conditions that don’t leave us too ragged. The first week looks ok. Others agree, there are four individual boats leaving to cross tomorrow. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. I am. It’s a big deal. I’m sure some of those others are too. Ben is solid and focused and cautious and considered. And as his sage seafaring father says, foolish is the sailor who is confident about everything. Who questions nothing least all his own abilities. We are in the very best of hands, I know. Still can’t believe we’re leaving tomorrow. There really is no going back now.

Three weeks. That’s how long it will take. It’s an expression I’ve been repeating since this Grand Plan began. I remember saying it around tables of food with family and friends. And imagining it. Well, now I don’t need to imagine it. In fact I almost wish I could keep imagining anything but the bouncy reality. Today, Ben grabbed for the saloon hand rail as the boat lurched and turned and said ‘are we ready…to be holding on for the next three weeks?’ He is right, that is what it’ll be, holding on and powering through and keeping our kids happy and everyone fed. That’s all we have to do.

How strange is it that the first time Ben crossed the Atlantic, in a different boat with two friends, their last port of call was Mindelo, where we are now. He suddenly remembered yesterday that they arrived here on the night of carnival. They left after that for the Caribbean, same as we are about to do. They left on the 4 March 1992, his 23rd birthday at sea. 23 years later, here he is again. Commencing the crossing in early March with his 46th birthday to be spent at sea with his wife and kids. Oh, the symmetry of numbers. Must be a good sign…

Back then, he says he had a great crossing. He has always tried to describe the conditions, the swell, the wind etc, the level of comfort. He says he can’t recall exactly but his overall sense was of a good crossing. They swam in the sea, they would not have done that had conditions been anything other than pleasant. He also remembers they put the spinnaker up, again, not a sign of horrible wind or swell. But of course the crossing is more than a few days and anything can happen. No way of knowing til we are out there. However we are buoyed by the general consensus held by others that from tomorrow the wind although strong still, is ever decreasing. We met a guy yesterday, 17 atlantic crossings under his belt, he says it’s good. He’s leaving tomorrow. I’ll take that. The swell forecast is dropping all the time as is the wind and gust heights. At least both wind and swell will be behind us. We would not go unless we thought it a wise plan, believe me. Here’s to it being good Mr 17 times.

So dear friends and family and dare I say, followers, we bid you a very big happy expectant loving and little bit nervous farewell. See you in three weeks(ish). Please be thinking of this little family of four seafaring adventurers in their beautiful boathome. Knowing that this is not happening by accident, or mistake or coincidence. No. We have worked our proverbials off for a few years now and since leaving the UK, with the sole intention of getting to this precise moment in time. The right here and now and next three weeks, is us living our dream. In every gust and glide westward, in every sunset, in every physical challenge and most importantly, in every happy moment we share with our kids in a pure kind of way within the embrace of magnificent nature. And so. Wish us well, as we do you. And whilst you do so, appreciate every drop of your endless water, the warmth of a deep hot bath, be happy for your cosy static stable home. Have an extra cup of tea, glass of wine, kilo of chocolate for us to keep us going. Thinking of you.

Deep breath in…

taken this afternoon...dont confuse Olive´s expression for anything other than a quiet moment...the pther ones had fingers up noses, chewed apple being spat...you get the picture...this was the only decent one of us all

taken this afternoon…dont confuse Olive´s expression for anything other than a quiet moment…this was the only decent one of us all

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23 february

So a few words on Mindelo. It is small. It is poor. It is colourful. It is littered with signs of a Portuguese colonial past. In the crumbling, paint flaking buildings. In the mixed race faces. In the tempting hip loving custard tarts winking at me in the bakery. In the twingtwang phonemes of the local creole. But there are also sights and smells of Africa (as I imagine it). The incredible jaw dropping beauty of the human form.  Especially the women. Oh my goodness. Hey that is not to exclude the men as they aint bad either.  But they don’t compare so noticeably to the stunning casual beauty of the women who are mesmerising (well some of them at least). All brought squarely to the fore during carnival when most were basically naked shaking their sequinned body bits about. More on that in a mo. Then there are the women carrying things on their heads, dozens of eggs, kilos of bananas. (yes And what about the older women having a roundness of bosom and stature that is welcoming, sat on street corners with large plastic boxes of homemade cakes and pastries and fudge. But the thing that gets me the most, are the derrières. The further south we go, the better they seem to get. More round, more muscular having a far greater profile. They assume a life of their own…so imagine all this and then we hit carnival.

We arrived on a Friday. From the get go we could here this one song blasting from shore all day all night. We later learnt it was the anthem written for this years carnival. Every year it changes. This year had a catchy repetitive tune of which we (somehow) never tired despite it being the only song we ever heard for the ten days leading up to carnival and for the whole week of carnival. The first Sunday we were here there was a practice run for carnival, where a PA system on the back of a truck drove around the route. We followed that procession and had fun. We didn’t realise then that a week later they would be carnival proper.

So all week we hear music and drums and the word ‘carnaval’ on everyone’s lips. We see kids coming back from carnival practice. We even bumped into a Mandinga out for a practice run. The Mandinga are a whole show in themselves.  Their purpose is to celebrate and remember Cape Verdean’s African ancestors.  Anyway, we bumped into one (the first one pictured below) on Saturday.  We stood still gawping in true tourist fashion.  Mr Mandinga did not hesitate in stopping to show us how mean he could be. I asked for a photo, he raised a flat palm inviting a token. I pressed some silver and took some snaps. At the time, Olive was on Ben’s shoulders and Alfi was strapped to my back. The mandinga posed for shots and only after did he seem to notice our kids whereupon he stopped dead in his tracks and reverted to very sweet uncle mode. Straightening Alfi’s head in the sling so she was more comfy, stroking her head whilst being a bit stunned by her blonde blue eyedness (or so I thought). Olive meanwhile just stared on…after we parted company I checked in with her to see what she thought. I asked her what did she think of the man in his dressing up outfit. She stopped for a moment and declared calmly ‘he’s a princess mummy’. Of course! It must have been the pink and blue plastic gems he had in his head dress. Toddler logic trumps again.

So by Saturday night we hear the streets alive with samba mayhem. Not that we saw it being aboard watching Pippa Pig (again). But we know that it is all hotting up out there. The next day we saw kids carnival and the Mandingas proper and this is how the show kicked off…

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https://www.youtube.com/watchv=3mdaNzv5NcU&feature=youtu.be

The girls didn’t really know what to make of it all. The Mandinga with the ring through his nose made Olive cry a bit…but also a few local toddlers too…I think that is their point, to be a bit scary. They are black black black. And oh so shiny. They had black oil on them, or something. They were dark. And percussive, with tied on bells and blackened bottles full of something that made them rattle and clash as they pounded their feet. It was brilliant to be present and to observe and for our little children’s minds to be blown just a little bit.

