………and so to the wedding!

After a week of preparation and building excitement, the wedding day arrived. The whole day had been carefully planned by Tash and Chris and it went seamlessly. Friends and family had been coopted to make things run smoothly, from the making and decorating of the cake to the gathering of ivy and construction of the wedding arch. The venue was perfect and despite a rather chilly breeze, the sun shone and everyone was more than happy.

The beautiful wedding venue with Bass rock on the horizon.

The beautiful wedding venue with Bass rock on the horizon.

All the hard work that Chris and Tash had put into preparing the site paid off, from the log cabin ‘snug’ to the fire pit…….the jazz band and pizza van to the marquee and caeleigh band!

Bride, Groom, Ring Bearer, Flower Girl and Bridesmaids.

Bride, Groom, Ring Bearer, Flower Girl and Bridesmaids.

There were so many smiles as Tash and Chris made their way to the ivy arch and after a reading about love by Charlie and Freya, and they had made their vows, there wasn’t a dry eye on the cliff top!! …….but the smiles went on and on all day and into the night…….

Husband and Wife.

Husband and Wife.

This photo frame, hung from the tree was a great idea!

Photo opportunity!

Photo opportunity!

As always, weddings are about celebrating with family and friends. This was the first time we had met Chris’ family and hopefully not the last……his mum gave one of the funniest speeches…..a natural comedienne!

Brother and sisters. Wonderful to see them all together again.

Brother and sisters. Wonderful to see them all together again.

The speeches were at 7 in the evening, so Marcus had a very abstemious afternoon, but thankfully he was ‘first up’ and could relax into the evening!!

Father of the Bride speech.

Father of the Bride speech.

Many of the guests were camping onsite and as the evening turned into night and then dawn, a few stalwarts clustered around the fire and finally dispersed around 5am. We were far more sensible and made it back to the B&B after dancing the night away at 3!!

The following day was Freya’s 9th birthday……..definitely one she will always remember! The newly weds and their children spent their wedding night onsite in a motor home, so the birthday party was well under way by the time we arrived. The marquee, with its wooden dance floor, was ideal for Freya to try out her new rollers skates!

The day after and Freya's 9th birthday.

The day after and Freya’s 9th birthday.

The party went on well into the evening, but we were on grandparent duty so we left early and drove Charlie and Freya home to Edinburgh for a good night’s sleep before school the next day.

Being the last week of term, there was a lot going on and, thank goodness, we had our schedule carefully drawn up by Tash…….only one slip up on making sure Charlie had his trombone with him, but easily remedied, as the school is only a five minute walk away!!

Charlie's last day of primary school.

Charlie’s last day of primary school.

Up Up and Away!

Up Up and Away!

We spent the rest of June with the family and headed south on the 1st of July to Birmingham, to take Dan out for a birthday lunch, before heading back to Essex to spend three days with my Mum, then back to Hampshire and Nigel’s for a curry and a comfortable bed for the night, before catching our flight back to the US.

It was good to be able to sit and do absolutely nothing for 9 hours on the flight!!

When we arrived in Atlanta, there was a computer glitch and the queues were horrendous. We got more and more nervous that the Customs and Border Patrol officer might not let us back in, because we’ve basically been here since 2015, with only short exits to Canada and the Bahamas.

All that angst was for nothing!……..the young customs guy that dealt with us was so interested in the fact we lived on a sail boat, that he didn’t even glance at our passports! He stamped them both, handed them back to us and then we had a mad dash to the other side of the airport to try and catch our connecting flight……….we arrived just as the gate closed, but not to worry……..we were upgraded to the first class on the next available flight, which gave us an hour and a half to chill in the piano lounge, listening to a great jazz duo, before boarding.

It’s a shame the flight was only two hours……or maybe a blessing?!….as we were plied with free drinks before take off and during the flight!

Coming back to Jacksonville was like coming home again, except that someone has turned up the heating since we’ve been away! One of the first things we did, after calling in at the Lake Shore bar and playing pool, was to buy a cheap, mains operated, window air conditioner, which we have fitted to the ceiling hatch above the chart table.

Our life saving A/C!

Our life saving A/C!

Without it we would have to run the generator constantly to work our 240v a/c. As we are paying for electricity and have no intention of melting in the Florida heat, the purchase was, as they say, a ‘no brainer’!

Our other major decision and time consuming adventure has been to buy a car!

You may wonder why we need a car, when we have the loan of Norman’s?…….well the plan is to spend the next three months, while the hurricane season is upon us, doing a camping road trip around America!

Island Kea is happily tucked up in a secure and relatively inexpensive marina, 27 miles up stream from the Atlantic and 30ft above sea level, so well protected from any tidal surges and sheltered on three sides from strong winds.

