by Renate Johns
They have travelled four times around the world on boats they built themselves, spent an amazing 36 years long range cruising, and now in their eighties, have decided to call it a day and go back to live in their home town of Rochester - not in a house but a houseboat.
Bill and Laurel now, after their incredible 36 years cruising - photo Mirror News
Bill and Laurel Cooper started cruising in 1976 when Bill, a former Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy, gave up his 'high-flying' city job and they went sailing.
Bill and Laurel then, at the beginning of their cruising life
They have sailed more than 100,000 nautical miles and experienced every kind of weather. They have sailed on every ocean and even done more than 20,000 nautical miles in rivers, clocking up 45 different countries along the way.
But now it is health problems have forced Bill, 83, to hang up his skipper's hat and they have moored their 40ft houseboat, called, fittingly, Faraway, on the River Medway at Rochester in Kent.
Bill told the Mirror News: 'We’ve had a wonderful time, but I’m afraid I have been overtaken by what you could call ill-health. When I got to about 78, we built a boat we could manage for when old age really strikes – we call it the geriatric boat.'
Bill and Laurel's housboat, Faraway
The couple met in 1945 and started sailing on the Norfolk Broads two years later. They did their first sea cruise in 1954, sailing around Sicily with their baby daughter Shelley. But the on board facilities were very basic. There was no toilet and cooking was done on a paraffin Primus stove.
Bill and Laurel built their first boat after he quit as a broker in 1971. Five years later they sold their six-bedroom house, gave the money to their children, Shelley and Benedick, and set sail.
Part-funded by Bill’s Navy pension, they put to sea on a 50ft steel ketch called Fare Well – and never looked back.
The couple, who have three grandchildren, built their last boat, Faraway, in 2005. But Bill began having eye problems and now they have decided to call time on their sea adventures.
A cruising life many of us could envy. Well done, Bill and Laurel! Do you have a similar story - or know of people who have cruised for longer?