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An afternoon in Toy Town

15 Feb

IMG_5054One day in Toy Town, Naxxar on a far away island called Malta, Mr Ashton a very tall businessman looked out from his kitchen window and saw that the sun was shining! It had rained and poured for many days and it was so pleasant to see the rays of the sun squeeze through the sulky grey clouds.   He had some things to do in the village and instead of driving in his little toy car, he thought “what a lovely afternoon to take a walk”. Continue reading

Refloating AshtonsAfloat

2 Feb

IMG_5032I’m not even going to begin to make an excuse, life is exciting but difficult right now and for a million reasons AshtonsAfloat has been on the hard along with Yangminshan. Continue reading

It’sThursday night, must be Lowestoft

22 Mar

It’s Thursday night in Lowestoft and after a slow start we went into the town for some food supplies and later on for dinner (tea) at the Royal Lowestoft Yacht Club. I’m really enjoying my time with Tony, he’s a clever, quirky thoughtful (self confessed trendy wet liberal) Yorkshireman, also a good, patient teacher. Continue reading

Mission Part One – Yangminshan is found

20 Feb

In a muddy creek, the next phase of our adventure has been lying for a few months now, beautiful, getting ready for us. The Humber is a wide shallow river with shifting sandbanks in the middle of England.

Appropriately and coincidentally, Dad used to sail out of the Humber as crewman in the Merchant Navy in the 50s. I think he’s a little surprised that anything beautiful can have come from this place!

She’s a 32′ Westerly Pentland called Yangminshan, born in 1976 and well loved by various owners. Every piece of attention she’s had since birth has been documented : She has a new engine, no acne and in the words of one of the people I’ve met on the journey here – she’s a real battleship!

So I made the offer today and Tony’s accepted – from here it’s about the mechanics of taking transfer, doing some paintwork and getting ready to play.

Mission Part One – Accomplished

(Yangminshan is a National Park in Taiwan, full of exciting things and dangerous animals.  Venomous snakes and the modern progeny of ancient Aurochs)  

For slower viewers – the park in the clip is Yangminshan.  The cow is a domesticated descendant of the very large and grumpy Aurochs.  Now extinct.

Hair dryer survival gear

11 Feb

I’m here with nieces Hailey and Simone and the garage door has frozen up so we can’t get the car out. Lovely snow on the ground but chilly air and frustrating doors. The hair dryer seems to be a ubiquitous survival device. Good for hair, drying paint and unlocking garage doors.

Missing my girls, poor Cathy and Mads have to move home from the dam this weekend. Wish I could be there for them.

We’re going to Lowestoft on Monday (assuming we have the car out) and then I’m meeting Nigel to see his boat on Wednesday.

Getting ready

7 Feb

‘There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.

The Wind in the Willows

Rat, Ch. 1.

Tuesday night and tomorrow I have the last two meetings of my Omnicor SA career. For months now I’ve been separating from the business and tomorrow it becomes real.

No party no flash, no hullabaloo – just go and sail without ado.

Looking forward to the adventure but starting to miss my girls, Mum and Dad.

Looking for a boat to look after us

30 Jan

Cathy writes . . . Researching the right boat has felt like unpacking babushka dolls.  At first we had our sights on a 46′ catamaran, something strong, sleek and expansive like a new Leopard made in our very own Cape Town.  Business was booming — these were the heady days of 2006-2008 — and a Leopard was in our grasp.

We took on more staff, including a new MD in preparation for our departure and embarked on an (ongoing) quest to update our delivery through technology.  At first the recession seemed like a hurricane we luckily managed to miss, but slowly, as 2009 moved into 2010, the flood of work, although steady, was not at its earlier levels.  As staff left, we didn’t replace, moving instead to a hybrid employee / associate model.

Not to worry, we said, we’ll buy a 46′ monohull instead.  Still roomy and well-designed (there are some beauties in that class of boat), we shopped on-line for 3 cabin boats (lots of space for guests) and imagined ambitious voyages.

Our business has continued to be blessed with wonderful clients and projects, but as we purposefully moved away to equip the business to thrive without us, we have needed to replace ourselves, although still in the business, with senior, talented people.

Not to worry, we said, there’s still enough for a slightly smaller monohull, perhaps a 37′ Endurance like Teli and Karin’s.  Also a South African designed boat, it it strong and seafriendly (to use the going nautical term), with enough room for the two of us, our growing teenager, dog and cat.

But alas that was also not to be the babushka doll for now.  Maddy at 13 is not the adoring pup she was earlier and is, very eloquently and sensitively, arguing that she needs a peer group and, that while she loves us, we emphatically do not take the place of friends.  As you can see, she is growing up in a psychologically literate household!

Also, we realise that with Europe and the world teetering financially, the fantasy of sailing  the seas without a care needs a little bit of a re-work.  James remarked to a friend last year that he feels like he’s planning his great dream to co-incide with the eve of the Second World War.  Expanding a business in 2012 is not the same as six years earlier and there is emphatically no form of quasi early retirement in sight.  Part of our go away budget was to be the good sale of our weekend cottage.  Suffice to say, the sale was less than we had hoped.

So . . . to scuttle the dream or re-shape? James had a hard night of soul-searching a few months ago (I was mercifully at bible study praying for his soul) and arrived at the inspired idea of buying a much smaller boat (nearly but not quite the smallest of the babushka dolls) and Malta-by-September to co-incide with the new school year for Maddy.

Now we’ve decided, we’ll take 6 months to write and plan our new business in Malta as a variant of our South African business in Europe and, as we do so, we will meander slowly down the  canals in our new dream boat, a 32′ Westerly Pentland or Renown, built in the  70’s and a very snug fit for the two of us, our teenager in her own aft cabin and our whirlwind vizsla puppy.  The stars will be no less alluring, nor the journey into Paris on our own craft any less magnificent!  And indeed, we comfort ourselves, we couldn’t do this journey in a much bigger boat, as our yacht needs to have a shallow draft (not more than 1.5m) to navigate the canals.

Once in the Med, we will raise our mast, hoist our sails and navigate to Malta via Corsica, Sardinia and possibly the west coast of Italy.  It feels now on a bit of a wing and a prayer, but we are resolved and looking forward to the adventure.

As I write this, James and I are discussing how it fascinates us that dreams and visions can adapt without the quality of what they represent getting lost.  We are going not in the form or shape we had imagined, but it feels so comfortable and so right.

Talking to my dear friend Margaret the other day, I realised how despite selling our house at a loss, God has provided exactly what we need – no more and no less — in a way that meets the needs of all three of us.