So on Wednesday few days later we saw the ‘proper’ carnival…the girls wore tutus and fairy wings. Even I put on some slap and wriggled into a dress. It was a Jolly Exciting Occasion I can tell you. Excepting the dinghy to shore ride. Not jolly. We climbed into the dinghy. Wings and tutus off, life jackets, on. What followed was the wettest ride I’ve ever had. The wind was blowing hard.  We were heading into it. Sure enough within a second of untying and motoring off, we all got soaked. Well, I did. Olive did. Drenched. It made me instantly furious with Ben (of course all adverse conditions are his fault…). By the time we hit the shore I laughed, stripped down to undies (unusual. Perhaps buoyed by the fleshy carnival spirit?), wrung out the sea water from my dress, put it back on, reapplied lipstick (I know girls! Lipstick!), put the girls into their tutus and wings and off we set.

Immediately we hit the crowd, it didn’t matter. Frankly I’ve always found the crowd as interesting as whatever the live act is. There were derrières everywhere! Some that had no friends, that really should not have been double skinned in leggings and orange hot pants…but then again, I could not help but admire the wearer’s ambition and self belief. What skill I thought…but mostly people looked amazing and freaky and hot. I started to wonder what Halloween would be like here. Then there were all the procession folk limbering up, waiting, rearranging boobs, applying a bit more glitter, pulling up tights, unsticking netting from their shoes…all of which I found utterly fascinating.

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In the end, we opted for a spot not far away. The procession had not yet started so we were standing in between two floats whilst they waited back stage as it were. We took loads of pics which was easy as the locals were dying to vogue it for the camera. We were there two hours, in the sun, within ever decreasing space, mostly silent in a mild state of happy disbelief. Every now and then the carnival anthem would boom out and the soon-to-be-on-duty performers would all start moving, at the same moment, practicing their moves but not in unison, whilst a few trumpeters ambled by…

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Then we met mudman.  Well, I presumed that was mud. I presumed this was just all part of the show. Then I realised that even the locals thought he was a bit barmy. See feathered cap man in video below.

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By the time we realised all our photos were of the same groups and that we had better go see others, Olive was red and hot and a bit overwhelmed. Were we surprised? No. Poor lamb, she had no frame of reference for carnival, let alone the dark naked glittery skin, huge headdresses, floats, live drumming, booming PA systems. Hardly surprising that she focused on the ground, spotting orphaned sequins and lost feathers and retrieving them into her sticky palm. They were small. Accessible, familiar, comforting…Alfi meanwhile slept. By the time she woke we were in a cafe drinking coke. Ben and I were taking turns to go back to the pavement alone to watch, video, enjoy carnival. The second best highlight for me were the drummers…man, such a deep powerful sound.

I ran back to Ben to compel him to go see them. He did and thereafter produced the best highlight. As he ran back to me all excited, he tittered in true schoolboy style, ‘go quick, there’s a naked woman, totally naked…’. I of course immediately dashed off laughing to hear him shout ‘she’s between the drummers and the school kids!’ Hilarious. Sure enough there she was. Basically nude save for some small coverings where fig leaves should go…she had swirling lines all over. I gawped on like all others, in awe of her beautiful female curves but more by imagining how she must be feeling. Wowsers. Naked, free, sun on her skin, dancing to an audience all admiring her during carnival…phewy! Here she is…

Anyway the naked lady came and left in a bum wobbling way. I returned to the cafe. Soon after two tall dressed up procession girls walked in. Silver hats, canes, bra thing strapped to a skirt thing. Naturally, everyone’s heads turned. They got a drink and walked back to a table opposite me where they stopped. Their skirts were sort of gladiator style, short. In fact skirt is a gross misrepresentation…they were basically some rectangles attached only at the waistband and carefully (or not?) placed to reveal their bum cheeks. Oooooer, titter titter no sex please we are british…anyway as I was piecing all this together, they just helped themselves each to a piece of pizza that belonged to those sat at the table. There was a nice looking man, mid 30’s say and a cute kid, daughter one presumes.  As the pizza grabbers grabbed, they looked their hosts square in the eye, everyone was smiling. How could they do anything else. It was a wonderful moment.
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After this we decided it was time to go. We regretted that He and I could not come back later to party…as we would in the olden days, before kids. Oh how we lamented…We got home, flannel washed off the glitter, watched some Peppa Pig and fell asleep to the noise of a humming carnival.  That was Wednesday 18th.

By Sunday 22nd they were still partying! More Mandingas having it large. Squeezing every last drop out of carnival juice. We bumped into some outside the supermarket yesterday. One of them stopped at the window and starred through at Alfi in her pram as we were standing at the til. He was all orange and scary with a beaming inquisitive smile aimed at her. There he stayed as we dodged the other happy drunk Mandingas on leaving the supermarket. They asked for some money but then Ben ‘communicated’ that he was giving it to the poor guy in the wheelchair. This was instantly accepted by them as they then raised an affirmative hand salute our way. Nice mandingas.

So what now? Well it is still windy! The wind here accelerates so that whatever is the forecasted wind speed, you can expect another 30%+ on top. So where blowing 20 knots at sea, here will be 30 plus as the wind funnels up over the peaks and then rushes down. I hear and read the words kabatic and venturi. I’ve never experienced anything like it. Suddenly the wind will roar, as if a giant ‘wind on’ lever had been pulled. Despite the fantastic holding in the harbour, that level of wind gets very tiring at anchor. Shore rides are a pain, two nippers jumping about and squabbling over who will drive.  Sense called us into the marina. Though whilst more convenient (power, shore access, showers) it is probably worse here. The boat is tied up. She is not very happy that is for sure. Going to sleep in the foc’s’le I will describe using two metaphors. The first, it is the same movement you get in the dodgems at the fair. Exactly the same. That jolty, unpredictable slam. But then last night’s realisation made me feel like I was inside the head of a horse. A horse that was chomping at the bit, flicking its head and tossing it side to side. We, the peas inside.

Amidst all this our minds are very focused on leaving.  Daily weather checks, top up provisioning. Cleaning. Varnishing. Repairing. Waiting. Oh yeah, and childcare.

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Next week things look calmer. As it always does…but if the current forecast holds, we plan to leave on Monday 2nd March.

