Erin Carey from Australia bought a yacht in Grenada in 2017 and now lives upon it full-time with her husband and three children

When Erin Carey and her husband Dave sat down to watch the documentary about Laura Dekker, the youngest woman to sail around the world, little did they know that it would become the start of a life-changing adventure. Within less than two years, they had bought a yacht sight-unseen in Grenada, rented out their home in Australia, and with their three young sons, started living their life on water.

“We’d never dreamt of doing anything like this. We’d never owned a boat, we weren’t sailors,” said Erin. “Something in the documentary spoke to us. I think it was just the freedom and peacefulness of being out at sea and the endless sunsets and sunrises.”

While the decision to go might have been spur-of-the-minute, they spent every waking hour preparing for the trip. They bought a trailer sailer boat that they used to practise with at weekends, hired the sailing coach Sailing Totem and once their skills had improved, joined a racing yacht crew every week. They also paid to join a crew that was sailing from Queensland to Sydney, which confused the captain slightly as he would usually be paying the crew. “We also took courses like sea survival, first aid and boat maintenance,” said Erin.

Then in November 2017, they took a two-year sabbatical from their jobs, rented out their home in Melbourne and flew to Grenada to start their Caribbean adventure and collect their 47-foot yacht Roam. Sailing friends and a surveyor had checked out the yacht, but the first time that the family saw it was when they arrived in the Caribbean.

“When we first saw the yacht, it was in the dry dock on stands, so we all screamed ‘it’s huge!” said Erin. “Then when we climbed up the ladder into the saloon, we all said, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s tiny.”

The family spent 18 months discovering the islands of the Caribbean from Grenada to St Martin. “Each island had its own personality,” said Erin. Two that stand out for Erin were the islands of Grenada and Saba. They fell for the lush island of Grenada with its inquisitive Mona monkeys and soca-music playing buses that bounce along the mountain roads, and were awestruck when they reached the rugged coastline of Saba to see the steep hillside tower above them. “As we pulled up to the port, I remember looking up to see birds circling above us and they were not even a quarter of the way up the mountain,” said Erin.

Away from land, they were still treated to sights they will never forget. “On our first night passage when I was on watch I heard the sound of spurting water. So I panicked and I grabbed the flash light to then see two dolphins bounding along beside us,” said Erin. “I wanted to wake everyone up to see the dolphins playing in the wake, but I got to keep this special moment to myself.”

Then there were the countless pink sunsets that marked the end of each day.

The family of five quickly adapted to life on the water. “Catching fish was a large part of our lifestyle in the Caribbean,” said Erin. “We would hang the lines from the boat as we were sailing along, or my husband and the kids would get in the dingy and find little fishing spots.” Villagers would also invite them over for barbecues, which is where they got their first taste of iguana.

After sailing around the islands, the family hunkered down in Grenada during the hurricane season, then chose to sail across the Atlantic. This was the first time they had sailed across the Atlantic, but monohulled Roam had already crossed the ocean eight times with its previous owners.

“An Irish family who spent five years sailing from Ireland, across the Atlantic and down the American coast to Grenada owned Roam before us,” said Erin. “And before that she was owned by a lawyer from the UK, who we’ve kept in contact with as he loves hearing about her journey.”

To prepare for their own crossing, they rerigged the boat, bought storm sails and a weather router that would tell them about what course to follow. They also hired a nanny to look after the boys, while Erin and her husband sailed the boat.

But throughout the 17-day crossing, the weather was kind to them. “The first week was like being on a lake,” said Erin. “The sea was flat and the sun was in the sky – it was beautiful.”

For the last three days, they were greeted with three-metre-high waves, but as the waves were rolling rather than breaking, Erin said the boat handled it amazingly.

However, this doesn’t mean that the trip didn’t come with its challenges. “Our head sail shredded, and our generator stopped working so our watermaker ground to a halt and we were on rations for the journey,” said Erin. “We couldn’t shower for a large chunk of the trip, so we were pretty stinky by the time we arrived in the Azores.”

But the journey was worth it as the Portuguese islands of the Azores delivered its own treasures. “One night it looked like we were sailing through an ocean of glitter as we cut through the bioluminescent water,” said Erin. “Every time the water would splash against the front of the boat it would look like mountains of glitters were cascading off our hull.”

Now 20 months into their journey, it became clear they weren’t ready to go back to dry land, so they returned to Australia to sell their house at the beginning of 2020. They also wanted to launch Erin’s PR business so she could become a digital nomad while Dave, who is an engineer and couldn’t work digitally as easily, could look after the yacht and homeschool their sons. Two months later the pandemic hit, and the family’s plans of leaving Australia were delayed for 18 months.

Now they are back on the ocean. After collecting their boat in the Azores, they have since sailed around Italy, Montenegro, Tunisia and the Greek islands.

While the pristine white buildings and dark blue sea of Mykonos and Santorini, might star in all the Instagram posts, the mountainous green Ionian islands on the west of the country, have stolen the family’s hearts.

“The Ionian is beautiful, easy sailing,” said Erin. “The water is really clear and the food in is delicious. It’s no surprise that some call it the Caribbean of the Greek islands.”

And as the islands are so close together, it has proved to be one of their favourite sailing grounds. “While the Caribbean is stunning, you might need to sail for up to 12 hours between some of the islands,” said Erin. “While in the Ionians, you can sail to the next island in two or three hours.”

They say that plans can change, as in one particular instance a trip to Montenegro turned into a voyage to Italy.

“We’re pretty slow travellers,” said Erin. “I would say we spend at least two weeks in each place and then around two months in each country.”

They are about to take a short break from the boat to visit family and friends in Australia, and wave goodbye to Roam, but will return in the New Year to collect a new catamaran in Montenegro that they plan to sail to Sardinia. “We will cross the Atlantic again and head back to the Caribbean,” said Erin. “But eventually we hope to cross the Pacific and set sail back to Australia.”

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