We've had some interesting experiences this year. We sailed Kalessin to the Baltic, getting as far as Copenhagen. Guy has been working as a flotilla skipper and has spent most of the year in Greece. And Ben didn't get to university this autumn but is definitely planning to head off there in 2012.
The year started badly for Camilla with tooth problems culminating in a nasty abscess. Just as she was recovering from that, Aviva Group Centre broke the news that her contract would have to be terminated early, in February, because of a financial challenge.
Meanwhile Guy, armed with his RYA Yachtmaster and numerous other sailing qualifications, toured potential employers at the London Boat Show. His efforts paid off when he was asked shortly afterwards if he would be interested in a shorebased job with Sailing Holidays. They are a great company with whom we've been on a number of excellent flotillas. They have a laid-back approach which suited Guy very well, and he flew out to Corfu in March. There was a huge amount to do preparing nearly 200 yachts before the season started in May.
|Guy's hair being cut in Greece|
Ben spent the first half of the year slogging away at A-levels. He was offered conditional places at Sheffield, Nottingham and Heriott-Watt universities to do engineering, and rather amazingly also a place to do classical civilisation at Royal Holloway, although in the end he decided to go for engineering.
Meanwhile we prepared Kalessin for her Baltic cruise and Camilla made the most of her unexpected freedom to fulfil a few long-held ambitions: qualifying as a Prince2 practitioner (it's a project management thing) and sailing on the tall ship Stavros S. Niarchos from Liverpool to Glasgow, via northern Ireland. Things got really busy when Sam was asked to do a few days' training in China, by a company which trains ship's supervisors – up to now his gigs have been on the Isle of Man, although there was one unsuccessful effort to get to Libya.
|View of Amsterdam|
With Ben on board we said farewell to the North Sea (hooray) and hello to the Kiel canal and the Baltic. For the first few days the Baltic welcomed us with glorious weather. We headed a few miles north to the Schlei (still in Germany) and then turned east to explore Germany's Baltic coast, with a long string of beautiful Hanseatic cities including Lübeck, Rostock and Stralsund, alternating with resorts many of which have large and well-equipped marinas.
The weather became less delightful, with quite a lot of rain. Over one memorable long weekend we abandoned Kalessin in the resort of Warnemünde and headed inland to the Herrmann holiday home at Wulkow, east of Berlin. Our plan was to avoid the strong winds blowing in the wrong direction, but we also managed to avoid the wettest-ever 24 hours in Warnemünde and surrounding areas. It was very delightful to be in a dry house under a solid roof enjoying comfortable beds and hot baths, while back in the marina many people were unable to leave their boats for three days because it rained so hard. We got back to the boat to find a few unexpected damp patches where the water had made its way in, but on the whole we were very lucky, and able to carry on to explore Rügen and the V2 museum at Peenemünde.
|The cliffs of Møn|
Sadly Ben's A-level results, although good, were not enough to get him into his chosen universities. As you may know this is the last year before the £9000 fees kick in and every decent university course was wildly oversubscribed. The Clearing process was mayhem, and Ben decided he'd rather re-take the exams than end up doing a course he wasn't interested in at a university where he didn't want to go. Fortunately Kalessin was only a few miles from her final destination and Camilla was able to fly home for a whirlwind few weeks of finding and visiting tutorial colleges. Ben is currently at Greene's in Oxford, retaking Maths and Physics in January, and spending a little bit of time appreciating Oxford's unique atmosphere. Sam and Camilla visited him in November and managed to spend a few pleasant days staying on a narrowboat on the Oxford Canal (we just can't keep away from boats).
|The Baltic at its best|
Camilla has just started a new contract, working with (whisper it) McDonald's Europe on development of a new intranet, which will mean a lot of time in London over the next few months. Sam is of course not really retired, and continues to chair and advise M&CM. He's still riding the BMW and in September toured the Normandy beaches with oldest son Tim. With the boat parked in a Danish shed he is turning his thoughts to the house, and in recent weeks we've sorted out some long-standing plumbing issues and acquired a new wood-burning stove (and a new car, a VW Passat estate).
Next year should see Guy heading back to the Ionian, Kalessin voyaging to Sweden with Sam and hopefully Camilla aboard (work permitting) and Ben making the most of his unexpected gap year before heading off to some form of education in the autumn. Fingers crossed all round.
Don't forget if you want to follow our sailing activities and see some pictures, it's all on this blog.
Much love to you all and wishing you the very best for 2012
Camilla, Sam, Guy & Ben