Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Christmas message 2016

Dear friends & family

Despite the delights of Brexit and Trump, 2016 has been a pretty good year for us. Sam and Camilla started the year with a voyage on the tall ship Lord Nelson, one of only two accessible tall ships in the world. We flew to Gran Canaria and sailed to Madeira and back. The trip was somewhat harder work than we expected, as Nellie has room for wheelchairs, but only just. In addition the conditions heading north into the Atlantic swell were pretty bumpy – Sam’s wheelchair had to be lashed to the deck a couple of times – and initially the weather was cool and rainy. Still, as we got used to the way of life the conditions improved. Madeira was terrific and on the voyage back home again we were rewarded with calm seas, clear skies, wonderful night watches and 25°C when we got back to Las Palmas. We’d love to go again but would prefer to try Nellie’s sister ship Tenacious, which is newer and more spacious, but currently unfortunately in Australia, which is a long way to go. (We have just heard that she is due back in Europe some time in 2017, hooray!).

Part of the luxury accommodation on Lord Nelson. Sam had the lower bunk. Stowing the wheelchair was a major problem in rough conditions as it frequently ended up in the bathroom across the way!

One of the three wheelchair lifts on board. Getting from the cabin, on the lowest deck, to the helm area up top is quite a lengthy process

We are sailing...

Nellie dwarfed by a Norwegian Lines cruise ship in Funchal

Our Titanic moment. Sam & Camilla out on the bowsprit on our last evening

On our return Camilla went up to visit Ben, who was still living in Nottingham and job-hunting, but not finding much… so we came up with a 15-point plan of action for exploiting every contact Ben has ever made. Just before he got going with this, Ben decided to apply for one more job in the traditional way, and it turned out to be the job for him. He is working as a proper, grown-up civil engineer at Stanton Bonna, between Nottingham & Derby, making manholes, slot drains and huge concrete slabs for platforms on the River Severn.

In April Camilla & Sam flew out to Guernsey to stay with Sam’s oldest friend Robin, who kindly lent us his (ground-floor) master bedroom for a few days while he camped upstairs. 

Robin's beautiful and accessible master bedroom

Gorgeous seas in Guernsey

Sam admires the quayside bench erected in memory of his brother Adrian in St Peter Port
It was a delightful break where Sam managed to spend time with his older sons Tim & Nick, and Camilla stomped around the Guernsey countryside.

Camilla’s working year has been dominated by the Cruising Association, for whom she is now producing not only the quarterly magazine, but also the monthly email newsletter, and the printed yearbook. Members seem to like the magazine a lot, and some have even suggested we launch it commercially as a rival to Practical Boat Owner or Yachting Monthly. (No thank you). The great thing about working for the CA is that it actually encourages you to go off sailing. Inspired by one contributor to Cruising who described the Île d’Yeu as the most beautiful island in the world, we decided to take Kalessin to southern Brittany and explore the bits we never got to in 2006. It took a fair bit of planning, as Sam and Camilla need at least one extra crew person to sail safely, but we managed it, hooray!

My two favourite 60th birthday cards
At the tail end of May we had a family-and-close-friends get together aboard the lightship at Suffolk Yacht Harbour, to celebrate Camilla’s 60th birthday. Then Guy, as skipper, plus one paid crew member (Louis) and one unpaid one (Chris) sailed out of Suffolk Yacht Harbour and got to Ramsgate, where they were trapped by strong winds for over a week – giving them plenty of time to bond, which seemed to work quite well. Meanwhile Sam & Camilla took the car via a Brittany Ferry to St Malo, and finally met Kalessin in thick fog in Roscoff. If you’d like to read more about our adventures the full story is elsewhere on the blog (with lots of pictures), but here are the highlights:

Louis & Chris on Kalessin on a rough day in the English Channel :)

