Saturday, 13 October 2012

Moving Home

I hate moving house.  No, you don't understand.  I mean that I really do hate it.  These days, people 'hate' getting delayed on the Underground, or the guy in Starbucks forgets to put chocolate sprinkles on top of someone's latte and they 'hate it when that happens'.  Those things are mostly annoying.  The feelings I hold towards moving house are in a different league altogether.

Leaving our berth at Shepperton behind
A quick count tallies up thirteen moves in the last ten years.  It's my own fault that I get on so badly with it.  With all this experience, you would have thought that I would learn my lesson, but I don't prepare for the event, so when it arrives, I find myself trying to pack up at the same time as moving out.  Without planning ahead and arming myself with proper cardboard boxes, I end up using any old boxes that I manage to salvage from the recycling, before filling my rucksacks, pillow cases, bin, shoes and a whole army of plastic carrier bags.

With the clock ticking on the van rental, the stress levels really begin to rise.  At this point, the well-prepared mover simply has to make a few, smug, trips with their neatly packed boxes, which stack easily in the van around their larger items of furniture.  I, however, am forced to make endless trips up and down the stairs, wrestling with the countless, awkward, bulging carrier bags.  If I'm lucky, only one or two of them will rip open at the mercy of a sharp-cornered object held within.

Piling carrier bags on top of each other works about as well as eating soup with a fork.  They slide all over the place and no sooner have you taken the handbrake off the van than they have spilled their contents out and you needn't have bothered trying to make it work in the first place.

Shepperton Marina's exit
In any case, such is my dislike for moving that I have got completely carried away and what I was going to say in the first place is that this is how I used to feel towards moving home.  Since last weekend, that all changed!

Our four-month mooring at Shepperton Marina was up and we had a new one booked at St Katharine Docks.  Shepperton is about twenty miles to the west of central London, with St Katharine being nice and central, next to Tower Bridge.  When we bought Firebird back in April, we hadn't been able to secure a mooring any closer in than Shepperton, as everywhere was super busy with yachts visiting for the Olympics.  When Kate was making her inquiries  I don't think many of the people she spoke to were able to give her a yes/no answer, as they were too busy laughing after she had asked if they had any space for us.  It turned out for the best, though, because Shepperton is a lovely marina and I'm glad we stayed there, it was just a bit isolated for our needs.

So, we got up bright and early on Saturday morning, feeling very jet lagged as we had only got home from Thailand at midnight the night before.  It was a gorgeous day, although slightly chilly, and there was no wind at all as we slipped our mooring lines and gently chugged away from the mooring that had been our home for the previous four months.

Firebird getting delivered to Shepperton by road
Having had Firebird delivered to Shepperton by road, we weren't actually sure whether we would be able to make it down the Thames.  Sailing yachts don't usually travel this far up the Thames because their masts don't fit under the bridges.  This wasn't a problem for us, because we had to have the mast lowered for transport anyway, so we just left it down while in Shepperton.  The problem that we did have to worry about, however, was whether there would be enough water for us to be able to float.  A sailing vessel has a much larger draft than a motor vessel of a similar size, due to the keel.
Notice the extra depth added by the keel

A large keel is necessary on a sailing boat, because without the resistance it provides against the water, you would simply get blown sideways, rather than sailing forward.  You would also have the inconvenience of being capsized in anything but a gentle breeze, as the large weight of the keel counteracts the force of the wind pushing against the sails, trying to blow your boat over onto its side.

We only had charts of the Thames below Teddington lock, because that's where the Thames stops being an inland waterway and turns into tidal waters, so we had no way of knowing the depth of the river before that point.  No one we asked knew whether we would make it or not, because no one knew of anyone who had tried it before.  Luckily, there had been a large amount of rain over the previous couple of days, so the water was about as high as it would be likely to get.  We just made sure that we went slowly enough that if we did run aground, we would hopefully be able to pull ourselves off again by ordering the engine room to provide full revolutions astern.  Our two options in that case would be to either go back to Shepperton and get Firebird moved down river by road, or to turn the Thames into a floating jumble sale by jettisoning our belongings in the hopes that we would then float high enough.

