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The Family We Choose

As we face up to a Christmas unlike any other, we’re reminded that everyone does it differently – so we’ve been checking in with our community to see what the holiday means to them.
With two distinct versions of a family Christmas, we caught up with Tidal Compass founder Will Thompson and his partner Naomi, as well as Finisterre’s very own Luke and Yehya (a.k.a "Y") – exploring what this festive holiday means to them after a turbulent year. 


Finisterre employees Luke and Y sharing smiles and piggy backs at the beach

What does Christmas and this time of year mean to you, your family, friends and loved ones?


The only downside of living in Cornwall is the miles between us and our friends and family. Luke’s family live on an island and most of Y’s family live three and a half thousand miles away! As cheesy as it is, Christmas is one of the few times a year when we all get to come together; eat far too much, play silly games, go for long walks and reconnect. It’s the time when you put all those worries and the stresses of daily routines to rest for a few weeks and wallow in the comfort, joy, and sense of grounding that spending time with loved ones brings.


This Christmas in particular is going to be extra special because we’re heading back to Deal, where we lived before moving aboard our boat ‘Luna’, to stay with family and catch up with old friends. The last few months have been challenging; locked down in Weymouth Harbour, where the only person we knew was the engineer who fixed our engine! Christmas is going to break that up wonderfully by giving us time with friends and family - especially as we’re sailing south in the spring and anticipate being away for several years.


The Thompsons sharing smiles at the boatyard they currently call home

Submariner Roll Neck Fisherman's Jumper Submariner Roll Neck Fisherman's Jumper

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Ray Cord Dungarees Ray Cord Dungarees

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Crozier Funnel Neck Jumper Crozier Funnel Neck Jumper

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Is there anything different to the ‘normal’ Christmas set-up that you celebrate or make time for?


The Thomson family Christmas is run like a military operation, a result of almost all the men for the past hundred years having been in the army or navy. Stockings are laid out on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day starts with a stealthy pre-dawn feast of chocolate coins. Our Thomson sub-clan then opt for the beach and some cold-water sea swimming, before converging at my parents’ home, to open the Prosecco and smoked salmon. While being fed and fuelled, presents are handed out, one at a time. It’s all very formal, but refreshingly different from our rugged boat life; there is a comfort in the ritual and I enjoy savouring each gift.


We typically don’t buy each other presents at Christmas – that’s not what it’s about for us. As we both mature, we’re growing increasingly uncomfortable with the mentality of buying something just for the sake of it. So instead, we much prefer to make considered purchases when we absolutely need to, or if one of us has worked really hard and saved up for something specific. The reality is that everything we buy or consume has an impact on the environment eventually, so when we do buy something for ourselves (or one another) we make sure that it’s going to be with us for a long, long time.


Split image of Luke & Y laughing wearing Finisterre jackets by the coast

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Men's Stormbird Waterproof Jacket Men's Stormbird Waterproof Jacket

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At this time of giving and receiving, what does the ocean give to you and do you give back to it?


The sea has always been a part of us. We have both always felt it’s pull, calling out to us. I don’t think either of us could ever really put in to words what the sea does for us, all we can aim to do is return the favour whenever the opportunity arises. To pick up that plastic bottle buried in the sand, to work for a business that puts the environment before profits, and to support the people and communities who are working hard to protect our oceans.


My life today revolves around a perpetual cycle; the sea fuels the adventure, that inspires my work, that funds the adventure. It’s taken years of planning and preparation to get to this point, but it means that we can live on our boat and cruise the world indefinitely. To get this balance the plan is to work three days a week, sail three days a week and then have a day of rest. While the ocean gives us this fascinating lifestyle, I hope my work gives back by sharing knowledge of tides so that others can increase their understanding of the sea, boosting safety and performance.


Family live-aboards the Thompsons wearing Finisterre knitwear

What learnings has this strange year brought about already?


This year has been about getting Luna ready and learning her ways. When we moved aboard in May she was in a boatyard, a complete wreck. Over five months we replaced practically everything and in doing so learnt the boat inside out. Naomi had never been on a yacht before, and I have only sailed boats this size a handful of times, so we’ve relied on my dinghy sailing experience and three years of intensively reading sailing books and navigation manuals every night. We were careful in choosing the days we sailed and I planned the passages thoroughly, carefully studying the tides, winds and currents. Taking the plunge in this way gave us the invaluable lesson of eliminating any doubt in our abilities, giving us the confidence to go into 2021 with big plans.


As a pair we have a tendency to always be trying to work out our next steps. Our time together has never been settled and we live a somewhat unconventional life. Seeing the rest of the world going through the same sense of uncertainty that we always experience has reminded us to appreciate that you can’t always plan your next steps. And that’s OK! Emerging from ‘Lockdown 2.0’ it would be very easy for us all to resume our hectic lives, but hopefully we can remind ourselves of this time; when our days were stripped back and we filled our endless hours with whatever our hearts were hungry for.

Man wearing the Finisterre stormbird jacket and drift backpack walks over a rocky shoreline 

What’s your relationship with the sea this time of year?


We’re both big babies when it comes to the sea at this time of year! We’re both typically found in a Nieuwland 4mm all through the summer, so September is the cut-off point when we hang up our wetsuits for the season and reach for knitwear and merino instead. What we do love to do though, is get bundled up and head down to watch the wild winter storms; an extraordinary force that gives life a little perspective. The raw power of the ocean can really take your breath away; and with it, all the crap you’ve been holding in.


I try to adapt my adventures to suit both the location and time of year. Where we have been locked down in Weymouth, a huge bay extends from the Isle of Portland around to Lulworth Cove in the east. This is perfect for sea swimming, so Naomi and I have been alternating sessions while the kids run around on the beach. Occasionally a big winter swell will wrap around Portland. To make the most of this I have started running a couple of miles along the beach in my wetsuit, with a handplane in one hand and fins in the other. The kit is perfect for this type of mobile adventure and the further I run around the bay, the bigger the waves get.


Words by Will Thompson, and Luke Barnes & Yehya Al-Hafidh
Images by Will ThompsonYehya Al-Hafidh


K Spellman

Your message of inclusion resonates for me personally and while I continue to shop Finisterre based on a shared ethical and environmental mindful approach to living, this message speaks volumes about the heart of the company. Thank you for adding your voice to a more accepting world.

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