Meanwhile, potty training is going great guns. Olive gets it. Motivated by stars and special treats.  ‘Ten stars and you get a toy’ has been our cry since arriving. It’s like a game show. But it seems to work.  I found her today perched precariously on the edge of ‘the bucket’ declaring she wants to use mummy’s potty! Wonderful. Her dinghy driving is also coming along and so too is her love of lime…here she is enjoying both and driving us to shore whilst sucking on a lime. Think she needs a Capri with a monogrammed ‘Olive & Alfi’ sun visor?

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15 february

So, here we are in Mindelo, Sao Vincente, Cape Verdes Islands. Our passage here was the longest to date, 979 miles over 9 days and 8 nights. Another epic, at least to us. (So another eipc post I’m afraid…I have tried to be succinct!) Perhaps all ocean passages have this potential. I’m not sure it can ever feel humdrum. This one had it all. Major highs, some deep lows. Wind, swell, no wind, more wind and swell. Rolling. Growling regret, dog tired exhaustion, physical challenge. All set against the demands of kids and the routine of stay at home parents. And oh the emotions. Well, mine at least. And then the wonderful magic cast by dolphins, phosphorescent seas and the marvel of the silvery light of a very full moon. And kids that weren’t that cranky. Perhaps above all the best thing was that at long last Ben’s wind vane self steering system worked perfectly. It proved itself to be the long promised third crew member. This meant no hand steering, well not unless we felt like it.  It was brilliant!  Powered by the wind in all senses.  No more droning battery draining autohelm. The wind vane worked impeccably through light wind, strong wind, swell (well nearly all). It transformed life on board. No more solo helming for Ben or solo parenting / firefighting down below for me. Well, nearly no more…but the point is the cockpit could be left and yet the course was maintained.  Ok a head needed to be poked out the hatch every 15 minutes or so, but hey! What a revolution!

As usual we left with the best forecast we had seen (in 3 months, literally). We knew the first day would be a bit blowy but were comforted by a low wave/swell height forecast. However we were hit straightaway with a big cross swell which made for an uncomfortable rolly ride. Pan! Forecasting! That combined with F5-F6 wind glued Ben to the tiller for the most part. My log entry for 2am simply reads ‘shit’. Not that any of this seem to bother the girls. Olive seemed genuinely excited to be sailing, observing what sail went up and identifying them as triangles in true mister maker fashion. Alfi’s was tucked up in her car seat chewing her toes. They were happy. Good. However somewhere in amongst day 1, Olive knee’d the laptop screen such that the liquid crystals burst. Where once octonauts and mister maker were available to sate the olivetoddlerbeast, now all that could be seen were rainbow lines which grew like mould, from a knee shaped patch across the screen each time the laptop was opened. Oh crikey I thought…this is not a good start. How will we make it to the Cape Verdes let alone cross the Atlantic without Olive TV? Remarkably, once we’d made it very clear to her that she had broken the TV, she didn’t ask for it once during the next 8 days. On day 6, I found her lying on her front on the floor of the cabin. I asked her what she was doing. She replied ‘watching tv’. She was staring at a plastic transparent sunglasses case which she had stuffed with (deflated) balloons. Brilliant I thought, laptop? We need one…? Anyway, all that aside, day 1 saw us tot up 120 miles which is a decent days run on Dhanu.

Days 2 and 3 were much better. Not enough sleep but the swell had subsided and we had enough adrenalin to keep us going through the child-centric sailing day. We had good wind which saw us slam dunk another 230 miles. We were under sail the whole while, mainsail up, reefed when needed along with the jib being poled out (2 triangles!). We were as they say, goose winged. During these days life was normal, Olive painted in the cockpit whilst Alfi watched on rubbing her gums as two more jaggedy points rammed themselves through to the surface. Or they played below making camps out of sail bags and towels. Night watches found us squarely in the shipping lanes. On one night, within an hour of taking watch I’d spotted 5 ships, all from different directions and aspects. The binoculars were glued to my nose as I twiddled for focus, waiting to see if the single yellow orb divided into two clear lights. If so, then to work out their respective heights to determine bow from stern. That done, to scan for a red or green light to work out the ship’s direction. Hoping it would be red so I know it’s heading away not toward…ah yes, there it is, red. Or oh f*#k green…hand bearing taken….collision course? Yes, maybe. Quick, wake Ben. And so it went. As for Ben’s watches, well his log entry for day 3 reads ‘0340 hours, 1.5m sea, F2 wind from the northeast, cloud, 1 reef main. Alfi can’t sleep so doing her first night watch with me. Sat in her car seat in a wooly jumper and grobag smiling at the moon.’ Could we want better?

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Ahh, the emotional world of a toddler…makes mine look bland…!  Ok, so, just a word on watches. People have asked ‘what happens at night? Do you keep going?’ Some may say what silly questions, but when you know the answer…in fact I think if you’ve never been on a boat, never had to contemplate what it is to be on a boat let alone one on an overnight (or longer) passage, it’s not such a silly question. At least it infers curious interest. So, no we keep going. We do not anchor. We do not stop. We cannot stop. There is nowhere to stop. No chance to anchor. No anchor chain would be long enough, nor strong enough the arms to drop and raise it. Some of the depths we sailed over were greater than 4000 metres. No, the boat keeps going which means someone has to be on watch all the time. To maintain the course, to spot hazards (other ships mainly), to ensure enough, or, not too much sail is in place. All of these things require a human. Preferably one who is awake. Each boat will have its own way of organising the watch. But the basic principle is that the watch rotates with each crew member taking their turn whilst the other(s) sleeps or at least rests. On this boat we are only two crew. So if you are not on watch you should be asleep or resting. We found this can’t happen in daylight hours because of the little darlings. So our rule is that if you’re on watch, you watch everything. Boat and kids. That is the only way the one off watch gets to sleep. No sleep will eventually lead to disaster. Especially on a long passage. So being on watch is a walk in the park really! We do like the easy life…

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So until day 3 we had operated a 4 hour on / off watch system. But it was failing us simply because there was no way either of us could catch up on sleep during daylight hours. The little darlings made sure of that. Them, their noise, their boisterousness, their needs, their demands (you have to feed them) combined with the small space meant they could not be ignored or shut away (damn it). We found this extremely testing. We calculated that by the end of day 3 we had only 10 hours sleep each in 72 hours. Not enough.

So we overhauled the watch system. For those techy geeks that want to know; we began two 5 hour watches starting at 9pm. So 9pm-2am; 2am-7am. This was great as it meant, only one night watch each and the opportunity for up to 5 hours sleep (as opposed to up to 4, which in fact means 3 by the time you’ve fallen asleep etc). Then we did two 3 hour watches; 7am-10am; 10am -1pm. Each doing every other one and resting in between. If all went well we each had the potential for up to 8 hours sleep. Brilliant. Then from 3/4pm-9pm we had to go with the flow as a rigid watch just did not work with the kids at that time of day. Anyway as long as we’d got 5-6 hours sleep staying up during the afternoon was doable. By day 5 life was more or less transformed. We finally caught up on sleep and the game of competitive exhaustion ended in a draw.

