So exactly a year ago Holly, Scrumpy and I were unpacking a lifetimes worth of stuff onboard our new home for the foreseeable future. Little did we know that we would be where we are today and preparing to return home to have our baby, or the adventures we would have had in a year that has flown by. For the last 6 weeks, all our efforts have gone into preparing the boat to come home, with mornings spent ticking planned and surprise jobs from our evergrowing list, and afternoons spent enjoying the sun and beaches that the Caribbean has to offer.
Now I know Holly has written a similar post recently, but its only fair you hear my ramblings too…..what a year we have had, 11 countries, 3 continents, over 120 ports/stops, 6800 miles, 491 night hours for sailing, 2 and a half stone lost, both seas and oceans crossed, as well as the not so dreaded Atlantic Crossing, full of favourite places (I claim almost everywhere is my favourite place), a few horrible places, lots of new friends, countered with people we hope we never see again, and most importantly a new member of the family on the way. We will board a plane in Antigua in about 10 hours, for Holly and I, its our first ever flight together, a strange statement when you have already seen so much of the world and travelled so far. Antigua itself feels like an unlikely place to be flying from, especially as we have spent nearly 3 and a half months of our total trip here, arriving as a cruiser, it was not a pretty destination, it has unclear water, not as much wildlife, and just not as beautiful as the other islands we have seen, but to be honest what we have been looking for recently has been the healthcare and doctors, a good cheap supermarket and a nice calm comfy anchorage to live on board. Being here in Antigua preparing the boat for so long I have felt all I want to do is get home to the UK, but the realisation became much clearer the closer that we got to flight day, that this boat is home, not the parents houses we will stay at, but the small 3 cabins we live in, and the endless changing garden that surrounds us.
I think the biggest way the trip has changed us is the way I live my life, and to what means I live by. Budgeting has been a huge part since the day we left, but I need to remind everyone that this is by choice, yes we have more money, but the quicker we spend it, the quicker we have to come home, the painful realisation is that coming home now has cost us 14 months budget, to be fair the dog has cost 5 months 😦 but we wouldn’t change it, to see a first time Grandparents face when you hand them the baby will be priceless, and that Chinese meal I’m going to eat tomorrow night will be even more priceless……unfortunately the thought of having just over a year less of a trip is daunting, but luckily we still have some time to go before that dreadful day of a zero bank balance, and the impending jobs waiting for us at home. I might just be a stay at home dad, and Holly can get to work. As I have now rolled off on another tangent, my point on the budgeting was that it has made me much more sensible, and clever with the money we have, 100 times less greedy and wasteful, more appreciative of treats, its made me realise we (I mean Holly) can make gorgeous restaurant worthy meals for only a few dollars, and ultimately it has left me 15 kg lighter and healthier than I have felt in years. Roll on our return to the boat though, as next year we will not be cutting our budget in half to afford to come home, we will have nearly double the monthly money so will live like kings.
We have had numerous people come to visit us on our trip, both as crew and holidays goers. Firstly massive thanks to Matt and Chris who helped us cross the 3000 miles, yes maybe we could have crossed it the two of us, but we wouldn’t have wanted to, as Holly and I did a 6/7 day crossing from Europe to the Canary Islands, which towards the end was enough with just 2 people. We had 40 Knots of wind and at least a 4 meter sea for the first 4 days of the atlantic, which were followed by no wind at all, it was strange to see all 4 of us praying for the wind to pick back up again, strangely always wishing for the opposite of what the weather was. The total 23 days doesnt feel now like it was hard, but I’m sure if you asked me on day 18 I would have had some swearwords to tell you. Matts overwelming determination to catch a tuna was sadly wasted, but this did mean we had 30 Dorado landed on board, and about 30 that we lost the fight with, which only added to the excitement of every bite. Would we do it again? I say yes, Holly says yes and no depending on the day you ask her. The Pacific crossing would be the next huge one, but as the dog is banned from every destination west of Panama it seems unlikely for now. We have had various visitors from parents to friends, all bringing a variety of home comforts (The best part of every visitor), we feel lucky to have the opportunity to let people come and experience how we are living now. Im sure our visitors will dwindle when they have to content with a crying baby in such close vicinity.
