Sharing Our Stories

Merlin’s voyage: Living our dream for real!

One summer when I was a teenager, I read all Bernard Moitessier’s books, I continued with Joshua Soclum and Eric Tabarly’s adventures. Inevitably, I then started dreaming about ocean crossings, long passages and spending lots of time at sea.

However, I grew up more than 1000km away from the sea and I couldn’t consider myself a sailor. I started working during my summer holidays so I could go to some sailing camps in Brittany. Soon, I learnt how to sail and navigate. I just loved being on the water. On a boat, I could find out who I really was, I felt light, free and happy. I started looking for boats that were planning to cross oceans and on the lookout for extra crew. However, I was then 18 and my mother thought it wasn’t a good idea to embark on such adventures.

I waited nearly 20 years before realising my dream to go sailing and crossing oceans.

Even better, I realised that dream with those I love, my husband (a very experienced sailor) and our three kids, on Merlin, a catamaran we built in South Africa. What a privilege!

This sailing dream was with me all these years, sometimes more buried than others, but during all these years I could hear the waves and the wind calling for me.

We moved on board Merlin in 2008 and 6 months later we left Cape Town. Our kids were then 8, 6 and 2. With a tight knot in my stomach and loads of strong emotions, I saw Table Mountain disappearing slowing below the horizon. After one day of sailing we were all by ourselves, ocean all around, our first stop being a 10-day sail away.

We had to learn so much: find our sea legs, acclimate to our new floating but now moving home and most of all we had to realise that we were living our dream, thought and described so many times – we were living our dream for real!

After crossing the Atlantic, we spent nearly a year in the Caribbean islands. It didn’t take us too long to adapt to our new lifestyle. We found a good balance between home schooling, boat maintenance, swimming and snorkelling, discovering new places, meeting new people, locals or other cruisers, hoisting the sails and anchoring.

Our children bloomed in such an environment. Our eldest was sceptical when we left and gave us a hard time for the first few weeks of our voyage. However, he opened to the world and adapted to this new life so well.

 In 2010, we crossed the Pacific. By then, our cruising life was just our normal lifestyle. We were in harmony with the environment, with our catamaran Merlin and simply happy to be together in so many spectacular places.

Unfortunately our sailing kitty emptied and we decided that Australia wasn’t a bad place to start a new chapter of our lives.

During these two special cruising years, we savoured our dream daily. We enjoyed many green flashes. We had whales following Merlin. We swam with manta rays and sharks. We discovered extraordinary marine life (corals, fish, birds). We explored splendid scenery from pristine beaches, to active volcano. We met amazing people. All the stars of the world were with us at night.

The elements weren’t rough. We didn’t have major breakage. Merlin was our faithful companion, always there, welcoming, securing, trustful.

We landed in Australia more indulgent, more respectful, more curious, more united and so proud to have accomplished an old dream.

This voyage taught us that dreams are important and we should try hard to realise them, even if it is little steps by little steps. I believe in those dreams which push us to take decision, which give us energy, which force us to wake up even when it is grey outside, which drove us a little further than our comfort zone, which stay in our mind and grow into something more and more tangible.

Going back to landlubber’s life (work, school, kids’ activities etc.) wasn’t easy. However, our traveling experiences carried us through the tough times of settling in a new unknown place. It was nice to have Merlin as our comforting home during these new uncertainties.

I started writing a children book (Merlin’s Voyage) as I didn’t want to let fade my emotions gained during our travels, I wanted to share all these amazements. I was hoping that readers would find a little inspiration or that new dreams would arise. I didn’t want to write a travelling journal describing our stops and passages. I wanted a book which could bring open discussions between kids and parents, discussion about sailing boats, about new places, about the wonders of the world and about dreams.

Merlin always seemed more than a sailing boat, carrying us around, being a safe and cosy home. I feel its soul and its presence helped me during what I would call the stressful times. It was a comforting thought to know that Merlin could be trusted as the one carrying a family of five across oceans. It was then logical to tell our story from Merlin’s point of view, taking us safely from Cape Town to Brisbane.

Merlin’s Voyage”, the book, is now ready in different versions (ebook or paperback, in English and in French). It is for 6-12 year-old kids or for any dreamers. It offers 48 pages of inspiration.

My kids now have their own dreams. They would like to go back cruising one day; they would like to sail across the Indian Ocean and finish the loop.

  • Victor would like to see the Himalaya.
  • Felix would like to play lots of clarinet.
  • Clea would like to have a pet.
  • Gregory would like to cross the Pacific again.
  • I would like to drive through Africa and see Cape Horn.

Unrealistic? We know dreams can become tangible and we hope we won’t have to wait another 20 years before realising one of them!

Merlin’s Voyage” might plant seeds of new dreams…

About Emmanuelle Buecher-Hall

Emmanuelle studied marine biology in France, then went to do some research on jellyfish in South Africa.

There, her life took a new course. After having built a catamaran, she went sailing with her family, crossing the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans.

Merlin’s Voyage was inspired by this adventure. She is now living in Australia. 

Her website (in French and English) is:

Merlin’s Voyage is a children book, mostly for children around 4-8 years-old. It is available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback, in French and in English.

Colour photos taken during the trip are the main illustrations.

At the end of the book, there is also a detailed index explaining nautical terminology and giving geographical information of the various stops.

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