It’s so hard to say goodbye to something or someone you’ve loved – a person, a pet, a boat – a VW camper van (!!!) – it’s always sad to think they’re leaving your life for good. Even inanimate objects can provoke feelings of loss and regret – think of that feeling when you misplace a treasured piece of jewelry or a gift from someone special. So, it’s with a big bag full of memories and a sad heart that I bid farewell to Dawn Chorus, the yacht that Martin and I made our second Atlantic crossing in, along with dogs Bonny and Buzz, and where I heard the news my Mum had died (mid-Atlantic). It seems life is always tinged with sadness, even when we have our happiest times.
The year Martin and I got married (2008), my beloved camper van, Daisy, was stolen and then never seen again. I remember all the joy and laughter in that van from when my daughter Eve was small enough to sleep across the front seats to the hilarious trip to Ireland for the wedding carrying four dogs and a couple of bridesmaids, including the then teenage Eve. My heart still stops if I see one like it.
When Martin and I first saw a Southerly 42 RST at the 2007 Southampton boat show this glamorous, high end yacht was something we wished we could have but knew we couldn’t afford. We had a little Westerly Centaur 26 at the time and were just learning to sail. In 2012 we bought a Northshore Vancouver 36 in America, built by the same company as the Southerly, but over 20 years old. It was beautifully made and sailed like a dream. Alice in Red took good care of us all around America, Cuba, the Bahamas and across the Atlantic to home. When she was sold, we rushed to the marina in Portishead where she was stored to see her being hoisted on a lorry for the journey to her new home on the east coast of England. Alas, we were too late, and when we got to the boatyard, she was gone. I remember both of us looking dewy eyed as we stared at the spot where she used to be. aliceinred2013.wordpress.com
Last Friday I saw Dawn Chorus for the last time in a remote marina in Venice, Louisiana at the foot of the Mississippi river. It took Martin’s retirement and selling his business, (and selling our house in Cliftonwood, Bristol) to finally be able to have the dream boat we’d wished for nearly 7 years earlier. A new one was still out of the question, but we managed to find the lovely ‘Bubbles’ as she used to be called, in France, and after a complete overhaul by the Northshore boatyard we set sail in September 2015. I’ve written a lot about that journey and all of the ups and downs along the way, but now it’s time to say goodbye. We’ve benefited from selling in dollars rather than pounds, and Martin and I feel it’s time to step back and think about our next adventure, and to enjoy time with our family and friends.
Dawn Chorus has been bought by a Texan couple, Darren and Detje, and Martin and I (with Buzz) will be flying home from Houston on May 2nd. We did our best to help deliver the boat from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Galveston, Texas, but we fell at the last hurdle when uncertain weather and shortage of time meant we had to part company with Darren and his friend Ron, who’d been sailing with us for 700 miles of the roughly 1000 mile journey. Another bittersweet moment, because they were disappointed that we wouldn’t press on across the second half of the Gulf of Mexico, although we’d worked really well together to get the boat that far. If Martin and I have learned anything, it’s that you can’t work to a fixed timescale when you’re sailing. Flying a dog home takes a bit of organization too, and we were desperately in need of a little time to ourselves before returning to the UK, so, we made the decision to jump ship… (or were we pushed?!) How strange it was to find ourselves on the dock with a heap of luggage in a tiny place called Venice with no taxis, public transport or car hire, and on first asking, nowhere to stay with a dog! We now know why they call it “The End of the World” locally! But to the rescue came Tiffany, who works in a nearby (no dogs) hotel and who drove us and our luggage to one where the dog was allowed – phew! A couple of days later, she and her husband and son took us to New Orleans, an hour and a half away, so that we could rent a car. Oh, the kindness of strangers!!! (Turns out Tiffany is the daughter of local celebrity, Captain Timothy “Blimp” Cheramie: http://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/ragin-cajuns/videos/blimps-shrimp-dance/)
A bittersweet memento of the trip was a visit while crossing the Gulf of Mexico by a very tired little swallow-like bird. It rested up with us for a whole day and a night, took a little water, but was dead by daybreak the next day. We hope it’s last hours were more comfortable than drowning in the ocean. On a happier note, we had no less than 3 pods of dolphins come and play with the boat – great entertainment for us all – and Buzz!!
We’ve now spent a few fun-filled days in New Orleans, a true feast of architecture, good music and tasty creole food; I met James Woods, a pet portrait artist, in Jackson Square and he painted our beloved pooches, Buzz and Bonny for us; we spent one evening in rowdy Bourbon street where we listened to great Blues musicians and then another in legendary Frenchman Street where the Jazz was literally spilling out onto the street. Bye bye Gumbo and red beans with rice and blackened catfish, hello soon to Tex-Mex in the lone star state where we’ll board our plane home. Meanwhile, we’re chilling out on the banks of Lake Ponchatrain just north of New Orleans, listening to the House of the rising Sun and the wonderful Paul Brady singing his version of the Lakes of Ponchatrain, a very old traditional song from somewhere round here, composer unknown…