No man is an island, except the Isle of Man. Most of the time there’s just me and Rich in the little world of Gwen, but since we’ve been on this particular island for what is now a month (Rich’s job has run over by quite a lot, so we’re still in the marina in Lanzarote) the bubble has stretched to include a host of other souls.
There’s Mike and Kate, who we run into everywhere. We met them in the Spanish rias, and again in Mallorca, and again in Gibraltar. They’re in this marina, as are Mattis and Mo, a couple called Adrian and Sam on their long keeled double ender, a solo sailor called Lewis who is waiting for repairs to his boat and a Mallorcan environmentalist called Jorge who arrived from Holland on one boat and will be leaving on another for Gambia, Brazil and New Zealand. We bump in to some or all of them every evening after work, when the marina’s Asian restaurant serves half priced beers between 5 and 6.30.
These fine friendly people share with us a wealth of sailing experiences, from in depth knowledge of particular hardware or cruising locations to strange and silly stories of the things that can happen on board. They provide expert sounding boards for our plans or problems with Gwen, and share anecdotes that console us that we’re not the only sods who encounter frustrating or gross situations, cry, grumble, can’t hear what each other is saying or drop their mobile phones in the sea. We laugh and drink and talk non stop, grabbing that last round at 6.29 before heading home to our dinners.
It’s fantastic, but it’s dangerous for me. A couple of weeks ago the combination of increased social interactions and increased alcohol consumption, compounded by working from the dark belly of home and living with a partner who was starting to get impatient to move on, provided all the ingredients necessary to kick life into my dormant anxiety. Rich would be terse in his lunch break and I’d react with more upset than he expected, making him feel angry and me, guilty. When out for drinks I’d feel guilty for smoking at a table where nobody else did, or smelling bad after a day of work festering in the stuffy saloon at my computer. I’d feel guilty for talking too much, asking too few questions, saying the wrong thing, laughing in the wrong place. We’d get home from visiting other boats or bars and I’d shake and cry, exhausted from having smiled through the hyper aware state where reactions from anyone else are overanalysed and ground into personal shame. I’d make unconscious selections from a long list of other things I could fret about and get to work on them overnight. Rich gave me hugs and reminded me that it always ends. He’s never been wrong about that.
This lasted for over a week, during which my mum visited, providing me with glorious distraction and a bit of outdoors. She and I visited the pretty town of Teguise, and she joined us both at the Arrecife En Vivo festival (which has been running every Friday at stages around the town) until a bloody awful metal band drove us away. Later that evening, after Rich and I had had a little rest, we watched Asian Dub Foundation playing on the stage in the marina, booming heavy beats into our feet, and I danced all of that day’s worries out in a sweaty, bouncing abandon.
The marina wifi continues to give opportunities to connect with friends and family, and with the news, which heaps awful upon more awful and leaves you fury fatigued at the Trumps and Weinsteins of this world and their apologists. I’ve done three week’s illustration work for a communicative, creative client in the US and look forward to working with her more in the future. A wealth of administration tasks from insurance to tax returns have been progressed, and no small amount of television and film has been streamed.
Gwen has had her own journey, tethered though she remains. Rich bandaged a few injuries on Fanny and Bob, and used the spare epoxy to fix a chip he’d noticed on deck. We talked through a way to fix a new forestay that will mean our bowsprit still has support even when we bring in the foresails, and Rich went up and looped it round our mast a few days ago. He’s also bought enough dyneema to make extra lower backstays to better support the mast when we have plenty of wind behind us. We’re hoping we will.
We went up the mast yesterday and gave her rigging a good oil. I went first, strapped on by the chest and bum, hoisting myself on the main halliard with a safety topsail line hauled by Rich. I approached the spreaders, cautiously squeezing myself and the jollop bucket on my hip through the various ropes that shoot out from the mast. At the highest point Rich tied both my line and the safety off below. The release from the burden of managing my own weight shed all my fears and allowed me to bounce joyfully from one side of the boat to the other. Over the next hour or so I worked my way down painting all the wires, relishing my duty, trying not to splash oily goo on the deck below while Rich moved tarpaulin around to protect it from the flourish of my brush strokes.
Our time spent moored here, and our time spent chatting with our fantastic neighbours, has given me time to reflect and project. Over the last five years of Gwen life I have basked in inspiration from Richard, watching him make all of this happen. He hasn’t done it alone (trust me, it’s plenty of work supporting and collaborating on this thing), but he has maintained a singular determination without which we would never have made it close to this far. It makes him damn annoying sometimes, but maybe you need to be determined and annoying to get anything done. I am mulling over and preparing my own ways to annoy with every spare moment, including trying to find an animation course, and trying out stop motion and Flash tutorials in the meantime.
In the short term, we are both looking forward to moving out of the marina. To be back in an anchorage, able to leap from the boat and explore the rocks and fishes again, is a dream that has been dangled further from us with every delay. I look forward to returning to antisocial seclusion, my only duties being to Gwen, Rich and myself, and my embarrassments viewed only by gulls and bream. I look forward to swimming off a little of the huge beer belly that’s grown over the last month (I didn’t realise quite how firm one would be – I can’t pull up my granny pants and I kick it when I cycle). And I look forward to the sweet rocking of the sea, lapping at our sides as we rest, and how I’ll curse it, and beg it to stop, and laugh.