Best bits and worst bits……Its hard because as always I can’t remember there being any bad bits off the top of my head, but if pondered for a while, the european weather and storms were nasty, stuck for 9 days in near hurricane strength winds, with no water, or real amenities around, but then this was followed by arriving in La Coruna for my birthday which was one of my favourite times. Before the boat upgrades was disgusting, but again now we have all the new bits onboard I can’t remember those times, months without a comfy bed, shower and fridge were vile. You would think that the arrival to St Lucia from Europe would have been monumental, but it was strangly underwhelming, all I was thinking is the dog needs a walk, and I need some good food in the form of a Pizza…..but once settled in the Caribbean has been amazing, some anchorages and bays have been beautiful, and the underwater wildlife has been one of my highlights, seeing rays, eels, lobsters, an endless array of colourful reef fish, and most of all the turtles. The most popular cruisers Island Grenada, was my least favourite, coupled with Antigua again one of the most popular for sailing. Seeing the never-ending conveyor belt of holidays makers actual makes me feel bad for them, they see one place, usually in a built up area, and sit on a beach for a week, I feel they totally miss the beauty or what the Caribbean has to offer, I forget how lucky we actually are.
One of my favourite parts is the unfathomable kindness and generosity of the people we have met, it is over whelming and one of the biggest things I will take away from this first year, we have been helped in all manner of ways, especially since finding out that we have little jelly bean on the way. Specifically with the community we ave met here in Antigua. Tina and Mark on Magic have made the trip home much more possible, Nick and Terysa on Ruby Rose have become great friends, who fed us daily with gourmet cooking and beer everyday without fail for nearly a month, we will return to our boats at the same time at the end of the year and plan to sail to America together, Karen and Mike who are land dwellers now after sailing here from South Africa, and have done so much for us, they have driven us all over the island this week, and have let us stay at there house while the boat is on the yard, and will drop us at the airport soon, Helen and Rick on Symmetry the most amazing boat we have encountered, a beautiful catamaran which is out of this world (it even has air conditioning), Rick even had the patience to teach me to wakeboard, and Helens handmade baby blanket was so kind, and of course Jacqui and Freddie on Shavora, our surrogate family for such a huge part of the trip, have helped us in so many ways from the day we met, and meeting them in Guadeloupe after our separate Atlantic crossings and 3 months apart was one of my highlights. Most of all though, with no disrespect to the above, my hat goes off to my our favourite sailor on the seas, Mr Michael Sweet on the beautiful Henrietta…..in his 60’s (I got it right this time) he single handily sailed the Atlantic, through the Caribbean, then realised he needed to pop back to the UK, so instead of us wimps on our planes, he sailed back to the UK again all on his own, with the intention of heading back to the Caribbean at the end of the year.
So the big one……Jellybean, what an exciting change to our lives, on deciding to try, the words ‘Its will take months’ still ring in my head, but the realisation it took less that 2 weeks still makes me chuckle. To think that we have been away 12 months, and been pregnant for 7 and a half is crazy, it still feels like yesterday I was woke up to a stick cover in wee…..the look on Holly’s face was gorgeous and I knew before she even showed me…..It has been such an amazing road to be on, especially in a place like this, no work, less stress, healthy living, I feel it has made things run much smoother than I though it would. I laugh to myself when I see the most chilled out version of Holly I have ever seen it suits her so well. We cannot wait to get home and countdown to finally meeting our newest crew member. Waking up ever morning to read the daily snippet of pregnancy info on our app is the best bit of my day, talking to Jellybean and feeling him/her kick are out of this world. This last month has been tough with so much to do with prepping the boat, but Holly has managed so well.
So as I sit here, there is now only 8 hours until my flight, and thinking about the last year, and the next year are slightly overwhelming. The thought of being in the UK in 18 hours in very scary, what will we do to fill our days, I don’t think 6 pound a day is enough for us both to live while we are back?????? We are looking forward to the baby gifts we get, I’m sure the baby needs a new dingy and outboard motor, as well as some new boat batteries…..we will keep the blog updated at home, but only with baby related bits, Im sure none of you want to here ‘Today we went to WHSmith and were stuck in a traffic jam on the M25’. Thanks to all of you for reading the blog over the year, its nice to know someone enjoys it.
P.S if we don’t get a Pregnancy related upgraded on the plan, Virgin will be getting a very stern review on google…..see you all next year.