It all started after a sailing holiday in Croatia, late October 2013. A little taste of cruising life, and what it could be like. We flew back into Heathrow airport and as we circled over London, both Seathan and I questioned what we were getting back to. The daily grind. The long hours in the office. The mortgage payments. The private school fees we were considering. The next step on the career ladder. What was the point of it all? We hardly spent time as a family, the kids were growing up so fast. At four and nine years old, they were the perfect age to take sailing. We had several sailing holidays since they were little, but now it somehow all made perfect sense.
London is a great city – still my favourite city in the world – but, we were ready to kick it all into touch. We put our house on the market and started planning our escape. Four months later, I quit my job, Seathan wrapped up his business and planning was in full progress. It was hard finding the right boat. Seathan flew to Holland and France. We loved the Nordia 55, but felt it might be a bit big to handle on our own. We started looking at cats and liked the idea of the extra space, the shallow draft and the all-round comfortability. Not many catamarans are built for proper offshore sailing, so in the end we felt the only choice was between the Catana 521 and the Antares PDQ 44. The Catana felt too big and the decision was made. There was a three-year waiting list for a new Antares but there were two good second hand options available, one was located in Turkey.
We went to see it and liked it. It was the right boat for us. The last one built in Canada, beautifully finished woodwork inside, solid fixtures and fittings everywhere. She was well looked after by the previous owner who completed his circumnavigation, but she had been sitting on the hard for quite a while, so when we finally moved onboard in June 2014, there was a bit of work to be done to get her ready. We renamed her ‘Rehua’ after a Polynesian god, healer and protecter. The Pacific, after all, was our dream destination.
The last few months in London were hectic, to say the least. Trying to sell and get rid of stuff in a short time frame was tough, so we ended up putting quite a bit into storage. There were many farewell parties, barbecues and dinners. Saying goodbye is never easy but we were so excited and thrilled to be starting our crazy wonderful adventure and couldn’t wait to get going.
So here we are, four years later. How our lives have changed. To go sailing was the best decision we ever took, no doubt about that. We’ve seen so many amazing countries, experienced so many different cultures, met so many wonderful people. And we did it all together, as a family. It’s a pretty amazing experience. Yes, I miss my family and friends and I’m dying to meet my niece who is 18 months already. But leaving the boat behind or arranging a rendez-vous on the other side of the world isn’t that straightforward. And although it doesn’t fully compensate for that absence, the cruising community is truly amazing. The kids have made many friends along the way. We’ve met other families doing the same thing as us, older couples – who love adopting the kids for a bit, as they usually miss their own grandchildren, young couples who want to see the world before they settle down, single handers out to explore the world or start a new life. It’s a wonderful bunch.
It hasn’t always been easy, there’s been rough weather and flat calms, frustrating weeks doing boat maintenance or waiting for critical new parts to arrive. Scary moments when we experienced a huge storm sailing from Gibraltar to the Canaries. And another one when we sailed from New Zealand to Fiji. But these moments are easily compensated by all the magic. And we don’t want it to end yet. Our three-year circumnavigation plan has long gone out of the window and we are now looking at how long we can stretch this adventure. We might stop and work somewhere for a few months while living onboard and then keep going. There is still so much to explore.
Tyrii summed it up beautifully when he – as we were eyeball navigating our way through the lagoon in Raroia in the Tuamotus – stated: “The world is full of amazing places, all you have to do is get out there and find them.” He was 10 years old at the time and I was so proud of him.