Scout Around The World

Our journey from buying a trimaran in France and the voyage and adventure sailing her back to Australia


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Sines to Gibraltar and those fishing pots

The plan was to depart at a time, that with our calculations would have us arrive at the straits at dawn. We didn’t want to miss or to contemplate it in the dark. Sines had a customs department so we were able to check out of the Schengen zone as we were heading to non Schengen Gibraltar. This would help us to preserve the 90 days that as Australians we are limited to in Europe. Gibraltar is a big hang out for non Europeans who are also trying to be compliant with the rules. If you would like to read more about our restrictions here is a link to our previous post on it. So we would have 2 days sailing and perhaps 3 days in Gibraltar and perhaps another 2 days sail until in Spain again. At this point we have to be in Greece by the 1st June but now we could push it back another week.

11 am was departure. The early afternoon began with next to no breeze. Although we were motoring it was lovely to be out in the still glassy sea. No swell, a dead flat sunny day. By 3 pm we were sailing in what I would describe perfect conditions. Full sails out and and 9 to 10 breeze abeam us and we comfortably doing 8 knots. It was magical this is what we were here for. Mike was in his element. He was supposed to be resting but couldn’t help himself but be out at the helm sailing. He really enjoyed the afternoon wanting to constantly trim the sails to learn more about Scout and how she responds. It was our most delightful afternoon so far and at this rate we would be at Gibraltar way before our planned time. It was calculated on an average of 5.5 knots because of the light winds forecasted on our nose and we thought we were going to have to motor a lot.

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So, just over a month into this sailing life and I am loving it. Apart from the obvious traveling aspects, visiting different cities, the food, speaking and understanding different languages, what I am loving the most is getting there by sail and learning a new skill. I have always loved numbers, procedures and maps and even though I knew would love the obvious wind in my hair analogy, what I have really loved more than I thought I would, is increasing my understanding of wind angles, bearings and headings, the difference between true and apparent wind speed and I love keeping a log. Every hour calculating averages- speed and remaining distance and logging our position in relationship to the rest of the world. This is our little world on this boat and it is like we exist completely independent of everything else but I love plotting and searching our location in relationship to it.

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Cabo Sao Vincente. Sth Western point of Portugal

That evening we made it to the point of Cabo Sao Vincente, the south western point of Portugal where we start turning east towards the Straits of Gibraltar and the Med. We had to go around 2 headlands to get on this heading and the first one we arrived at just on sunset. A beautiful majestic large lighthouse at this headland had just turned on its light as we approached. The sun was setting to our right  as we made our way around the cape. I love the slow anticipated rounding of headlands, even this one as it was becoming dark. As soon we turned, lined up on our next heading, we could see the second headland and there was the full moon just rising over it. It was breathtaking!  My night shift started and the wind had dropped. We dropped the sails and we became (what we fondly call it) motor vessel Scout. For the next 90 minutes I motored directly into its path. The moon straight ahead rising. It’s lit path across the glassy sea became my path to travel along. A memorable moment!

Well it’s is such a shame that that path of light turned away from me as I changed course an hour later because shortly after, in the dark, that tranquility and pleasure subsided….We hit a net or fishing pot at 22.30. What a fright. A loud crash and then a sickening noise from the engine as the prop churned with something wrapped around it. There was also a loud banging as the float attached to it, was hitting the hull. Immediately Mike turned off the engine, tried it in reverse but no luck. We just couldn’t free or see it underneath. No wind, no engine, not much choice but to sit there and drift for the night and wait until daybreak- 8 hours. As a positive there was no wind, no current, no drift, calm seas and we were only 3 NM from shore. I had always wanted to go to Lagos and here we were bobbing off the coast. We may even yet have had to pull in there for repairs. We had no idea what to expect. There was a full moon to light outside and the pretty lights to light up the coast. Mike and I just took turns sleeping and lit the boat up like a Christmas tree so no one could run into us. It was a long, very gently rocking calm still night.

