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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Aschanti days


Everyone who knows us has heard us talk about Aschanti, the beautiful black classic schooner on which we worked as first mate/engineer and cook from June 2005 until October 2006.

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It was our time on Aschanti that gave us the confidence, experience and financial boost to embark on our sailing escapade on Bandit.  Meeting Kalle Ebner (skipper) and sailing on Aschanti changed our lives forever…..if not for him we’d probably still be living in NZ!!

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David met Kalle in 2000 when Kalle was skippering another schooner, Sea Gypsy, and David was pounding the docks in Palma, Majorca, looking for yacht work.    Given they are only 11 days apart in age and share the same sense of humour….the two immediately hit it off.

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Kalle employed David as crew for the season and a friendship was formed that exists to this day and resulted on us doing a three month stint on Aschanti from Italy to the Caribbean in 2004.  The following year we flew to Brazil to join Aschanti as permanent crew.

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David joined Aschanti in Belem in the Amazon and I flew to Rio de Janeiro a few weeks later.  We had three months based in Rio (a fascinating time) with a couple of trips down to the magnificent cruising ground around Isle Grande, south of Sao Paulo. 

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In November it was time to head north to the Caribbean with a month stopover in Trinidad.  To my delight Kalle agreed to let youngest son Ryan join us.  He stayed on as deckhand for several months before getting work on a motoryacht in St Maarten bound for Australia.

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We had a busy but enjoyable season in the Caribbean spending most of our time in beautiful Martinique but with trips to the British Virgin Islands, St Maarten, Guadeloupe, Dominica, St Barts, Tobago Cays and Antigua for the classic yacht race.

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All too soon it was time to head back across the Atlantic for the Monaco Grand Prix.  The long days at sea cooking for a delivery crew of 10, followed by provisioning and preparing for the owner’s arrival were made worthwhile when we were invited to the Grand Prix.  Not just any old seats either – but special guests of Gulfstream (jets) at the VIP suite of the Hermitage Hotel overlooking the racetrack with plenty of champagne and lobster on hand.  What a magical day!

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We spent the Mediterranean season cruising the French and Italian coasts and Sardinia and Corsica.  Aschanti took part in the Rolex maxi race out of Porto Cervo which was another highlight.

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Between times we were based in La Spezia in Italy where we had weekends off and spent them exploring the Italian provinces of Emilio Romagno, Tuscany and Liguria plus trips to Croatia, Germany and France.  On one of our trips back from beautiful Portofino our faithful crew car caught fire and burnt out!!  Oops…sorry Kalle.

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During our time in the Med, David’s youngest daughter Ping joined us for a few months as nanny for the owner’s children which was a big thrill.  She later rejoined as a stewardess – continuing the family tradition of working on Aschanti.

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After 18 months, 12,000mls, two Atlantic crossings and visits to 17 countries we decided the time was right to buy our own boat and continue the sailing adventure on our own.  We left Aschanti and spent a month driving through Italy, France and Spain exploring and looking at boats finally finding our dream boat – a Moody 46 – in Gibraltar.  She had all the features we wanted – centre cockpit, a genuine blue water cruiser, two completely separate main cabins with en suites and at 46ft, able to be easily handled by the two of us.


Sadly, she was looking a bit sad having been neglected for some time.  It took three months of hard work to get her back gleaming.  Worst still, she was called Rinsewind….which sounded to us like a brand of washing powder.  So Bandit it was – a name that always creates smiles wherever we go.  We’re now five years into our sailing adventure and still can’t seem to find any reason to point Bandit’s bows towards New Zealand.  We love our lifestyle and love our boat to bits.  Watch this space!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

About us

We are an ordinary Kiwi couple who left our comfortable lifestyle and good jobs behind in 2005 for an unpredictable life on the ocean waves.  Eight years later we’re still out here sailing and travelling and have never regretted our decision to escape the rat race.
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But… a little about us.  Back in the early 2000s David was riding the real estate wave selling waterfront property and I was a fulltime journalist at the Marlborough Express. We had a lovely rural property on the outskirts of Blenheim, a huge garden full of roses and perennials and, in our spare time, I rode horses competitively and together we skied, hunted and sailed.  It was a pretty good life.
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David had always dreamed about sailing the world.  In 2000 he spent a season spent working as first mate on a classic schooner, Sea Gypsy, in the Mediterranean.  I joined him for the sail from Sardinia to Majorca and decided I could handle the lifestyle too! But first……children to get through school, mortgages to pay off and future finances to organise.  Dreams went on hold and we set about serious earning and in weekends set about planting a vineyard on our small holding….with an eye to future income.
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In 2004 our lives changed forever when Kalle Ebner, the skipper of Sea Gypsy, phoned and asked us to sail from Italy to the Caribbean on Aschanti – a boat he’d recently joined as skipper.  After a magical three months on Aschanti in the Mediterranean, Atlantic and Caribbean we struggled to settle back down in Marlborough and when Kalle phoned and offered us fulltime jobs we didn’t hesitate, although it was a wrench leaving family, pets and our lovely home.
DSC_2584  We took a gigantic risk in quitting our well paid jobs but figured we could always come back (we didn’t!!).  We packed our life belongings into boxes and bags filling a container, found tenants for our house, homes for the horses (very traumatic!), said goodbye to close friends and family (more trauma!) and jumped on a plane to Brazil.  The rest… they say….is history. We earned enough money on Aschanti to finance us into Bandit and live our dream of sailing the world.
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We only ever envisaged sailing for a few years before returning to New Zealand but six years on we still aren’t ready to return.  It’s not all about the sailing either; we love travelling and exploring new countries.  A month long trip to India in 2010 opened our eyes to yet another culture and made us realise there is still a lot more to see.
We finance our folly by spending the sailing off-season working – either in the UK house and animal sitting or back in New Zealand doing whatever work people throw at us.  Winter 2012 we’re managing the Pohara Beachfront Motel.
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These days we live on a lot less but are happier than we’ve ever been.  If you are thinking of breaking free and doing something adventurous then our advice is do it……don’t just think about it.
Remember… only have one life…..and you never know how long it will be.  Live the dream!