This is just to test the email thing that sends a note when we publish new posts. Dom
“We’ve gone on holiday by mistake!” – Withnail and I
The movie Withnail and I is a hilarious, cult status black comedy set in 1969 London about two young, co-habiting, out-of-work actors: Withnail being played by a young Richard E Grant. In an attempt to escape the drugs and rock and roll drop-out culture of the city they drive to their uncle’s rustic country cottage for a long weekend, only to discover that they are not cut out for country life at all, and it had been, in short, a bad idea.
And so it is that many thousands of people find themselves in situations where they would never have been if only they had known that a pandemic would bring the world’s transport, economy and healthcare systems to their knees for over a year…
Here in Ibiza, for example, where the economy is based almost solely around tourism, the once notoriously effervescent and crowded bars and beaches are all but deserted and silent – ghost towns now frequented by occasional masked, mouthless figures, heads down, busy relearning the most elemental art of basic economic survival.
In Madrid it is not just the healthcare system that is failing, but social services, as a shanty town of people who have lost their jobs, and subsequently their homes, spreads like a dark stain in the abnormally deep snow around the outskirts of the capital. If only this story we’re living through were a black comedy in the 1960s. Instead it is shaping up more like a dark and foreboding science fiction.
If we had known there would be a pandemic that would confine us to the island perhaps we would have thought twice about letting our rental flat go to move onto the boat. If we had known that said pandemic would tragically take the life of my stepfather in the UK and that we would be unable to travel home to support my mother then we would have moved back to the UK. The decisions we have had to make these past six months have not been easy, and at the same time we haven’t had much choice.
Likewise, we would not have become embroiled in the epic saga of applying for Spanish residency post-Brexit. If we had been gifted with the foresight of any one of these events, we wouldn’t have bought a boat at all.
Everything is clearer in hindsight.
Yet here we are, a British family of four and a large dog, stuck in Ibiza on a boat that is, according to a horrified family member, “smaller than a bedroom”, during level 4 Covid restrictions, homeschooling, and Brexit…
In many ways it is better to be living on a boat. It is, by nature, the ultimate in ‘social distancing’ and when we get tired of the same view out the window we simply up anchor and move. On calm days we can take our whole house out for a sail, into the bright blue wilderness that is the Mediterranean sea during Covid lockdown, drink in the fresh air, and dive into the cool, refreshing waters…
We are in fact, midst all this chaos, feeling very fortunate. To have a roof over our heads, albeit small, wind-swept and leaking like a sieve during the winter storms. For Dom to be able to work remotely. For the food on the table, drinking water from the tap, toilets and hot showers at the end of the pontoon, and plug in electricity that powers a small heater to take the chill off the colder, damper nights of the Mediterranean in Winter (yes, it did get down to zero for a week or two in January). And last, but not least for the technological bounty of video-calling; being able to connect with distant friends and family at the push of a button.
We are also enjoying being part of the San Antonio marina community – a random collection of people living on boats because like us, for one reason or another, they have no-where else to go. We share knowledge, tools, boat repairs, food, and good company, and the days of more oppressive social distancing pass by all the quicker for it. Based on news coverage from around the world and good long video chats with friends and family back home, the reestablishment of community support systems has been one of the few good things that have arisen as a result of the virus.
It turns out that when the chips are down, what is most important to us all is the support and well-being of our fellow human being.
As I am typing this the sunshine has returned to the island after a month of cold, wet and violently storms; born on the winds of heavy snow on the continent. The kids sit round the tiny table with me learning French on Duolingo and BBC Bitesize, and we have just received an email confirming the progress of our Spanish residency application – we now have NIE European identity cards.
It is true for many reasons that we have moved onto a boat “by mistake”. But equally, given the current situation, there aren’t many other places we’d rather be right now, and as the global socio-economic-health dust storm of 2020 slowly begins to settle, we will tentatively set our sights on home.
Fixing Floss, a story in photos…
On 5th October, 2019 we bought Floss from a private seller in San Antonio bay, Ibiza. She’s a Catalac 9m, small fibreglass catamaran, built in 1983 in Christchurch, UK. She lived in Poole harbour for many years before being sailed to Greece, where the previous owners bought her and moved her to Ibiza.
Floss was Dom’s dream boat… just about. A catamaran slightly larger than the Diamond 24 we co-own with some friends in Scotland, with just enough space for a family of 4 to live on in relative comfort, and fitting within our ‘non luxury boat owner’ price-range.
As a 36 year old boat, she was in need of some renovations, which the previous owners were part-way through. However, after she was torn from her mooring and wrecked on the beach during a week of storms in Ibiza just four weeks after we bought her, she was in need of a whole lot more.
A story that would break our hearts, break our bank accounts, and almost break our family apart…
I (Alex) leave for the UK for two weeks to look after my mother as she had a knee operation. Dom stayed in Ibiza to look after the kids, dog and boat… Strong winds were forecast and as I shut the garden gate behind me I suggested getting Floss into a marina for the week just in case. Dom said he’d think about it but it would be hard on his own and with the kids in tow, and in the end decided against it as the mooring block she was on was sound. A decision that we immediately came to regret.
