Our story starts in early 1994. I was working as a Quality Engineer for a company that made parts for cars. Ann was working as a teacher in a local school. One day over lunch I was fed up again and my work colleague Geoff asked me what I really wanted to do. I replied that I would like to see the world and enjoy a less stressful life. To be honest I did not really know what I wanted.
Geoff was a keen sailor and was always going on about owning a yacht and sailing it to warmer climates. I had never been sailing so did not understand the attraction.
Well Geoff gave me a book to read called “Voyaging on a small income” by Annie & Peter Hills. This book gave me the inspiration to change my life for ever. I took it home and read it over the weekend. I could not put it down. Annie talked about their way of life. They built their own yacht, invested some money and lived off the income the money produced. This sounded fantastic. This is what I wanted to do. Ann was away on a school trip. She arrived back on the Monday evening and I raved on about sailing, boat building, living on a small income and how we could do the same. No more work, no more office or school. It was the perfect solution. What did she think?
She told me to grow up. Nobody could do this, not me anyway, I had no sailing experience and no boat building experience however, she did promise to read the book. This was a start I thought and left her to it.
Meanwhile I started to read books on boat building, sailing, voyaging, in fact everything I could get my hands on which had anything to do with boats, sailing and the building of them. I also checked out sailing schools and courses so we could try this sailing stuff for real.
Ann finished the book and agreed that it was a very nice idea. I suggested we booked ourselves on a five day competent crew course to see if we liked the idea of sailing. She agreed and we booked a course in June with Westfleet Cruising in Nayland in Pembrokeshire.
June arrived and we drove up to Nayland. Peter George welcomed us onto his Sigma 38 “Phoenix 2”. This was great at last a real yacht. We were joined by another couple Julie and Mark and Paul who was handicapped by having no legs.
We were briefed on the safety gear on board where the seacocks were and how to switch them on and off. The workings of the toilette were demonstrated. Ann asked where the shower was and Peter proudly presented her with the onboard showering facilities. Ann was not amused as it seemed to be in the same compartment as the toilette. I fact the shower was the toilette there was no curtain or cubicle to stop the water wetting the whole compartment.
Peter advised that she not worry about it but that she helped get the yacht underway. We set off into the Haven with Mark at the helm. Mark was an experienced sailor and was here to take his Practical Coastal Skippers Test. He would be in charge of the vessel for the week and do all the things skippers do so he could get the practice for his exam which was to be held on our final day on board.
We had a wonderful time, the sun shone for the whole week, the breeze was never over force 4 and the Sigma sailed like a dream. I loved it. Ann loved it. We always anchored for the night as Peter liked people to know what cruising was about. Not a day sail with a marina berth at the end of it. We sailed to Tenby and anchored there for the night visiting the local pub for a well earned drink.
Ann said she wanted to use the shower so in she went and Peter shouted that she was only allowed a shower for one minute as he only had a 40 gallon fresh water tank. Ann was not amused she stormed out of the shower/toilette compartment and announced that she would be smelly like the rest of us. We sailed to Skomer Island and watched the wildlife in their native habitat. It was wonderful and Ann loved it. This is it we thought this is what we should be doing instead of working our socks of getting nowhere.
The final day arrived and Mark passed his Coastal Skipper. Ann and I passed our competent crew. We booked again for the following year to do our Day Skipper practical.
That’s how it all started, the next thing we did was to develop a plan.