Kitiara Pascoe: a writer’s view from the ocean

WE TALK to writer Kitiara Pascoe about her adventurous life sailing around the Atlantic and Caribbean.

portrait AlexandKit

Kitiara Pascoe pictured with her boyfriend Alex Francis. photo Mike Francis


KITIARA PASCOE has had a passion for travel and adventure from a young age, although the journey she’s currently on is something she would not have not imagined even in her wildest dreams.


For the freelance writer is living out her own story on the waves of the ocean as along with partner Alex Francis she sails around the Atlantic and Caribbean, living inside their tiny boat and on the local food in the countries where their travels take them.


In this exclusive interview you’ll find out what it’s been like for Kitiara to spend the best part of two-and-a-half years at sea with her boyfriend and the inspiration its given her to write and detach herself more and more from the materialistic world so many of us find ourselves living in.


Read on to find out more about Kitiara’s unique take on life as well as some of her adventures including diving, spear fishing and facing hurricane-like conditions while at sea. 


To find out more about Kitiara’s sailing adventure and to read her blogs visit www.theliterarylifeboat.com.


Before you set off to sail around the Atlantic and Caribbean, had you always had a passion for adventure and if so where do you think this stemmed from?


As a young child I barely ever spent a weekend in the house, having been taken for walks and bike rides around the New Forest in England, the national park where I grew up. For family holidays we’d cycle around the UK or further afield in places like France, Spain, Denmark and the Netherlands and it was during these adventures that I fell in love with changing scenery and the need to travel.


I was lucky to grow up in a family who had a very embracing sense of adventure. Both my parents have always been serious about cycle touring, a love which has branched out into running and sea swimming as well. My sister is an adventurer too, cycling solo from Italy to the UK when she was 18 and now an active rock climber, cyclist and off-road runner. So the outdoors and its many forms has always been deeply ingrained in me.


Kit looks not to have a care in the world as she is pictured on the Caribbean island of Providencia.

Kit looks not to have a care in the world as she is pictured on the Caribbean island of Providencia. photo Alex Francis


Tell us about how the voyage around the Atlantic came about and what have been some of the highlights to date?


My partner Alex and I always wanted to travel, in fact, the weekend we met we hopped in the car and drove to Bruges and Amsterdam on a whim! But we had both been backpacking individually before and we wanted a different way to see the world, especially places difficult to get to. After all, it’s extremely difficult to backpack around Atlantic islands!


Alex found a 1974 Nicholson 32 for sale and, although it needed a refit, convinced me we should buy it. I had never sailed before, but Alex had grown up on a small cruising yacht as I had grown up on a bicycle, and was the only sailing teacher I have ever needed.


While we never set off to do a certain route or complete our voyage in a certain timescale, we knew that we wanted to sail in warm waters where we could snorkel, freedive and spearfish. So in May 2014, we left our mooring in Portsmouth and began sailing south towards the Canary Islands.


The first time my breath was utterly taken away was across the Bay of Biscay, a notorious stretch of water spanning the north west of France to the north of Spain. I was feeling awful, very seasick and was sat outside in the cockpit in the evening when a huge pod of dolphins spotted us and changed course to play under our bow. Since then, dolphins have been regular companions, from Spain to the Caribbean to Panamanian waters. Sometimes staying with us for hours and often leaping in sync, these incredible creatures have been a non-stop highlight of the trip.



Kit pictured on the Caribbean island of Grenada. photo Alex Francis


Arriving in the Caribbean island of Grenada after 28 days at sea was another major highlight. To have spent a month without any communication with the outside world and simply living with the ocean hour-by-hour was tough but a life-changing experience. Then to smell the land and arrive in a raucous tropical island was a genuinely jaw-dropping experience. It felt like we’d snuck through the back of the wardrobe and into a completely new land.


I felt the same after sailing 12 days from St Martin in the West Indies to Panama, arriving in the dense jungle and mangroves of the Bocas del Toro region and again after sailing 27 days from the Bahamas to the Azores. Each time we’d have dolphins and seabirds guiding us in.

While there are very few younger cruisers like us, we did meet several boats of similarly aged couples and that was a real highlight. Being able to share our experiences, go freediving together and discover shared passions was wonderful.



Dolphins swimming in tandem with the boat is always a highlight of a day at sea. photo Alex Francis


What’s it like spending so much time in such a small place with your boyfriend? What have been some of the plusses and also the negatives?


This is a question I get asked a lot, especially as our boat is smaller than the majority of cruising yachts in the Caribbean and even in Europe. We actually have around three square metres of floor space inside and just a saloon, a tiny bathroom and use the forepeak as a bed. So yes, it is very small.


