Chris and Fiona Jones' trip was only supposed to last a few months but they were bitten by the sailing bug and their adventure turned into a 14 year voyage! The couple, who are now back home in Wales, talk to YBW about their years cruising the world.
It was never meant to be a 14 year voyage.
Initially, Chris and Fiona Jones set out in Three Ships, a Gitana 43, to sail an Atlantic circuit, followed by a winter in Almerimar on the Costa Del Sol.
Instead, the couple carried on sailing, visiting more than 40 countries.
They have now returned to Y Felinheli in Wales following their circumnavigation.
“As we settled into the multi national offshore cruising community we made many friends, some of whom had lived on their boats for many years,” explained Chris, 69.
“We decided that we had found the ideal way of fulfilling our dream of a life of freedom, independence and adventure,” he said.
Both Chris and Fiona, 55, who are now retired, had plenty of experience.
Chris was an RYA Yachtmaster Ocean and Yachtmaster Instructor. He had completed the two handed Observer Round Britain and Ireland Race.
Fiona was a Yachtmaster Offshore and had extensive cruising experience as a watch leader for Tall Ships.
Prior to cruising, the couple taught RYA courses part-time from Three Ships, as well as running two local authority outdoor education centres.
Their Oswald Berkemair designed yacht, which was built in South Africa in 1988, also had a specification for long distance ocean cruising.
Fiona said that despite their experience, there were, naturally, problems along the way.
“We always did our best to ensure that we had checked everything on the boat, had sufficient provisions and spares and had thought out contingency plans for the unexpected before we set sail,” she said.
“This doesn’t mean that we [didn’t have] problems to manage on the way – we had many – but over the years we did develop a sound problem solving strategy based on the fact that the simplest solution was usually the one to go for and that fear and a fertile imagination are the greatest barriers to a successful outcome,” explained Fiona.
The couple’s voyage took them westwards around the world, with stopovers in the Caribbean, remote islands in the Pacific and the Far East, among many other destinations.
They shared many special moments along the way, although “seeing the tiny island that we’d been heading for on a 3,000 mile ocean passage appear over the horizon in exactly the right place at the right time has to be one of the most satisfying,” admitted Chris.
“Apart from that, the month in the Galapagos and sailing around South Island, New Zealand were very special,” he added.
“In a different way, having a major internal refit done in a traditional fishing boat yard in Thailand and living and working alongside the local carpenters in the heat, sweat and grit of the yard was a rewarding insight into a different way of life and one that we still cherish regardless of the discomfort,” continued Chris.
“Oh, and having a super tanker stop in mid Atlantic and drop us 60 litres of diesel when we were becalmed and almost out of fuel was a special moment, reminding us that the tradition of mutual support between all mariners on the ocean is not dead,” he added.
Despite the good memories, there were others not so fondly remembered.
Fiona contracted dengue fever.
Rigging fittings also broke while Three Ships was crossing the Indian Ocean.
And there were lighting storms off the south coast of Madagascar to contend with.
But, overall, their experience gave them a sense of independence and “a view of the world from outside the box”
“It has also reassured our faith in the fundamental goodness and generosity of everyday people in the world and demonstrated that what we have in common far out weighs differences in culture, religion and politics so often exploited by the media and those who seek power,” added Fiona.
The couple believe there is “no better way of life”, but urged those thinking about cruising long term to “consider carefully what you wish for since the reality can be both the fulfilment of a dream and the ultimate nightmare”.
“Join the Ocean Cruising Club where you can both benefit from the experiences of so many great sailors and make your own contributions as you go,” advised Chris.
“Don’t be over reliant on technology, use traditional astro navigational skills as well. A windvane steering system and a well balanced sail plan will take you around the world for free – power hungry technology can lead you into a state of electro- mechanical stress,” he recommended.
Fiona also urged those wanting to cruise long term to consider family and friends left behind.
“Just bear in mind that you will be spending many months away from home and that this will impact on those you leave behind worrying about your welfare,” she said.
The couple said they had no difficulty in adjusting to life back on land.
“(It was) like stepping into an old comfortable pair of shoes,” said Fiona.
And what of their next adventure?
“Three Ships is so bound up with who we are that it would be unthinkable, at the moment, for her not to be part of our lives,” explained Fiona.
“We can see her on her mooring out in the Menai Strait from our living room window and one or other of us is always looking to check she’s ok,” she continued.
“Things may change in the future, but for now we’ll still go cruising, even though it may not be so far afield,” she added.
The couple plan to cruise around the UK and Ireland.
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