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  • Writer's pictureMark


We have had over two glorious weeks in the Falmouth area. We’ve moved around as and when the weather, or more specifically, the wind has dictated. Boat life is completely immersive. It is peace, it is tranquility and yet it is also work, stress and there is a need for constant awareness. If you are moored in a marina you can switch off but that’s not how we spend our time. We have the 'thing' that I can barely bring myself to talk about anymore to thank for that. If the ‘thing’ hadn’t have come along / been made up / or whatever you choose to believe, we would undoubtedly have been in many marinas up to this point. I always try to be at anchor as much as possible. Being at anchor feels like the ultimate freedom. The place where you drop your anchor is home for as long as you stay there. Its great and, in the main, free but when there are plenty of marinas around it is all too easy to find a reason or a supposed ‘need’ and surrender yourself to safe secure pontoons, hot showers, water on tap, immediate access to land and perhaps at times the most alluring of all, electricity! However, these things flatter to deceive because whilst they all have their appeals, they also take away the very spirit of adventure that having a boat allows you to enjoy. So in retrospect, I shouldn’t have any problem at all with the ‘thing’ and instead I could possibly view it as one of the best things that has happened in my boating life! Is this selfish? Of course it is but let’s not forget that this is a blog about Altor of Down, Asha and me so much of the content is the self absorbed ramblings of a person who has raised the drawbridge on the ‘normal’ world. So, please allow me to change my mind on this! What the wonderful ‘thing’ has done is to encourage us to make our own decisions and go and play by our own rules. By doing this we have cut ourselves off from all the previously mentioned bells and whistles owing to marinas being shut. Instead we immersed ourselves into a life of greater self sufficiency than I have ever experienced. Close attention must be paid to water and food supplies onboard and everything on the boat needs to be maintained and looked after fastidiously but by far the most constant consideration is the weather! Without the safety blanket of a marina to run and hide in my obsession with the weather is justified. Morning, noon and night I will check XC weather, Windy and Magic Seaweed. I will also tune into coastguard weather broadcasts and occasionally, when I remember, the shipping forecast on Radio 4. There is nothing quite like the dulcet tones of the shipping forecast reader, especially from the warmth of a dimly lit cabin with whisky in hand… We move as soon as the weather suggests that our current anchorage is to become overly exposed to wind, waves or both and beat a hasty retreat to a different location where we can once again position the land between us and the wind. You can never let your guard down, never say ‘Oh, let’s not bother, it should be ok’. No! You have to move. It’s not always an easy decision with many compromises between tide, swinging room in an anchorage, holding conditions of the seabed and exposure to any swell rolling in. All of these aspects require careful consideration. The safety of the ship must come first because if the ship is safe, you are too. One of the benefits of being in this area is that there are plenty of places to seek refuge without having to consider a marina. This is one of the reasons that Falmouth is so historically important to mariners. It is said that you can find good shelter from any wind direction and strength somewhere within the waterways. This makes it a hard place to leave! I find it all too easy to study the weather, see lots of good in the forecast but if one small chance of something less favourable appears I can quickly come to the conclusion that it’s probably best to stay put! We have had a wonderful time here. Lots of boat jobs have been completed, we were able to get some spares shipped to the harbour master’s office in Falmouth, we have had some lovely walks ashore and really enjoyed being social again with Fiona and Iain from Ruffian but the time to push on is approaching!

The ‘thing’ really has been a positive influence on this trip. It has forced us to take full responsibility for the safety of Altor and I think that has made me a better seaman! Any noise that is out of the ordinary will grab my attention whether in the middle of day or the dark of night. I feel in tune, at one and fully immersed in this way of life. I will add here that whilst we've had a few gales to hide from, we haven’t had a brute of a storm roll in. In that situation we would do our best to find shelter anywhere other than a marina but if I felt the safety of the boat was being compromised we would simply head into a closed marina!

However, things are changing now. I have always sailed all year round and there are two reasons for this. Firstly, I am simply obsessed with being on the water and secondly, you have the rivers and anchorages to yourself in winter. There is not normally another soul around and yes, it is bloody cold but the solitude and emptiness is magical. The ‘thing’ has gifted that very same experience to us albeit with warmer weather and longer days and that has been a real treat but in the few days since the easement of lockdown the increase in the number of boats has been astonishing. One marina worked relentlessly to get forty or fifty boats in the water over a four day period and all of a sudden there are boats moving around and anchorages are becoming busy once again. Selfishly speaking, it is a shame to see the end of the uninterrupted horizons and empty bays but my deeper feeling is that of relief for all those boat owners who can now get out and find solace away from dry land. I know how important that is to me so I’m happy that those who do not live aboard are once again able to indulge in the magic that is simply mucking around on boats so welcome back to one and all! I’d be lying if I said I had missed you but welcome back nonetheless!