We spent 10 days scouting around all the car dealers (and there are many of them in Jacksonville!) for a suitable vehicle for the challenge.

Our original dreams of an RV were soon abandoned when the reality of our budget and it’s lack of elasticity hit home. We went bargain basement hunting and thought we had found the perfect people carrier…….with the two rows of seats removed from the back it was perfect for sleeping in!!

Cecil of Lake Shore Bar fame, works for a dealership and was able to get our dream machine checked over by a mechanic………lucky for us he did!!, as our dream car would have quickly turned into a nightmare!

We sadly returned it to the dealer, only to find its spritely little sister winking coquettishly at us on the forecourt. We couldn’t resist and took her for a test drive………she was a 2002 Chrysler Voyager and had only done 67.000 miles. Despite a few rattles and squeaks, we were not deterred and took her the following day for a check over. New brakes, new wiper blades and new sway bars on the suspension, was the diagnosis and except for some saggy headlining, she’s in a very tidy state!

Our new pride and joy!

Our new pride and joy!

She is now ours and Marcus spent a swelteringly hot day replacing the brakes etc. She now runs beautifully. We are planning to head north to Savannah in a couple of days and spent this afternoon working out how to erect our expedition tent!

Robin and Cecil, of Lake Shore Bar and Scotland fame, have very generously lent us their tent, camp kitchen, camping stove, chairs and blow up mattress, we really are going to be glamping!

Everyone we meet is giving us advice on where to go and we have started annotating a big map of the US. It seems that there is a great deal to see and do, so we’ll just have try and do as much as we can!

Well here is my latest edition of the blog!
I feel like I used to when I was at school and let all my homework pile up!
We’ve done so much since the last entry that I’m going to have to keep things short and rely on photos, or I’ll never hand it in………late or not!!

Returning from the Bahamas, we made our way back up the St John’s river and, with bated breath, safely negotiated our nemesis…..the Main Street bridge!

Having settled into our new slip in the Ortega River Marina, we got down to work, fixing the broken throttle cable and the worn steering cable that was threatening to give up the ghost.

Marcus worked out the intricacies of dismantling the throttle and gear console and while he was iat it, decided to replace the gear cable too.

Replacing the throttle cable.

Replacing the throttle cable. No mean feet!!

Small places call for small people, so I was entrusted with  fixing the eyes onto the steering cables…. a job that had to be done in situe, in the space under the aft cockpit sole. The same dark hole that houses the auto helm!  It took some persuasion to mouse the cables through the 30ft of conduit from the helm, behind our head board and under the sole of the aft cabin and cockpit and then a modicum of struggle to bend the wires to shape. Hot work!!

One of the 34ft steering cables reattached!

One of the 34ft steering cables reattached!


The two weeks before our flight back to Blighty went very quickly and sociably! Having thoroughly cleaned and tidied, we fumigated with strong bug sprays, to deter any would be infesters. So strong infact, that Marus emerged coughing and spluttering………not good for him, but reassuring as far as a cockroaches chances of survival!!

A 5 hour drive down to Fort Lauderdale and we were off, worrying slightly that Customs and Border Control may not let us back in to the US again!  After an uneventful outward journey, we landed and paid a short visit to my Mum’s, then headed down to Exeter for a reunion with two of Marcus’s brothers. It was great to see them and their wives. There’s nothing quite like family!

Whilst we were down in the SW, we set out to visit Jim and Paula of ‘White Gold’ in Dartmouth. They have just sold their boat and returned to live for a while as ‘dirt dwellers’. On the way down to Dartmouth, I got in touch with our friends Allan and Claire, who we first met in Brazil. They were staying  next door to Dartmouth in Torquay and they drove over to spend a rainy afternoon with us. It was lovely to catch up with their adventures. Our paths have crossed and nearly crossed for the last 3 years!

As we all know guests are like food……..they should both be thrown out after three days, but Jim and Paula kept us for 5 relaxing days and we saw the draw of living in such a beautiful part of the world……… in the summer!

Onward and upward ……. we headed up to Nigel and Bridget for more family time and a comfortable bed, before picking up our daughter, Jenni, from Heathrow. Another lovely reunion. We haven’t seen her since she moved to Australia in January 2016. From there we moved onto Edenbridge and stayed with our closest friend Keith. He was on good form and looking forward to life beyond work!

Sadly we had two devastating pieces of news on our arrival in The Bridge. The beautiful Becky Fox, who was Marcus’s waitress and like another daughter to him, died the weekend before we arrived in Edenbridge. Such a shock and so, so sad.

The second sadness was that our very good friend, Carlos, had been diagnosed with a voracious brain tumour and was in hospital. Thankfully we were able to visit him and talk with two of his wonderful children, Lucy and David. All the love and care he has given them and their brother, Chris, over the years was being paid back with interest. We felt privileged to have spent a short time visiting with them and being able to say our goodbyes to Carlos. He passed away a week later and will live on in our happy memories of him over the years. Such an intelligent and loving man with a great sense of humour.