While that seems an inconceivably small place to live in with your partner 24 hours a day, we actually adapted very quickly. Everything is a case of teamwork and when at sea we do three hour on, three hour off watches. This means it’s imperative that we trust each other absolutely to take care of the boat while the other person is asleep. Our lives are literally in each other’s hands on regular occasions and that has brought us much closer together.


The hardest part was living in Panama on the boat during hurricane season. Panama sits in a bit of a windless corner of the Caribbean and the mangroves are quite stagnant, extremely humid and relentlessly hot. Living in 35 degrees without a breath of wind could be frustrating at times but we’ve learnt to diffuse each other’s bad moods very quickly!


The most amazing part is that each day is different and there’s always something new to discover together. Whether it’s a new island, pointing out huge rays and sea turtles to each other or just inventing meals with tropical vegetables, it’s so nice to have someone always there to share the experience with.



The boat which continues to provide a home and such happy memories for Kit and Alex. photo Alex Francis


How long have you had a passion for writing and where can we read some of your blogs and articles?


I started writing plays when I was about 11 and always found the written word the best place to get down my thoughts and feelings about the world. I began writing much more seriously while I was in college and then did a degree in English and Creative Writing at university.

I really found my voice after I graduated and have written extensively across a range of genres and jobs. From copywriting and legal press releases to novels and creative travel writing, there’s nothing I enjoy more and I consider myself very lucky to have such an overriding passion.


I write regularly for the British yachting magazine Yachting Monthly, which is published in hardcopy and digital editions every month and I also blog on the Huffington Post and my own website, The Literary Lifeboat. The best place to see my articles and check out links is my website www.theliterarylifeboat.com.


St Lucia

Kit looks on as the boat approaches St Lucia. photo Alex Francis


Which authors are you most inspired by?


Difficult question! I read extensively and if the Kindle hadn’t have been invented I’m not sure I would’ve fared as well on my 2½ year sailing voyage! On any given day you could find me reading classics, crime, literary fiction or the latest bestseller but there are a couple of authors who I can always go to when I need to be really captured.


Roger Deakin is one of my favourite creative non-fiction authors and his books Waterlog and Wildwood are utterly captivating. I’m also a huge fan of travel books, from Josie Dew’s global cycling adventures to the Canadian Will Ferguson’s hilarious adventures around his home country.


Having written two novels while sailing, I also find fiction authors very inspiring, particularly A. M. Homes who I view almost as the pinnacle of fantastic fiction writing. Other favourite authors of mine are Evelyn Waugh and Carlos Ruiz Zafon.


A view of the port on the island of Bequia, the West Indies.

A view of the port on the island of Bequia, the West Indies. photo Alex Francis


Is there a better book than The Old Man And The Sea when it comes to getting an insight into life out on the ocean?


I read The Old Man and the Sea several years before we set sail and having since sailed over 15000NM, the underlying story of human working both with and against nature does speak to me. However, for books representative of the highs and lows of life at sea, I’d say Ellen MacArthur’s Taking on the World and Tania Aebi’s Maiden Voyage are two of the best.

MacArthur’s stories of solo racing have been extremely inspiring to me, as I was initially very frightened and uncertain of the ocean and offshore passages. I actually reread her book while crossing the Atlantic from the Canaries to the Caribbean as it was difficult to be scared of our three-metre following swell while reading about her 15-metre Southern Ocean swell!


While MacArthur’s book really shows the human-in-nature aspect of sailing, Tania Aebi’s 1989 account of her solo voyage around the world is another breath-taking book. Especially as she had barely sailed anywhere before undertaking the voyage and was just 18. Her book really does show the comical ups and downs of life on a cruising yacht and as I was only 25 when I set sail, her book spoke to me more than the accounts of much older cruisers.


Grenada sculpture

Diving has been one of the sports the couple have enjoyed on their voyage. Here Kit admires a sculpture on the sea bed of Grenada. photo Alex Francis


What are your plans for when you get back home and do you have any exciting adventures and challenges you’re thinking about setting yourself for the future?


Having established myself as a freelance writer, I can now work anywhere in the world and so this voyage certainly won’t be the last foreign adventure! Next we’re planning to spend four months living in Austria where we’ll work and ski before returning to the boat and planning our next voyage, possibly to Scandinavia.


We don’t have a home in the UK and renting is so expensive that we thought we may as well rent in places where we can indulge our loves of sports like mountaineering, skiing, rock climbing and mountain biking. So I’m sure after Austria and perhaps another voyage on the boat, we will find ourselves living in other places with inspiring landscapes.


I’m currently working on a creative travel book about this voyage and hope to complete it by early 2017, so that’ll certainly keep me busy after we arrive back in the UK in a month or two. Then I’ll be finishing it from Austria’s snowy mountains and will have to remember what it felt like in the savage heat of the Bahamas!


To find out more about Kitiara and to hire her for writing purposes visit www.theliterarylifeboat.com.

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