Tuesday, March 17, 2020

A Last Glorious Sail

We made it. And the USA let us in no problem, phew.
350 nautical miles over 3 nights (87 hours) and on just one tack!
The sailing was brilliant, thank goodness for favourable winds.
The kids were good crew members, pretty much tending to their own needs. There were only a few times I had to remind them to brush their teeth and drink water.
Matt and I barely saw each other over the past few days. We were just tag teaming at the helm, while the other rested.
Now comes Phase Two: unpacking the boat and prepping her for selling.
We've given the kids strict instructions to only take what they really really want.
They are already sorting their Lego collection with surprising cooperation while Matt and I sit in the cockpit decompressing.
Thanks to everyone who made all this possible.
I knew Anjulia and Sue were always looking over us, I could feel it.
And now here we are, about to leave the home we've known for the last ten months.
I'm too overwhelmed and exhausted to cry, but I'm sure that will come.

Entering Fort Pierce inlet at sunrise. Morning y'all!

Hello America!

Happy, relieved and very tired Captain.

I will definitely miss this view. So much.

Crazy what a few months of wind can do to a flag!

Here's a bunch of sunrise and sunset photos taken over our 3-day passage. It never gets old.


Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Mommy and Daughter Date

While the others went on a road trip to the southern most point of Little Exumas Island, Aila and I had a day out in Georgetown.

First we had an appointment with Martha at the Straw Market.

We met her last Saturday when we went into the market to browse around. I was so impressed with the straw baskets and other beautiful items she was making, I asked her if she would teach us how to make something. So we set a date for us to come back today. What a great experience!

Martha learned how to weave straw handicrafts from her grandparents when she was a child. She drives 40 minutes each way to come and sell her beautiful hand-made items and looks after her grandkids everyday when they finish school.

A humble and gentle soul, she patiently taught us how to make straw embroidered bookmarks, something we'll treasure always.

After a picnic lunch and ice cream, Aila and I settled ourselves at Driftwood Cafe to drink tea, read and wait until the others picked us up.

Unbeknownst to me, the owner of Chat 'N' Chill, KB, sits down next to me and starts to make small talk.

By the time he told me who he was, I had already talked his ear off about cruising and my impressions of the Bahamas, the turmoil of the world with the coronavirus and how removed I feel from it all, etc.

KB has an interesting story himself and now I really can't wait to get across to Stocking Island to visit Chat 'N'Chill!

FYI, Chat 'N'Chill is THE place where cruisers go to meet other cruisers here in Georgetown and Stocking Island. It has become somewhat famous with their Sunday Pig Roasts, snorkelling with rays, beach volleyball competitions, and just general awesome hub for a good cold drink with good company.

Next up, the Administrator of Exuma Island, Ivan Ferguson, sits down at the table next to us and the next thing I know we're chatting social anthropology, preservation of Bahamaian historic sites and relics, the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, cruising with young kids, boat schooling, and transitioning from 20+ years of public service to retirement and needing to find purpose (he has only a few months to go before he retires).

Although Aila didn't really participate in the conversations today, she listened intently.

Today was all about small island charm and the local people that make it so special.

Thank you Martha, KB and Ivan!

The love for your country is incredible but your openness and heartfelt compassion for your fellow brothers and sisters is truly inspiring.

Making a straw bookmark.

At Martha's stall at the straw market.
Tea, mango twist donut and quiet time reading.
This was a real treat indeed!

At Driftwood Cafe, a group of Mexican cruisers offered Aila
and I their (untouched) plate of pizza. They had ordered too
much and couldn't finish it all. Needless to say, we gobbled it up!

Me with KB, owner of Chat 'N' Chill.

Little Exumas Island excursion pics:

Giving Grandpa a hug/choke.

Late afternoon play on the nearby beach. Running away from the waves never gets old!

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Hej Sverige

Ok, so many people are asking us what's next for our family?

Plans have been brewing for a couple of months and now that things are confirmed, we can officially say we are moving to Sweden!!