However until day 5 the new watch system had not bedded in. So by day 5, we were dog tired. I felt battered. I kept thinking I’ve done nothing harder than this. How does one cope with mental and physical fatigue alongside full time childcare? I didn’t know. All I knew was that the wheels on my machine we’re about to fall off. In such a precious state, doom set into my thinking. I felt weighed down with regret about our decision to set to sea, blinded by disbelief that we ever thought we could physically do this let alone with kids and tired like never before. My body was also littered with the usual bumps and bruises. (Note to self; buy shares in arnica given the amount Alfi and I seem to lather on – it is amazing stuff!) The sky was grey. It was still a bit chilly. (I was still wearing that bobbly, now filthy jumper!) The wind was also decreasing. This would lock us into a further 4-5 days at least. How would we do it? We weren’t even half way. Thoughts of the Atlantic were full of dread and impossibility. And yet every mile done took us closer to the Atlantic. During my night watch the GPS logged 1.5 knots…there was not a ship in sight. We were in the watery back of beyond. Oh god, what the hell were we doing I thought as the main sail drooped and slapped in the whispers of wind. Could I do this? Could we do this? Physically if nothing else? And then to remind me how very self indulgent I was being, Olive woke up convinced it was daytime so bright and full was the moon. I could not persuade her otherwise until I’d put her in her car seat in the cockpit, with me, all rugged up. She immediately looked at the nav lights atop the mast (lit at night) and pointed at them declaring ‘it’s the moon!’. I forgave her error as the actual moon was behind her head. So I turned her around and proudly pointed at the full bright white moon and declared ‘no, THAT is the moon’ convinced it would blow her little mind. ‘No mummy’ she replied, deadpan and entirely unimpressed, ‘that’s a torch. That’s the moon’ as she pointed once more at the nav lights in a triumphant self satisfied way. I could hardly blame her assessment. In fact in a way it was quite logical and relative to her experience. A visible full moon at sea is unbelievably bright and unbelievably large. Anyway that wonder-of-the-full-moon-lesson-not-learnt, we settled for silent star gazing. I had been focused on my newly learnt constellation, Canis Major which had been my celestial signpost, leading my course South west. A short while later she pointed upwards and ahead and declared urgently, ‘mummy mummy horsey, horsey!’ I kid you not, she was pointing directly at Canis Major…ok dog not horse, but to have picked out the stary four legged animal shape, I of course found incredible. Well done Olive little star gazer you! (I think thanks must go to Mister Maker for shape recognition.) After such triumph and equal praise, she was open to accept it was night time and thus consent to return to her bed. That left me alone again with my thoughts…no wait! Thankfully some mind boggling phosphorescence showed up. Square blocks of bright green fluorescent shimmer just beneath the surface of the water. Not stary sparks but solid shapes. It was like nothing I’d seen before. It reminded me of metre squared green disco tiles which flashed on and off randomly, all around the boat. What caused that? Dolphins? Oh this crazy sea!

The next day after a good sleep I woke to realise I just had to accept some basic facts. (Yes it took me this long!) Agreed, what we were doing was tough. Tougher as we were doing it with very small children. Silly us for having such a Grand Plan. True, there could be no guarantees as to how any future passages may fare. There could be too much wind, swell, rolling, discomfort, physical challenge. In fact we should bank on any and all of these things especially given that we don’t have the upper hand. That belongs to the sea. Deal with it I told myself. This is the once-in-a-lifetime-adventure you were striving for. So the best we can do is go at the most tranquil time, hope for the best yet be prepared for any curve balls we may be thrown. Yes, we may be tested. This should be no surprise. But the rewards will be great and on levels even beyond the picture postcard Caribbean idyll that spurns us on. That is living in our boathome with our kids all freckle nosed at our feet, in beautiful anchorages. She who dares…she who dares.

Day 6; as if to high five me for working all that out, the universe’s chief exec in charge of natural forces gave me one of the best days of my life. Literally. I’m not kidding! Conditions were perfect. Clear sky, sun. A balanced flat sea. Enough wind; an average speed of 5 knots. We were both felt rested, finally. The kids were as happy as I’ve ever seen them. We could leave them with their toys behind lee cloths in the saloon or in the foc’s’le. Or even on the cabin floor as they slid around in a soup of rolling toys. I felt energised, alive, utterly content and most importantly, strong. Bread was baked. We chilled out in the cockpit. To cap it all a pod of about 50 dolphins appeared just as I was cooking supper. Until that point we’d seen none. On previous night watches both Ben & I had heard the plosive sound of them breathing air through their blow holes as they surfaced, but there had been no proper sightings. Literally an hour before the pod arrived we were bemoaning the lack of wildlife, dolphins, whales, fish on the end of our lines etc. (We had two lines out all the time. No fish in 9 days. 8 strikes, 8 got away, 2 giant lures lost, one large hook straightened by the force of a big fish strike!) Then bang, there they were. They surrounded us. This was no blink and you miss them. No. You could see them behind and ahead of us, advancing towards us as if they had some urgent message to deliver. They were beside the cockpit, at our bow. For hours. They were so close you could differentiate one from another. I could see individual scars and marks on their curved muscular form. I’m not surprised as they must occasionally hit a bow or something so close do they swim to the boat. If you have had the fortune to see dolphins in the wild you will know the joy they bring. We all knew we were communing with them. Sharing something with them and each other. A family of dolphins entertaining a family of humans. Big and small. Everyone at the party. We all felt it as we stared over the bow, me clutching Alfi, Ben holding Olive. Even Alfi knew something wonderful was happening. I felt her twitch on seeing a nose or a blow hole spurt or a whole dolphin flopping on its side above the surface of the sea. I could hear her expel little shocked grunts as she responded to these beauties with a one fisted salute. Meanwhile Olive immediately said ‘they’re amazing’ before she began counting and categorising them based on size. ‘There’s a mummy one, a daddy one, that’s an Alfi one. Look there’s an uncle foo one’. (Uncle Foo is her measure of anything larger than daddy sized…brother all I can say is it doesn’t take much to be bigger than daddy Ben). For those that want to know, according to our wildlife book, the dolphins were ‘Atlantic Spinners’-an entirely appropriate name, as they were exactly that. After 30 minutes of gawping, we returned to cooking supper, playing with daddy’s fishing lure box, chewing our toes etc and still the Dolphins were dancing around the boat, swimming right behind the lines checking out the lures…we couldn’t get rid of them! They were with us well into the night.  It is shame that this video just cannot do the spectacle justice, but you get a sense of them and how close we were to them. Stunning.

