We are an Australian family including Col (the Captain), wife Pam, daughter Brooke (me) and my Canadian husband Mike. Our family adventure is the realisation of Dad’s 40-year-long dream to retire and travel the world by sailboat. That dream took effect in March 2013 when we landed in Croatia to take possession of the newest Darling family member: a 2006 Lagoon 44’ catamaran. With 20 years in the Navy and several casual stints skippering commercial motorboats, Dad has saltwater running through his veins. Yet finally my darling is his first ever sailboat. Join us as we adapt, explore and make some hard lessons throughout this wonderfully nomadic lifestyle of fulltime cruising.
During 2013 and our first nine months in Europe we dropped anchor in Croatia, Italy, Montenegro, Greece and Turkey. Next finally my darling spent winter 2013/2014 resting on the hardstand in Marmaris, Turkey whilst we headed home for the southern hemisphere summer. In 2014 we tracked west across the Mediterranean cruising Turkey, Greece, Malta, Scilly, the Italian west coast, Sardinia, Corsica, the French Riviera, Spain and the Balearic Islands, Gibraltar, an overland trip through Morocco and a four-day passage to the Canary Islands where we celebrated Christmas and rang in the New Year on the island of La Palma. In February 2015 after a torn mainsail and delayed start, we earned our sailor stripes sailing 3,000 nautical miles across the Atlantic Ocean – harnessing the same trade winds that carried the early explorers some 500 years prior – to the tropical shores of the Caribbean. That’s where you’ll currently find us, embracing the simple life.
For those interested, here’s an insight into the chapters that preluded our new life on the water:
COL & PAM (AKA DAD & MUM)
Mum and Dad have been happily married for 38 years and between them have five children and seven grandchildren. Dad joined the Royal Australian Navy in 1964 as a Junior Recruit aged barely 15 ½ and spent the next 20 years in the service of his country. He originally qualified as a Navy Clearance Diver, later completing his service as a Warrant Officer Coxswain. He and fellow remaining members of the original six-man 4th contingent of Royal Australian Navy Clearance Divers who served in Vietnam 1968-69 were recently, and somewhat belatedly, awarded a US Navy Presidential Citation. The original citation was signed back in 1968 by then US President Richard Nixon for their team’s actions in Vietnam. As detailed in The Australian newspaper article: Vietnam heroes recognised after 44 years.
After moving around Australia on several naval postings, they moved their young family to Mackay, Queensland in 1984. Between 1984 and 2010, Dad worked at the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal both in shift work and supervisory roles, later involved in several significant expansion projects. In between expansions, they travelled Australia in a home-built fifth-wheeler trailer. (yep Dad built it!) Their home base is now beautiful Bribie Island, where Dad continued working in the area of bulk materials handling consulting, prior to finally taking his well-deserved retirement at 65-years-old. Motivated by a lifelong love of the sea, inspired by people like Jessica Watson and having beaten cancer twice, he ultimately turned his dream into reality through pure hard work and determination.
Before our trip, Mum described herself as someone who got ‘seasick at the picture of a wet lawn’, but she proved to herself it was all in the mind and took to life on the water like a true champion. After major knee surgery last year, Mum too is turning back the clock, walking faster and springing in and out of the dinghy with her new knee.
Dad’s favourite things include sailing, SCUBA diving, fishing, hiking and long walks at his break-neck power walking pace, reading (very fast), chandlery stores and sundowner rums.
Dad is the Captain and instigator of this wonderful dream in which we’re all partaking. He’s the primary navigator and Mr Fix-It – forever improving and moving things around on the boat, troubleshooting and maintenance upkeep. He loves a good handyman project and there is fear amongst the crew that one day he may run out of things to improve around the boat…
Mum’s favourite things are Skype catch-ups with the grandkids, afternoon naps, heading ashore to explore solo, sundowner margaritas and general relaxed living as justly deserved in these truly ‘golden’ years.
MIKE & BROOKE
In October 1980, Mike and I (Brooke) were born just nine days apart, yet on opposite sides of the world. Both with typical, active childhoods, Mike grew up playing in the snow in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia, Canada while I spent much of my youth near the beach in Mackay, Queensland, Australia.
The travel bug was caught early when, after graduating high school in 1998, Mike and his best mates chased a snowboarder’s dream of a ski-bum lifestyle, crossing Canada to Whistler, British Columbia. Early 2001, soon after completing university, I heeded advice from Dad and took off to visit foreign shores – first stop Canada. Ten months later Mike & I met in Whistler. As they say, the rest is history and it’s staggering to think the impact on one’s life path that a new relationship can bring when made far from home.
The past 13 years together have seen us living in Mackay, Australia for three years; Whistler, Canada for four years of glorious season changes and later setting up a new life in sunny Sydney. Travels in between have taken us to Thailand, New Zealand, US, UK, Mexico twice and four extended trips through Eastern and Western Europe.
October will always be us month. So after 11 years together, on a day placed carefully between both birthdays, we were married before our closest family and friends from Australia and Canada at a gorgeous beach resort in the Mamanuca Islands, Fiji.
For seven years I worked in destination marketing roles within the tourism industry in both Queensland and Whistler. This included a busy media relations role during Vancouver’s memorable 2010 Winter Olympics. Next followed three years based in Sydney working in TV Production with Channel Seven’s reality series The X Factor and House Rules.
Mike speaks fondly of his first summer job as a zodiac rafting guide on Nova Scotia’s famous Bay of Fundy tidal bores, but not before tractor driving and hay bailing on the family dairy farm. He has tried all manner of snow-related roles from ski tech to snow grooming. Relocating our life to North Queensland attracted him, like many others, to the prosperous coal mining industry. Moving from heavy machinery operating to supervising and mine production planning. He spent several years flying in and out of Sydney to North Queensland on a week-on week-off schedule. Ironically while based in Sydney, I spent more time commuting between home and work each week (up to three hours a day) than Mike did flying interstate weekly. Whilst we adored our time in Manly’s Northern Beaches, we’re convinced there’s more to life than the rat race, firmly grasping the opportunity to sail the world before a mortgage and babies come knocking…
Mike’s favourite things include surfing, sailing, riding his Harley, snowboarding, SCUBA diving, sun tanning, jumping off the top deck, fishing, cooking, afternoon patio beers and reading (mostly historical fiction novels).
He’s FMD’s First Mate and boat maintenance support, resident crew chef and BBQ master, chief provisioner, on board IT guru and margarita cocktail shaker.
My favourite things include photography, writing, sailing, SCUBA diving, snowboarding, mountain biking, surfing, finding a good green produce market, sunset vinos and drinking aforementioned margaritas.
On board I’m the primary blogger, photographer and social media person for finallymydarling.com. Together with Mike I’m the itinerary researcher, menu planner and assistant prep cook. Much to the disapproval of the male crew, I’m a weather stress head and the annoyingly overcautious crewmember. Yet with an Atlantic Ocean crossing now under my belt and download time with fellow female yachties, I’m proud to say today my tolerance is growing from strength to strength.