The best moments are at sea

“What has been the best bit of your life so far?” asked my daughter. She then said, “was it when you had me and baby brother?” Yes it was I said, nothing can beat being a mum, not even some of the best jobs in the world.

I did also tell her how much I enjoyed the teenage years, that brief moment in life when you are free from your parents, not shackled to mortgage payments and have the world at your feet.

She said, “well my favourite moment in life (I reminded her that she had only been on this planet for 8 years) was when we got the boat and when baby brother arrived. “The boat filled up a big hole  in my life”. Now, no-one likes to think their daughter had ever had a ‘big hole’ in her life, but how funny that it should be filled on a whim one late August afternoon when my husband and I stopped off to look at a sail boat for sale on someone’s drive when on our way home from the beach. While we didn’t buy that particular boat, it had inspired us to do something we had been mulling over for a while and our journey delivered us a Swift 18, an evening’s on-board sailing lesson at the end of a season, books, charts, marinas, mooring rates, anti-fouling and tides……bloomin tides. But the journey so far has been amazing and opened up a whole new world and dimension to our lives. I just hadn’t fully appreciated how much of an impact it had on my daughter. Now there is nothing else she would rather do.

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Tale as old as time

Our family is divided tonight, my son and husband are bobbing up and down on the boat in the same marina where we spent our anniversary while me and my daughter enjoyed a trip to the cinema and a rather expensive trip to Yo Sushi! (I wish I could say it was down to my daughter enthusiastically grabbing plates off the conveyor belt like a true first-timer, but unfortunately it was me being a mummy pig). As we live out in the sticks going somewhere like Yo Sushi! is a real treat, so you want to make the most of it as you don’t know when the opportunity will next arise.

The same could be said for one-to-one time with your child. We had a chance to talk without the distractions of baby brother and his potty training. She told me worries at school that I had not been aware of and enjoyed general chats about a variety of things: from friendships to fashion to boating to cars and everything in-between. We had fun picking out some gifts  for a friend’s birthday party (although her generosity had to be curbed somewhat). But what struck me about this tie together was what I potentially miss out when the humdrum of life takes over. Sometimes, in fact very often, I am so keen to ‘get through’ the day that I don’t take enough time to appreciate moments with my daughter. Before too long I will turn round and she will have grown-up.

So tonight was a great reminder to slow down, stop racing through motherhood and enjoy the most important people in life.

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Girly heaven with the boys

“I was the only girl here today”, my daughter announced proudly as I picked her up from a day at an outdoor activities centre. She was on her own in the changing rooms and was worried that she would be left on her own if the boys changed quickly. Turned out it took her 10 minutes and she had to wait for the boys outside.

When we were out on the boat today we witnessed a regatta of teenage sailors. I admired the way one girl recovered from a capsize with such style that it looked as if she had planned it. As the boat went over she saw what was coming, clambered over the side as it rotated into the water, jumped onto the keel and hauled the boat back upright with ease. It was textbook. I wish I had filmed it and put it on YouTube. The sight of this appealed to me for so many reasons. First, it was a bank holiday and rather than being inside, bored and chomping on chocolate the teens were put in the fresh air and sun and occasionally getting dunked. Second they were using their brains and body simultaneously- not a regular occurrence with teenagers. But best of all it was seeing boys and girls competing on equal terms and when a girl gets herself onto trouble, she jolly we’ll gets herself put of it without any bother or interference.

Sailing is one of the few sports where men and women can compete on equal terms and when I see such sports in action it gives me a hint at what is possible of this equality was broadened out to society at large.

My daughter absolutely loved her day with the boys today because she was enjoying the day as their friend and equal. When she plays football she complains that the boys are reluctant o pass to her and she takes this on the chin. Today she got the bullseye in archery, made her raft flat and was the only person to reach the top on all the climbing wall levels. Then came home with one of the boys, who is also n her class, and played on the trampoline and then later on PS3’s ‘Need for Speed’. She was in ‘girly’ heaven.

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Tacky chocolate

“Wow, he’s got the hang of it”, said my husband as he shifted his seat on one side of the sail boat after a tack admiring how our 2 year old boy had managed to avoid the hazards of dogs, legs, ropes and beams and move without assistance from one side of the boat to the other. I glanced down at the Smartest Easter egg I was holding and held it up to show my husband, “I think this may have something o do with it”.

It’s amazing what discoveries you can unearth from doing the most unlikely things. I was being a multi-tasking mother, releasing the Genoa sail for my husband during a tack while keeping baby boy’s blood sugar level up with a bit of chocolate. So while I balanced it precariously on my palm as I swung from one side of the boat to the other, baby boy followed me effortlessly like a horse following a carrot on a stick.