Ben trails a walker log to record distance through the water (as opposed to speed over ground). This is what happens when walker log meets fishing line…

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Day 7 saw the wind increase and gusting 20 knots plus at times. Lively! This pulled us both back to ‘work’ – getting on with what needed to be done. Enduring the motion, the friction, the rolling whilst tripping over toys and entertaining kids, preparing food, milk, snacks etc…welcome to the endurance nursery!  These videos are great as they give you an idea…but only an idea.  Video seems to flatten the sea.  So what you are seeing is a flatter version…and even then you can see something of the movement…but it isn’t really the whole story…

The old fashioned looking speedometer thingyme is the walker log.  It tells us how fast the boat is going.  The GPS tells us how fast we are moving over ground, ie, that speed includes any current.  So compare GPS and walker log and you can caluclate current.  We had about half a knot of current with us per hour.  Our final approximate speed was 4.9 knots.  Not bad for an old banger.

Note to self; even the promise of dolphins and whales won’t trump this toddler tantrum. Nothing ever would I suspect…volume here is essential.  You have full permission to laugh your head off…I do everytime…cruel mummy.

Day 7 night watch was under a full moon and semi cloudy sky. There were moments where I had tears of I don’t know what in my eyes. I’m reluctant to use the word joy as it so cheesy, but I think that is what it was. Or at least that’s the only word I can think to use. And even that fails as the silvery light, the majestic ocean, the wind, the natural harmony of it all was just so powerfully moving ‘it’, joy, call it what you will, seeped out of my eyeballs. Imagine that! The fact that the wind got up, that our speed increased to 6-7 knots just made it even more intense. The power of it all. I went to bed that night on a high at what I’d just seen. I wanted more…or so I thought!

Then I woke up. The remaining two days were intense and unrelenting. They really were about endurance sailing. The wind was more or less constant. We never went less than 5 knots and usually more. And all via just the mainsail with one reef! Also constant was the realisation of the vastness of it all. Ocean and more ocean. On a huge scale. A powerful mass of swirling energy. It just felt bigger than any sea so far. The swell was big too. Big and persistent and unapologetic. The shape and state of the sea was striking. It was pointy. Choppy. Lumpy. Full of triangular waves. There were waves upon waves which crested all around. It hissed and whooshed. It was alive. To this slightly wimpy sailor it seemed to me we were suddenly in a very different sea. Gone were the dolphins and flat seas. In their place was a wildness. It wasn’t threatening, but it was just that. Wild. Giant. In charge. Is this the Atlantic I thought? The destination after all these months. Ahhh, right. I get it. Hmm. OK. I see. This must be The Atlantic Swell? Ok! Well. Right. And so it went. Every forward motion saw the boat displace such volume of water as each wave from behind carried us up and down and then rolled us to the side. And yet we were occupying a teeny tiny part of that mass of water. It was overwhelming. I had a moment one night watch during these days, of feeling very very very small and utterly powerless. I guess that is sort of inevitable. Just at that moment to starboard within a few metres of the hull, a giant fish jumped out of the water, bounced twice on it (slap slap went the sound, I’ll never forget it) and then submerged itself. I saw a pointy fin dart toward the hull. I could not believe my eyes. I shouted aloud ‘Oh. My. God.’ Then as if to reassure me I was not hallucinating, it jumped again. F*#k me I thought-where the hell are we? What is this place? And before you ask, this was not a dolphin. It lacked the soft rounded lines and balletic movement. No. This silhouette was angular and sharp, almost mean and definitely tough. A tuna? A marlin? Why was it jumping? Was it being hunted…? Must have been…truth is, I had no clue. What did it matter. I saw it and instantly accepted my tiny insignificant place in the ocean. In fact, correction, I had no place. Me, mankind, machines all of that, no place, no role, no right, total insignificance. How often does one feel like that? I can recommend it. It’s a great slap in the face. I guess you could call it an awakening of sorts. That, or just not enough sleep and too many toddlers draining me…haha…let’s not get too heavy, right? Right. So, on we pushed. Living within these enormous forces at work, this little family of humans in their survival boatpod. Amazing. Tiring. We didn’t sleep much. The rolling saw to that. Regardless of the improved watch system…

What of the kids? They hadn’t the foggiest. They slept (more or less) like logs. They didn’t know about the wildness or the over analytical philosophising in mummy’s head. No. All they wanted was breakfast or milk or painting or ‘my windmill NOW!’ The scale, the rolling, did not seem to matter. Well for a short time the cranking up of scale / movement / swell annoyed them as they were less able to move easily around. But they soon got used to it. It just meant that as they reached for a toy on the cabin floor, it rolled away more quickly before they could clutch it. All of which was quite entertaining from where I sat, grubby, sticky, look at that hair!!! Oh well, any light relief…

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Day 9 was Alfi’s first birthday. Baffling did I find that fact. The idea that only 12 months ago she bust out of me. What a year! Moreover to think Alfi has lived more of her life in a boat than a house. She must find all this ‘normal’? I’d love her take on it. (Or perhaps I should be grateful she can’t yet give it.) Sadly birthday celebrations had to be sidelined given our exhaustion, the sea state and the fact that we were soon to make landfall. I reassured myself I was not a bad mother with the conviction that the birthday pancakes, the birthday cake, the presents could arrive a few hours later from the steady balanced comfort of port….or so I told myself. We had to get a wriggle on. By 10am, we still had 40+ miles to go. A 10 hour sail assuming at least 4 knots an hour. Having done not less than 5 knots an hour for the previous 3 days, it was a cruel twist that we now dipped just below 4…if we didn’t make headway we would arrive after dark which would mean another night at sea so as to avoid entering an unknown port at night. No brainier, we fired up the engine which gave us a steady 6 knots.