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Us drifting- black boat in the centre. Fortunately not too far off our intended black path

At dawn Mike braved the cold water and dived under with his knife to cut free the rope and float from a fishing net. I was so proud of him. Not because I think others would not do. It was because I don’t think I could do it. 10 mins later we were on way again. 8 hours behind our schedule we decided to use the motor more than we had planned to and set course for the rest of the way at an anticipated 7 knots average.

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The culprit. What Mike cut off the propellor.

We did it. The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful. I became completely paranoid about fishing nets and pots and eyes were peeled for the rest of the trip. Portugal- we loved your seafood but ahh those nets! Well it was just another challenge and obstacle to overcome.

Mike awoke me from my sleep on the Thursday morning at the start of the Straits of Gibraltar. We had both been looking forward to it and he didn’t want me to miss it. The sea was choppy like bath water with currents escaping so unevenly from this narrow channel of water between two large land masses. There wasn’t as much ship traffic as I had anticipated but there was certainly one of the largest freighters I had ever seen with containers stacked about 6 high on the deck. Didn’t look too stable to me if it encountered rough seas. On our right was Africa and to our left Europe. Both continents so close. At its narrowest it is only 14 kms. The view was a bit hazy so unfortunately not much of a photo opportunity but nevertheless it was a memorable moment.

Gibraltar was just around the corner and was spectacular on approach. With the hazy morning it actually reminded me of Hong Kong. Low visibility, steep elevated cliffs, tall buildings and of course lots of ships in the Harbour. Unfortunately Gibraltar was not to be. There was no room at the marina, which was no surprise as it is popular for those with visa restrictions like us. It was the same just over the runway/border into Spain where both marinas were full. Nevermind. We were so excited to be in the Mediterranean that we decided to keep on going. The Costa del Sol was waiting for us

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 Pretty Portugal, where fish and catching them is everything

Its always exciting when we arrive in a new port. Coming around a headland, entering a river, not sure what beholds us around the next corner, excited to get off and explore… and Portugal in the 3 ports that we visited did not disappoint.

Our first destination was Porto. We had been forewarned to make sure that we approached the river mouth at high tide and Mike had exactly timed our arrival for an easy entrance to the port. Sleep eyed, excited, the view as we approached the marina was grand! I knew that Porto was a city of bridges but there right in front of our marina was bridge number 1.

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These bridges set the scene for the rest of our visit. We walked into town, 3 kms along the river and around each corner we were amazed by the view. Porto is set up along steep banks up from the river and thus the need for these very high bridges. 6 in total. It creates a very dramatic backdrop for views and picturesque photo opportunities. Lots of tourists didn’t dampen our enthusiasm and we explored the sights and ate and drank too much seafood and wine. The highlight for me was us stumbling across a local football club bar with their verandah perched over the river and right beside the main bridge in town. It is set in a path that climbs high from the river and is entirely of steps. As you walk up the path you pass by people’s front doors, see into their lives and you wonder how these little old ladies climb up and down this path everyday to go about their lives.

We said good bye to James in Porto and it was sad to see him go. We loved him being with us at the start of our adventure and we were very grateful for the help he gave us while we were finding our way with handling Scout.

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So we set off from Porto with just the 2 of us for a 24 hour crossing to Cascais (pronounced Cascaish). 10 minutes out of Porto and we couldn’t believe the amount of fishing pots everywhere. I suppose you can’t have all that great seafood in Portugal and not find it from somewhere. There was one about every square kilometer. The computer game minesweeper came to mind as we dodge and weaved our way out to sea. We did have an altercation with one and the noise as it scraped between two of our hulls was sickening. We decided to get out as far as possible where we could safely navigate our way south.

Just out of Porto we were also joined by a group of very large bumblebees. Harmless, they buzzed around us while we were trying to get out the sails and were a real nuisance. After an hour or two of their persistence, I realised that these poor creatures had taken refuge on our boat and now there was nowhere else for them to go! They hung on and placidly sat on our deck  and it was so sad to see some of them dead the next morning. I wish I had been able to do something to assist them.

