Reading time: 20 minutes
I never meant to go so long without writing. I’ve had so many blog thoughts ready to flow out of my fingers, and so little time. They pass me by. Keep me awake at night. Then, by the time I might sit down to write, they’re gone.
I had thought to write a snapshot a couple of weeks ago but didn’t have the mental space to so much as write a few notes about each day. I should have – this blog might have been less of a meandering ramble if I had. At least it shows what it’s like in my brain right now…
Being back in Bequia seems to have brought about something we were happily living without – adulting.
Life as we know it
We got back to Bequia 3.5 weeks ago as I write these words. It might be 4 weeks by the time I publish [It’s actually 4.5]…
After a couple of days’ rest, and a delicious anniversary meal at Daffodil’s Open Deck, I went back to work. The legal marketing firm I worked for over last summer/autumn approached me for some help, and I agreed I could give them 4.5 weeks. I reduced my hours this time, from 35 hours a week to 25, in the hope that work wouldn’t take over my life. The best laid plans and all that…
I’ve been lucky not to have to work too much overtime, but going back to setting my alarm for 7am has been brutal. By the time I’m finishing work at 12pm, I’m ready to relax for the day. Maybe this is why we work until the evening in ‘normal’ life – there’s no compulsion to do anything after work! I found myself slipping back into not wanting to go outside, walk, do anything once work is done, or at the weekend. My tan faded. I became lethargic. I felt frustrated at myself, and my situation.
It’s further proof to me that combining remote work with sailing isn’t a life for me. Colin feels the same – although he’s not working, with me rooted to my laptop all morning he’s behaving similarly, though it’s not like he hasn’t found important things to do…
Working – out
One thing that has got me off the sofa in the afternoons has been the gym. United Fitness opened on Bequia back in November, and they do a handy 10- visit pass aimed at short term visitors and cruisers. I signed up a few days after getting back. The following week, after letting my back settle from some much-needed chiropractic work, I ventured in.
I used to be a regular gym-bunny. I’ve been a member at 8 or so gyms over the years, and at times have been solidly into lifting weights 3-4 times a week, as well as going through running phases and doing a ridiculous amount of yoga. I’ve had personal trainers, and have tried all manner of fitness classes. I miss it badly. The problem is, my body is a bizarre combination of strong and fragile. I can build muscle quickly and easily, but with a hypermobility disorder affecting my joints, I have to be so careful.
I’ll often get to the 5k part of Couch to 5k, then the tendon in my hips (I have tendinopathy in most of my joints) will act up and I’ll be in pain for 3 months. A fall down some stairs 3 years ago onto my kneecap knocked me out of my full yoga practice and took a year to heal. I’ll hike 3 times a week then my plantar fasciitis will flare up and make hills a nightmare. It feels like a never-ending cycle, but I don’t give up. A couple of physios and the like have told me my body is made for movement, and I agree. I just need to stop it from moving out of alignment so easily…
Finally back in a gym
The first week, I made it to the gym 4 times, my goal. It was the first time I’d been in a proper gym in 4 years, or any gym at all in 2 years. It felt fantastic. I could run on the treadmill, in intervals, and get a really thorough weights workout in. I was sore all over, but loving it.
The next week, I had to skip a day studying (more on that later), and another because we were sailing south for the weekend.
Week 3? Monday we were sailing. Tuesday I wanted to go out to lunch because it was Taco Tuesday at Provision. And then… I broke my toe.
I’ve been suffering badly from insomnia, sometimes only getting 3-4 hours of sleep a night, for days on end. The only way I sleep is with a sleeping tablet, and I’m almost out of those. I’ve not been too tired, but my coordination has been off. I’ve also been hyper. That means I’m clumsier than usual (and usual is, well, pretty clumsy), and I keep bashing my toes off the bulkheads separating rooms moving around the boat. One smack too many, and I’ve hairline fractured a toe. I know the signs as I’ve done it so many times before…
And then, more sailing. At this rate I’ll be lucky if I find time to use the last 4 passes I have before we leave Bequia.
A full schedule
That feels like plenty right? In the heat. Working 5 days a week and going to the gym 4 days (in theory) feels like plenty to have on, compared to weeks on end where all we had to do was sail to our next destination.
Add in some socialising, and the week fills up pretty fast.
Work and going to the gym would be about enough for us, I reckon. But we can’t stop there.
Time to adult
We’re due to be back in Scotland in less than 2 months. That means we need to get a whole load of ducks in a row.
We need to sell Mirounga. It’s going to be useful to have jobs. We need somewhere to live.
The life we carefully unpicked to move out here and do the sailing thing needs to be stitched together again.
We won’t say too much about selling the boat, but we can say we’re putting a lot of time into it. We got her properly cleaned up and organised, and I filmed a couple of video walkthroughs to give potential buyers the full tour.
After building a page on our website to list her, Colin has been working hard on marketing Mirounga on for sale pages and groups. Then he’s kept track of dozens of enquiries and built relationships with interested buyers. We’re having to keep her very tidy, as we’re having frequent video calls with people. If Colin were working right now I honestly don’t know how he’d fit all of this in, it’s a lot of work.
