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March 30, 2015

Family looks forward to doing everything and nothing at all
on forthcoming circumnavigation

The foursome will depart Sydney, Australia on planned 6+ year cruise

When James Ellingford purchased his Nordhavn 62 Pendana back in 2011, he and his wife Claire wanted the option of going on an extended cruise if the mood suddenly struck them. It’s now been four years of cruising around the east coast of their native Australia, and finally, the mood has struck them. You might even say it walloped them well and good because just a week from now, Ellingford and his family will be embarking on an epic 6-year circumnavigation.

The path to their circumnavigation didn’t happen overnight. The initiative was always there but it started to slowly take some shape in mid-2012. It was a daunting enough undertaking just on its own, and when Ellingford factored in two daughters and four animals into the equation, the idea seemed unrealistic, unfeasible, and most likely, the opposite of a good one. Still, household chatter of a circumnavigation would not go away, so Ellingford sat his clan down one day last June and suggested the family vote on whether to officially go forward with plans of circling the globe. Pros and cons both were thrown out on the table and when Ellingford called for the vote, he cautioned: “You are either all in or all out.”Turns out, each of them was categorically all in.

When Ellingford looks back on that vote, he recalls that there were a lot of cons. The cons might have even outnumbered the pros, but they did not outweigh them. There was simply no writing off the education and experience of a lifetime that a trip like this could give a person, not to mention (he hoped) the familial bond it would promote. With the means of finance and the means of transport already worked out, what was left was just a matter of logistics. Still, Ellingford wondered, is it really possible for the positives to prevail over the inevitable negatives? Can four people (including one teenager and one preteen) really thrive living on a small-ish boat in the middle of vast oceans? “The bottom line here is a decision like this takes a huge leap of courage,” said Ellingford. “The reward is simply not known.”

Once the decision to set off on a course around the world was a definitive one, the act of prepping for the voyage began. As one might suspect, the planning that goes into something so significant requires a great deal of work, organization and tenacity. Thankfully, Ellingford, a retired corporate executive, is a planner by nature and researched everything from home schooling to itineraries, stocking spares and getting clearance for the three cats and one dog who will accompany them. “If there is one thing we have done well, it is to prepare for all those pesky little items that can cause grief,” says Ellingford.

It also helps that he has access to other Nordhavn owners who have done this exact same thing before, so he reached out to Nordhavn 52 owner James Hamilton for his experience with clearing pets, Ken Williams on board N68 Sans Souci who has international internet and communications dialed in, as well as the Besemers from Nordhavn 43 Three@Sea, experts on homeschooling.

Asserts Ellingford: “All in all, Pendana is 100% ready. The family [vacillate] from states of ‘Let’s go now!’ to ‘Oh dear, what are we doing?’ and the animals are clueless which is probably a good thing!”

Both James and Claire Ellingford had owned various small power boats (up to 46 feet) most of their adult lives and kept their boating to short, coastal cruises pre-Pendana. Although they since have put a number of long-distance miles under Pendana’s keel, they have opted to employ a captain to assist with the 8-day non-stop first leg of the trip to help the family ease into the routine of being at sea and at the very least, help quell any initial nerves that tend to set in at the outset of a long voyage.

After the captain departs, the family plan on managing the boat themselves, splitting shifts amongst Ellingford, Claire, and 14-year-old daughter Abi, with 11-year-old Bianca lending a hand and moral support – until she is old and confident enough to stand watch.

Ellingford keeps an impressive, informative, and continuously updated blog where he has outlined the planned itinerary. It’s jaw-dropping and enough to make anyone with the slightest cruising or traveling bug beyond envious: starting out from Sydney Harbor in mid-April, the circumnavigation includes stops in the South Pacific, Hawaii, the west coast of the U.S., up to Vancouver, BC, and Alaska, back down the coast to Mexico, Costa Rica, through the Panama Canal, the southeastern U.S., over to the Bahamas and the Caribbean, up the East Coast to the Chesapeake, New York, New England, and Nova Scotia; then across the Atlantic to Dublin by way of the Azores. The boat will cruise the UK and northern/western Europe for two years and will resume cruising the Med and beyond in 2022. Phew!

By then, both daughters will have completed their schooling. Ellingford says he doesn’t love the idea of the girls leaving the boat with thousands of miles separating them from their parents, so he’s not thinking about that bridge yet, but concedes that the choice will be entirely up to them. Prior to that, the plan is for the family to take a 2-week yearly break from the boat by flying home for necessary annual medical and dental check-ups, visits with relatives and to comply with the conditions of their visas.

Having your life mapped out (literally!) over the next five or six years is a bit out of the ordinary – and perhaps a bit intimidating – but for the Ellingfords, it suits them just fine. “We have always swum against the tide most of our adult lives as both Claire and I are not interested in doing what everyone else does,” says Ellingford. “We are both acutely aware that while time remains in short supply, we have a duty to fill it with what makes life worthwhile, which at the end of the day, is the connections we make with other people - not the chains of the material world that lock us down…”

Tasting the culture of other lands is what drives so many to world cruising. With an itinerary as diverse as the Ellingfords, it’s difficult to pinpoint any one place they are most excited about experiencing, but when pressed, Claire and Abi mention the west coast of America; Claire has her sights set on the Pacific Northwest while Abi can’t wait to get to San Francisco. On the other hand, Bianca most wants to see the swimming pigs of the Bahamas. As for Ellingford, “Any port is looking pretty good right now!”

Even more than disembarking to explore far off places he, thus far, has only read about, is Ellingford’s excitement about doing nothing at all. “I am looking forward to spending more time with the family unit without the distraction of day to day living.  I am looking forward to long chats with my girls which are not governed by the usual time constraints of land based living. So in relation to ‘doing’, I guess the answer is that I am looking forward to doing…nothing.”

The Ellingfords invite you to cruise virtually along with them by following their stellar blog pendanablog.com. Get a better feel for their itinerary and timeline by checking out the nifty video plan Ellingford put together: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_3Y_MrI--4.