One year ago we motored down Conyer Creek with no idea when we might return. It could be in a couple of months, it could be in a couple of years. Hell, we may have made it to Ramsgate, had a sudden change of heart, and sailed back the following day. Sailing was our life, our passion and we loved living on board. But we had no idea if the life of being full-time liveaboard would be for us.
I’m pleased to report that after a year of sailing between the UK and Antigua, we love this lifestyle more than ever. In this blog, we look back at some highlights (and a couple of lowlights) from the past 12 months. Enjoy!
It’s not been easy choosing a favourite anchorage. Nick said The Saints, but I pulled rank and chose Muros. This was our first experience anchoring in the Spanish Rias and we stayed here for almost a week. It was perfect in every way: enclosed and protected, the water was still as a pool. We were an easy dinghy ride away from the village, which had a selection of truly sublime bars and restaurants and we celebrated the beginning of our sailing adventure by eating as much Galician food as we could manage. There was a nearby beach, the weather was warm and mild and we were, above all, full of hope and excitement about the months to come.
Nick and I very quickly agreed that Spain had the most amazing food we’ve come across in our sailing so far. Portugal wasn’t bad if you really, really love grilled fish and potatoes, but I’m afraid the Caribbean can be discounted entirely. The food here is, quite frankly, not worth talking about. Morocco was okay, but there’s only so much tagine one can eat. So, that leaves Spain, which is totally fine with me, because Spanish food is friggin’ amazing. And the best place for food in Spain is…?
Well, Galicia came out tops in terms of location. If we had to pick one place, I’d have to say Combarro. We had some truly stupendous meals there and, with no english menus, our Spanish came along nicely. I mean, if you can order some calamares, pimentos de padron, navajas and almejas, accompanied by una cerveca, quite frankly, what else do you need to know? (Yes, I know I probably spelled those Spanish words wrong! Sorry!)
However, the prize for the best meal eaten in a restaurant must surely go to… do you know, I cannot for the life of me remember the restaurant’s name. However, it’s in Ayamonte and it was just so unbelievable that I sometimes still daydream about it…
We’ve visited quiiite a few islands over the past year- in fact, since the Canaries, we’ve not sailed anywhere that hasn’t been an island. So, what’s been our favourite?
It’s hard to pick just one- Dominica, Saint Lucia, Bequia and The Saintes are all favourites. However, Martinique surely comes out on top. Not only was it French- already a bonus- but it was stunningly beautiful, had more picturesque and well protected anchorages that you could poke a stick at, and we could once again live off baguettes and rosé wine. The beaches and snorkelling were some of the best we’ve seen in the Caribbean and the palm-backed beaches full of little colourful bars and restaurants were exactly what we wanted when we decided to sail around the world.
Craziest Location to Berth the Boat
This one is obvious. Essaouira in Morocco was- by far- the craziest place we’ve ever berthed our boat. We rounded the breakwater and got our first glimpse into the harbour, and our mouths dropped as the sight of hundreds of fishing trawlers, all crammed together like the sardines they go out to catch. A narrow corridor was left between the rafted fishing boats and the harbour wall opposite- which itself had boats moored up against it- and, holding our breaths, we slowly motored into the heart of the harbour. Thankfully, we found somewhere to tie up and had an incredible week in this charmingly insane location.
Most Memorable Sailing Moment
This one is easy. Crossing the ARC finish line after exactly 21 days at sea! We had the most amazing welcoming committee waiting for us on the pontoon as we tied up in Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia and we were so elated when our feet finally touched solid ground again. Having our friends share that moment with us made it even more special, and it’s a moment we will never forget!
Best Meal Onboard
Well, this is a tough one. I do believe that Nick’s famous Lobster in a Creamy Dill Coconut Sauce (yep, capitals are necessary. Just… trust me) was possibly the best meal I’ve ever had- ever. However, I was so excited about the phenomenal meal I was about to enjoy, I didn’t pause to take a photo. However, our Christmas feast comes a close second!
Most Unpleasant Passage
We take pride in the fact that we have very few- if any- sailing related horror stories to tell. Generally speaking almost all our passages have been pretty pleasant, if a bit bouncy at times. Sure, there’s been a few sails that have turned me and Nick green and we’ve just been waiting for them to end. But at no point have we been scared. I know sailors who will seize any opportunity to tell you all about that time they were out in a force 9 or whatever, with waves as tall as apartment blocks towering over them, and they seem oddly proud of it. Like a war story or something. The difference of course is that they allowed themselves to be in that dangerous situation in the first place. Nick and I never- never– go sailing in conditions like that. There’s certain places in the world that are notorious for bad conditions year-round- off the Cape of Good Hope for example- and perhaps if we’re ever sailing around those areas, we might have to just deal with whatever Mother Nature throws at us. But in Europe and the Caribbean, there’s defined seasons for sailing and even if you perhaps have to wait out a low pressure system over Biscay, or a storm off Cape Finisterre, all that is required of you is patience.
So the only time we had ‘lively’ sailing conditions were when we did not choose our own departure date, which was when we did the ARC. Had we been doing the Atlantic crossing independently, we probably would have waited for the high winds to pass through before setting off. As it was, we had 40 knot winds and 6 metre seas and, yes it was exhilarating, but if we hadn’t been surrounded by 200 other yachts who were all battling the same conditions, we probably would have been ever so slightly terrified. That said, I’m glad we did it! It was a good experience and we now know that the boat can easily handle it, even if we didn’t find it particularly enjoyable!
Best Overnight Passage
This one is also easy. We set off from Cadiz and crossed the Straight of Gibraltar, then night sailed down the coast of Morocco. Not only was this an exceptionally pleasant sail- light winds, calm seas, cloudless night- but it marked another milestone in our plans to sail around the world: we had finally left Europe! And it felt like it. As soon as we were off the coast of Morocco, the air became warm and scented with spices. It was quite extraordinary, and a moment we will never forget.
Most Unexpected Achievement
Nick has had a fear of performing in public for his entire life, which might surprise some people considering he is ludicrously confident in almost every other respect. But playing a guitar and singing in front of an audience was simply not something he could bring himself to do. Enter Tina, from Magic, who, despite having a great singing voice, was terrified of singing in front of others. Put them together, however, and suddenly they were galvanised into facing their fears. They practiced daily and before long they were standing up on stage at an open mic night. After their first number, everyone burst into rapturous applause and from that moment on, we could barely drag them off the stage…
Best Cruising Moment
The night that really captured what this cruising life is- or, at least, should be- about was our first beach BBQ in Antigua. When we got to the Caribbean we hoped that we’d be fulfilling our somewhat naive visions of sitting on the beach, surrounded by friends, and watching the sun go down while sipping a cocktail. This vision didn’t materialise until one fabulous evening at Jolly Beach. Many of our ARC friends were in the harbour and an impromptu suggestion to have a beach BBQ suddenly snowballed and we ended up with about 20 cruisers- some of which we knew, many of whom we didn’t. It really summed up what cruising and sailing should be about.
So we still have quite a long way to go before we achieve our goal of sailing around the world. But we’ve certainly sailed around quite a bit of it!