Stepping off the Treadmill and sailing the Dream
By Jenevora Swann
A former MD of an international travel PR agency shares her experience of stepping off the treadmill to begin a new life exploring the world on a catamaran.
Falling off the Treadmill
I lost the will to continue the struggle
Call it madness, but in February 2014, I stepped right off the proverbial treadmill and, along with my husband Fergus and six-year-old cocker spaniel Molly, we bought a boat in France with the view of sailing around the world. There was only one major flaw to this plan… I didn’t know how to sail!
This wasn’t my dream, but one that Fergus had harboured for a while. For three years, we talked daily about sailing off into the sunset but when you run your own business and there are staff involved, it wasn’t an easy decision to make.
And then after one too many incidents of staff throwing their toys out of the pram and clients demanding the impossible from their PR campaign, I lost the will to continue the struggle. I was stressed out beyond belief, had misplaced my mojo in the monotony of the business and our work-life balance was being tested.
So there we were with everything we owned up for sale; the business, the motor boat, the house and the car. And in their place, we purchased a 2008 Lagoon 440 catamaran, which was sitting pretty in a marina near Toulon in France.
I was so unprepared for what lay ahead. While we had enjoyed holidays motoring around the south coast in our Sunseeker Portofino 32, we had never actually sailed a boat together by ourselves. While Fergus was an accomplished RYA Yachtmaster, I was about to endure a complete baptism by fire.
Perhaps taking a sailing course would have been a good idea – if I’d have had the time.
At this stage, I have to be honest in that selling up and repositioning to the south of France was a nightmare. I had absolutely no idea how stressful it would all be. Everything that could go wrong did. The tip of the iceberg was the self-drive van we arranged to transport our worldly goods to France, which promptly blew up 48 hours before we were due to leave the country. With no replacement van available, no refund given and the fact that new owners were moving into our house, we were left to our own devices to resolve the issue. And fast!
Thankfully, we had left selling our car till last minute, and so having arranged for our boxes to be transported the following week by courier, we piled everything we could into our car. With the dog on the parcel shelf and the car full to the gunnels, we left Lymington one miserable Sunday afternoon and headed for the Eurotunnel.
This was the first time I’d seen it. While I’d been on a Lagoon 440 before, I hadn’t been able to take the time away from the business to view this actual boat, so Fergus made the decision it was the one for us when he took a fleeting day trip to France to view it two month’s previously. That took some trust on my part I can tell you!
Our first night just so happened to be on Valentine’s Day and it was far from romantic. The boat was freezing; the heating didn’t work, rain was coming in through the hatches, there was no gas to light the stove with and the bilge alarm kept going off, alerting us to water inside the bottom of the boat. We had one sleeping bag and a pillow between us. Not the best start to our new dream life.
Living the Dream
And it’s not just the weather; living on a boat isn’t easy.
Truth be told, had we not sold our house, I would have driven back to the UK there and then. But this was a life-changing choice, there really was nowhere to run to so I had to meet it head on.
And meet it I did. That was three and a half years ago; during which time we have endured so many amazing highs as well as some stupendous lows. We’ve navigated bad weather and found ourselves dealing with more than our fair share of ferocious storms. The Cat’s nine lives are now down to six!
And it’s not just the weather; living on a boat isn’t easy. Right from the start, I quickly developed my mantra which was to cope with ‘a challenge a day.’ Whether it’s running out of milk and unable to quickly pop to the shops; the generator breaking so we can’t use the washing machine or worse, make water, or quite simply the wifi not working when you really want to get online; just one expected challenge each day is manageable. This, and a good dose of gumption, has saved my sanity at times when I might have thrown the towel in on the adventure. It’s also helped others around me who have adopted this moto too.
While I still don’t consider myself to be a great sailor; through blood, sweat, tears and lots of laughter, I’ve got to grips with handling the boat and working as a team with Fergus. In the last few years our job roles have totally reversed as on the boat he’s the Skipper – although I insist on being the First Lady!
We’ve sailed around the Mediterranean, lost our hearts in Greece where we spent two years exploring and earlier this year, I took the biggest challenge of my life and we crossed the Atlantic from Tenerife to Barbados.
But the highs totally eclipse the lows. Arriving in Barbados after just under three weeks at sea was such an amazing feeling of accomplishment. I didn’t agree lightly to sailing across the Atlantic, but to have done it and actually enjoyed it surprised the hell out of me!
Sometimes I have to pinch myself as to how much our lives had changed. No more Monday morning-blues, a different view every day, new places to explore, local foods to enjoy and with all the benefits of all the sea air around us.
We love seeking out all the local markets in the places we visit, taking in their amazing selection of home-grown fresh fruit and vegetables. Catching fish for supper in the form of grouper, bream or tuna is a way of life. Thank goodness Fergus is also a dab-hand with the fishing rod as well as a spear gun – he’s even conjured up a lobster or two!
We’ve sailed with dolphins, whales, seals and turtles; seen fantastic sunrises and sunsets; anchored off deserted islands; paddle-boarded the dog to a beautiful Caribbean beaches and very recently cruised up the East River in Manhattan and past its iconic skyline. Each day we are creating so many amazing memories and are very, very lucky to have this opportunity to travel, learn and explore this amazing world.
Living the dream comes with a multitude of challenges, but it’s so worthwhile taking the large leap off the treadmill and embracing it.
Jenevora Swann is currently sailing the east coast of the USA with her husband Fergus and dog Molly on board Two Drifters. They return to the Caribbean in November.
Follow her on Facebook.com/TwoDriftersTravel.
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