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Starting from scratch: Jill & Shelley aboard their Fountaine Pajot Helia 44, Eucalyptus

by Jill de Vos 26 Oct 22:59 PDT
Fountaine Pajot Helia 44 Eucalyptus © Sailing Vessel Eucalyptus

I had never had a lot to do with boats and if the sea had been calling me I hadn't heard it!

When I crewed (very loose term, I did watches and some entertaining and made a bit of bread) on a friend's cat from Vanuatu to Bundaberg, I enjoyed it so much that when I came home I thought it was a good idea to sell everything, abandon my children and grandchildren, give the dog and cat away and sell my beloved Princess Diana, a Jersey/Angus cross cow I had had since she was 3 days old. Shelley thought it was a good idea too and gave up her Chinese Medicine practice of 30 years. She gets seasick looking at the sea!

We had never sailed a day in our life but did a weeks course on a monohull and a couple of days with Keith Logan on Sydney Harbour and a stack of reading and a RYA day skipper course on line.

I really never meant for us to buy a new boat but here we are now med moored in Gibraltar on our Helia 44. We agreed eventually to call the boat Eucalyptus, Shelley really wanted Coolabah but that reminded me of those cheap wine casks, so a compromise was reached and Eucalyptus she was.

We hired our Belgian Yachtmistress, Veronique, who did a weeks training with us in La Rochelle and a lovely Italian cruising instructor to take us across the Bay of Biscay. Biscay was kind to us and apart from Shelley's seasickness it was a good trip.

When they left us in ACoruna I had a huge crisis of confidence. I watched Wild Odyssey and OdesseaX and Solis arrive and leave and a month later we were still there. ACoruna is a lovely place but a month was way too long to be there. I organized a Polish lady who wanted to sail with us to come and help for a couple of weeks. She did very little, but for me it was a huge boost to my morale. In fact I realized I knew more than I gave myself credit for.

But I am at heart a small acreage farmer and I could tell you more about milk fever and calving than when to put a reef in. I could teach you how to do a half pass or a shoulder in (that's dressage) and port is the off side and starboard is the near side of the horse. I can drive a tractor, back a float or trailer so maneuvering a boat can't be that hard. Now we are into our third month it is becoming less angst ridden and each marina entry and anchoring episode is a bit easier.

We have visited some lovely Rias in Spain, wandered around old cobbled streets, sampled beer and tapas and tested our local language skills and then we retreat to our little piece of Australia on Eucalyptus.

It has been a huge challenge and at times I have wondered if it was worth all the angst and the boat was going on the market, but today is a good day and Gibraltar is quite a nice spot.

Follow Jill & Shelley's adventures on their YouTube channel here or visit their website.

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