From the very first moment I heard about my Granny crossing the Atlantic on a little wooden sailboat – in an age when women didn’t generally travel alone, let alone run away to sea – I was hooked. Always an inspiration to me, it was said she answered an ad in her local paper on a whim and found herself sailing the “wrong way” across the Atlantic with a skipper she barely knew. Together, they braved violent storms and towering waves thousands of miles offshore.
The thought of such an adventure filled me with awe and terror and longing. I wasn’t old enough to understand what sailing the Atlantic meant, I just knew that she had seen things and done things that I could only dream of.
Little did I know that many years later I would be on a life-changing adventure of my own, sailing the oceans in a 38ft sailboat, witnessing violent storms at sea, going for days at a time without stepping foot on land and battling with the wind through gigantic waves-just like the one on my Gran’s dining room wall.
When I first met Adam two years ago and he told me his crazy plan to buy a sailboat and sail around the world, I should have run a mile. I had a teaching job I loved and a little house in the town I grew up in. I was successful, and I was comfortable – but I was also unhappy. Although I spent the summers travelling, I always wanted more, a real adventure. I loved trekking and sought any excuse to hike, I’d tried out climbing – though my fear of heights somewhat limited me – and I’d given up on my childhood dream of learning to sail after a week-long course on the Solent in the snow, with a grumpy skipper.
So his plan quickly became my plan too. I couldn’t believe my luck to have found someone that wanted an adventure as badly as I did, and we spent long summer evenings scheming our escape. The trouble was, we simply couldn’t afford it. As time went on we let our plans become dreams, and we know dreams don’t really come true.
We settled into life in our 30s – that is, we were overworked and tired and living for the weekend. Days went by in a blur as I spent my evenings working hard for a promotion I had applied for until one morning I called Adam in tears: I didn’t get the job. I needed a long bath and a good cry, but I returned home that evening to a bottle of bubbly and a very giddy boyfriend.
“We’re celebrating,” he declared as I looked at him, confused. Had he not been listening? “To the beginning of our adventure,” he said. We would never be financially stable, travel would always be a risk. We just needed a push, and this was it.
A year later we had quit work, bought a sailing yacht in Sicily, and said goodbye to the life we had always known. It was exhilarating, uncertain, terrifying and totally worth every sleepless night, every argument and every tear.
So there we were, on a Kadey Krogen 38 sailing yacht called Hot Chocolate, with very little sailing experience and very little money. I did some tutoring for some of the liveaboard kids in the marina, which just about covered our food costs, while Adam searched for a longer-term financial solution. Remote work is becoming more and more feasible, but we had absolutely no idea if we would have adequate internet connections while we were out sailing, and even less of an idea if we would be able to maintain any sort of ‘normal’ working day.
We met a solo sailing instructor who, wanting some help with passage to Greece, taught us to sail on the two-week journey. At the end of it we both took our ICC qualifications, making us qualified skippers. I will never forget the morning that we let loose the mooring lines and took to sea on our own for the first time ever. The freedom we both felt when we left the marina and sailed out into the ocean, letting the wind guide us, and knowing that finally everything we had worked towards was really happening.
Since then, we have sailed over 1,000 nautical miles on our very own sailing yacht, living on a budget of some £600 a month. Once you’ve watched the land disappear – and your phone signal – you realise you are quite alone. I remember how bright the stars were on that first night, I remember how warming cups of tea were, and how silent the world was. I will always remember that night – not because it was a long and dangerous passage (in fact it was beautifully calm) but because of how hard we fought to get to that point and how much courage it had taken to get there.
We set out on this adventure with an empty sailboat and a whole lot of questions we didn’t know the answer to. Since then we have become qualified sailors, successful plumbers and electricians and managed days without a shower. We have watched dolphins play in our waves and eaten tuna pulled straight from the sea. We have watched the sunset every evening and swam through bioluminescent algae on moonless nights. We have hiked mountains to explore castle ruins, and travelled miles and miles by wind alone.
I have learned that chasing dreams is easy. That’s an odd thing to say, but it’s true – I only wish that had been pointed out to me sooner. Sacrificing things along the way is the hard bit. Making the decision to give up things you have worked hard for or leaving behind family and friends, those are the things that make taking steps towards your dream seem impossible. Anyone can buy a sailboat and learn to sail the world, just as we have. We didn’t have a lot of money and we didn’t have any experience. We gave up our careers, our homes and the lives we had built in an attempt to make our dreams come true, and although we have got this far we have no way of knowing how long we will make it work for.
People often tell me that I’m brave, but that’s not true at all. I have battled with anxiety for most of my life, and I continue to battle with it now. What this adventure has taught me is that our fears and worries about what might happen don’t need to affect what does happen. I will feel anxious when I’m sat at home in front of the TV, and I will feel anxious when I’m sat on my sailboat in the middle of a thunderstorm. The only difference is that now I don’t feel anxious about missing out on a life I would rather be living.
Now that I am living my dream I often wonder what’s next, what goal should I be working towards now? But instead of wondering what the future holds, I find I am happy to go with the wind. Perhaps one day we will even make the Atlantic crossing, and I will find the answers to all the questions I wish I had asked my Granny many years ago.