However soon after Ben’s face dropped. Up ahead the horizon was obscured by several dark smudges of cloud. From them rumbled thunder. I heard that. Then Ben said ‘oh my god, lightening’ Whereafter he was hoping about the cockpit. Then he saw 3 long bolts clear as day amidst the cloud smudge. I asked him casually, whilst crossing my fingers, ‘have you been in a storm before dear?’ He replied firmly ‘once. In port, in Dorset.’ More thunder clapped. Nothing more was said. (Later he told me his mouth went dry. This doesn’t often happen). Ben looked nervous. As rare an occurrence as finding hens teeth. I found this unusual and what was even weirder, I didn’t freak out. But I did realise this was no place for us to be. Ben didn’t like what was happening. This was new. He looked at me. Did I detect a momentary invitation to offer up any pearls? I didn’t know but I suggested the obvious, out sail it? Head away. The logic snapped Ben back to his calm assured self. Of course. He set to jibing and we headed south, away. So I left him to the man stuff and took the girls below. Perhaps it was a good time to deploy two homemade birthday tutus I thought? Great idea…I needed the distraction even if they didn’t! They loved them as they rolled around the foc’s’le looking like dirty sugar plum fairies and squealing like piglets. All whilst hail (yes hail) thundered on the deck. I couldn’t be bothered to be too worried. Really, what was the point? Anyway that would expend energy I did not have. Better I use it for celebrating Alfi turning one, playing squealing fairies and giving my captain moral support ‘from below’. All of which paid off as the thunder storm quickly passed, the sky cleared and we were on our way again.

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A few hours later I sighted land and screamed ‘land ahoy!’ Imagine the excitement! We beelined for the jaggedy pointy landscape feeling already like we had arrived.  This is what it looked like on closer inspection…

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Suddenly, with all that ocean behind us, all the nerves, the bruises, the uncertain regret, the doubt, the man-meets-sumfink-bigger theorising nonsense, all vanished. What did it matter? We’d (nearly) done it…we would soon to be at anchor celebrating our achievement. Wow. Another topsy turvey whirlwind of emotional and physical experience.

We knew Island Swift, a family boat we’d meet in the Canaries was anchored in Mindelo. We texted ahead to say we were close. As we arrived they had signal flags in their rigging which said ‘happy birthday to you’. We dropped anchor, which held immediately. Before we knew it Island Swif were beckoning us over and promptly dispatched their dinghy to collect us. The girls must have been a sight grubby, in tutus, hair everywhere, being swung down into their dinghy by the D rings on their life jackets…hilarious watching their tutus flapping in the wind. And so it was on their boat we finally celebrated Alfi’s birthday. Their female skipper put on a feast including cold beer and homemade chocolate cake! Yum yum! Not to mention hand drawn cards and presents. Of course Olive got treated too as she smeared chocolate cake everywhere. It was a perfect end to an amazingly intense week. Thank you all aboard Island Swift for making it so. We left their boat, boarded ours and all collapsed in a tutu’d heap. We slept like the dead for 10 hours.

On waking my mind knew I was at anchor, but my body was still at sea. As I walked through the cabin, I kept swaying and falling over as my muscles were still programmed to counteract the rolling boat, and yet it was not. Most peculiar. Drunk without the drink! It took til the next day to find my land legs. Anyway having had much time now to reflect, I can say WOW, that this was a major ocean passage for any sailor, let alone a sailing family with two small and dependent people aboard. We did it! Somehow. Despite the sheer lunacy of the plan! I can’t help but feel very proud about what we’ve achieved even if our ambition may at times put us through the wringer. But I know that it delivers to us moments and places and people like these and then it all feels absolutely worth it. Do I need to say more?

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Alfi LOVES driving the dinghy. She screams the moment the engine revs into life…future petrolhead???

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Inspecting the single flying fish which came to an end on deck…

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Learning to swim in the deep blue sea (off the back of the boat, dont worry we were at anchor…)

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11 feb

Lots to say but no time to write it down. Meantime here is olive with Jessica who insisted on a cuddle as she sold us beautiful fresh tomatoes and onions whilst gifting bananas for the girls…more to follow Continue reading

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7 February, 2015 13:41

We have arrived in Mindelo, Sao Vincente-Cape Verdes Islands. We were 8.5 days and 8 nights at sea having left Fuerteventura on Thursday 29th January around 9.30am. Since then we’ve put behind us 979 sea miles, our longest passage to date. Alfi turned one yesterday to boot! We are elated, exhausted, exhilarated and looking forward to a good rest. The passage was intense-the details to follow. We are safe and well and send you all salty love.

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28 January

Goodbye Fuerteventura.  Goodbye Canary Islands.  We have spent much longer here than anticipated but have not been disappointed.  Alfi started crawling the day we arrived here.  Her first teeth sprouted here.  Olive finally grew another whilst becoming a fully fledged tantrum wielding toddler.  We can only remember it well.  Here are some (long awaited) pics of our time here…

Anchorage, Arrecife, Lanzarote – December 2014

Olive in our friend’s dinghy, nose to nose with our French friend, Antoinne…

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Again Olive playing lady muck being ferried around by the skipper of Island Swift (below boat), in their little dinghy called ‘Swiftlet’ (cute)….Island Swift is an English boat – her crew are a family of four, two adults, parents to two teenage boys.  Like us, sailing to the Caribbean to adventure together.  Currently they are on route to Capes Verdes…our last text from them was that they were travelling south ‘like the clappers’ in good winds…we will be right behind them.

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Arrecife, Lanzarote – late December 2014

For all you sailing geeks out there, check this beauty out – this is SY Altair – a classic.  We saw her (and many others) as we were heading into the marina whilst they were all leaving heading for the Caribbean.  They were all participants in the Panerai Classic rally.  To participate in this rally you have to be a classic sailing yacht.  Google it and you will see all the boats we saw that day.  This one (and the rest) all cut a stunning silhouette as they sliced through the water heading south.  Truly beautiful not least, very exciting to watch.  I understand that some made the 2800 mile crossing in 12 days (fast!)…incredible.

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Marina Lanzarote, Arrecife, Lanzarote – end December 2014

One morning we awoke (in the marina) to see the most enormous motor yacht that at least, I had ever seen.  It was like a floating hotel.  This is Olive a bit awestruck…

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 Gran Tarajal – Fuerteventura – a few days ago

We arrived here in Gran Tarajal, Fuerteventura, around 15th January.  It is lovely here.  Family oriented.  Friendly people.  This is Alfi cruising around the deck in the evening sun…

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This is Yves, Patti and Lulu the dog (french folk).  They are wonderful young at heart full of energy people.  We met them first on La Graciosa.  Then again, quite to our surprise, here in Gran Tarajal.  They last made the journey from France to Senegal 30 years ago, in a 30 foot boat.  When they left France, Patti was 3 month pregnant.  When they arrived in Dakar, Senegal she was full term and promptly had a healthy baby boy in Dakar! What a woman!  All I can say to these lovely people is, mon chapeau…

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 Somewhere in Northern Fuerteventura, 25 January 2015