The wind blew strong from the West tearing right through San Antonio bay for 7 days, whipping up 4m waves and Floss bounced around on her mooring with the other boats in the bay. Dom managed to get out to her to secure some extra mooring lines in the dinghy of a neighbour’s boat, braving the storm, but the very next day she was found washed up on the beach along with several other boats from the bay. The constant movement of the waves had ripped three mooring cleats from the deck, and she dragged anchor onto the beach, unfortunately via some rocks…
After much searching, and two weeks sleeping aboard a shipwreck to protect it from opportunistic thieves, Dom found a ‘grua’ company who could move Floss to a boatyard. It was no easy feat as being a catamaran she was wider than the tow-truck and would require a police escort.
We began the repair work ourselves, however the boat-yard stipulated that we must have an experienced fibreglass expert repair the hull and all their team were fully booked til Spring. So we asked around found a fibreglass engineer on the island who could work with us, fitting us in in his spare time as he loved that we were repairing an old boat to live on as our home. And then the work began in earnest…
An old boat that has been wrecked doesn’t just need the hole repairing, there were also electrics and many other jobs to do.
On the 7th of July Floss was relaunched from Ibiza town harbour, and we sailed all night in light winds, and by the light of the full moon, round to San Antonio bay to pick up a mooring not so far away from the one she’d been torn from the Autumn before. Only this time we would not be taking any more chances with storms…
I’ve had a spectacularly unlucky year with broken phones, and finally came to the conclusion that, now I’m living on a boat, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get a ruggedised, waterproof mobile phone.
The Ulefone Armor range of phones are waterproof to 30m, provided you haven’t damaged the casing or left the access panels for the headphone socket, USB and SIM cards open. They come already equipped with drop-proof casing and an anti-scratch screen cover, and all that for under £150. So let’s see what they’re really like to use as a phone…
Takes two SIM cards, and/or an SD card.
Reasonable built in memory.
Good camera and video, including advanced effects like panorama.
It comes pre-installed with a useful toolbox, including – spirit level, calculator, torch, notepad, compass, magnifier, plumb bob, alarm bell, and height meter.
I have to say, so far I’m really happy with this phone. I’ve had it a week and am really enjoying it.
It weighs like a brick!
There’s no back button, so you have to swipe left and right, which can be a little oversensitive, but you get used to it.
It could do with a wrist strap attachment so you don’t drop it when swimming/canoeing/sailing, etc… as it really won’t float!
If you like to use your phone in all conditions – either sports, work, or like me – life – then this phone is definitely for you. Check out the photos I took with it below, and prices and availability to buy online.
See what you think, check out other people’s reviews on Amazon for this phone and other Ulefone waterproof phones… https://amzn.to/36uOxT0
Floss – the story so far…
We bought Floss, a nine metre Catalac catamaran, in the Autumn last year and two weeks after buying her strong winds tore her from the mooring and left her washed up on a beach nearby with one hull gauged open from bow to stern, looking very much like she’d been attacked by a giant tin opener. The Winter flew by, the weeks marked by our sweat, blood and tears (and euros) fixing her. Then further delayed by strict Spanish covid-19 quarantine laws, we finally relaunched Floss the first week in July 2020.
As I sit aboard Floss typing this, surrounded by half finished projects on the boat, it is very hard to believe that we have have been living aboard as a family for two months now. In some ways I was expecting to be more advanced with our non-essential boat repairs as well as our travels, but in other ways I wake every morning simply amazed and grateful that we are even here at all.
The weather this Summer has been distractingly balmy and the waters a divinely inviting crystal clear blue, Ibiza tunes drifting by on the breeze off the beach… Where I sit right now, Es Vedra – a large magnetic rock – rising majestically out of the sea, guarding the entrance to Cala D’Hort bay, and I have to confess that it is really hard to get any work done. I have over a 1000 photos and videos to share with you and countless adventures and stories to tell which I will endeavour to do so as I steadily get used to our new rhythm of life on the sea.
But for now, here are some photos of where we are right now to keep you going…
To help paint the scene, Dom is working, the boys are off sailing on a friend’s proa and the (wet) dog is curled up by my feet having just got in from her third swim of the day, it’s 6pm and 28 degrees with a gentle breeze and we are anchored in the midst of around 20 other boats in the magical Cala D’Hort, situated on the south west corner of Ibiza.
I just bought a budget action camera to take paddle boarding and snorkeling with the kids and am really enjoying testing it to it’s limits…
Check out my first swim with it on YouTube here:
You can also SUBSCRIBE to our channel and we will be uploading more homegrown family adventure, tech review and boat repair videos soon… 🙂
The Brave 4 is recommended by many tech review sites as one of the best value Go Pro alternatives and I have to agree.
Currently retailing for £70-80 on Amazon, compared to a Go Pro Hero 7, a really popular action camera, retailing at £260-360, but does not include accessories.
