Miss Tippy: Family Reflections...

Monday, 12th December 2011

Owner stories

Annie

By Family Norton, Oyster 56 Miss Tippy

Annie... (Age 11)

The thing I really enjoyed was learning to dive and I recommend it as one of the most amazing things I did on our trip. It was like entering a fantasy world with all the vibrant under ocean coral, fishes and even the occasional moray eel!

When we started our trip I was very scared of sharks, which sometimes made me afraid of going into the sea. After having swum with them and fed them I have warmed to them! They’re probably just as scared of us as we are of them. Did you know they only kill you from fear of territorial invasion or if they think you are seals or turtles? I’ve heard that if you put human and fish blood in the water they go for fish, and that the film Jaws was only made to scare people! What I find sad is that some fishermen kill the sharks, cut off their fins for soup and then throw the finless dead shark back into the water. What have the sharks done to them? I also learnt that if you aggravate the shark it will most likely eat you… just keep that in mind when you meet up with a shark!

I was also scared of pirates and still am from our recent trauma, which was tremendously scary. Now I always think it could have been us that were pirated so am conscious that we were very lucky to have had a narrow escape.

Whilst being away I learnt a lot and now I appreciate how lucky we are to have a beautiful house, showers, baths, electricity etc. A few weeks after we had moved back into our house we had a 24-hour power cut. We found it very hard to live without electricity having been using it non-stop for the few weeks we had been home and yet we have met many people who don’t even have a toilet let alone electricity!

So the trip has been great in lots of different ways and I would definitely recommend it. Good luck to those who are about to do it but make sure to be careful!

Freddie

Freddie... (Age 13)

On the trip I realised that after having enjoyed years of luxury at home with my parents taking me, reluctantly, sailing, that it was just as much fun touring on a boat as playing with friends or shooting bottles in the back garden. The fun was also mixed with dangers like pirates, cannibals, sharks, accidents and bad storms.

Some of the most fun things I did involved water. There were activities like scuba diving, canoeing, dinghy sailing, windsurfing and wakeboarding. My sisters and I learnt to dive in Gili Air, a small island off the coast of Indonesia and had magnificent dives in places like Australia and Thailand and many more places including some of the best dive sites in the world.

My Dad and I enjoyed fishing and especially spear fishing, we would ask locals where the best fish hot spots were and what tackle to use. The amount of fish we caught and ate was phenomenal! We had one fish the same size as my 11-year old sister, which filled up our freezer with steaks. We didn’t eat too many lobster or crayfish as my sister is allergic to them, but we still had our fair share.

The abundance of fish was only disturbed on the trip down to Lanzarote where we only caught a Gare fish (which tasted good) and on the way from India to Oman when we had pirates hot on our tail!

The trip opened my eyes to a much bigger world than the one I already knew. It taught me amazing things such as the skills involved for carving bones, wood and stones and the many different types of tools and weapons!

We saw people jumping off 80 foot cliffs and even tried some smaller jumps ourselves! I learned to free-dive, drive a 4x4, fish, sharpen a machete with coral, chum water for sharks, get the best type of coconut, climb palm trees with only a machete (useful things machetes), what type of fishing tackle to use on certain passages, how to hunt and kill giant robber crabs, how to cook and eat robber crab stomach with coconut shavings and many, many more things, so many that I probably can’t fit them on a computer! So, I’ll draw the line and say that the trip was amazing!

 

Charlie

Charlie... (Age 14)

Thinking back to before the trip, my family – particularly Dad, had become enveloped in what I think of as the ‘routine bubble’. We operated as every other family did: morning school runs, late work hours, short family weekends and sunny holidays. So when my parents presented this idea of a circumnavigation, ‘popping the bubble’ seemed an impossible and frightening concept; a new lifestyle, a deviation of the traditional routine.

However, my father’s thirst for adventure was infectious. By the time we reached Spain, new ways of communication and teamwork had grown between us. I’d always interpreted the term ‘bonding’ as a stereotypical description, but sailing, living and growing in such close quarters with my brother and sister definitely brought us together. They are my best friends, though they never tried to be. We fell into a natural friendship, especially in long passages and difficult times.

I also found a new relationship with my Mum. One night, when I called her one of my best friends, she objected saying, “I only want to be your best mother”. Only on our return home and to school did I understand what she had said, and she really is the best mother I could wish for.

Last but not least: old Dad. With our early relationship shadowed by his growing business, getting to know him was a gift. We spent countless starry nights listening to the genius of Bill Bryson (CD: A Short History of Everything, I definitely recommend it!) and contemplating the universe. Dad awakened a deeper part of my mind; we spent many hours debating theories of creation, the existence of stars, life and religion… name anything and I’m sure it has come up in conversation!

In this part of my mind also dawned a broader love for culture as I was introduced to a gigantic variety of people. I found a large part of this interest in hearing Annie and Freddie’s feelings and opinions of all the things we saw – it was amazing to be able to experience things through their eyes.

In all, the trip brought me a new interpretation of maturity: it’s not all about material belongings, drink, drugs, sex; but in the way you cope and co-operate in difficult situations. I am looking forward to sharing this view with my school friends and with the readers of Oyster News.

Mum

Mum... (Don't ask!)

During our trip I evolved from being a wife supporting my husband in his dream, to a fellow sailor discovering my own deep respect and love of the sea.

Contrary to my fear of solo night watches, I found that I got immense enjoyment sailing through the endless darkness to the sound of the waves in our beautiful Oyster, following the same stars as historical explorers.