One day at the playpark, I got talking (as you do) with another parent.  He was a South African chap.  I told him we lived on a boat etc.  He mentioned friends of his (also living on the island) from Dartmouth, Devon who had also arrived here on a boat having sailed the world with their kids.  Soon after this an English chap arrived on the pontoon and introduced himself.  He was the said friend.  His name was Ian.  Within minutes he had invited us all to a BBQ that weekend.  ‘No’ he said, it was no bother to collect us all, and drive us all with his wife, and kids to the BBQ.  Obviously we didn’t hesitate to accept the kind invitation (which would get us beyond walking distance, beyond the playpark and supermarket to actually see some of this amazing island).  True to his word, he, his wife Mary and their kids arrived and scooped us up (car seats and all) and off we went.  We had a great day. Thank you Ian and Mary for being so generous and friendly!! Ian and Mary are amazing as they crossed the Atlantic (east – west and back) in their boat with their kids.  Their boat is totally unique.  It is a racing boat.  One of only eight made.  Carbon fibre…(i think that is right).  Whatever, it is super light and super fast and big.  Their cruising speed is 12-13 knots (ours is 5!).  Their fast speed is 20 knots (we feel like the speed of light when we make 7 knots!).  They can travel 200 miles a day! We do 120.  They literally surf…and we thought we were bonkers.

As for the other family, the Scot in blue in the white cap and the lady in the pink cap were so kind and hospitable to us, relative strangers.  Thank you Murdo, Ana, Alba and Andrew for the lovely dinner, the toys your kids gave ours and the warmness in which you embraced us.  We shall not forget it and hope we see them again.   (Just a shame this is such a ridiculous picture of me…there are hardly any ever…I wonder why??)

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Boatyard – Gran Tarajal, Fuerteventura – mid January 2015

We have got loads done here.  We hauled out, fixed leaks, cleaned Dhanu’s bottom (which was covered in barnacles), antifouled and made a new thingymewhatsit for the wind vane self steering…it meant 4 days living on the hard and climbing up and down a few metre high ladder but it was great to achieve so much.  Olive whizzed up and down the ladder like it was normal behaviour for a two year old. The yard was full of toothless local fishermen with wizened weather beaten faces staring curiously at us whilst tending to their own beautiful working boats.  Here we are under Dhanu’s hull her having been hauled out moments before…nerve racking I can tell you to see our boathome gingerly swaying in the air!

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Olive – counting barnacles…she ran out of numbers…(and fingers…)

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Something was hilarious…I am not sure what…

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So that brings you all up to date, visually speaking.  The photos are precious I know.  Who wants words when you can have pictures…if only pictures were as quick and easy to upload as text! So for now we say ‘see you soon’ on this auspicious eve.  The moment we untie our lines tomorrow morning we are firmly committed to the Atlantic crossing.  We will be leaving ‘Europe’.  Think of us.  It is as bizarre a thought as remote as it may feel to you guys tucked up in doors warm and cosy.  In a few days time, we will finally be hot.  Or at least warmer…here we go.  Deep breath.

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27 January

Finally.  We have a forecast.  A good one.  Good enough. We would be mad not to leave now we feel. So we leave Thursday 29th.  Excited to be heading South, back to sea.  For all the reasons previously stated.  Nervous too, yes. So Capes Verdes Islands here we come…watch this space…will try and get some photos up before we go if WIFI will allow.

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11 jan

Location – Marina Lanzarote, Arrecife, Lanzarote, Canary Islands. No longer at anchor – boohoo. But alas being at anchor in a Force 5-6 whilst very doable, does make getting ashore a wet bouncy slightly nervey pain. If we don’t get the kids ashore we all go a bit coo coo. So, to the soulless convenience of the marina where our kids can run around and be scrubbed clean with ease.

Weather – windy. Unsettled. Frequent Force 5-6 and white caps just beyond the breakwater. Not typical for this time of year. Apparently, the Canaries is massive for surfing and wind surfing. Loads of surfdudes come here specifically for the Atlantic rollers. However the industry stops in January as there is usually just not enough wind then. Well this January defies all that. There is wind aplenty and too much of it. There has also been a lot of rain. The lava cliffs are starting to sprout! It is all very unusual. Many boats are stuck waiting for the trades to set in. To settle down. What we are seeing is a freak summer/winter of weather. So when it will all stop….? Who knows…wisdom says ‘soon’.

Status – waiting. Still. It is all becoming a bit repetitive. When oh when will the wind settle down? When will it be balmy? When will be on our way once more? I’m afraid through no fault of our own, this voyage has lost momentum. Stalled. We left 6 months ago and yet the last 3 have been spent in port. Upside; we are still our own bosses. Get up when we want, there is nowhere we have to be (except maybe the supermarket or the chandlery or the play park), we suit ourselves (our kids). But oh how I can’t wait to do all that in warmer climes. I want swimming, freckly noses, sticky sweet tropical fruit and lots of fresh fish. Please. Oh yes I know, there will be mozzies and heat and probably cranky children bladebla – it still looks good from here.

Destination – Grenada, Caribbean via the Capes Verdes. The desire to be in the Caribbean, is strong. I just want to get there. It is what we set out to do all those moons ago and I want to do it. We have to get there.

Plan of Action – remain calm and get south asap!! We leave for Fuerteventura in a few days time. There we will haul out to do some hull jobs and then wait for the weather window to open and stay open. We are provisioned at least. We are stuffed to the gunwhales with stocks. Hoorah! I can’t tell you anything interesting or cultural about our quarter in the Canaries unless it relates to supermarkets, marinas, anchoring, cheap wine, dinghy tie up points, play parks, wifi connections (not great), the weather and/or the incessant red dust that blows in from Morocco in an Easterly wind into your drying laundry – ideal. (All we have had are north easterlies. Dusty indeed).

So here we sit and wait. With a boat full of supplies waiting to pounce. Glued to the weather. Doing chores. Cleaning things. We even made chutney yesterday! I am sewing patches on jeans and repairing ripped pillow cases (again I blame the wind for battering the hell out of them whilst they dry on the line. Threadbare!). As are many of the knees on Olive’s ‘warm clothes’. All her trousers have holey knees through much climbing and falling and some tough laundry conditions. Alfi is growing out all of her winter wear whilst neither of their summer frocks are so much as stained. Oh how this voyage has unfolded. We need to get south or to mothercare. It is honest to also admit that there has been some disquiet aboard. Ben is frequently quoting me Nelson; ‘men and boats rot in port’. How right you are my lord. On a hairier note, I am starting to like Ben’s beard. Ever since he chopped off the silly hams and ceased twirling his facial locks like a nervey insecure weirdo. All that gone. Thank goodness.