Needless to say, it was a slightly nerve wracking approach of simply hoping for the best.  To make matters worse, there were lots of pesky rowers all over the place, who we had to avoid while trying to stay as central (and therefore hopefully deepest) in the channel as possible.

Inside Sunbury Lock
From Shepperton Marina, we passed though Sunbury and Molesey locks before reaching Teddington. Yellow warning boards were up to warn of a strong, increasing flow in the Thames (due to all the rain).  The lock keeper at Sunbury warned us that the boards would likely turn red by the end of the day.

Luckily, the strong flow didn't cause us any problems and the upside was that, seeing as we were travelling with it, we could leave the throttle barely above tick-over, saving our diesel while still making 5.5 kts over the ground.

Just upstream from Teddington Lock
We reached Teddington Lock at 12:00, after two and a half hours on the river, and moored up so that we could plan the next part of our journey.  As I have already mentioned, Teddington is the point at which the non-tidal Thames, over which the Environment Agency has jurisdiction, turns into the tidal Thames, which is controlled by the PLA, or Port of London Authority.  The charted depths between Richmond Lock and Kew are as low as 0.5m in places.  Firebird draws 1.5m, so we obviously wouldn't want to head through that stretch of river at low tide.

The problem that faced us is that St Katharine Docks is only accessible shortly before and after high tide.  This meant that we needed to pass Kew at high water to avoid the shallows, but to also arrive at St Kat's at high water.  We weren't going to make it.

Luckily, for the reasonable sum of five new pounds, we were able to keep Firebird moored above Teddington lock overnight.  I was thrilled because this meant that we got to try out our holding tank, which we hadn't previously used.  If you are unsure what a holding tank is, it kindly holds the used food and liquid that your body no longer wants to hold on to, instead of discharging it into the river, as this isn't allowed above Teddington.

With a free afternoon ahead of us, we settled down to watch the film Puss in Boots, which we both enjoyed, while battling against our jet lag to stay awake.

Reading while we wait for the sun to rise
We had another early start on Sunday because we needed to leave as soon as it was light.  Ideally, we would have left before the sun came up, so that we could get past the shallow sections bang on high water.  We couldn't leave while it was dark, though, because, with our mast down, we can't display the necessary lights for motoring in the dark as one of them is fitted on the mast.

Sunrise at Teddington
There was mist covering the water, which looked lovely and romantic, but we soon discovered that it made spotting the rowers, who were low enough to be completely concealed, rather tricky and added to the danger of trying to avoid them while not straying too far from the centre of the river.

We couldn't believe just how many rowers there were.  They sure do have some commitment to get up so early, while it was actually very cold, and row away like they were.  They seemed to be a cheery enough bunch, though, apart from those being shouted at through a megaphone by their trainer.  We got a few "good mornings", and one lady said she thought that Firebird looked very nice and she thought it was cool that we had "007" in the registration number, "you're like James Bond", she said!

Mist over the Thames
About to leave Teddington
Another chap greeted us and immediately asked if we were going to France.  This seemed like a rather strange question to open with.  Wouldn't it be better to simply ask where we were headed?  Anyway, I'm sure he thought that my reply was even stranger, "Yes", I told him, "but not today.  We'll probably get there in a year and a half".  We left him bobbing in our wake, while he contemplated how our trip to France would take so long.

Three tired runners
We headed down river as far as Imperial Wharf Marina.  Kate had found this as a suitable stopping place as it would remain deep enough for us to stay afloat during low water, wasn't too far from St Katharine Docks, and was a good place to get onto public transport to go to Hyde Park to support Dad, Sis, and Jo in the half marathon that they were running in aid of Practical Action.

