The Stewart family buy a boat, jack it all in and go sailing!

Reasons to be cheerful: One, two, three

We’ve had the BEST week.  It’s not been without its challenges; but overall I think we’re winning.

REASON ONE:  We have sails! They go up! They come down! They make the boat move!  This is so exciting for us.  We’ve been working on the sails and rigging for so long now that I think we forgot that we could sail.

Seriously, we had actually forgotten a bit how to sail.  We (I, Annabel) have been a little flummoxed working it all out and have been taking baby steps.  I’ve had a think, and have concluded this is because:

a) ketch?  no idea,

b) we have no working wind instruments (didn’t realise how much I use them all the time for making sailing decisions.  I know, I know, lazy bum), and

c) sailing with kids down below, usually with lego all over the table, makes me hesitate.

So … ketches: done some research, apparently the mizzen is awesome with the wind abaft the beam, mizzen and foresail together is the way to go  – “jib ‘n’ jiggers”, as us old sea salts like to say.  Then going into weather, forget your mizzen, go jib & main.  So we’re working on this rule of thumb until proved wrong.

Wind instruments: yes, going to get a price for getting the anemometer working.  Grumble grumble.  Some of Tilly’s wool from making pom-poms has made some excellent tell-tales on the shrouds for now.

Kids down below: they’re fine, I just need to get used to it.  Have already started adopting the policy of bellowing down the hatch when manoeuvres are about to happen.  Worked fine when I was a kid.  They’re also showing signs of wanting to be up in the cockpit more too (we try to lure them up with Werthers Originals) but we also think will happen naturally as time goes on.

And a most wondrous thing has also happened since we started sailing Iron Will – we have discovered she is a thing of beauty under sail!

Obviously, most yachts are, they come alive and become fabulous living beings when you get the sails up.  But the transformation on our beautiful girl is jaw-dropping; she goes from a solid reliable plodder when Engelina is on (yes, the girls named the engine) to a lithe and graceful beauty under sail.

The helm feels like silk, she points far higher than expected, she heels very little (thanks, massive long keel) but she also gets up in very little wind.  We had 10 knots of wind (guessing here, no wind insts) and were slipping along quite happily.

Her performance has amazed and delighted us.  We got a good ‘un, everyone!

REASON TWO: I had the most amazing hike up to the top of Whitsunday Peak yesterday. I was puffing and panting all the way up, very beautiful and very steep.  It took a couple of hours there and back including 15 minutes of stunned awe at the top.  It was so “top of the world” at the peak that I felt like I was going to fall off – it’s a big gently domed rock at the top, covered in lichen and made the back of my legs feel funny.

REASON THREE: It’s our “family birthday” today, the 12th October.  Six years ago we had a horrible few months of Sasha being sick with unexplained ailments.  She was only a toddler then, 18 months old and Tilly was three.  Matt worked away a lot and would get cross when I didn’t tell him of emergency midnight dashes to the hospital in ambulance and Sasha being put on breathing machines.

We ended up in Brisbane (the then Mater Hospital), with Matt and Tilly and I staying in Ronald McDonald House, when a diagnostic procedure went horribly wrong, Sasha arrested on the operating table and ended up in an induced coma in Intensive Care.  We got a midnight phone call to come and say goodbye and did we want last rites?

One day I’ll write the whole story, but we had a last minute reprieve thanks to amazing medical team and a fabulous cardiologist called Dr Rob Justo.  Sasha had emergency open heart surgery which “fixed” her, then needed weeks of intensive rehab to learn to walk and talk again – she’d had a stroke at some point and sustained an acquired brain injury.

And now look at her – bright as a button, great sense of drama, loves fiercely, laughs, teases, argues, cries, hugs.  Seven years old and you couldn’t imagine anyone more full of life.

She remembers nothing, nor does Tilly.  They’re fine.

Matt and I though are scarred for life and will never be the same!

We like to remember the day that we thought we were going to become a “three family” (as little Tilly said back then), but we stayed a “four family”.  We’re so grateful.  Grateful to everyone; the medical teams, all our friends and the greater power.  We like to give thanks, eat cake and sometimes we like to cry a bit too.

We were lucky that this time we were joined by our lovely friends on Karma Waters (blog here) who sailed in for a get-together.  It made it even more special to share a special day with special friends.

Life is good.  Challenging, but good.