Melissa

I was never going to cook for a living, it just happened like that.  Nick reckons every meal that I cook is better than eating in a restaurant. It could be cheese and crackers or tomatoes on toast, the kind of proud exaggeration that Nick specializes in. It’s not that the food is particularly fantastic, sometimes green vegetables come from a can, it is more than that. It is the satisfaction of coming together as a family and the whirlwind that sometimes surrounds the table with the kids’ banter and laughter. That’s how we shape our days and how they influence our lifestyle.
As kids we were far flung. We lived in almost every state of Australia and spent a few years in Papua New Guinea. My greatest memories come from our time spent in PNG in the early 80’s. We spent most weekends at either the Car club or the golf course where all the expats gathered in the same social circles. We had 2 dogs, Ginger, who was a mutt that we saved from starvation chained under somebody’s house, and Chloe, a Doberman who was trained in the art of housekeeping. She didn’t bark, only when she felt the family under threat, did she bare her teeth. We discovered a rather pale looking thief cowering in our bathroom one morning with Chloe bearing her teeth each time he tried to open the door a fraction!  They were our loyal subjects and for my brother and I, the fondest memories of Moresby.
When my parents divorced, mum, Paul and I went to live in Adelaide close to my father’s family, who were (and still are) an amazing supportive shoulder for us all. I was very happy to be staying in one place for a while and enjoyed making some of the greatest friendships of my life. I loved my school and life was pretty rosy. There were ups and downs of course, nothing comes for granted and mum had to work very hard to maintain our private school payments. But that era shaped the person I became.
After school, in ‘92 I once again started travelling. This time my boyfriend and I started in London with 200 pounds in our pockets. We worked our way through a few pubs and restaurants and had a damned fine time discovering Europe by backpack.  On our way home, we spent 3 months travelling through India, Kashmir and Nepal. Some amazing sights and experiences I’ll never forget. And then it was about time to begin my studies at the age of 21, in Melbourne at RMIT , Degree in Hotel Management, with Spanish language on the side.  That was a blast. My boyfriend decided to work rather than study and blasted into his career, leaving me trailing behind with unremitting itchy feet.
So, off again I took, and haven’t looked back since  (that was 1997). I had planned a year of learning Spanish in Mallorca, but met  Nick and my whole world turned upside down. The rest is history. I had a tattoo done on my back at the time of whirlwind romance that I didn’t want to end. It never has and we just recently had another one done each after 15 years down the track.
After a few years working on board Wild B, we started building Solaia in 1998, a 40m displacement motor boat, in Holland. It was in a quaint little eel smoking village of Monnickendam about 25 km outside Amsterdam. It was hard living so close to Amsterdam. NOT. An amazing lively city with so much to offer. We absolutely loved it there, and I enjoyed finding my feet amongst staff at certain high end establishments. I spent 2 years in and out of different restaurants to learn the art of cooking, only to learn that it is all within. That’s when I started working at Mario’s for nothing mind you, just the mere privilege of being able to watch over and absorb some of the amazing heart felt work that goes into each and every dish they produce. I loved every hard working moment. I was also overseeing the interior of Solaia, ensuring every dish and piece of crystal was chosen for perfection…it wasn’t hard spending somebody else’s money! Solaia was launched in 2001 amongst the ice of the frozen canal and Nick and I ran her with 8 crew without a hitch for the next 5 years, based out of Antibes, South of France and travelling through the Med, Caribbean and Batlic seas. Then there was Christmas in Gstaad looking after the bosses  guests in his chalet, skiing and walking the dogs!  It was a blast, some of the hardest working and fun years of my life. In 2006 I fell pregnant with Benjamin and we decided to leave Solaia and so the boss decided to sell her in lieu of finding another couple after our 11 year stint with him.
That’s when we began living our dream. We used to have a poster of a Lagoon 440 catamaran stuck to the wall of our cabin on Solaia, keeping us on our toes. I never thought the day would come. Now she is well and truly our home, and has been since 2007, and we haven’t looked back.

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