As we were heading down river on the ebb tide, meaning that it was flowing back out to sea, the river had seemed quite tame.  We passed the Imperial Wharf pier that we were heading for, so that we could turn around and approach it heading into the current, which would allow us to use the engine to match the current, effectively bringing the boat to a stop next to the pier, while maintaining steerage as water would still be flowing over the rudder.

A dangerous heron
By the time we were a quarter of a way through the turn, it became apparent just how fierce the flow was.  We were drifting downstream fast and I had to use a lot of power to compensate.  As I was increasing the rpm, the thought that was running through my mind was, 'are we going to have enough power to be able to reach the pier, or are we going to continue drifting downstream with the engine at full power?'.  Well, the moment of panic was thankfully over swiftly, as our engine wound up and we were able to keep pace against the tide.

After a brief chat with the friendly pier master, who lives on the pier in an impressive barge that was built in the 1930's, we headed for Hyde Park and made it in plenty of time to cheer the three runners over the line.

Imperial Wharf Pier
By the time we got back to Firebird, the tide was flooding, which meant that we had to punch through it to continue our journey to St Katharine's, but we didn't mind as we were in no rush - we needed the level to rise sufficiently for the lock at St K's to be accessible.

This section of the journey, passing many tourist attractions such as the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, and HMS Belfast, turned out to be quite scary.  I had expected the last leg to be a challenge, but I hadn't expected it to be this bad.

Battersea Power Station, with cranes in the foreground
The river had become very choppy as the tide raced in, so we were bouncing around all over place.  This section of the Thames is also very busy with tourist boats and ferries, of which, the Thames Clippers were the worst.  They really do shoot up and down the river at a fair old pace.  Their wake, added to the already sizable swell of the incoming tide, made things uncomfortable for us to say the least.  There were several large crashes from down below, which raised a concerned look on Kate's face, but I didn't have time to worry about our home getting shook to pieces as I was too busy making sure that I kept out of the way of the big boats and avoided the moored barges, piers and bridges.

Approaching the Houses of Parliament
Going through the bridges was the worst part, as the water gets churned up even more as it squeezes between the bridge supports.  We were both hoping that the engine kept running smoothly.  With no spare engine, even though we had the anchor laid out on deck, ready to drop in an emergency, I think that we would have been smashed back onto either a bridge or a barge before we had managed to set the anchor firmly enough to stop us.

A WWII amphibious landing craft (now a Duck Tour)
Ideally, we would have waited for more of the tide to come in, so that the flow would slacken and take most of the danger out of the journey, but we had the same problem that we had in the morning, which is that we can only travel in daylight, so needed to get to St Katharine's before the sun started to set.

As we approached St Kat's, I called the up on the VHF to request access to the marina via their lock.  I was told that another vessel had just entered the lock, so, if we could make it within ten minutes, they would hold the lock for us and we could go straight in.  This was an attractive offer, because otherwise, we would have to hold station outside the lock in the turbulent water for up to half an hour, or try to pick up one of the mooring buoys that are outside for use by waiting vessels.  The problem with catching a mooring buoy, though, was that we had discovered earlier in the day that we didn't have a boat hook, so only had a makeshift one that we had knocked together in a hurry using a small plank we had and a piece of metal that we found on board and have no idea what it's intended purpose is.  Needless to say, we weren't sure how well our home made hook would work.

Kate and the Millennium Wheel
As we approached under full power, with our poor engine screaming away beneath us, another yacht called up wanting to get in to St Katharine's.  They were told to wait outside until we arrived, so that the foot bridge over the lock only needed to be opened once as we both entered together.