Our dear friend Carlos. We miss you.

Our dear friend Carlos. We miss you.

After the sadness of the beginning of the week, we had a great evening meeting up with Dawn and Ian, our neighbours from Brighton Marina, who were in Eastbourne for the night, en route to Holland. It was good to catch them before they left and also catch up with all the news.

Our good friends, Dawn and Ian en route from Brighton to Holland.

Our good friends and neighbours , Dawn and Ian, en route from Brighton to Holland.

The following morning we were up at ‘crack of sparrow’s…….’ Marcus drove me up to Stansted for a red eye flight to Cork, so I could visit my sisters and family for a couple of days. Liney picked me up from the airport and took me to her place……

What a view.....Liney's back garden!

What a view…..Liney’s back garden!

Liney and Jackie's Farmhouse airbnb.

Liney and Jackie’s Farmhouse airbnb.

If you ever fancy a break away from it all, look them up on Airbnb – Shiplake Mountain, near Dunmany Co. Cork. I swear I leave a piece of my soul there every time I visit!

We managed to pack a lot of love and laughs and miles and memories into the fleeting couple of days…… a walk on the Sheepshead peninsula and a trip down to beautiful Schull, to spend the day with our sister, Libby.

Three sisters, sitting in the sun. 'When shall we three meet again?'........Cuba perhaps!?

Three sisters, sitting in the sun. ‘When shall we three meet again?’……..Cuba perhaps!?

……and so, back to England and my Mum and Marcus’ aunt. On one of the hottest weekends of the summer, we were invited to a barbecue at Marcus’ cousin, Andrew’s house in nearby Bishops’ Stortford. It was lovely to see everyone and my Mum had a great time on the eve of her 98th birthday!

Auntie Betty and my Mum at the Sunday afternoon barbecue at Marcus' cousin's house.

Auntie Betty and my Mum at the Sunday afternoon barbecue at Marcus’ cousin’s house.

Visiting Betty and family.

Visiting with Betty and family.

The following day, Jenni arrived and we took the Birthday Girl out for the trip of her choosing……. to Southend on Sea.  She has fond memories of her summer holidays being spent here when she was a girl some 80 odd years ago!!…….One week with her rather dour mother and the following one with her fun loving and full of treats father. Her parents owned a tobacconist and confectioners shop in the east end of London and had to stagger their time away from it. We did a trip down memory lane, or rather a trip down the one and a half mile pier, complete with a fish and chip lunch followed by ice creams all round and a stroll along the sea front. Precious moments and memories to treasure.

On the train to the end of the pier.Two of the three OAPs and their 'carer'!

On the train to the end of the pier.

Birthday outing on Southend pier.

Birthday outing on Southend pier. All three OAPs + their ‘Carer’!

Excentric? Maybe a little, but no sunburn for us!!

Excentric? Maybe a little, but no sunburn for us!!

All too soon it was time for us to leave my wonderful 98 year young Mum and pack up and head off again. This time a 6 hour road trip up to Scotland with Jenni, in our trusty Yaris, to spend time with Tash, Chris, Charlie and Freya before the wedding and to lend a hand wherever and whenever needed.

Waving us off to Scotland.

My lovely Mum, waving us off to Scotland from her patio garden.

As always we were made very welcome in Edinburgh and after the shock of seeing that Charlie is now taller than me, we settled into family life and took on any jobs offered…….one of which was to take Freya, complete with a fairie face painting, to a touch rugby tournament. In between the action there seemed to be quite a lot of socialising and a bit of gleefull throwing oneself to the ground for no apparent reason!!

Freya, complete with face paint, playing touch rugby.

Freya, complete with face paint, playing touch rugby.

As well as being the lead up to the wedding, these were the last days of the school year, and for Charlie, his last week at his Primary school. On the Friday evening before the wedding, Charlie was going to his leavers dance, so his ‘ring bearer’s’ kilt doubled for the leavers ‘prom’

Charlie sporting his kilt for the first time.....so handsome x

Charlie sporting his kilt for the first time…..so handsome x

That afternoon we moved out to a B&B near the wedding site and Tash and her bridesmaids spent the evening together.

Our B&B was a delightful cottage in a quaint village just 10 minutes drive from the Ravenshaugh log cabin, where the wedding was to be held. Dan, who had driven up from Birmingham and was camping at the wedding venue, came over for the evening. It was great to all be together again…….the first time since February 2014!  We all spent the evening helping Marcus hone his ‘father of the bride’ speech and reminiscing.

I’m going to post this instalment of our time away and leave you all time to breath, before ‘The Wedding and Beyond!’