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La Cigale - Day 18 - 6 December - (break)Feast of St Nicholas

I am on the dawn watch this morning, having swapped with the Skipper. This is not a case of the First Mate slacking and skipping a graveyard shift (honest, guv!) but to ensure I was up before the kids this morning, because it's the Feast Day of St Nicholas today. "What?!St Knicker-less?!" asked Francis. You can take the boy out of the classroom, but schoolboy humour will prevail! It's not a day we make a big deal of in the UK, but after hearing all about it and their life in Holland from the kids' Flemish cousins, dearly loved Ella and Aline, while we were sailing to the Canaries together, we wanted to mark it somehow, in their honour.

Clogs were swapped for deck shoes, and put out in the external part of the Cockpit the night before, tucked under the table, out of sight (in the dark!) of the Skipper, who doesn't think the kids' sweet tooth needs any encouragement. To be fair, I pointed out to him, I've just put in a tin of Smints and a few Swiss boiled sweets, also sugar-free. I may have forgotten to mention the fizzy haribo I sneaked into the packets of tin foil for that extra magic zing...

And so to the morning, and the salivating anticipation of it... I dragged out the wait over breakfast by reading not only the next chapter of "The Christmas Mystery" (or Day 6 in the magical story of an Advent calendar), but then insisting we read all about St Nicholas on Wikipedia. We don't have internet on the boat, but Xavier downloaded the entire encyclopaedia onto his laptop before leaving the UK. It has proved invaluable.

There we came across familiar stories, but also new ones. We hadn't known, for example, that Nicholas had travelled on pilgrimage to the Holy Land and spent several years there at the end of the 3rd century. En route in a ship to Ethiopia, his prayers kept all calm in a storm, and restored life to a sailor who had fallen while trying to secure the sheets after bringing the mainsail down. As such St Nicholas, as well as being patron saint of children for later exploits, is also patron saint of sailors, the Hellenic navy and many Italian ports as a result.

As a result, I thought he would be doubly bound to listen to the prayers of sailing children, and so encouraged mine after breakfast not only to give thanks for the sweets ("but you put them in there, Mum!" observed Isabelle, still, St Nick inspired the thought), but also to petition him for the continuation of following winds and deliverance from squalls (saw the first on the radar last night - at least I know what I'm looking for now!).

Francis and I then tucked into some leftover apple crumble. Heaven!

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