We set out as Mum and Dad with three children on board and have returned not just as a family but as a team. Brian had prepared us all so well for almost any eventuality, however, I really did wonder how we would look after the children if we had a crisis. Incredibly when we hit several crises the children actually looked after us! We watched our children grow, not only physically, but in maturity and confidence beyond their years. As well as fun, sun and adventure, we laboured together through storms, illness, a life-threatening accident and close encounters with hostile pirates. We not only survived but became stronger with mutual respect and with an incredible bond. I am so proud of my extraordinary family.

Back at home now, after this amazing experience and having shared responsibilities for so long on board Miss Tippy, the children are reunited with their friends, thriving at school, eagerly taking part in sports, and literally just happy being carefree kids again.

Throughout our voyage Miss Tippy was always our ‘rock’ and very much a part of our family, she carried us over 20,000 miles and in style and comfort and the Oyster team were so supportive, sending not only vital spares to all corners of the world and satellite messages with technical information but also many messages of encouragement which we all greatly appreciated, it felt like an extended family was looking out for us from afar.

The circumnavigation really was an awesome and life-changing adventure for us.

It fulfilled our dreams and we have come home a stronger family. I sometimes feel overwhelmed at the thought of what we have been through and then when I relax, the memories of the majestic sea are enough to calm me to sleep, and I dream of doing it all again.

dad 2

Dad...

We started our journey with fears of storms, collisions with reefs, and other sailing calamities. I was also worried about how we would get on as a family in such a close environment and without formal education for the children. However, in hindsight these risks were not so great and when they did manifest themselves we rose to the occasion.

We encountered several severe storms but found that Miss Tippy shrugged off the huge seas about us. We had our only collision at the start of the trip when we hit a buoy in the River Orwell only hours after we left Fox’s Marina with our brand new boat! Fortunately we were destined not to repeat such a mistake for the next 20,000 or so miles!

The family grew together in a much deeper and stronger way than I had envisaged. I really can’t remember any arguments at all. I guess we had a shared purpose and a big challenge to face up to that focused all our energies in the right direction. I have a new found respect for each of my crewmates. Sheila’s strength and wisdom was amazing and my respect for my children grew hugely as I saw them grow in skill, confidence, humility and appetite for life as we voyaged.

The trip itself was harder work than I thought it would be. We travelled to and explored 30 countries. Our life consisted of long voyages, followed by frantic maintenance and then busy jaunts inland to immerse ourselves among the communities and marvel at the sights of the countries we visited.

We also explored the magnificent underwater world. While I knew we were going through some of the best dive locations in the world I wasn’t really prepared for the beauty and abundance of life that we discovered in the more remote locations. We were reluctant for our children to dive initially but over time found out that we could trust them to be careful and they all became qualified scuba divers. Seeing my children’s wide-eyed awe reinforced my love for this alien world. I swam among dolphins with Annie, watched Freddie as he fearlessly drifted among sharks and laughed in my mask at Charlie doing underwater somersaults after discovering a pink anenome! The list could go on and on…

To fit over 20,000 miles into a two year trip inevitably made it harder than a more leisurely four or five year voyage. However, the pace had some unexpected advantages. The rapid succession of encounters with different people, and traditions brought their respective similarities and differences into sharp focus enabling us to savour them more deeply. Moreover, our two-year trip fitted nicely into our life plan. We felt reasonably confident that a two-year gap in schooling would not cause irrevocable harm to our children!

The trip gave me a deeper respect for our environment and I really enjoyed the freedom to anchor where we liked. We thrived on beautiful sunsets amid the majestic expanse of the sea. Our experiences at sea were mirrored by adventures on land… whether it was trekking through the jungle to the rim of a brooding volcano or watching bizarre animals such as the scary Komodo Dragons frolicking on the shore. Both freedom and the environment suffered as we travelled towards developing parts of the world. However, we also saw growing awareness of the need for more care of the environment. I don’t think we’ve got the balance right yet but I have some optimism that we’re moving in the right direction.

The trip has affected my outlook on life in a fairly fundamental way. We met many who would be poor by western standards but who still have a tremendous quality of life. People like the Kuna Indians who live in communal huts without electricity or many of the things we consider essential but who enjoy an abundance of food and a community ethos the likes of which I have never seen before. In French Polynesia I was impressed that people’s inherent self-respect meant they were unable to accept one-way gifts. However, they valued many of the western goods that we had aboard and we enjoyed bartering for fresh fruit or traditional artwork.

In the slums of Mumbai we found people who were very poor but who worked hard and had happiness and hope. I’ve not had a ‘moment of truth’ where I want to give everything up but I certainly have a more balanced view of life, which is deeply impacting the way that I now live at home.

I often thought about returning to the ‘real world’ particularly once past half way. These thoughts brought mixed emotions. I was looking forward to returning home and even had some weird desire to work but I was also fearful that I might somehow not be able to re-engage. Once home I felt quite disorientated initially… particularly when I took my first commuter train to London! I really began to question whether my life back in ‘civilisation’ was in fact the ‘unreal’ one. I’ve settled in now and I’m glad to be back home. I didn’t find anywhere on the trip I’d rather live. However, I don’t think I’ll ever be complete without an occasional foray into the wilderness of the sea, or some remote and thinly populated region.

We’ve been so incredibly privileged to see the world in this way, to meet so many wonderful people and to have shared this experience as a family. The trepidation, and hard work before, during and after the trip has all been worthwhile. I can most thoroughly recommend the experience!