Relief as we draw near to St K. Docks
Passing under Tower Bridge, I told St K's that we had arrived, and they began opening the footbridge.  At this, the other yacht waiting ahead of us starting making a beeline for the lock entrance.  They were warned to slow down, because the bridge wasn't fully open yet, but this didn't have any effect and they continued ploughing on towards the bridge.  A further, desperate message "STOP, YOU ARE GOING TO HIT THE BRIDGE" came over the radio, but it was to no avail.  The yacht looked certain to smash into the bridge, but, just as their mast headed for disaster, in an absolute miracle, their boat was caught by the swell and tilted over such that the mast slipped perfectly through the small gap that had opened between the two sides of the bridge as it was being raised.  I have no idea why the skipper had proceeded like that when the bridge wasn't open yet, but I suspect that he just hadn't seen the danger and possibly hadn't understood the radio messages as the boat was flying a German flag.

Safely in the lock at St Katharine Docks
Excitement over, we gently slipped into the lock behind the other two boats already in there and waited for it to fill up.

By the time we were out of the lock and had gently made our way to our new berth, which is excellently placed near to the showers, water tap for filling our tank, dustbins and, most importantly, Starbucks, my nerves had calmed after the rather hair-raising end to our journey down the Thames.

Safely moored up, we had time to reflect on the excellent job we had both done in getting here safely and the fact that, although it was a relatively small step, we had chipped off the first chunk of our journey to Greece in Firebird.

As for moving home, give me fast flows, swells and Clippers over boxes and vans any time.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Sealing the Deal (The Proposal)

Buying a ring doesn't sound complicated, but when it actually came to it, I realised that I didn't have a clue what I was doing.

Luckily enough, I found info online detailing the choices of metal for the ring, and explaining how diamond quality and size is measured, so at least I had some questions for the man in the jewellery shop.  After I had made my choice, I even asked to use the man's inspection thingy, although all I did with it was peer through, hoping that I had it round the right way, while waiting for what I considered to be a long enough period of time for me to check something useful, had I have known what I was checking!

At the Westwoods' wedding
So, I had the ring, now I needed to decide where I was going to ask the question.  This was much easier than choosing the ring.  We were going on holiday to Las Vegas, for our friends' wedding, so I planned to hire a Harley Davidson motorcycle and ride us from Vegas to the Grand Canyon, then ask Kate on the edge of the ravine.

The next challenge was to get the ring out to America.  I didn't want to put it in my hold luggage, in case that got lost, or someone rifled through it and stole the ring.  I also didn't want to take it in my hand luggage, in case my bag got inspected at airport security and the guard took the ring out.  I had heard stories of people having to propose right there and then, in front of the queues of people getting their luggage scanned, because the ring had been brought out and seen by their fiancée-to-be!

Mustang Sally (actually, Mustang Kate)
I decided that it would be worse to lose the ring, so chanced taking it with me on board and all went well.

The holiday was a three weeker.  The first week was in Vegas for the wedding, then a two week road trip in an awesome red Mustang convertible.

I arranged the Harley rental for the end of the first week, so as not to steal any of the limelight from the happy couple's big day.  It was so exciting to go and pick the bike up.  We rented with Eagle Rider, who were really lovely.  We had a short wait because there were several people in front of us and by way of apology, the lady gave us until 11:00 the following day to return it, instead 09:00.  We were planning on coming back the same day, so although we appreciated the sentiment, it didn't make any difference to our plans.  Little did we know, this extra time would turn out to be crucial.

Our American Beauty
The Harley was huge.  Back home, I had a GSXR-600, which is a sports bike.  Consequently it is very small and incredibly light.  The Electra Glide, however, was huge and incredibly heavy.  Although it was one of the most exciting things, riding off on a gleaming, thundering, piece of all-American machinery, it was also very scary pulling away from the car park full of men in leather waist coats, who looked closer to bears than men.  Being so big and heavy, with Kate on the back as well, I was worried that I would drop it in front of everyone.  Luckily that didn't happen, but once I was out of that tricky situation, I had to quickly get to grips with a different gear-shifting system, riding position, side of the road and a confusing traffic light system, all while riding amid heavy traffic leaving Vegas.

