The flame was lit almost 15 years ago when we met in Cannes, working aboard a motor yacht doing the Classic Med – Caribbean milk run.
RAROIA ATOLL IN THE TUAMOTUS, FRENCH POLYNESIA
I think the conversation went along the lines of: “Wouldn’t it be great if we had our own boat one day and went to all the amazing places these boats never go to?”
Fast forward ten years, we were living in South Africa with two small kids and Tim working a rotational job as Captain on a superyacht. The embers of our dream were still smoking in the grate when we had a serious discussion one night, where we weighed up the options of setting off in two years or waiting until our kids were out of school. Neither of us wanted to wait, so we started looking at boats for sale that same night. The fire was truly roaring now. We devoted every spare minute to researching different boats. When we came across the Discovery 55ʼ it was an instant – This is the one! – moment.
GIN CLEAR WATERS MAKES UNDERWATER EXPLORATION SO MUCH MORE REWARDING
She ticked all the boxes on our list, she really is a true bluewater cruiser and we have never regretted our decision. With the help of Alan McIlroy at Berthon, who was by our side throughout our purchasing journey, we finally sealed the deal in August 2020 and after a short yard period we started our circumnavigation from Lymington in December.
With the world upside down at the time, the ocean felt like the perfect place to be. The children were 2 and 4 when we set sail and adapted to their new life with the greatest ease. We weren’t that far behind and after tackling the Atlantic Ocean, with just the two of us as watchkeepers, we felt a great sense of accomplishment after 18 days at sea. We promptly celebrated with a few Dark and Stormies in Antigua̓s English Harbour. We decided to skip the islands we had frequented in a previous life and instead visited ones that were new to us. The highlights were the wild, volcanic Dominica followed by Bonaire in the ABC island group where we spent the hurricane season exploring every reef on the island.
THE ULTIMATE REWARD AT THE END OF THE DAY
SEARCHING FOR PEARLS
So, by now you might be wondering how do we afford to cruise and not work? It wouldn’t be fair to paint this pretty picture, without showing the other side of the coin. Every 8-10 weeks Tim returns to his ‘work boat’ to pay for this wonderful lifestyle we are so fortunate to enjoy. During that time the rest of us are based in a safe harbour and spend our time homeschooling, doing boat maintenance and of course getting to know the locals and our surroundings.
This means we need to be very flexible with our itinerary and sometimes stay in one place a bit longer than most other cruising boats, but for us it has been a nice balance of sailing and land life. The children have flourished in their time onboard, going from non-swimmers to fish underwater in the first year. Experiencing this life through their eyes is one of the greatest joys of the journey – they are interested in the smallest details as well as the whales and sharks that we are drawn to.
ANCHORED IN ANTIGUA
GALAPAGOS SEA LIONS
When the seas get rough, they pretend they are on a rollercoaster and whenever we are in a marina for too long, they ask us: “When will we be going on our next crossing?”
From the Caribbean, we continued to Panama where we transited the canal after spending time in the San Blas islands and Bocas del Toro. We sailed to Costa Rica and then on to the Galapagos – what a magical place! The kids saw first-hand all the wildlife they had been reading about and watching on Planet Earth and we got the chance to dive with hammerhead sharks and giant Galapagos sea turtles.
DOWNWIND DREAM ON THE ATLANTIC CROSSING
HANGING OUT IN SAN BLAS, PANAMA
From Galapagos we tackled our next major ocean crossing, The Pacific. We made it to Nuku Hiva, Marquesas in 17 days. Our first sight of the lush green mountains and an escort of 5 or 6 manta rays at the entrance to the bay was a special moment for us all.
FORAGING FOR COCONUTS
SALTY FINCH IN HER HAPPY PLACE
The most common question we get asked is: ʻWhat has been your favourite destination?ʼ
There are so many places we have visited that have been out of this world, but the standout winner has to be the Tuamoto archipelago in French Polynesia. There are over 70 coral atolls of which some are accessible via a narrow pass in the fringe reef. Once inside the lagoon you are immediately transported to a tranquil, turquoise pool of water that is so clear you can see every fish underwater. We had our pick of deserted beaches lined with palm trees dripping with coconuts. Our only dilemma was whether the next beach might be better?
NUKU HIVA, MARQUESAS
THE DUKE’S NOSE IN WHANGAROA HARBOUR, NEW ZEALAND
We loved being able to anchor close to shore and the kids having the freedom to explore without any of us having a worry in the world. We didn’t see another boat or person for a week and were living completely off-grid. Our only companions were reef sharks and eagles rays and the glorious night sky.
It has been times like this that have made us think: “Is there anything better than seeing the world in your own time and having your family along for the ride to be able to experience it all?” This for us is what makes all the other sacrifices worthwhile. Yes, it is hard work and yes things on boats have a habit of breaking a lot more than in a house and seem to cost 3 times the price, but it is without doubt the best decision we ever made.
Our original plan was to circumnavigate in 3 years, ending up back at Berthon to sell the boat, buy a house and live a ‘normal’ life. We are not far from 3 years now and we are only halfway in New Zealand, but we are clearly not done exploring yet and certainly not ready to live a normal life.
SEA LION TAKING HIS MORNING NAP IN SAN CRISTÓBAL ISLAND, GALAPAGOS