Sailing Away on a Dream
Imagine selling your house, doing away with most of your possessions and cruising around Europe … a dream? It is an absolute reality for Geoff and Leanne.
And they are a very down-to-earth, ordinary Australian couple.
Geoff and Leanne retired early at the end of 2016. They bought a motorboat in England and now they spend five glorious months each year on the waters of Europe. The rest of the year is spent exploring the world on board luxury cruise ships for free by giving presentations as well as pet and house-sitting assignments.
How did they get to this lifestyle that is the envy of many?
Where Do I Live?
Australia is an expensive place to live, so Geoff and Leanne mused over other options. And a boat turned out to be the perfect solution.
They needed a boat that was versatile enough to manoeuvre through the narrower rivers and canals of Europe and which could also withstand open water and move along the Mediterranean coastlines.
Geoff and Leanne decided on Broom Boats, a well-known English manufacturer with a reputation for quality. They chose a Broom 39 from James Dickens Marine in Southampton. Geoff flew to England in November 2016 to obtain a survey report, conduct a sea trial for the boat and that all concluded happily with the purchase of the boat.
Geoff and Leanne's retirement started officially on Christmas Eve 2016. They started selling and giving away their things and left nothing to storage. Next, they rented their house and said goodbye to family and friends. All they had was one suitcase each to start on their retirement travels. They also decided they would have no fixed address for an indeterminate period of time.
The universe conspires to give you what you want if you want it badly enough. And the planets were clearly in alignment because just before Geoff finished up at work, he attended a cruise ship conference in Sydney where he was asked to replace a speaker who was ill. Thanks to that opportunity, he was approached by a woman whose job was to find interesting speakers to entertain passengers. Geoff indicated his interest without expecting much to come of it. Just before they flew out of Australia, Geoff was contacted by her to present six talks on board a ship leaving Singapore for a 14-day Far East Asian cruise. Talk about serendipity! After submitting his topics, he was asked if he would be willing to do an additional 14-day cruise!
Our boat, our home
Brilliant caught up with Geoff and Leanne when they arrived into Port Macquarie on 17th April 2021.
We were aboard a cruise ship where I was providing lectures to passengers when Covid hit. The route of the ship altered and then altered again and again before the directive was made for all ships to head for their home port. For us, that was the port at Southampton in England. Thus ended a 35 day cruise with 15 lectures that started as 9 days with 6 talks!
The cruise company flew us back to Brisbane where we underwent two weeks of hotel quarantine. On the second day of the quarantine, we realised that if we didn’t have something to do, we would go crazy, so we made the decision to join the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard in Caloundra once we were released.
Leanne and I undertook and passed both boat crew training and base radio operator training but finding a rental property is all but impossible at the moment, so we made the decision to revert to our happy place and purchase a boat to live aboard and make our home.
After much searching, we found a 43-foot Carver Motor Cruiser in Newcastle, NSW and are currently in the process of cruising her back up to the Sunshine Coast. Unfortunately, we have had some gearbox issues and have been “marooned” in Port Macquarie for the past five weeks. We have really enjoyed our time here though and have spent time exploring the city and surrounds.
Meanwhile, our other boat is safely tucked away in a shed at a yacht club in the town of Meppen in Germany, close to the Dutch border and we’re looking forward to hopefully being able to travel back there this time next year.
Settling into the New Home
May 2017 was when Geoff and Leanne arrived in England to pick up their new home. They renamed the boat Sunshine Coast in honour of their former home and quickly got down to settling into their new nest.
They cruised along the English Channel and explored Portsmouth, Brighton and Ramsgate, passing the beautiful White Cliffs of Dover and even cruised up the Thames going past Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament before resting in their berth for the next month at Chelsea Harbour Marina.
Getting out into the open has brought Geoff and Leanne lots of exciting new experiences. They were guests of the All England Lawn Tennis Club for the two weeks of Wimbledon. They met the director of Les Misérables, and got invited for a backstage tour. A gentleman they met at Wimbledon invited them to be his dinner guests at the Royal Thames Yacht Club.
In Europe, they befriended a Belgium couple who highly recommended their country and Geoff and Leanne had a wonderful time exploring amazing cities like Kortrijk, Ghent, Brugge and Ypres.
While in Belgium they took a side trip to Scotland. Before Geoff retired, he had assisted the Scottish Commonwealth Games team to set up a pre-Gold Coast Commonwealth games training and acclimatisation camp. This team invited Geoff and Leanne to be their guests at the last night of the Royal Military Tattoo in Edinburgh in August 2017. That was quite a highlight for them.
During the winter months when it was too cold to be out on the waters, Geoff and Leanne gave Sunshine Coast a rest at a marina in Antwerp.
House and pet-sitting for people who were away on holiday became a way for Geoff and Leanne to get come accommodation that would pay for itself. They invested $200 on TrustedHousesitters.com and within two weeks they had secured 23 weeks of pet-sitting in the UK and Cyprus. This was a perfect solution for Geoff and Leanne as it meant they could stay in some fantastic locations at no cost and bask in the unconditional love from their new feathery and furry friends!
They soon built up a reputation through references on the website and they started to get offers from all over the world. They have done pet-sitting in the UK, Cyprus, Germany and Australia. The bonus is, Geoff and Leanne made some amazing lifelong friends along the way.
Cruising through Challenges
Geoff and Leanne have been enjoying their retirement lifestyle for three and a half years now. They are loving every minute of their cruise through Europe and thanks to how commerce used to take place in the past, the rivers are connected and man-made canals help make it even easier, plus they are usually free to use. They love the peace and relaxing nature of cruising at 6 knots (the speed limit) where they can truly appreciate their environment.
This lifestyle is not without its challenges. The EU has a three-month tourist visa rule so if they wanted to stay longer they had to figure how, and luckily Australia has reciprocal agreements with several EU countries which allowed Geoff and Leanne to work through this.
Other practical issues like travel and health insurance also have to be sorted out. They also face some language barriers, but looking at the number of new friends they have made, there is something universal about connecting with another human that has allowed Geoff and Leanne to sail past this barrier.
Well Worth It
In spite of the challenges, Geoff and Leanne are steering on in their happy retirement lifestyle.
Geoff is appreciative of how he fell into public speaking and lecturing thanks to his interest in maritime explorers and adventurers. This allowed them to circumnavigate the world on board luxury cruise ships for four and a half months at no cost, meeting incredible people and enjoying amazing experiences.
Naming their new boat Sunshine Coast was a way for Leanne to continue living on the Sunshine Coast to ease her hesitancy about leaving and travelling so far away. In some ways, they have never really left home! The Sunshine Coast is still where they live!
We wonder where Geoff and Leanne would be sailing to next. If you meet them, say hello and you may get into an interesting conversation with them about their adventures!
Trusted Housesitters (use code RAF155789 to enjoy discounted membership)
Geoff or Leanne: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or on Facebook: Retired Afloat
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