With 2020 just around the corner, we thought it was time for a little look back on 2019. This has been one of the most eventful years of our lives (For Adam the most eventful was the year he met me, obviously).
With so much change it’s hard to process it all, and we have spent quite a large amount of time this year saying ‘I can’t believe this is our lives now.’ So here is a look back on everything we have been through, in the hope that we won’t forget a single struggle, or any one of the incredible highs.
We started the year living on a boat, but one in slightly worse shape than Hot Chocolate. We wrestled with frozen water hoses, fought over who was going to get out from under the covers to make warming cups of tea (in the middle of the day), and worked hard on getting the boat ready to pass it’s little boat safety exam so that my Mum and Dad could take over ownership without any nasty surprises! It was a cold and dark time (literally), but the struggle was worth it for what lay ahead.
We took a trip to Spain to visit a boat that we very nearly bought (and are so relieved we didn’t!) But it marked the start of some proper sailboat shopping, and I guess the real start of this whole adventure. We learnt more about what we really wanted from a sailboat. We also learnt how to cook pizza with an iron.
We bought Hot Chocolate! Our first ever home together and the vessel that would take us where ever the wind blew. We celebrated with the rest of the marina over way too much Hot Chocolate and rum, and made friends that we would cross seas with.
With the help of our good friend Tom, we took Hot Chocolate out for a spin in some less than ideal weather. We had a few moments of terror, and some exhilarating sailing. We anchored out in huge seas and didn’t sleep a wink. We questioned whether this life was really for us, thinking this is what we would be in for everyday, and were relieved to return back to the marina to the worried cries from fellow cruisers, who were doubting our sanity at going out in those conditions. It turns out that is not normal cruising weather in the Med. Thank God.
We flew home to see my brother on his brief return from China. We had a chance to sleep in a bed that wasn’t moving, caught up with our families and friends and planned the next stage of our adventure. We had lots of lovely home cooked meals and lots of time to play with my niece. But it was a weird in between time and we found it hard to say goodbye, not really knowing what was round the corner for us.
We had an awful amount of jobs to get done before the end of May, when marina prices rocketed. We had a few days of panic over the propeller, until a phone call to the manufacturers put us at ease. We did a million runs to the supermarket and filled every available cupboard with cans of beans and packets of pasta. We prayed and prayed that we were ready for this, and I spent a lot of time worrying, because why not!
We got stuck on the island of Meganisi while we waited for some ordered boat parts to arrive. We made some amazing new friends, who taught us to fish, cooked us BBQ skewers and gave us many hangovers. We had our first go at Med mooring, kind of successfully, and spent a week watching a circus of equally incapable sailors coming and going, while everyone tied to shore tried their hardest not to get hit or get their anchor pulled up. We decided anchoring out was for us.
We celebrated by birthday at sea, with a lovely downwind sail and unforecasted high winds blowing us right onto the shore we had so expertly anchored beside. We delayed our birthday meal out treat for a day that wasn’t so windy and Adam did the night watch so that I could get my beauty sleep. I was a year older and it was showing.
We caught a tuna! We successfully sourced our own food from the sea, and made it into as many meals as we could while we sat out another first-The Meltemi. It was eventful, with snapped lines, broken cleats and lots of sleepless nights, but the friends we made along the way helped the time pass quickly.
My parents came for a visit and experienced life on board. They managed a week with us, in a very, very small space, and they didn’t complain once (within earshot of us). We had some awesome sails, explored beautiful Greek towns and watched dolphins from the bow.
We said goodbye to Hot Chocolate and left Greece for the UK. We had a wedding to get to! We celebrated two of our best friends getting married, stayed in magical Howarth while visiting Adam’s family, wore many jumpers and had lots of baths.
We drove down South through the floods so we could see my family and friends, worked hard and ate all the vege sausages we could find. We met new arrival baby Megan, saw old friends we hadn’t seen in years and threw a dinner party for 10. Then we spent ages trying to pack enough cold weather and ski gear for three months into one rather small bag. We managed, and even had room to pack the gravy.
We packed up our lives into a few small suitcases, stuffed our pockets full of drills and hammers (yes we made it through airport security, and we still don’t know how), and flew off to sunny Sicily. This was the month we first set eyes on Hot Chocolate and fell head over heels in love. Luckily, the seller let us stay on board while we waited for all the paperwork to go through, so we settled into marina life-making new friends, teaching and taking yoga classes on the beach.
We had a survey done and ummed and ahhhed over all the things we would need to do to get her ready for us to live on her full time. We made budget sheet after budget sheet, ate only baked beans and lettuce, and questioned why we ever wanted to move onto a sailboat in the first place.
We took a holiday from boat work when Jodie and Thom came for a visit. We took them out for a sail and were joined by a pod of dolphins. They took us out for a drive and were joined by enormous amounts of angry Sicilian drivers. We saw incredible sights, ate like kings and drank way too much gin.
We joined an experienced sailing instructor making his way through Italy and over to Greece. He taught us to sail, to anchor safely, to read the weather and the charts, to use common sense and trust our instincts. He kept us safe for two weeks as we dodged storms and experienced our first nights at sea. He pretended not to like the birds that joined our journey and used his sailboat for rest, but we knew he was just as in love with them as we were. We passed our ICC exams. I cried. Paul cried. The examiner cried. Adam got drunk. It was emotional.
Time to see what we were made of. We left the safety of the marina and set sail for the first time ever on our own. It wasn’t uneventful. We nearly ran out of fuel, answered a mayday call and anchored in 25 knots of wind. We sailed over to Greece, under the watchful eyes of Sailing Nomads and Wild Rover, and watched two sunsets and two sunrises at sea.
We were joined by our friend Rach for our first few nights at anchor in Greece. She was lucky enough to witness several fights and a lot of nervous discussions about whether we were too close to shore (we were miles off), or whether the boat was dragging (it wasn’t). She left feeling thankful that she never has to live on a boat. We dragged anchor in one of our scariest moments to date, but made some lovely new friends too, so swings and roundabouts.
We covered some serious ground (sea) in August, sailing from Kephalonia, to Zakynthos and around the Peloponnese in an attempt to find cheap cheese. We found old friends, starry skies and beautiful sunsets instead. Adam is still searching for cheap cheese.
We trusted our anchor more. We explored more. We spent a bit less time fixing broken things on the boat. We splashed out on a 15 euro fishing lure from a lovely Greek man who ran a local chandlery. We went in for a new macerator, and returned with two bottles of home made olive oil, a homegrown watermelon and a lucky lure. We decided all the nicest people are from Greece.
We had an empty boat once more. We headed for Nafplio where we decided we would stay for a while. We wanted some time on land to re-charge. Instead we had some charged moments on the boat, with thunderstorms approaching from every direction but never quite reaching us, unsettled winds and even some rainy days.
We had our last sail of the season. Dolphins came to say goodbye and for the first time all year, the wind was true to the forecast and we had a perfect downwind sail. We learnt how to take off our sails, and prepared the boat for life on the hard. Hot Chocolate settled into her new home for the next few months, in the boat yard among the dust and grime.
We boarded a flight to Geneva and arrived to a snow covered fairyland French village in the Alps. We made our tiny bedroom/ kitchen/ living room as festive as possible with fairy lights and a Christmas tree present from a local shop keeper.
I got more confident on the slopes, and Adam got used to waiting ten minutes for me to show up after every turn. I had my first Christmas ever away from my family, and spent all day skiing on fresh snow in the sunshine. We toasted marshmallows on a fire while we watched the sunset, and opened crackers instead of presents. We were disappointed Christmas day was over, so we just had another the next day too!