22 August. 2020
Three years ago, in the summer that Stanley was born, we decided that taking the kids away on holiday might be a bit much. We’d camped with the others from a young age, but just weren’t sure whether a tiny baby waking up in the night was a fair thing to inflict on a campsite. Stanley was only six weeks old and it was before we’d taken the kids on a plane, so all our holidays involved at least a long drive, and possibly a ferry ride too. It seemed a bit much, so instead we bought a yacht.
We’ve been known to be impulsive, but also normally check out our options quite well before jumping in. We couldn’t sail, well Katie and Barn could as they’d learned with their primary school, but the rest of us had no experience. My parents had speed boats as I was growing up, so I had a bit of experience of that, but sailing was another matter entirely. Our boat was not new by any means but she was lovely, with enough room for all six of us and the dog. She came with a mooring that was a huge selling point for us really, it was out on it’s own, midway up the River Dart. It was one of the most beautiful places I’d ever seen, and quiet and peaceful which was particularly helpful back then.
The day we went to look at the boat was an experience that happened by chance. We were meant to look at others, but one by one realised they weren’t quite right. The owners of ours lived in Bristol, but by chance happened to be in Devon on the day we hoped to look. We agreed to meet them on the boat and having no idea of the area, didn’t quite realise what we had let ourselves in for. We ended up driving our rather large VW Transporter along a tiny lane, down the steepest hill to a quay with a distinct lack of parking. There was a festival that day, making it even busier than usual, which added to the atmosphere, but also to the schedule of the water taxi who was pushed to even take us out to the mooring. To be honest, later we wondered if he had forgotten us as it took him so long to return for us! Of course, Stanley was tiny and carrying him, we had to climb from the water taxi and onto the sailing boat. Looking back I smile, but I wonder how I managed it. I expect it was helped that I didn’t know what to expect. If I had, I might not have pushed myself.
We fell in love with the boat that day. It needed some TLC, but was ours, a home away from home. It made a lovely weekend getaway at around 90 minutes from home and as the internet wasn’t 100% reliable out there, phones didn’t get too much use. Many of our neighbours were serious sailors and although it was a close knit community we were welcomed. Gradually we learned the ropes and explored, first up the river and then downstream and out to sea. Popping down to Dartford for lunch was a favourite as was popping over to a local village in the evening to let the kids and dog stretch their legs at a lovely little park.
Over time we extended our water sports activities and alongside our tender boat which we used to get to and from the quay, we bought kayaks and a paddle board. I spent more time in the water than on the paddle board but it was fun, and something I’d never tried before.
We saw so much wildlife too, from the seal that used to come up to investigate when Barn was reading in the evenings on the front of the boat, to the fish Joe spent time catching and the group of seals that followed us several miles upstream one afternoon. It was magical and the perfect escape for us, both from work and to be honest, also for me to have a break from the normal routines at home. Having been sober for a year then was great, but I’d been pregnant for some of it and was finding changing routines and habits almost harder. I still felt compelled to get home, although I wasn’t sure why anymore. I worried when we stayed on the boat, even though I enjoyed it. The sound and movement of the water at night lulled me to sleep but it didn’t remove my worries. It didn’t, like most things fix me, and that was frustrating.
It wasn’t always easy though. There were storms and rough days and having to drive a long way to check the boat was a pain, especially in the winter. We were lucky though, a neighbours boat broke it’s mooring and ran aground, eventually sinking. I can’t imagine how horrible it must have been to deal with that.
Eventually after two years we realised we had almost outgrown her. The kids were bigger and we were often tripping over each other and sharing one tiny bathroom was tricky! We decided we needed something smaller for days out or something bigger but closer. There were times when we just wanted to pop up for an hour, but it was difficult when it was so far away. So, with heavy hearts, we sold her.
I think that time, and freedom, and having that space were other important factors in my recovery, although that wasn’t a reason for buying the boat at all, and I’m not recommending that everyone in recovery needs a boat to succeed! I think for me, it helped break our routines and start to find a different way, which was something I really needed. I learned I could do things that I never thought I’d be able to do, and most of them were great fun!
We haven’t yet bought another boat. Lee often shows me pictures, but at the moment they far exceed our price range. We miss it though, so I hope one day we’ll be able to adventure on the high sea once more!
Thanks for reading.