“Am I looking any different?” Liz asked enthusiastically.
“Yes, you look fatter!” Helen replied.
It was 2008 and we had just returned to Antigua after getting married back in the UK. The feeling that ensues after getting married, known as “the honeymoon period” illuminates newly weds and provides a glowing forcefield that, even being called out as looking fatter has little chance of penetrating.
Helen ran the marina where the fleet we managed was based in Antigua. She is one of the most charismatic, friendly and brutally honest people I have ever known. It was lovely to return to her marina in Antigua earlier this year, a true delight to be in her presence again.
Of course, when Helen told Liz she looked fatter, she was referring to the fuller, more ‘rounded-in-life’ vibrations that her newly wedded glow was oozing from her very being.
We are currently on what is likely to be our final passage of an incredible year. We are not due back into our home port, but into Virginia, USA where we will be leaving the boat and returning to the UK by air. I don’t need to explain how this feels.
Last night we spent anchored at Cape Lookout, a magnificent anchorage surrounded by butter flat water and fluffy sand dunes draped with grasses, framed by a picture perfect lighthouse. We sat up on the nets until after sunset enjoying each other’s company in a way that we have grown into over the year. Strangely enough, the last time that we spent a similar time on the nets was the day we left the UK last year, each with our own struggles about how to cope with the coming year. That struggle is all gone now, replaced by beautiful memories.
As we motored out into the Atlantic the following morning, we were greeted by fair winds and calm seas. Time for a spot of fishing!
You may recall Isla’s first experience of a big catch…… the reactions have been similar for every fish since (ok, maybe not quite as dramatic as the first!). Well, when we left the UK ( 1 year and 2 days ago), I waxed lyrical about the three tasty game fish we would be catching and eating throughout the year. Tuna, Mahi (Dorado) and Wahoo! We have caught numerous Tuna, a Mahi and a few Barracuda. But the elusive Wahoo (also constantly referred to by me as the “tastiest of the three”) looked like it wasn’t destined to happen.
FISH! I shout, as the line furiously spools out! The kids, now very well versed in preparing for landing, jump to action. The gate is opened, the grate is lifted, the deck is cleared, Sophie plucks a bucket of water from the sea and Jocie runs down and wakes mum. I don’t know how or why, but we always seem to catch a fish at around 20 mins into Liz’s sleep, much to her delight!
This time though, Isla is with us on deck. To date, she has generally hidden away until the ordeal is completed, fish filleted and deck returned to normal. But, as with all of us, she is determined to breath every last breath of our incredible year.
I have spent most of the last couple weeks reminiscing to the amazing experiences we have had over the year, from watching Stromboli spew lava into the night air, to proudly seeing the kids take their first kiteboarding runs, to witnessing Sophie take the controls of a light aircraft, to riding camels in the Sahara (didn’t expect that one this year!), to announcing that I may need a break from eating freshly caught Lobster every night in the Grenadines.
It’s a Wahoo! And Isla is right there with us as we pull the final and somewhat conclusive fish to the deck. Not only was she right by my side throughout the entire prep, not only did she touch it, not only did she proudly hold it (well, you can judge the facial expression from the pic below). But also ate the delicious meal Liz prepared of three dishes, tempura, teriyaki and masaman marinated Wahoo! And yes, it was the tastiest fish we have caught to date.
The sunset was stunning, the moon rise spectacular and everyone is asleep but me. We have just rounded Cape Hatteras. Sophie will be joining me at 2am for her final night watch with a cup of hot chocolate and great conversation.
My belly and mind are full and as a phenomenal year with my family (and a couple months of American cuisine), comes to a close, I certainly feel “a little fatter”.
But I feel that if Helen was here today, she would be looking at Isla’s proud little face and calling her the fattest of us all!