Sailing around the world in our own yacht.
It all started when my father was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 1978. A few months later and after an operation to remove part of his bowel, it had spread to his liver. Back then, they didn’t do transplants, so after chemo and a lot of suffering he died in 1979 at the age 68. He had been a hard worker all his life, had emigrated to Australia in 1952 from Wartorn Europe and had retired just a year before.
It was then Don (my husband) said, he wanted us to retire early and enjoy our life before something like that happened. So plans to make ourselves financially secure were put into action through hard work and planning.
It was about 7 or 8 years later he started talking about going cruising in a sailboat when we did retire. He’d been a dinghy sailor with our son, but wanted to plan to buy/build a keel yacht. I was not keen, especially after he told me of all the bad things like storms and the things that could go wrong. He never was a good salesman. I was also very involved in work and loved what I was doing. He felt that seeing the world whilst having your home with you was the way to do it. I, on the other hand, had always wanted to tour through Europe in a campervan for 6 months or so. So there was definitely some conflict.
However, he eventually won me over and we bought a secondhand yacht and planned to go to the Whitsundays for our Long Service Leave for approximately 3 months in 1988. We didn’t understand yet, that to go to sea in a yacht requires equipment and preparation of the yacht that takes serious money. And then the yacht would still not be the right one. So with some more financial planning (on my part) it was decided to do it right; sell this one and build the right yacht.
So after 4 years of having the hull built and brought back to Sydney for fitting out by us, S V “Sir Swagman” was launched in 1992. The kids were all brought up and our youngest had just married. So in the first year we went to the Whitsundays and back and had decided that if all the alterations we had to do to make it “just right”, were right, we would cross to New Zealand from Hobart, Tasmania with some newfound international friends.
It was “just right” and 1994 was spent sailing from Hobart to New Zealand, thence onto Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia before returning to Brisbane at the end of the season. We had to go back to Sydney by car to paint one of our two rental properties which kept us in food etc. Don by this stage said he might like to do the Whitsundays once or twice more, invite some friends, and then put the boat on the market. I said “What? We didn’t do all that work for just a couple of years, I haven’t had my money’s worth yet!!!”
And so it went. After painting the rental property, back to the boat in Brisbane, and work, work, work to prepare for another ocean crossing in the Darwin to Ambon Cruising division race to Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and finally to be in Phuket for Christmas. We spent an additional season in S E Asia where with a whole lot of other yachts, we became part of the community of Kampung Baru, up in the Lumut River in Malaysia. We were all invited to a local Muslim wedding.
We left Phuket at the end of 1996, on New Year’s Eve to cross the Indian Ocean to Sri Lanka, The Maldives, on to Oman, then Yemen where we stopped at Al Mukalla and a couple of days later at Aden before venturing up the Red Sea. We were also sailing in company with good friends John and Ros of “Tarka IV”.
The places we stopped at in the Red Sea were Eritrea, still war torn and rather sad, Suakin in Sudan a town which was one of the last places where slave trading was carried out, then on to Safaga in Egypt where we hopped on a local bus to go to Luxor for a couple of days. The way we saw the places through the Red Sea could really only be done by doing it this way, by yacht. We arrived in Israel at the end of April 1997.
We spent three years in the Mediterranean and wintered in places such as Turkey and Barcelona, where in both places we became part of the local community, they practicing their English on us and us practicing our Spanish on them. Whilst in Europe we also bought a very small campervan and travelled throughout Europe. We went as far north as the Arctic Circle into Lapland, as far west as Ireland and as far east as the Czech Republic. All in all about 24,000 kilometres. We’d bought the van from a yachtie, owned it for a year and then sold it on to another yachtie. So I also got my wish of touring through Europe in a Campervan.
We crossed the Atlantic in the year 2000 and spent Christmas and New Year in Martinique with about 50 other yachts. A beautiful place to visit. We even spent some time in Trinidad experiencing Carnivaale.
Then the Pacific, but we first had to go through the Panama Canal. We then sailed on to the Galapagos Islands, a veritable paradise. We spent 2 to 3 weeks there.
The longest passage was to come. 21 days at sea to reach French Polynesia . Such places as the Marqueses, Tuamotos, Tahiti and Bora Bora, before setting out again for Samoa. It all went well with good winds and comfortable sailing.
We finished our Circumnavigation in Savu Savu, Fiji on August 19th 2001 (our 40th wedding anniversary) where we had gone in our second year of cruising. After that it was a rush to get home as our daughter needed us. She was giving birth to her third child and not having been around much for the other two, I was determined that this one was going to be mine. And he is. We still have a great relationship.
We slid into Pittwater with the sunrise casting a shimmering golden reflection across our wake. We motored up to Towlers Bay on a beautiful spring day in October 2001. And that ended a wonderful period of our lives together.
People often ask us; where was the most beautiful place? That’s really hard to answer. Every place has it’s beauty and excitement. Some of the highlights are listed below:
- Sailing into Venice and staying right in the middle to see this wonderful city.
- The camaraderie of the yachting community.
- The fishing and having beautiful fish in the freezer all the time.
- Going up the Red Sea, through the Suez Canal and later through the Panama Canal.
- Wintering in Barcelona and being part of the community there.
- Whilst crossing the Indian Ocean we had a bit of a mishap which had to be fixed in mid-ocean. We were basically drifting whilst we were doing the repairs up on deck and all of a sudden we noticed three pilot whales, heads out of the water, just sitting there, no more than 10 feet away, watching us. It was just magic. So we stopped working and watched them.
- Staying in SE Asia for a couple of years.
- Campervanning around Europe.
I could go on and on. There are a thousand stories.
Since arriving back in Australia, we’ve seen a bit here too. After selling the boat, we bought a Toyota 4WD and decked it out for outback travel. We’ve crossed the Simpson Desert 3 times, once following the track that Madigan travelled with a camel train in 1939. There were few tracks there and we navigated purely by GPS. We’ve also gone around Australia crossing to WA via the Anne Beaddell Highway (a two wheel track for most of the way). However there’s a lot more to see.
So now we’ve explored The United States. Last year we bought a 35ft Winnebago with a little Hyundai trailing behind. We’ve explored Western North America which takes in the beautiful spots of Canada and after 4 and a half months left it with a yachty friend at their property in San Diego. This year, in fact 1st May we are returning to explore the East Coast.
We may take it a little easier after this year, but then again, who knows what might turn up.
The Lunch March 2014 with Gera and Don