I was delighted to find Women and Cruising on the Internet recently, especially reading the sensible, helpful and positive articles posted there.
|Ginni and a marine iguana in Galapagos|
When I first became involved with boats around ‘96, many magazine articles focused around ‘pink’ roles, of cooking on board, decorating the boat, or managing children on boats (I have six children), as if that was all women ever did!
I also gained a lot of useful knowledge in other sections re boat maintenance and cruising tips. Nothing can stop a woman from reading! Reading served to fuel my determination that one day I would go cruising.
My wish finally came in 2006 after finally having a little space between children’s final exams. Our six children are spread over a large range, and for many years we were constantly preparing one of them for high school graduation. The break came and this was my opportunity.
My husband was unable to join me so I was without permanent human crew. I had an 18-month window and badly needed a radical change to re-charge my batteries.
18 months was much too short, but it was either achieve this or not try at all.
A factor dictating the route and timing was the avoidance of revolving tropical storms in both hemispheres. Previous years of boating practice and study such as RYA Yacht Master Offshore, basic engineering, celestial navigation and radio telephony were about to be tested offshore on a circumnavigation. It was now or never.
|DAI LONG WAN going out through the tricky passout of Knysna in South Africa. Photo taken by a Knysna Yacht Club member|
Our catamaran, named Dai Long Wan, was a 45-foot Robertson & Caine Leopard, built in South Africa, an ex-charter vessel we purchased in the Caribbean.
Although well-used she was a solid and seaworthy vessel which I had sailed on from the British Virgin Islands to Hong Kong in 2005. That trip was just the hors d’oeuvres.
Starting out in Hong Kong (my home then), I planned a route via SE Asia, across the Indian Ocean, around South Africa before crossing the Atlantic. I would go via the Panama Canal and then across the Pacific back to Hong Kong.
|Capt’n Ginni and crew Dave leaving Seychelles|
Permanent crew was my dog Henry, a large dog of indeterminate breed, but a lovable and constant companion. Various crew planned to join me on different legs of the journey, which was not ideal but which worked well.
Two ladies joined me for the first leg from Hong Kong to Phuket in Thailand, having a lot of laughs on that leg and surprising the officials in Singapore who found it difficult to believe Henry the Dog was the only male crew member.
A satellite telephone on board kept me in touch with family, friends, and potential crew around the world.
I began writing a daily journal to share the experience and my thoughts while on board, especially of what it is really like ‘out there’ on the big ocean. Unexpectedly I found a new love, writing, and kept at it almost daily unless conditions dictated otherwise.
The journey was extraordinary.
|DAI LONG WAN in the ocean near the island of Nauru in the Pacific. Photo by RAAF pilot and crew on a search and rescue mission for missing fishermen|
Crossing an ocean creates such a feeling of freedom, of joy in the environment, the extravagant night sky and delight in the surprise visit of whales, dolphins, the many different sea birds.
A busy life on land often precludes the in-depth enjoyment of our natural environment. At last I had time to soak it up and the experience was life changing.
Favorite places visited included the Chagos Archipelago (a British Indian Ocean Territory), Isla Del Coco (a World Heritage site administered by Costa Rica), South Africa and Galapagos (administered by Ecuador).
- The Chagos Archipelago was like being anchored in a giant, tropical aquarium, with myriads of tropical fish, manta rays and sharks swimming right around the boat at anchor, and dainty terns performing aerial ballet in pairs over the lagoon.
|African traffic jam|
- Isla Del Coco is famous for its sharks, especially its large schools of hammerheads which can be seen even by snorkeling.
- South Africa’s landscape and wildlife is unrivalled and having to stop for real zebras crossing the road seemed unreal, and hippos roaming the local golf course were par for the course.
- Unusual animal and plant life of Galapagos was fascinating, with punk marine iguanas lying around the beaches and rocks, and giant tortoises grazing on the hills looking like slow moving rocks.
Meeting other cruisers is fun and there are so many interesting and inspiring people from all around the world and all walks of life mingling together.
|Coco De Mer playing in the clear window above the driving station|
People are willing to help one another and I received help from a few. Social gatherings were always a lively exchange.
A unique experience was single handing, and I did a couple of legs each over 1000 miles.
At first I talked constantly to Henry, the dog, and the cat, Coco. The realization that there is no help at hand was sometimes daunting and I often lit the boat like a Christmas tree, being afraid I might not be seen by ships despite the fact the boat carried two radar reflectors. On those legs I discovered the best crew ever, though a little shorthanded!
It was not always roses however.
It was not always roses however, as we faced gales, frequent squalls and the edge of a cyclone near South Africa, with the occasional challenge of broken equipment at sea. Facing these events head on was not an option, and each successful crossing whether a few hundred, or a few thousand miles was very satisfying.
Some anchorages were not safe, twice boats beside us were robbed, but ours spared because of Henry the Dog’s vigilance. Henry also helped scare three men in an open boat about 90 miles from Galapagos who came alongside and tried to board our vessel while we were under sail. We expected they might be asking for water but it became clear that their intentions were not friendly. The Ecuadorian Navy people told us they thought they were illegal shark fishermen.
The journey was a privilege and life changing.
I didn’t learn to sail until age 54 so it is never too late to go for it, and do something you would love to do. If you are reasonably strong and healthy and think you can, why not give it a go!
All the best to readers,
About Virginia (Ginni) MacRobert
Virginia MacRobert was born in Australia and raised on a farm in New South Wales, which prepared her for a life of adventure.
A few careers and a few decades later she found herself in Hong Kong raising a large family, all of whom learned to sail.
As the members matured and left home to develop their own careers she decided that the family sailing catamaran ought not to be sitting at the dock collecting barnacles and so prepared herself, the dog Henry, and the boat for an extended cruise, right around the world.
The journey was life-changing and far more adventure was had than anticipated.
Gin’s Tonic, her daily log, records this.
Read also on this website
- Debbie Leisure learns to sail her boat single-handed.
- Single Women Sailing – Part 1 (Admiral’s Angle column #27)
Ways to get into sailing when you are single
- Single Women Sailing – Part 2 (Admiral’s Angle column #28)
Perspectives on owning and operating your own boat
- Books that Women Write about Cruising
Our Cruising Women’s Bookstore lists books that women write about cruising that our contributors have found useful.
More information (external links)
- Virginia MacRobert’s book: Gin’s Tonic: Ocean Voyage, Inner Journey is available at amazon.com.
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