Upside – precious time watching my sweet benign little flowers grow. Olive yesterday shoved a 6.5 litre bottle of water (with some intent) down the companionway where it landed a few centimetres from Alfi’s head. It landed with an actual thud. I swear I saw the letters splurt forth from the moment of impact. All Alfi and I could do was stop and stare in disbelief at the huge plastic missile before looking upwards to Olive’s mischievous face marked with an expression that said ‘I know I shouldn’t have done that…but I’m glad that I did!’ There are many attempted acts of sisterly love by Olive toward Alfi. No longer do we need to tell her to say sorry and kiss Alfi. No. Now she delivers the act and then immediately offers Alfi a kiss whilst saying sorry Alfi and then ‘thank you Alfi’ in a slightly menacing, toothless and thisping mutter. Watching Olive interact with Alfi is to see a demonstration of the most very basic of animal antics. ‘I am big. You are small. I can stand. You cannot. I like the sound of your head banging against the wood. It’s funneeeee’. Laughing we are not (well sometimes we do). We are at least grateful Dhanu is not made of steel. Watching the girls makes me ponder that surely all children everywhere with siblings, have endured this abuse and come out OK? I mean I am one of four and look how balanced I turned out…

The View From the Hatch – in my experience, the view when in marinas like this is always the same. Concrete. Promenade. Shops and restaurants. Lots of lights. Lots of noise. Palm trees, (those short stumpy ones which Olive refers to as pineapple tress – how totally logical. Makes me wonder why there are not pineapples hanging from them?) From inside the cabin, we can hear Burger King operatives calling customers names out over a PA system. Oh yeah baby, we are living the dream. At first I thought it was Canarian bingo. But now I have worked it out, I’m glad we aren’t missing any fun. However I must not complain as the upside to being moored next to Burger King is that they have a set of play tunnels for kids which Olive loves (as do we as it exhausts her). It is free and on the doorstep…she has mastered the three tiered swirl of primal coloured plastic which she descends in a giddy heap taking out which ever Canarian child was in the way. Thank you Burger King.

On being port bound – it is frustrating. The trick is to try and enjoy it even though you are preparing to leave. Difficult. The real ball ache is that I have almost forgotten what it is to be at sea. I know it will take at least a few days to find the rhythm and that until we do sailing will be a shock to the system. I was reminded of all this when looking around the boat today. It is a different place when in port, when inert. I looked at all the piles and collections of things that had fallen into synch with one another over the last few months and realised they would not stand a chance at sea. They would all have to be swooped away and re-housed. Where would they go? Life inside the cabin would have to be once more, secured, cushions stuffed here and there and surfaces cleared and missiles lashed down. I can almost hear the clinking of jars and bottles, the tinkling of aluminium items in the pan locker, persistently clanging away. But then in imagining that it will also follow that if I stick my head out of the hatch, we will be moving forward. The sea will be alive. The wind will hug my ears. The stars will be out with any luck. The girls will be sleeping. And Ben and I will be feeling positive and focused and expectant and free. Oh yes please.

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Christmas Day 2014

It is 2018 aboard Dhanu. There are shreds of tinsel stuff on the floor. Alfi is crawling around with a maraca that looks like a frog hanging out of her mouth (thanks Aunty Harry). She reminds me of a beautiful little grenade with a tempting colourful pin dangling out of her pursed little determined lips. It is very amusing. Olive is standing semi naked watching octonauts. I am writing this. Ben is checking the weather. Our bellies are full. Wine seems always to have been in my glass. It has been a lovely simple Christmas day, as Christmassy as any Christmas can be in a warm place. We got up late and deployed presents. Few squabbles ensued as to which ones Olive thought she deserved. Poor Alfi. Owns nothing. It is either used or stolen by Olive. Nevermind…she is starting to fight back. Either stealing Olive’s bunny or pulling her hair in her sticky mits. Olive better watch out.

Then we went out for Christmas lunch (we had forgotten to buy food despite the two supermarket trips spent provisioning the boat). The girls got to wear exceptionally pretty dresses that were given to them by a dear friend of mine. Thank you Shazia. They are the most beautiful dresses that will probably ever be in their locker and certainly the only to match. Here they are are looking like children of a bygone era. instead of grubby boat kids with fistfuls of bungee and legs covered in coloured pen.

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Quickly, we found a local restaurant with tables outside. The menu was given verbally in no uncertain terms. It comprised of either fish or fish. We opted for fish, the mixed grill for two. What arrived was a platter that would have fed four. We ate the whole thing. And along with an entire tuna salad that she polished off, Olive also made a bid for the fish heads! All washed down with beer. Totally delicious.

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Then a stroll to the play park for some swings and slides. (If you should ever need to know of any play parks between Falmouth and here, just ask. Play parks and supermarkets. And bakeries, tourist centres, fresh veg markets. Oh yeah, and chandleries. How to plot the globe!)

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There are some very sweet videos that my connection aint having, so Ill have to post those another day.

So now we are vertical, vegging out. Most probably in a similar state to you. Happy. Sated. Bit bloated. Bit knackered. Very gratefully, wine assisted. Feeling positive whilst watching my kids and thinking of you all back there. Happy Christmas!

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24 dec

It is Christmas Eve.

We are in Lanzarote and have been here since 19th. The first three days in a lovely anchorage. But intended weather blew us in to the marina, where we are now. Or in fact, did all it could to blow us away from it. Getting here was an eventful hour of sailing into the wind which I’d rather not repeat. I think at one point we were actually going backwards. Or at least felt very stationary. But once more, we arrived safely if a little wet and shell shocked by the conditions.

However that experience was nothing compared to the shock of sailing with kids again, after eight weeks on Graciosa living a landed and easy life. We did in the end, overcome the shock of that and bright lights big city. Noises, cars, people, stuff being sold everywhere, transactions occurring…but until we did it is true the wheels of this family machine did fall off. Momentarily. But acclimatised we did and since then we have been getting stuff done to prepare for the next leg. The biggest thus far. Major milestone met leading directly toward the Atlantic. So. We are provisioning – today the boat swallowed kilos of wine, pasta, rice, tins and jars and spices. From here on wine gets expensive, so we need stocks. I am amazed at how much stuff we have stowed away. This boat impresses me all the time.

So, what of the plan? The weather? The plan is as it has always been, to head south. But only once the weather looks settled. This is slow in coming but once it comes, we will be like butter of a hot knife to get south. So what if it has taken us much longer than planned. If we cannot stop and stare now, when will we ever. Anyway, the weather has stalled us all the way, so we continue to patiently wait for the last and final push towards those warm latitudes. We are ready. We have had months aiming for the next step, psychologically if not practically. Hence there are a few more jobs to do. And then back to the anchorage to wait for blessed weather.

But for now, HAPPY CHRISTMAS ONE AND ALL.

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