Constellation, 21 December, 2006, 13:47 : Heater on full, cabin boarded up, three layers plus jacket, two cup’o’soups, one tea, one coffee and three rolls consumed. All water boiled with tea light candles.

I must say, while it is deftly cold here, I like nothing more than a walk in the nearby paddock. Every time I venture out, I could swear the countryside is going to yield a a group of fox hunters on steaming horses pounding out of the forest: I’ll see them first, and then the group will canter over and ask me what I’m doing in the middle of nowhere, to which I’ll exclaim ‘Sailing home!’ Because of my accent, they’ll assume ‘home’ is either South Africa or Australia (both far away) and invite me to their manor for tea, scones and a cigar by the open fire.

The other thing about sitting on a boat alone in the cold, is that you excite an overactive imagination.

However, the reality of it is, I mostly sit around contemplating cockpit drainage, re-seating deck parts with Sikaflex and my new hobby of calculating cost to taste ratios from my encyclopedic memory of the local Tesco’s Extra 24 hour, three hundred mega-hectare supermarket (thats how big it feels). Let me explain: For $1.40 you can purchase 250g of Danish blue cheese on special, which will last many days, because of it’s spreadability and rather strong taste. Another example is ‘Tescos Garlic Sausage’ which is sandwich meat impounded with either real garlic or garlic flavour. Whatever it turns out to be, the bottom line is, it packs a whole lot of taste per slice, meaning instead of using three slices of standard ham, you only need to use one. I know, true value. Other examples may include bottled Olives and Vegemite knockoffs.

But back to boating tales, the true reason you are here. Constellation gave me a very special present this year, to which I am eternally grateful: Several inches of water inside the cabin.

I can’t wait to see what I get next year! (Ahem, I will be on a scheduled route across the Atlantic this time next year, so lets pray Constellation only gives me ‘good’ presents in 2007!)

So, I spent the next 25 minutes pumping the bilge, wondering how the heck so much water got in. For a brief second I thought about pushing the boat off the standing, blaming the boatyard and collecting the insurance for a first class ticket home. Aye, but you know if I’m down to calculating cost to taste ratios, I won’t give up so easily.

I spent two nights huddled in the corner freezing to death. Mum, this is one case where if you said “you’ll catch pneumonia!” you would actually be 100% correct. So off I went to sort out a shore power lead and go back to my favourite three hundred hectare mega-store to find a heater. Even with the heater, its still freezing. To illustrate this, please inspect the ’smoke’ coming out of my mouth. Brrrrr.

But what about the water? Oh, well as it turns out, the cockpit drains into the bilge. Leave the boat long enough… She fills up. What to do? Connect the cockpit drains through a new skin on the transom? I don’t know. But after rummaging through the sail locker I almost slapped myself across the face for not finding the cockpit cover earlier… I don’t know though, it kind of seems logical to think the cockpit would drain on its own and not require covering… But I guess thats my first Contessa lesson for the winter.

I knocked off ‘66 Days Adrift’ all the while eyeing off my raft in the corner, with it looking back at me rather suspiciously. Note the ’six person’ sticker on top - You might think that means it can take six people, but the truth of the matter is, it takes six people to move the damn thing. I pretended there was a small baby trapped underneath, and then used my exponential strength to move it down into the cabin. I’m patiently awaiting the day I trip on the painter cord, and let her rip: Imagine that, blowing Constellation up from the inside because I tripped the raft line. Ha!

My ticket back to Berlin is for the 26th, the day after Christmas. It was the cheapest time to fly around this period, and I’ve worked out why: Its impossible to get to the airport! The train here isn’t running, however the bus is, albeit on a Sunday schedule. I think.

This post took six chilly smoke rings to compose.