It really depends what you’re looking for. I hear the handlebar accessory for the AKASO which is included free in the kit breaks easily with hard mountain biking use, but you can always buy a Go Pro one which should fit the AKASO and take a few more knocks. I haven’t tried it myself so check before you buy…
It is not the cheapest of the cheap cameras, but likewise does not shoot using fish-eye (though some above water photos and videos look a tiny bit curved, this doesnt’ seem to be a problem shooting underwater), I did not have to adjust or enhance any photo or video I’ve take so far.
You can get the next AKASO up in price-range (EK7000 Pro) which has touch screen but as I’m mainly using it for underwater in it’s housing for me there was really no point. And it’s still shoots at 60fps in 4k, with built in stabilisation and a choice of lens width including wide angle (170). I shot my first movie above in 110. It also comes with a wrist band remote control, but this is not suitable for underwater. You can however connect to your phone with WiFi and have someone controlling the camera from somewhere dry.
The only downside for me is the sound quality is not very good, and there is no way of adding an external mic… However, if you are into your video editing you can always record audio separately and add it in afterwards, or simply add some rad tunes over your footage instead, as let’s face it, who wants to hear someone talking whilst they’re doing extreme sports? Unless they’re screaming, which is always entertaining (as long as they’re not badly injured), and the AKASO will pick up a good scream no problem.
I will miss the neglected but well walked woodland that flanks the dirt car park outside our balcony window. The the wind whispering in the pine trees. The dappled light, filtering green down through the dense aromatic branches, that dances on the closed curtains like a delicate shadow puppet show. The myriad of wildlife on our doorstep, and sometimes inside the threshold too.
Today, I’m lying in bed listening to the daily ecstatic dawn chorus – ever more raucous during the peace and solitude that a spring and summer without tourists the covid-19 quarantine has gifted this small yet notorious Mediterranean island. Common or garden blackbirds, robins, yellow wagtails, warblers, wood pigeons, and the humble Spanish sparrows discuss the morning news with the elusive and exotic looking pink hoopoe. Summer visiting swifts and sand martins wheel and scream, high up in the endless blue expanses, in feeding frenzies catching mosquitoes for their growing offspring, while the amorous local sparrows are speed-dating, and re-feathering their nests in the recently pruned palm trees, preparing for their second, or even third broods this year. Giant dragon flies hover between relays from sun to shade and back again, their brilliant colours flashing and changing with the light – vermilion, azure, emerald and cyan. Green pitiusic lizards laze on rocks and walls, warming their scales and contemplating the day or perhaps meal ahead, whilst avoiding the non-native snakes that in recent years have invaded the island from the mainland, sneaking in on olive trees disguised as bark. Sleepy brown butterflies, likewise, select sunlit flowers to stretch their wings, whilst the hummingbird moths lie-in, waiting for evening to make a high-speed circuit of their favourite flowers – verbena, hibiscus and jasmine.
I soak up the last few hours of these experiences, all five senses full to brimming over, trying to bottle them to keep in my box of most happy and delicious memories. My eyes scan over the almond tree design on that fills the wall in front of the bed. The boys and I spent several days painting woody patterns on paper and cutting shapes of trunk, sticks and leaves. Every size and colour of blossom and butterfly, and happy smiling bee adorn the tree, and my eldest son Finn made his own almond sapling to rest in the shade of the mother tree. I can hardly believe, nor want to, that it is time for us to go. So many happy memories this house holds, inside and out, from just a fleeting two year stay. Through the window I watch the pepper and passionfruit plants growing in their pots on the steps. They are far from fruiting so will make good parting gifts for our friends and neighbours to remember us by. It is safe to say that in this short stay, we have really put down roots, and Mediterranean life has hooked in deep under our sun burnished skin.
The tiny studio flat is waist-deep with boxed up belongings, most of which we will not need during our summer on the boat, nor perhaps ever again if the wind takes us away from the island towards a Winter in Italy, Croatia or beyond. Or if ever more common summer storms, with the unpredictability of climate change, return us to shore sooner than expected, clinging to the safety of bricks and mortar once more. And if that shore should be Ibiza, Spain, England or Scotland – our ‘home’, or at least it used to be, and may have to be once more when impact of Brexit takes full force at the end of this year, and a second Scottish referendum broods on the changing skies of potentiality. So we are attempting to prepare for every eventuality. There are boxes for the boat, for the campervan and to store in a trailer ready for future home-making on land, whenever and wherever that piece of land turns out to be. My head reels from the multitude of variables presenting us right now, and my heart aches and longs for the security of a simple, static life. How ever did we get ourselves into such a fix?
But Floss is launching in two days time and needs a crew to care for her, and guide her through unknown waters. The hours of packing and preparation tick on unrelenting, leading us onward and outward to new horizons.
The Sunday morning bell tolls, as it has done for over 500 years, ringing out from the little church on the hill – calling “all is well”. No pirates today. Only an empty Sunday mass that you can view online from the safety of a screen at home. The bells, and the fortified church with it’s two metre thick fortified walls, are frozen in time, but life moves on.