Monday, September 17, 2012

Home is...

Boat life was abandoned late June for 10 weeks, as we set off to meet two brand new and very special people - our first two grandchildren, born within two weeks of each other. Freya (Barry and Kay’s wonderful daughter, born in London) and Blake (gorgeous son of Mark and Livi in Cape Town).

So London, then Cape Town, became our homes while we lived with the families, sharing in their joys and trying to help make their introduction to parenthood a little less exhausting. Our hearts were completely taken by the little new-comers and we were content to spend hours gazing at these precious beings.

 Then it was on to Durban for a week and finally Pretoria, previously home for 28 years. We allowed ourselves 10 days to touch base with family and friends here – and with friends of such long-standing, felt immediately and entirely at home.

Frequent questions were: ‘are you missing the boat?’ (No!) and ‘where do you consider home?’ To which there is no quick or easy answer…. Here are some pictures of our recent lives that try to fathom an answer!

London and Cape Town: our hearts are there. Our hearts were always there with our children (our sons and wonderful daughters-in-law)... BUT. Those tiny babies… how do they do it? They put hooks under your skin as soft as feathers and strong as steel and you know that your heart has been captured, and home is dictated. Not that you will be physically alongside them daily or forever, but in your mind, with them you are home.

Home was found again on land: more than 50 years of life on land does not easily give way to living on the sea. Our storage unit in Pretoria contains all our remaining land-life possessions (with apologies that some pics refuse to remain correctly orientated!):
We found it significant that the only chair we held onto was the ‘baby-feeding chair’, bought second-hand in Bethal 33 years ago!

On land, it was easy to satisfy the need (evidently-daily) for household shopping, getting about, eating out. Rolf found death-by-chocolate drinks easily obtainable, to his obvious delight.

The roof over your head is secure and unlikely to move violently, internet is reliable and fast, cars start and run reliably, pretty gardens are the backdrop to outdoor meals, salt stored in an open pot runs smoothly off the dispensing spoon. Days are fairly predictable and this gives rise to considerable (and enviable) security and confidence.

The return to Ketoro, on the marina in Langkawi, Malaysia, saw us wondering apprehensively how we would embrace home-on-the-sea again. We tackled predictable and seemingly endless issues that arise when a boat is left unattended on the water for an extended period: mould had blossomed (on hard surfaces, upholstery and bedding, and, photo below, the underside of what used to be a pristine white cockpit roof);
water intakes were blocked by barnacle and algae growth and hence toilets did not flush and water inlets to engines, generator, air-cons and watermaker needed clearing by diving in the murky harbour water; rust had lurked quietly and unseen – before triumphing over our basin tap.

 This kind of predictability is unpleasant, so you turn to your favourite luxuries for solace; in Rolf’s case (obviously) a chocolate drink. First use the drill to break up the solid rock-hard block that is the chocolate powder…

 Suitably prepared and provisioned, we set sail towards Phuket, Thailand; eager to be away from marinas and enjoying the travelling and overnight anchorages at beautiful islands. This sunset on the first night was promising…
but the promise of good weather was an illusion.

A three-month sojourn off the boat had made us, Ketoro crew, rusty too, but we learned very fast in weather that was sent to remind us that this is the off-season (the south west monsoon winds building up a head of steam as they cross the north Indian Ocean on their way to the low pressure zone over the Asian landmass) and this home is different: squalls brought big winds and rain, the genoa headsail tore before we could get control of it in the high winds, the boat’s airborne gyrations in the rough seas caused problems with aeration at water-intakes (drat those toilets and generator again!), anchorages with rolly seas did not offer the usual opportunities to snorkel and relax: in fact the wind coming from unexpected directions made the choice of anchorages risky and troublesome; a strap on our canvas cover / water-catcher tore and we had wave slamming on the bridgedeck, even at anchor.

So: much of the trip was passed wishing we were anywhere else… but anywhere else did not mean off the boat. It meant on the boat / in the calm lee of an island / not wet. We do not wish ourselves off this home, despite the fact that it is not predictable, secure or constant. Dolphins came to visit on day two – for us, this is always a good omen.

And this home brought us here, on day four:

 in the relatively calm lee of a beautiful island, canvas screens keeping the squalls and rain out, we swing from side to side and up and down, but our glimpses through gaps in the canvas and the rain are of paradise. And tomorrow that garden/island view may change as we move on, or we can choose to make it home for another day.

 When a ferocious squall hit the windward (west) side of the island that is providing us with shelter (on the east), our wind instrument nevertheless still registered 42 knot winds... from the north, refracted round the headland and charging over us like a steam-roller... a direction entirely unexpected, obviously, in this SW season! Happily, at this current anchorage we are still safe, unlike at this previous one (below), claimed in the pilot guide to be “ideal overnight any time of year”…

 where we spent the early morning hours holding position with engines on (still at anchor) to avoid colliding with the reef as the refracted wind from the north shoved us in that direction.

Are we comfortable where we are? No, not in the current weather conditions, but it could be worse. Safe? Yes. And the views are beautiful, storm or not.

So from here we can be out of harm’s way whilst getting on with normal day-to-day life: updating stock lists, eating, giving Rolf a haircut, communicating (writing e-mails and this blog), organising, planning the jobs to be done on the boat when she is out the water on the hardstand for the next month (at this stage the ‘jobs list’ is at 6 pages!).

And it is here that we figure out the question of what home means to us.

Home is … In London. In Cape Town… Or wherever our children and grandchildren are.
And home is on the sea, in a boat that can safely carry us through waters of unpredictable nature and in sufficient comfort for our current needs.

Now for the big question: when will we be able to escape from this refuge to dash across the sea to the next, as we make our way to Phuket?

 Well, two days after our arrival here the weather calmed and gave us this clear vista (below) of the above scene; the standing tall rock gives the name to the Chicken Island (Ko Dham).

We leave tomorrow, to get into the Phuket marina in a further two days… soon after which we shall be able to upload this blog!
(Post Script: at home in Boat Lagoon Marina now... and our home-on-water is about to be taken out of the water to become a home-on-the-dry-dock!)