Yup. Land of the Nobel Peace Prize, Northern Lights, Greta Thunberg and IKEA!

Let me back up.

Some people have asked us why we seem to be finishing our cruising earlier than originally planned.

Our intention was to cruise and live afloat as long as we had enough money and that all four of us were enjoying it.

Although we are by no means in the red, we felt that that we have done what we set out to do, and that was to cruise and explore by sailboat as a family. We did initially think we would be out for 12-18 months, but the reality is we spent far more money (hello unexpected repairs!) than we anticipated and we don't feel comfortable running our funds to a bare minimum.

Why not stop somewhere and find work locally?

We don't love living on the boat so much that we would just stop somewhere to work and put the kids in a local school.  We did think about it but this scenario did not appeal to us. There will still be boat maintenance and repairs to do. Cruising to us was our magic carpet to discover and travel. If we weren't using the boat for this purpose, we would prefer to live on land.

Why not sail south out of hurricane belt and hunker down for hurricane season?

Many cruisers (kid boats especially) spend hurricane season in Grenada, playing and exploring together. Besides the fact that sailing from the Bahamas to Grenada is going down the 'thorny path' (typically bashing against the winds) which would take at least a couple of months, we weren't excited about spending a few months in a hot, humid Caribbean summer. As much as we love sunshine, we prefer more temperate climates. That much we know. 

Also, by the time we got to Grenada, we would have even less funds to see us through the summer. And then what? Selling a boat in Grenada, although not impossible, would be tricky and we wanted to avoid going down that route if possible.

Why not go back to Ottawa to live?

We really liked our life in Ottawa. We both enjoyed our jobs a lot, the kids loved their school and we had a good circle of friends. The best thing was my parents were in the same city, allowing all of us to be involved in each others' lives on a weekly basis.

But after a lot of thinking and discussing, we felt that going back to live in Ottawa would be too familiar for us and likely a bit of a letdown. If you look at our track record, we have lived in one city or country for about 1-4 years, so it was time to try a new place again. 

This was a very difficult decision. We were on the fence for a long time and the ease of slotting back into our old home (which we are renting) and even my old job (which I had taken a one year leave from) was quite tempting.

In the end, our sense of wanderlust won and we started to look further afield.

Leaving Dad is the hardest part, but I know we will visit as much as possible and he will come see us too. 

Why Sweden?

Our big takeaway from this cruising journey has confirmed what we value in our lives and want to ensure we continue to live out, wherever in the world that is: Healthy lifestyle. Time together. Growth. Purpose.

Healthy lifestyle. We wanted to live somewhere with clean air and if possible, where we can cycle safely to school and work. On the boat, we essentially live an outdoors lifestyle and I have enjoyed this more than I could have imagined. We have become more in tune with the weather, landscape and natural world. Not one of us have gotten sick, unless you count the poisonwood rash I'm currently suffering from at the moment, but that is just bad luck on my part!

Time together is what we have gained and treasured the most. Having the freedom to schedule our day as we want to. We know our next chapter won't allow us as much time together so we focused on looking for jobs and countries that not just allows but encourages a good work-life balance. 

Being together all the time in a small space has been so intense, all consuming, absolutely heaven and hell on so many levels, but at the end of the day, Team Thornington is so much stronger and our bond with one another is like dyneema rope, very strong but susceptible to chafe! We want more quality time together to continue to explore, play and learn. 

Purpose. Self-explanatory really, but Matt and I agree how embarking on this cruising journey has given us more confidence to go after what we want, the way we want. We know we are very lucky and privileged to have the choice to do this. Although we love the freedom and time together the cruising life provides, I feel like I want more in my every day. More diversity, more variety, more purpose. 

This is a hard one to explain, but basically I would rather spend my energy and resources on contributing to a greater cause than sourcing a marine mechanic or rare boat part for a repair that is costing us in terms of money and stress.

Having the opportunity and privilege to bring supplies to the hurricane affected area of the Abacos, and then volunteer on various projects locally, provided a big wake-up call for me. Those few weeks were fulfilling a part of what I need in my life: volunteerism and community connections.