It is ambitious sailing with a 2 year old because they are small and tend to get easily tangled up in anything and everything you are trying to ensure they avoid. Then there is the added complication of the potty. After using up the waste bags for the mobile potty on our 2 dogs after they pooped on the beach, baby boy was left with absolutely nothing to pee into as he perched on the potty. My husband had no other option but to let baby boy ‘christen’ the tender boat as he waited in the shallows of the harbour with all the kit and the dogs for me to return from parking the car.

Someone once said to me that all men at the helm become fascists. This is slightly true of my husband who was rather too fond of barking orders at me when I was trying to ensure baby boy as avoiding the many hazards of being on a boat. One woman I met at a boat show said she used a car seat on her boat and every time she wanted to sail ‘hands free’, she just popped her child in the car seat in the cabin. Our boat is only 18 foot, sonar car sear would take up most of the cabin, which is already dominated by a dog bed – essential when you have a dog who needs a retreat to assist them when they go into complete denial that they are at sea. This is the same dog that hates camping. She would much rather be Ina Louis Vuitton bag somewhere in California.

I am new to this sailing lark but am in it for the long haul as I know that the whole family will get pleasure from it (eventually) and the money we invest in it will replace the cost of summer holidays and alternative mobile UK holiday investments such as caravans and camper vans.

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Giving up the day job

OK I’ll admit it, I’m feeling a little bit smug at the moment. I feel like a multi-tasking domestic goddess…….. which is a very rare feeling indeed. I made a pact that while I wasn’t working over the Easter school holidays, I would attempt to make More of an effort in the kitchen, expanding my repertoire of pasta, bolognaise and the odd fish or vegetarian meal, to things that take a little more effort and give a lot more taste. So, armed with Aggie Mackenzie’s ‘Busy Mums Cookbook’, I added a few more ingredients to my shopping list and utilized the children’s late holiday bedtimes to get some cooking done. Often my attempts at recipes never come out in the way the curator of the recipe intended (like Bridget Jones I am capable of producing blue soup), however every single recipe of Aggie’s has been spot on. I have even delved into the baking section, so my husband now has a choice of homemade banana loaf, lemon drizzle or brownie cake (baked for my friend’s birthday) to choose from for his packed lunch.

It was my best friend’s birthday today, so I made her a chocolate brownie cake (minus the nuts because she is allergic). This was my first attempt at brownie making and I was surprised at the outcome, it tasted good and a bit gooey. My friend then asked me to skipper a boat she had hired for the day as a birthday pressie. Although I explained to her that my main job in the boat my husband has is to keep the children pinned down while in motion and occasionally I pull a few ropes but that was the extent of my nautical ability…..’ but I will give it a go’. As the man showed me the ropes harbour side and then handed the boat for me to practice coming alongside the jetty he said that I was ‘pretty good’. So with 2 adults and 4 children loaded on, we set off to the beach and we managed to navigate the estuary, anchor at the beach and return to the jetty unscathed. My friend’s spectacular leap onto the boat as she pushed us away from the bank was brilliantly executed for a 35 year old.

Once back I dropped my friend home and returned to embark on a chicken pie recipe, which my husband has just had for dinner.

It is funny that when you stop your day job and have the opportunity to do other things, you find out new things about yourself. I am discovering that I am rather good at following instructions (following recipes, listening to instructors). When I told my husband this he scoffed and said ‘well why don’t you listen to me then?’ I then clarified what I meant by ‘instruction’ and how it differs from ‘fascism’ (which he can be accused of when at the helm’.

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We have the opportunity to go out on a sail boat on sunny weekends. Its nothing special just a small boat with a main sail and a genoa, which, with a squash and a squeeze, can just about fit the four of us plus dogs in it. We are ‘learning on the job’ as it were and roughly catching the wind with the sails and not always following the intended direction of travel. This proved tricky when navigating the boat back to its mooring around several bobbing boats, but we managed it without any insurance claims.

Nothing could beat that day in terms of pure enjoyment. It was immensely satisfying to watch the boat carve her way through the water pulling the ribboat behind at a fair rate noiselessly under the power of wind. Nothing but the water slapping the bow of the boat and the sun glistening on the surface of the sea…..well thats not strictly true. The dogs fighting over a ball broke the serenity, my husband and daughter shouting at each other over which rope he wanted her to pull to release the main sheet and then strong words of encouragement to pull it quickly. Although I wasnt at the helm I was back-seat sailing, asking “shouldnt we tack now” and “you have seen that boat dead ahead havent you?” But once we had enough, it was back to the slipway on the rib to the cafe conveniently situated for children dying of hunger to fill up on bacon butties and scrumptious ice cream. For me and hubby it was tea and coffee (we are not great drinkers – I was virtually brought up in a pub so not overly keen on spending my Sunday in one).

I then wanted to press pause as we sat on the tailgate of the van silently licking our ice creams in contentment as we watched the comings and goings of the harbour.

Many of the boats we passed had interesting names, one stuck in my mind. It was aptly named Sanity.

