I started dreaming and aspiring about travelling around the globe on my own boat at least 30 years ago.
I use the word "travelling" because my dreams and aspirations have always been about a journey. Descriptors like adventure, expedition, circumnavigation and voyage give misleading suggestions of "purpose" that have not been foremost in my thoughts. Don't get me wrong ..... I love the adventures and challenges that are such a big part of our travels because they add so much interest and excitement to our travels.
The "purpose" however (if there is one!) is to explore the globe, on our terms and to our timetable, with a high degree of comfort, and to be able to share it with friends. We want to experience far away and unaffected places and local cultures and cuisines that have not been too spoiled by modern mass tourism. In short we want to be able to stop and smell the roses!
Others sharing similar dreams may think in terms of hiking, motorcycles, campervans, bicycles and the like; but for me the only option has always been .... a boat! It is an option for me because boating has been such a dominant feature of my entire life. Through decades of experience and tens of thousands of miles at sea, I have gained the confidence, knowledge and skills to be able to undertake this journey as a traveller without fear or trepidation.
Two events, both of which occurred about 20 years ago, crystallized my loose assemblage of thoughts about what this journey would be about.
MV Nicky O'Dee, 50'Halvorsen, Built 1954
The first event involved our previous boat Nicky O'Dee pictured above. Nicky O'Dee was built in 1954 by the renowned Halvorsen Bros. in Sydney, Australia. The Halvorsens built boats primarily for their hire fleet which operated on the Hawkesbury River just to the north of Sydney. Their boats were beautifully crafted (I used to describe Nicky as my "grand piano") but very lightly built - which reflected their intended use on protected inland waterways.
Nicky O'Dee was a focal point for our young family in those days and we spent many wonderful holidays with the kids cruising in and around Sydney. At some stage, I got it into my (much younger and foolish) head to take the boat to Tasmania for a summer of cruising. Getting to Tasmania and back from Sydney means basically following the 600nm route of the Sydney to Hobart Race and crossing Bass Strait twice. Bass Strait has a fearsome reputation and having completed more than 25 Sydney Hobarts, I can assure you the reputation is well earned!
To cut a long story short, this improbable and irresponsible voyage went extremely well and without incident until the return trip home. With just myself and a good buddy on board as crew we headed off, under a most favourable weather forecast, for the 200nm crossing from northern Tasmania to the mainland coast. About 2/3rds of the way across, in the middle of the night, the favourable forecast turned to tripe and we were hit by 25-30kts from the NE. With insufficient fuel to turn around and run back we had no option but to plug away straight into the rapidly building seas.
My poor dear "grand piano" was never built for these conditions. Despite maintaining a speed of only 2 - 3 kts to try and nurse her over the waves she slammed and shuddered frighteningly. We spent a very long night on deck, with the life raft at our feet hoping that the next wave would not be our last. We made it through but I have never before nor since been as fearful of my life. Aside from Nicky earning a new nick name of "Nicky Oh Dear Oh Dear Oh dear!" I resolved to never venture to sea again in anything but the most seaworthy, robust and well prepared vessels
It was a long time ago but .... I seem to remember Bass Strait looking something like this!
The second event, which occurred around the same time, was to stumble across the outstanding story of Tim and Pauline Carr set out in their extraordinary book "Antarctic Oasis".
Their book tells the story of, after having cruised the world for 25 years in their 1898 built 28' gaff rigged cutter, finding their way to South Georgia in the South Atlantic Ocean and then spending 5 years there, living on board throughout.
I was so spellbound by their story that I made travelling to South Georgia on my own (seaworthy, robust and well prepared!) boat my goal. From this point on, I set about in earnest putting flesh onto the bones of my dream.
Antarctic Oasis by Tim & Pauline Carr
My first decision was that my boat had to be wooden. There is no rational reason for this but there is a reason. You see, at heart I am a sailor but many, many years ago I came to hold the view that cruising on power boats was far more comfortable and practical than cruising on sailboats. The only way I could cross over to the "dark side" was for my power boats to be wooden - at least then all my sailing mates would still talk to me (and be secretly jealous they didn't have the courage to do the same)!
My second decision was that I would look for a Tassie cray boat (Tasmanian lobster fishing boat) to convert. Having made the irrational wooden boat decision (and the reasons for it) this second decision logically followed. Aussie yachties (particularly the Sydney to Hobart breed) love Tassie cray boats. They are respected as tough, willful, little work boats built to withstand the gruesome conditions we can experience racing to Hobart, and they have often come to the aid of racing yachts in need of assistance. So with a Tassie cray boat I would be
starting with a boat that was seaworthy and tough and my mates would be envious! And most of them are still built out of wood.
The next mission was to find one that could take me safely to South Georgia!