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This sector went well, but along this coast we seemed to have either the wind right in front of us or not enough right behind us, so there was a lot of motoring. A memorable moment was when we rounded Cabo Da Roca. This is the most western point of mainland Europe and where the world believed, for many centuries from the Roman times that this was the end of the earth. Aptly named ‘Lands End’. Well, we rounded that cape and we thought we had nearly got to the end of the earth. Crazy wind change, high seas… and we bashed and crashed our way for the next few hours into Cascais. We and Scout were covered in so much salt that when washed off the boat in port it resembled a thick briny solution. Mike was absolutely exhausted and after a lengthy check in procedure at the marina, we were relieved to have arrived.

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Cascais is a beautiful town. A quaint city, beautifully maintained houses and gardens with interesting laneways that work their way around the inlet beaches. Lots of energy and excitement, very picturesque and it was packed – Lots of tourists. I am only glad that we weren’t there in the heart of summer. There would be no room to move. A very busy, expensive marina with, need I lament again, dreadful internet. The highlight for me was my run out along the cliffs one morning with breathtaking scenery.

Our next sail was a 9 hour day sail to Sines. I think it was the first time that Mike really got to relax and enjoying sailing Scout. Not only was he becoming used to her but we had some favorable sailing winds where we could just sail for a change instead of just battling to get where we wanted to go. Mike was also becoming now more capable and relaxed with docking Scout. We arrived in Sines relaxed and high again on the adventure and thrill of what we were actually doing and what this is all about for us.

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We loved Sines. A small town perched high on a headland with a beach and harbour dropped down below it. So high, there is even a lift from the ridge of the city down to the beach. From the sea, you approach the two rock walls and you round the inlet into the calm, pretty, quiet harbour. Again another delightful surprise for us on entering. The weather window forced us to wait out here for 4 days and we couldn’t have picked a better place to rest. We were regrouping for our next big stage, which was going to see us do another 48 hour hop- this time to Gibraltar.

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Below Vasco’s Castle at the beachfront

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My own Vasco da Gama looking out to sea from his castle birth place wondering what awaits him.

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The lift from the town down to the beach

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Week No 1 – La Rochelle

We have had a ridiculously busy week in La Rochelle. Where we thought we would have got a lot more sailing practise in than we did, for one reason or another, it just didn’t happen. We completely underestimated how much was involved in getting a boat equipped. The good news is that it is just about all done and next week we are really going to sink our teeth into some sailing.

The week started with horrendous weather. La tempête Zeus arrived across France and left a trail of destruction in its wake. We were ok here. The wind and waves here in the marina were crazy with gust of over 50 knots. It didn’t dampen our enthusiasm, we just kept on doing the things that had to be done. Handyman Alain came and attached those things that just need to drilled and screwed into a new boat. Wifi man came and got our extended range antenna up and running. We are now able to pick up the marinas wifi, even when we are 5 kms off the coast. We made numerous trips back and forth to the shops (you could not do this without a car) and Mike has been in and out of the chandleries. Thanks to Ann at ‘Navigatlantic’, who allowed us to set up an account a few months ago and preorder a lot of the  chandlery and safety equipment that we needed. It all had to be attached and a stowage place found for it. I think we have bought close to 15 storage container units and still we have lots of spare room.

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Mike splicing the anchor rope to the anchor chain

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Our tender arrived

Our friends Joël and Sylvie arrived, abundantly bearing lots of local gifts from where they live…. and they live in Champagne! Unbelievably generous and we are in awe of their kindness. We conducted a naming ceremony for Scout and had a few laughs tossing champagne around the boat  while giving thanks to Neptune and asking for kindness from the Four Winds. Sylvie and Joël had brought a special bottle labeled with Scouts name and photo. A really special visit with very good friends. I wish we had been able to take them out sailing in nicer weather.

We were honoured to be invited by Eric Bruneel to inspect his new Neel 51 which was launched this week. It is the first of it’s kind and they have several more orders in place. Wow! What a difference 6 feet makes in a boat. It is huge and very luxuriously appointed! Captains and hostess’ quarters and still an additional 4 berths for clients. The area below, within the centre hull resembles a big ships engine room! Very impressive and we are excited for Neel trimarans future. Were we jealous? Not at all- impressed with the size, it would be just too big for us and our needs. Our Neel 45 is just perfect for us….

