On a sunny, still July morning, five years ago, our boat slipped its moorings at dawn, and silently sailed out of the marina at Hayling Island, United Kingdom, heading to the Caribbean … and beyond?
Well, not strictly to the Caribbean, the first task was to sail along the southern coast to Plymouth, our starting point to cross the channel. In fact, our route would take us across the Bay of Biscay, along the north coast of Spain and down the coast of Portugal until Lisbon, from where we would cut across to Madeira, then to the Canaries, before finally crossing the Atlantic … via an impromptu stop at the Cape Verde islands.
But on that first morning, as the sun rose in the horizon and everything glowed, it was all laid out ahead of us.
And behind us was home. We had packed up our house, put all our belongings in storage, and rented our beloved family home out to a new family. Even the dogs and cats were being looked after by new parents for the year.
The boat was our new home for the year, my mum, my sister and I squished into a space much smaller than we were used to – although at least we had a bedroom each!
There are a couple of questions people always ask when they find out about this trip. The first, every time, is something along the lines of “but no men? just the three of you? even for the ocean crossings?” yep, yep and yep. Then there are the questions about the sailing – “did anything scary happen? were there any big storms?” Yes, and yes, but those are stories for another day. “what stuff did you take with you? what did you miss most from home?”
Well, let’s start at the beginning, with the technicalities of life on board a boat. Firstly, space is limited. And for what space you have, there are many, many more important things to put in it than personal items.
How about food, for example? On crossing the Atlantic, we had to store three weeks worth of food, plus more just in case something happened and the journey took much longer than we thought. Or navigational equipment, such as maps in case our GPS broke. And of course, safety equipment, from the bulky liferaft, to the best stocked first aid box you can imagine, to painkillers of such a high strength we had to hide them away to avoid awkward questions from customs officials….
The main personal thing that took up a lot of room was books. Kindles had only just come out back in those days and none of us had one, and we are and were all avid readers. In one lazy, windless day on the ocean, I read five books! And we were away for a whole year …. we stored books in our cabins, under the sofa, mixed in with the canned food, anywhere you can imagine. Non-sailing clothes were cut down to a few summer dresses, shorts and t-shirts. Crossing the Atlantic, we lived in our bikinis, and then just our underwear to save on washing. A good thing it was just the three of us on board!
Photos filled my room. The back of my door and my cupboards were a photo montage of the last year at university, filled with pictures of James and my friends so that I always had them around me. One friend had made a personalised calendar for my 21st birthday that saw me through the year, each new month a surprise that kicked off some reminiscing over the photo she’d chosen for that month.
And finally – my computer. Back in those days I didn’t have an iPhone, and FaceTime wasn’t a thing. I didn’t have a tiny, light laptop, but a ginormous thing with a battery that didn’t work properly. So everywhere we went looking for wifi, I had to lug around a huge bag with the laptop, a charger, and an adaptor. These days I would just have my iPhone in my pocket and casually loiter outside any bar or cafe that had wifi so I could FaceTime or iMessage my boyfriend. Five years ago it was all so much more complicated and expensive. And now I sound like an old lady…. Back in my day…..
I am away from home again now, in Madrid, and the same two things are the most important. The photo of James beside my bed. The pictures of my family above the dining room table. And now my iPhone and macbook, which have hundreds of thousands of pictures, years worth of memories, stored on them. Which allow me to talk to my family, to see them, as if they were sitting right in front of me and we were all eating dinner together. So in keeping with the theme of this post (prompted by something I saw on the WordPress website a few days ago), my ounce of home is my laptop. Technophobes would shake their head and say how sad I am….. but to get cheesy for a moment, home is where the people you love are, and as long as I can be in contact with them, share what I’m doing with them, and hear what they’re doing – then I am happy.