The Broadcast / Homecoming


After leaving friends and family and the waves of West Wales behind, Dr. Lou Luddington and husband Tom set sail in search of their dream liveaboard life. But soon, the call of home grew loud. We join Lou & Tom as they pack up Noctiluca for the last time, returning home to the welcome pull of Pembrokeshire shores.

If you missed it, you can catch up on their story here.


4 min read

Words & images by Dr. Lou Luddington

Home – a word that conjures so many emotions – can be more of a feeling than a geographical place. For a time, home was our sailing boat Noctiluca. But a deeper sense of home called to us from Pembrokeshire shores. A connection to family, friends and community tugged at our hearts and drew us back across the Atlantic, this time by air.

Once we put Noctiluca up for sale we busied ourselves with maintenance and cleaning, clearing out cupboards, selling possessions we couldn’t carry back – folding bikes, tools, Tom’s keyboard, surfboards, books. It was a pretty daunting task and a lesson in letting go of material things. We resigned ourselves to replacing many items on our return home. The new owners Adrian and Lena arrived by serendipity; friends of some liveaboard friends who were crewing aboard a catamaran and loosely looking for their own boat. Once they saw Noctiluca their hearts were smitten (she has that effect) and it wasn't long before we were toasting the exchange. Over the following month we became friends whilst teaching them the ways of living and sailing Noctiluca. It was a bittersweet time – the wind down for us, and the first steps in a huge, sparkly adventure for them.


On our final day at anchor I tried to be present with all my actions, savouring the delights of liveaboard life. The last swim from the boat, pulling down the anchor chain to the seabed below and being surrounded by horse-eye jacks (we called them nipple fish after one rogue fish chomped on Tom’s bare nipple), the quiet joy of breath-holding while gliding over swaying meadows of seagrass and making eye contact with fishes, immersive days of swimming freely and often – all epitomised the dream for me; then lifting anchor and sailing the final passage to the marina through glazed eyes and the realisation that in a few days life would be forever changed.

Arriving at the marina we eased into a berth and I hopped off to secure our mooring lines to the pontoon. Climbing back aboard I reversed down the companionway steps as I’d done so many times before, then turned the key and silenced the engine for the last time, “Night night, Noctiluca”. This final act cracked me open, and made me sob with a deep emotion that felt like grief. Our adventures together were over.

The next few days were a blur. With our flight home scheduled, the pressure was on to make the final arrangements for Noctiluca and organise our remaining mountain of things into bags. We bought four large wheely suitcases and filled them with ease, soon finding out we were overweight and out of space. We have always been terrible at travelling light. Hours of juggling ensued until finally it was done. Lifting the last bag onto the dock I climbed down over the bow and stood to face Noctiluca. Farewell, beautiful lady – what a ride! Drifting along the pontoon, dazed and exhausted, I kept eyes forward until she was out of sight; composing myself, I surrendered to the journey ahead, to the next life chapter.

“These great uprooting adventures are fantastical and powerful and deeply unsettling. They mould and change you, add a richness to life that nestles inside as a precious warmth in the chest.”



Our homecoming was a glorious whirlwind of settling in and socialising. At times seeing folk for the first time in three years was overwhelming; to see their eyes light up followed by firm, lingering hugs, then tears or whoops was truly humbling. Any doubts about the decision to draw a line under our liveaboard chapter were deluged by a dazzling upwelling of love. Yet when our thoughts turn to the ocean we do miss Noctiluca. Despite all the trials and challenges she threw at us, she was home for a time, kept us safe and granted us some of the most memorable years and profound experiences of our lives. I am grateful for all the lessons she taught us, the pain and the joy, the fear and elation. You changed us, dear boat, and we love you for that. When I think about her now it is with deep affection and a swelling feeling in my chest. I don’t pine for our liveaboard-life, but I feel grateful and privileged that we made those three years happen, living by the sway of the ocean.

The return to cold water surfing at home breaks has been joyous. Driving to the beach, to familiar views, the sharp nip of frost in the nostrils, glowing cheeks and a pounding heart from a stiff paddle out through whitewater followed by a settling of sit bones onto fibreglass and foam to await the next set. Those first afternoon surfs in the low December sun were golden. Hearing robin song and jackdaw chatter, catching sight of a blackbird diving into a hedge, or crouching on the shore at low tide greeting limpets like old friends among the citrus tang of seaweeds, I was home.

Settling back into our community has been humbling too. We were welcomed with such warmth by our family and friends and strangers in the street who had followed our journey and wanted to share their admiration and gratitude for the inspiration. In early February we hosted an evening talk and slide show about our journey, drawing a crowd that filled the venue so completely that folk spilled from the edges of the room and stood in rows at the back for the entire evening. It was an emotional celebration that stirred me to the core and set me swooping again, the wild ride flowing on.

These great uprooting adventures are fantastical and powerful and deeply unsettling. They mould and change you, add a richness to life that nestles inside as a precious warmth in the chest. Yet how to proceed with this contrasting life, the one that I chose instead? Adventure or stay at home it doesn’t matter which we choose, only that we remind ourselves to live with joy and love and kindness because it's true what Tom says:

“Wherever we go, there we are …”




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