So where did this wild plan to leave the comfort of our nice suburban house in Adelaide, Australia and the security of my job to take my family sailing half way around the world come from anyway?
It all began when we were having a 10 day holiday on Plantation Island in Fiji. You know the type, where you save all year to get two weeks off work, so you can madly fly overseas to get presented with a shell necklace at the airport arrival, transfer to some small island, do touristy things for a week and then fly back with stubs of meal tickets and a memory card full of snaps. Yeah … that was us. Don’t get me wrong, I loved our holiday in Fiji - eating sweet fresh fruits, reclining by the pool, walks along the beach, watching the sun set behind a line of yachts neatly anchored just off the shore. Every night these millionaire yachties would come ashore in their dinghies to enjoy a few drinks and sometimes a meal at sunset. I was intrigued and one day as I was wandering along the jetty, I saw one of the yachts tied up. On the deck was an older gentleman going about his business. Having nothing better to do right at that moment in time I wandered over and struck up a conversation which went something like this:
“Hello - Nice yacht”
“Have you been here long?
“Not too long … been here about 5 weeks now”
“Wow that’s a nice break … Where are you from” < my 10 days was sounding pretty poor about now>
“We sailed up from New Zealand”
“New Zealand, all the way here!! ? Just the two of you? How long did that take?”
“Yep, just my wife and I. It took about 10 days this time”
“Wow … how long are you are here for?” <my head was spinning now>
“Hmm - not sure, we’ll probably stay here for another couple of weeks. There’s a cruising regatta in New Caledonia in two months time, so we’ll head up that way and might meet up with some friends there – would you like to come aboard and have a look around son?”
I went aboard and was shown around this gentleman’s yacht. As I went below, I was introduced to his wife who was sitting quietly in a corner knitting something for someone. Looking around I saw a quaint home hidden below deck, appointed with all the creature comforts that this couple needed for living. I was amazed. I chatted to them for near on an hour as my wife pacing the jetty and surrounds, wondering where I’d disappeared to. I was entranced.
I had a hundred questions and each question I asked resulted in me finding at least another ten questions. The couple were wonderful hosts and patiently answered all my questions. When the conversation politely turned to their “millions” it went something like this:
“Excuse me for asking, but you must be pretty well off to afford to own a yacht”
With a smile that belied the fact he’d probably been asked this question many times before he said
“Truthfully - we’re retired and we’ve sold our home to come sailing. Once we’re finished sailing we’ll sell the yacht and buy another home. Living aboard a yacht is cheaper than living on land. Most places we go, we sail and the wind is free. Sure we pay for a little diesel and upkeep but as for living expenses, the most expensive thing we buy is vegetables – and we try to catch most of the fish ourselves”
My head was spinning as I left that couple. When I found Cheryl I tried to tell her of this incredible couple who must have been in their 80’s and who had sailed up from New Zealand and were going to sail to New Caledonia and who had all the time in the world and on I went like a child who has just seen Father Christmas for the first time. She smiled, knowing it was just another of my dreams. How wonderful it would be if we could ever do something like that.
That night I dreamt of what it would be like to escape the 9-5 and enjoy a life not ruled by deadlines and timeframes. To slow life down to the pace where you can appreciate the little moments that make the lasting memories. A time and place where I can sit and enjoy the sunsets and the simple pleasures of life.
Over the years this dream stayed with me. Rarely at the front of my thoughts, but more often coming to visit when I was working away, alone, in some remote corner of Australia or at the end of a long day. I dreamed of what it would be like to spend my days with my wife and two children, enjoying new adventures and spending quality time together. Making memories that would be cherished for a lifetime.
At one time I searched the web for stories of cruising families, as they were known, just to see what they did and how they did it. One day I came across a picture of a mother and daughter entitled “Lovin the sunsets”. It was a simple picture, but it drew me in. It was just a picture of mother and a daughter sitting watching the sun set from the deck of their yacht. It wasn’t anything special, but the life that was contained inside of the photo kept me thinking and weighing up my life and my family times. I looked at that photo for hours that day, and have kept it ever since. How many times I desired for that to be me in the picture, with my children, loving the sunset.