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The Neel 51 towering over the Neel 45. Both boats are heading off to La Grand Motte in the Mediterranean this week to be exhibited at the multi-hull boat show in April

Our son James arrived later in the week. A very exciting and anticipated reunion. A sweet moment as the train pulled into the gare at La Rochelle. Having arrived from a still very wintery Vancouver he was quick to embrace the warm rays of a very sunny day that the town blessed us with. We had a fun night out in the city centre, which felt like a balmy summers evening. La Rochelle was alive with lots of people and energy. I really do love La Rochelle.

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We did though, manage to get out for a few sails this week and for the first time by ourselves. Winds ranging from 20knots to todays very calm 7 knots. Each day we learn a lot! Mike is managing well and we have had some fairly difficult manoeuvres getting on and off a parallel parked dock. Setting springs to help pivot us off the dock and getting lots of advise and assistance from other anxious boat owners, who come to our aid when they see us on or off  the dock. To be honest, I am sure they are terrified we are going to hit them so they are very quick to assist. We, of course, are very grateful. The outcome of our sailing week is that we are not ready yet to set off by ourselves. We are hoping to back up that which has already been learnt this week with another Alain who is the go to sailing guru teacher here in La Rochelle. Unfortunately it has been Alain’s annual leave so he has not been available until next week. Hopefully it will all come together next week.

We have found ourselves exhausted at the end of the day and falling into our very comfortable bed each night, satisfied with a productive day full of new and challenging experiences. Busy brains full of plans for the next day and the growing lists of things that have to be done are slowly diminishing. We know we are closer to the stage where everything will feel just like normal routine and we will just relax into this lifestyle that we have been looking forward to for so long.


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2 weeks annual leave …. where to go?

To visit our boat of course!.

In fact, it is the second time we have visited La Rochelle in the last 18 months.

In May last year just after we had ordered the build of Scout, we decided to go to France and visit the builder and the  factory where she was going to be built. Up until now we had been dealing with our agent in Australia, Multihull Solutions, but wanting to get closer to the source, we combined our short annual leave break with a drop in to France. Yes, a long way to go for 2 weeks but we couldn’t keep away. It was great to meet Eric Bruneel and his team and it confirmed to us that we were on the right path in choosing a Neel 45 trimaran. Our visit also coincided with a Neel 45 that was just about to be launched and the first Neel 65 Trimaran, nearing completion also. Very industrious and impressive factory!

This November, annual leave rolled around again for Mike and we decided again we had to visit La Rochelle. But this time our Scout was waiting for us.

To help with the production line and the latest generation of Neel Trimarans, the 51, we agreed for Scout to be built earlier than planned and this was done a few months ago. With the horrendous freight charges between Australia and France, it was also a good opportunity for us to utilise a generous 60 kilos flight baggage allowance and move some of our things on board. To cap it off, Timothé Bruneel also offered to take us out on a sail. It was fantastic. We couldn’t wipe the smiles from our faces for days. Being on Scout made the dream, all of a sudden very real and to see her personalised to our specifications we had no doubt she was ours. Mike felt very comfortable at the helm and I took heaps of photos and measurements ( sheets for mattresses, v- berth etc). I even put together my first of many, I hope, videos on youtube. Please watch it here

 

The time in La Rochelle also gave us the opportunity to make some contacts with chandleries, open an account and search the local stores for purchases for next March.We certainly feel better prepared for our arrival next year and can do some arm chair internet shopping from home in the meantime.

We had a wonderful time in France. We visited our friends in Champagne and finished the trip running the marathon from Nice to Cannes. What an amazing coastline. We hope to explore it better from Scout next year

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It has been a while!

Yes it has been a while since I have posted. I hope you hadn’t thought we had given up on our dreams and plans. Nothing further from the case. We have had a busy 18 months and are right on track for our March departure. We couldn’t be happier with the way it is all progressing and as we are coming into our last 3 months before moving aboard, right now  is no better time to update as succinctly as I can, everything that has transpired to date that has lead us closer to Scout

It has been a whirlwind of changes and developments over the last year and a half, but I can confidently say that it is all coming together, perhaps even better than we may have planned it. Eighteen months ago, the prospect of what we had to do seemed daunting to me and our two year time frame seemed endless but, on the contrary the time has gone by so fast and everything seems to have naturally fallen into place.

