It all started in 1990, when we finally gave up skydiving.
For the previous fifteen years, Glenys and I had spent all of our weekends and holidays going skydiving. Now we were the proud parents of two children - Brett aged two years and Craig aged two months. Airfields and the skydiving lifestyle don’t mix well with children. So we gave up skydiving. Just like that.
I had no idea what I was going to do with myself - I needed some form of release. I was the Managing Director of a small electronics company and a recession was looming. The bank had recently tried to call in our overdraft and we had gone through a series of redundancies - my stress level was sky high. If I didn’t have something to occupy my spare time, I would start cracking up.
Fortunately, Glenys’s older brother came home for Christmas - Gareth had an interesting life. After university, he went to South Africa working as a Quantity Surveyor, where he fitted out a 32 foot sailing yacht, loaded it up with Krugerands and set off across the South Atlantic. He spent five years in the Caribbean, and then sailed through the Pacific to New Zealand. After a couple of years there he sailed to Japan where he sold his boat.
Gareth brought tales of the sea and a model yacht for Brett. I’d never really looked at a yacht before and started to get interested in how this sailing thing worked. What was this sail called at the front of the boat? What do you call it when the boat turns through the wind? Gareth patiently explained the basic jargon to me and seemed surprised that I didn’t have a clue about sailing. I asked him about the Caribbean and the Pacific, which gave him an opportunity to spin endless yarns.
I was hooked. Within a couple of months, Glenys and I were the proud owners of a Laser dinghy and we started to teach ourselves to sail on the cold March waters of a reservoir in deepest Staffordshire.
The following year, we booked ourselves on Competent Crew and Day Skipper courses. Then, one weekend in September 1990, we chartered our first yacht - a small 24 foot Westerly Pageant and braved the crowded waters of the Solent. We loved it!
In February 1991, we sold our business to Feedback plc. Suddenly we had some money in the bank. I had a two year contract with Feedback and then I would be out of a job. What to do? I could get another job, buy a bigger house, get a faster car and have a very pleasant life. Or we could buy a yacht, sell all our belongings and sail off into the sunset on the adventure of a lifetime - blowing it all. I’m afraid that the lure of coral reefs and coconut trees was too strong - so began our Grand Plan to live on a yacht.
I did a Coastal Skipper course. I wanted to do a Yachtmaster Offshore course, but I only had 22 days sailing experience and the prerequisite for the course was 50 days. So all I could do was to read magazines, books, more books and plan our future. During the summer months, we chartered three more 32 foot boats and practised sailing around the Solent.
In October 1991, we started to look for a yacht. Our biggest problem was our lack of sailing
experience and we had no friends who knew anything about yachts. Unfazed, armed with our knowledge from yachting books and magazines, we plunged ahead.
“Glencora” was the first yacht that we looked at. We “quite” liked the layout of the interior, and it looked “about” the right size. Glenys opened a few cupboards and I looked into the mysterious engine compartment. The boat looked a bit of a mess but how bad was it? What about the rigging? What about the teak deck? How do we check the hull? We had more questions than answers. The broker sounded suspiciously like a used car salesman. “Wonderful yachts, these. This one’s been round the world once already. Very strong. Just a few cosmetic problems...” We thanked him and fled.
We spent a few months driving around the south coast looking at other yachts and eventually came back to Glencora, which we bought for £55,000 in March 1992.
Our Grand Plan was to spend a year working on the boat and preparing ourselves for a life at sea. We thought that we could use the time to sail around the south coast of England to gain experience of the boat ready for long term cruising. However, after spending a couple of weeks working on the boat, we decided that we couldn’t wait and wanted to leave as soon as possible. I went to see my boss and four weeks later, at the end of April 1992, I was a free man with no income.
I spent the next three months working on Glencora during the week, while Glenys sold all of our possessions “aided” by Brett and Craig. We spent the weekends at car boot sales or boat jumbles. It was hard graft, trauma and lots of spending money. We epoxied the hull, put new windows in it, rebuilt the engine, replaced the rigging, bought new sails, refurbished the teak deck, varnished, painted, etc, etc.
Finally, in July 1992, Glencora was launched. My family and I moved on board.