Nichola’s First Blog – Galapagos to Marquesa’s – 9 46 South, 133 38 South

It’s only taken around 12,000 ocean miles but finally we have Nichola’s
first here is Nichola’s take on life on board Aretha.

Its 4am here, and I have just started my watch for the next 2 hours – a rare
moment here when all is quiet and all 3 children are sleeping very soundly,
so I thought I would write and catch up.

Caspar, Caroline and I sat on deck earlier and enjoyed a very peaceful glass
of wine together (extremely rare to have a glass of wine whilst sailing)
looking up at the stars and reflecting on the last couple of months together
sailing. With only 5 knots of breeze, the ocean was very calm, the sky was
clear and filled with millions of stars – we were trying to work out which
constellations we could recognise. I am afraid the children are probably
beating us on this one, I am still about au fait with just Orion’s belt and
the Big Dipper and I think Caroline and Caspar are slightly ahead of me with
the Southern Cross and one or two others. It was a memorable moment and
lovely that the 3 of us could take a moment to reflect, without the hustle
and bustle of our 3 very lively children.

Having Caroline with us has been a great success. The children are really
responding to her teaching them, its lovely to see both Bluebell and
Columbus looking forward to their lessons each morning, they call her “Miss
West” during school time. They insist she calls the register, which doesn’t
take long with just the two of them. They now come with their pencil cases
and books ready. Most days they have maths and literacy. We have covered a
lot of geography as you might guess and then as well there is history,
science, french, art, ICT, cooking and some sailing theory as well as
anything else we can think of. We brought out with us some great books
written by the RYA and designed for children. They are full of quizzes,
puzzles, and interesting ways of teaching the children about sailing
techniques. parts of the boat etc but in a way that the children enjoy
learning. We have also started giving the children homework, which they can
do later in the day, usually when we have the SSB radio net in the early
evening. A new idea has been reading records which we have just started with
them. Bluebell used to have one of these at junior school. They have the
responsibility of completing it themselves, but the idea being they read to
themselves and record this in their book, together with comments on what
they have read. At the end of the week, they hand this in to be marked. We
have also given them exercise books to start gathering their own dictionary
of interesting words. The idea being they can find maybe 10 interesting
adjectives etc as they are reading and note these down to remind them when
they come to write their own piece of writing. We are coming up with new
ideas of teaching as we go and seeing what holds the children’s interest the
most to engage them in learning – in turn it is certainly a learning
exercise for us adults.

Even Willow enjoys school time. She insists on getting her school books
ready and joining in. We started with a colouring book but now she has
progressed on to books where she is starting to trace out numbers or to
recognise shapes which she has to colour in. Its incredible to see how she
has developed over the past months with her learning. She absolutely loves
books and being read to. She has inherited the children’s books from both
Bluebell and Columbus as well as quite a few new additions. One of her
favourites is “Paper dolls” by Julia Donaldson (Gruffalo author).
Occasionally if she can’t find anyone to read her a story, you can hear her
pretending to read the story to herself, she is pretty good and remembering
the words having listened to them so many times. Then she will make you feel
quite bad by saying “mummy, its ok I read the story to myself, there was no
one to read to me”.

The children enjoy baking cakes, muffins and biscuits. Usually Bluebell
takes charge and will let Columbus be her assistant. To add to the fun, on
one occasion they made cakes and then set up a shop to sell the goodies to
the rest of the boat.

This crossing has been our first taste of having the SSB radio. We have the
radio net each day, morning and evening, when one boat will take the turn of
radio net controller and call up all the other boats to take positions,
engine hours, wind direction and strength for each boat, plus just checking
in to see how everyone is doing. It is a fantastic way of staying in touch.
I think Caspar and I didn’t really appreciate the value of the SSB until
this crossing. We knew we needed it but putting it into action is quite
another thing. Once we committed to the World Arc, it meant that we had to
have the SSB installed. We didn’t do this back in the UK as we were short on
time and with a limited budget, its a question of choosing where to spend
it. However now we had to get one. It was quite a challenge to source an
SSB, we found a second hand one – an icom M710 which we bought in Panama
from an engineer who then installed it for us. I had read a lot about the
installation of the SSB and how you can get quite variable results. It was
quite a relief when we first tested ours and it was all working so
beautifully. Its fantastic talking to all the other boats out here in the
middle of the Pacific each day, you certainly feel as if you have support on
hand, although the other boats could well be a couple of hundred miles away.
We have been the net controller on a couple of occasions on this crossing
and are probably one of the chattier boats on the net, asking the other
boats how they are doing with catching fish, or being able to help out with
good recipes for banana bread muffins – have you tried the recipe the
children sent you yet?

With both schooling and the radio net, each day has quite a structure. We
change our watch system every 5 days which means that Caroline, Caspar and I
take it in turn to cook either breakfast, lunch or dinner, which are all at
set times. We also take it in turns to clear up after one of these meals,
which means that duties are shared evenly. Breakfast is at 8.30 after which
is the skipper’s briefing, when Caspar reads out emails and awards value
prizes to the children. Schooling starts at around 9.30 and takes all
morning. During this time, Caspar and I are usually carrying out boat jobs,
such as rig checks, which we do every day. Snack time is 11am and 4pm. Lunch
is at 1pm and the afternoon might be playing games, reading on deck,
watching a film or other activity. I set everyone the task yesterday of
writing their bucket list – a list of things they wanted to do in their life
(e.g. sail around the world). For the children I adapted it slightly – a
list of things they would like to do before they reach 18. The results have
been interesting – I will be writing more on this…. After dinner the
children get ready for bed and all have stories – Caroline is reading Harry
Potter, book 1, to Columbus; Caspar is reading the Wind in the Willows to
Bluebell which means that I probably read several short stories to Willow.
Then its bed and the night watch starts from 8pm through to 8am. I think its
not only children that like a routine, it seems to me that adults respond
well to this as well. The boat is very calm and relaxed. Caroline leaves us
at the end of April but Caspar and I are hoping that she will come back and
sail another leg with us. She has fitted in so well and the children are
really enjoying her company, as are we.

I reflect that we have been very very fortunate with all out crew so far and
that they have really added to our sailing adventure in a positive way. We
started with Max and Ian, who were a great support when we set off last
year, a more than little uncertain about our new boat and Caspar’s back.
Sharon joined us for a few days in the Canaries which was great fun and then
of course we had Jani and Paul for company across the Atlantic and now
Caroline from the Caribbean into the Pacific and of course Pip in Panama and
through the canal which was great fun to see her and spend some girl time
with her in Panama.

Well I had better get back to my watch duties and check up on deck.

Nichola xxxx

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