Friday, 19 December 2014

Christmas is coming

With the schools breaking up for the holidays and festivities underway, we are downing tools for a short while to enjoy Christmas. Completely refitting a 42 foot boat was always going to be a long job. We have made a lot of progress but there is also still a lot to be done.

Sails rolled for storage

We have spent time preparing for the weather you would expect of a British winter. We have removed all the sails and packed them away which reduces the strain on the masts in strong winds. The sail covers are there not only to look nice but also to protect the canvas from ultra-violet light damage. Looking at how faded the outer side of the material has become, they have done a good job. Another important thing for winter was the delivery of our new heaters. Two small and two medium oil-filled heaters have made the boat much warmer. The extra heat combined with (yet more!) insulation has dramatically reduced condensation.

Look how much the sail cover has faded since the
Skipper made them 18 months ago

We have put the decorations up inside the boat and lights on the outside. Our Spanish Santa has been mended after the Christmas eve storm in Brest last year and once more is climbing the main mast.  We have strings of cards, lots of tinsel, our miniature nativity and various other odd bits. The tree is about 20cm tall and has lasted well having been bought originally for my room when I was a student nurse over twenty years ago. This year it has some new lights and is proudly topped out with a star made by the littlest deckhand last year. We also hang a string of tinsel across the width of the cockpit and dangle our hanging ornaments on it. Our decorations may not be the sort that grace the homes of those who demonstrate on TV how to have the perfect Christmas, but we like them.

Hanging decorations in the cockpit
Many years before we moved on board my Mum had got the deckhands a lovely wooden advent calendar with little ornaments inside. It was reluctantly left in a relatives loft when we set sail. As our first Christmas on Tarquilla approached we spent some time searching for a cheap and boat-proof replacement. We used 24 children’s socks (I had lots of odd ones and old ones!) and some string to create the days of advent. Each sock was then given a figure made from creative foam to tell the story of Christmas. It worked so well the first year that we have since embroidered on the numbers, added better pegs to hold the characters up and generally improved it. They often find a chocolate or some other small treat in the socks too.

Tarquilla lit up for Christmas

After exploring Christmas traditions of other countries, rediscovering an English Christmas has been a delight. We’ve enjoyed the British mince pies which are made with dried fruit soaked in syrup and baked in a sweet pastry case. The trees and windows have been beautiful and the queues in the post office very long. The carol services have been wonderful. I have loved sitting in warm and welcoming churches with other families listening to the Christmas story unfold through ages-old carols and new songs, all brimming with emotion. Most primary schools in Britain involve the children in this way, showing them the meaning behind the celebrations. The deckhands primary school has also taken the choir out to some local care homes which I know brings great pleasure.

Finally, thanks to all of you who follow the blog. We would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and best wishes for the new year – wherever you are and wherever you end up.

Happy Christmas to you all from all of us


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