I was very grateful, however, that I didn't need to worry about navigation.  The lady back at the shop had offered me GPS as an optional extra, but I declined, saying that I already had a great GPS - Girlfriend Positioning System.

Sitting on the Harley was like relaxing in a comfy armchair, especially compared to my usual cramp-inducing GSX-R.  Plus, when I looked in the mirrors, I could actually see what was behind me, rather than getting a good view of my elbows, which is what happens on a sports bike.  There was a radio, which played out loud for all to hear, and cruise control, which was great for the long American freeways.

The heat of the Arizona desert was intense.  Our first stop was at the Hoover Dam, which was very impressive.  We were wearing jeans, though, to offer some protection in the event of an accident on the bike, so we almost melted while walking around in the midday sun.  The cool water below the dam looked so inviting, but the huge drop down to it did not.

Kate looking out the back of the Hoover Dam
Hoover Dam
Me in the Road Kill Cafe
Next up was the historic Route 66.  I really wanted to ride along it after watching the animated film, Cars.  We stopped for lunch in Road Kill Cafe and totally loved it.  I was rushing while leaving the car park, because there was someone waiting for us to turn round.  In my haste, I lost my footing on the slippery gravel and came so close to dropping the bike.

I'm in Nevada, Kate is in Arizona.  I wasn't able to both point properly and take a photo
Unfortunately, we didn't have any radio reception out in the middle of the desert.  I kept flicking through the tuning, in the hopes that we would pick something up at some point.  Just as I was tilting the tuning switch to the side, we hit a little bump and I inadvertently pushed the button in, which I didn't realise you could do.  All of a sudden, Hotel California started blasting out of the stereo.  I had managed to switch over to the CD player, where someone had handily left their CD of American classics.  It was one of the greatest moments of my life: basking in absolutely brilliant sunshine, taking in spectacular views of the desert, a huge American motorcycle underneath me, the girl I love sitting behind me, great music and not a care in the world.  The grin that formed on my face was large enough to put the Cheshire Cat to shame.

Me on the Harley on Route 66
This, however, was soon to change.  Way off in the distance we could see that the sky was black.  As we got closer, we could see that it was a spectacular thunder storm.  Fork lightening was reaching out of the impenetrable clouds to stab the desert.  It was such an imposing sight, and was actually quite scary to ride towards.  When we hit it, we sure knew about it.  The rain lashed down, the wind howled around us, having a large effect on the big bike, and the thunder rolled on endlessly.

The open road...and the impending storm brewing ahead
We were soon drenched and freezing cold.  It was amazing to think that we could have so recently been too hot for comfort.  To make matters worse, we left Route 66 and joined the freeway, which was full of humongous American trucks, throwing spray in my face.  If it wasn't for the Harley's large windscreen, I wouldn't have been able to continue riding because my helmet didn't have a visor and I only had sunglasses by way of eye protection, which I couldn't wear in the gloom of the storm.

Unlike in the UK, the lorries don't have bars between the sets of wheels of the trailer, which was terrifying as the wind blew us towards the huge sets of rolling rubber, ready to chew us up.

We stopped at a service station to buy extra clothes.  Being America, the smallest size they had was huge.  Mine barely fitted me and Kate's was more like a tent on her.  Even with the extra clothes, we had to ride really slowly to avoid freezing, and to stay safe in the treacherous conditions.

All of this, plus the fact that the service at Road Kill Cafe had been very slow (but very friendly and good), meant that we were severely delayed in getting to the canyon.  Thankfully, we left the storm behind us by the time we got to our destination, but by then, it was completely dark.  Kate had suggested turning back when we were in the midst of the tempest, but, having gone through the ordeal of buying the ring, smuggling it through airport security, flying over 5,000 miles, keeping the ring hidden in our hotel safe, then riding 300 miles to make my perfect proposal plan come together, I wasn't about to turn around when my goal was within reach!

