Back in the U
SSRK - 29th March 2015
So now it can be told - we are back in the UK, for the time being at least. This has been an agonising decision but, for us, ultimately the right one. Let us explain...
Last summer, it became apparent to us that the wonderful upsides of the liveaboard life (you know, sitting around at anchor in beautiful weather drinking G&Ts and nibbling olives, interspersed with cooling dips in crystal clear waters via our transom) were beginning to be out-weighed by the downsides and realities of day-to-day living:
- Feeling imprisoned on our own boat on quays & pontoons until we have neighbours either side to avoid the risk of damage
- Constantly having to keep an eye on the weather forecast lest there be thunderstorms or strong winds approaching
- Taking half a day to get washing done
- Trudging to & from the shops in 40 degrees of heat with only a limited range of ingredients once we got there
- Afternoon katabatic winds making time at anchor less than ideal
- Is that our neighbour's holding tank overflowing?...
Although the weather in the Ionian is obviously 'Mediterranean' and therefore often idyllic & reliable, we analysed it a bit more closely:
- December - March - predominantly wet, windy & cold, with violent storms, albeit interspersed with some warm, sunny days
- April - changeable
- May & June - beautiful, occasional thunderstorms generally, but not always, forecast
- July & August - too hot & busy
- September - beautiful, occasional thunderstorms generally, but not always, forecast
- October & November - changeable
The snow-capped mountains of Lefkada, not something that happens every winter!
We have loved our time in Villa Shamballa this winter, just as we did in Katopodis Mansion last winter but, we've realised that we don't want to spend the next 5 years moving house every 6 months. So we concluded that the ideal would be to have a permanent base on land, and perhaps pursue some 'lifestyle' type work, as we always said we would consider doing. Having made a few enquiries, three potential options came to our attention but, for numerous reasons, unfortunately none were right for us. We felt these were the most likely and appealing possibilities we were liable to unearth, so perhaps we needed a rethink?
We always said that we would continue the cruising life for as long as we enjoyed it and that we intended to return to the UK one day - could that day have come? Having considered all of the above, somewhat reluctantly we had to conclude 'maybe'.
So we started investigating the possibility of returning to a more 'conventional' life back in the UK - you know, one where you can drive to a supermarket and buy ingredients from all round the world, drive home and have a full sized kitchen to enjoy cooking them in, not have to traipse to the ablutions block for a shower or Ertha, being able to complete a load of washing in approximately 2 minutes and being able to throw the bog paper down the pan. And when it does get cold, as we remember it does, firstly UK houses have insulation and secondly, simply pressing a button results in a warm house.
As we were mulling all this, an opportunity of work (for Andy) near Gloucester presented itself and, as either the Cotswolds or Cornwall were the top of our location list for a return to the UK, could this be a chance too good to miss? After much soul searching, heartache and more than a few tears, we knew in our hearts & heads that the answer was probably 'yes'.
It took us a while to fully understand why the decision to give up the cruising life, leave the Ionian and return to the UK was the right choice for us, and why we were looking forward to it as the start of a whole new adventure. We were, in reality, more upset about the idea of abandoning what everyone assumes is the perfect life, than actually doing so.
BUT - we wouldn't have missed it for the world - the last 5 years have provided us with so many wonderful experiences, challenges and interesting people and we feel eternally grateful and lucky that we've been able to do, at relatively young ages, what so many people only ever dream about doing.
Perhaps we've 'outgrown' the original dream and the various limitations of a cruising life? Only after an extended period, in our case 5 years, can you know what you're prepared to put up with in compensation for the joys of a nomadic life afloat. Many others are perhaps far more adaptable in this regard, but although it is a hard thing to come to terms with, we simply aren't wired up that way. Amongst other things I (Andy) enjoy the privacy & comfort of my own Khazi...
We do of course still love the Ionian and Meganisi in particular, and the friends and acquaintances we have made, so Pipit will remain there for us to return to as often as we can. We have some flexibility in that regard, so have we struck on the best of both worlds, a combination of Cotswold & Ionian life? We think we may have done...
One of the glorious winter days, and why we still love the Ionian and Meganisi so much.
So, we now have a whole new adventure ahead of us. One of us turns 'forty ten' later this year, so perhaps this lifestyle change is fitting. Pipit was our first home together (for those that don't know, we previously lived 200 miles apart!) and the prospect of being excited about creating a land-based home together might sound rather boring to some, but is something we are both really looking forward to the more we think about it. We'll have the chance to make a lovely home and life together in the Cotswolds, with the whole of the UK, not to mention inland Europe that we missed when sailing around its coastline, to explore during weekends and holidays. To that end we have two new cars on order - both Italian, one cute and one a special shade of red - can you guess what they are?... A small garden where we can grow some veggies, flowers and plants is also something we're looking forward to.
We're fortunate to be in a position where we don't have to return to work, but we're lucky that we're able to do so. If we want to live a more comfortable lifestyle doing all the things we'd like to do, extra income allows more options, and as we both actually enjoyed our work in the past, this is no hardship. So this is the start of another 5 year plan.
Andy is working just outside Gloucester - the commute, such as it is, involves 20 minutes of driving through beautiful rural Gloucestershire (oh, and approximately 2 minutes on the M5), so far from tiresome, and I have been doing some more web development work for clients in the Ionian and we also have a client in the UK for whom we'll be designing a new website. With that work to do, and shopping to completely furnish and equip our new home, I'll be busy for the foreseeable future!
We're staying in a holiday cottage at the moment and move into our new home sometime after the 1st of April. Both the holiday cottage and our new home are beautiful, characterful and quintessentially 'Cotswolds' - our new place even has 'his & hers' dishwashers (which reminds me of a sailor we met in Brittany - he used to put his pants in his dishwasher as he didn't have a washing machine!) and a modern range cooker with two ovens, grill and induction hob - for those readers interested in such things, more on that and photos in the next update!
Although we've been very sad to leave Meganisi (for the time being at least) we are looking forward to living in the beautiful Cotswolds again - we saw the snowdrops during our brief visit in January, and the daffs, which have bloomed a bit late this year (Penny tells me they waited for our return :-)), are out in full golden glory. Within 30 minutes of our range & dishwasher we have the Severn Estuary, the Sharpness Canal, Slimbridge Wildfowl Trust, the Forest of Dean, the Wye Valley, the Brecon Beacons, Chipping Sodbury, Tetbury, Cirencester & Waitrose - and that's just for starters... And within 2 hours we can be in Plymouth, from where we set sail towards Greece in 2010... And not much further to Cornwall. And of course we still have ongoing business and friends on Meganisi - it will never be far from our thoughts - just have to substitute Uley Old Spot or 6X for Mythos for a few weeks...
Finally then, some photos and memories of our winter on Meganisi:
Our chariot through the winter, courtesy of the helpful Vasilis at VitaCar in Nidri.
Our very strenuous walk attempting to reach the tail of Meganisi.
It's a long way to the tail, perhaps a quad bike is the way to go.
The ever amusing goats and sheep.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's Albert! More to be revealed soon...
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