Until I reached the ripe old age of 46, my life has been lived in a regular pattern of first getting married, having and looking after a young family consisting of two boys, Tony and my adopted son Christopher, and my two daughters, Penny and Lesley. Just before Lesley was born my husband, Sim, and I started a greengrocery business on a large housing estate in Bristol, and there we worked and ran the business for a number of years, getting to know all our customers, their families and their idiosyncrasies, and our life going on in a regular pattern. Our children were now grown up – Tony training to be an accountant, Christopher in the R.A.F., Penny training to be a computer programmer, and Lesley the only one still at school. This I thought would be the pattern of my life in the years to come until the time came for retirement and a cottage in the country. How sadly mistaken I was, was yet to be seen.
All through the years we had the shop we also had a 22ft. sailing sloop and a caravan at a little place on the Dorset coast called Lyme Regis. As Sim was a keen sailor we would make our way there at every week-end and every other opportunity we would get so that he could get in as much sailing as possible, during the spring, summer and early autumn. Then in the winter we would still go down because then the work of maintaining the boat was done. When we first had the boat she was an open-board boat, and I know that the work carried out on the boat was enjoyed every bit as much as the sailing of her. Sim would go to the boat show every year and read avidly every book there was to read on sailing, navigation, and everything to do with the sea and boats, his especial favourites being those on long distance voyaging and circumnavigation of the world.
He would talk about being able to one day take up long voyaging himself, and I would listen and think it was all a pipedream as far as he was concerned because although I myself liked sailing I liked to look out from the cockpit, see land in the distance and think “Now if it was necessary I could swim that far”. My only ideas about sailing were that it was peaceful and quiet and gave one a sense of freedom from care and the trials and tribulations of every day life, and in no circumstances could I see myself taking a long voyage on a small boat, or that it could be possible for me to be left behind. Each summer Sim would try and persuade me to sail either to Ireland or the coast of France for our annual holiday, but somehow we always managed to finish up at Lyme and sail around the coast from there.
Then one miserable cold day in November I had a telephone call from my sister saying that she and her family were going to Australia, and this was the momentous decision that was to change our lives as well. They came to stay with us and we talked about Australia and we decided that if they liked it we would follow on, Sim saying that if he did decide to go he would sail in his own boat there. Even then I did not take him seriously as I thought he could never make a 12,000 mile journey in a small boat on his own.
In the following May we were waving goodbye to my sister and her family and from then on more and more books were read on long voyaging, sailing, and navigation, in fact I think some were read several times over and a file was started. Each time he read something he thought could assist him on long voyaging he would make a note of it and then it was put into the file. Notes were made about routes, food, medical supplies, vitamins, in fact anything and everything that could possibly of use to him on a voyage of this kind, and still in my heart of hearts I did not think it would be possible for this to be done.
In this way a year passed and we learned from my sister that they would stay in Australia for a while, and so things were set in motion for our own journey, and before I realized quite what was happening I was being interviewed by an immigration official at the local labour exchange. One of the things I remember most clearly was the look of utter amazement on the interviewer’s face when Sim’s answer to the question as to whether we wished to travel by sea or by air was “My wife and daughters would like to go by sea, but I myself am sailing my own yacht to Australia.” To say the officer was taken aback was to put it mildly and for a few minutes absolute silence reigned. The four of us sat quietly looking at one another and eventually he said “Well I don’t know what to say as I am sure this has never happened before” He did tell us we could not immigrate on an assisted passage but promised they would allow us to go under the scheme. In due course we received a letter back from Canberra saying they could not help us with our passage but wishing Sim the best of luck on his “adventurous journey”.
At first Penny was to come with Lesley and myself, but when we came away from our interview she suddenly said “Can I go with Dad”. This rather threw a spanner in the works as firstly Sim had said all along that he either wanted us all to go, which offer I had continuously turned down, or he would make it single handed. Also it rather stunned me for a day or two as I knew it would mean two, instead of one, for me to worry about once they had left, but on the other hand it would mean that at least Sim would have some one to help him with the cooking, navigating etc. that had to be done, so it was a question of being between the “devil and the deep blue sea”. After thinking about this for a few days I realized that having agreed for Sim to go I could not say “No” to Penny. Once again Sim tried to persuade me to go with them but every time I thought about all that sea from a small boat, the gales, etc. I felt that the comparative safety of a large passenger ship would be infinitely better.
Christopher had by now gone to Malta with the R.A.F. and Tony did not want to leave England, so this meant that by the time we were ready to start our journey the family would be pretty well scattered, and this thought at times rather appalled me.
Then everything seemed to start happening at once. Firstly we sold the caravan and the boat and it was with a vast amount of regret that we finally handed over both boat and caravan to the new owners. We had had such happy times in them both and it seemed like parting with part of our lives
The next thing to be done was to find a buyer for the business. This we did but before we were able to finalise a date for the take over Lesley was taken ill and had to spend several months in hospital. We thought that all our plans would have to be cancelled, but finally she was passed as fit and so we had to start all over again. The original buyer for the business had changed his mind so we had to look around for another, and also now a suitable boat for this momentous journey had to be found and bought.
Sim had decided that the best boat for the journey would be a Folkboat, as these had been well tested and tried for long distance sailing, so after studying all the advertisements in the various yachting magazines, off we would go to all parts of the English coast looking at boats that were for sale and finding that they were not suitable. After several months he finally saw the boat he wanted. He had gone down the Isle of Wight to look at a Folkboat, and whilst waiting for the Yacht Chandler to come along he and Penny stood on the shore admiring a yacht that lay at anchor and Sim said “Now that’s the boat I would like”.