Not an essential element, but we were also hoping to live somewhere where it was a different culture and language than what the kids have previously known. We want to expose them to different ways that people live throughout their childhood, so they know that there is no right way to live a successful and purposeful life, and that we are all more alike than different.

So where in the world could we live that ticked all those boxes?

It was a fun exercise brainstorming to see what we wanted as a family and what things mattered to each of us individually. At the end of the day, we needed to refill the kitty so at least Matt or I needed to have a job lined up.

In a nutshell, Matt reached out to his previous employer and asked to see if there were any positions available. Being an international organization, their headquarters is in Lund, southern Sweden.

Sweden seemed like a good country with a strong social healthcare and education system. Matt told the company that he actually didn't want a position in Ottawa, but would rather take up a job in Lund. Things moved fairly quickly and after a few interviews and emails, a contract was signed, a start date agreed upon (August 17th) and suddenly we were looking at moving to Sweden!

What about the kids' schooling?

The minute we started considering a move to Lund, we registered the kids into one (of two) of the international schools there. It was an easy process and the kids have now been accepted into Lund International School! Start date: August 18th.

Education and access to education is top notch in Scandinavia and not only is their schooling completely free, the curriculum taught at LIS is the well-regarded International Baccalaureate

Plus, Swedish schools provide a free hot lunch to students every day. Incredible!

What am I going to do?

Lund is famous for its university, Lund Unviersity. Post-secondary education is free for residents so I wanted to apply for a Masters degree. Unfortunately the application deadline has passed for the fall semester, so I will likely focus on learning Swedish intensively and network like mad! Perhaps grad school next year.

I will remain open to opportunities that come my way and see where that takes me. Blind faith? Perhaps, but I'm kinda used to that.

What about our dream of crossing the Atlantic Ocean?

We had big dreams of crossing the Atlantic Ocean at one point. Matt wanted to sail back home to Jersey in the Channel Islands on Anjulia Sue, just like we had driven to Jersey up the African continent on our Landrover FOXY many years ago.

Although that will no longer be the case, we will be sailing across the Atlantic still - just not on our own boat. 

Instead, we have booked ourselves onto a cargo ship in June that will take us from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Hamburg, Germany. 

10 days of pure ocean, night stars and no WIFI! 

Check out Cargo Voyages that take paying passengers on their deliveries around the world. After seeing so many cargo ships on our journey this year, it will be fun to actually be on one!

Bonus: showers, laundry machines, all meals cooked for us, plus we get to eat with the crew! Lastly, each of us gets 100 kg of luggage to bring on-board. Besides wanting to cross an ocean, moving our life to Sweden with a decent luggage allowance is definitely a plus.

We have several weeks left here in the Bahamas. It feels like it really is finite now.

I have such mixed feelings. Some days I feel like we are leaving our cruising life prematurely, just when we are getting into a groove as a cruising family with each of us knowing and being competent in our roles and responsibilities. Other days I feel like this is the right decision made at the right time. 

This last year has felt more like ten years packed into just a few months. Our memory bank has been well topped up, we've added new skills and knowledge to our repertoire and we've made some incredible friendships for life.

Gramps and Gail are currently visiting us and after they leave, we'll make our way back to Fort Pierce, Florida, where we will leave the boat with our broker.

We'll be back in Ottawa from about mid-April to early June, so get in touch if you want to catch up! We'll be planning a trip to Toronto as well, probably early May.

Those of you in Europe, we may have several weeks in July where we'll be visiting family and friends. Reach out or expect an email!

Tills nästa gång!

This never gets old.

Moving off the boat for a couple of weeks while Gramps and Gail are here.

Reading Roald Dahl beachside.

Playing rugby with Gramps and Gail at the Tropic of Cancer beach on Little Exuma.

Tai and Gail swimming.

Journal writing buddies.

Rented a Hobie Catamaran, fun and sporty sail!

Tai is smiling in a photo! This is miraculous :)

Georgetown beach littered with conch shells and some rubbish.