Long-time Sai Kung sailor and mother of six, Ginni MacRobert lived the dream by sailing around the world. Now living in Australia, she’s written a book about her trip.
Tell us about your journey.
This is something I dreamed about for a long time. Having raised a large family, the time came when I felt I had a window of opportunity. I needed the break, was in great health - so off I went! I travelled west, visiting more than 20 islands and countries. I made about 40 stops in the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific oceans, passing through the Panama Canal. I gave myself 18 months because of world weather considerations and my family’s schedule. But I had to push hard and spend serious time on boat maintenance en-route.
Did you go alone?
I began the trip with two ladies as crew - “three tarts in a tub” – and picked up other crew along the way. All together I had 13 crew on different legs, only three of us aboard at most. I single-handed across the Caribbean and from Yap to the Philippines. Being alone at sea was daunting at first. I worried ships might not see me while I slept. Once I settled into a disciplined routine, I grew to love it. Being able to think without interruption was a gift. My dog and cat must have become tired of me talking to them though.
There were so many: the full moon on the water, the surprise of whales and dolphins popping up beside us, safe arrivals after difficult passages. Arriving in Panama after single-handing the Caribbean and completing my first circumnavigation felt fantastic.
These usually involved bad weather. A Force 12 storm off Africa was a fearful experience, but one the crew, Dave, and I handled well, in retrospect! Off the east coast of the Philippines, my mainsail tore during a Force 10 gale and a huge wave took out the electronics leaving me to hand steer alone in appalling conditions for 16 hours. We also had unwelcome visitors off Ecuador - you will have to read my book to find out about that!
In fog off South Africa, Dave spotted a light and gave our position, course and speed to the other ‘vessel’, asking them to do the same. They replied Dave had put our position 60 miles inland, and informed him he was speaking to a coastal communication radio tower!
Best kit onboard?
A good autopilot - and a sense of humour
How was the food?
I missed fruit and veg; tinned food sucks after a while. The best was fresh fish, which was rarely in short supply. My French crew once made a dish with potatoes and dried prunes - surprisingly yummy.
Would you do anything differently?
I would take less stuff. I would simplify the boat to the bare minimum for less maintenance, and use solar and wind power only for battery charging. That doesn’t mean I would go engine-less, however.
Where did you learn to sail?
I lived in Sai Kung and Clearwater Bay for 13 years, and began sailing a dinghy at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club. At age 52, I learned to sail a large boat by delivering our catamaran from the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean to Hong Kong via the Pacific. I had to learn fast!
How do you rate sailing in Sai Kung?
Some of my favourite spots, and best memories, are in eastern Hong Kong: we even named our catamaran “Dai Long Wan”. As a family, we spent many happy days in this area. We were not racers, preferring to potter around the bays and islands. I am saddened by the water pollution and reckless behavior by some boaters. We all have to work hard to preserve the beauty and peace of the area and consider each other and the next generations.
Top tip for Sai Kung sailors considering a blue-water trip?
You must have confidence in your boat. Thorough maintenance may save your life, so don’t cut corners.
Tell us about the book.
“Gin’s Tonic: Ocean Voyage, Inner Journey” was never intended to be a book. I set out writing an online log for my family. But about 5,000 people were reading it and a friend suggested I find a publisher. At first, writing was a chore, but after a while I began to look forward to it. My dog, Henry - probably Hong Kong’s only circumnavigating building-site dog - has also written a book. It’s quite funny. You can find it at Dymocks, Chinese University Press or online at www.proversepublishing.com.
Words to live by?
Don’t give up on a dream. You’re never too old to fulfill it!