We had a couple of nights anchored in St Mawes which is the inlet behind the Fraggle Rock lighthouse. St Mawes is a beautiful Cornish village. It has a safe anchorage, lovey walks, spectacular views in every direction, a good safe landing place for the dinghy and Cornish pasties and cream teas served right on the quay! Follow that with ‘Proper Job’ Cornish IPA while fishing in the warm setting sun from the stern deck of Altor and you have one seriously euphoric dose of bliss which is almost too much to take.

I feel like I am living in a dream. I really do and I constantly appreciate the life and surroundings that Asha and I are currently enjoying. I am content and joyful although this part is not always as easy as it sounds.

It’s been three years since I had a full time job. I have done a few months of casual work with a very good friend of mine but normal, full time work was over three years ago. Despite the fact that I am living my dream, I have many and regular bouts of reflection and nostalgia and even sadness about moving away from my previous life. That’s not because I loved insurance. I always thought, and still do, that insurance is simply a boring but necessary load of old bollocks. What I feel sad and nostalgic about is the people who I worked with. I worked in an awesome team - really awesome. Hard work, hard play and far too many laughs than should ever be associated with a subject like insurance! It was all about the personalities. The people I worked with in that industry are special to me and I spent a lot of time with them. My reflective thoughts and nostalgia got me thinking about chapters of life. My life doesn’t have the same chapter formation when compared to most others and that has given me an insight that I think is worthy of mention.

I have always felt that I am me. I was never the insurance city boy, I was just me. Still the same 13 year old little prick but just getting older every day! However, once you leave what has been a large and very significant chapter of your life behind, it leaves an empty space. Not empty from a time perspective. That’s easy to fill. Empty from a sense of self perspective. A full time job gives you an identity and a purpose that you and all those around you can see. It does form a part of who you are. How can it not when you put your heart, time and soul into something for so long? It takes a lot of you both physically and mentally and largely prevents you from delving into the darker corners of your being because most feelings or emotions can quickly be rationalised as being due to stress, tiredness, workload or hangover! Furthermore, the world is set up in such a way that we all need to earn money and we must contribute to society. We become a cog in the big machine. Hopefully we keep running smoothly and we do our bit. This responsibility takes up most of our time and stops our minds from wandering, imagining or dreaming too much. We become what we do, ok to differing extents, but to some extent we all do. When you take that away, the silence is deafening.

My silence was filled with my first boat adventure, then the project of getting this boat back from Ireland, refitting her and setting sail again. And now I am sailing again. My mind is at peace when I’m busy and I am busy. Busy living my life, not investing it in the distraction of a job, actually living it and that gives you much time for nostalgia, reflection and questioning. We are conditioned to feel obliged to live the 9 - 5 life and when you break away from that, the potential for a crisis of confidence is totally tangible. My drive to pursue my dream has defeated any such crisis but the reflection remains and I just want to say this.

Be true to yourself and show people who you are. You are not what you do, that is just bullsh*t. There are many yous and many things you can do or at least attempt. I look back on my 26 years of working in the city. The vast majority of my waking time during those years was spent serving insurance and I think about what that means to me now. I tell you what it means. Worryingly little. It feels empty. The people I met and worked with along the way and consider as friends are what matters. Of course, the money does too but to a much lesser extent than you are led to believe when you are caught in the machine. I now earn cock all but am happier than I have ever been. I don’t buy meaningless rubbish in order to make me happy by telling myself ‘I work hard, I deserve it’. That stuff cripples you and makes you indebted, no, tangled up in the machine. We all deserve life. Just don’t make the mistake of swapping too much of it for money, unless of course you genuinely love what you do, in which case you'd do it for nothing! I’d hate to have got to retirement age, regretted how much time I spent in the office but not had the energy to start another chapter. That pile of retirement funds won’t do you any good then. Money only becomes valuable when you spend it. Life is out there, you just have to be brave and chase after it. You know, turn the page and see what else you can do with your time. Nothing is forever, not much can’t be undone and after all, none of us know if there is a sequel or not…..

The view from the anchorage in Falmouth. Up close with the ship movements

Lovely calm anchorage on the East side of Carrick Roads, Falmouth

Cruising in to St Mawes for Cornish Pasties & Cream Teas!!!

The Helford River

Close up flyby

Views of the Helford River from ashore

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