We’re heartened that there’s a lot of interest, it’s good that it’s taking up a lot of time. We’re hopeful.
We’ve both been putting a lot of extra hours into job hunting, interviews, and tests.
I decided last year that a full time, permanent career in my current job wasn’t for me. The work is interesting and the team lovely, but it’s very different to the public sector. A private sector firm will never be able to offer the ‘package’ I had at the Parliament, but it’s more than that.
I badly miss the feeling of being part of something important – democracy in Scotland. I had a small role, but scrutiny of some really pivotal legislation was supported by my work. And I had a rather larger role in improving digital engagement practice through the whole legislature. I was deeply connected to my country and felt invested in it’s future. And, I worked in a fantastic team with people who made me happy. I didn’t realise how lucky I was until I left it behind.
I want to go back to that world. Somehow. Interviews have happened. We shall see.
For those that don’t know, Colin is a web developer/programmer by trade. He was contracting before we moved, and continued that until September. He was going to leave it a while before looking for work as contracts tend to be more last minute, but recruiters got in touch so he rolled with it.
He’s been interviewing and testing solidly for a couple of weeks, and has got to some promising final interviews, so things are looking positive.
If we can move home with jobs lined up and no hit to our salary from taking time out we’ll consider ourselves very lucky.
And then, a home
We’re again, very lucky, in that we have somewhere to move home to.
East Wing, the flat that forms part of my dad’s house that we renovated in 2020, is waiting for us. Dad uses it as a successful Airbnb, but I’ve blocked it for 3 months after we’re due to get home in early-May. I’m very much looking forward to being back in the beautiful home we created, during one of the nicest times of year in Scotland.
The plan is for us to renovate the other mostly unoccupied wing of the house. This should be less intense than East Wing as it was fully renovated in around 1989-90 and has only been used as a guest wing, so no kitchen or bathroom to remodel. That said, it should be hugely satisfying. My mum was into copying the stately homes we visited at weekends when it was decorated. The Laura Ashely wallpaper may have been fancy, but it leaves the feeling house dark and old fashioned. We can definitely give it some life.
Depending on timings, we may move into West Wing to allow East Wing to be used for lets again, or West Wing will be listed.
A home of our own
Ultimately, as much as we love my dad and Kelso, we need to find our own home. We’re excited by the prospect, but nervous because of a snowballing property market.
After spending close to 20 years in London, Cambridge and Edinburgh, we’re ready to move on from city life.
We’ll definitely miss it. We had such a nice setup in Edinburgh for the last 5 years we were there – a lovely area, where I could get an Italian Coffee or visit an amazing yoga studio within 5 minutes walk. A few minutes on foot from the city centre and all its sights. Only a 20 minute walking commute. Easy access to the train station and airport. To be able to go to a gig, a theatre show or a city centre bar and walk home in no more than half an hour was a privilege we didn’t give up easily.
But, the flat we lived in became claustrophobic. Ironically, we lived in it because we wanted something small to prepare us for boat life, and something that would increase in value reliably (hence buying in the most expensive postcode in Scotland). We wanted a small mortgage. Had we lived in something larger (that we could have easily afforded without saving. for the boat), we may have never pulled ourselves away.
The country calls
The change to Kelso, where we had a spare room, a bath, and an office, not to mention more windows, a garden and easy access to country walks, helped to change our thinking. Lockdown without a garden in Edinburgh definitely influenced our thinking too, though we got a deserted city centre to ourselves.
We want to be in the country, with plenty of outdoor space. The dream is to be rural enough that we can let our cat, Schrödinger, enjoy her old age sniffing plants and stalking through wildflowers. We want a patio with a fire pit and a pizza oven, maybe even a hot tub. I might buy a bike. And, if we have room, we’ll have chickens. Perhaps a small goat or two. The suburbs aren’t for us, and unless its a huge plot we wouldn’t consider buying in anything much larger than a small village.
A country pile?
We want a large house. We both grew up in big old houses, and that’s what calls to us the most. I swore I’d never follow in my parents footsteps, but boat life has mellowed me. It’s our plan to work from home so we’ll spend a lot of time there. A home office is a must, and room to have a small gym would be lovely. I like the idea of useful things like a utility room. I want a dining table. And of course, we want enough space to have guests. We’re looking for something we can renovate and make our own, and make as energy efficient as possible. We’ve considered buying a plot and building but we have no idea how to work out the cost of doing so.
Location wise? We’re not too fussy. I’m likely to have to commute one or two days some weeks, so being within a few miles of a train station is ideal. We’d still like to be able to get to the city for nights out, or to the airport, so maybe it won’t be a crazy distance from Edinburgh, but I’m content with a longer commute if it’s not too often. It would be nice to be in reach of my dad and Colin’s brother, so we may choose south of Edinburgh rather than north. It really depends on where we find a house.
It’s not all work
All in, we’ve got a lot on our minds. It’s no big surprise I have raging insomnia.
But it’s not all been work work work. We’ve done some fun stuff since getting back.