The day we decided not to leave Roscoff (there's a Brittany Ferry out there that you can't see)
  • Camilla, Sam & Guy sailed from Roscoff to L’Aberwrac’h, where the fog cleared just long enough for us to get into the marina
  • Another foggy (and long) day took us through the Chenal de Four and Raz de Sein, and then on to Benodet the next day for a weekend of rain & meeting Tim & Nick who had travelled from Guernsey
  • At Lorient Guy headed home and we met up with Simon Evans for an excellent week of sailing in marginally better weather, culminating with a trip up the Vilaine to Redon, which has a station nicely placed on the TGV route
  • We heard the results of the Brexit vote on the day Camilla took the train to Roscoff to collect our Passat estate. It was the longest Sam has been on his own since his stroke, which was one good thing to come out of that day
  • The car promptly broke down with a mysterious electronic brake ailment; fortunately we could leave it to be fixed at a garage in Redon, and went sailing with Sam’s friend Robin
    West coast of the Île d'Yeu
  • We had two weeks of mostly lovely weather with Robin, making it to the Ile Noirmoutier and finally the lovely Île d’Yeu, before leaving Kalessin at Arzal on the Vilaine and heading back to the UK for six weeks so Camilla could edit September’s Cruising. Again there is lots more detail elsewhere in the blog.
In September we headed out again, this time with (youngest son) Ben, and had two more weeks of lovely gentle sailing before heading home, earlier than planned, for the funeral of Camilla’s uncle. The boat is in Arzal over the winter but we still plan to bring her home next year (and will be looking for crew again for June, July & September).

On the whole we are delighted with the amount of sailing we managed this year: with more than two months on the boat, it’s the best since Sam’s stroke. It makes the winter more bearable when you feel you have made the best use of the summer.

Guy & Kai
Ben & Anne
In addition to his sailing exploits Guy has continued to work for Camilla, and occasionally for others, as a photographer. He also has a lovely young lady, Kai, and spends time at her home in Leiston, although is always available to Sam-sit if required. And Ben is still with his lovely young lady, Anne. We hope to see all of them over Christmas.

Camilla's colours. Photo added by popular demand! They are from the Firelight palette (aka Autumn) with a Tealight type and Dreamlight/Starlight influences. Lots of orangey browns and teal greens but no navy blue or black - the actual colours are slightly warmer than they look in this pic
In October Camilla had her colours analysed, as a present from Lucilla – this is when a helpful lady gazes into your eyes, asks you lots of questions about yourself and holds up colours against you for two hours, and comes up with a bunch of colour swatches which really suit you. All jolly good fun and a great opportunity for Camilla to give away about a third of the clothes in her wardrobe, and then fill it up again with new clothes in better colours.

Camilla & Sam on board Kalessin

Sam with Elaine who runs his communications group

At Sutton Hoo, driving for the first time since 2012
Meanwhile Sam carries on, with little improvements here and there, and of course days of huge frustration. Sailing is a mixed blessing as there is so little he can actually do on board, and not enough walking to keep his legs active. He still thinks it’s worthwhile though! His health has been generally fine this year, he has sailed with the East Anglian Sailing Trust when we haven’t been on Kalessin, and he continues weekly sessions with Street Forge Workshops where last year he was the surprise (to him) winner of the annual woodwork award. We also campaigned, successfully, to save the communications service provided by the Stroke Association and funded by the NHS in Suffolk, which means a lot to Sam and helps his speech to continue to improve very gradually. Both of us are involved with various Stroke Association activities and Camilla chairs the Stroke Association's East of England reference group.

I’m sure you remember Sam’s delight when his Rolex was unexpectedly found in the dredgings from SYH exactly a year ago. With the help of Oakleigh Watches we were able to get the watch restored at a relatively modest price – and then they paid half of the cost! The only downside is that Sam is now terrified of losing the watch again, so doesn’t wear it as often as he might.

Camilla's parents still soldier on, both almost 90. Frank's many ailments continue to make him frailer but he is still with us. Patricia is wearing herself out looking after him, but at least all the running around keeps her fit... 

A couple of weeks ago Camilla attended a weekend yoga retreat, held only 10 miles away in Suffolk, but organised by a yoga studio based in Brentwood, Essex. The yoga and the relaxation were terrific, but perhaps even more of an eye-opener was to spend time with people who were bowled over by the beauty of this part of Suffolk. It’s so easy to take things for granted, but since that weekend Camilla has been really appreciating our quiet countryside, dark skies, timber-framed village houses, medieval churches, local people focused on quality of life rather than money, and perhaps most of all, our lovely friends and family.

May all of you continue to flourish during 2017.