The March madness is about to set in at the boat yard as we rush to get the majority of the boats that we look after, into the water for Easter. The thing that keeps Neil and I going through this busy and stressful period, which many of my friends affectionately refer to as ‘Neil’s heart attack season’, is that soon we too will be out on the water. And although Neil has collected boats as if in anticipation of a call for defence against an impending armada, there are only two that we really depend on to make our season, the first being our Oyster ‘Annie’ which Neil has already serviced. She will be launched at the end of this month as we use her to take people out for test sails. The second is ‘Molly’ our Leisure 23. We’ve yet to service her but we’re not worried. There is plenty of time because she will not be launched until May.

‘Annie’ the Oyster is our gorgeous day sailor that Neil and I are so precious over whereas poor ‘Molly’ is our caravan on the water. She’s a sailor but her twin bilge keel and hull shape makes her a slow vessel that is easily out run by ‘Annie’. But that is not important, we’re not interested in her sailing qualities, we just want a tub that we can plonk on a mooring out in the harbour and use for camping. The interior of ‘Molly’ was mostly brown but we are slowly updating her. It means that we’re not so concerned about her and can relax when the kids and their friends are clambering over everything, and in every space, shedding sand and biscuits crumbs in their wake that is reminiscent of Hansel and Gretel.

Our ‘Molly’ might sound a bit naff, and she probably is, but we love her. She has four berths, a good galley and in the summer we regularly live aboard for several days at a time. Last summer we spent five days living out in Blakeney harbour and, despite the lack of internal space, we had a nice time with not one member of the Thompson family wanting to kill another. Actually, being totally honest, although Neil didn’t want to kill me he definitely found me frustrating.

While on terra firma I am in charge of our children, our home and certain aspects of the business, on the water I let go of all responsibility because, when out in the harbour, the only real constraints placed on me are that of the tide and tummy. Neil has likened it to me going onto standby mode. The children turn feral. Their playground is the mud and sand bank out in the pit once the tide has gone out. They are free to dig, run and splash until they are cold, exhausted and hungry. I clean the galley, put the bedding and clothes away and then get out a book. If I’m not reading then I’m either watching the children or enjoying the environment/moment. Neil is left sat watching me or watching the world go by and this is where the problem comes because while Neil enjoys a newspaper, he enjoys ‘doing’ something more. He’ll sit and enjoy the environment/moment for as long as it takes to drink a couple of mugs of coffee before his twitchiness intrudes on my book time. It starts with a single sigh, which is quickly followed by a foot tap and him folding his arms before he asks,

“Is that all you’re going to do today?”

At home I’d feel guilty but I think I must leave that guilt locked in my car on Morston car park.

“Yep,” is as much of a reaction as I’ll muster.

If this conversation was taking place at home, and the roles reversed, then a full on row would ensue, but Neil is a better person than me because he’ll give me a terse

“Fine,” and then get the tender out and teach the children how to row, or to use the outboard engine, in the creek that runs past our boat and always has some water in it. He’ll put some music on, he’ll have a snack or he’ll go for a walk and inspect the tackle of the moorings that we own and rent out. We may bicker about my inactivity but who cares? When I’m on ‘Molly’ I’m so relaxed that nothing will make me bite back to the point of a row.

Neil has said that when I’m like this he’d rather be on his own as I’m actually a hindrance, no help at all. And while this stung when he said it and was quickly followed by him telling me that it doesn’t mean he doesn’t want me there, what he keeps forgetting is that I’ve not grown up on or around the water. As far as I’m concerned, everything we’re doing out there is perfect for us all but Neil feels that his time with the children on the water is incredibly precious and he gets frustrated that we don’t fill their days with more activities. I feel that our time out there is precious because I get to see my children wild and free, their days unstructured and free of planned activities. I also get to watch Neil with our son and daughter; he’s freer out there. He has time and space for the children. He leads by example, calmly teaching them about the harbour and boats, unencumbered by my fretting and worrying. I see this, and have almost no responsibilities if only for a few days. It is like hitting the reset button.

So what Neil and I need to do this year is be realistic and respectful about what we both need and want from our time out on ‘Molly’. This post has initiated these chats but they are never easy, with one, or both of us, refusing to be drawn further at different points. I’m sure we’ll get there because, while during the day I annoyed Neil, those days were followed by lovely evenings spent together, chatting in the cockpit, under a blanket of stars, while the children slept soundly. With March being too cold for either sailing or working on ‘Molly’ at the weekends, we normally spend this month constructing lists of things we need to get for the season. We have lists for food and supplies so why not one for what we hope to achieve from our short bursts of life aboard ‘Molly’?