Sunday, 27 April 2014

Homeward bound.

‘Oh, to be in England now that April’s there’
- Robert Browning.

We had planned an adventure lasting 2-3 years. 2 years and 8 months later we were setting off to cross the channel, returning to Britain and a new life.

The lovely crew of Kalao had said goodbye and we were waved off from Brest with the sun shining over the castle. Our insides churned with a mix of emotions – excitement at the journey to come, a pang at leaving somewhere we had become fond of, a yearning to arrive in England and a healthy dose of anxiety as we set out into the unpredictable and unforgiving sea with our home and children.

The Goulet spat us out with the current and we passed the Point St Mathieu with its distinctive buildings. Then it was on into the notorious waters of the Chanel du Four, framed with fangs of jagged rocks and marked by numerous beacons and lighthouses.

Finally underway, bound for England

Out into the Atlantic proper and with a fetch all the way from America, the water was lumpy. The bows rose up on each wave before falling back, banging and shaking the whole boat. Everything was well secured but as the motion got worse things which have never moved before took on a life of their own. Magazines spilled from their storage, spice pots danced along the table top and all the time the waves hammered on the underside of the boat.

At this point with nothing around us for miles but the ocean we were completely alone in the world. Occasionally the radio would spurt a message into our little bubble letting us know that the ‘real’ world had not ended. We travelled on heading northwards, slowly but surely. When one of the alternator belts snapped, the skipper managed a new record of 10 minutes to replace it. On we chugged until the sun set, dropping down covered by cloud in an unimpressive fizzle.

Nothing in all directions
It was a very long and dark night. We tried tacking and calculated that under sail alone the journey would take over 48 hours which was not only an uninspiring thought but would also take us out of our weather window into a worsening forecast. The shipping lanes were busy. Lines of lights marched across the horizon like glowing centipedes, first in one direction then in the other. We watched carefully, dodged when necessary, manned the VHF and safely got through.

Swirling water would sometimes spin us off course and with no focal point in the empty blackness it was very disorientating. Correcting the wheel back to the compass heading is counter intuitive as your body screams to keep going on in the same direction.

Finally the morning came and we were over half way, now that all the ports of refuge were in England not France it felt like we were getting there. Breakfast and a mug of tea made for a happy crew and another long day started. Reaching the Eddystone lighthouse after lunch was good and by late afternoon we could see the outer wall of Plymouth harbour.
Because of the wind and currents the estimated time for arrival kept changing and as we approached, texts were flying backwards and forwards to my Dad who was waiting for us. The last few hours seemed to take an age as Tarquilla crept tantalisingly closer to our destination. We were tired, we were tense and the end of this trip and this adventure were so close. Plymouth had become the mythical land, now here it was. Through the binoculars we could see our space. The skipper brought us in, the deckhands hugged their Grandad with pure joy and once all the ropes were on we toasted our arrival with French wine.

Inside Plymouth outer breakwater, crew on the deck
We spent the first few days in England sampling the delicacies we have been missing - fish and chips eaten out of the paper, bacon sarnies and weetabix. Then there were the other things which made it special like walking across windy hill tops with family, eating meals with our wonderful ‘support team’, Easter eggs, Christmas presents, a special cake made by my Mother-in-law and a flood of welcome home texts, e-mails and messages from friends and family. Saying goodbye to our parents knowing that it would only be a couple of weeks before we would see them again felt so different to waving them off for months at a time.

Since then it has been a week of vision tests and new glasses, looking at schools and cars and making phone calls. We’ve crossed to the city on the ferry, found the local shops and unpacked the ocean grab bags and medical box. Looking back now at photos taken in Brest it seems like a long time ago.

Ferry across the harbour to the centre of Plymouth
As for coming back to England; there is so much traffic, the money feels too big, nothing shuts at lunch time and everyone speaks the same language. There are different songs on the radio and post vans and boxes are the wrong colour. It is confusing and nice and actually feels quite strange.

It will take some adjusting and I think that for us the chance to set up somewhere different makes it somehow easier. We are not trying to fit back into a life that we left, we are moving forward to something new. The ‘big adventure’ was fantastic and we are so glad that we did it. Now with those memories echoing in our heads we are starting again. It’s exciting and daunting but we will work together as a crew to look at our options, make decisions and enjoy whatever happens next.
Plymouth Hoe
Thanks for following our trip and our random thoughts, we really appreciate all the wonderful support we have had throughout our travels,
from all of the Tarquilla crew.

       You can still follow Tarquilla on facebook. Although we are now back in England we will be staying on the boat and there will be more adventure - and blogs - to come.

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