The Farm.

One of the biggest decisions we had to make was what we were to do with our business and our farm and our home on the Gold Coast. Something had to go to make our purchase of Scout attainable. Lengthy discussions and analysis ensued and we made the initial decision that we had to sell our farm and wind up the business, leaving us with our home on the Gold Coast. We had a coffee farm in the beautiful hinterland area of Byron Bay and a business, roasting and selling the coffee to customers online and in markets.A successful boutique business with lots of loyal customers. Not such an easy decision. Mike had poured so much of his life into being a coffee farmer and we passionately loved the property but we soon came to the realisation that to make our next dreams come to life, it would have to be sold. If it didn’t sell, then it was going to be back to the drawing board for plan B.

After what felt like a long time, the farm sold successfully in May this year and over the last 6 months we have wound up our coffee company. While the decision to sell was a difficult one, when the sale went through it was with a feeling of relief and excitement that we could now focus on Scout and our journey to move aboard.

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Our Children- now all adults.

When we started making our plans, we knew we couldn’t possibly have left any earlier than planned as we still had our youngest at school and our older children were still finding their feet and starting to make their way in life. So the plan was to begin our adventure after the youngest had been out of school for a year and was in a settled position. It has turned out to be perfect timing. Of our 6 children, the three eldest have settled into very happy job paths and careers that have taken them interstate or overseas. No 4 is about to graduate from uni next month and move into the work force. No 5 is cruising along with part time uni but happy to move in with friends and away from the apron strings and the youngest, well he is loving his studies at uni which involves attending college in the country and has to spend his semesters living there.

The Dog- the hardest of all to accommodate into our plans.

Our dog Gemma is a farm dog. She is a Maremma and if you know this breed you would be familiar with how difficult it would be for them to live in a small property. That just about ruled out everyone we know who could possibly look after her for us while we are away. So rather than rent out our house for a year, we have found some friends, a retired couple who are going to house sit and look after her for our first six months aboard.

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With the logistics solved it was now time to get on with the preparation of Scout and ourselves as sailors.

Sailing Training

We both knew that we had to supplement our basic sailing abilities and skills with some additional training to at least give us some confidence in sailing offshore and handling a larger boat.

Mike has attended two live aboard off shore courses, both with Sunshine Sailing at Marooychdore on the Sunshine Coast. He attained his Day Skipper qualification with the RYA and  gained experience with both passage planning and hands on practise. I completed my competent crew qualification with the RYA at  Pacific Sailing School at Rushcutters Bay in Sydney. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Our course was conducted by Lisa Blair who at the time of writing this blog is about to set off to become the first woman to circumnavigate the Antarctic solo, non-stop and unassisted. Good luck Lisa. I will be following. It was  a terrific 5 days and the information  and experience I attained was extremely valuable. And what better place to do my training than in beautiful Sydney Harbour and Pittwater, near where I had grown up.

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French

The New Year arrived and I also decided to add to my goals and conquer French this year. I sat down with some books, tapes, videos and subscribed to a social media language learning site called Italki. My goal was to be at least conversational by the end of the year. We have, of course a french boat and what better way to get to know her and her builders and environment than to learn the local language. I am pleased to say that my French has greatly improved and while I am by no means fluent, I am conversational ( just) but my comprehension, listening and reading has met my target for the year and I  have one more month to go to still improve. I also have dabbled in some Spanish and Italian – enough to get by.

That sums up briefly the very hectic changes in our life over the last 18months. We have also spent a lot of this time reading blogs…. thank you zerotocruising for being our initial motivators, Miss Catana ( fellow Australians) – watching hours of Youtubes….La Vagabonde, Catamaran Impi, Trio Travels, which have not only been entertaining but a source of great sailing cruising information. Also a special mention  to the series Distant Shores, whose sailing adventure TV series was invaluable and highly enjoyable. On top of that, countless hours researching all the conflicting information on everything from what anchor to buy to what bedsheets are best in the tropics. I don’t think we have turned on the television for 18 months. We have been constantly glued to the internet.