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My apologies for a 2 day absence – but the good news is that 2 pounds will go to Unicef as my offline fee contributing to this blog’s fundraising effort. The reason for my absence is due to the complete immersion of our whole family in the wonderful world of sailing. Saturday’s absence was spent packing in prep for an early rise on Sunday morn to meet high tide. This was interspersed with a trip as a taxi for my Dad and Stepmum who went to a 50th wedding anniversary celebration and wanted to drink. Upon arriving at the venue at 11pm as requested by my Dad as the best pick-up time, I noticed my Dad had experienced a better time than my Stepmum due to the amount of slurred words in his vocabulary and a lot of giggles. When I was younger I hated seeing my Dad drunk but now I just find it amusing. Of course it might well have been the case that he had not enjoyed himself at all, which is why he got drunk, one can never tell.

Regardless of levels of toxication, it really didn’t help the ‘get up at stupid o clock for the tide’ campaign to be ferrying my half drunk Dad and stepmum round country lanes in the middle of the night …..but it was funny. When the alarm sounded at 6 am on a Sunday I couldn’t quite believe we were actually about to embark on a 45 minute journey to launch our new boat for the very first time into water and then go out for the day. It was to be a morning of ‘firsts’ and a morning of challenges.

When we arrived we were in plenty of time to get the mast up before high water. A few other people turned up with their ribs, tenders and fishing boats and everyone seemed very friendly and oblivious to the fact that we had never done anything like this before. Somehow we managed to blend in, complete with 2 kids and 2 (very reluctant) dogs. I manned baby boy while hubby faffed around with the rigging, which was a good job too as I found it all rather daunting and found childcare a convenient excuse for standing aside and letting him get on with it. A very nice chap from the harbour with the accent of a pirate said, “I’ve found you a good mooring with plenty of water”, so strong was his accent that you wanted to finish off the sentence with “ooh arrrrrr” and reply with “aye aye”. Once the boat was in the drink,  I put on my wellies so that I could help push it out (my espadrilles not quite the ideal footwear for getting wet and I didn’t want to go barefoot on the stones) and then our pirate friend in the harbour took her alongside the harbour wall (why are boats always feminine?).

2 hours later we found ourselves bobbing up and down on our mooring in disbelief that we had managed to achieve it all without any stress or problems. I was willing to quit while we were ahead but we had all been lulled into a false sense of security. “let’s take her out then” said hubby. “I just need to familiarise myself with the rigging for the mainsail and the jib”. I added “shall we check the tides to see when we need to get back”. I didn’t get a reply as hubby busies himself with all the ropes. We then started to motor out and then before we knew it, the outboard was making a grinding noise and we very quickly became aware of the depth gauge and its reading – we were trying to motor through the equivalent depth of a puddle – we didn’t need a boat….just boots. Thankfully we managed to get ourselves out of it fast but then hubby had a crisis of confidence on which way the handle turned to raise and lower the keel. There was obviously a 50/50 chance of getting it right. Typically, I was convinced it was one way, hubby was convinced it was the other. It wasn’t until we beached at the very end of the day returning to our half tide mooring that he conceded and rang the owner of the boat, yes I was right and he was wrong. I tried not to be smug about it but it might have explained why every time we tried to sail we felt the rudder had virtually no control leaving us drifting into shallow water each time. Hubby would then start up the motor and get us back into deep water again only for the process to start all over again. Needless to say we didn’t make much progress, zig zagging from shallow to deep between using wind and engine for propulsion. A couple of times I hear hubby mutter under his breath that he wished he had got a motor boat, but when we did pick up some speed with wind alone it was bliss and I resented the noise of the motor starting up each time the wind and tide caught us out.

The day was punctuated with baby boy going in and out of tantrums and crying fits when he got too frustrated with being held in one place for too long. He was happy swinging off the ropes on the side looking at the ‘boots’ and the sea while I clutched onto the straps of his lifejacket ready to haul him back whenever he got a bit exuberant. After a while he would grow tired of mummy clutching him all the time, as he wanted to follow big sis who was prancing all over the bow and ducking the jib.

When it dawned on us that we had to wait until at least 7pm for high water so that we could moor again, I thought it was only us that was playing the waiting game, everyone else would have turned in earlier. However, I soon saw a queue of people doing exactly the same thing. When we finally got our boat moored and we were ashore deflating our tender, I saw all the people we had seen in the morning finishing up the day on the slipway just like us. Including a family and their two children who were fast asleep as they carried them in their arms from the tender to the car. “We aren’t the only nutters, I thought to myself”. I then had  a brief chat with the Mum who had safely delivered her children to the car and we agreed it was a long day for them, but then, she said, “That sky though makes it all worthwhile” and she was right the harbour had turned a pink, red and blue hue as the sun set behind the masts bobbing up and down on  the water. Providing the sailing refresher lessons go well (which we undoubtedly need), I think we might be hooked…..

I am blogging every day to raise money for Unicef. Please visit the site here if you are able to make a donation – it all helps.

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