25 years ago, just after Christmas, we put up our first sails on "Corsair" in Izzy Bay on Auckland's Rangitoto island. We kept our anchor firmly down just in case we actually sailed off while we worked out what to do next. A few months later we were crossing the Tasman on a journey that was to take 17 days.
For photos of our first 25 years afloat click HERE
We're back on the boat in lovely sunshine in Crete, fitter and leaner after our days in the high mountains of Nepal. We're busy tapping away on our little netbooks like mad to catch up with online work that seems to have piled up - and make some money. Christmas is a couple of weeks away and then the New Year - in which we head off towards Central America but this will require a couple of thousand miles of Mediterranean sailing first before edging out into the Atlantic sometime in October.
We have a reason to celebrate over this period - we have clocked up a quarter century on the sea or at least for a quarter of a century the sea has been our home - not in it, but on it - in our two little boats. Pehaps celebration
is not quite the right word - some people probably think we are insane to spend so long afloat, maybe "milestone" is a better choice!
It was between Christmas and New Year 1986 that we left our Auckland rented flat and made home in "Corsair"
- a timber, fractional rigged Lidgard sloop more than 50 years old and designed more for the relatively sheltered waters of the Hauraki Gulf rather than the turbulent Tasman. Not ones in our exuberant youth to balk at adventure, we immediately headed off for that particular patch of sea without a radio or liferaft or any ocean sailing experience, but equipped with a fifty dollar plastic sextant and three hundred dollars in savings. At that time Geoff had a smattering of sailing knowledge while Alison was trying to rack her brains of distant memories of sailing encounters off the coast of Plymouth. We were both hopeless at maintenance and depended on others for advice - we hardly knew one end of a screwdriver from the other. Twelve years later we were still at home on Corsair
and certainly knew more about screwdrivers, let alone propping the boat up on any old convenient wreck for cleaning and painting its ageing kauri hull - we pretty well had to, being in the remoteness of PNG.
Five ocean crossings, one almost penniless, cyclones, encounters with bandits, meaningful involvement with likeable people with one foot in the stone age and the other in the computer age, innumerable anchorages of unimaginable remoteness and beauty, marine wildlife aplenty and always the movement and subtle and not so subtle noises of being on the water.
life was linked most of all to our time in Papua New Guinea - as teachers, sailors and observers - our time in this country of unpredictable but never dull experiences spanned ten of the first twelve watery years.
Our second home "Saraoni"
- was built of fibreglass - a South Coast 36 design - purchased in 1998 in Queensland's Whitsundays, and has led us further and faster. Renamed after our favourite and familiar weekend anchoring and resting spot on the edge of PNG's Milne Bay it never had the emotional resonance that a ship made from huge ancient trees could provide but proved to be a more useful and functional mobile marine machine. Four times up and down the East Australian Coast, across the Tasman to New Zealand for five years and then back to Australia and on to Asia and Europe. Eight more ocean crossings and an uncountable number of different anchorages have been experienced and mostly enjoyed. The highlight of our time with Saraoni has been an opportunity over several years to explore the vast remoteness and nature of Australia's Arnhem Land coast with its golden beaches untrammelled by human contact, crisscrossed by quoll, goanna, thicknee and the odd crocodile.
Significantly, Saraoni has provided us with cheap or free accommodation along with holidays afloat, electricity from the wind and the sun backed up by an able diesel engine, drinking water from the sky and the sea via our onboard desalinator, hungry fish that assist with the recycling of some of our waste, a limitation on materialist splurges as size determines everything we can keep.
Saraoni seems small now as the size of boats transiting long distances have grown and grown in order to satisfy the idea that big is somewhat better. Oh well. We all seem to end up in the same places even if some of us take longer than others. Other people have worked harder and longer or have been luckier than us and we've worked harder and longer at being content with less.
So - forward we sail into our 26th year in our little plastic home with its enormous swimming pool, hopefully always on top of that sometimes capricious sea some more years yet - providing we, our boat and the world's climate don't all deteriorate at the same time or pace.