I am hoping our blog posts will be more frequent now as we approach our departure date. We recently returned from a visit to Scout, who has been built and is waiting for us in La Rochelle. I will write a post about that visit shortly but for more up to date posts on what is happening please have look at our Facebook page – Scout Around The World– and our very new youtube channel where I have posted my first attempt at making a movie showing our first meeting with Scout a week ago.


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To Kill A Mockingbird- or how to name a boat

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To name a boat is no easy feat. It has to be a name that encompasses many concepts that you feel strongly about and purvey the image that one wants. It has to stand the test of time. Like naming a child, you have to be sure that you will still feel good about it in years to come and you both have to agree on it.

We both liked the idea of a girl’s name but wanted it to be strong and feisty- see us safely through adventure and times of trouble but also be soft and sweet when just cruising along. We wanted it to embrace exploration and adventure as this is primarily why we are setting out on this course and we wanted it to be short, sharp and succinct. A lot to ask for in a girl’s name.

We deliberated for weeks. One’s suggestions met with the others disapproval until we thought about perhaps searching literature, something that we both love, for a name.

“To Kill A Mockingbird” is one of our favourite books and the characters of Atticus, Jem, Boo and Scout resonated well with us. Scout was feisty, trusting, endearing and warmed to our hearts when we read this book in our school days. Adding to this is the imagery of a scout going ahead to explore and discover.

On a practical note – the Neel 45 is a trimaran with 3 hulls and the name of the boat usually  adorns the centre hull. Not a very wide area, so a short name will be a perfect fit. I don’t think we could have picked a better name.


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We bought a boat!

The last 2 weeks have been hectic. From actually making the decision, to where we are now has been an exciting, tumultuous, stressful, sleep depriving fortnight. There hasn’t been any time to write in this blog and as there has been so much going on and too much to write about, it has all seemed so overwhelming to contemplate writing it all down.

So to recap the last fortnight.

We bought a boat! A cruising multihull trimaran- a Neel 45 which we have commisioned to be built in La Rochelle in France. Deposit has been paid. Contracts have been signed and completion finish date decided on . We will pick up our trimaran on the 10th march 2017 and start our sail and adventure, eventually heading back to Australia.

Our business and our farm equipment has been put for sale. Mike has contacted people in our industry who may be interested and so far we have had 2 companies negotiating with us.

Mikes employer has locked in two lots of  six months leave without pay for him. Never thought they would be so agreeable so far out but we now have 6 months off from March 2017 to September 2017 and the same for 2018. We will sail the mediterranean for two seasons, put the boat on the hard for the in between seasons and make plans for how we will continue our voyage. Perfect arrangement for us. We won’t feel like we are completely abandoning our families and helps keep the sailing kitty topped up.

We have told our families and close friends about our plans. Most have always known about our desire to cruise a boat back to Australia but like us were unsure how we were going to pull it off. It was my 50th birthday over the last fortnight and we had lots of family visiting and celebrating- so what better time to announce to all. We also feel it is symbolic to welcome us into our fifties -this new exciting adventure which we hope will take us through our fifties and perhaps beyond.

Met with Mark Elkington today- owner of Multihull Solutions who are the agents for Neel in Australia. Someone to share our excitement with and officially welcome us to the cruising multihull world. He even dropped off our interior options for the boat. It is starting to feel real. IMG_1448 As you can imagine the level of excitement has been high between Mike and I. Lots of talking and contemplating and some stomach turning decisions in regards to winding down our business and Mike’s passion- his farm. But we feel good and so excited about the decision we have made and our future. We have 23 months to be out the door and on our way to France with lots to do in the meantime. We know the time will go very quickly.

PS. 30 minutes after Mark left today, we received an offer for our farm equipment. A little bit of negotiating and it is sold. Yee Haa! We are one step closer to getting out the door.