July 2015. Quest was just about to leave Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire. We’d spent five whole years getting ready. Sold our house, moved into the little bungalow. We even bought the wrong boat first – and managed to sell it to buy this one. I’d done sailing courses. Jack had spent more time on Quest than the average person invests in an affair.
Then Ellie, Jack’s twenty-year old niece, came to visit us on the boat. She came with her family to say good-bye. We were tied up against the harbour wall. Something happened over lunch. I’m not sure what… or how, but someone brought up the idea of Ellie leaving with us. Maybe it was me? I do have a habit of saying crazy spontaneous stuff. Like ‘Let’s sell this stupid house.’ Some things we live to regret, others work out better. It’s a law of averages.
Ellie’s mum, Danielle was there too. And Ellie’s sister, Zoe. I do remember the bit where Ellie planned to go home to get her passport and bag. She did have a passport I remember thinking, so that was good.
She turned up again a few days later. It had been a rough week weather-wise. We’d been in Milford waiting for a weather window, to head towards the Bay of Biscay. Our first ever journey was going to be over 500 nautical miles to A Coruña.
The low pressure systems were stacked up on each other. Jack spent hours at Quest’s nav desk, studying the forecasts. The wind howled outside – and this was July. We watched a sailboat limp back into harbour after leaving for a round trip to Ireland. Their autopilot hung by a thread off the stern and their head sail was ripped to shreds. We found out they’d called the coastguard twenty-five miles out. They’d been towed the whole way back.
Ellie turned up with one small rucksack. It had taken me months to pack up Quest. Once a week, I’d dropped the girls off at school, drove two hours to Quest, had two hours to sort her out and then drove to get back for the end of school. Now we were about to leave, and I’d just realised I’d forgotten to pack my own socks. Dammit.
We did finally leave – on a Wednesday afternoon. We went down the Haven and entered a washing machine sea. I don’t often get sea sick – maybe it was the build-up and fear of what we were about to do – but I was really sick. I remember coming back up, with everyone wearing life jackets and being very quiet, and seeing Ellie. If I felt sick, how did this poor kid feel I thought? This must be quite the shock for her.
‘Do you feel ok, El?’ I asked.
She looked up, her face as serene as I’d ever seen it. ‘Yeah, I feel fine.’
A shiver ran down my spine. Ellie hasn’t stopped travelling since. She left us in the Canary Islands, working there and in many countries – for over four years now. I’m not sure if Quest changed Ellie’s life, but I think it might have a little.
When we got to Quest this time, we were at a crossroads. Another spontaneous idea – I called Ellie and said, ‘Hey El, do you want to come back to Quest?’ What did she say?
Flight lands in seven hours. 😊