Every time I hit the British coast I wonder why we ever bother to go abroad. Admittedly my forays tend to be in summertime when the seaside is at its best; alive with holidaymakers, fish and chips, buckets, spades and home-made ice cream, but it’s important not to let familiarity with such staples obscure its unique appeal.
This year’s foray was inspired by the fear only a fellow mother will recognise, of five weeks total immersion with my already slightly bored-looking children. Drastic time-killing pursuits were required so I booked us all onto seafaring courses in Salcombe. My husband Jason and I were after powerboat licences, as I’m intent on marking advancing old age by steadily accruing certificates for things I’ll never do again.
Meanwhile, the kid’s lives would surely not be complete without part three of the RYA Sailing Certificate, or so I told my husband. So on a sunny Sunday morning we threw bags of wet suits, rock shoes, sunscreen and sou’westers into the car and set off for the Devon coast.
What a pretty town Salcombe is, with its medley of Victoriana and modernist architecture tumbling down the hilltop toward the quaint harbour front. The Merlin Rocket Regatta was underway as we pulled in and speedy sailing boats were zooming up and down the estuary, tacking this way and that on the breeze.
We dumped the kids on a charming man called Henry, from Salcombe Dinghy Sailing, promising to return at lunch, and set off to master the art of manoeuvring a small boat with a big engine. Chris, our trusty instructor and proprietor of Salcombe Powerboats, was a bit taken aback when Jason, who’d watched Captain Phillips the night before, insisted we learn how to board moving freighters like Somali pirates.
Having trained with the marines, Chris soon rallied, offering to move onto thoseslightly more demanding skills once we’d mastered the simple art of docking on a fixed harbour. After a long day unlocking the secrets of safe seafaring we gathered the kids, burbling with excitement about their adventures, and headed for South Sands hotel, a perfect example of why staycations should be a compulsory element of all our lives.
With its wooden floors and glass frontage, this seaside hostelry couldn’t have been more welcoming. By teatime we were swimming in the sea we had earlier been bobbing about on, filling our lungs with the heady scent of seaweed and tingling from the ‘fresh’ water.
At 8pm, we were sitting, blankets on our laps, on the hotel’s wooden terrace watching the tide speed over the beach and tucking into a fresh menu of seafood delights. And most blissful of all, by 10.30pm we were tucked up in crisp white sheets in our two-bedroom apartment, sliding doors open and the soft swish of waves lulling us to sleep.
To read more of Mariella’s columns, visit familytraveller.com/authors Mariella Frostrup is the presenter of Open Book on BBC Radio 4