The very fact that our sailboat enables us to live on the water never ceases to amaze me.


This may sounds obvious but, like the landlubber homeowner who always wants to spend more time entertaining in their dining room, taking a luxurious soak in their bathtub or simply having a nice long phonecall while sitting halfway up the stairs, the ocean is our backyard and taking any opportunity to enjoy it makes me feel lucky.


Water surrounds us. Our everyday life at anchor is governed by the height of the tide, the strength of the current and the sudden ripples of wake from passing vessels. Down below, in the cabin, we hear the clicks and squeals when dolphins come near or the plops and slaps of a fish thrashing or a bird diving in. The tropical sun on our backs can only be endured so long before the delicious, soothing cool blanket of water beckons us in and we jump from the side or the boom, almost throwing ourselves back into it’s welcoming arms in a racket of laughter and splashing.


And, each time, even after all these years, I’m reminded of how different the view below the waterline is. The familiar salt sting to my eyes subsides and the anchorage opens up its secrets. We’ve dropped the hook in sand today but, swimming a few lazy strokes away from the boat, the underwater landscape shifts from fine sand and turquoise blue to the bright, bustling world of a small stretch of reef. I don my snorkel and mask and breathe deeply, noticing how the noises of the land life above become muffled and faded down here, and relaxing into that strange feeling of flying that snorkelling gives you.


My infant son’s chubby legs dangle enticingly from his inflatable seat as his pudgy hands pat the water’s surface while he giggles with delight. My husband and our little girl hang next to him, treading water, their legs cycling round. They are oblivious to the fact that a shoal of fish, in a sudden flash of silver, shifts direction to avoid their waving feet. Three black-tip reef sharks are stalking around down here, patrolling their coral territory and startling the fish. I remember how odd and unnatural it felt the first time we swam with sharks around but I’ve grown to learn that these small reef inhabitant ones pose no threat to me or to the tempting baby legs that are swaying at our stern.


I push on and try to make a mental note of all the creatures before me. Little light blue fish with bright yellow spots; black and white striped ones with yellow tails; snapper, clown fish, parrot fish, lion fish; oranges, greens and purples that dart by before I can decide if they’re Triggerfish, Wrasse or Tangs. The seabed is littered with clusters of long-spined sea urchins so I twist round in the water to change direction. Each visit reveals different residents and I swim a few circles, searching for the white spotted eagle rays, an elusive octopus or a green sea turtle. The shapes and patterns within the coral look so detailed and intricate, and every single one is a home to dozens of anemones, sea cucumbers, tiny crabs and sponges.


And all this life happens on top of each other, a school of stripy fish swimming past the small spiny lobsters clambering over a starfish, which, in turn, walks imperceptibly over a mound of brain coral. It’s the aquatic equivalent of Heathrow airport down here but I’m the only one to witness it; the only one to see all this life, in this place, at this moment. And yes, I never stop thinking just how lucky we are to have free access to all this whenever we want.


The rapid noise of an outboard propeller nearby interrupts my daydream and I glide slowly back to the friendly rounded shape of our hull in the water, and the shiny metal of the swimladder hanging down as the gateway into this other world. I clamber back up onto our sugar scoop and rinse myself off, shaking away the trancelike state that my underwater visits lull me into.


Up in the cockpit, James hands the sleeping baby into my arms and casually enquires how my swim was.


“Oh, you know,” I shrug, “The usual.”


And we smile at the triviality of that phrase.


Because no matter how many miles you log and how long you live on board, the pleasures that the water offers up to you never run dry.