The Grand Canyon.  Great by day, not so good by night
We found our way to the canyon edge by using the light from our mobile phones to read the signposts.  When we got there, we could have literally been in a broom cupboard with the light off and the door closed, for all we could see.  Even a flash photograph couldn't see far into the abyss.  You may think that this would defeat the point of proposing on the edge of the canyon, but in fact, in hindsight, I wouldn't have had it any other way.  We could sense greatness of the place, and the knowledge that we had battled through everything to make our way there, shivering in the darkness, gave us a real sense of achievement.

Importantly, we were the only two people stupid enough to visit one of the wonders of the world in the pitch dark, which meant that we had privacy.  There was actually a couple of people there when we turned up.  They had presumably watched the sunset and didn't stay long.  I kept eyeing them up, though, to check if they had left yet.  Kate later told me that she thought I was worried that they looked like they were up to no good and I was keeping an eye on them in case they were going to cause us trouble!

By this time, we had decided that we would stay the night in a motel, rather than ride back the same day as we had originally planned.  We would have been able to make it if it wasn't for getting wet, but we were so cold that we just couldn't carry on.  The other people had now left, so we were completely alone.  We discussed coming back in the morning, to see the sunrise, so now I wasn't sure whether to wait until then to pose the question, but I was worried that we might not end up returning, and anyway, I wanted to do it then, so I held Kate's hand and dropped down on one knee.  If I wasn't holding her hand, Kate probably wouldn't have realised that I was down there in the dark!

"Kate Shepherd, will you marry me?"  Cor, you should have seen the reaction!  I had kept it a total secret (only my parents and sister knew, and Kate's parents, as I had asked her father's permission before we made our trip out to the States).  She was so shocked that she didn't really believe it was true.  She had to ask for confirmation as to whether I really meant it or not.  Once I had reassured her that I did mean it, she started jumping around all over the place.  She still hadn't given me an answer, though, so I was still down on the ground.  I wasn't really sure how long I was supposed to hang around down there, so I pushed Kate for an answer, to which she said that, of course, she would marry me.  By this time, the jumping had ceased and the crying had started.  Luckily there was a large run-off gully (the canyon), for the tears to drain away in.  Actually, she wasn't that bad, but it was touching how happy she was.

The next problem was that Kate couldn't see the ring in the dark, so we took a photo and she looked on the camera!

We rode a few miles back to the nearest town and found a motel.  We celebrated in the bar with a couple of beers and, for me, fish and chips, and for Kate, a mexican-style wrap thing.  We then collapsed in our bed, ready for an early start.

In the morning, it was a lovely clear day.  The ride to the canyon, and watching the Sun rise over it, was magical.  I was glad that I hadn't waited until the morning, because there were quite a few other tourists there, and I wouldn't have felt very relaxed proposing in front of them all, and I'm sure that Kate's reaction wouldn't have been as open as it was the night before.
Sunrise over the canyon

The Grand Canyon in the morning
As soon as the Sun had risen, and we had taken a few photos, we left the other tourists to it and set off back for Vegas.  We stuck to the freeways, avoiding any scenic detours, as time was against us.  Until the Sun was high enough in the sky to warm us, we had to ride slowly because the wind chill was too great if I did more than about 40 mph.  As the Sun rose, though, so did the speedo needle.  We would have been sunk if we needed to get the bike back for 09:00, so it was really lucky that the lady had given us an extra two hours' rental time.  Had we not have missed our turning off the freeway when we got to the large, confusing junctions back at Vegas, we would have been on time.  As it was, we were a little bit late, but it didn't matter because they were busy checking out a large group when we arrived and we had to wait for them to finish before we could check our bike in.

It was such a perfect 24 hours and I wouldn't change a thing about it if we could go back and do it again.