Back to the Bequia social life
Bequia is undeniably different this year than it was last year. It’s so much busier – cruise ships, charter boats, hotel guests. We’d got used to the only visitors being other cruisers like us, and the tight-knit community we formed. We got used to knowing every face on the beach or in a restaurant. And, with so few places open last year, we knew which nights people would be where.
It’s great to see things busier, but I do miss the vibe of last year. It’s undoubtedly better for local people, but I will always feel privileged to have had the time we had here last year. Even though it’s busier, we feel a little more isolated. I’m back to really missing our cruiser friends. Bequia is still our favourite place to be, but it’s not quite as it was for us.
The choice of where to go is almost overwhelming. We’ve been back to a few old favourites like Mac’s, Sailor’s Cafe, Lion’s Den, Bequia Underground and De Reef. We’ve also made it to places which didn’t exist or were closed last year like Provision at Lower Bay, and Fig Tree. We still have some places to check out before dad visits us.
Seeing old friends
It’s not all been overwhelming and lonely of course.
We’ve been able to catch up with people we know in Bequia. within days we’d seen all the people we know in and around town, and had gone for dinner with our friend Kathy. We’ve bumped into cruising friends Jon and Darcy at Sailors, and seen a few other people we know from nights out. And at a drinks party up at Mangwana we got to catch up with our former hosts from quarantine, Chris and Louise, as long as lots of familiar faces. We’ve seen Mirounga’s former owners Richard and Suzanna at Mangwana of course, and on a couple of other occasions. We’ve even had a friendly chat with the quarantine neighbour who yelled at us for flying our drone a year ago…
And making some new ones
One Saturday, we took part in an Action Bequia beach cleanup at Hope Bay. It rained sideways, but we had fun. A group of around 25 of us collected over 45 bags of mostly plastic waste. As we lugged the bags up to the roadside where they would be collected, we got chatting to friendly Canuck Evan. He’s travelling around the Caribbean for 3 months and was looking for a way to see the other islands in St Vincent.
We felt like sitting still for nearly 3 weeks was too long, so we invited Evan onboard for a weekend in Canouan, Tobago Cays and Mayreau. It was a great trip, despite some rather uncomfortable swells and wind. We found ourselves easily settling into sharing space, so much so that even after leaving the boat for a few nights on land in Canouan Evan came back for a movie night. We sailed back to Bequia without him, but made it to Bequia’s famous floating bar, Bar One (finally!) to celebrate his birthday a few days later.
We had another few days out in Tobago Cays and Mayreau with British friend Alice. We’ve been chatting online for a year after she found our Instagram account and it seemed daft not to invite her onboard for a trip. She was an absolute trooper when our 5 hour sail back from Mayreau took 9 because of an unhelpful wind direction and engine issues.
It feels good to use Mirounga socially in our last weeks onboard, to share this life.
The time is passing quickly. It’s bittersweet.
In a way, I’m glad that this visit to Bequia is lonelier on the cruiser front, because we won’t be tearing ourselves away from loved ones. We already did that months and weeks ago when we left our friends behind in the north.
I’m frustrated that I’m spending a lot of our remaining time onboard frazzled, tired from working, stressed from planning. It’s hard to find the joy some days with so many question marks in the air.
But, I only have a couple of days of work left, then dad comes to visit for 12 nights. After that, we’ll be saying a final farewell to Bequia and sailing south to Grenada again. What happens next will depend on how the sale process is going. We’re flexible on our flights home, but we have plans for my birthday at the end of May I’d like us to both be home for!
Running from, or towards?
A friend who lives out here asked us to think about what we were running from when we left the UK before making the decision to move home.
When we think about it, we weren’t. Yes, when we made the decision to learn to sail and buy a boat we were unhappy with life there. We were stuck struggling to sell an old flat, and both feeling extremely stuck and dissatisfied at work. I was dealing with mental health problems and going through a very unstable time after coming off antidepressants. We didn’t like where we lived. We were heavily in debt and feeling trapped, unfulfilled and miserable.
But life got so much better. Ironically deciding on the sailing plan gave us so much motivation. We got out of our property bind and in to a neighbourhood we loved. Over a few years, we both progressed massively in our careers. We got out of debt. I had therapy. We grew closer to our friends and family, and the support we’ve had on this adventure has only strengthened that. Through camping trips, we found new ways to love and appreciate Scotland. We got stronger as a couple as we matured. Working from home during lockdown was fantastic for us, we both loved the change in work-life balance. We loved being at home with our beloved Schrödinger all day.
Always seeking adventure
We were just so focused on the adventure of living on a boat that we never faltered in our plan, even though it took years to be a reality.
By the time we left, we weren’t running from anything. We were running towards adventure, and we’ve had that. A magical, challenging, beautiful adventure. But not a life. As much as I love all of this, once you add in making a living it’s not as good as life at home was. It takes a lot more than sun, sand and sea to fulfil me, and being back in Bequia, the best place in the Caribbean, has proved that to me.
Sometimes a change, however fun, makes you realise what you have at home, and how great it is. We’re not running from sailing life, we’re running towards a reimagining of that great life we had at home in Scotland.