Sunday, 18 March 2012


The Beginning

Act 1, Scene 1
Turkey. An all-inclusive holiday resort. A boy and a girl are sitting at the end of a pier, currently alone, on a group holiday with friends. The sun is blazing.

Boy: It's so nice and hot here.
Girl: Yeah, I love it.
Boy: Ooh, look, a yacht!
Girl: That looks so cool.
Boy: I would love to live somewhere hot, like here, and have a yacht to go sailing on.
Girl: Me too, it would be totally awesome to have that life.
Boy: It really sucks that we have to go back home soon.
Girl: Tell me about it.

Some time later...

Act 52, Scene 8
The boy finally plucks up the courage and they kiss.

So, Kate and I started going out.  Not too long after the holiday, back home in England, we said something along the lines of "You remember that conversation we had in Turkey? Why don't we do it?"

It didn't really seem possible the we could just decide to emigrate and actually go and do it.  Up until this point, I had always done things because they were the done thing, or the most logical next step.  I mean, sure, I have been on lots of cool trips and had great adventures, but the course of my life in general was something that took care of itself, rather than being something that I shaped.  I have never been restrained in any way, it's just that it didn't occur to me to think about what I would really like to do, and go and do it.  Nothing was particularly wrong with what I was doing, so maybe that's why I was happy to keep trundling along, it just wasn't exactly what I wanted to do.

My mentor at work at the time, a really great guy called Adam, listened to me explain what Kate and I had decided to do.  The first thing he said was "Let's not bother working towards your next promotion, then".  Adam really helped align me with the start of our adventure, and helped me confirm that I should follow my dreams and that the time was perfect to do so:  I had found someone who, amazingly, has the exact same aspirations that I do, we don't have the responsibility of kids and a mortgage to worry about, we have got enough experience in our field of work to be able to pick up where we left off if our plans don't work out and we have to come home with our tails between our legs.

The first step, Adam said, was to resign.
"But what about finding a new job?"
"Don't worry about that.  You've just got to go for this.  Once you have handed in your notice, you will have all the motivation in the world to make this work.  From the moment that you drop that letter on your manager's desk, there will be no turning back, no making excuses, you will be forced to move forward and work everything out."

He was so right.  Without that initial shove, I could still be in my old job, waiting for the 'right time' to present itself, saving money to give us a nice safety margin, and generally being a wimp.

The Dream
The dream is to pay for a broadband connection.  Eh?  How can that be a dream?  Aren't we already living the dream, in that case?  Well, no.  We want to pay for a broadband connection, and nothing else.  In other words, we want to be as self-sufficient as possible.  No external water, sewage, electricity or gas connections and no food bills.

In reality, I don't suspect that will be totally achievable, but that's the target we're aiming for.  We're hoping to be able to sink a bore hole, find a good waste solution, generate our own power from solar and wind, and maintain a smallholding to feed us.

We really don't like all of the waste associated with a Western lifestyle, and the damaging effect this is having on the planet.  We're not Eco-warriors with beards and dreadlocks, rubbing onion under our arms for deodorant.  We're not looking to go and live in a commune.  We're just like you (unless you are the aforementioned stereotypical Eco-warrior, against whom we have nothing against, that's just not our cup of tea).

As well as wanting to reduce our impact on the planet, being self-sufficient will help unchain us from our jobs.  With very low living expenses, we hope that we will have much more time to spend together and to do what we want to, without having to make the nine-to-five grind five days a week.

On top of being self-sufficient, we want to live somewhere that is nice and warm, because neither of us like the cold, especially not me.  Cold weather is great if you can go skiing, ice skating, build igloos etc., but in England, the cold is good for nothing.  I do love England, but it's time to find some predictable weather.  We also want a sailing boat, mainly because sailing is great fun, but as a secondary benefit, our boat will be able to transport us and our junk to our chosen destination when we emigrate.

The Blog

In this blog, we hope to document our journey, for the interest of friends and family, and to hopefully be of use to anyone wanting to follow a similar path.